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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 19 September 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, 697

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

28 — Sigv ErfÓl 28I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 28’ 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. 697.

Endr réð engla senda
Jórðánar gramr fjóra
— fors þó hans á hersi
heilagt skopt — ór lopti.

{Gramr Jórðánar} réð endr senda fjóra engla ór lopti; fors þó heilagt skopt á hersi hans.

{The prince of the Jordan} [CHRIST] once sent four angels from the sky; a waterfall washed the holy hair of his hersir.

Mss: R(35v), Tˣ(37r), W(81), U(34v), A(12v) (SnE); 2368ˣ(107) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] senda: at senda Tˣ, ‘s[…]da’ W, senda 2368ˣ    [2] Jórðánar: ‘[…]d[…]’ W, Jórð́ánar 2368ˣ;    gramr: so Tˣ, W, U, A, gram R    [3] þó: þá Tˣ;    hans: so U, A, hann R, Tˣ, W;    á: um U;    hersi: hersis U, A    [4] heilagt: so Tˣ, U, A, ‘helagt’ R, ‘[…]la[…]’ W, heilagt 2368ˣ;    skopt: ‘[…]’ W, ‘skop’ U, skopt 2368ˣ;    ór: ok Tˣ, ‘[…]r’ W, ór 2368ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 28: AI, 265, BI, 245-6, Skald I, 127; SnE 1848-87, I, 450-1, II, 334, 445, SnE 1931, 159, SnE 1998, I, 77-8, 144, 202; LaufE (1979, 365); Jón Skaptason 1983, 182, 311.

Context: The stanza is cited as evidence for Jórðánar konungr ‘king of the Jordan’ as a kenning for Christ.

Notes: [All]: The text of the stanza in the LaufE ms. 2368ˣ is copied from W, and is used selectively in the Readings above to supplement W where it is damaged and illegible. — [All]: Interpretation of this helmingr is complicated by the incompleteness of the stanza and lack of a prose context (which also raise doubts about its inclusion in the poem; see Introduction). Fidjestøl’s suggestion (1982, 121) that it refers to the baptism of Christ seems to assume that the fors in l. 3 (perhaps ‘watercourse’, but most likely ‘waterfall’) is equivalent to the River Jordan, but there is no evidence for this, and Christ’s baptism in the Jordan is attended by the spirit of God descending like a dove, not by angels (e.g. Mark III.6). It seems more likely that ll. 3-4 refer to the baptism of King Óláfr. He is called dróttinn hersa ‘lord of hersar’ in st. 13/6, above, and could be seen to be in the same relationship to Christ as his hersar (district chieftains) are to him. Faulkes (SnE 1998, I, 202) cites with approval the suggestion in SnE 1848-87, III, 345-6 that the stanza is from ‘an otherwise unknown religious poem about some saint’. — [1, 2] fjóra engla ‘four angels’: The significance of the angels here is uncertain. Cf. Þrándr Kredda 1/3-4 and Note. — [3] hersi hans ‘his hersir’: Faulkes (1987, 127) translates ‘its lord’ but it is not clear what this refers to, since neither Jórðán f. ‘Jordan’ nor lopt n. ‘sky’ can be the antecedent of m. hans ‘his’, while fors m. ‘waterfall’ would trigger a refl. poss. (sinn ‘his’ rather than hans). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends to hersi heims ‘chieftain of the world’, i.e. God. The other early examples of the Christian god being the ‘ruler of all’ use the word allr ‘all’ (Meissner 369), however, and it is preferable to attempt to interpret the text without emendation.

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