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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

II. Bersǫglisvísur (Berv) - 18

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).

Bersǫglisvísur (‘Plain-speaking Vísur’) — Sigv BervII

Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 11-30. <> (accessed 19 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 11. Bersǫglisvísur, o. 1038 (AI, 251-6, BI, 234-9); stanzas (if different): 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 13 | 15 | 18

SkP info: II, 22-3

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — Sigv Berv 11II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 11’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 22-3.

Hverr eggjar þik hǫggva,
hjaldrgegnir, bú þegna?
Ofrausn es þat jǫfri
innanlands at vinna.
Engr hafði svá ungum
áðr bragningi ráðit;
rán hykk rekkum þínum
— reiðrs herr, konungr — leiðask.

Hverr eggjar þik, {hjaldrgegnir}, hǫggva bú þegna? Es ofrausn jǫfri at vinna þat innanlands. Engr hafði áðr ráðit ungum bragningi svá; hykk rekkum þínum leiðask rán; reiðrs herr, konungr.

Who urges you, {battle-promoter} [WARRIOR], to slay the livestock of your subjects? It is insolence for a prince to do that in his own land. No one had earlier advised a young ruler in such a way; I think your troops are tired of plunder; people are angry, king.

Mss: (504v-505r), 39(14vb), E(5v), J2ˣ(245v-246r) (Hkr); Holm2(74r), 972ˣ(585va), 972ˣ(585vb), 325VI(42rb), 321ˣ(283) (ll. 1-6), 73aˣ(216v), 325VII(41v), 325V(89vb), 61(130va), Tóm(161v), Bb(206rb) (ÓH); FskBˣ(54r-v) (Fsk); H(4v), Hr(6rb) (H-Hr); 325XI 3(1r-v), Flat(190ra) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Hverr eggjar: ‘Hwerer eggiar’ 972ˣ(585vb), Hverir eggja Tóm, Bb;    þik: ‘þik h[…]’ 325XI 3;    hǫggva: ‘[...]’ 325VII    [2] hjaldr‑: hjalm‑ 61, hildr‑ Tóm;    ‑gegnir: ‑gegn J2ˣ, ‑gegna 325VI, H, Hr, Flat, ‑gegninn 325VII, ‘[…]na’ 325XI 3    [3] Ofrausn: ofraun 39, FskBˣ, um rausn Tóm, ‘ofrosn’ Bb;    þat: om. Hr;    jǫfri: ‘iofru’ 972ˣ(585vb), ræsi 325XI 3, Flat    [4] ‑lands: land 325VII;    vinna: ‘[...]a’ 325VII    [5] Engr: ǫngr Holm2, 972ˣ(585vb), 325V, 61, Tóm, Bb, H, Hr, angr 325XI 3, Flat;    hafði: ‘hæfði’ 325VI    [6] bragningi: ‘bragengi’ 972ˣ(585vb), bragning 73aˣ, bragningum Tóm;    ráðit: ráða 325VI, 321ˣ    [7] rán: rann 61;    hykk (‘hygg ec’): ‘hykk ec’ J2ˣ;    rekkum: þegnum Bb    [8] reiðrs (‘reiðr er’): reiðr 39, 325VII;    leiðask: leiðar Tóm, 325XI 3, Flat

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 11. Bersǫglisvísur 11: AI, 254, BI, 237, Skald I, 123, NN §1867; ÍF 28, 29 (Mgóð ch. 16), E 1916, 17-18; ÓH 1941, I, 626 (ch. 261); ÍF 29, 213-14 (ch. 48); Fms 6, 42-3 (Mgóð ch. 22), Louis-Jensen 1970b, 149, Flat 1860-8, III, 269, Mork 1928-32, 29, Andersson and Gade 2000, 107, 467 (MH); Jón Skaptason 1983, 148, 294.

Notes: [2] hjaldrgegnir ‘battle-promoter [WARRIOR]’: The variant reading hjaldrgegna (m. acc. pl.) ‘battle-able’ (so 325VI, H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat) could be taken as an adj. qualifying a cpd búþegna (m. acc. pl.) ‘farmers’ (if the phrase is understood as a cpd rather than bú þegna ‘the livestock of your subjects’), as the object of the verb hǫggva ‘slay’ (l. 1). That reading is possible, but it is clearly an attempt at syntactic simplification. — [2] þegna (m. acc. pl.) ‘of your subjects’: For the different meanings of the word þegn, see Goetting 2006. In this particular case, the word refers to Magnús’s free subjects, the farmers of Norway (but see st. 12/7 below). — [3] ofrausn ‘insolence’: Lit. ‘excess of heroism’ or ‘over-magnificence’. The cpd clearly has negative connotations here, referring to Magnús’s reckless treatment of the Norw. farmers and their properties. For a discussion of the word, see Note to Arn Hardr 12/1.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated