Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

9. Poem about Queen Ástríðr (Ást) - 3

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).

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.

 1   2   3 

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

SkP info: I, 649

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Sigv Ást 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Poem about Queen Ástríðr 3’ 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. 649.

Mildr á mennsku at gjalda
Magnús, en því fǫgnum,
— þat gerði vin virða
víðlendan — Ástríði.
Hón hefr svá komit sínum,
(sǫnn) at fô mun ǫnnur,
(orð gerik drós til dýrðar)
djúprôð kona stjúpi.

Mildr Magnús á Ástríði at gjalda mennsku, en fǫgnum því; þat gerði {vin virða} víðlendan. Hón, djúprôð kona, hefr komit stjúpi sínum svá, at fô ǫnnur mun; gerik sǫnn orð drós til dýrðar.

Generous Magnús has Ástríðr to repay for her bold deed, and we are glad for that; it gave {the friend of men} [RULER = Magnús] a broad realm. She, a deeply decisive woman, has helped her stepson in such a way as few others would; I make true words to the lady’s glory.

Mss: (495r-v), 39(12rb), F(37rb), E(3r) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] á: átt F;    at: om. E    [5] hefr: ‘hofr’ 39

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 9. Et digt om dronning Astrid 3: AI, 248, BI, 232, Skald I, 120; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 7, IV, 179-80, ÍF 28, 6-7, Hkr 1991, II, 559 (MGóð ch. 1), F 1871, 169, E 1916, 8; Jón Skaptason 1983, 126, 276.

Context: As for st. 1.

Notes: [1] mennsku ‘her bold deed’: This word has connotations of ‘manly behaviour’ and is translated by Jón Skaptason (1983, 126) as ‘manhood’, though assigned to Magnús rather than Ástríðr. Here, it is taken to refer to Ástríðr’s actions, because she has acted like a man, in speaking successfully at a public assembly. — [3] þat ‘it’: This n. pron. appears to refer to the situation in general (as does n. dat. sg. því ‘that’ in l. 2), rather than specifically back to the f. noun mennsku. — [3-4] gerði vin virða víðlendan ‘gave the friend of men [RULER = Magnús] a broad realm’: Lit. ‘made the friend of men broad-realmed’. — [8] djúprôð kona ‘a deeply decisive woman’: See Note to st. 2/3 above. The phrase is taken here in apposition with hón in l. 5, but it could alternatively be construed with fô ǫnnur (f. nom. sg.) ‘few other(s)’ in l. 6.

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