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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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 29 June 2022)

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

SkP info: I, 685

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

17 — Sigv ErfÓl 17I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 17’ 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. 685.

Þollr dylr saðrar snilli
seims, en þat veitk heiman,
— hverr sæi Hunds verk stœrri
hugstórs —, es frýr Þóri,
es þvergarða þorði
Þróttr, hinns framm of sótti,
glyggs í gǫgn at hǫggva
gunnranns konungmanni.

{Þollr seims}, es frýr Þóri, dylr saðrar snilli, en veitk þat heiman — hverr sæi stœrri verk hugstórs Hunds? —, es {Þróttr {þvergarða {glyggs {gunnranns}}}}, hinns of sótti framm, þorði at hǫggva í gǫgn konungmanni.

{The fir-tree of gold} [MAN] who reproaches Þórir conceals true valour, and I know that from home — who might have seen greater deeds of the mighty-hearted [Þórir] Hundr (‘Dog’)? —, when {the Þróttr <= Óðinn> {of the cross-fences {of the storm {of the battle-hall}}}} [SHIELD > BATTLE > SHIELD > WARRIOR], the one who pressed forwards, dared to strike at the royal person.

Mss: (471r) (Hkr); Holm2(68r), J2ˣ(227r), 73aˣ(201v), Holm4(63vb), 61(125va), 325V(81ra), 325VII(38r), Flat(124vb), Tóm(156r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] dylr: dyli 73aˣ;    snilli: so all others, ‘snylli’ Kˣ    [2] en: om. Holm4, er Tóm;    þat veitk (‘þat veit ec’): þat veit Holm2, ek þat veit J2ˣ, veit ek Holm4, ‘þ(ar v)eit ek’(?) 61, þat frá ek Flat, þar veit ek Tóm;    heiman: heima Flat    [3] hverr: hver 73aˣ, 325V, hvers Tóm;    sæi: sé 73aˣ, 325V, Tóm, sér 61;    stœrri: stœrra 61    [4] es (‘er’): enn 61, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    frýr: vann 61, Flat, Tóm, ‘fir’ with vann written above 325VII;    Þóri: ‘[…]’ 61, ‘þore(s)’(?) 325VII, Þórir Flat, Tóm    [5] es (‘er’): enn Holm2, en Holm4, ‘[…]’ 61;    þver‑: ‘[…]’ 61    [6] Þróttr: þrótt J2ˣ, þrjótr 61, Tóm;    hinn: om. Flat;    of: om. J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 61, 325V    [7] glyggs: ‘g[…]’ 61, gnýs Flat, Tóm;    í gǫgn: ‘[…]gn’ 61    [8] ‑ranns: ‑ramms J2ˣ, ‑rakkr 61, Flat, ‑rammr Tóm;    konung‑: konungs 73aˣ, 61, Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 17: AI, 261-2, BI, 243, Skald I, 126, NN §664; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 493, IV, 170, ÍF 27, 384, Hkr 1991, II, 533 (ÓHHkr ch. 228); ÓH 1941, I, 574 (ch. 226), Flat 1860-8, II, 356; Jón Skaptason 1983, 172, 306-7.

Context: See Context to st. 16. Þórir strikes back at King Óláfr and they exchange blows. Óláfr’s sword continues to be useless where Þórir is protected by his reindeer skins, but he does manage to wound him on the arm.

Notes: [2] veitk þat heiman ‘I know that from home’: It is not clear which statement this refers to. The precise antecedent of þat n. ‘that’ cannot be the f. snilli ‘valour’. It may be the fact of Þórir’s valour (so Hkr 1893-1901, IV) or the fact that some question it (so ÍF 27). ‘Home’ presumably means Norway, where Sigvatr lived for much of his life; see his Biography above, and Note to st. 15/7. — [3] hverr sæi stœrri verk … Hunds ‘who might have seen greater deeds of … Hundr (“Dog”)’: (a) The comp. adj. stœrri ‘greater’ is taken here, as by most previous eds, as absolute, without an explicit specification of what the verk ‘deeds’ are greater than. (b) Jón Skaptason (1983, 172) would link it with the second helmingr, reading es in l. 5 as ‘<than> when’. (c) Kock (NN §664) prefers the reading hver séi Hunds verk stœrri ‘which deeds of the Dog might be greater?’, but this has less support in the mss. — [3] Hunds ‘Hundr (“Dog”)’: The word hundr ‘dog’ can be used as a term of abuse (Fritzner: hundr). Fidjestøl (1987) analyses the irony in the derogatory connotations of hundr, while the poet is simultaneously praising Þórir’s valour, and traces this continuing ambivalence towards him in later sources. — [5, 6, 7, 8] Þróttr þvergarða glyggs gunnranns ‘the Þróttr <= Óðinn> of the cross-fences of the storm of the battle-hall [SHIELD > BATTLE > SHIELD > WARRIOR]’: This kenning is unusual for its number of elements and conjures up an image of Þórir defensively barricading himself in at the very moment when he strikes out at Óláfr, one of the several ironies of this stanza. Jón Skaptason (1983, 306) thought the kenning was ‘much too complex to be characteristic of Sigvat’ and found the ‘double use of shield disquietingly redundant’ but was unable to construe the stanza any differently.

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