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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 17 May 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, 609

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

19 — Sigv Austv 19I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 19’ 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. 609.

Folk réð of sik, fylkir,
flest, es ek kom vestan,
ætt sem áðr of hvatti
Eireks svika þeira.
En, þvít jarla frænda
eins þats tókt af Sveini,
yðr, kveðk jǫrð es nôðuð,
Ulfs bróður lið stóðusk.

Flest folk réð of sik, fylkir, es ek kom vestan, sem {ætt Eireks} áðr of hvatti svika þeira. En kveðk, es nôðuð jǫrð, þvít eins lið {frænda jarla}, {bróður Ulfs}, þats tókt af Sveini, stóðusk yðr.

Most people considered their options, chieftain, when I came from the west, as {the kinsman of Eiríkr} [?= Sveinn] earlier had incited [them] to that treason. But I declare that you got hold of the land only because the troop {of the jarls’ kinsman} [= Eilífr], {Úlfr’s brother} [= Eilífr], which you took away from Sveinn, supported you.

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

Readings: [1] réð: reið R686ˣ, er Bb;    of (‘um’): und 325V, við 325VI, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    sik: sek 325VII;    fylkir: fylki R686ˣ, ‘fvlker’ Bb    [2] es (‘er’): en Kˣ    [3] ætt: ótt R686ˣ, 972ˣ, eitt 325V, Bb, æt 68;    áðr: yðr 61;    of: ef Bb;    hvatti: ‘hatti’ R686ˣ, hittak 61    [4] svika: Svía R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325V, 325VI, 61, 68, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    þeira: þína 325VI, fleiri 61    [5] En: endr 73aˣ;    þvít (‘því at’): því at er 68    [6] þats (‘þat er’): því er Holm4, Kˣ;    tókt: rétt 61, tók 68    [7] kveðk (‘kveð ec’): kvað ek Flat, Tóm;    jǫrð: orð 75a, 73aˣ;    es (‘er’): þá er 61;    nôðuð: nôðu 75a, ôttuð 61, nôðusk 325VII    [8] Ulfs: ‘ylfs’ 75a;    stóðusk: ‘stuðuz’ 325V, om. 325VI, stóðu 73aˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 19: AI, 239, BI, 225, Skald I, 117, NN §629; Fms 4, 191, Fms 12, 86, ÓH 1941, I, 205 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 115; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 128, VI, 88-9, Hkr 1868, 310 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 175, ÍF 27, 143, Hkr 1991, I, 351 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 24-5, 51-2, Jón Skaptason 1983, 100, 244-5.

Context: As for st. 17.

Notes: [1] folk réð of sik ‘people considered their options’: Lit. ‘deliberated about themselves’. The implication seems to be that they changed their minds. — [2] flest ‘most’: This is taken here as an adj. qualifying folk ‘people’. In Skj B it is an adverbial, ‘altogether, overall’ (i alt). — [3] svika þeira ‘that treason’: Lit. ‘those treasons’ or possibly ‘their treasons’. — [3, 4] ætt Eireks ‘the kinsman of Eiríkr [? = Sveinn]’: The word ætt means ‘family’ in prose, but in verse it may refer to a single kinsman (though Toll 1930-3, 542 argues that the sense of the word is here pl.). Since his brother Sveinn is mentioned later in the stanza, Eirekr may be Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson of Hlaðir (Lade; so ÍF 27; Hkr 1991) rather than King Eiríkr inn sigrsæli ‘the Victorious’ Bjarnarson, father of Óláfr, the then current King of Sweden (though Ternström 1871 adopts the latter view, as does Finnur Jónsson 1932, 18). — [3] sem ‘as’: A conceivable alternative is to take this as the rel. pron. ‘whom’, hence Flest folk, sem ætt Eireks áðr of hvatti þeira svika ‘Most people whom the kinsman of Eiríkr earlier had incited to those/their treasons’; but such a use of sem is considered late (LP: sem 5). — [3] áðr ‘earlier’: This may be another anglicism (cf. Notes to st. 16/2 and 16/8) if áðr with a pret. verb merely indicates pluperfect aspect, the way OE ǣr ‘earlier’ often does. — [5-8]: Editors have proposed very diverse interpretations of the helmingr, none of which provides a conclusive answer to its linguistic and historical difficulties. (a) The text and translation above are indebted to a suggestion of Kari Ellen Gade. ‘Þvi at’ in most mss (l. 5) is taken straightforwardly as þvít ‘because’, and ‘er’ (l. 7) as a subordinating conj. es ‘that’ (see LP: es 7 for alternation of es and at in this role), dependent on kveðk ‘I declare’. Stóðusk (l. 8) is taken as 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. ‘supported’, since a pl. verb is possible with the collective noun lið ‘troop’ (see NS §66 Anm. 2). Grammatically it could, alternatively, be taken as a past inf., together with kveðk ‘I declare’. (b) Ternström (1871, 51) makes of bróður lið (l. 8) a cpd ‘brother-support’ (so also Tveiten 1966, 93), on which he would have frænda ‘kinsman’s’ (l. 5) depend, and he would have eins ‘alone’ in l. 6 modify frænda, while jarla ‘of jarls’ in l. 5 would modify jǫrð. With other eds he reverses ms. ‘þvi at’ (l. 5), taking it as at því ‘to this end’, with es (l. 7) depending on it. The resulting meaning is ‘But I say, the brotherly help of Úlfr’s kinsman (i.e. Rǫgnvaldr) alone was useful to you to the end that you gained the jarls’ land (i.e. Norway), which you took from Sveinn’. Ternström (1871, 52) takes Sigvatr to mean that the best sign of Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty to Óláfr Haraldsson is the help he afforded in the defeat of Sveinn (on whom, see Note below), though Snorri makes no mention of this in ÓH or Hkr. However, þvít, being unstressed, cannot be construed as at því. (c) Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27, owing much to Sveinbjörn Egilsson, SHI 4, 183, and to Ternström 1871, 51-2) also analyses þvít ‘because’ in l. 5 as if it were at því ‘to this end’ (or ‘when’: Hkr 1991), and assumes that þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 takes its n. dat. sg. form from an unexpressed landi ‘land’ rather than agreeing (if emended) with f. jǫrð ‘land’. (d) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; 1934a, 37) shares many of Ternström’s editorial preferences, but he alters þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 to þás, to agree with jǫrð ‘land’ in l. 7, and he takes es in l. 7 to introduce a clause from which the word order isolates it. Also, for en ‘but’ in l. 5 he reads enn ‘again’, which is likewise taken to stand outside its clause. The meaning produced is, ‘By this means only (þvít eins) did you manage again to keep the jarls’ land, which you took from Sveinn, [the means] that Úlfr’s kinsman’s brother-help, as I say, was given to you’. Finnur Jónsson (1932, 18) understands this to mean that in the face of the conspiracies against him, Óláfr might have lost control of Norway, had Rǫgnvaldr not been so trusty. (e) The interpretation of Kock (NN §629) is similar, but he would emend frænda to nom. sg. frændi, making of frændi jarla a vocative addressed to King Óláfr. This reduces some of the tortuousness of the word order, but there is no ms. evidence for this reading. The strained syntax of these interpretations results from efforts to have the text say that Óláfr Haraldsson was assisted by Rǫgnvaldr, who cannot be called ‘Úlfr’s brother’ (see below). It is natural to expect that the text should refer to him, since the preceding two stanzas indicate that Sigvatr’s message to Óláfr is that he can rely on Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty; but no very plausible interperetation of the syntax will allow this helmingr to be about Rǫgnvaldr. — [6] af Sveini ‘from Sveinn’: Sveinn jarl Hákonarson is the brother of Eiríkr (see l. 4). His defeat at the hands of Óláfr Haraldsson in the battle of Nesjar in 1016 sealed the latter’s hold on Norway, ending Swedish control. Sveinn was brother-in-law to King Óláfr of Sweden, and at Óláfr’s behest he had governed the areas of Norway controlled by the Swedish king since the defeat of Óláfr Tryggvason in the battle of Svǫlðr (c. 1000). The Swedish Óláfr, according to Snorri, took him in after the defeat at Nesjar, and with the king’s support he was planning a reinvasion of Norway at the time of his death. — [8] bróður Ulfs ‘of Úlfr’s brother [= Eilífr]’: The reference is generally taken to be to a son of Rǫgnvaldr jarl. Rǫgnvaldr is named as Úlfr’s father (faðir Ulfs, with some ms. variants) in Sigv Erlfl 9/7 and in prose sources, and Úlfr’s brother is named as Eilífr, e.g., in Hkr (ÍF 27, 148) and Fsk (ÍF 29, 227). Toll (1930-3, supported by van Eeden 1943, 232) instead contends that Úlfr and Eilífr are the sons of Þorgils sprakaleggr ‘Flounder-Limb’ (?), who is said by Snorri to have had a son named Úlfr (ÍF 27, 235, 275).

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