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Runic Dictionary

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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 28 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, 611

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — Sigv Austv 20I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 20’ 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. 611.

Spakr lét Ulfr meðal ykkar,
Ôleifr, tekit môlum
— þétt fengum svǫr — sátta
— sakar leggið it — beggja.
Þér lét, þjófa rýrir,
þær, sem engar væri
riptar reknar heiptir,
Rǫgnvaldr gefit, aldar.

Spakr Ulfr lét tekit sátta môlum meðal ykkar beggja, Ôleifr; fengum þétt svǫr; it leggið sakar. Rǫgnvaldr lét þær gefit þér, {rýrir aldar þjófa}, sem engar heiptir riptar væri reknar.

Wise Úlfr caused to be adopted the peace proposals between you both, Óláfr; we [I] received watertight replies; you two are putting aside conflict. Rǫgnvaldr caused those [conflicts] to be conceded to you, {destroyer of the race of thieves} [JUST RULER = Óláfr], as if no enmity on account of treaty-breaking had been perpetrated.

Mss: Holm2(26r), 325V(32bis rb-va) (ll. 1-5), R686ˣ(50v), 972ˣ(180va), 325VI(17va), 75a(15vb-16ra), 73aˣ(66v), 61(94rb), 68(25r), Holm4(17va), 325VII(12v), Flat(93rb), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(306r), Bb(153rb) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Spakr: spakt 972ˣ, ‘Spackr’ 61;    lét: lézk 61;    Ulfr: ‘ylfr’ R686ˣ, ulfs 75a, 73aˣ, ulf 325VII, ‘vvllr’ Bb;    meðal: meðan 75a;    ykkar: okkar Kˣ, Bb    [2] Ôleifr: Áleif 325V;    tekit: rekit 325VI, 61    [3] þétt: so Kˣ, þau Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 61, 68, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Bb;    fengum: fundum 325V, fengu 61, Flat, Tóm, Bb;    svǫr: vér 61, Bb;    sátta: so Kˣ, setta Holm2, 325V, sætta R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, Flat, Tóm, Bb, sættar 325VI, Holm4, 325VII, þangat 61    [4] sakar: sátt R686ˣ, sakir 75a, 73aˣ, þat eru svǫr 61, ‘sackar’ Tóm;    leggið: leggi 325V, R686ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, konungr 61;    it beggja: gørva 61    [5] Þér: ber 325V, þar 972ˣ, Flat, Tóm, þá er 61;    lét: lét ek 325V;    þjófa: jǫfra corrected from ‘þíofa’ (?) 61, jǫfra 68    [6] þær: þér 61;    engar: om. Tóm    [7] riptar: riptr R686ˣ, ‘ripptar sok’ Bb;    reknar: ‘ræknar’ R686ˣ;    heiptir: ‘heiptr’ R686ˣ, heptir Bb    [8] Rǫgn‑: ‘regn‑’ 325VII;    ‑valdr: ‑valds Kˣ;    gefit: ‘gefan’ R686ˣ, kveðit 325VI, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, ‘gefir’ 68

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 20: AI, 239-40, BI, 225, Skald I, 117, NN §§8B, 171, 3032; Fms 4, 191, Fms 12, 86, ÓH 1941, I, 205 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 115; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 128, VI, 89, Hkr 1868, 310 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 175-6, ÍF 27, 143, Hkr 1991, I, 351 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 24-5, 52, Jón Skaptason 1983, 101, 245.

Context: As for st. 17.

Notes: [1] spakr Ulfr lét ‘wise Úlfr caused’: This Úlfr cannot be identified with certainty, and some scholars have emended. (a) The most obvious identification, in the light of bróður Ulfs ‘Úlfr’s brother’ in st. 19/8, is with Rǫgnvaldr’s son, though Finnur Jónsson (1932, 19; 1934a, 38) objects that he would have been too young, sixteen at most, at this time, and therefore hardly likely to be called spakr. (b) A further possibility is Rǫgnvaldr’s father (though see Toll 1930-3, 541-2). (c) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) reads sunr ... Ulfs ‘the son of Úlfr’, in reference to Rǫgnvaldr, but Ulfs is the reading only of 75a and 73a, while sunr does not appear in any ms. (d) Gering (1912, 135-6) suggests jarl for Ulfr, a reading also entertained by Finnur Jónsson (see Skj BI, 682), though cf. Kock (NN §3032). — [3] þétt ‘watertight’: Or ‘dense’. The variant þau ‘those’ makes reasonable sense, but it does not supply the necessary hending. — [4] it leggið sakar ‘you two are putting aside conflict’: Ternström (1871, 52) regards the verb as imp. — [5-8]: The general sense seems to be that all past differences will be forgotten, but the syntax and especially the status of þær (f. nom./acc. pl.) ‘those’ in l. 6 are somewhat elusive. In the present interpretation (which is close to those of Kock (NN §171), ÍF 27 and Hkr 1991), þær ‘those’ is assumed to refer back to f. pl. sakar ‘conflicts’. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) instead takes þær to modify heiptir in l. 7, and he interprets the helmingr to mean ‘Just ruler, Rǫgnvaldr declared that it was an easy matter for you to forgo pursuing further the indignation over the breach of the peace’. Ternström’s interpretation is similar, but he would have þjófa rýrir … aldar ‘destroyer of the race of thieves’ in ll. 5, 8 describe Rǫgnvaldr.

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