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Runic Dictionary

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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 18 October 2021)

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, 25-6

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Sigv Berv 14II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 14’ 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. 25-6.

Eitt es mál, þats mæla:
‘minn dróttinn leggr sína
eign á óðǫl þegna’;
ǫfgask búendr gǫfgir.
Rán mun seggr, hinns sína
selr út, í því telja,
flaums at fellidómi
fǫðurleifð konungs greifum.

Eitt es mál, þats mæla: ‘dróttinn minn leggr eign sína á óðǫl þegna’; gǫfgir búendr ǫfgask. Seggr, hinns selr út fǫðurleifð sína greifum konungs at fellidómi flaums, mun telja rán í því.

They all say the same thing: ‘my lord appropriates his subjects’ ancestral properties’; proud farmers revolt. That man, who parcels out his patrimony to the king’s counts according to precipitate rulings, will call that robbery.

Mss: (505r), 39(14vb), E(5v), J2ˣ(246r) (Hkr); Holm2(74v), 972ˣ(585va), 972ˣ(585vb), 325VI(42rb), 321ˣ(283), 73aˣ(217r), 325VII(41v), 325V(89vb), 61(130va), Tóm(161v), Bb(206rb-va) (ÓH); H(4v), Hr(6rb) (H-Hr); 325XI 3(1v), Flat(190ra) (Flat)

Readings: [1] es (‘er’): om. 325VII;    þats (‘þat er’): þat at 972ˣ(585va), þat mun æ 325VII, at Tóm, þat H, Hr, þar er Flat    [2] minn: ‘mænni’ 972ˣ(585vb);    leggr: leggi 325VII, lét H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat;    sína: om. 39    [3] eign: eigna 972ˣ(585vb), einn 61, egg Flat;    óðǫl: óðal 39, E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(585va), 325VI, 73aˣ, 325VII, 325V, 61, H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat;    þegna: ‘þæg[...]’ 325VII, þínu H, Hr    [4] ǫfgask: ǫflgask 325VI, H, Hr, ‘[...]gaz’ 325VII, om. 61;    búendr: bœndr 39, 325VI, Tóm, Bb, Hr;    gǫfgir: ‘gaufgra’ 972ˣ(585vb), ‘[...]fgir’ 325VII, gǫfga Bb    [5] Rán: raun 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325V, 61, Bb, ‘[...]an’ 325VII, rann Flat;    hinns (‘hinn er’): ef 325VI, 73aˣ, H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat, er 321ˣ, 61, hinn Tóm    [6] selr: setr 321ˣ;    út í því: ‘oðr[...] þat’ 325VII, ǫðrum í því 61, orð í því Tóm;    telja: dvelja H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat    [7] flaums: fráns H, Hr, ‘farns’ 325XI 3, fárs Flat;    at: í Bb;    fellidómi: falli í dómi 325VII    [8] fǫðurleifð: fǫðurleifs J2ˣ, fǫðurleif 61, fulleið H, full leið Hr, full leiðir 325XI 3, fulleiðr Flat;    konungs: kóngr 972ˣ(585va), konungr 325XI 3, Flat;    greifum: ‘greiopum’ 321ˣ, ‘g[...]v[...]’ 325VII, reiði H, Hr

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 11. Bersǫglisvísur 14: AI, 255-6, BI, 238, Skald I, 123; ÍF 28, 30 (Mgóð ch. 16), E 1916, 18; ÓH 1941, I, 627 (ch. 631); Fms 6, 43-4 (Mgóð ch. 22); Louis-Jensen 1970b, 149, Flat 1860-8, III, 269, Mork 1928-32, 29, Andersson and Gade 2000, 108, 467-8 (MH); Jón Skaptason 1983, 151, 295-6.

Notes: [1] eitt es mál, þats mæla ‘they all say the same thing’: Lit. ‘it’s a single thing that they say’. — [3] óðǫl (n. acc. pl.) ‘ancestral properties’: The variant form óðal is sg. (see ANG §78) and makes less sense in this context. For the institution of óðal, see KLNM 12, 493-503. — [3] þegna (m. gen. pl.) ‘subjects’: For the meaning of this word, see Notes to sts 11/2, 12/7 above. — [4] ǫfgask ‘revolt’: Ǫflgask ‘resist, become strong’ (so 325VI, H, Hr) is possible but secondary and less preferable from the point of view of internal rhyme. — [5-8]: The variant readings in H, Hr, 325XI and Flat are corrupt and do not make sense without significant emendations (see also Louis-Jensen 1977, 153). — [5] rán ‘robbery’: Raun ‘strain, tribulation’ (so 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325V, 61, Bb) is secondary and does not fit the legal context as well as rán. — [7] fellidómi flaums ‘precipitate rulings’: Lit. ‘pronounced judgements of rush’. Refers to Magnús’s high-handed confiscation of the properties of his father’s former enemies without due procedure (see ÍF 28, 25-6). — [8] fǫðurleifð ‘patrimony’: See Ív Sig 22/4. — [8] greifum (m. dat. pl.) ‘counts’: The earliest attested occurrence of this honorific in ON (see LP: greifi; Fritzner: greifi). According to Snorri (SnE 1998, I, 80), greifar (either from OE gerēfa ‘reeve’ or from MLG grāve ‘count’; AEW: greifi) were the Saxon equivalents of Engl. barons and Norw. hersar and district chieftains (lendir menn). Such men were appointed by the king to be in charge of the legal and defensive administration of the districts. Sigvatr’s knowledge of the foreign term must stem from his extensive travels on the Continent and in England. His fondness for loanwords is also reflected in st. 18/4 below.

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