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, 668

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Sigv ErfÓl 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 3’ 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. 668.

Lyngs bar fiskr til fengjar
flugstyggs sonar Tryggva
gjǫlnar golli mǫlnu
— goð vildi svá — roðnar.
Annan lét á unnir
Ôleifr búinn hôla
(lǫgr þó drjúgt) inn digri
(dýrs horn) Visund sporna.

{Fiskr lyngs} {flugstyggs sonar Tryggva} bar gjǫlnar roðnar mǫlnu golli til fengjar; goð vildi svá. Ôleifr inn digri lét annan, búinn hôla, Visund, sporna á unnir; lǫgr þó drjúgt horn dýrs.

{The fish of the heather} [SNAKE (ormr = Ormr inn langi)] {of the flight-shunning son of Tryggvi} [= Óláfr Tryggvason] carried gills reddened with ground gold in pursuit of gain; God wished it so. Óláfr inn digri (‘the Stout’) caused a second [ship], splendidly equipped, Visundr (‘Bison’), to tread on the waves; the sea washed the animal’s horns persistently.

Mss: (404r) (Hkr); Holm2(50v), J2ˣ(194r), 321ˣ(179), 73aˣ(156v-157r), 68(48v), Holm4(44vb), 61(111ra), 75c(29v), 325V(56va), 325VII(29v), Bb(180ra), Flat(114va), Tóm(137r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Lyngs: lungs 68;    bar: var 61;    fiskr: ‘fystr’ 325VII, frekr Flat    [2] flug‑: flærð‑ 321ˣ, 73aˣ;    ‑styggs: ‑styggan 321ˣ, 73aˣ, ‑stígs 325VII, styggr Tóm;    sonar: son 321ˣ, 73aˣ    [3] gjǫlnar: ‘giolnir’ Holm2, ‘gelnar’ 61, ‘siolnar’ Bb, ‘giolar’ Tóm    [4] roðnar: mildan 321ˣ, 73aˣ, mildi 61    [5] Annan: annarr Bb, Flat;    á: enn J2ˣ;    unnir: unnar 325V    [6] hôla: om. 73aˣ    [7] lǫgr: langr Bb;    þó: þau 75c;    drjúgt: drýgt Holm2    [8] Visund: Visundr J2ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 3: AI, 257, BI, 239, Skald I, 124; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 347, IV, 141, ÍF 27, 267-8, Hkr 1991, II, 447 (ÓHHkr ch. 144); ÓH 1941, I, 422 (ch. 134), Flat 1860-8, II, 275; Jón Skaptason 1983, 158, 302.

Context: King Óláfr sets out on an expedition with a newly-built ship, Visundr.

Notes: [All]: Anon (ÓH), quoted later in the same chapters of ÓH-Hkr, also depicts Óláfr launching his ship Visundr from the north, while another prince sails from the south. — [1] fiskr lyngs ‘the fish of the heather [SNAKE (ormr = Ormr inn langi]’: Óláfr’s magnificent Visundr ‘Bison’ is compared with Ormr inn langi ‘the Long Serpent’, the famous warship in which Óláfr Tryggvason fought his last battle at Svǫlðr; see Note to Hókr Eirfl 3/4. Ormr is frequently mentioned in skaldic poetry, often using word-play as here; see Hfr ErfÓl 10/1 and Note. — [1] til fengjar ‘in pursuit of gain’: The context might suggest ‘into battle’, but fengr m. normally means ‘plunder, booty’ (LP: fengr), so a reference to gaining or raiding seems likely here (cf. the translations í leiðangur ‘on a raiding expedition’ in ÍF 27 and til fangst ‘for plundering, seizing’ in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B). Óláfr Tryggvason in Hkr (ÍF 26, 344, 348) calls up a fleet and sails Ormr south to Denmark and Vinðland (Wendland) to press his territorial claims. — [3] gjǫlnar ‘gills’: This, the sole occurrence of this rare word in skaldic poetry, extends the ‘fish’ metaphor of l. 1 and may apply to the gilded prow (Jesch 2001a, 147). — [4] goð vildi svá ‘God wished it so’: For references in Sigvatr’s poetry to the Christian deity allowing or approving of the actions of a king, cf. Lv 7/5 and 29/3. What exactly is claimed to be God’s will is unclear, but it could be the splendour and successes of Ormr. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) suggested instead the battle of Svǫlðr (c. 1000). — [5] annan (m. acc. sg.) ‘a second [ship]’: The adj. is in grammatical concord with fiskr (m. nom. sg.) ‘fish’ or more especially Visund (m. acc. sg.) ‘Bison’, but does not directly qualify either. The translation in ÍF 27 assumes dreka (m. acc. sg.) ‘dragon-ship’ to be understood, while Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) remarks that n. annat [skip] ‘another ship, a second ship’ would have been expected. The variant annarr (m. nom. sg.) would qualify Ôleifr, hence ‘another, a second Óláfr’, which would be apt, but this is the reading of Bb and Flat only. — [7] inn digri ‘(“the Stout”)’: Sigvatr uses this epithet of the king in sts 6/8 and 8/2 and in Lv 12/6. Digri appears widely as Óláfr’s nickname; it was posthumously replaced by helgi ‘the Holy, Saint’. — [8] Visund ‘(“Bison”)’: According to the prose preceding the stanza, Visundr was the greatest of ships and had a gold-adorned bison-head at its prow. The ship was inherited by Óláfr’s son Magnús, and is referred to in several poems; see Note to ÞjóðA Magnfl 4/8II.

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