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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

7. Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson (Erlfl) - 10

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).

Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson — Sigv ErlflI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson’ 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. 629. <> (accessed 5 July 2022)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson, 1028-29 (AI, 244-7, BI, 228-31)

SkP info: I, 631

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Sigv Erlfl 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 1’ 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. 631.

Út réð Erlingr skjóta
eik, sás rauð inn bleika,
— iflaust es þat — jǫfri,
arnar fót, at móti.
Skeið hans lá svá síðan
siklings í her miklum
(snarir bǫrðusk þar sverðum)
síbyrð við skip (fyrðar).

Erlingr, sás rauð inn bleika fót arnar, réð skjóta út eik at móti jǫfri; þat es iflaust. Skeið hans lá svá síðan í miklum her siklings, síbyrð við skip; snarir fyrðar bǫrðusk þar sverðum.

Erlingr, who reddened the pale foot of the eagle, caused the oak vessel to be launched against the ruler [Óláfr]; that is without doubt. His warship lay thus afterwards in the great host of the prince [Óláfr], alongside [his] ship; brisk men fought there with swords.

Mss: (431r) (Hkr); Holm2(57v), J2ˣ(207v-208r), 321ˣ(215-216), 73aˣ(178r), 68(57r), Holm4(55rb), 61(116rb), 325V(68va) (ll. 1-4), 325VII(31v), Flat(119ra), Tóm(146v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Út: ótt 61;    Erlingr: Erlings 321ˣ    [2] eik: ‘æk’ 325VII;    sás rauð inn bleika: sá eldin bleiki 61;    sás (‘sa er’): sá Tóm;    rauð: ráði 321ˣ, ‘ranð’ 73aˣ, réð 68, ráð Flat, Tóm;    inn (‘hinn’): enn Holm2, J2ˣ, 68, Holm4, 325V;    bleika: bleiki 321ˣ, Flat, Tóm, ‘blæka’ 325VII    [3] es (‘er’): var J2ˣ;    jǫfri: jǫfra 68    [4] fót: fóts 68;    at: í 321ˣ, 61, Flat, Tóm, á 73aˣ, Holm4    [5] Skeið: þá er skeið 321ˣ;    hans lá: lá hans 68;    svá: svá at 68    [6] siklings: siklingr 73aˣ    [7] sverðum: síðan Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 68, 61, Flat, Tóm, síðan with sverðum added in the margin 325VII    [8] ‑byrð: ‑byrt J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Flat, Tóm, ‘‑þvrþ’ 68, ‑byrr 325VII;    skip: skipi 321ˣ;    fyrðar: fyrða 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 61, Flat, Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson 1: AI, 244, BI, 228, Skald I, 118-19, NN §§620, 638Hkr 1893-1901, II, 403-4, IV, 154-5, ÍF 27, 314, Hkr 1991, II, 482 (ÓHHkr ch. 176); ÓH 1941, I, 481 (ch. 172), Flat 1860-8, II, 309; Jón Skaptason 1983, 113, 260-1.


Erlingr Skjálgsson joins battle with King Óláfr and fights valiantly, with the odds against him. Sigvatr is in Vík (Viken) when he hears of the death of his friend Erlingr.

Notes: [All]: For the sea-battle at Bókn (Bokn in Boknafjorden, Jæren, Rogaland), c. 1027, see also Ólhelg Lv 6-7, BjHall Kálffl 1-2. — [2] eik ‘the oak vessel’: Although the word is metrically convenient, it may also be apt since oak was the most common wood for building ships, particularly large and prestigious ones (Jesch 2001a, 132-4). — [2] inn ‘the’: While the main ms. and several others have a form that is unambiguously the def. art. (inn or hinn), a substantial number of mss have the form enn which could conceivably be adverbial ‘again, further’. However, constructions with def. art. + adj. + noun are common in poetic language (NS §43), as in prose, and the def. art. is more likely in context, hence inn bleika fót ‘the pale foot’. — [5-8]: Finnur Jónsson in Skj B posits a convoluted word order which is deplored by Kock (NN §638) and avoided here. — [8] við skip ‘alongside [his] ship’: Here taken to refer to the king’s ship, but skip could also be pl., as in ÍF 27 which translates við (önnur) skip ‘alongside (other) ships’.

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