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, 692

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

23 — Sigv ErfÓl 23I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 23’ 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. 692.

Lýgk, nema Ôleifr eigi
ýs sem kykvir tívar
(gœðik helzt í hróðri)
hárvǫxt (konungs ôru).
Enn helzk, þeims sýn seldi,
svǫrðr, * es óx, í Gǫrðum,
(hann fekk læs) af ljósum
(lausn) Valdamar, hausi.

Lýgk, nema Ôleifr eigi hárvǫxt sem {kykvir tívar ýs}; gœðik helzt ôru konungs í hróðri. Enn helzk svǫrðr, * es óx af ljósum hausi, þeims seldi sýn Valdamar í Gǫrðum; hann fekk lausn læs.

I lie unless Óláfr has hair-growth like {living gods of the yew-bow} [WARRIORS]; I benefit especially the servants of the king in [this] poem. There is still the hair that grew on the bright skull of the one who granted sight to Vladimir in Russia [Óláfr]; he got relief from disability.

Mss: (486r-v), 39(11ra) (Hkr); Holm2(71v), 325VI(39va), 321ˣ(273), 73aˣ(209v), Holm4(67vb), 61(128vb), 325V(86ra), Bb(203rb), Flat(127rb), Tóm(159r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] nema: om. 73aˣ, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm;    Ôleifr: Ôleifi 73aˣ, 325V, Flat, Tóm    [2] ýs: ‘yfs’ 325VI, ‘yss’ Flat;    kykvir: kvikir 325VI, 321ˣ, 325V, Bb, Flat, ‘kuitir’ 73aˣ, kviknir Holm4;    tívar: ‘ti[…]’ 325VI, trúar Bb    [3] gœðik (‘gøþi ec’): so 39, Holm2, 325VI, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, ‘goði ec’ Kˣ, grœði ek 73aˣ, Tóm, greiði ek Holm4    [4] konungs: om. Tóm;    ôru: ôrum Holm4, ári 61    [5] helzk: heldr 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ;    þeims (‘þeim er’): ‘[…]m er’ 325VI, þeir er Bb;    sýn: son 39, 73aˣ, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm;    seldi: seldu Flat, Tóm    [6] svǫrðr: svǫrð 39, 73aˣ, 325V, suðr 61, Flat, Tóm;    * es: þann er Kˣ, 39, Holm2, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm, þeim er Bb    [7] læs: ‘[…]es’ 325VI, laug 73aˣ    [8] Valdamar: so Holm2, 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm, ‘valldhamar’ Kˣ, Holm4, ‘valdhamars’ 39, 325VI, Valdamars 321ˣ, ‘valldmars’ 73aˣ, ‘valldimars’ 325V

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 23: AI, 263-4, BI, 244, Skald I, 126, NN §667; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 519, IV, 174, ÍF 27, 406, Hkr 1991, II, 549 (ÓHHkr ch. 245); ÓH 1941, I, 603 (ch. 245), Flat 1860-8, II, 376; Jón Skaptason 1983, 178, 309.

Context: Miraculous signs of sanctity are witnessed around Óláfr’s body, which is enshrined in Niðaróss (Trondheim). Bishop Grímkell preserves Óláfr’s relics, cutting his hair and nails, which continue to grow as if he were alive.

Notes: [All]: On the continued growth of Óláfr’s hair (and nails) after death, see also Þloft Glækv 5. This conception contrasts with the references to the cutting of hair in sts 4, 6 and 14, which are associated with Óláfr punishing his enemies. — [2] tívar ýs ‘gods of the yew-bow [WARRIORS]’: On bows, see Note to st. 10/5-6, above. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) notes that the internal rhyme of ý- and tív-, though not perfect, is possible (see also Kuhn 1983, 78; Gade 1995a, 5-6). — [3] gœðik ‘I benefit’: Gœða is derived from góðr and means lit. ‘to make good’, hence normally ‘enrich, endow, benefit’. The precise sense here is uncertain but could be that Óláfr’s grieving men are cheered by the poem (so Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; LP: gœða, and cf. Sigv Lv 20/7-8 for their mourning) or honoured by its content, especially the praise of Óláfr’s miraculous powers (so ÍF 27). It is also possible that the ‘servants’ of the dead king are Christian priests whose promotion of Óláfr’s cult is aided by Sigvatr’s poem. — [5-8]: (a) The syntax of this helmingr is a modified version of that in ÍF 27, itself a modified version of that proposed in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B. (b) Kock (NN §667) rejects Finnur Jónsson’s convoluted syntax, but his solution makes little sense, involving the slightly absurd readings svǫrðr es óx í Gǫrðum ‘the hair that grew in Russia’ and hann fekk læs lausn af ljósum hausi ‘he got relief from disability from the bright skull’. — [5]: Helzk: seldi provides an aðalhending where only a skothending is required. — [6] * es óx ‘that grew’: This edn follows Hkr 1893-1901 and Jón Skaptason (1983) in emending, as there is no obvious m. acc. sg. antecedent for the near-ubiquitous reading þann er (normalised þanns), unless the variant son ‘son’ is accepted in l. 5 (a possibility acknowledged in ÍF 27 and adopted in Hkr 1991). — [6] í Gǫrðum ‘in Russia’: For an early reference to a church dedicated to S. Óláfr in Novgorod, see the C11th Sjusta rune stone (U 687; cf. Jansson 1987, 48-50). — [8] Valdamar ‘Vladimir’: Valdamarr is normally the ON equivalent of Vladimir, but there is no record of a miracle involving such a man, and his identity is unknown. It cannot be the Kievan prince Vladimir who died in 1015 (Franklin and Shepard 1996, 151-80), since Óláfr’s exile in Russia fell in the late 1020s.

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