Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

11. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (ErfÓl) - 28

Skj info: Sigvatr Þórðarson, Islandsk skjald, o. 995-o. 1045 (AI, 223-75, BI, 213-54).

Skj poems:
1. Víkingarvísur
2. Nesjavísur
3. Austrfararvísur
4. En drape om kong Olaf
5. Vestrfararvísur
6. Et kvad om Erlingr Skjalgsson
7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson
8. Tryggvaflokkr
9. Et digt om dronning Astrid
10. Knútsdrápa
11. Bersǫglisvísur
12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga
13. Lausavísur
14. Et par halvvers af ubestemmelige digte

Sigvatr or Sighvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) is said (ÍF 27, 54) to have been the son of Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld ‘Poet of Sigvaldi’, an Icelander who served, in succession, Sigvaldi jarl Strút-Haraldsson, leader of the Jómsvíkingar, his brother Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’, who campaigned in England, and Óláfr Haraldsson, later king of Norway (r. c. 1015-30) and saint. Þórðr is listed as one of Sigvaldi’s skalds in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 259, 268), but none of his poetry survives. The family tradition of poetry can also be traced in Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’, said to have been Sigvatr’s sister’s son (ÍF 27, 144; ÓH 1941, I, 203). Sigvatr was brought up by a certain Þorkell, at Apavatn in south-west Iceland. When nearly fully grown he sailed to what is now Trondheim, where he met up with his father and joined King Óláfr’s retinue. According to Snorri (ÍF 27, 54-6; ÓH 1941, I, 81-3), Sigvatr recited Lv 2-3 at this time, and he interceded with the king on behalf of Icelandic merchants forced to pay a heavy tax in Norway (cf. Sigv Lv 4). It is also likely that this is when Þórðr provided Sigvatr with the material for Víkv (see Introduction to Sigv Víkv), which may be the poem referred to in the prose introduction to Sigv Lv 2 (Fidjestøl 1982, 118). There is no evidence that Sigvatr ever returned to Iceland, and according to the anecdote in which Sigv Lv 11 is preserved, he died on the island of Selja in north-western Norway and was buried at Kristskirkja (Kristkirken) in Trondheim. His poetry records his various journeys to Sweden, England and the Continent, as well as incidents in Norway. We know nothing of Sigvatr’s private life, except that he had a daughter called Tófa, who had King Óláfr himself as her godfather (Sigv Lv 19).

Sigvatr’s surviving poetic oeuvre is both large and remarkably diverse, encompassing different kinds of encomia not only on King Óláfr (Sigv Víkv, Sigv Nesv, Sigv Óldr, Sigv ErfÓl), but also on King Knútr of Denmark (Sigv Knútdr) and the Norwegian nobleman Erlingr Skjálgsson (Sigv Erl, Sigv Erlfl). Sigvatr was godfather to King Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and composed some avuncular words of advice to the boy-king (Sigv BervII). All of these patrons are recognised in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 252-4, 258, 260-2, 269), where Sigvatr is also credited with having composed for the Swedish king Ǫnundr Óláfsson (although no such poetry survives, cf. Sigv Knútdr 4/6) and the Norwegian chieftain Ívarr inn hvíti ‘the White’ (cf. Context to Sigv Lv 8). Sigvatr also composed a poem on the Norwegian pretender Tryggvi Óláfsson (Sigv Tryggfl) and is unique in having composed in dróttkvætt in praise of a woman, Óláfr Haraldsson’s widow Ástríðr Óláfsdóttir (Sigv Ást). Several of Sigvatr’s poems are more or less loosely connected sequences of stanzas rather than more formal compositions, and encompass both travelogue (Sigv Austv) and political commentary (Sigv Vestv, Sigv BervII). The latter genre is also well represented in his lausavísur, which also include some remarkably personal stanzas expressing his grief at the death of King Óláfr (Sigv Lv 22-4). Sigvatr’s status as a hǫfuðskáld ‘chief skald’ was recognised in the twelfth century (cf. Esk Geisl 12/8VII). His versatility as a poet has clearly inspired a number of anecdotes focusing on the composition of poetry, mostly of doubtful authenticity (cf. Contexts to Sigv Lv 1, 8, 11, 27; also Introduction to Ótt Hfl). Apart from two fragments preserved in SnE (Sigv Frag 1-2III), Sigvatr’s poetry is transmitted in a wide range of texts within the tradition of the kings’ sagas and is therefore edited in this volume or (in the case of the late Sigv Berv) in SkP II. For general studies of Sigvatr’s life and works, see Paasche (1917), Hollander (1940) and Petersen (1946).

Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr inn helgi (S. Óláfr)’) — Sigv ErfÓlI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 663.

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga, o. 1040 (AI, 257-65, BI, 239-45)

in texts: Flat, Gramm, Hkr, LaufE, MGóð, ÓH, ÓHHkr, Skm, SnE, SnEW, TGT

SkP info: I, 663

notes: ms. refs separated from first cards

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1 Tolf frák tekna elfar
tálaust viðu bála;
olli Ôleifr falli
eirsamr konungr þeira.
Svía tyggja leitk seggi
sóknstríðs (firum) ríða
(bǫl vas brátt) til Heljar
(búit mest) Sigars hesti.
I heard without equivocation that twelve trees of the pyres of the river [GOLD > MEN] were captured; Óláfr, the merciful king, caused their death. I saw the men of the battle-hard king of the Swedes [= Óláfr sœnski] ride the horse of Sigarr <legendary king> [GALLOWS] to Hel; the greatest harm was quickly prepared for the men.
2 Upplǫnd fekk til enda
ôss gneista ok þar reisti
kristnihald, þats heldu
hverr veitir sverðs beita.
Áðr stýrðu þeim eyðar
ellifu fyrr hella
mildings máls, en guldu
menn vísliga gísla.
The god of the sword [WARRIOR = Óláfr Haraldsson] got the whole of Opplandene, and established Christianity there, which each benefactor of the swingers of the sword [WARRIORS > GENEROUS MAN] maintained. Eleven destroyers of the speech of the lord of the cave [GIANT > GOLD > GENEROUS MEN] ruled it [Opplandene] previously, but men wisely gave hostages.
3 Lyngs bar fiskr til fengjar
flugstyggs sonar Tryggva
gjǫlnar golli mǫlnu
— goð vildi svá — roðnar.
Annan lét á unnir
Ôleifr búinn hôla
(lǫgr þó drjúgt) inn digri
(dýrs horn) Visund sporna.
The fish of the heather [SNAKE (ormr = Ormr inn langi)] of the flight-shunning son of Tryggvi [= Óláfr Tryggvason] carried gills reddened with ground gold in pursuit of gain; God wished it so. Óláfr inn digri (‘the Stout’) caused a second [ship], splendidly equipped, Visundr (‘Bison’), to tread on the waves; the sea washed the animal’s horns persistently.
4 Goll buðu opt, þeirs ollu
úthlaupum, gram kaupask
rautt, en ræsir neitti,
ríklunduðum undan.
Skǫr bað hann með hjǫrvi
— herland skal svá verja —
— ráns biðu rekkar sýna
refsing — firum efsa.
Those who carried out plundering expeditions often offered the mighty-spirited prince red gold to buy themselves off, but the ruler refused. He ordered men’s hair to be cut with the sword; that is how to defend the people’s land; the warriors suffered visible punishment for their robbery.
5 Fœddi mest, sás meiddi,
margdýrr konungr varga,
hvinna ætt ok hlenna;
hann stýfði svá þýfðir.
Þýðr lét þermlask bæði
þjóf hvern konungr ernan
(friðr bœttisk svá) fóta
(fylkis lands) ok handa.
The very glorious king, who maimed the race of pilferers and thieves, fed wolves the most; he cut down thefts in this way. The kind king caused each swift thief to lack both feet and hands; in this way the peace of the prince’s land was improved.
6 Vissi helzt, þats hvǫssum
hundmǫrgum lét grundar
vǫrðr með vôpnum skorða
víkingum skǫr, ríkis.
Mildr lét mǫrgu valdit
Magnúss faðir gagni;
fremð Ôleifs kveðk frǫmðu
flestan sigr ins digra.
It demonstrated [his] power most clearly, that the guardian of the land [KING = Óláfr] had the hair of very many vikings cut with sharp weapons. The gracious father of Magnús [= Óláfr] brought about many a victory; I declare that most victories promoted the pre-eminence of Óláfr inn digri (‘the Stout’).
7 Þórð frák þat sinn herða
— þreifsk sókn — með Ôleifi
(góð fóru þar) geirum
gǫrt víg (saman hjǫrtu).
Stǫng bar hôtt fyr Hringa
hjaldrmóðum gram bróðir
— fullt vann — fagrla gyllta
framlundaðr Ǫgmundar.
I heard that Þórðr on that occasion intensified the full-scale battle with spears alongside Óláfr; the attack flourished; noble hearts advanced there together. The eager-spirited brother of Ǫgmundr [= Þórðr] carried high the beautifully gilded standard-pole before the battle-bold prince of the Hringar [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr]; he exerted himself to the utmost.
8 Ǫld vann Ôleifr fellda
(ǫflgan sigr) inn digri
(gekk sóknþorinn sœkja
synjór framm í brynju).
En, þeirs austan nenna,
— óx hildr — með gram mildum
— mart segik bert — í bjarta
blóðrǫst Svíar óðu.
Óláfr inn digri (‘the Stout’) cut down men; the battle-daring seigneur advanced in his mail-shirt to seek a powerful victory. And the Swedes, who travel from the east, waded into the bright current of blood alongside the gracious prince; battle intensified; I say much plainly.
9 Olmr erumk harmr, sás hilmir
hafði; golli vafðan
jǫfurr kreisti sá austan
aflfátt meðalkafla.
Gagn fengu því þegnar,
þeir at hôlfu fleiri
— hvǫtuð tælði þat hildar —
— hvôrungi frýk — vôru.
The grief that the ruler had rages at me; that prince clenched the sword-grip, wound about with gold, with scant support from the east. The subjects won victory because they were twice as many; that ensnared the inciter of battle [WARRIOR = Óláfr]; I fault neither side.
10 Vítt vas fold und fótum
— friðbann vas þar — mǫnnum;
þá réð í bǫð bráða
brynjat folk at dynja,
þás árliga ærir
alms með bjarta hjalma
— mikill varð á stað Stiklar
stálgustr — ofan þustu.
Far and wide the ground was under the feet of men; there was a ban on peace there; then the mail-shirted army roared into violent battle, when the envoys of the elm-bow [WARRIORS] rushed down quickly with bright helmets; a great steel-gust [BATTLE] came about at Stiklestad.
11 Fór í fylking þeira
framm (iðrask nú) miðri
— snarir fundusk þar — Þrœnda
(þess verks búendr) merki.
The standard of the Þrœndir advanced in the middle of their ranks; bold ones met there; the farmers now regret this deed.
12 Mest frák merkjum næstan
mínn dróttin framm sínum
— stǫng óð fyr gram — gingu
— gnógr styrr vas þar — fyrri.
I heard that my lord went most forcefully in front, next to his banners; the standard-pole advanced before the prince; there was plentiful fighting there.
13 Geir- hykk grimmligt vôru
gunnreifum Ôleifi
loghreytǫndum líta
lóns í -hvassar sjónir.
Þorðut þrœnzkir fyrðar
— þótti hersa dróttinn
ógurligr — í augu
ormfrôn séa hônum.
I think it was fearful for the distributors of the flame of the lagoon [(lit. ‘flame-distributors of the lagoon’) GOLD > GENEROUS MEN] to look into the spear-sharp eyes of battle-glad Óláfr. The men from Trøndelag did not dare to look into his snake-bright eyes; the lord of hersar [KING = Óláfr] seemed terrifying.
14 Rauð í rekka blóði
rǫnd með gumna hǫndum
dreyrugt sverð, þars dýran
drótt þjóðkonung sótti.
Auk at ísarnleiki
Innþrœndum lét finnask
rœkinn gramr í reikar
rauðbrúnan hjǫr túnum.
Gory sword reddened shield, along with the hands of men, in the blood of warriors, where the troop attacked the glorious mighty king. And the capable prince caused the red-brown sword to be found in the homefields of the hair-parting [HEAD] of Innþrœndir in the iron-play [BATTLE].
15 Undr láta þat ýtar
eigi smátt, es máttit
skæ-Njǫrðungum skorðu
skýlauss rǫðull hlýja.
Drjúg varð á því dœgri
— dagr náðit lit fǫgrum —
— orrostu frák austan
atburð — konungs furða.
People declare that no small wonder, that the cloudless sun was not able to warm the Njǫrðungar <gods> of the steed of the prop [(lit. ‘steed-Njǫrðungar of the prop’) SHIP > MEN]. Great was the portent concerning the king during that daytime; the day did not achieve its beautiful colour; I heard of the event at the battle from the east.
16 Mildr fann gǫrst, hvé galdrar,
gramr sjalfr, meginrammir
fjǫlkunnigra Finna
fullstórum barg Þóri,
þás hyrsendir Hundi
húna golli búnu
— slætt réð sízt at bíta —
sverði laust of herðar.
The gracious prince discovered most clearly himself how the mightily strong spells of the magic-skilled Saami saved the very powerful Þórir when the sender of the fire of the mast-tops [(lit. ‘fire-sender of the mast-tops’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = Óláfr] struck with the sword adorned with gold across the shoulders of Hundr (‘Dog’); the blunt one succeeded least in biting.
17 Þollr dylr saðrar snilli
seims, en þat veitk heiman,
— hverr sæi Hunds verk stœrri
hugstórs —, es frýr Þóri,
es þvergarða þorði
Þróttr, hinns framm of sótti,
glyggs í gǫgn at hǫggva
gunnranns konungmanni.
The fir-tree of gold [MAN] who reproaches Þórir conceals true valour, and I know that from home — who might have seen greater deeds of the mighty-hearted [Þórir] Hundr (‘Dog’)? —, when the Þróttr <= Óðinn> of the cross-fences of the storm of the battle-hall [SHIELD > BATTLE > SHIELD > WARRIOR], the one who pressed forwards, dared to strike at the royal person.
18 Bjǫrn frák auk af œrnum
endr stǫllurum kenndu
hug, hvé halda dugði
— hann sótti framm — dróttin.
Fell í her með hollum
hann verðungar mǫnnum;
leyfðrs at hilmis hǫfði
hróðrauðigs sá dauði.
I have heard also how Bjǫrn at that time taught the marshals, with abundant courage, how it was fitting to protect their lord; he pressed forward. He fell in the army with the loyal men of the retinue; that death at the head of the fame-rich leader is praised.
19 Hǫrðs, síz hermenn firrðu
— hlíf raufsk fyr gram — lífi,
auðn at Engla stríði
ómjúk, konung sjúkan.
Ǫr brá Ôleifs fjǫrvi
ǫld, þars herr klauf skjǫldu;
folks odda gekk fylkir
fund, en Dagr helt undan.
There is a hard, unyielding desolation after [the death of] the opponent of the English [= Óláfr], since warriors removed the wounded king from life; the shield was sundered in front of the ruler. The bold troop destroyed the life of Óláfr, where the army clove shields; the leader of the army advanced into the meeting of points [BATTLE], but Dagr headed away.
20 Áðr vitu eigi meiðar
ógnar skers né hersa
— þjóð réð þengils dauða —
þann styrk búandmanna,
es slíkan gram sóknum
sárelds viðir felldi
— mǫrg lá dýr í dreyra
drótt — , sem Ôleifr þótti.
The trees of the skerry of battle [SHIELD > WARRIORS] did not previously recognise that strength of the farmers nor of the hersar — the people caused the death of the prince — by which the trees of the wound-fire [SWORD > WARRIORS] could fell in the onslaught such a ruler as Óláfr was thought to be; many a noble retinue lay [dead] in the gore.
21 Ôleifr réð it øfra
andprútt hǫfuð landi
fulla vetr, áðr felli,
fimmtán, á því láni.
Hverr hafi hers inn nørðra
heims enda sér kenndan
— skjǫldungr helzk an skyldi
skemr — landreki inn fremri?
Óláfr, the proud-spirited chief, ruled the land higher up for fifteen full years, before he died on that allotted land. Which better land-ruler of the army [KING] had claimed the more northerly end of the world? The monarch survived for a shorter time than he should have.
22 Sumir trúðu á goð gumnar;
grein varð liðs á miðli;
folkorrostur fylkir
framráðr tjogu háði.
Frægr bað hann á hœgri
hǫnd kristit lið standa;
feðr Magnúss biðk fagna
flóttskjǫrrum goð dróttin.
Some men believed in God; there was a division among the troop; the ambitious leader waged twenty major battles. Renowned, he asked the Christian troop to stand at [his] right hand; I pray the Lord God to welcome the flight-shy father of Magnús [= Óláfr].
23 Lýgk, nema Ôleifr eigi
ýs sem kykvir tívar
(gœðik helzt í hróðri)
hárvǫxt (konungs ôru).
Enn helzk, þeims sýn seldi,
svǫrðr, * es óx, í Gǫrðum,
(hann fekk læs) af ljósum
(lausn) Valdamar, hausi.
I lie unless Óláfr has hair-growth like living gods of the yew-bow [WARRIORS]; I benefit especially the servants of the king in [this] poem. There is still the hair that grew on the bright skull of the one who granted sight to Vladimir in Russia [Óláfr]; he got relief from disability.
24 Gǫrts, þeims gótt bar hjarta,
gollit skrín at mínum
— hrósak helgi ræsis —
— hann sótti goð — dróttni.
Ár gengr margr frá mæru
meiðr þess konungs leiði
hreins með heilar sjónir
hrings, es blindr kom þingat.
A golden shrine has been made for my lord, who had a fine heart; I praise the holiness of the leader; he went to God. Many a tree of the sword [MAN] who came thither blind goes soon with healed eyes from the glorious resting-place of that pure king.
25 Oss dugir Ôleifs messu
— jǫfur magnar goð — fagna
meinalaust í mínu
Magnúss fǫður húsi.
Skyldr emk skilfings halda
skolllaust, þess’s bjó golli,
helgi, handar tjǫlgur
harmdauða, mér rauðu.
It is proper for us [me] to welcome, sinlessly, the feast day of Óláfr, the father of Magnús, in my house; God strengthens the ruler. I am required to keep, guilelessly, the holy day of the lamented death of the king, who fitted my branches of the arm with red gold.
26 Dánar dróttni mínum
dœgn of sent at hendi.
The day of death sent towards my lord.
27 Róms létk ok helt heiman
hermóðr á fǫr góðri
gjallar vǫnd, þanns golli
gaf mér konungr vafðan,
sult, þás silfri hjaltat
sverð dýrt, þats viðr þverrðan,
lǫgðum vápn en vígðum,
vers ylgjar, staf fylgðum.
War-weary, I left behind the rod of clamour [SWORD], which the king gave me, wound about with gold, and set out from home on the good journey to Rome, when we [I] put down my precious sword, the weapon hilted with silver, which succeeds in lessening the hunger of the husband of the she-wolf [WOLF], and we [I] followed the consecrated staff.
28 Endr réð engla senda
Jórðánar gramr fjóra
— fors þó hans á hersi
heilagt skopt — ór lopti.
The prince of the Jordan [CHRIST] once sent four angels from the sky; a waterfall washed the holy hair of his hersir.
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