This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

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.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 24 May 2022)

 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, 605

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

16 — Sigv Austv 16I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 16’ 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. 605.

Búa hilmis sal hjǫlmum
hirðmenn, þeirs svan grenna
(hér sék) bens, ok brynjum
(beggja kost á veggjum).
Því á ungr konungr engi
— ygglaust es þat — dyggra
húsbúnaði at hrósa;
hǫll es dýr með ǫllu.

Hirðmenn, þeirs grenna {svan bens}, búa sal hilmis hjǫlmum ok brynjum; hér sék kost beggja á veggjum. Því á engi ungr konungr dyggra húsbúnaði at hrósa; þat es ygglaust; hǫll es dýr með ǫllu.

Courtiers, who feed {the swan of the wound} [RAVEN/EAGLE], decorate the hall of the ruler with helmets and mail-shirts; here I see the choicest of both on the walls. And so no young king has worthier hangings to boast of; that is without a doubt; the hall is costly in every respect.

Mss: Holm2(26r), 325V(32bis rb) (ll. 3-8), R686ˣ(50r), 972ˣ(179va-180va), J2ˣ(161r-v), 325VI(17rb-va), 75a(15va), 73aˣ(66r), 68(24v), 61(94rb), Holm4(17rb-va), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra-b), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(305r-v), Bb(153ra-b) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Búa: birta 75a    [2] svan: val 61    [3] hér: om. 325V;    sék (‘se ec’): sé R686ˣ, kveð ek Kˣ;    bens: ‘bems’ J2ˣ;    ok: á 61;    brynjum: brynjur R686ˣ, 972ˣ, brynju 325VI, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Kˣ, búnum 61    [5] Því á: so Kˣ, Bb, því at Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    ungr konungr: ungs konungs 75a, 73aˣ, konungr ungr Tóm    [6] ygg‑: so 325V, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Tóm, ugg‑ Holm2, R686ˣ, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Kˣ, Bb;    þat: om. Flat;    dyggra: so J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Tóm, Bb, dyggva Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, tryggra 972ˣ, ‘þyggra’ Flat, dyggr Kˣ    [7] ‑búnaði: ‘‑bvadi’ 325V;    at: á 972ˣ, om. 75a, 73aˣ, á corrected from at 325VII;    hrósa: hrósar 75a, 73aˣ    [8] dýr: dýrst R686ˣ, 972ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 16: AI, 238, BI, 224, Skald I, 116; Fms 4, 189, Fms 12, 85, ÓH 1853, 82, 274, ÓH 1941, I, 204 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 115; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 127, VI, 87, Hkr 1868, 310 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 174, ÍF 27, 140-1, Hkr 1991, I, 350 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 20-21, 49, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 37, 179, Jón Skaptason 1983, 97, 243.

Context: On his return to King Óláfr’s court, Sigvatr speaks this stanza while observing the walls.

Notes: [All]: Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 199-200), supported by van Eeden (1943, 231), argues plausibly that the stanza does not, as Snorri says, concern Óláfr’s hall but Rǫgnvaldr’s. — [2] hirðmenn ‘courtiers’: This is one of the earliest attestations of this borrowing of OE hīredmenn ‘household retainers’: see Hofmann (1955, 57-8), and see Note to l. 8 below; see also Sigv Nesv 6/3 hirð and Note. — [2] grenna ‘feed’: The verb (AEW: grenna 2) also occurs in Sigv Lv 21/7, and the nomen agentis grennir ‘feeder’ is common in warrior-kennings (e.g. Halli XI Fl 2/8II hrafngrennir ‘raven-feeder’, and see Note; also Meissner 294). There may also be word-play on the more usual meaning ‘make thin’ (AEW: grenna 1). — [5, 6-7] því á engi ungr konungr dyggra húsbúnaði at hrósa ‘and so no young king has worthier hangings to boast of’: (a) Því (n. dat. sg., l. 5) is here assumed to be the adv. ‘and so, therefore’, while á is ‘has’, 3rd pers. sg. pres. indic. of eiga (so also ÍF 27; Hkr 1991). (b) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B adopts the ÓH reading því(a)t ‘because’ (so Fms, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 179 and, with different syntax, Gering 1912, 143). This produces superior meaning but has the disadvantage of requiring the reading á ‘has’ for at ‘to’ in l. 7, whereas at is what all the most reliable mss say. (c) Því cannot be a dat. of comparison, ‘(worthier) than that’, because in that event one would expect it to be stressed and to be m. in agreement with húsbúnaði ‘hangings’. — [8] hǫll ‘the hall’: Sigvatr is the first named skald to use this word in reference to a jarl’s or a king’s hall, doubtless because of English influence at the court of Óláfr (cf. OE heall): see Hofmann (1955, 50).

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.