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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

3. Austrfararvísur (Austv) - 21

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).

Austrfararvísur (‘Verses on a Journey to the East’) — Sigv AustvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur’ 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. 578.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 3. Austrfararvísur, 1019 (AI, 233-40, BI, 220-5)

SkP info: I, 601

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — Sigv Austv 13I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 13’ 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. 601.

Átt hafa sér, þeirs sóttu,
sendimenn fyr hendi
Sygna grams, með sagnir
siklinga, fǫr mikla.
Spǫrðumk fæst, en fyrða
fǫng eru stór við gǫngu;
vǫrðr réð nýtr, þvís norðan,
Nóregs, þinig fórum.

Sendimenn {grams Sygna}, þeirs sóttu siklinga með sagnir, hafa átt sér mikla fǫr fyr hendi. Spǫrðumk fæst, en fǫng fyrða eru stór við gǫngu; {nýtr vǫrðr Nóregs} réð, þvís fórum norðan þinig.

The messengers {of the lord of the Sygnir} [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr], who sought out lords with messages, have had a big journey on their hands. I spared myself very little, but men’s baggage is large along the way; {the able guardian of Norway} [= Óláfr] determined that we went from the north in that direction.

Mss: Holm2(26r), R686ˣ(49v), 972ˣ(178va), J2ˣ(160v-161r), 325VI(17ra-b), 75a(15ra-b), 73aˣ(65r-v), 68(24v), 61(94rb), Holm4(17rb), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(304v-305r); Bb(153ra) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Átt: ‘Attȧ’ Tóm;    hafa: hafr R686ˣ;    sér: þeir 68, om. Tóm;    þeirs (‘þeir er’): sér er 68    [2] fyr: af Flat    [3] Sygna: Sygni Tóm;    með: so 325VI, 68, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, við Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, Bb    [4] fǫr: so J2ˣ, 75a, 68, 61, Holm4, Tóm, Kˣ, ‘for’ Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 325VII, Flat, Bb;    mikla: ‘mikka’ R686ˣ    [5] Spǫrðumk: spurðumk 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 75a, Holm4, Tóm, Bb, spurðusk 73aˣ, spurðisk 61, spǫrðusk 325VII, spurðu Flat;    fæst: flest 75a, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, færst 61, fest Bb;    en: er 75a, né 68;    fyrða: furða 68, Bb, fyrðar Flat    [6] stór: stœrst Bb;    gǫngu: so R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Bb, corrected from ‘gaundo’ Holm2, gǫngur Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ    [7] réð: veldr 61;    nýtr: ‘nitur’ 972ˣ, nítr Kˣ;    þvís (‘þvi er’): fyrir 75a, er 73aˣ, þat et 68, því Holm4    [8] Nóregs: Nóreg 75a, ‘norígs’ Tóm;    þinig: þung R686ˣ, þannig 325VI, Flat, Tóm;    fórum: fóru 68, fǫrum Flat, ‘forvund’ Bb

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 13: AI, 237, BI, 223, Skald I, 116, NN §2448A, 2473; Fms 4, 188, Fms 12, 84-5, ÓH 1941, I, 202 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 114; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 126, VI, 86, Hkr 1868, 309 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 173, ÍF 27, 139, Hkr 1991, I, 349 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 18-19, 47-8, Jón Skaptason 1983, 94, 242.

Context: When they have arrived at Rǫgnvaldr jarl’s residence, the jarl says they must have had a difficult journey, and Sigvatr responds with this and the following stanza.

Notes: [3] grams Sygna ‘of the lord of the Sygnir [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr]’: The phrase is here construed with sendimenn ‘messengers’ in l. 2, and sagnir in l. 3 is understood as their messages. However, E. Noreen (1923, 40; also Kock, NN §2473) is quite possibly right that grams Sygna depends on sagnir, which could have the sense ‘troop of men’, here ‘messengers’. — [4] siklinga ‘lords’: Ternström (1871, 47) regards this as gen. pl., depending on sagnir ‘messages’. — [6] fǫng ‘baggage’: Alternative semantic interpretations are possible here. (a) The analysis of Noreen (1923, 40), followed here, is that Sigvatr means to say that although he pampered himself little, and thus he brought along few provisions, the baggage nonetheless was a source of difficulty. Thus, stór ‘large’ in l. 6 would imply ‘heavy’: so Jón Skaptason (1983, 94); Hkr 1991. This interpretation is in keeping with the comedic elements of some of the preceding stanzas. (b) Finnur Jónsson (LP: 2. fang 4) takes this to mean ‘difficulties’, and though Noreen is right that the word is not otherwise attested in this sense, it does commonly mean ‘grappling, wrestling’, which seems close enough in meaning to Finnur’s intent. — [6] gǫngu ‘the way’: The reading, pl. gǫngur, is preferred by Noreen (1923, 40).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated