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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, 652

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Sigv Knútdr 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 2’ 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. 652.

Ok senn sonu
sló, hvern ok þó,
Aðalráðs eða
út flæmði Knútr.

Ok Knútr sló senn eða flæmði út sonu Aðalráðs, ok þó hvern.

And Knútr soon defeated or drove out the sons of Æthelred, and indeed, each one.

Mss: (232v-233r) (Hkr); Holm2(8r), R686ˣ(15r), J1ˣ(144r), J2ˣ(125r-v), 73aˣ(23v), 78aˣ(23v), 68(7r), 61(81ra), 75c(5r), 325V(10rb), Bb(128ra), Flat(81vb), Tóm(97v) (ÓH); JÓ(28), 20dˣ(12r), 20i 23ˣ(16v), 41ˣ(10v), 873ˣ(12v) (Knýtl)

Readings: [1] senn: ‘senir’ Tóm    [2] hvern: hver 75c;    þó: dó 78aˣ    [3] ‑ráðs: ‑ráðr R686ˣ;    eða: ‘ada’ Bb    [4] flæmði: rak 41ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 10. Knútsdrápa 2: AI, 248, BI, 232, Skald I, 120, NN §647; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 34, IV, 116, ÍF 27, 33 (ÓHHkr ch. 26); ÓH 1941, I, 55 (ch. 28), Flat 1860-8, II, 30; Knýtl 1919-25, 49, ÍF 35, 120 (ch. 16).

Context: Both ÓH-Hkr and Knýtl quote this stanza following an account of the conclusion of Knútr’s conquest of England, and of the death or exile of Æthelred’s sons.

Notes: [All]: On the affiliation of the stanza, see Note to st. 1 [All]. — [All]: For Knútr’s English campaign of 1015-16, see also Ótt Knútdr, Hallv KnútdrIII and Anon Liðs, and Introductions to these. — [1, 3] sonu Aðalráðs ‘the sons of Æthelred’: Following Knútr’s accession to the rule of all England in 1017, Æthelred’s three remaining sons (Eadwig, Eadweard and Ælfred) were sent into exile, as were Eadmund Ironside’s two sons, Æthelred’s grandsons (Eadweard and Eadmund). See Keynes (1991, 174). — [2] sló ‘defeated’: So ÍF 27 and ÍF 35, glossing the word as sigra ‘win victory’. Finnur Jónsson in LP: sláa 3 assumes the sense ‘killed’ here, rather than the more usual ‘struck’, but in fact none of Æthelred’s sons were killed in battle in the Anglo-Danish wars (though see Note to l. 4 below); Eadmund Ironside, the son of Æthelred who was Knútr’s main antagonist, died in November 1016, only a month after he and Knútr had agreed to divide the kingdom between them (see ASC s. a.). — [4] flæmði út ‘drove out’: There is an unusually close parallel to this phrase, and indeed to the whole helmingr, in the ASC (s. a. 1017), describing the very same event: 7 Cnut cyning afly<m>de ut Eadwig æþeling 7 eft hine het ofslean ‘And King Cnut drove out Eadwig the atheling and afterwards ordered him to be killed’ (version C, ed. O’Brien O’Keeffe 2001, 103). OE (of)slean and ON slá are also cognate. See further the case for OE influence in Hofmann (1955, 88-90).

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