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, 689

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — Sigv ErfÓl 20I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 20’ 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. 689.

Áðr vitu eigi meiðar
ógnar skers né hersa
— þjóð réð þengils dauða —
þann styrk búandmanna,
es slíkan gram sóknum
sárelds viðir felldi
— mǫrg lá dýr í dreyra
drótt — , sem Ôleifr þótti.

{Meiðar {skers ógnar}} vitu eigi áðr þann styrk búandmanna né hersa — þjóð réð dauða þengils —, es {viðir {sárelds}} felldi sóknum slíkan gram, sem Ôleifr þótti; mǫrg dýr drótt lá í dreyra.

{The trees {of the skerry of battle}} [SHIELD > WARRIORS] did not previously recognise that strength of the farmers nor of the hersar — the people caused the death of the prince — by which {the trees {of the wound-fire}} [SWORD > WARRIORS] could fell in the onslaught such a ruler as Óláfr was thought to be; many a noble retinue lay [dead] in the gore.

Mss: (477v) (Hkr); Holm2(69v), J2ˣ(230r-v), 321ˣ(263-264), 73aˣ(205v), Holm4(65va), 61(127ra), 325V(83rb), 325VII(39v), Bb(200vb), Flat(126ra), Tóm(157v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Áðr: ‘[…]ðr’ Tóm;    eigi meiðar: eigi meiðr J2ˣ, þat eigi 73aˣ, 325V    [2] ógnar: ógna 73aˣ;    skers: skorts 321ˣ, setrs 73aˣ, 325V;    hersa: hersar J2ˣ, Flat, þessa 325VII, herða Bb    [4] búand‑: ‘bond’ Flat, búanda Tóm    [5] slíkan: so Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, slíka Kˣ, slíkar Bb    [6] sár‑: sárir 321ˣ;    viðir: við 321ˣ, viðar Bb, undir Flat;    felldi: felldu J2ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, foldu 321ˣ    [8] Ôleifr: Ôleif J2ˣ, Flat;    þótti: sótti 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 20: AI, 262, BI, 243-4, Skald I, 126; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 505, IV, 173, ÍF 27, 394, Hkr 1991, II, 540 (ÓHHkr ch. 235); ÓH 1941, I, 587 (ch. 235), Flat 1860-8, II, 366; Jón Skaptason 1983, 175, 308.

Context: As for st. 19.

Notes: [3] þjóð réð dauða þengils ‘the people caused the death of the prince’: In st. 14/4, Óláfr was still the þjóðkonungr ‘mighty king’, lit. ‘nation-king’; now he has been felled by the very people he once ruled. — [5] es ‘by which’: (a) Es is taken here as a rel. introducing a clause that appears to elaborate on þann styrk ‘that strength’ (l. 4). (b) It could alternatively be the conj. equivalent to at ‘that’ (LP: at 7). Skj B translates þann styrk ... es felldi as sådan magt ... at (mændene) fældede ‘such power that (the men) felled / could fell ...’. (c) Es could alternatively be the conj. ‘when, since, because’. — [6] felldi ‘could fell’: The subj. form of felldi ‘could fell, might fell’ expresses the fact that the outcome was unexpected.

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