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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, ‘ 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 20 January 2022)

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 3. Austrfararvísur, 1019 (AI, 233-40, BI, 220-5)

SkP info: I, 589

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Sigv Austv 4I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 4’ 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. 589.

Réðk til Hofs at hœfa;
hurð vas aptr, en spurðumk
— inn settak nef nenninn
niðrlútt — fyrir útan.
Orð gatk fæst af fyrðum,
(flǫgð baðk) en þau sǫgðu
— hnekkðumk heiðnir rekkar —
heilagt (við þau deila).

Réðk at hœfa til Hofs; hurð vas aptr, en spurðumk fyrir útan; nenninn settak niðrlútt nef inn. Gatk fæst orð af fyrðum, en þau sǫgðu heilagt; heiðnir rekkar hnekkðumk; baðk flǫgð deila við þau.

I resolved to aim for Hof; the door was barred, but I made enquiries from outside; resolute, I stuck my down-bent nose in. I got very little response from the people, but they said [it was] holy; the heathen men drove me off; I bade the ogresses bandy words with them.

Mss: Holm2(25v), R686ˣ(49v), 972ˣ(177va), J2ˣ(160r-v), 325VI(17ra), 75a(14vb), 73aˣ(64v), 68(24v), 61(94ra), Holm4(17ra), 75c(14v), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113r) (ÓH); Kˣ(303v-304r), Bb(152vb) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Réð: reið 972ˣ(177va), ræð J2ˣ, 325VII    [2] hurð vas (‘hurð var’): hurðum J2ˣ;    en: so R686ˣ, 972ˣ(177va), 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, om. Holm2, J2ˣ;    spurðumk: spurða Flat    [3] settak (‘setta ec’): setja ek R686ˣ, sett ek 325VI;    nenninn: ‘mininn’ R686ˣ, ‘min neinnin’ 972ˣ(177va), ‘nætinn’ 75a, nefinn 68, ‘nenní’ Flat, ‘neníum’ Tóm, ‘neinnínn’ Bb    [4] ‑lútt: ‑lút J2ˣ, 73aˣ, ‘l(ú)tr’(?) 325VI, mjǫk lút 325VII, hlut Bb    [5] fæst: fest 972ˣ(177va), ‘faust’ 325VI, 68, flest 75a, 73aˣ, fyrst 61, 75c, Tóm, Bb, fæst apparently corrected from ‘fꜹst’ 325VII, fýst Flat;    af: so 325VI, 68, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, en Holm2, 972ˣ(177va), J2ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, em R686ˣ, at 61, Flat;    fyrðum: fyrstum 61    [6] baðk (‘bað ek’): bað Bb;    þau: so 972ˣ(177va), 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, om. Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, Bb;    sǫgðu: so 75c, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, þǫgðu Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ(177va), J2ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Bb, sǫgðu corrected from ‘þǫgðu’ 325VI    [7] hnekkðumk: hneykðusk R686ˣ, ‘hneiktust’ 972ˣ(177va), hnekkðust 75a, 73aˣ, 61, Flat, Tóm;    rekkar: om. Holm4, rekka Bb

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 4: AI, 234, BI, 221, Skald I, 115, NN §2472; Fms 4, 186, Fms 12, 83-4, ÓH 1853, 80, 272, ÓH 1941, I, 200 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 113; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 124, VI, 84-5, Hkr 1868, 308 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 170-1, ÍF 27, 136-7, Hkr 1991, I, 347 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 14-15, 44-5, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 37, 177, Jón Skaptason 1983, 85, 239.

Context: The travellers make their way through Gautland (Västergötland) and in the evening reach a farm named Hof, where they are refused entry because it is deemed a holy place. They depart, and Sigvatr speaks this stanza.

Notes: [1] Hofs ‘Hof’: The status of this is uncertain. (a) Snorri plainly regards Hof as a proper name (see Context above). Hof is common as a simplex p. n. (as well as prefixed by names of heathen gods), and there are various possible identifications. Some have identified the place with Stora Hov, 23 kilometres south-west of Skara, while if Sigvatr came from Sognefjorden, the reference could be to Hov, on the north-eastern shore of Randsfjorden in Norway (so, tentatively, Edqvist 1943, 65), and if he passed to the east of Lake Vänern, the reference would be to Hova, on the southern shore of Skagern, in Sweden (so Patzig 1930b, 90). Toll (1924, 551-2), supposing Sigvatr set out from Trondheimsfjorden, locates a Hov in the parish of Sødorp in Nordre Fron, Gudbrandsdalen, in Norway, and he presents evidence that the area remained heathen until a late date. (Locating Hof in Norway would have consequences for the interpretation of st. 14: see Note to [All].) (b) Others read hofs, a common noun referring to a heathen temple or cult site (e.g. Noreen 1922a, 75, followed by Jón Skaptason 1983, 85; Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson, ÍF 27, 137 n., though he capitalizes the word in the text; cf. Beckman 1923, 330-1). The Christian Sigvatr might have been expected to avoid such a site (so Finnur Jónsson 1932, 12; see also de Vries 1932-3, 169-70), though there is evidence for farms used for blót ‘ritual sacrifice’ (Lidén 1993, 639) as well as for specifically religious buildings (Kaliff 2007). — [2, 4] en spurðumk fyrir útan ‘but I made enquiries from outside’: Hellberg (1981a, 5-6) remarks that the clause could follow logically from either of the first two clauses in the stanza. Note that fyrir is to be construed with spurðumk, hence ‘I made enquiries’: see Skj B; NN §2472; ÍF 27. — [4] niðrlútt ‘down-bent’: It is difficult to determine the precise implication of the word, though it is reminiscent of niðrbjúgt (nef) ‘down-curved (nose)’ in 10/5 (NK 281) and Stefnir Lv 1/3 (see also Note ad loc.). (a) Here niðrlútt is regarded as qualifying nef ‘nose’ in l. 3. It could be a straightforward description of Sigvatr’s nose, or it could mean that he stoops to pry. For a somewhat similar construction, with an ironic adj. applied to a bodily feature, cf. Sigv Lv 13/3-4 hilmis haus ófalan ‘the not-for-sale skull of the ruler’. (b) Noreen (1923, 37) sees niðrlútt as an adverbial n.; so also seemingly ÍF 27, where Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson speculates that the door was low, and Sigvatr poked his nose into the opening above it. (c) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), Kock (Skald) and some others (including Fms) adopt the reading niðrlútr from 325VI and construe it with spurðumk ‘I enquired’ in l. 2. Jón Skaptason (1983, 85) reads niðrlútr and renders it ‘downcast’. — [6] sǫgðu ‘said’: The reading þǫgðu ‘were silent’ of Holm2 and others was apparently inspired by Orð gatk fæst af fyrðum ‘I got very little response from the people’ in l. 5 (Jón Helgason 1968, 46). — [8] heilagt ‘[it was] holy’: The meaning, as in Snorri’s prose, could be that the place was holy (so E. Noreen 1923, 30; de Vries 1932-3, 170; Jón Skaptason 1983, 85), or else that this was a holy day (so Ternström 1871; Skj B).

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