Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

11. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (ErfÓl) - 28

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).

Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr inn helgi (S. Óláfr)’) — Sigv ErfÓlI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 663.

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga, o. 1040 (AI, 257-65, BI, 239-45)

SkP info: I, 679

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — Sigv ErfÓl 13I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 13’ in Diana Whaley (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 1: From Mythical Times to c. 1035. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 1. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 679.

Geir- hykk grimmligt vôru
gunnreifum Ôleifi
loghreytǫndum líta
lóns í -hvassar sjónir.
Þorðut þrœnzkir fyrðar
— þótti hersa dróttinn
ógurligr — í augu
ormfrôn séa hônum.

Hykk {{lóns log}hreytǫndum} vôru grimmligt líta í geirhvassar sjónir gunnreifum Ôleifi. Þrœnzkir fyrðar þorðut séa í ormfrôn augu hônum; {dróttinn hersa} þótti ógurligr.

I think it was fearful {for the distributors {of the flame of the lagoon}} [(lit. ‘flame-distributors of the lagoon’) GOLD > GENEROUS MEN] to look into the spear-sharp eyes of battle-glad Óláfr. The men from Trøndelag did not dare to look into his snake-bright eyes; {the lord of hersar} [KING = Óláfr] seemed terrifying.

Mss: (469v) (Hkr); Holm2(67v), J2ˣ(226r), 321ˣ(254), Holm4(63rb), 61(125rb), 325V(80va), 325VII(38r), Flat(124va), Tóm(155v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Geir: so 321ˣ, geirs all others;    hykk: ‘hugg’ 321ˣ, om. 325V;    ‑ligt: ‑lig J2ˣ;    vôru: ríki 61, væri Flat    [2] ‑reifum: ‑reipum 321ˣ    [3] log‑: lof‑ Holm2, 321ˣ, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    ‑hreytǫndum: ‘‑røtondum’ Holm2, ‑hreytendum J2ˣ, ‘‑reitundum’ Holm4, ‘‑rækindvm’ 61, ‑rennundum 325V, ‘‑hrækundum’ with ‘rekiondom’ in the margin 325VII, ‘‑rækendum’ Flat, Tóm    [4] lóns: léons 321ˣ, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    í: með with ‘i’ written above 325VII    [5] Þorðut: þorðu ei Flat;    þrœnzkir: Þrœndr 325V, Þrœndir Tóm;    fyrðar: virðar Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [7] ógur‑: œgi‑ Holm2, J2ˣ, Holm4, 325V;    augu: augum 321ˣ    [8] orm‑: orms 61;    ‑frôn: ‘prans’ 321ˣ, frôns 61, 325V;    séa hônum: hônum séa Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 13: AI, 260, BI, 242, Skald I, 125; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 489, IV, 168, ÍF 27, 380, Hkr 1991, II, 530 (ÓHHkr ch. 226); ÓH 1941, I, 571 (ch. 224), Flat 1860-8, II, 355; Jón Skaptason 1983, 168, 304.

Context: Óláfr breaks forward from his own shield-wall and the farmers are frightened at the sight of his face.

Notes: [All]: On the literary topos of the terrifying glance of the ruler, see Marold (1998a). As noted by Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV), Snorri Sturluson may well have used this stanza when describing Óláfr as having exceptional eyes: beautiful and so piercing as to be terrifying to look at when he was angry (ÍF 27, 4). — [1, 4] geirhvassar sjónir ‘the spear-sharp eyes’: The majority reading geirs, lit. ‘of the spear’, is problematic, being not essential to the sense or syntax of the stanza. (a) The 321ˣ reading geir is adopted here, and the assumption made that it (or possibly geirs) is the first element of a cpd adj. geir(s)hvass ‘spear-sharp’, with tmesis. The cpd is thus parallel with ormfrôn ‘snake-bright’ in l. 8, also describing Óláfr’s eyes; cf. also compounds such as egghvass ‘blade-sharp’, eitrhvass ‘poison-sharp’. (b) The majority form geirs could be taken, as in ÍF 27, as a descriptive gen. (cf. NS §127, though the examples do not extend to the use of gen. as a compressed simile as would be assumed here). (c) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B), followed by Kock (Skald), emends gunn- ‘battle’ (l. 2) to gný- ‘tumult’ to produce gnýreifum geirs ‘glad in the tumult of the spear [BATTLE]’. — [5] fyrðar ‘the men’: The variant reading virðar is synonymous, and equally satisfactory. — [6] hersa ‘of hersar’: Hersir (nom. sg.) refers to a Norwegian district chieftain, i.e. a nobleman of lesser rank than a jarl. The term is also used in sts 20/2, 28/3.

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