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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

10. Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 11

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).

Knútsdrápa (‘Drápa about Knútr’’) — Sigv KnútdrI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa’ 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. 649.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 10. Knútsdrápa, o. 1038 (AI, 248-51, BI, 232-4)

in texts: Flat, Fsk, Hb, Hkr, Knýtl, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓHLeg, RagnSon

SkP info: I, 649

notes: ms. refs separated from first cards

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1 Ok Ellu bak,
at, lét, hinns sat,
Ívarr ara,
Jórvík, skorit.
And Ívarr, who resided at York, had Ælla’s back cut with an eagle.
2 Ok senn sonu
sló, hvern ok þó,
Aðalráðs eða
út flæmði Knútr.
And Knútr soon defeated or drove out the sons of Æthelred, and indeed, each one.
3 Knútr vas und himnum.
Hykk ætt at frétt
Haralds í her
hug vel duga.
Lét lýrgǫtu
lið suðr ór Nið
Óláfr jǫfurr
ársæll fara.
Knútr was under the heavens … I believe, according to reports, [his] courage served the descendant of Haraldr [= Óláfr] well in battle. Óláfr, the season-blessed prince, let his fleet travel the pollack-path [SEA] south from Nidelven.
4 Þurðu norðan
— namsk þat — með gram
til slétts svalir
Silunds kilir.
En með annan
Ǫnundr Dǫnum
á hendr at há
her sœnskan ferr.
Cool keels rushed from the north with the ruler [Óláfr] to level Zealand; that has been learned. And Ǫnundr travels with another, Swedish army at the oars against the Danes.
5 Lét * lǫnd lokit
liðs gramr saman
marbe*ðjum með
mǫrg nefbjǫrgum,
þars garðr fyr gnóð
grôum hjǫlmum lá
þornheims þrimu
Þundi at *undri.
The lord of the army [Knútr] had many lands along the sea-coasts enclosed together by nose-guards, where a wall of grey helmets lay before the ship to the wonder of the Þundr <= Óðinn> of the home of the thorn of battle [(lit. ‘thorn-home of battle’) SWORD > SHIELD > WARRIOR = Óláfr].
6 Gôtut dróttnar
Danmǫrk spanit
und sik sǫkum
snarir herfarar.
Þá lét skarpla
Skáney Dana
hlǫðr herjaða.
Hǫfuðfremstr jǫfurr.
The bold lords could not get Denmark lured under them because of warfare. Then the feller of the Danes [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr] had Skåne ravaged fiercely. …The most eminent prince.
7 Knútr vas und himnum.
Hann austan frá,
fríðr fylkis niðr
fráneygr Dana.
Skreið vestan viðr
varrglæstr, sás bar
út andskota
Aðalráðs þaðan.
Knútr was under the heavens … He learned [news] from the east, the handsome, bright-eyed descendant of the ruler of the Danes [= Sveinn > = Knútr]. The sea-splendid ship which carried the enemy of Æthelred [= Knútr] out from there glided from the west.
8 Ok bôru í byr
blô segl við rô
— dýr vas dǫglings fǫr —
drekar landreka.
En, þeirs kómu,
kilir, vestan til,
of leið liðu
Limafjarðar brim.
And the dragon-ships of the land-ruler [Knútr] carried dark sails against the yard in the favouring wind; the sovereign’s journey was glorious. And the keels which arrived there from the west travelled the surf of Limfjorden on their way.
9 Létat af jǫfurr
(ætt manna fannsk)
Jótlands etask
ílendr (at því).
Vildi foldar
fæst rôn Dana
hlífskjǫldr hafa.
Hǫfuðfremstr jǫfurr.
Arrived in his land, the lord of Jutland [DANISH KING = Knútr] did not let himself be deprived; the race of men were pleased at that. The protecting shield of the Danes [DANISH KING = Knútr] would allow minimal plundering of the land. … The most eminent prince.
10 Kom á fylki
farlyst, þeims bar
hervíg í hug,
hafanda staf.
Rauf ræsir af
Rúms veg suman
kærr keisara
klúss Pétrúsi.
Desire for a journey came upon the ruler bearing a staff, who bore warfare in his heart. The leader, dear to the emperor, close to Peter, enjoyed some of the glory of Rome.
11 Svá mun fár feril
fetum suðr metinn
hringdrífr hafa.
Hǫfuðfremstr jǫfurr.
Few ring-distributors [GENEROUS RULERS] will have thus measured the route south with their steps. The most eminent prince ...
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated