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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 29 November 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, 20-1

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Sigv Berv 9II

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 9’ 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. 20-1.

Skulut ráðgjafar reiðask
(ryðr þat, konungr) yðrir
(dróttins orð til dýrðar)
dǫglingr, við bersǫgli.
Hafa kveðask lǫg, nema ljúgi
landherr, búendr verri
endr í Ulfasundum
ǫnnur, an þú hézt mǫnnum.

Dǫglingr, ráðgjafar yðrir skulut reiðask við bersǫgli; þat orð dróttins ryðr til dýrðar, konungr. Búendr kveðask hafa ǫnnur verri lǫg, nema landherr ljúgi, an þú hézt mǫnnum endr í Ulfasundum.

Lord, your counsellors must not get enraged at my plain-speaking; that royal command will open the way for glory, king. The farmers claim they have other, inferior laws, unless the countrymen lie, than you promised people earlier in Ulvesundet.

Mss: (504v), 39(14va), E(5v), J2ˣ(245v) (Hkr); Holm2(74r), 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(585vb), 325VI(42rb), 321ˣ(283), 73aˣ(216v), 325VII(41v), 325V(89va-b), 61(130rb-va), Tóm(161r), Bb(206rb) (ÓH); FskBˣ(54r), FskAˣ(208-209) (Fsk, ll. 5-8); H(4v), Hr(6ra) (H-Hr); 325XI 3(1r), Flat(190ra) (Flat)

Readings: [1] Skulut: Skulu 61, Flat;    ‑gjafar: so E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(585vb), 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325VII, 325V, 61, Bb, H, Hr, 325XI 3, Flat, ‑gjǫfum Kˣ, 39, gjafa Tóm    [2] ryðr: ryð er 61;    þat: því at Hr, Flat;    konungr: konung 972ˣ(585vb), konungar Flat;    yðrir: so E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325VII, 325V, Tóm, Bb, H, 325XI 3, Flat, yðrum Kˣ, 39, 61, ‘yþr’ 972ˣ(584va), ‘ydur’ 972ˣ(585vb), yðvar Hr    [3] dróttins: dróttni 325VII;    til dýrðar: om. 61    [4] við: í 972ˣ(584va), viðr 325VI;    ‑sǫgli: ‑sǫglu or ‑sǫgli 321ˣ    [5] kveðask: kvðusk 972ˣ(584va), Tóm, kveða 325V, 61, kvezk FskBˣ, ‘kuozt’ Flat;    ljúgi: lýgi Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(585vb), Flat    [6] land‑: ‘[…]’ 325XI 3;    búendr: so E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(585vb), 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325V, 61, H, 325XI 3, bœndr Kˣ, 325VI, Bb, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, Hr, Flat, konungr 39, 325VII, Tóm    [7] í: om. E;    Ulfa‑: ‘vilpa’ E, ‘ulba‑’ Flat    [8] ǫnnur: ‘[…]nvr’ 325XI 3;    mǫnnum: manna FskBˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 11. Bersǫglisvísur 8: AI, 253, BI, 236, Skald I, 122, NN §1866; ÍF 28, 28 (Mgóð ch. 16), E 1916, 17; ÓH 1941, I, 626 (ch. 261); ÍF 29, 213 (ch. 48); Fms 6, 41-2 (Mgóð ch. 22); Louis-Jensen 1970b, 149, Flat 1860-8, III, 268, Mork 1928-32, 28, Andersson and Gade 2000, 106, 467 (MH); Jón Skaptason 1983, 145, 291-2.

Notes: [1, 2] ráðgjafar yðrir skulut reiðask ‘your counsellors must not get enraged’: Skulut reiðask ráðgjǫfum yðrum ‘you should not get enraged at your counsellors’ (so , 39) is syntactically correct but goes against the majority ms. witnesses (so also Skald). Moreover, Sigvatr is speaking against the king’s counsellors on behalf of the farmers (see also the prose in H-Hr). Skj B follows the version but emends skulut (2nd pers. pl.) (l. 1) to skalat (3rd pers. sg.) ‘one should not’. — [3] orð dróttins ‘royal command’: Lit. ‘word of the lord’. Anticipates Magnús’s command to his counsellors to refrain from interfering with Sigvatr’s plea. Finnur reads til dýrðar dróttins ‘[that word leads] to the glory of the king’, which creates an awkward w. o. Kock’s translation of orð dróttins as härskarns rykte ‘the lord’s reputation’ (det renar härskarns rykte, banar vägen för beröm ‘that clears the lord’s reputation, opens up the way for glory’; NN §1866) is syntactically obscure (ryðja til e-s ‘clear, open up’ is never constructed with an acc. in addition to the prepositional phrase; see Fritzner: ryðja). — [5-8]: Magnús’s earlier legislation in Ulvesundet (in Nordfjord, Norway) is not mentioned in any saga. — [8] þú hézt ‘you promised’: Retention of the pron. þú ‘you’ (so all mss) forces elision in metrical position 2 involving a closed syllable and a syllable with vocalic onset (-ur a-; ǫnnur an ‘other than’). That does not otherwise occur in early dróttkvætt poetry (see Kuhn 1983, 67). However, Sigvatr is known for bending the rules of skaldic composition, and full stress on the pron. þú certainly seems warranted by the tenor of the st.

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