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, 587

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Sigv Austv 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 3’ 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. 587.

Vasa fý*st, es rannk rastir
reiðr of skóg frá Eiðum
— menn of veit, at mœttum
meini — tolf ok eina.
Hykka fót án flekkum
— fell sár á il hvára —
— hvast gengum þó þingat
þann dag — konungsmǫnnum.

Vasa fý*st, es rannk reiðr tolf rastir ok eina of skóg frá Eiðum; menn of veit, at mœttum meini. Hykka fót konungsmǫnnum án flekkum; sár fell á hvára il; þó gengum hvast þingat þann dag.

It was not [my] desire when I ran, angry, twelve leagues and one through the forest from Eiðar; people know that we met with harm. I think not a foot of the king’s men was without sores; a wound landed on each sole; still, we travelled keenly there that day.

Mss: Holm2(25v), R686ˣ(49r), 972ˣ(177va), 325VI(16vb-17ra), 75a(14vb), 73aˣ(64v), 68(24v), 61(94ra), Holm4(17ra), 75c(14v), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113r) (ÓH); Kˣ(303v), Bb(152vb) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Vasa (‘Vara’): Vara ek 68;    fý*st: fyrst all;    es (‘er’): so R686ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 75c, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, en Holm2, 325VII;    rastir: rastar Tóm, Bb    [2] frá: at Flat    [3] menn: maðr Kˣ;    of: om. 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 61;    veit: veita 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, ‘væí(ti)’(?) 325VII;    at mœttum: at mœtum R686ˣ, Flat, Tóm, fǫr mœtum 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, ek at mœttum 68, at ek mœti 61, at ek mœtta Kˣ    [4] meini: meinum Kˣ;    ok: ‘ok’ corrected from ‘ath’ Bb;    eina: einum Flat    [5] Hykka (‘Hycc a‑’): hykk á Holm2, R686ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, Flat, Kˣ, hygg á 75c, 325VII, Tóm, hykk at Bb;    fót: so all others, ‘fott’ Holm2;    án: en Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 61, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Bb, enn 73aˣ, 68, Holm4, Tóm, Kˣ;    flekkum: flettum 972ˣ, flestum 325VI, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [6] il: til Bb;    hvára: hvat 61, vára 325VII, ‘nara’ or ‘vara’ Flat    [7] hvast: hvatt 325VI, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, ‘hatt’ Tóm;    gengum: gǫngum 75a, gegnir 61, gengu Flat, Tóm;    þó: þat 61;    þingat: þangat R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 61    [8] konungs‑: konung 68, 61, Bb;    ‑mǫnnum: so 325VI, Holm4, 75c, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, manni Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, margir 68, manna 61, Flat, ‘man[…]’ 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 3: AI, 233-4, BI, 221, Skald I, 115, NN §2471; Fms 4, 186, Fms 12, 83, ÓH 1853, 80, 272, ÓH 1941, I, 199 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 113; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 124, VI, 84, Hkr 1868, 307 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 170, ÍF 27, 136, Hkr 1991, I, 346 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 14-15, 43-4, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 36, 176-7, 231, Jón Skaptason 1983, 84, 238.

Context: After crossing the river, they travel through Eiðaskógr (Eidskogen), and Sigvatr speaks this stanza.

Notes: [1] fý*st ‘[my] desire’: (a) The mss all read fyrst ‘first’, but this spoils the skothending and makes for strained sense. Editors including Árni Magnússon (in 761bˣ), Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Jón Helgason (1968, 45) have therefore emended to fýst, which in pronunciation may not have been far distant from fyrst. (b) The eds of ÍF 27 and Hkr 1991, as well as Jón Skaptason (1983, 84) retain fyrst, hence, in Jón Skaptason’s translation, ‘It was not the first [time] … that we met with disaster …’. (c) Kock (NN §2471) proposes frest ‘delay’, producing the sense ‘there was no delay when I fled …’. — [1] rastir ‘leagues’: The length of a rǫst is not known for certain; it varied according to the terrain. — [2] Eiðum ‘Eiðar’: It is maintained by Noreen (1922a, 73) and Finnur Jónsson (1932, 13) against most others that sg. Eið (st. 2/1) and pl. Eið or Eiðar designate different places. Beckman (1923, 332) explains the pl. as referring collectively to Stora and Lilla Edet in Bohuslän. Note that Snorri understood the sg. and pl. forms to refer to the same place: see the Context to the preceding stanza, with its pl. form in comparison to the sg. one in the stanza itself. On the difficulties of establishing Sigvatr’s route, see Introduction. — [3] menn of veit ‘people know’: The expression, lit. ‘people knows’, with numerical disagreement of subject and verb and a sense such as ‘to be sure’, is idiomatic: see CVC: maðr B. 2. The expression is considered a late intrusion in the text by Noreen (1923, 36, citing Konráð Gíslason 1892, 177). But the decidedly unheroic context suggests the possibility that Sigvatr was here reaching for a comic effect. He seems, somewhat comparably, not to have been averse to using innovative anglicisms: see the Notes to sts 16/2, 16/8 and 19/3. — [5] án ‘without’: The mss all have en ‘but’ (or enn ‘again, still’), which the eds of ÍF 27 and Hkr 1991 (and so Ternström 1871 and Jón Skaptason 1983, 84) would preserve. They read Hykk á ‘I think ... on’ (retaining the word division of the mss), rather than normalised Hykka ‘I think not’, and take the meaning of the helmingr to be, ‘I think, however, that we went there keenly on foot that day, but sores appeared [in] blotches on both soles of the king’s men’, which gives inferior sense. — [8] þann : mǫnnum: The full rhyme (aðalhending) of a and ǫ or á and ô (cf. sts 7/8, 10/4 etc.) may be an archaism. For a conspectus of its occurrence in Sigvatr’s poems, see Höskuldur Þráinsson (1970, 18-19). — [8] þann dag ‘that day’: Jón Skaptason (1983) would have this phrase depend on fell ‘fell, landed’, i.e. ‘appeared’ in l. 6.

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