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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

10. Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 11

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).

Knútsdrápa (‘Drápa about Knútr’’) — Sigv KnútdrI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa’ 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. 649.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 10. Knútsdrápa, o. 1038 (AI, 248-51, BI, 232-4)

SkP info: I, 661

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

10 — Sigv Knútdr 10I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 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. 661.

Kom á fylki
farlyst, þeims bar
hervíg í hug,
hafanda staf.
Rauf ræsir af
Rúms veg suman
kærr keisara
klúss Pétrúsi.

Farlyst kom á fylki hafanda staf, þeims bar hervíg í hug. Ræsir, kærr keisara, klúss Pétrúsi, rauf af suman veg Rúms.

Desire for a journey came upon the ruler bearing a staff, who bore warfare in his heart. The leader, dear to the emperor, close to Peter, enjoyed some of the glory of Rome.

Mss: FskAˣ(198), 301ˣ(72v) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] Kom á: kómu FskAˣ, 301ˣ    [2] ‑lyst: ‑laust FskAˣ, 301ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 10. Knútsdrápa 10: AI, 251, BI, 234, Skald I, 121, NN §§651, 652, 2516C; Fsk 1902-3, 189 (ch. 33), ÍF 29, 205 (ch. 40).

Context: This stanza is preserved only in Fsk, where, in illustration of an account of Knútr’s pilgrimage to Rome, it is quoted together with st. 11.

Notes: [All]: This stanza and the next commemorate Knútr’s pilgrimage to Rome. This took place in early 1027, and while in Rome Knútr attended the coronation of Conrad II as Holy Roman Emperor on 26 March 1027. The date of this pilgrimage is thus secure, though it is possible that Knútr made a second one later in his reign (see Lawson 1993, 102-4). Knútr’s visit to Rome is also recorded in his 1027 Letter to his subjects, originally written in Old English but now preserved only in Latin translation in John of Worcester and William of Malmesbury (Darlington and McGurk 1995-, II, 512-19; Mynors, Thomson and Winterbottom 1998-9, I, 324-9). — [2] farlyst ‘desire for a journey’: Emendation of ‘-laust’ seems necessary here. (a) Skj B emends to -lystir ‘desires’, adopting the pl. form in order to supply a subject for ms. kómu in l. 1. However, in order to retain a line of only four syllables, þeim is deleted, leading to farlystir, ’s bar ‘desires for a journey, which he bore’ (cf. farlystir, es bar in Finnur Jónsson’s 1902-3 edn of Fsk). ÍF 29 adopts Skj B’s emendation, but retains þeims, resulting in a five-syllable line. (b) Kock (NN §651) prefers the more modest emendation ‑lyst ‘desire’ in l. 2, with concomitant emendation in l. 1 to sg. kom á, assuming the fourth letter <a> to have been misread as <o>. (c) However, later reconsideration by Kock (NN §2516C; Skald) results in a more radical emendation in l. 1, with kómu ‘came’ being replaced by fell á (hence ‘desire for a journey fell upon the ruler’), in order to give both alliteration and skothending in the line. Kock’s first proposal ((b) above) is adopted here, as the processes of scribal miscopying involved seem more plausible than those required for Skj B’s farlystir. Moreover, the phrase kom á fylki gives better sense than simple koma fylki. — [4] staf ‘a staff’: The symbol of the pilgrim. — [5, 6] rauf af suman veg ‘enjoyed some of the glory’: The basic meaning of rjúfa is ‘to break, tear’, and af must be adverbial, hence ‘enjoyed’, lit. ‘broke off’, with suman veg as the acc. sg. object. There are two identical nouns vegr, both m., one meaning ‘way’ and the other ‘glory’. (a) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: rjúfa 5) assumes the former, and so interprets the clause ‘quickly put behind him some of the way’, i.e. ‘quickly travelled some of the way’. (b) Kock prefers the latter (NN §652), and so offers skördade en del av Roms berömmelse ‘reaped a portion of the glory of Rome’. Kock’s reading is preferred here, as it avoids the potential illogicality of Finnur’s reading (why did Knútr not travel all of the way to Rome?), and more appropriately emphasises Knútr’s glory and European horizons. In his 1027 Letter Knútr declares that in Rome the pope, the emperor, and the attendant nobles omnes me et honorifice suscepere et muneribus pretiosis honorauere ‘all both received me with honour and honoured me with precious gifts’ (Darlington and McGurk 1995-, II, 514-15). — [7-8]: As Frank (1994b, 118) points out, all three of the alliterating words in this couplet are loanwords. Kærr ‘dear’ is from French (Fischer 1909, 80), keisari ‘emperor’ from Lat. via OE or Ger. (Fischer 1909, 59), and klúss ‘close’ probably also from Lat. via OE or Ger. (though Fischer 1909, 79 suggests French), while the fourth word, Pétrús(i), is a Biblical name in Latinate form. As Frank (loc. cit.) states, ‘The four words, linked by rhyme and consonance, re-enact, recapitulate, Cnut’s successful “networking” with the two great political powers of Western Europe’. For all four words, this is their first recorded occurrence in skaldic verse. — [7] keisara ‘the emperor’: Conrad II, who reigned 1024-39, first as German king, then as Holy Roman Emperor. Conrad’s son Henry later married Knútr’s daughter Gunnhildr. — [8] Pétrúsi ‘to Peter’: The pope, holder of the see of S. Peter, at the time of Knútr’s visit to Rome was John XIX (1024-32).

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated