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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, ‘ 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 25 June 2022)

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, 608

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

18 — Sigv Austv 18I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 18’ 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. 608.

Þik bað, sólar søkkvir,
sínn halda vel, Rínar,
hvern, es hingat árnar,
húskarl nefi jarla.
Enn, hverrs austr vill sinna,
— jafnvíst es þat — Lista
þengill, þínna drengja,
þar á hald und Rǫgnvaldi.

{Nefi jarla} bað þik, {søkkvir {sólar Rínar}}, halda vel hvern húskarl sínn, es árnar hingat. Enn hverr drengja þínna, [e]s vill sinna austr, {þengill Lista}, á þar hald und Rǫgnvaldi; þat es jafnvíst.

{The kinsman of jarls} [JARL = ? Rǫgnvaldr] bade you, {sinker {of the sun of the Rhine}} [GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], treat well each housecarl of his who wanders this way. And each of your good fellows who wishes to travel east, {prince of Lista} [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr], will have support there from Rǫgnvaldr; that is equally certain.

Mss: Holm2(26r), 325V(32bis rb), R686ˣ(50r-v), 972ˣ(180va), 325VI(17va), 75a(15vb), 73aˣ(66r), 61(94rb), 68(25r), Holm4(17va), 325VII(12v), Flat(93rb), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(305v-306r), Bb(153rb) (Hkr); FskBˣ(45r), FskAˣ(169) (Fsk, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] bað: bið ek Flat, Tóm;    sólar: stála 61;    søkkvir: ‘sokkiur’ R686ˣ, støkkvir 61, sóknar Tóm, ‘sok kvís’ Bb    [2] sínn: sín 325V, 972ˣ(180va), 73aˣ, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    halda: haldit haldit Holm4, haldin 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    Rínar: ‘rina’ R686ˣ    [3] hvern: hverr Holm4;    es (‘er’): þann er 61;    hingat: ‘hringat’ Flat;    árnar: arna R686ˣ, ‘þarnnar’ Flat    [4] ‑karl: ‑karla Flat;    jarla: jarlar 75a, 73aˣ, Flat    [5] Enn: om. FskBˣ;    hverrs (‘hverr er’): hvern er R686ˣ, 75a, hverr 73aˣ, Holm4, Flat;    sinna: sína 325V, R686ˣ, Flat, Tóm, nenna 73aˣ    [6] jafnvíst es (‘iafnvist er’): allvíst er 75a, 73aˣ, jafn vistir Flat, jafnmælt er FskBˣ, ‘jam mætt er’ FskAˣ;    þat: þar R686ˣ;    Lista: stafni FskBˣ, FskAˣ    [7] þínna: þínna or þenna Holm2, himna 325VI    [7, 8] drengja þar: ‘drenþar’ R686ˣ    [8] á: er 75a, 73aˣ;    und: með 73aˣ, undir Bb

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 18: AI, 239, BI, 224-5, Skald I, 117; Fms 4, 190-1, Fms 12, 86, ÓH 1853, 82, 274, ÓH 1941, I, 205 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 115; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 128, VI, 88, Hkr 1868, 310 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 175, ÍF 27, 142, Hkr 1991, I, 351 (ÓHHkr ch. 91), Fsk 1902-3, 158, ÍF 29, 180 (ch. 30); Ternström 1871, 22-3, 51, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 37, 179, Jón Skaptason 1983, 99, 244.

Context: In ÓH and Hkr, as for st. 17. In Fsk (where sts 18/1-4 and 21/5-8 comprise a stanza), Sigvatr is said to have composed the vísa upon his return from a visit, commissioned by King Óláfr, with Rǫgnvaldr jarl in Garðar (north-west Russia).

Notes: [2] sínn ‘his’: On the retention of the long vowel, as demonstrated by the hending, see Note to Sigv Lv 3/4. — [4] húskarl ‘housecarl’: Húskarl (cf. OE husceorl) originally referred to a member of the bodyguard or household troop of a ruler or nobleman, and that is doubtless the sense here, though it came to refer to lesser servants (see also Note to Okík Magn 2/6II). — [6] jafnvíst ‘equally certain’: Although the comparison is not obvious (since the first helmingr contains a petition rather than a statement), the sense appears to be that if Óláfr grants the request for good treatment in the first helmingr, the promise of the second is assured. The normal long vowel in víst is retained here. Alternatively, short vist could be indicated by the aðalhending on List- (see further LP: víss and cf. Kuhn 1983, 80-2). — [6] Lista ‘of Lista’: Gen. sg. of ON Listi, ModNorw Lista, the name of a peninsula in Vest-Agder (cf. st. 9/6). Noreen (1923, 41) suggested instead gen. pl. of an unattested *Listir ‘resident of Lista’.

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