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Runic Dictionary

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

11. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (ErfÓl) - 28

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 30 November 2021)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28 

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

SkP info: I, 695

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

25 — Sigv ErfÓl 25I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 25’ 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. 695.

Oss dugir Ôleifs messu
— jǫfur magnar goð — fagna
meinalaust í mínu
Magnúss fǫður húsi.
Skyldr emk skilfings halda
skolllaust, þess’s bjó golli,
helgi, handar tjǫlgur
harmdauða, mér rauðu.

Dugir oss fagna meinalaust messu Ôleifs, fǫður Magnúss, í húsi mínu; goð magnar jǫfur. Emk skyldr halda skolllaust helgi harmdauða skilfings, þess’s bjó mér tjǫlgur handar rauðu golli.

It is proper for us [me] to welcome, sinlessly, the feast day of Óláfr, the father of Magnús, in my house; God strengthens the ruler. I am required to keep, guilelessly, the holy day of the lamented death of the king, who fitted my branches of the arm with red gold.

Mss: (501r), 39(13vb), F(38rb), E(4v), J2ˣ(243r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(73r), 325VI(41rb), 321ˣ(278), 73aˣ(213v), Holm4(68vb), 61(129vb), 325V(88rb), 325VII(41r), Bb(205rb), Flat(127va), Tóm(160v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Ôleifs: ‘ol[…]s’ 325VI    [2] fagna: fagnar 61    [3] meinalaust: meinalaus Bb;    mínu: ‘m̄m’ 61, mínum Bb, Flat, Tóm    [4] Magnúss: ‘magus’ 73aˣ;    húsi: harmi 61, Flat, Tóm    [5] skilfings: siklings Bb, ‘skíflíngr’ Tóm;    halda: alda Holm2, aldar Holm4, 61    [6] skoll‑: skuld E, 325VI, 325VII, ‘skul‑’ J2ˣ, Holm2;    þess’s (‘þess er’): þar er 321ˣ;    bjó: so all others, hjó Kˣ    [7] handar: handa 39, E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 325VI, 321ˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb;    tjǫlgur: ‘tialgr’ 321ˣ, talga 61, ‘talgar’ Tóm    [8] ‑dauða: ‑dauði 73aˣ, 61, ‑dauðan 325VII;    rauðu: rauða 73aˣ, rauðan 61, rauðum Bb

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 25: AI, 264, BI, 245, Skald I, 127; Hkr 1893-1901, III, 23, IV, 187, ÍF 28, 21, Hkr 1991, II, 569 (MGóð ch. 10), F 1871, 175; ÓH 1941, I, 617 (ch. 253), Flat 1860-8, II, 379; Jón Skaptason 1983, 180, 309.

Context: ÓH-Hkr relate that Óláfr’s feast day is established in Norwegian law and is observed as one of the holiest days of the calendar.

Notes: [1] messu ‘the feast day’: Messa is an adoption from Lat. missa ‘mass, Eucharist’. As in ESk Geisl 35/3VII, this most likely refers to the requirements for lay observance of a saint’s feast day, rather than implying that mass was actually celebrated in Sigvatr’s house. The meaning ‘mass’ is attested in Christian poetry of the C12th, e.g., Anon Heil 12/2VII. — [6] bjó ‘fitted’: Hjó ‘cut, hacked’ is clearly an error in . This is confirmed by the fact that papp18ˣ, another transcript of K, has bjó. — [7] tjǫlgur handar ‘branches of the arm’: Hǫnd can mean ‘hand’ or ‘arm’ (LP, Fritzner: hǫnd). (a) As arm-rings were more common (and more valuable) as gifts than finger-rings, this is interpreted here as an explained metaphor meaning ‘arms’ (cf. LP: tjalga, as an alternative). Tjǫlgur ‘branches’ (in the form tjálgur) occurs in stanzas attributed to the legendary Starkaðr, apparently denoting his abnormally long arms (StarkSt Vík 5/2VIII (Gautr 13) and Note, StarkSt Vík 33/5VIII (Gautr 41)). (b) The phrase could alternatively be a kenning meaning ‘branches of the arm [FINGERS]’ (so Meissner 140), though the only other example of this kenning pattern, in Grett Lv 33/3V (Gr 65), is similarly ambiguous (cf. also Guðrún Nordal 2001, 305-6, 387).

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