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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, 640

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Sigv Erlfl 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 9’ 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. 640.

Erlingr vas svá at jarla
ôtt, es skjǫldungr máttit,
Ôleifs mágr, svát œgði,
aldyggs sonar Tryggva.
Næst gaf sína systur
snarr búþegna harri
(Ulfs feðr vas þat) aðra
(aldrgipta) Rǫgnvaldi.

Erlingr, mágr Ôleifs, aldyggs sonar Tryggva, vas svá at ôtt jarla, svát œgði, es skjǫldungr máttit. Næst gaf {snarr harri búþegna} aðra systur sína Rǫgnvaldi; þat vas aldrgipta {feðr Ulfs}.

Erlingr, brother-in-law of Óláfr, the very worthy son of Tryggvi, behaved in such a way against the kin of the jarls, that he terrified [them], which the king [Óláfr Tryggvason] could not. Next {the keen chief of landowners} [RULER = Óláfr] gave his other sister to Rǫgn valdr; that was the luck of his life for {Úlfr’s father} [= Rǫgnvaldr].

Mss: (230v) (Hkr); Holm2(8v), R686ˣ(16r), J1ˣ(146r), J2ˣ(126v), 321ˣ(38), 325VI(7ra), 73aˣ(25r), 78aˣ(25r), 68(8r), 61(81va-b), 75c(6r), 325V(11ra-b), Bb(130va), Tóm(98r-v) (ÓH); 61(70rb), 53(67ra), 54(68va), 325VIII 2 g(2va), Bb(104ra), Flat(71vb) (ÓT)

Readings: [1] Erlingr vas svá at: ‘[…]ling[…]’ Tóm;    Erlingr: Eiríkr R686ˣ;    svá at: svá 53;    jarla: jarlar 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, jarli 68    [2] ôtt: ‘att’ corrected from ‘eatt’ Holm2, ‘fatt’ Tóm;    es (‘er’): erat J1ˣ, J2ˣ, om. 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 61(81va), 325V, sér Tóm;    skjǫldungr: skjǫldunga 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 61(81va), 325V, skjǫldr Tóm;    máttit: mátti 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ    [3] svát (‘sva at’): ok 73aˣ, at 68, 61(81va), Flat, svá 53;    œgði: œgðit R686ˣ, 61(70rb), 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb(104ra), ‘ægðr’ J1ˣ, œgja 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘egþi’ 68, ‘ęgðirr’ 53    [4] ‑dyggs: ‘‑dugs’ 75c, Bb(130va), ‑dýrs 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb(104ra);    Tryggva: ‘trygg(i)a’(?) 325VI, om. 78aˣ, ‘tryggia’ 54    [6] harri: ‘harr⸜i⸝a’ 325V, hjarri 54    [7] Ulfs feðr vas þat: Ulfs varat æðra 61(81va), ulfseðjandi Bb(130va), ‘vlfs uaradar’ Tóm, þat var yðr en 61(70rb), 53, 54, 325VIII 2 g, Bb(104ra);    Ulfs: ‘evlfs’ Flat;    feðr: om. Holm2, 68, 325V, son R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, nið 321ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    vas þat (‘var þat’): var þar J2ˣ, var þat enn 68, varðaðar 325V, Flat;    aðra: arfa 61(81va), æðra Bb(104ra)    [8] Rǫgnvaldi: Ragnhildi 325V, Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson 9: AI, 246, BI, 230, Skald I, 119-20, NN §§643, 644, 1853D, 1854B; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 29, IV, 114, ÍF 27, 28, Hkr 1991, I, 268-9 (ÓHHkr ch. 22); ÓH 1941, I, 60 (ch. 30), Flat 1860-8, I, 537; ÓT 1958-2000, II, 302 (ch. 261); Jón Skaptason 1983, 121, 266-7.

Context: Erlingr Skjálgsson continues to exact land-tax from the territory in Rogaland awarded him by King Óláfr Tryggvason, despite competition from Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson.

Notes: [All]: The stanza stands apart from the preceding ones, which narrate Erlingr’s last stand and death; see Introduction. Jón Helgason (1936) made a compelling argument for regarding this stanza as containing two helmingar from two originally different stanzas. He suggested that ll. 1-4 originally belonged to a stanza about Erlingr, in which the (now lost) second helmingr recorded that Sveinn jarl married his daughter to Erlingr’s son Áslákr, while ll. 5-8 belonged to a stanza about Óláfr Tryggvason and were preceded by a helmingr about Óláfr marrying his sister to Erlingr Skjálgsson. However, they have been kept here as a single stanza since they are considered as such in the sagas of both Óláfr Tryggvason and Óláfr helgi, across a wide range of mss. Arguably, too, the two helmingar are sufficiently connected by the theme of marriage alliances made by Óláfr Tryggvason, which has the effect of assigning the same prestige to Erlingr as to Rǫgnvaldr Úlfsson (on whom, see Note to ll. 7, 8 below). The stanza summarises two of the salient reasons for Erlingr’s enormous power and influence, his political alliances and the force of his personality, and was interpreted as such by Snorri (ÍF 27, 28-9), who notes that Eiríkr jarl made no effort to fight Erlingr because he had many important relatives and was powerful and popular. — [1-4]: This rather convoluted statement is interpreted, following Jón Helgason (1936, 317) and Kock (NN §643), to mean that Erlingr was able to intimidate the jarls of Hlaðir (Lade), here Eiríkr in particular, even though they had been sufficiently powerful to overcome Óláfr Tryggvason. The verb máttit ‘could not’ (l. 2, inf. mega) could be used absolutely (LP: mega) in the sense ‘to have power or capacity’, but it is more likely to refer to vas svá ‘behaved in such a way’ (l. 1) or œgði ‘terrified’ (l. 3), or indeed both, giving the sense that Óláfr Tryggvason could not deal with the jarls in the way that Erlingr did. The main alternative construal (Skj B) involves a highly artificial word order that is heavily criticised by Kock (NN §643). — [1]: The line is metrically unusual: a Type A-line with ‑lingr unstressed and neutralisation of svá at in the dip, but there is no reason to suspect corruption. — [6] búþegna ‘of landowners’: Sigvatr uses the phrase bú þegna in Berv 11/2II, where it most likely means ‘livestock of your subjects’, though a cpd meaning ‘farmers’ is also a possible reading. Here, the cpd is the only possible reading and the word þegn implies not so much their agricultural role as their relationship, for both good and ill, with the growing royal power in C11th Norway (Jesch 1993a, 167-9; Syrett 2000, 263-5). — [7] feðr Ulfs ‘Úlfr’s father [= Rǫgnvaldr]’: Rǫgnvaldr Úlfsson, jarl of Gautland (Götaland), seemingly visited by Sigvatr on the journey described in Sigv Austv. Rǫgnvaldr was married to Ingibjǫrg, sister of Óláfr Tryggvason (see ÍF 27, 85). The Úlfr named in Austv 19/8, 20/1 is probably his son (see Notes).

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