Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Runic Dictionary

login: password: stay logged in: help

Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

9. Poem about Queen Ástríðr (Ást) - 3

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).

Poem about Queen Ástríðr — Sigv ÁstI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Poem about Queen Ástríðr’ 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. 645.

stanzas:  1   2   3 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 9. Et digt om dronning Astrid, o. 1036 (AI, 248, BI, 231-2)

SkP info: I, 646

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Sigv Ást 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Poem about Queen Ástríðr 1’ 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. 646.

Hrein getum hôla launa
hnossfjǫlð lofi ossu
Ôleifs dœtr, es átti
jǫfurr sigrhvatastr digri.
Þings beið herr á Hǫngrum
hundmargr Svía grundar
austr, es Ástríðr lýsti
Ôleifs sonar môlum.

Getum hôla launa lofi ossu {dœtr Ôleifs}, es sigrhvatastr, digri jǫfurr átti, hrein hnossfjǫlð. Hundmargr herr grundar Svía beið þings á Hǫngrum austr, es Ástríðr lýsti môlum {sonar Ôleifs}.

We [I] will repay splendidly with our [my] praise {Óláfr’s daughter} [= Ástríðr], to whom the most victorious stout prince [Óláfr Haraldsson] was married, for an abundance of bright treasures. A massive army from the land of the Swedes attended the assembly at Hangrar in the east, when Ástríðr proclaimed the cause {of Óláfr’s son} [= Magnús].

Mss: (495r), 39(12rb), F(37rb), J2ˣ(239v) (ll. 1-4), E(3r) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Hrein: hveim J2ˣ, E;    launa: ‘lꜹ’ 39, launat F    [2] lofi: liði F;    ossu: ‘osu’ F, ossa J2ˣ, E    [3] es (‘er’): so J2ˣ, E, sú er Kˣ, 39, F    [4] sigr‑: sig‑ 39, F    [5] Þings: þing E;    Hǫngrum: hungrum 39, F, ‘haumgrom’ E    [7] Ástríðr: ‘astri’ E

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 9. Et digt om dronning Astrid 1: AI, 248, BI, 231, Skald I, 120, NN §2775Hkr 1893-1901, III, 6, IV, 179, ÍF 28, 5-6, Hkr 1991, II, 558-9 (MGóð ch. 1), F 1871, 169, E 1916, 8; Jón Skaptason 1983, 124, 275-6.

Context: At an assembly in Sweden, the dowager Queen Ástríðr makes a speech to persuade the Swedes to help Magnús Óláfsson gain his kingdom. The three stanzas of Ást are cited without a break.

Notes: [1-2]: The two branches of the Hkr stemma diverge here. (a) The readings of , 39 and F, hrein and ossu, are chosen here as in other modern eds, both because they are the reading of the main ms., and because it is most natural for the poss. adj. ossu (n. dat. sg.) ‘our’ to agree with the immediately preceding noun lofi ‘praise’, and for hrein ‘bright, pure’ to be n. acc. pl. agreeing with hnossfjǫlð ‘abundance of treasures’. While the simplex fjǫlð ‘abundance, multitude’ is normally f. sg., Finnur Jónsson assumed a unique instance of a n. pl. form in this cpd (LP: fjǫlðhnossfjǫlð), and such a form fits the common pattern of alternation between f. sg. and n. pl. in a collective noun (Beito 1954, 95, 180; Janzén 1965, 359). (b) It appears that the scribes of J2x and E (or of their archetype) made the lines grammatically ‘correct’ with two minor emendations, producing a question, Hveim getum hôla launa hnossfjǫlð ossa lofi? ‘Whom do we splendidly repay for our abundance of treasures with praise?’ This would be answered in the second couplet. However, although Sigvatr occasionally uses rhetorical questions beginning with an interrog. pron. (Sigv Berv 11/1-3II, 13/1-4II, both beginning a stanza, and Sigv ErfÓl 17/3), he is never so unsubtle as to answer them. — [1] getum ... launa ‘we [I] will repay’: Or ‘let us repay’. For auxiliary geta with inf. see LP: 3. geta 4. — [3] es ‘to whom’: The Kx reading sú es (f. nom. sg.) is grammatically incorrect, as the demonstrative should be þeiri, f. dat. sg. agreeing with dœtr ‘daughter’ (or possibly þá, f. acc. sg. as the object of the rel. clause, cf. NS §260), and both Kock (NN §2775 and ÍF 28 prefer the reading of J2x and E, as here. — [4] sigrhvatastr, digri ‘the most victorious stout’: Strong (-astr) and weak (digri) adj. inflections are juxtaposed here, as occasionally elsewhere in skaldic poetry. The weak digri is appropriate, being Óláfr’s nickname (cf. Note to l. 4 sigrhvatastr). — [4] sigrhvatastr ‘most victorious’: Although LP lists compounds in both sig- n. ‘battle’ and sigr- m. ‘victory’, it is not clear that there was a real distinction between these two elements, especially in compounds (cf. Finnur Jónsson’s translation of sigrgjarn as kamp-begærlig ‘battle-eager’ in LP and sejrbegærlig ‘victory-eager’ in Skj BI, 533). Both Finnur Jónsson and Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson in ÍF 28 select the variant reading sighvatastr, presumably to improve the pun on the poet’s own name, of which Sighvatr is a standard form (cf. Paasche 1917, 80; Fidjestøl 1982, 160). However, sigrhvatastr is preferable both stemmatically and metrically. According to Kuhn (1983, 77), when r follows another consonant, especially b, d, or g, both consonants participate in the internal rhyme, thus digri would presuppose a rhyme on sigr-. Moreover, Sigvatr made use of the rhyme between the simplex sigr and his favourite epithet for King Óláfr, digri ‘stout’, on several occasions (Sigv ErfÓl 6/8, 8/2, Sigv Lv 12/6; see also Jǫk Lv 1/8, ÞjóðA Magn 1/2II, Arn Hryn 13/7II). — [5] beið þings ‘attended the assembly’: Bíða + gen. normally means ‘await’. For this stanza, LP suggests indfinde sig på tinge ‘appear at the assembly’, and that suggestion is followed here. While it is conceivable that the stanza describes a large army awaiting the outcome of the assembly, Snorri says that Ástríðr spoke at a fjǫlmennt þing ‘crowded assembly’ (ÍF 28, 4) and this seems the more likely interpretation. — [5] á Hǫngrum ‘at Hangrar’: A Swedish place of this name has not been identified. — [7] Ástríðr: The ms. spellings generally point to the form Ástríð, and it is conceivable that they preserve the OEN form of this name, which is attested without the ‑r ending in runic inscriptions from the C11th (Peterson 1981, 56-8, 66). Ms. E has ‘astri’, and papp18x (not used here as it is an inferior copy of K) has Ástríðr, presumably influenced by the Icel. form of the name.

© 2008-