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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, 637

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Sigv Erlfl 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 6’ 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. 637.

Erlingr fell, en olli
allríkr skapat slíku
— bíðrat betri dauða —
bragna konr með gagni.
Mann veitk engi annan,
allbrátt þótt fjǫr láti,
enn sás allan kunni
aldr fullara at halda.

Erlingr fell, en {allríkr konr bragna} olli slíku skapat með gagni; betri bíðrat dauða. Veitk engi annan mann, sás kunni at halda enn fullara allan aldr, þótt láti fjǫr allbrátt.

Erlingr fell, and {the most powerful son of kings} [RULER = Óláfr] caused such a thing to be brought about by [his] victory; no better man will experience death. I know of no other man who could maintain his standing all his life, even though he lost his life very early.

Mss: (432v-433r) (Hkr); Holm2(58r), J2ˣ(208v-209r), 321ˣ(218), 73aˣ(179r), 68(57v), Holm4(55vb), 61(116vb), 325V(69ra), 325VII(32r), Bb(189rb), Flat(119ra-b), Tóm(146v), 325XI 2 b(1ra) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Erlingr fell en olli: ‘[…]’ 325XI 2 b;    en: ok 68;    olli: so all others, ‘ǫlli’ Kˣ    [2] allríkr: Áslákr 321ˣ, ‘vllrik‑’ Bb;    skapat: skipat Holm2, skipan J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, tapaðr 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm, 325XI 2 b, skapaðr 325V, 325VII;    slíku: slíkri J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, slíkum Flat    [3] bíðrat: biðjat 61, bíðra at Flat, ‘b[…]’ 325XI 2 b;    betri: betra J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 325VII, Tóm, ‘[…]’ 325XI 2 b    [4] bragna: bragninga 61, Bb, Flat, ‘bragningra’ Tóm, ‘[…]gning[…]’ 325XI 2 b;    konr með: konungr Bb;    konr: kon or kom Flat, ‘[…]’ 325XI 2 b;    með: af J2ˣ, om. 61, Flat, Tóm, at 325V, 325VII, ‘[…]’ 325XI 2 b;    gagni: magni Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ    [5] engi: eigi 73aˣ, 61, engan 68;    annan: anna Tóm    [6] þótt (‘þo at’): at Holm2, 68, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, 325XI 2 b, þann er J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, af 61;    láti: latti J2ˣ, Tóm, láta 61, látit Flat    [7] enn: einn 61, Flat, 325XI 2 b, ein Tóm;    sás (‘sa er’): þann er 61, er sá Flat;    allan: allir 61;    kunni: kunnu 61    [8] aldr: aldr kunnara Bb;    fullara: prúðliga J2ˣ;    halda: gjalda 68, Flat

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson 6: AI, 245-6, BI, 230, Skald I, 119, NN §§641, 642Hkr 1893-1901, II, 407-8, IV, 156-7, ÍF 27, 318, Hkr 1991, II, 485 (ÓHHkr ch. 176); ÓH 1941, I, 486 (ch. 172), Flat 1860-8, II, 311; Jón Skaptason 1983, 118, 265.

Context: The defeated Erlingr is killed by Áslákr Fitjaskalli ‘Fitjar-Baldhead’, apparently against the wishes of King Óláfr. His death is greatly mourned by the inhabitants of the region.

Notes: [1-4]: Sigvatr here portrays the king as causing (olli) Erlingr’s death through his victory (með gagni), but the extent to which blame is apportioned is unclear. Kock (NN §641) suggests taking með gagni to mean ‘to his advantage’ and construing it with Erlingr fell ‘Erlingr fell’, the advantage to Erlingr in his death being the glory he had won. This would have the effect of deflecting the focus from the king, but seems less plausible in the context. In Snorri’s prose account (ÍF 27, 317-18) Óláfr gives Erlingr a token wound for his treason, but when Áslákr Fitjaskalli intervenes to deal Erlingr his death-blow Óláfr cries out that he has struck Norway out of his hands (see also Note to st. 7/7-8). — [3] betri bíðrat ‘no better man will experience’: Lit. ‘a better man will not experience’. — [4] með gagni ‘by [his] victory’: Skj B translates með as tilligemed ‘along with’ (LP: með B. 3), paralleling the two events, Erlingr’s fall and Óláfr’s victory, but the meaning ‘by means of’ (LP: með B. 7) seems preferable. — [6] láti ‘lost’: Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, II; Skj B) selects the negative form látit ‘did not lose’ from Flat, arguing (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) that the meaning of l. 6 is selv om han lever aldrig så længe, og meget længere end Erling ‘even if he lives ever so long, and much longer than Erlingr’. Apart from the problematic choice of a unique reading from an inferior ms., it is relevant to the interpretation of this that Erlingr was quite old when he died. The implication is surely that even those who die young could not manage to maintain their standing as well as Erlingr managed to do over a much longer period of time (similarly Kock, NN §642). — [7] sás ‘who’: The nom. case of the pron. (forming sás with enclitic rel. (e)s) is determined by the following rel. clause, a construction that is possible, though rare (NS §260). The acc. case þann er (normalised þanns) agreeing with annan mann ‘another man’ in the preceding clause would be more usual, and is the reading of 61. — [7, 8] halda enn fullara ‘maintain his standing’: Lit. ‘assert [himself] more fully’; the interpretation follows LP: halda A. 11. Jón Skaptason (1983) construes allan aldr ‘all his life’ as the object of the verb.

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