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, 693

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

24 — Sigv ErfÓl 24I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 24’ 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. 693.

Gǫrts, þeims gótt bar hjarta,
gollit skrín at mínum
— hrósak helgi ræsis —
— hann sótti goð — dróttni.
Ár gengr margr frá mæru
meiðr þess konungs leiði
hreins með heilar sjónir
hrings, es blindr kom þingat.

Gollit skrín [e]s gǫrt at dróttni mínum, þeims bar gótt hjarta; hrósak helgi ræsis; hann sótti goð. {Margr meiðr hrings}, es kom blindr þingat, gengr ár með heilar sjónir frá mæru leiði þess hreins konungs.

A golden shrine has been made for my lord, who had a fine heart; I praise the holiness of the leader; he went to God. {Many a tree of the sword} [MAN] who came thither blind goes soon with healed eyes from the glorious resting-place of that pure king.

Mss: (501r), 39(13vb), F(38rb), E(4v), J2ˣ(243r) (Hkr); Holm2(73r), 325VI(41rb), 321ˣ(277), 73aˣ(213v), Holm4(68vb), 61(129va-b), 325V(88rb), 325VII(41r), Bb(205ra-b), Flat(127va), Tóm(160v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Gǫrts þeims (‘Gort er þeim er’): Gǫrt var þeim Bb;    gótt: ‘gutt’ Holm4;    bar: var Tóm    [2] gollit: golligt 39, F, E, J2ˣ, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325V, Bb, goll 61, Flat, Tóm;    at: af E, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, of Holm2, 325VI, 321ˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, of veg 61, ‘vín’ Bb, af veg Flat, um veg Tóm;    mínum: sínum Flat    [4] hann: herr 61, Flat, Tóm, her 325VII;    sótti goð: sótt goði 325VII;    dróttni: dróttin 39, F, 325VI, Holm4, 61, 325V, Bb, dróttinn E, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Flat, drótti Tóm    [5] Ár: þar 61, Flat, Tóm;    margr: mestr 325VI, om. 321ˣ, marg Bb;    mæru: mærum 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, mætu Bb    [6] leiði: reiði 61, Flat, Tóm    [7] heilar: hvassar 39, helgar 61, Flat, Tóm    [8] es (‘er’): en 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 24: AI, 263-4, BI, 244-5, Skald I, 126-7, NN §1118; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 22, IV, 186-7, ÍF 28, 20-1, Hkr 1991, II, 568-9 (MGóð ch. 10), F 1871, 174; ÓH 1941, I, 616 (ch. 253), Flat 1860-8, II, 379; Jón Skaptason 1983, 179, 309.

Context: King Magnús has a magnificent shrine made for his father’s relics, and many miracles take place at it.

Notes: [2] gollit ‘golden’: The synonymous golligt is the reading of several mss. — [2] skrín ‘shrine’: This is the earliest example of this loan-word from Lat. scrinium, which in ON can mean either ‘shrine’ or ‘reliquary’ (see also ÞjóðA Magnfl 5/4II, and Anon Nkt 31/7II and Note). The prose context describes a large, body-sized structure, and this is supported by leiði ‘resting-place’ in l. 6 (see Note below), and by the term sæing ‘bed’ referring to the same structure in Þloft Glækv 6/3. — [2] at ‘for’: Of ‘over’, in most early ÓH mss, is also a good reading. — [5-8]: For petitioners approaching Óláfr’s shrine with disabilities and leaving it healed, see also Þloft Glækv 8/5-8. — [5, 6] frá mæru leiði ‘from the glorious resting-place’: As pointed out in ÍF 28, this seems to refer to the shrine, rather than the more usual meaning of leiði, ‘grave’. — [6, 8] meiðr hrings ‘tree of the sword [WARRIOR]’: The sg. form of hrings suggests that here the meaning ‘sword’ (cf. Þhorn Harkv 1/1 and Note, Sigv Nesv 9/4, Sigv Berv 1/7II) is more appropriate than the more usual ‘(arm-)ring’, though both are possible. — [7] hreins ‘pure’: (a) The adj. is likely to qualify konungs ‘king’ in this context of miracles (so also Skj B; ÍF 28). (b) Kock (NN §1118) takes it with hrings ‘sword’, citing several stanzas by Sigvatr that appear to be structured in the same way. As Kock notes, only the poet or his audience could know for certain which construal is correct.

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