Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

7. Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson (Erlfl) - 10

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).

Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson — Sigv ErlflI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson’ 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. 629.

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson, 1028-29 (AI, 244-7, BI, 228-31)

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Hkr, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓHLeg, ÓT

SkP info: I, 629

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1 Út réð Erlingr skjóta
eik, sás rauð inn bleika,
— iflaust es þat — jǫfri,
arnar fót, at móti.
Skeið hans lá svá síðan
siklings í her miklum
(snarir bǫrðusk þar sverðum)
síbyrð við skip (fyrðar).
Erlingr, who reddened the pale foot of the eagle, caused the oak vessel to be launched against the ruler [Óláfr]; that is without doubt. His warship lay thus afterwards in the great host of the prince [Óláfr], alongside [his] ship; brisk men fought there with swords.
2 Rakkr þengill hjó rekka;
reiðr gekk hann of skeiðar;
valr lá þrǫngt á þiljum;
þung vas sókn fyr Tungum.
Bragningr rauð fyr breiðan
borðvǫll Jaðar norðan;
blóð kom varmt í víðan
— vá frægr konungr — ægi.
The bold lord [Óláfr] cut down warriors; he walked enraged across the warships; the slain lay tightly packed on the boards; the attack off Tunge was heavy. The ruler [Óláfr] reddened the plank-field [SEA] north of broad Jæren; warm blood fell into the wide ocean; the renowned king [Óláfr] fought.
3 Ǫll vas Erlings fallin
— ungr fyr norðan Tungur
skeið vann skjǫldungr auða —
skipsókn við þrǫm Bóknar.
Einn stóð sonr á sínu
snarr Skjalgs vinum fjarri
í lyptingu lengi
lætrauðr skipi auðu.
All of Erlingr’s ship-crew had fallen by the coast of Bokn; the young ruler [Óláfr] cleared [lit. made empty] the warship to the north of Tunge. The bold, deceit-shunning son of Skjálgr [= Erlingr] stood long alone, far from friends, in the after-deck of his empty ship.
4 Réð eigi grið, gýgjar,
geðstirðr konungs firða,
skers þótt skúrir þyrrit,
Skjalgs hefnir sér nefna.
En varðkeri virðir
víðbotn né kømr síðan
glyggs á gjalfri leygðan
geirs ofrhugi meiri.
The tough-minded avenger of Skjálgr [= Erlingr] did not ask for quarter from the king’s men, even though the showers of the skerry of the axe [SHIELD > BATTLE] did not let up. And a greater appreciator of the spear [WARRIOR], over-bold one, will not come afterwards onto the wide base of the guarding-vessel of the storm [SKY > EARTH], washed by the sea.
5 Ǫndurða bað, jarðar,
Erlingr, sás vel lengi
geymði lystr, — né lamðisk
landvǫrn — klóask ǫrnu,
þás hann at sig sǫnnum
— sá vas áðr búinn ráða
ats — við Útstein hizi
Ôleif of tók môlum.
Erlingr, who, joyful, ruled the land well for a long time — his defence of territory did not fail — said eagles should fight face to face, when he addressed Óláfr with true words after the battle there by Utstein; he was previously ready to carry out the attack.
6 Erlingr fell, en olli
allríkr skapat slíku
— bíðrat betri dauða —
bragna konr með gagni.
Mann veitk engi annan,
allbrátt þótt fjǫr láti,
enn sás allan kunni
aldr fullara at halda.
Erlingr fell, and the most powerful son of kings [RULER = Óláfr] caused such a thing to be brought about by [his] victory; no better man will experience death. I know of no other man who could maintain his standing all his life, even though he lost his life very early.
7 Áslákr hefr aukit
(es vǫrðr drepinn Hǫrða)
(fáir skyldu svá) (foldar)
frændsekju (styr vekja).
Ættvígi má eigi
(á líti þeir) níta
— frændr skyli bræði bindask
bornir — (môl in fornu).
Áslákr has increased crime against kindred; the guardian of the land of the Hǫrðar [= Hordaland > = Erlingr] has been killed; few should cause conflict in such a way. Kin-killing cannot be denied; those born as kinsmen should refrain from violence; let them look to the old sayings.
8 Drakk eigi ek drykkju
dag þann, es mér sǫgðu
Erlings tál, at jólum
allglaðr, þess’s réð Jaðri.
Hans mun dráp of drúpa
dýrmennis mér kenna;
hǫfuð bôrum vér hæra
— hart morð vas þat — forðum.
I did not drink my drink very happily [lit. happy] at Christmas on the day when they told me of the betrayal of Erlingr, the one who ruled Jæren. The killing of him, the splendid person, will cause me to droop; we [I] carried our head higher before; that was a harsh murder.
9 Erlingr vas svá at jarla
ôtt, es skjǫldungr máttit,
Ôleifs mágr, svát œgði,
aldyggs sonar Tryggva.
Næst gaf sína systur
snarr búþegna harri
(Ulfs feðr vas þat) aðra
(aldrgipta) Rǫgnvaldi.
Erlingr, brother-in-law of Óláfr, the very worthy son of Tryggvi, behaved in such a way against the kin of the jarls, that he terrified [them], which the king [Óláfr Tryggvason] could not. Next the keen chief of landowners [RULER = Óláfr] gave his other sister to Rǫgn valdr; that was the luck of his life for Úlfr’s father [= Rǫgnvaldr].
10 Erlingi varð engi
annarr lendra manna,
ǫrr sás átti fleiri
orrostur stoð þorrinn.
Þrek bar seggr við sóknir
sinn, þvít fyrst gekk innan,
mildr, í marga hildi,
mest, en ór á lesti.
There was no-one among district chieftains other than Erlingr, who, bold, deprived of support, held more battles. The generous man deployed his stamina to the utmost in onslaughts, because he went first into many a fight, and out as the last.
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