Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

1. Víkingarvísur (Víkv) - 15

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).

Víkingarvísur (‘Vísur about Viking Voyages’) — Sigv VíkvI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur’ 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. 532.

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 1. Víkingarvísur, 1014-15 (AI, 223-8, BI, 213-16)

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

SkP info: I, 532

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files

 

1 Langr bar út inn unga
jǫfra kund at sundi
(þjóð uggði sér síðan)
sæmeiðr (konungs reiði).
Kannk til margs enn manna
minni; fyrsta sinni
hann rauð œstr fyr austan
ulfs fót við sker Sóta.
The long sea-tree [SHIP] carried the young descendant of princes [= Óláfr] out to sea; the people then feared the wrath of the king. I still know people’s memories about many a thing; on the first occasion he, vehement, reddened the wolf’s foot in the east at Sótasker.
2 Þar vas enn, es ǫnnur
Ôleifr — né svik fôlusk —
odda þing í eyddri
Eysýslu gekk heyja.
Sitt ôttu fjǫr fótum
— fár beið ór stað sára —
enn, þeirs undan runnu,
allvaldr, búendr gjalda.
There it came about also that Óláfr proceeded to hold other assemblies of weapon-points [BATTLES] in destroyed Saaremaa; treachery was not hidden. Mighty ruler, the farmers who ran away had again their feet to thank [lit. to repay] for their lives; few stood waiting for wounds.
3 Hríð varð stáls í stríðri
strǫng Herdala gǫngu
Finnlendinga at fundi
fylkis niðs in þriðja.
En austr við lô leysti
leið víkinga skeiðar;
Bálagarðs at borði
brimskíðum lá síða.
The third powerful storm of steel [BATTLE] of the descendant of the ruler [= Óláfr] happened during the difficult journey to Herdalar in a meeting with Finns. And the sea let loose the warships of the vikings east by the breakers; Bálagarðssíða lay alongside the surf-skis [SHIPS].
4 Enn kvôðu gram Gunnar
galdrs upphǫfum valda
— dýrð frák, þeims vel varðisk,
vinnask — fjórða sinni,
þás ólítill úti
jǫfra liðs á miðli
friðr gekk sundr í slíðri
Suðrvík Dǫnum kuðri.
Further, they said the prince caused the beginnings of a chant of Gunnr <valkyrie> [BATTLE] for the fourth time — I heard that glory was achieved for the one who defended himself well —, when the not little peace among the army of the rulers was sundered out in dangerous Søndervig, known to the Danes.
5 Víg vannt, hlenna hneigir,
hjǫlmum grimmt it fimmta
— þolðu hlýr fyr hári
hríð Kinnlimasíðu —,
þás við rausn at ræsis
reið herr ofan skeiðum,
enn í gegn at gunni
gekk hilmis lið rekkum.
Oppressor of thieves [JUST RULER = Óláfr], you won the fifth battle, dangerous to helmets — the bows suffered a storm off high Kinnlimasíða —, when the army rode down magnificently to the ruler’s warships and the leader’s troop advanced against warriors in battle.
6 Rétts, at sókn in sétta,
(snarr þengill bauð Englum
at) þars Ôleifr sótti
(Yggs) Lundúna bryggjur.
Sverð bitu vǫlsk, en vǫrðu
víkingar þar díki;
átti sumt í sléttu
Súðvirki lið búðir.
It is correct that the sixth battle [took place] where Óláfr attacked the wharves of London; the valiant prince offered the English the strife of Yggr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE]. Frankish swords bit, and vikings defended the ditch there; some of the troop had huts in level Southwark.
7 Enn lét sjaunda sinni
sverðþing háit verða
endr á Ulfkels landi
Ôleifr, sem ferk máli.
Stóð Hringmaraheiði
(herfall vas þar,) alla
Ellu kind (es olli
arfvǫrðr Haralds starfi).
Yet again Óláfr caused a sword-assembly [BATTLE] to be held for the seventh time in Ulfcytel’s land, as I recount the tale. The offspring of Ælla [= Englishmen] stood over all Ringmere Heath; there was slaying of the army there, where the guardian of Haraldr’s inheritance [= Óláfr] caused exertion.
8 Veitk, at víga mœtir
Vinðum háttr inn átta
— styrkr gekk vǫrðr at virki
verðungar — styr gerði.
Sinn môttut bœ banna
borg Kantara — sorgar
mart fekksk prúðum Pǫrtum —
portgreifar Ôleifi.
I know that the meeter of battles [WARRIOR], dangerous to Wends, held the eighth battle; the strong guardian of the troop [RULER] advanced against the fortification. The townreeves were not able to ban Óláfr from their city, Canterbury; much sorrow was caused for the proud Partar.
9 Vann ungr konungr Englum
ótrauðr skarar rauðar;
endr kom brúnt á branda
blóð í Nýjamóðu.
Nú hefk orrostur, austan
ógnvaldr, níu talðar;
herr fell danskr, þars dǫrrum
dreif mest at Ôleifi.
The young, not unwilling king made the hair of the English red; dark red blood again came onto swords in Nýjamóða. Now I have enumerated nine battles, battle-causer [WARRIOR] from the east; the Danish army fell, where spears drove most against Óláfr.
10 Tøgr vas fullr í fǫgrum
folkveggs drífahreggi
(helt, sem hilmir mælti,)
Hringsfirði (lið þingat).
Ból lét hann á Hóli
hôtt — víkingar ôttu —
— þeir bôðut sér síðan
slíks skotnaðar — brotna.
The ten was complete with a driving storm of the battle-wall [SHIELD > BATTLE] in beautiful Hringsfjǫrðr; the troop went there, as the ruler commanded. He had a high building on Hóll destroyed; the vikings owned it; they did not ask for such luck for themselves after that.
11 Ôleifr, vannt, þars jǫfrar,
ellipta styr, fellu,
— ungr, komt af því þingi,
þollr — í Gríslupolli.
Þat frák víg at víttu
Viljalms fyr bœ hjalma
— tala minnst es þat telja —
tryggs jarls háit snarla.
Óláfr, you won the eleventh battle in Gríslupollr, where princes fell; young fir-tree [warrior], you came away [safely] from that assembly. I have heard that that battle, fought briskly before the town of Viljálmr, the trustworthy jarl, destroyed helmets; it is the least of lists to enumerate that.
12 Tǫnn rauð tolfta sinni
tírfylgjandi ylgjar
(varð) í Fetlafirði
(fjǫrbann lagit mǫnnum).
The glory-follower [WARRIOR] reddened the tooth of the she-wolf for the twelfth time in Fetlafjǫrðr; a life-ban [DEATH] was imposed on men.
13 Þrettanda vann Þrœnda
— þat vas flótta bǫl — dróttinn
snjallr í Seljupollum
sunnarla styr kunnan.
Upp lét gramr í gamla
Gunnvaldsborg of morgin
— Geirfiðr hét sá — gǫrva
gengit, jarl of fenginn.
The brave lord of the Þrœndir [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr] won the thirteenth renowned battle south in Seljupollar; that was bad luck to those who fled. The prince had the whole troop go up to old Gunnvaldsborg in the morning, [and had] the jarl captured; he was called Geirfiðr.
14 Malms vann Mœra hilmir
munnrjóðr, es kom sunnan,
gang, þars gamlir sprungu
geirar, upp at Leiru.
Varð fyr víga Njǫrðum
Varrandi sjá fjarri
brenndr á byggðu landi
— bœr heitir svá — Peitu.
The reddener of the mouth of the sword [(lit. ‘mouth-reddener of the sword’) SWORD BLADE > WARRIOR], the ruler of the Mœrir [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr], when he came from the south, fought his way up to the Loire, where old spears shattered. Varrandi, far from the sea in the settlements of Poitou, was burned for the Nirðir <gods> of battles [WARRIORS]; the town is so named.
15 Ríkr kvað sér at sœkja
Sauðungs konungr nauðir
fremðar gjarn í fornu
fund Hôkunar sundi.
Strangr hitti þar þengill
þann jarl, es vas annarr
œztr ok ætt gat bezta
ungr á danska tungu.
The powerful king, eager for glory, said there was need for him to seek a meeting with Hákon in ancient Sauesund. The strong prince met there that jarl who, [when] young, was the second highest and had the best kin in the Danish-speaking world.
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