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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, 634

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Sigv Erlfl 4I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 4’ 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. 634.

Réð eigi grið, gýgjar,
geðstirðr konungs firða,
skers þótt skúrir þyrrit,
Skjalgs hefnir sér nefna.
En varðkeri virðir
víðbotn né kømr síðan
glyggs á gjalfri leygðan
geirs ofrhugi meiri.

{Geðstirðr hefnir Skjalgs} réð eigi nefna sér grið firða konungs, þótt {skúrir {skers gýgjar}} þyrrit. En meiri {virðir geirs}, ofrhugi, né kømr síðan á {víðbotn {varðkeri glyggs}}, leygðan gjalfri.

{The tough-minded avenger of Skjálgr} [= Erlingr] did not ask for quarter from the king’s men, even though {the showers {of the skerry of the axe}} [SHIELD > BATTLE] did not let up. And a greater {appreciator of the spear} [WARRIOR], over-bold one, will not come afterwards onto {the wide base {of the guarding-vessel of the storm}} [SKY > EARTH], washed by the sea.

Mss: (431v) (Hkr); Holm2(57v), J2ˣ(208r) (ll. 1-4), 321ˣ(217), 73aˣ(178v), 68(57r-v), Holm4(55va), 61(116va), 325V(68vb), 325VII(31v), Bb(189ra), Flat(119ra), Tóm(146v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] eigi: added in the margin Holm2    [2] ‑stirðr: stríðs 61, ‑stríðr 325V;    konungs firða: firða konungs 321ˣ;    konungs: konung 73aˣ, konungr 325V, Bb, Flat;    firða: virða 73aˣ, fyrða Holm4, 325VII, friða 325V    [3] skers: so Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, skærs Kˣ, ‘skotts’ Holm4, skógs 61, Flat, Tóm, ‘skocs’ 325V, Bb, skots 325VII;    skúrir: skýrir Holm2, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 325VII, ‘skyr’ 321ˣ;    þyrrit: berðisk Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, ‘þyrþit’ 68, vaxi Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, væri 61    [4] sér: svá 68    [5] ‑keri: ‑kæri 68, Flat;    virðir: virða 321ˣ, 73aˣ, virðan Holm4, verðar 61, Flat, víðan 325V, 325VII, ‘vnðan’ Bb, varðat Tóm    [6] víðbotn: við Bókn Holm2, 68, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, við Bukn 321ˣ, 73aˣ, ‘vijbokn’ 61;    né: om. 61;    kømr: temr 321ˣ;    síðan: síðar Tóm    [7] glyggs: ‘gliygs’ Holm2, gauks 321ˣ, 73aˣ, gluggs 61, Flat;    á: í 321ˣ, 73aˣ, af Flat;    leygðan: ‘legþan’ Holm2, lokna 321ˣ, loknu 73aˣ, ‘luktan’ 61, Flat, byggðu 325V, ‘lygðan’ with ‘a’ written above ‘y’ 325VII, ‘ygðar’ Bb, ‘lugtan’ Tóm    [8] geirs: geir 321ˣ;    ofr‑: of Bb, hofr Tóm;    ‑hugi: huginn 73aˣ, 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson 4: AI, 244-5, BI, 229, Skald I, 119, NN §§640, 2196B, 2480C; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 405, IV, 155-6, ÍF 27, 316, Hkr 1991, II, 483-4 (ÓHHkr ch. 176); ÓH 1941, I, 483 (ch. 172), Flat 1860-8, II, 309-10; Jón Skaptason 1983, 116, 262-4.

Context: Erlingr defends himself valiantly without asking for quarter.

Notes: [1, 2, 4] nefna sér grið firða konungs ‘ask for quarter from the king’s men’: Lit. ‘name for himself quarter of the king’s men’. The construction nefna sér grið + acc./gen. appears to be unparalleled and the interpretation adopted here (and similarly ÍF 27 and Jón Skaptason 1983) is contextual. The proposed construction resembles beiða griða (gen. pl.) ‘ask for quarter’, found in legal contexts, with the person being asked in the acc. (see CVC: beiða I). Skj B instead construes firða konungs with the battle-kenning, giving kongens mænds angreb ‘the attack of the king’s men’. — [3] skers ‘of the skerry’: Both Skj and Skald select the variant skógs from three inferior mss, giving an axe-kenning gýgr skógs ‘giantess of the forest’, but this is not necessary as gýgr is a possible heiti for ‘axe’ (see Þul Øxar 1/6III), and ‘the ground of the axe’ is a common pattern of kenning for ‘shield’, including some examples with sker (Meissner 169). — [4] hefnir Skjalgs ‘avenger of Skjálgr [= Erlingr]’: It is stated in Rǫgnvalds þáttr ok Rauðs that Erlingr’s father Þórólfr skjálgr was killed in an arson attack, but there is no record of any vengeance by Erlingr, who is said to have been a child at the time (ÓT 1958-2000, I, 316-18). — [5-8]: This helmingr has caused previous eds much difficulty, though the general sentiment, that Erlingr was unsurpassed in valour, is clear enough. (a) Skj B understands varð as the pret. of verða ‘become’ and emends virðir ‘appreciator, one who values’ to virði, a dat. sg. of comparison, and leygðan to lǫggðan ‘lapped, encircled’. The result is a rather convoluted sentence en varð meiri ofrhugi geirs virði né kømr síðan á gjalfri lǫggðan víðbotn glyggs keri, which he renders men der har ikke været og der vil aldrig herefter komme nogen modigere mand end krigeren på den havombruste jord ‘but there has not been and there will never hereafter come any braver man than the warrior onto the sea-lapped earth’.  However, the metrical stress on varð (l. 5) points to varðkeri being a cpd, and varð is not negated as the translation ikke ‘not’ would suggest. (b) Kock (NN §2196B) retains the cpd and provides a negative, but his solution depends on selecting the least convincing variant for virðir, varðat from Tóm, giving the translation he had previously arrived at in NN §640 by quite different means: På den havomslutna jorden | har ej kommit och ej kommer | hädanefter någon furste, | någon jälte, mera käck! ‘To the sea-encircled earth | has never come and will not come | henceforth any prince, | any hero, more valiant!’. (c) The present translation (largely following ÍF 27) avoids the convoluted syntax required to read both a past and a future perspective into the helmingr and assumes the priority of the future-oriented impossibility topos (impossibilia or adynaton) common in skaldic praise poetry; see Note to Hfr ErfÓl 24/1, 4. — [5, 6, 7] víðbotn varðkeri glyggs ‘the wide base of the guarding-vessel of the storm [SKY > EARTH]’: Varðkeri glyggs ‘guarding-vessel of the storm’ is a sky-kenning which acts as the determinant for víðbotn ‘wide base’, producing a circumlocution for ‘earth’ (cf. Egill Arkv 18/7-8V(Eg 114) á víðum botni vindkers ‘on the wide base of the wind-vessel [SKY > EARTH]’, and a further example in Meissner 87, where the present instance is regarded as uncertain). However, since -keri is in the dat. case, rather than gen., the construction should perhaps be regarded as kenning-like rather than a kenning. The dat. could be regarded (exceptionally) as poss., or else locative. An additional consideration is that víðbotn is very much a minority reading, though acceptable as the lectio difficilior in a context in which some scribes failed to understand the kenning and associated the word rather with the p. n. Bókn which has just been mentioned in the previous stanza.

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