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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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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, 29

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Sigv Berv 17II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 17’ 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, p. 29.

Sighvats es hugr hizig
Hǫrðaknúts í garði,
mildr nema mjǫk vel skaldi
Magnús konungr fagni.
Fórk með feðrum þeira
— fekk ungum mér tunga
golls; vask enn með ǫllu
óskeggjaðr þá — beggja.

Hugr Sighvats es hizig í garði Hǫrðaknúts, nema mildr Magnús konungr fagni skaldi mjǫk vel. Fórk með feðrum þeira beggja; þá vask enn með ǫllu óskeggjaðr; tunga fekk ungum mér golls.

Sigvatr’s heart will be there in Hǫrðaknútr’s hall unless generous King Magnús welcomes the skald very well. I followed the fathers of them both; then I was still altogether beardless; my tongue brought me gold as a youth.

Mss: 325XI 3(1v), Flat(190ra-b) (Flat)

Readings: [1] es hugr: hugr er both;    hizig: ‘hittíg’ 325XI 3, ‘hítteg’ Flat    [5] með: so Flat, om. 325XI 3    [6] fekk: fekk ek Flat;    ungum mér: ungan mér 325XI 3, mér ungan Flat

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 11. Bersǫglisvísur 17: AI, 256, BI, 238, Skald I, 123, NN §3067; Louis-Jensen 1970b, 150, Flat 1860-8, III, 269, Mork 1928-32, 30, Andersson and Gade 2000, 108, 468 (MH); Jón Skaptason 1983, 154, 297.

Notes: [1] Sighvats es hugr hizig ‘Sigvatr’s heart will be there’: The ms. readings are unmetrical. In a noun phrase consisting of two elements, alliteration cannot fall on the second element without the first element also alliterating (see NN §3067; Gade 1995a, 37-8). The present emendation, which was first suggested by Kock (NN §3067), rewrites the l. as a Type XE4 (see Gade 1995a, 97-9). Skj B emends to Sigvats hugr mun hittask ‘Sigvatr’s heart will yearn’, which is also unmetrical and without support in the ms. witnesses. Hizig ‘there’ was first suggested by Árni Magnússon in 761bˣ(326r) and, separately, by Kock (NN §3067). — [2] Hǫrðaknúts: Hǫrðaknútr Knútsson (d. 8 June 1042) was the son of Knútr Sveinsson (Cnut the Great) and his wife, Emma of Normandy. Hǫrðaknútr was king of England 1040-2, and he was regent of Denmark when Berv was composed. — [5, 8] með feðrum þeira beggja ‘with the fathers of them both’: Sigvatr had spent time at the court of Knútr in England and had composed poetry in his honour (see ÍF 27, 271-3; Sigv VestvI and Sigv KnútdrI). — [6] tunga fekk ungum mér ‘my tongue brought me (gold) as a youth’: Ungan (m. acc. sg.) lit. ‘young’ has been emended to ungum (m. dat. sg.) in keeping with all previous eds (the adj. qualifies mér (dat. sg.) ‘me’). Both Skj B and Skald retain the w. o. of the Flat variant (fekk mér ungum tunga), but the w. o. of 325XI 3 is preferable from a metrical point of view (see Gade 1995a, 87-8, 144-7).

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