Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

3. Austrfararvísur (Austv) - 21

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).

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.

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

SkP info: I, 603

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Sigv Austv 14I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 14’ 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. 603.

Drjúggenginn vas drengjum
— drengr magnar lof þengils —
austr til jǫfra þrýstis
Eiðaskógr á leiðu.
Skyldit mér, áðr mildan
minn dróttin komk finna,
hlunns af hilmis runnum
hnekkt dýrloga bekkjar.

Eiðaskógr vas drjúggenginn drengjum á leiðu austr til {þrýstis jǫfra}; drengr magnar lof þengils. Skyldit mér hnekkt af {runnum {dýrloga {bekkjar hlunns}}} hilmis, áðr komk finna mildan dróttin minn.

Eidskogen was a long slog for the good fellows on the way east to {the compeller of princes} [RULER = Rǫgnvaldr]; the good fellow [I] strengthens the praise of the lord. I should not have been driven off by {the bushes {of the precious flame {of the bench of the launcher}}} [SEA > GOLD > MEN] of the ruler before I arrived to find my generous lord.

Mss: Holm2(26r), 325V(32bis ra) (ll. 4-8), R686ˣ(49v-50r), 972ˣ(178va), 325VI(17rb), 75a(15rb), 73aˣ(65v), 68(24v), 61(94rb), Holm4(17rb), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(305r), Bb(153ra) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Drjúg‑: so R686ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, drýg‑ Holm2, 325VII;    ‑genginn: ‑fengin R686ˣ, ‘geingint’ 972ˣ, ‑gengit 73aˣ, 68, 61;    vas (‘var’): varð 325VI, 73aˣ, 68, 61    [3] austr: ‘æztr’ 61;    jǫfra: ‘jofur’ R686ˣ, ‘jufra’ Tóm    [4] ‑skógr: ‘skoðr’ 325V, ‑skógar R686ˣ, ‑skógs 325VI, 61, Flat, ‑skóg 73aˣ, 68;    á: ‘om’ 972ˣ;    leiðu: leiðum 325V, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Flat, leiðar 972ˣ    [5] Skyldit: skyldik 972ˣ, seldir 61, ‘skvlldit’ Bb;    mér: mest 61;    mildan: mildum 68    [6] minn: ‘min’ Holm2, 325V, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, manin R686ˣ;    dróttin: dróttinn 325V, 61, Tóm, Kˣ;    komk (‘kom ek’): so 68, Holm4, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, kem ek Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 61, 325VII, réð ek 73aˣ    [7] hlunns: hlyns 325VII;    af: á 325V, Bb    [8] hnekkt: ‘hneck’ 325V, ‘hneckr’ Flat, Tóm;    dýrloga: dýrligan 75a, dýrðligan 73aˣ, dýrligu 68, dýrliga 61, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, dýrðliga Holm4

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 14: AI, 237, BI, 223-4, Skald I, 116, NN §2474; Fms 4, 188-9, Fms 12, 85, ÓH 1941, I, 202 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 114; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 126, VI, 86-7, Hkr 1868, 309 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 173, ÍF 27, 139-40, Hkr 1991, I, 349 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 18-21, 48, Jón Skaptason 1983, 95, 242.

Context: As for st. 13.

Notes: [All]: The identity of the ruler addressed in the stanza is uncertain, but according to Snorri it is Rǫgnvaldr jarl (Context to st. 13). This would not be possible if Sigvatr’s destination Hof were a p. n. and were located in Norway (see Note to st. 4/1), since it is hardly to be supposed that any part of Norway was subject to his rule. — [1] drjúggenginn ‘a long slog’: More literally this is an adj. meaning ‘greatly traversed’, the sense being that it was a long and/or arduous journey: cf. Fóro driúgom dag þann fram ‘They went far that day’ (Hym 7/1-2, NK 89). — [1, 2] drengjum; drengr ‘for the good fellows; the good fellow [I]’: See Note to st. 5/2 on the word drengr. — [2] drengr magnar lof þengils ‘the good fellow [I] strengthens the praise of the lord’: This intercalary introduces a note more characteristic of praise poetry into the travelogue.  — [3] til þrýstis jǫfra ‘to the compeller of princes [RULER = Rǫgnvaldr]’: Schreiner (1927-9c, 39) finds it improbable that the phrase should be applied to Rǫgnvaldr, and he would have it describe King Óláfr of Sweden. — [6] dróttin ‘lord’: Finnur Jónsson (1932, 13) finds it implausible that the word could refer to Rǫgnvaldr rather than to Óláfr Haraldsson (especially qualified by minn ‘my’, one supposes), and thus he recommends positioning this stanza after the following one. Cf. Noreen (1923, 41). — [7-8]: The grandiose kenning is ironic in effect when applied to the people by whom the skald was hnekkt ‘driven off’.

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