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, 596

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Sigv Austv 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 9’ 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. 596.

Kátr vask opt, þás úti
ǫrðigt veðr á fjǫrðum
vísa segl í vási
vindblásit skóf Strinda.
Hestr óð kafs at kostum;
kilir ristu men Lista,
út þás eisa létum
undan skeiðr at sundi.

Vask opt kátr, þás ǫrðigt veðr úti á fjǫrðum skóf vindblásit segl {vísa Strinda} í vási. {Hestr kafs} óð at kostum; kilir ristu {men Lista}, þás létum skeiðr eisa undan út at sundi.

I was often cheerful when a harsh wind out in the fjords raked the wind-blown sail {of the ruler of the Strindir} [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr] in a drenching storm. {The horse of the deep} [SHIP] advanced at a fine pace; the keels cleft {the necklace of Lista} [SEA] when we let the warships dash away out at sea.

Mss: Holm2(17v), 325V(22vb), R686ˣ(35v), 972ˣ(122va), 325VI(15vb), 75a(8ra), 73aˣ(46v), 78aˣ(45v), 68(16v), 61(88va), Holm4(9ra), 75c(9r), 325VII(8v), Flat(85va), Tóm(106r) (ÓH); Kˣ(271v-272r), Bb(143va) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] opt: ‘opp’ R686ˣ;    þás (‘þá er’): þá 68    [2] ǫrðigt: ‘ærþekt’ 325VII    [3] segl: segls Flat, sex Tóm    [4] ‑blásit: ‑blásin 73aˣ, 61, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    skóf: skók R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, ‘s[…]’ 325VII;    Strinda: so 68, Holm4, Kˣ, Strindar Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Bb, innan 61    [5] kafs: so 325V, R686ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Kˣ, kapps Holm2, 325VI, 78aˣ, 68, Tóm, Bb, ‘[…]’ 75c;    at: af 325V, R686ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, Flat, á 61;    kostum: kǫstum 325V, kǫstu 61    [6] ristu: hristu 325V, Holm4, Kˣ;    men: so Holm4, Kˣ, haf Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Bb    [7] þás (‘þa er’): þara er 73aˣ, þar er Kˣ;    eisa: rísa Bb;    létum: létu Flat    [8] undan: unda 325VI, 75c, Flat, Tóm;    skeiðr: skeið 325V, skeiðar R686ˣ, 972ˣ, skeiðs Tóm;    at: af 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, Flat, á 61, Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 9: AI, 236, BI, 222, Skald I, 115-16, NN §1861; Fms 4, 135 (ÓH ch. 70), Fms 12, 81, ÓH 1941, I, 135 (ch. 53), Flat 1860-8, II, 58; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 82, VI, 81, Hkr 1868, 274, Hkr 1893-1901, II, 113, ÍF 27, 92-3, Hkr 1991, I, 314-15 (ÓHHkr ch. 71); Ternström 1871, 8-9, 40, Jón Skaptason 1983, 90, 240-1.

Context: ÓH and Hkr place this stanza on an earlier journey that Sigvatr makes with Bjǫrn digri ‘the Stout’, King Óláfr’s marshal, to visit Rǫgnvaldr jarl Úlfsson in Gautland (Västergötland). He speaks this and the next two stanzas as they ride into the territory.

Notes: [All]: On the inclusion of sts 9-12 in Austv, see Introduction. Turville-Petre (1976, 79) takes this stanza to show that much of Sigvatr’s journey was on shipboard, and he supports the view of Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 192-5) that Sigvatr sailed north to Romsdalen or Trondheim before setting out overland. Other situations could be imagined, e.g. that the stanza is retrospective, nostalgically comparing Sigvatr’s time aboard a royal ship with the miseries of the journey to the east. — [1, 2] úti á fjǫrðum ‘out in the fjords’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) has this modify skóf ‘raked’ in l. 4 rather than veðr ‘wind’ in l. 2. Jón Skaptason (1983, 90) and Hkr 1991 take it with vási ‘storm/sea-toil’ (see Note to l. 3). — [3] í vási ‘in a drenching storm’: Vás means ‘wetness, toil, fatigue, from storm, sea, frost, bad weather, or the like’ (CVC: vás), but some of the examples show that vás may simply refer to adverse weather (as a cause of fatigue). Í vási can be variously construed. (a) It is taken here with the subordinate clause (so also Kock, NN §1861; Jón Skaptason 1983, 90). (b) Taking it in the sense ‘in a storm’ in the main, initial clause is also satisfactory, providing a reference to stormy weather in each clause, though the word order is more complex. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) adopted this arrangement, following Ternström (1871). He seems to have understood vás as describing Sigvatr’s condition, rather than the weather (cf. LP: vás, defining it as strabadser ‘fatigue, toils’). — [4] Strinda ‘of the Strindir’: The people of Strinda, a district in Trøndelag. The reading Strindar in several mss would be the gen. sg. of the p. n. — [5] at kostum ‘at a fine pace’: Lit. ‘at good qualities’. Turville-Petre (1976, 79-80) renders this ‘(pranced) nobly’, comparing ModIcel. fara á kostum ‘go splendidly’, as applied to a horse. — [6] ristu ‘cleft’: Despite the spelling with initial <hr> in 325V, Holm4 and , the <h> is probably inorganic (see Pokorny 1959, 859; Orel 2003: *rīstanan). — [6] Lista ‘Lista’: ON Listi, ModNorw. Lista, a district in Vest-Agder, southern Norway, and hence ‘land’ in general in the present context of a sea-kenning; cf. also st. 18/6. — [8] at sundi ‘at sea’: Lit. ‘in/at the sound’ (or ‘a-swimming’), but the phrase has a generalised sense (see LP: sund 1) that is paralleled in OE (see Fulk 2005).

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