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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

12. Lausavísur (Lv) - 30

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).

Lausavísur — Sigv LvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur’ 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. 698.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 13. Lausavísur (AI, 265-75, BI, 246-54); stanzas (if different): 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32

in texts: Ágr, Flat, Gramm, H-Hr, Hkr, MGóð, MH, Mork, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓHLeg, TGT

SkP info: I, 698

notes: ms. refs separated from first cards

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


1 Fiskr gengr oss at óskum,
eitrs sem vér hǫfum leitat
lýsu vangs ór lyngvi
leygjar orm at teygja.
Atrennir lét (annars)
ǫngulgripinn hanga
(vel hefr aurriða at egna)
agngalga (mér hagnat).
The fishing goes according to our [my] wishes, in that we have tried to lure the poison-serpent of the sea [FISH] out of the heather of the field of the cod [SEA > SEAWEED]. The caster of the bait-gallows [FISHING LINE > FISHERMAN] let the one grasped by the hook hang; at all events, things have turned out well for me in catching the trout.
2 Hlýð mínum brag, meiðir
myrkblás, þvít kannk yrkja,
alltíginn — mátt eiga
eitt skald — drasils tjalda,
þótt ǫllungis allra,
allvaldr, lofun skalda
— þér fæk hróðrs at hvôru
hlít — annarra nítið.
Listen to my poetry, most high-born destroyer of the dark black steed of awnings [SHIP > WARRIOR], because I know how to compose — you can have one skald —, although you refuse completely the praise of all other poets, mighty ruler; I shall deliver to you nonetheless a sufficiency of praise.
3 Ek tók lystr, né lastak
— leyfð íð es þat — síðan,
sóknar Njǫrðr, við sverði
— sás mínn vili — þínu.
Þollr, fekkt húskarl hollan
— hǫfum ráðit vel báðir —
látrs, en ek lánardróttin,
linns blóða, mér góðan.
I accepted, eager, your sword, Njǫrðr <god> of combat [WARRIOR], and I will not find fault with it afterwards; this is what I wish; it is a praiseworthy occupation. Fir-tree of the lair of the serpent’s brother [SERPENT > GOLD > MAN], you got a loyal retainer, and I [got] for myself a good liege lord; we have both decided well.
4 Gǫrbœnn mun ek Gunnar
gammteitǫndum heitinn
— áðr þôgum vér ægis
eld —, ef nú biðk felda.
Landaura veit, lúru
látrþverrandi, af knerri
enn of ganga, engis
— ek hef sjalfr krafit— halfa.
I will be called importunate by gladdeners of the vulture of Gunnr <valkyrie> [(lit. ‘vulture-gladdeners of Gunnr’) RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIORS] if now I ask for skins; already we [I] have received the flame of the sea [GOLD]. Allow, diminisher of the lair of the halibut of the meadow [(lit. ‘lair-diminisher of the halibut of the meadow’) SERPENT > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], half the landing tax to go again from the merchant ship; I have myself requested [it].
5 Áðr hefk gótt við góða
grams stallara alla
átt, þás ossum dróttni,
ógndjarfs, fyr kné hvarfa.
Bjǫrn, fazt opt at árna,
íss, fyr mér at vísa
góðs, meguð gótt of ráða
gunnrjóðr, þvít vel kunnuð.
Until now I have had good dealings with all the good marshals of the terror-bold prince [Óláfr], those who stroll about before the knee of our lord [as supplicants]. Bjǫrn, you managed often to gain something good for me from [our] leader; you are able, reddener of war-ice [(lit. ‘war-reddener of ice’) SWORD > WARRIOR], to give good advice, because you understand well [how to].
6 Nú sitt heill, en hallar
hér finnumk meir þinnar
at, unz enn kømk vitja,
Ôleifr konungr, mála.
Skald biðr hins, at haldi
hjalmdrífu viðr lífi
— endisk leyfð — ok landi
— lýkk vísu nú — þvísa.
Now sit in good health, King Óláfr, until I come again to claim fulfilment of [our] agreement, and we shall meet again here at your hall. The poet asks this, that the tree of the helmet-storm [BATTLE > WARRIOR] may keep hold of life and this land; the praise ends; I close my verse now.
7 Nú eru mælt, en mála
meir kunnum skil fleiri,
orð, þaus oss of varða
alls mest, konungr, flestra.
Goð láti þik gæta,
geðharðr konungr, jarðar,
(víst hefk þann) þvít, þinnar,
þúst tilborinn (vilja).
Now the words are spoken which, of most [words], are of greatest importance to us [me], king, but further we [I] possess discernment in other matters. May God allow you to take care of your land, mind-resolute king, because you are born to it; truly I have that wish.
8 Eigi sôtuð ítrum,
Ívarr, meginfjarri,
orð þás ossum fœrðak
— at sóttisk lof — dróttni.
Þérs, alls hann réð hlýða
hróðr sínn, lofi þínu
— hljóðs hefk beitt á báða
bekki — vant at hnekkja.
Ívarr, you did not sit very far from the glorious one when I conveyed words to our lord; praise rushed forth. For you it is inadvisable to reject praise of yourself, since he saw fit to listen to his encomium; I have requested a hearing from both benches.
9 Sendi mér inn mæri
— man þengill sá drengi —
(síð munk heldr at hróðri)
hnytr þjóðkonungr (snytrask).
Opt, en okkr bað skipta
Óttar í tvau dróttinn,
endask môl, sem myndim,
manndjarfr, fǫðurarfi.
The famous great king sent nuts to me; that prince remembers his fellows; I shall probably grow wise at encomium rather late. Meals often come to an end, and the man-bold lord told Óttarr and me to divide [the nuts] in two as we would a father’s inheritance.
10 Þrøngvisk ér of ungan,
ítrmenni, gram þenna;
bægisk ǫld, svát eigi
Ôleifs náik máli.
Mér varð orð at órum
auðsótt frǫmum dróttni,
þás óðum mjǫk móðir
mjǫll á Dofrafjalli.
You throng about this young ruler, glorious crowd; people are pushing, so that I cannot obtain speech with Óláfr. For me a word with our outstanding lord was easy to get when we waded, quite exhausted, through the snow on Dovrefjell.
11 Seinn þykki mér sunnan
sókndjarfr Haralds arfi;
langrs, en lýðum þrøngvir
lífs sorg, konungs morginn.
Hvatkis heiðis gatna
hyrtælanda sælan
— nú hefk vætt í dag dróttins —
dvelr, bíðk hans í Selju.
The attack-brave heir of Haraldr [= Óláfr] seems late to me [in coming] from the south; long is the king’s morning, and life’s sorrow presses on men. Whatever delays the fortunate destroyer of the flame of the paths of the hawk [ARMS > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], I await him in Selja; now I have been expecting [my] lord today.
12 Hafa allframir jǫfrar
út sín hǫfuð Knúti
fœrð ór Fífi norðan
— friðkaup vas þat — miðju.
Seldi Ôleifr aldri
(opt vá sigr) inn digri
haus í heimi (þvísa
hann) engum svá manni.
The most outstanding lords have presented their heads to Knútr from the north out of mid Fife; it was the price of peace. Óláfr the Stout never surrendered his skull thus to anyone in the world; he has often won victory for that reason.
13 Fjandr ganga þar þengils
(þjóð býðr opt) með sjóða
(hǫfgan malm fyr hilmis
haus ófalan) lausa.
Sitt veit hverr, ef harra
hollan selr við golli,
— vert es slíks — í svǫrtu,
sinn, helvíti innan.
Enemies of the prince go there with open purses; people are repeatedly offering solid metal for the not-for-sale skull of the ruler [Óláfr]. Everyone knows his lot will be within black Hell if he sells his gracious lord for gold; that is deserving of such.
14 Kaup varð daprt, þars djúpan,
dróttinrækt, of sóttu,
þeir es, heim, á himnum,
hás elds, svikum belldu.
The lord-rejecting bargain was dismal in the heavens, when they sought the deep world of towering flame [HELL], those who committed treason.
15 Gerðisk hilmis Hǫrða
húskarlar þá jarli,
er við Ôleifs fjǫrvi,
ofvægir, fé þægi.
Hirð esa hans at verða
hôligt fyr því máli;
dælla es oss, ef allir
erum vír of svik skírir.
Then the housecarls of the ruler of the Hǫrðar [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr] who would accept payment for Óláfr’s life would turn out too compliant towards the jarl [Hákon]. For his retinue it is not noble to be the subject of this talk; for us it is easier if we are all cleared of treason.
16 Út býðr allvaldr sveitum
Englands, en vér fengum
— lítt sék lofðung óttask —
liðfæð ok skip smæri.
Rôð eru ljót, ef láta
landsmenn konung þenna
— lætr einǫrð fé firrða
ferð — liðþrota verða.
The mighty ruler of England [= Knútr] calls the war-bands out, but we have got a scarcity of men and smaller ships; little do I see [our] prince show anxiety. Our options are ugly if his countrymen let this king run short of troops; money deprives people of their constancy.
17 Flœja getr, en frýju,
fjandr, leggr oss til handa
— verðk fyr æðruorði —
allvalds, en fé gjalda.
Hverr skal þegn, þótt þverri
þengils vina gengi,
— upp hvalfra svik — sjalfan
sik lengst hafa miklu.
One can flee the enemies of the mighty ruler and pay out money, but a reproach will be laid on our heads [lit. hands]; I shall be the subject of talk of fear. Each retainer has to keep hold of himself by far the longest, even if the support of the prince’s friends is diminishing; treason will be overturned.
18 Stóðk á Mont, ok minntumk,
mǫrg hvar sundr fló targa
breið ok brynjur síðar
borgum nær, of morgin.
Munða ek, þanns unnði
(ǫndverðan brum) lǫndum,
(faðir minn vas þar þenna
Þórrøðr) konung, forðum.
I stood one morning in the Alps, and I remembered where many a broad shield, and long mail-shirts, flew asunder near towns. I recalled the king who once enjoyed his lands; Þórðr my father was there early in that period.
19 Dróttinn, hjalp, þeims dóttur
— dýrrs þínn vili — mína
heim ór heiðnum dómi
hóf ok nafn gaf Tófu.
Helt und vatr inn vitri
— varðk þeim feginn harða
morni — mínu barni
móðrakkr Haralds bróðir.
Lord, help him who lifted my daughter home out of heathendom and gave [her] the name Tófa; worthy is your will. The wise, mind-bold brother of Haraldr [= Óláfr] held my child under the water; I grew exceedingly glad about that morning.
20 Fúss læzk maðr, ef missir
meyjar faðms, at deyja;
-keypt es ôst, ef eptir,
of-, látinn skal gráta.
En fullhugi fellir
flóttstyggr, sás varð dróttin,
várt torrek lízk verra,
vígtôr, konungs ôrum.
A man claims he is ready to die if he misses the embrace of a maiden; love is too dearly bought if one must weep for the departed. But the flight-shunning man full of courage who has lost his lord sheds slaying-tears; our grievous loss seems worse to the servants of the king.
21 Hrafna sék til hafnar
— hræs minnask þeir — sinna,
þars flaut und nið nýtum
Norðmanna skip forðum.
Gjalla hôtt fyr Hillar
hvern dag frekir ernir,
endr þeirs Ôleifr grenndi,
innan, mǫrgu sinni.
I see ravens travelling to the harbour, where a ship rode once under the able son of Norwegians [= Óláfr]; they remember the carrion. Greedy eagles shriek loudly every day in the lee of Hille, those which Óláfr fed formerly many a time.
22 Geng ek of þvert frá þengils
(þróask ekki mér) rekka,
emk sem bast (í brjósti)
bleikr, verðungar leiki.
Minnumk ek, hvar manna
minn dróttinn lék sinna
opt á óðalstoptum
orðsæll ok vér forðum.
I walk away from the game of the bodyguard of the prince of warriors [RULER = Sveinn/Magnús]; sobbing sorrows grow in my breast; I am pale as bast. I recall where my praise-blessed lord [Óláfr] and we [I] played often in the past at the ancestral homesteads of his people.
23 Hafa láti mik heitan
Hvíta-Kristr at víti
eld, ef Ôleif vildak
— emk skirr of þat — firrask.
Vatnœrin hefk vitni
— vask til Rúms í haska—
— ǫld leynik því aldri —
annarra þau manna.
May White-Christ let me have hot fire for punishment if I wanted to abandon Óláfr; I am guiltless about that. I have those abundant-as-water testimonies of other people; I was in peril on the way to Rome; never shall I conceal that from people.
24 Hô þótti mér hlæja
hǫll of Nóreg allan
— fyrr vask kenndr á knǫrrum —
klif, meðan Ôleifr lifði.
Nú þykki mér miklu
— mitt stríð es svá — hlíðir
— jǫfurs hylli varðk alla —
óblíðari síðan.
The high, sloping cliffs seemed to me to laugh over all Norway while Óláfr was alive; I was once recognized on ships. Now the slopes seem to me much less agreeable since; such is my affliction; I have lost all favour of the ruler.
25 Enn lystir mik (austan
erut of spǫrð ór Gǫrðum)
frá ǫðlingi ungum
(opt byrjuð lof) spyrja.
Fréttik smás, þótt smæstir
smoglir ástar foglar
(þinig ljúgumk fǫr) fljúgi
(fylkis niðs) á miðli.
Still it pleases me to ask about the young prince; the praises often conveyed from the east out of Russia are not too sparing. I enquire about little, though the smallest, smuggling birds of affection fly between; I am cheated of the journey hither of the leader’s offspring [RULER = Magnús].
26 Alfífu mun ævi
ungr drengr muna lengi,
es oxamat ôtum
inni, skaf sem hafrar.
Annat vas, þás Ôleifr
ógnbandaðr réð landi;
hverr átti þá hrósa
hjalmþornuðu korni.
A young fellow will long remember the days of Álfífa (Ælfgifu), when we ate cattle fodder indoors, as goats [eat] peeled bark. It was otherwise when Óláfr, the battle-gesturer [WARRIOR], ruled the country; everyone then had to praise the rick-dried grain.
27 Munu, þeirs mestar skynjar
munvágs Dáins kunna,
síðr at Sighvats hróðri
svinns braglǫstu finna.
Sik vill hverr, es hnekkir,
haldorðr boði skjaldar
éls, þvís allir mæla,
iflaust gera at fifli.
Those who comprehend the greatest knowledge of the delightful wave of Dáinn <dwarf> [POETRY] will hardly [lit. less] find verse-flaws in the encomium of judicious Sigvatr. Every word-holding announcer of the storm of the shield [BATTLE > WARRIOR] who rejects what all say will doubtless make himself a fool.
28 Heim sóttir þú hættinn
hǫnd, en vel mátt lǫndum
— þinn stoðak môtt — sem mǫnnum,
Magnús konungr, fagna.
Fœrak víst, þvít vôrum
varðr at þér, í Garða;
skrifnask skírinafna
skript, þjóðkonungr, niptar.
Bold, you came back home, King Magnús, and you can be most glad of [your] lands as well as [your] people; I support your power. Certainly, I would have travelled to Russia, since we were [I was] closely connected to you; a document of [your] kinswoman is written to [my] godson, great king.
29 Minn hug segik mǫnnum,
Magnús, at ek fagna
— goðs lán es þat — þínu
þingdrífu vel lífi.
Ætti drengja dróttinn
dýrðarson, ef yrði
(þjóð mætti fô fœðask)
feðr glíkr (konung slíkan).
I tell my thought to people, Magnús, that I am well pleased with your assembly-attending life; it is God’s gift. The lord of men [RULER = Óláfr] would have a glorious son, if he became like his father; few nations could produce such a king.
30 Ástríði lát œðri,
Alfhildr, an þik sjalfa,
þér þótt þinn hagr stórum
— þat vildi goð — batni.
Álfhildr, set Ástríðr higher than yourself, though your position is improving for you greatly; God willed it.
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