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, 592

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Sigv Austv 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 6’ 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. 592.

Nú hafa hnekkt, þeirs hnakka
(heinflets) við mér settu,
(þeygi bella þollar)
þrír samnafnar (tíri).
Þó séumk hitt, at hlœðir
hafskíðs myni síðan
út, hverrs Ǫlvir heitir,
alls mest, reka gesti.

Nú hafa þrír samnafnar hnekkt, þeirs settu hnakka við mér; þeygi bella {þollar {heinflets}} tíri. Þó séumk hitt alls mest, at hverr {hlœðir {hafskíðs}}, [e]s heitir Ǫlvir, myni síðan reka gesti út.

Now three namesakes have driven [me] away, they who turned their backs on me; not at all do {the firs {of the whetstone-platform}} [SWORD > MEN] display praiseworthiness. However, I fear this above all, that every {loader {of the ocean-ski}} [SHIP > SEAFARER] who is named Ǫlvir will henceforth chase strangers away.

Mss: Holm2(26r), R686ˣ(49v), 972ˣ(178va), 325VI(17ra), 75a(15ra), 73aˣ(65r), 68(24v), 61(94ra), Holm4(17rb), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(304r-v), Bb(152vb-153ra) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] hafa: haf Bb;    hnekkt: ‘hnek[…]’ R686ˣ    [2] ‑flets: ‘fellz’ Flat    [3] þeygi: ‘þeigi’ Kˣ    [4] þrír: ‘þre’ R686ˣ, þeir 75a, 68;    sam‑: ‘san’ 325VI;    ‑nafnar: jafnir 75a, Bb;    tíri: fleiri 75a, eiri 68, tíði Flat    [5] Þó: nú 73aˣ;    séumk: sé ek 75a, 73aˣ, sjám Flat, sáum Tóm;    hlœðir: ‘hlæíðir’ 73aˣ, hlœði 61    [6] ‑skíðs: ‑skíð R686ˣ, Tóm;    myni: mœni 325VII;    síðan: síðla 972ˣ(178va)    [7] hverrs (‘hverr er’): hverr 325VI, Flat;    Ǫlvir: ‘avlyer’ R686ˣ;    heitir: heitr R686ˣ    [8] gesti: ‘gestri’ R686ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 6: AI, 234-5, BI, 221-2, Skald I, 115, NN §§1112, 2218B, 2923; Fms 4, 187, Fms 12, 84, ÓH 1853, 80, 272, ÓH 1941, I, 201 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 114; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 125, VI, 85, Hkr 1868, 308 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 171-2, ÍF 27, 138, Hkr 1991, I, 348 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 16-17, 45-6, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 37, 177-8, Jón Skaptason 1983, 87, 239-40.

Context: The next evening Sigvatr comes to three farmers, each named Ǫlvir, and all turn him away. Sigvatr speaks this stanza.

Notes: [1, 2] settu hnakka við mér ‘turned their backs on me’: Lit. ‘set the napes of their necks against me’. — [2] heinflets ‘of the whetstone-platform [SWORD]’: The word flet referred originally to the floor of a house (cf. flatr ‘flat’), though it is attested only in the metaphorical senses ‘set of rooms, house, raised platform, bed (on the floor)’. It may be the last of these meanings that is intended, given the parallel sword-kenning beðr ryðfjónar ‘bed of the rust-enemy [WHETSTONE > SWORD]’ (Anon (ÓT) 6/1, 3; see Meissner 155, 163). In view of the kenning gætir grefs ‘minder of the hoe [FARMER]’ in st. 7/5, de Vries (1932-3, 172) suggests that heinflet may refer not to a sword but to a sickle, but this fits expected patterns less well. — [2] mér ‘me’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) sets the word off by commas, indicating that he takes it to be the expressed object of hafa hnekkt ‘have driven away’ in l. 1, and the implied object of við ‘against’ in l. 2. Mér is similarly assumed to have a dual role in this edn, though a less disjointed word order is proposed. Cf. Noreen (1923, 37-8), and Kock, NN §1112. — [3, 4] þeygi bella … tíri ‘not at all do … display praiseworthiness’: This is the sense normally assumed, i.e. that the three Ǫlvirs have acted badly. Konráð Gíslason (1892, 178) cites parallel instances of tírr in this concrete sense. Kock (NN §2218B) compiles poetic instances of bella in an attempt to show that with an instr. object (including the present context) it means ‘go about, perform, be intent upon’, while with a dat. one it means ‘hit, get at’, i.e. ‘reach one’s mark’ (though of course dat. and instr. objects are formally indistinguishable). — [5] séumk ‘I fear’: The skothending consists of long vowels (or diphthongs) without any consonant rhyme here, in Sigv Lv 24/1, and in six even lines by Sigvatr: see Höskuldur Þráinsson (1970, 12, 20); Kristján Árnason (1991, 99). Kock (NN §2923) suggests emending to þéumk, taking this to mean ‘I torment myself’ (producing a skothending of þó þ- : hlœð-), and other emendations were proposed by Jón Þorkelsson (1884, 68) and Gering (1912, 138).  — [6] síðan ‘henceforth’: The word is construed with séumk ‘I fear’ in Skj B. — [7] Ǫlvir: Hollander favours an etymology of *aluwīhaz ‘guardian, or priest, of a fane’ and suggests an ironic allusion to the nearly homonymous ǫlværr ‘hospitable’ (Hollander 1945, 155 n., following de Vries 1932-3, 171-2, 176-8, who argued that coincidence was implausible). The incident is thus to that extent fictitious and the name chosen solely for its entertainment value. For objections to this view see Ellekilde (1933-4, 183-5) and for a reply, see de Vries (1933-4, 292-3).

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