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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;

II. Bersǫglisvísur (Berv) - 18

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).

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 27 November 2021)

 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, 21-2

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

10 — Sigv Berv 10II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 10’ 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. 21-2.

Gjalt varhuga, veltir,
viðr, þeims nú ferr heðra,
þjófs (skal hǫnd í hófi)
hǫlða kvitt (of stytta).
Vinrs, sás varmra benja
vǫrnuð býðr, en hlýðið,
tármútaris teitir,
til, hvat búmenn vilja.

{Veltir þjófs}, gjalt varhuga viðr kvitt hǫlða, þeims nú ferr heðra; skal of stytta hǫnd í hófi. Vinrs, sás býðr vǫrnuð, en, {{{varmra benja tár}mútaris} teitir}, hlýðið til, hvat búmenn vilja.

{Toppler of the thief} [JUST RULER], pay heed to the chatter of men which now is spreading here; the hand must be held back by moderation. He is a friend who offers a warning, but you, {gladdener {of the hawk {of the tear of warm wounds}}} [(lit. ‘gladdener of the tear-hawk of warm wounds’) BLOOD > RAVEN/EAGLE > WARRIOR], must heed what the farmers want.

Mss: (505r), 39(14vb), E(5v), J2ˣ(246r) (Hkr); Holm2(74r-v), 972ˣ(585va), 972ˣ(585vb), 325VI(42rb), 321ˣ(283), 73aˣ(216v), 325VII(41v), 325V(89vb), 61(130va), Tóm(161v), Bb(206rb) (ÓH); FskBˣ(54r), FskAˣ(209) (Fsk, ll. 1-4); H(4v), Hr(6ra-b) (H-Hr); 325XI 3(1r), Flat(190ra) (Flat)

Readings: [1] varhuga: ‘uaro᷎ga’ Flat    [2] viðr: veðrs 73aˣ, við H, Hr;    þeims (‘þeim er’): þeim 325VI;    nú: þú J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(585va), 972ˣ(585vb);    ferr: ferr víða 325XI 3    [3] þjófs: þjóð 325VI, 321ˣ, þjóf 325V, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat;    skal: skal ek 325V, 61, Tóm;    hǫnd: so E, J2ˣ, 972ˣ(585va), 73aˣ, 61, Tóm, Bb, H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat, hund Kˣ, 39, Holm2, 972ˣ(585vb), 325VII, 325V, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, hverr 325VI, 321ˣ    [4] hǫlða: ‘hulða’ E, ‘hulda’ J2ˣ, halda Tóm;    of: af 73aˣ, at 325V;    stytta: ‘stvtta’ Bb, 325XI 3    [5] Vinrs s (‘vinr er sá er’): so E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(585vb), Bb, vin er sá er Kˣ, vinr er sá 39, 972ˣ(585va), vinr em ek 325VI, 321ˣ, H, vinr er 73aˣ, vinr sá er 325VII, 325V, 61, Tóm, vinr ek Hr, vinr er ek 325XI 3, Flat;    varmra: ‘v[...]ra’ 325VII, varma 325V, H, Hr;    benja: ‘beinia’ E, beima J2ˣ, 61, H, beina 972ˣ(585vb), Tóm, Bb, ‘bæn[...]’ 325VII    [6] vǫrnuð: so 39, 325VI, 325V, H, Hr, 325XI 3, varnaðr Kˣ, varnað E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(585va), 972ˣ(585vb), 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 61, Tóm, Bb, ‘[...]’ 325VII, ‘voro᷎d’ Flat;    býðr: býð ek 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Hr, ‘[...]yðr’ 325VII, ek 325V, ‘budr’ Bb, býðk H, búðs 325XI 3, Flat;    hlýðið: hlýði 39, ek hlýði E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(585va), 972ˣ(585vb), 61, Tóm, Bb, hlýðir 325VI, þeir hlýðit 321ˣ, ‘ec hlyþ[...]’ 325VII, ‘hlidit’ Flat    [7] tár‑: ‘[...]’ 325VII, tár á or tára 325XI 3;    ‑mútaris: musteris 39, Bb, ‘mustaris’ J2ˣ, ‘muteris’ Holm2, 972ˣ(585vb), 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325XI 3, Flat, ‘[...]taris’ 325VII, ‘mvntaris’ 325V, ‘materis’ Hr;    teitir: ‘tetter’ 972ˣ(585va), teitar 972ˣ(585vb), teiti 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325V, 61, Tóm, H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat    [8] til: om. 325VI;    hvat: hvatt Tóm;    búmenn: búmann 972ˣ(585vb), búmanns Bb;    vilja: vinna Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 11. Bersǫglisvísur 13: AI, 255, BI, 237-8, Skald I, 123; ÍF 28, 29-30 (Mgóð ch. 16), E 1916, 18; ÓH 1941, I, 626 (ch. 261); ÍF 29, 213 (ch. 48); Fms 6, 42 (Mgóð ch. 22); Louis-Jensen 1970b, 149, Flat 1860-8, III, 268, Mork 1928-32, 28, Andersson and Gade 2000, 107, 467 (MH); Jón Skaptason 1983, 150, 295.

Notes: [2] heðra ‘here’: The more archaic form hiðra (Goth hidre, OE hider) would restore the aðalhending and has been adopted by most earlier eds (see ANG §60; AEW: heðra). — [3, 4] skal of stytta hǫnd í hófi ‘the hand must be held back by moderation’: Lit. ‘one must shorten the hand in moderation’. This saying means that one should not stretch the fingers longer than moderation prescribes, i.e. one must not be greedy and aggressive but show self-restraint. — [4] kvitt ‘chatter’: Earlier eds emend to kytt, and it is possible that Sigvatr used the variant form kytt for kvitt (see ANG §83.2), which would then form aðalhending with stytta ‘measure’ (lit. ‘shorten’). See also Note to st. 1/6 above. — [7] -mútaris (m. gen. sg.) ‘of the hawk’: Mútari is a nomen agentis which is related to the adj. mútaðr ‘moulted’, referring to a bird that has changed its feathers (from Lat. mutarius; cf. MHG mūzære ‘falcon’; see AEW: mútari).

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