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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

5. Vestrfararvísur (Vestv) - 8

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).

Vestrfararvísur (‘Verses on a Journey to the West’) — Sigv VestvI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Vestrfararvísur’ 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. 615. <> (accessed 26 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 5. Vestrfararvísur, 1025-26 (AI, 241-3, BI, 226-8)

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

SkP info: I, 615

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Note: The following transcriptions have been entered to aid the editing process. These may not have been fully reviewed and checked and may therefore not be reliable. You may wish to consult the manuscript images. Any corrections can be notified to the database editor.

1. Kx - 406r/2-406r/5
Bergr hofom minzt hve margan | morgon ruðoborgar | bꜹrð lét ec i fǫr fyrða | fest v arm iɴ vestra
2. Kx - 406r/17-406r/24
Útan varð ec áðr enn jóta | aɴspilli fecc ec stillis | mæld sa ec her fyr hꜹldi | husdyʀ fyr spyriaz | eɴ erende óro áttungr i sal knátti | gorms ber ec opt a armi | járn stúcor vel lúka.
3. Kx - 406r/29-406v/7
Ǫʀ tegaz Olaf gerva || allt hefer sa er fior valtan | konungs dꜹða mun ec qviþa | Knutr ok Hacon úti | haldiz vorðr þoat vildit | varla knútr ok jarlar | dælla er fyrst a fialli | fundr ef hann sialfr kømz undan
4. Kx - 406v/10-406v/17
Átti jarl at sætta | alframr boendr gamla | ok þeir er optaz toku | oláf at þvi mále | þeir hafa fyʀ af fáre | framt er Eirics kyn meira | hǫfþum keypt eɴ heipter | Hacon saman myndi
5. Kx - 369v/7-369v/14
Knut hefer okr hiɴ ítri | alldáðgꜹfugr báþom | hendr er hilmi fuɴdvm | hún scrꜹtliga bunar | þer gaf hann morc eþa meira | margvitr ok hior bitran | gullz ræðr gerva ollo | guð sialfr eɴ mer halfa
6. Kx - 418v/3-418v/10
Heim erum hingat comner | hyɢ þu at jofurr scatna | menn nemi mál sem ec iɴi | mín stallarar þiner | segðu hvar seꜱ hafit hugðan | seims þioð konungr beima | allr er þeckr með þollum | þiɴ scáli mer iɴan
7. Kx - 418v/19-418v/26
Knútr spurði mic metra | mildr ef ec honum vilda | hendilangr sem hringa | hugreifom oleifi | eiɴ qvað ec seɴ eɴ sꜹɴo | svara þóttumz ec drottiɴ | gefin ero gumna hveriom | góð dǫmi mer sóma
8. 75c - 35r/8-35r/11
Eið lata þv vtir ein | þott ek vera sæinni. iarðar alla verðar auðar milldr e n k villda era fyr mal | þat er mala. man þu lætr her vandan. long þœrf mun gram gengis gestr | knutz var ek flestum.
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated