This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 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, 642

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

10 — Sigv Erlfl 10I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 10’ 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. 642.

Erlingi varð engi
annarr lendra manna,
ǫrr sás átti fleiri
orrostur stoð þorrinn.
Þrek bar seggr við sóknir
sinn, þvít fyrst gekk innan,
mildr, í marga hildi,
mest, en ór á lesti.

Varð engi lendra manna annarr Erlingi, sás ǫrr, þorrinn stoð, átti fleiri orrostur. Mildr seggr bar mest þrek sinn við sóknir, þvít gekk fyrst innan í marga hildi, en ór á lesti.

There was no-one among district chieftains other than Erlingr, who, bold, deprived of support, held more battles. The generous man deployed his stamina to the utmost in onslaughts, because he went first into many a fight, and out as the last.

Mss: (231r) (Hkr); Holm2(9r), R686ˣ(16v), J1ˣ(146r), J2ˣ(126v), 321ˣ(38), 325VI(7ra), 73aˣ(25r), 78aˣ(25r-v), 68(8r) (ll. 1-2), 61(81vb) (ll. 1-2), 75c(6r), 325V(11rb), Bb(130va), Tóm(98v) (ll. 1-2) (ÓH); 61(70rb-va), 53(67ra), 54(68va), 325VIII 2 g(2va), Bb(104rb), Flat(71vb) (ll. 1-2) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] varð: var Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Tóm, 325VIII 2 g, Bb(104rb)    [2] manna: drengja Bb(130va)    [3] ǫrr: so J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, 54, ór er Kˣ, 61(70rb), ‘orr’ Holm2, 325VIII 2 g, Bb(104rb), ok 75c, ‘ar’ Bb(130va), ‘oręrr’ 53;    sás (‘sa er’): sá at 78aˣ;    átti: ætti 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    fleiri: ‘storri’ R686ˣ    [4] orrostur stoð þorrinn: stoð þorinn orrostu Bb(130va);    stoð þorrinn: fjǫlkostigr J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ    [5] við sóknir: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 75c, Bb(130va), 61(70rb), 53, 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb(104rb), til sóknar Kˣ, at sinni 325V    [6] sinn þvít fyrst gekk innan: snarr í éli darra 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, sín ok gekk fyr innan 325V    [7] hildi: hild 325V    [8] en: er 321ˣ;    ór á: aura R686ˣ;    ór: ‘orr’ Holm2, 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb(104rb), ǫrr J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, ‘ęr’ Bb(130va);    á lesti: at flestu J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, lesti Bb(130va)

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson 10: AI, 247, BI, 231, Skald I, 120; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 30, IV, 114-15, ÍF 27, 29, Hkr 1991, I, 269 (ÓHHkr ch. 22); ÓH 1941, I, 61 (ch. 30), Flat 1860-8, I, 537; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 302-3 (ch. 261); Jón Skaptason 1983, 122, 268.

Context: Erlingr’s qualities are listed and he is compared with Óláfr Tryggvason.

Notes: [2] lendra manna (gen. pl.) ‘among district chieftains’: Lit. ‘landed men’. In Skm (SnE 1998, I, 80), the term lendir menn is equated with hersar and explained as men appointed by the king to serve as judicial administrators over one or more districts; see also Note to Þham Magndr 1/6-7II.  — [4] þorrinn stoð ‘deprived of support’: Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B) prefers the reading fjǫlkostigr ‘with many virtues’ which suits the context of general praise in the preceding prose. However, the best mss, and the majority, have the lectio difficilior of stoð þorrinn. Jón Skaptason (1983) takes this to refer to Erlingr’s reduced circumstances after the death of his patron Óláfr Tryggvason, as related in the preceding prose. However, coupled with the reference in l. 8 to Erlingr being the last to leave battles, the image of his being deprived of the support of his king may rather conjure up Erlingr’s final battle and his betrayal by Óláfr Haraldsson, which are the subject of most of the other surviving stanzas of this poem (cf. ÍF 27, 29 n., and see Introduction above). — [5-6] bar ... þrek sinn við sóknir ‘deployed his stamina ... in onslaughts’: Við sóknir ‘in onslaughts’ is preferred here, as the reading of the overwhelming majority of mss; the verb bar is here understood in the sense of ‘possess a quality’ (LP: bera 9; Fritzner: bera 10), hence ‘deploy’. The reading of the main ms., til sóknar ‘into the onslaught’, makes sense if we understand bera to mean ‘carry’, so that Erlingr ‘carried his stamina to battle’ (similarly Hkr 1991). — [8] ór á lesti ‘out as the last’: Several mss read ǫrr at flestu ‘valiant in most situations’ which, assuming litotes, delivers general praise, but loses the contrast between Erlingr’s zeal to enter battles and reluctance to leave them.

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.