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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

8. Tryggvaflokkr (Tryggfl) - 1

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).

Tryggvaflokkr (‘Flokkr about Tryggvi’) — Sigv TryggflI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Tryggvaflokkr’ 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. 643.

stanzas:  1 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 8. Tryggvaflokkr, 1034 (AI, 247, BI, 231); stanzas (if different): [v]

in texts: Hkr, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓT

SkP info: I, 643

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

This is the only surviving stanza of TryggvaflokkrFlokkr about Tryggvi’, attributed to Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv Tryggfl). Tryggvi Óláfsson was a pretender to the Norwegian throne who claimed to be the son of Óláfr Tryggvason (r. c. 995-1000), but was killed c. 1032 by the Dane King Sveinn Álfífuson, who had then been ruling Norway for two or three years; their clash is also commemorated in the sole extant stanza of the Flokkr about Sveinn Álfífuson (Anon Sveinfl). The mss which cite Tryggfl all introduce it by saying it is from a poem called Tryggvaflokkr, but only 325V attributes this poem to Sigvatr, both before and after the citation. It is often claimed (ÍF 27, 413; Fidjestøl 1982, 122; Jón Skaptason 1983, 270; Hkr 1991, 555) that Bergsbók (Bb) also attributes the stanza to Sigvatr, but this appears incorrect. Hellberg (1972, 24-30) has attempted to link this stanza (and Anon Sveinfl) to Sigvatr’s Nesjavísur (Sigv Nesv); there is a similarity, in that in both the poet claims to have been an eyewitness to the battle, but a major point in his argument rests on weak foundations (see Note to l. 1 below). There are some similarities of diction with Sigvatr’s better-attested work, instanced in the Notes below, though these do not constitute decisive evidence. Nor is the skald’s claim (l. 5) that he was present at the battle decisive in the absence of evidence as to who fought there, though it may be true (as argued in LH I, 589) that Sigvatr would have been likely to sympathise with an uprising against the unpopular Danish rule. Other scholars have mostly accepted the medieval evidence that this stanza is the work of Sigvatr and is a fragment of a poem other than Nesv. That position is also adopted in this edition, while bearing in mind that the attribution to Sigvatr rests on the evidence of one ms. only and may have arisen because, as the prose accounts note, Tryggvi fell close to Bókn in Sóknarsund (Bokn in Boknafjorden, Rogaland) where Erlingr Skjálgsson fell, also the subject of a composition by Sigvatr (Sigv Erlfl).

This stanza is preserved in Snorri Sturluson’s Óláfs saga helga in both the Separate version (ÓH) and Hkr version (ÓHHkr), as well as in ÓT. The mss used are listed below; is the main ms.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated