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, ‘(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.

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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, 18-19

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Sigv Berv 7II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 7’ 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. 18-19.

Ungr, vask með þér, þengill,
þat haust, es komt austan;
einn, stillir, mátt alla
jǫrð hegna, svá fregnisk.
Himin þóttusk þá heiðan
hafa, es landa krafðir,
lofðungs burr, ok lifðir,
landfolk tekit hǫndum.

Ungr þengill, vask með þér þat haust, es komt austan; stillir, mátt einn hegna alla jǫrð; svá fregnisk. Landfolk þóttusk þá hafa tekit heiðan himin hǫndum, es krafðir landa, burr lofðungs, ok lifðir.

Young prince, I was with you that autumn when you came from the east; lord, you alone can secure the entire country; that will be heard. The countrymen then thought they had caught the bright heaven with their hands when you claimed the lands, king’s son, and were alive.

Mss: H(4r-v), Hr(6ra) (H-Hr); 325XI 3(1r), Flat(190ra) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Ungr vask (‘Vngr var ek’): Vrum 325XI 3, Flat    [2] es (‘er’): ‘ertt’ 325XI 3    [3] einn: ungr 325XI 3, Flat    [4] fregnisk: ‘fregn[...]’ 325XI 3, fregnar Flat    [5] Himin: ‘[…]’ 325XI 3;    þóttusk: so Hr, 325XI 3, Flat, þóttumsk H;    þá: om. 325XI 3, Flat;    heiðan: heiðar Flat    [6] krafðir: krafði 325XI 3, Flat    [7] burr: byrr Flat;    ok: er Hr

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 11. Bersǫglisvísur 6: AI, 252-3, BI, 236, Skald I, 122, NN §§1865, 2476, 3097H; Fms 6, 40-1 (Mgóð ch. 22); Louis-Jensen 1970b, 148, Flat 1860-8, III, 268, Mork 1928-32, 27, Andersson and Gade 2000, 106, 467 (MH); Jón Skaptason 1983, 143, 290.

Notes: [All]: Magnús Óláfsson arrived in Norway from Russia (via Sweden) in 1035. Sigvatr, who was then in Sweden, joined him on the journey back to Norway. Magnús was elected king of all Norway at Øretinget (Eyraþing, Eyra Assembly; see Note to Sturl Hákkv 9/16) in Trondheim that autumn. — [4] hegna ‘secure’: For the meaning ‘secure, protect’, see Fritzner: hegna 1. — [4] svá fregnisk ‘that will be heard’: Meaning that the news of Magnús’s justice will spread far and wide. — [5] þóttusk (3rd pers. pl. pret. indic.) ‘thought’: The subject is a collective in the sg. (landfolk ‘countrymen’, lit. ‘country-folk’ (l. 8)), and Skj B emends to þóttisk (3rd pers. sg. pret. indic.) ‘thought’. That emendation is unnecessary if we assume a suppressed pl. subject (‘they’) referring to the later collective (see NN §§1865, 3097H; NS §10b). — [5] heiðan (m. acc. sg.) ‘bright’: The l. lacks internal rhyme, and Kock (NN §2476) tentatively suggests the emendation heiman ‘here on earth’. However, the adv. is not attested in that meaning (heiman is normally ‘away from home, away from this world’) and is not warranted by the ms. witnesses.

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