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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, ‘(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, 633

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Sigv Erlfl 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 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. 633.

Ǫll vas Erlings fallin
— ungr fyr norðan Tungur
skeið vann skjǫldungr auða —
skipsókn við þrǫm Bóknar.
Einn stóð sonr á sínu
snarr Skjalgs vinum fjarri
í lyptingu lengi
lætrauðr skipi auðu.

Ǫll skipsókn Erlings vas fallin við þrǫm Bóknar; ungr skjǫldungr vann skeið auða fyr norðan Tungur. {Snarr, lætrauðr sonr Skjalgs} stóð lengi einn, fjarri vinum, í lyptingu á auðu skipi sínu.

All of Erlingr’s ship-crew had fallen by the coast of Bokn; the young ruler [Óláfr] cleared [lit. made empty] the warship to the north of Tunge. {The bold, deceit-shunning son of Skjálgr} [= Erlingr] stood long alone, far from friends, in the after-deck of his empty ship.

Mss: (431v) (Hkr); Holm2(57v), J2ˣ(208r), 321ˣ(217), 73aˣ(178v), 68(57r), Holm4(55va), 61(116rb), 325V(68va), 325VII(31v), Bb(189ra), Flat(119ra), Tóm(146v) (ÓH); DG8(94r) (ÓHLeg); FskBˣ(49r), FskAˣ(182-183) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] fallin: falli 321ˣ    [2] ungr: ungs J2ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, ungi 321ˣ, ‘yngs’ FskAˣ;    Tungur: tungu Holm2, 321ˣ    [3] skjǫldungr: ǫðlingr 68;    auða: rauða FskAˣ    [4] skip‑: skips 321ˣ, 73aˣ;    ‑sókn: ‑sǫgn Holm2, J2ˣ, Tóm, ‑hǫfn 321ˣ, 73aˣ, sǫng Flat;    þrǫm: þrym 325VII;    Bóknar: ‘bycner’ Holm2, ‘buknar’ J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, DG8, botnar 325VII, ‘bocknar’ Bb, FskAˣ    [5] sonr: stór 73aˣ, ‘s(n)or’(?) FskAˣ;    á: at Flat;    sínu: sinni 68    [6] Skjalgs: ‘scialg(r)’(?) Holm2    [7] í: om. 325V    [8] læ‑: ‘la’ Bb, ‘let’ FskAˣ;    skipi: á skipi Flat;    auðu: ǫðru Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson 3: AI, 244, BI, 229, Skald I, 119Hkr 1893-1901, II, 404-5, IV, 155, ÍF 27, 315, Hkr 1991, II, 483 (ÓHHkr ch. 176); ÓH 1941, I, 482 (ch. 172), Flat 1860-8, II, 309; ÓHLeg 1922, 65, ÓHLeg 1982, 154; Fsk 1902-3, 175 (ch. 28), ÍF 29, 194 (ch. 33); Jón Skaptason 1983, 115, 262.

Context: In ÓH-Hkr and Fsk, Erlingr’s ship is surrounded and everyone on board killed except Erlingr, who stands tall in the after-deck of his ship. ÓHLeg describes similar events but also anticipates Erlingr’s capture. This stanza, Sigv Erl and st. 8 are then cited, with only minimal introductions in between, then further narrative follows.

Notes: [1-4]: The helmingr is stælt ‘intercalated, inlaid’, with the two middle lines forming an independent clause; cf. SnSt Ht 12III and Context, and cf. Note to st. 2/1-4 above. — [2-3]: The word order is unusual, with parts of the subject and object, as well as a prepositional phrase, preceding the finite verb, but parallels are to be found in intercalary clauses in Ill Har 2/2-3II and SnSt Ht 12/2-3, 6-7III. — [2, 4] fyr norðan Tungur; við þrǫm Bóknar ‘to the north of Tunge; by the coast of Bokn’: On Tunge, see Note to st. 2/4. Today, Bokn is the name of two islands on the north side of Boknafjorden; the larger of these, Vestre Bokn, lies north of Tunge. — [6] Skjalgs ‘of Skjálgr’: Erlingr’s father Þórólfr bore the nickname Skjálgr ‘the Squinting’, which also functions as if a forename; cf. also st. 4/4 and Note. — [7] lyptingu ‘the after-deck’: Often translated ‘poop(-deck)’, this appears to be a raised part of the deck in the after-stem of a ship, possibly enclosed in some way for extra protection, and the rightful place of the expedition leader. Certainly, Snorri (ÍF 27, 315) imagined Erlingr defending himself from a position in a rúm mikit ... í lyptingunni ‘large space (or seat?) in the lypting’ which is high up and inaccessible to his attackers except by arrows or spears. There is, however, little archaeological evidence for its appearance (see Jesch 2001a, 153, and Note to Arn Hryn 10/1II).

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