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, 674

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Sigv ErfÓl 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 8’ 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. 674.

Ǫld vann Ôleifr fellda
(ǫflgan sigr) inn digri
(gekk sóknþorinn sœkja
synjór framm í brynju).
En, þeirs austan nenna,
— óx hildr — með gram mildum
— mart segik bert — í bjarta
blóðrǫst Svíar óðu.

Ôleifr inn digri vann fellda ǫld; sóknþorinn synjór gekk framm í brynju sœkja ǫflgan sigr. En Svíar, þeirs nenna austan, óðu í bjarta blóðrǫst með mildum gram; hildr óx; segik mart bert.

Óláfr inn digri (‘the Stout’) cut down men; the battle-daring seigneur advanced in his mail-shirt to seek a powerful victory. And the Swedes, who travel from the east, waded into the bright current of blood alongside the gracious prince; battle intensified; I say much plainly.

Mss: (461r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(65v), J2ˣ(222r), 73aˣ(197r), 68(64v), Holm4(60vb), 61(123rb), 325V(79va), 325VII(36r), Bb(197ra), Flat(123va), Tóm(153v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Ôleifr fellda: Ôleif felldan Holm2, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 325V, Bb    [2] ǫflgan: opt vann 61;    digri: digra 73aˣ, 68    [3] sœkja: ‘sǫcku’ J2ˣ, søkkva 61    [4] synjór: so 325V, 325VII, Bb, Tóm, ‘sinnior’ Kˣ, J2ˣ, Holm4, ‘sinior’ Holm2, 68, ‘suinnor’ 73aˣ, ‘syniur’ 61, Flat    [5] þeirs (‘þeir er’): þar er J2ˣ, 325V, er 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm, þeir 325VII;    austan: ‘æystan’ 325VII;    nenna: runnu J2ˣ, stefna 61, nefna 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [6] óx: hófsk 325V, Flat, Tóm, ‘hofizt’ Bb    [7] mart: om. 73aˣ;    segik (‘segi ec’): sveif J2ˣ, ek segi 73aˣ;    bert: beit 325V;    bjarta: ‘bjartu’ 73aˣ, hjarta 325VII    [8] blóð‑: blóð‑ corrected from hlóð‑ 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 8: AI, 259, BI, 241, Skald I, 125, NN §660; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 470, IV, 166, ÍF 27, 367-8, Hkr 1991, II, 520-1 (ÓHHkr ch. 213); ÓH 1941, I, 554 (ch. 210), Flat 1860-8, II, 346; Jón Skaptason 1983, 163, 303.

Context: King Óláfr’s armour and weapons at the battle of Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) are described.

Notes: [1-4]: (a) The present edn (with ÍF 27 and Hkr 1991) retains the version of l. 2 found in the main ms. and all other mss but one. This entails taking sœkja ǫflgan sigr ‘seek a powerful victory’ together, although it would be natural to read sœkja framm as an intransitive phrase meaning ‘advance’. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) and Kock (Skald; NN §660) prefer the reading opt vann sigr ‘he often won victory’ in l. 2, but since this is found only in 61 it is clearly secondary, and the repetition of vann from l. 1 may indicate corruption. Despite this common starting-point, the two eds construe the lines differently. Finnur Jónsson takes sóknþorinn ‘(the) battle-daring (one)’ (l. 3) as the subject of vann ‘won’ (l. 2). Kock argues that the helmingr consists of three end-stopped sentences (l. 1, l. 2, and ll. 3-4), with inn digri ‘the Stout (one)’ (l. 2) as the subject of vann, but there are no parallels to Óláfr being referred to by his epithet alone. — [4] synjór ‘seigneur’: Although de Vries (AEW: sinjórr) claims that this adoption from OFr. seignor ‘lord’ is only spät bezeugt ‘attested late’, it occurs twice in Sigvatr’s poetry and may have been introduced by him; see Sigv Berv 18/4II and Note. The mss show uncertainty about the first syllable; here the rhyming context suggests syn- while in Berv 18/4II it suggests sin(n)-. — [5] nenna ‘travel’: The pres. tense seems to refer to the Swedes’ ongoing willingness to travel west to Norway, and perhaps to takes sides in Norwegian conflicts. Óláfr’s return to Norway from Russia in 1029 was via Sweden and Snorri (ÍF 27, 348) relates that he came with a troop of 480 men provided by the king of the Swedes. That Óláfr had hoped for more is implied by st. 9/1-4. It is suggested in Hkr 1893-1901, IV (also ÍF 27) that there is a still more specific allusion to Swedish support for the boy king Magnús Óláfsson on his return to Norway c. 1035; this would have obvious implications for the dating of the poem (see Introduction). — [7] bert ‘plainly’: An allusion to Sigvatr’s Bersǫglisvísur ‘Plain-speaking Vísur’ (Sigv BervII) seems likely, especially when Sigvatr himself uses the word bersǫgli ‘plain-speaking’ there (Sigv Berv 9/4II) and when the rare word synjórr/sinjórr occurs in both poems (see Note to l. 4 above). — [7-8] bjarta blóðrǫst ‘the bright current of blood’: Although kenning-like, this phrase has no real parallels. Battle-kennings with a base-word meaning ‘stream’ (cf. vápnrǫst ‘weapon-current’ in the C13th Anon (Stu) 43/2IV) do not have ‘blood’ as their determinant (Meissner 199-200), while those with ‘blood’ as their determinant have a word meaning ‘storm’ as their base-word (Meissner 186).

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