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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 16 May 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, 16-17

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Sigv Berv 5II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 5’ 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. 16-17.

Hét, sás fell á Fitjum,
fjǫlgegn, ok réð hegna
heiptar rán, en hônum,
Hôkun, firar unnu.
Þjóð helt fast á fóstra
fjǫlblíðs lǫgum síðan
(enn eru af, þvís minnir)
Aðalsteins (búendr seinir).

Hôkun, sás fell á Fitjum, hét fjǫlgegn ok réð hegna heiptar rán, en firar unnu hônum. Síðan helt þjóð fast á lǫgum {fjǫlblíðs fóstra Aðalsteins}; enn eru búendr seinir af, þvís minnir.

Hákon, who fell at Fitjar, was called most just, and he punished hostile looting, and people loved him. Later men held firmly onto the laws {of the most friendly foster-son of Æthelstan} [= Hákon]; the farmers are still slow to relinquish what they remember.

Mss: (504r-v), 39(14va), E(5v), J2ˣ(245r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(74r), 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI(42rb), 321ˣ(282), 73aˣ(216r), 325VII(41v), 325V(89va), 61(130rb), Tóm(161r), Bb(206rb) (ÓH); H(4r), Hr(6ra) (H-Hr); Flat(190ra) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Hét: Lét Bb;    á: í 972ˣ(584vb)    [2] hegna: þegna Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 325VII, 325V, 61, Tóm, ‘tegner’ 972ˣ(584vb)    [3] rán: rann Hr;    en: ok 39, E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325VII, 325V, Tóm, af 61, at Bb    [4] Hôkun: ‘ha[...]’ 325VII;    firar: ‘fir[...]’ 325VII, firum Bb;    unnu: undu E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI, 73aˣ, Bb, H, Hr, mundu 321ˣ, ‘[...]nu’ 325VII, rku 325V, 61, Tóm, undar Flat    [6] ‑blíðs: ‑blíðr 972ˣ(584va), ‘‑drif’ Flat;    lǫgum: ‘[...]gum’ 325VII, dǫgum 325V, 61, Tóm;    síðan: síðar 972ˣ(584vb), Flat    [7] enn: er 39;    eru: er 325V;    af: á Holm2, 972ˣ(584vb);    þvís minnir (‘þvi er minnir’): ‘dri er miner’ 972ˣ(584vb), því minni 325VI, 321ˣ, H, Hr, því at minnir 73aˣ, 61, er minnir Bb, því inni Flat    [8] búendr: bœndr 39, 325VI, Bb, Hr, Flat, bǫndr 61;    seinir: ‘semer’ 972ˣ(584vb), ‘seirne’ Flat

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 11. Bersǫglisvísur 4: AI, 252, BI, 235, Skald I, 122, NN §2776; ÍF 28, 27 (Mgóð ch. 16), E 1916, 17; ÓH 1941, I, 625 (ch. 261); Fms 6, 39-40 (Mgóð ch. 22); Flat III, 1860-8, 268, Mork 1928-32, 27, Andersson and Gade 2000, 105, 467 (MH); Jón Skaptason 1983, 141, 289.

Notes: [4] Hôkun ‘Hákon’: Hákon inn góði ‘the Good’ Haraldsson died at the battle of Fitjar, Stord, Norway (c. 961). He was the son of King Haraldr hárfagri Hálfdanarson and the foster-son of King Æthelstan (Aðalsteinn) of England (r. 924-39). He is said to have promulgated the laws of Gulatinget (Gulaþing, Gula Assembly) and Frostatinget (Frostaþing, Frosta Assembly) (see ÍF 26, 163 and n. 1). — [4] unnu ‘loved’: 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. of the pret.-pres. verb unna. The variant form undu is late (see ANG §523.1 Anm. 1). — [7, 8] enn eru búendr seinir af ‘the farmers are still slow to relinquish’: Lit. ‘the farmers are still slow to be done with’. — [7] þvís minnir ‘what they remember’: Lit. ‘what reminds [them]’. Skj B adopts the variant því minni ‘that memory’: endnu er bønderne på grund av erindringen derom træge ‘still the farmers are slow because of that memory’, but that reading is not warranted by the ms. witnesses, since it is found only in 325VI, 321ˣ, H and Hr.

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