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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 23 May 2022)

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

SkP info: I, 590

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Sigv Austv 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 5’ 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. 590.

‘Gakkat inn,’ kvað ekkja,
‘armi drengr, en lengra;
hræðumk ek við Óðins
— erum heiðin vér — reiði.’
Rýgr kvazk inni eiga
óþekk, sús mér hnekkði,
alfablót, sem ulfi
ótvín, í bœ sínum.

‘Gakkat en lengra inn, armi drengr’, kvað ekkja; ‘ek hræðumk við reiði Óðins; vér erum heiðin.’ Óþekk rýgr, sús hnekkði mér ótvín sem ulfi, kvazk eiga alfablót inni í bœ sínum.

‘Do not come any farther in, wretched fellow’, said the woman; ‘I fear the wrath of Óðinn; we are heathen.’ The disagreeable female, who drove me away like a wolf without hesitation, said they were holding a sacrifice to the elves inside her farmhouse.

Mss: Holm2(25v-26r), R686ˣ(49v), 972ˣ(177va), J2ˣ(160v), 325VI(17ra), 75a(14vb-15rb), 73aˣ(64v), 68(24v), 61(94ra), Holm4(17ra-b), 75c(14v), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113r) (ÓH); Kˣ(304r), Bb(152vb) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] ekkja: ekkjan Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [2] armi: armr R686ˣ, 972ˣ, arm 68;    drengr en: so R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, Kˣ, Bb, drengr in Holm2, drengrinn 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [3] ek: vér 75a    [4] erum: corrected from ‘arrum’ 325VII;    heiðin: so 73aˣ, 61, Holm4, Flat, Tóm, Bb, heiðnir Holm2, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, 75c, Kˣ, heiðan R686ˣ, heiðinn 75a;    vér: vel J2ˣ, við 68, 61, om. Tóm    [5] Rýgr: hryggr Tóm;    kvazk: kvezk R686ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 61, Flat    [6] óþekk: áþekk 972ˣ, ‘oþegt’ Flat    [7] alfa‑: ‘alba’ Holm4;    ulfi: ylfi R686ˣ, J2ˣ, ylfi corrected from ulfi 325VII    [8] ótvín: óttum R686ˣ, ótt vin 972ˣ, 325VII, ‘otuíns’ 73aˣ, ‘ót vín’ 68, ‘ot víns’ 61, eirlaust Holm4, ‘vt vín’ 75c, Flat, Tóm, Bb;    í: á 325VI, 61, frá Holm4, ór Kˣ;    sínum: þeirra Holm4

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 5: AI, 234, BI, 221, Skald I, 115, NN §627; Fms 4, 187, Fms 12, 84, ÓH 1853, 80, 272, ÓH 1941, I, 200 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 113; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 125, VI, 85, Hkr 1868, 308 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 171, ÍF 27, 137, Hkr 1991, I, 347 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 16-17, 45, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 37, 177, Jón Skaptason 1983, 86, 239.

Context: Sigvatr comes to another farm, where the woman of the house stands in the doorway and tells him he cannot enter, saying they are holding a sacrifice to the elves.

Notes: [2] armi drengr ‘wretched fellow’: The collocation is unusual, since drengr most often means ‘warrior, worthy man’ (see Jesch 1993a, Jesch 2001a, 216-32, and Goetting 2006 for discussions). The word is used, probably with mock-heroic tone, to refer to the skald and his companions in sts 11/7, 14/1, 14/2, 18/7, as is the derived adv. fulldrengila ‘most bravely’, st. 15/8. — [5] rýgr ‘female’: Rýgr (or Rýgi) appears among the giantess-heiti in Þul Trollkvenna 5/7III, and it is glossed mægtig kvinde ‘powerful woman’ in LP: rýgr; but the word may not always connote any particular power or trollishness (cf. Hallberg 1975, 166; Turville-Petre 1976, 82; Jón Skaptason 1983, 239), and it also appears among woman-heiti in Þul Kvenna I 1/5III . — [7] alfablót ‘a sacrifice to the elves’: This is the only reference to this practice in Old Norse poetry, and its nature and that of the minor mythological beings called álfar is elusive (see Turville-Petre 1964, 230-2, Gunnell 2006 and Hall 2007 for elves in Old English and Old Norse tradition). — [8] ótvín ‘without hesitation’: (a) The present analysis (ó- + tví- as in tví-ræðr ‘ambiguous’) was implicit already in Hkr 1777-1826, VI, 85 and n., and it is advocated at length by Jón Þorkelsson (1884, 66-7); see also Note to Þjóð Magnfl 18/2II. Hallberg (1975, 167) would construe it not with mér hnekkði ‘drove me away’ in l. 6 but with kvazk ‘said’ in l. 5. (b) Ternström (1871, 45), following the analysis of the word given by Sveinbjörn Egilsson in LP (1860): óttvin, relating ót- to ætt ‘family’, reads ótvin and interprets this as a vocative, ‘friend of the people’, addressed to Óláfr. — [8] í ‘inside’: Noreen (1923, 37) would adopt ór ‘from’, the reading of (cf. Holm4: frá ‘from’), and connect the prepositional phrase with hnekkði ‘drove away’ in l. 6. Certainly, ór would simplify the word order in regard to the final line, but it seems characteristic of Sigvatr’s style to end the main clause beginning in l. 5 in the final line, rather than to end it in l. 7. At all events, it is easier to explain why a copyist should have altered í to ór than the reverse.

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