Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

10. Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 11

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).

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.

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

SkP info: I, 653

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

3 — Sigv Knútdr 3I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 3’ 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. 653.

Knútr vas und himnum.
Hykk ætt at frétt
Haralds í her
hug vel duga.
Lét lýrgǫtu
lið suðr ór Nið
Óláfr jǫfurr
ársæll fara.

Knútr vas und himnum … Hykk at frétt hug duga {ætt Haralds} vel í her. Óláfr, ársæll jǫfurr, lét lið fara {lýrgǫtu} suðr ór Nið.

Knútr was under the heavens … I believe, according to reports, [his] courage served {the descendant of Haraldr} [= Óláfr] well in battle. Óláfr, the season-blessed prince, let his fleet travel {the pollack-path} [SEA] south from Nidelven.

Mss: (405r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(51r), J2ˣ(194v-195r), 321ˣ(180), 73aˣ(157v), 68(48v), Holm4(45ra), 61(111rb), 325V(57ra), 325VII(29v), Bb(180va), Flat(114vb), Tóm(137v) (ÓH); FskBˣ(46r-v) (Fsk); DG8(92r) (ÓHLeg)

Readings: [1] vas (‘var’): varð 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Flat, er 68, FskBˣ;    und: om. 321ˣ, unn Tóm;    himnum: ítrum J2ˣ, om. 321ˣ, veg 73aˣ    [2] Hykk (‘hygg ec’): hygg 321ˣ, vil ek 73aˣ;    ætt: rétt 73aˣ, 325VII, Tóm, hætt 68, œztr 61;    at: af Bb;    frétt: ‘frætt’ J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 325V, FskBˣ, fæstr 61    [3] Haralds: ‘harr’ J2ˣ, ‘harra lads’ 61, ‘haralldar’ DG8;    í: ok 61;    her: hét 61    [4] hug: dug 321ˣ, full corrected from ‘hug(?)’ 61, ‘[…]’ 61, hygg 325V, hugr Bb, Flat;    vel: ‑leiks FskBˣ, DG8    [5] Lét: lét sér Flat;    lýr‑: so Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, Tóm, lýt Kˣ, lý Holm4, hyrs‑ 61, lýð 325V, lúðr 325VII, lýðr Bb, Flat, lýs FskBˣ, ‘lyrs’ DG8;    ‑gǫtu: ‘‑od’ 61, gota 325V, 325VII, Tóm, gauta Bb, Flat    [6] lið: om. 61, lýðr 325V;    Nið: so Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, FskBˣ, DG8, niðr Kˣ, om. Tóm    [8] ársæll: ‘atsell’ 61, ‘atsæll’ or ‘arsæll’ Flat;    fara: farðu 325V

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 10. Knútsdrápa 3: AI, 249, BI, 232-3, Skald I, 120, NN §2516; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 350, IV, 141-2, ÍF 27, 270 (ÓHHkr ch. 145); ÓH 1941, I, 425 (ch. 135), Flat 1860-8, II, 276; Fsk 1902-3, 162 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 184 (ch. 32); ÓHLeg 1922, 60, ÓHLeg 1982, 142-3.

Context: In ÓH-Hkr, Snorri illustrates his account of how Óláfr Haraldsson and the Swedish king Ǫnundr Óláfsson met up and ravaged Denmark by quoting sts 3-4. Fsk and ÓHLeg quote sts 3-6 as a sequence, after sts 7-8 and with only a brief introduction referring to Óláfr’s journey south.

Notes: [All]: See Note to st. 1 [All] for the introductory words in ÓH-Hkr. Fsk and ÓHLeg, having already cited sts 7-8, ascribe sts 3-6 to the same poem. — [1]: This line opens the poem’s klofastef ‘split refrain’, which is completed by st. 6/8 and repeats at st. 7/1; st. 6/8 repeats at sts 9/8 and 11/8. The complete refrain reads Knútr vas und himnum | hǫfuðfremstr jǫfurr, i.e. Knútr vas hǫfuðfremstr jǫfurr und himnum ‘Knútr was the most eminent prince under the heavens’. — [2, 3] ætt Haralds ‘the descendant of Haraldr [= Óláfr]’: Óláfr is also referred to as the heir or descendant of Haraldr in Sigv Lv 11/2 and Ótt Hfl 15/8. The reference is most likely to be to Óláfr’s father Haraldr grenski ‘from Grenland’, as in the unambiguous sonr Haralds ‘son of Haraldr’ (Þloft Glækv 4/3), though a claim of descent from Haraldr hárfagri is also possible. Cf. also Note to Sigv Ást 2/6. — [2] at frétt ‘according to reports’: Frétt is the f. noun ‘enquiry, intelligence, news, report’. — [3] í her ‘in battle’: (a) Although her most often means ‘army, host, people’, the sense ‘battle’ appears to occur in some compounds: see, e.g., LP: hernenninn ‘battle-eager’, hernuminn ‘captured in battle’. (b) If the sense here is ‘army’, the reference could be either to the courage of Óláfr’s troops or to his own courage among his troops. — [4] hug duga ... vel ‘[his] courage served ... well’: Lit. ‘courage to serve well’, duga ‘serve, avail, suffice’ being the inf. in an acc. with inf. construction. (a) Here hug ‘courage’ is taken as acc. sg., with ætt ‘descendant’ as dat. object to duga. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes ætt as acc. sg., which gives Hykk at frétt ætt Haralds duga vel hug i her, rendered loosely Jeg ved af fortælling, at Haralds sön var modig i kamp ‘I know from reports that Haraldr’s son was courageous in battle’. In LP: duga 1 Finnur explains duga here as absolute but construed with dat. hug ‘mind, courage’ . — [5] lýr- ‘pollack-’: Lýrr m. is a type of fish, probably the pollack or pollock (Pollachius pollachius). The commonest reading in the mss is lýr-, implying nom. sg. lýrr (cf. Fritzner: lýrr), and this is retained here. The nom. sg. form lýr (cf. CVC, LP: lýr) underlies the gen. sg. lýs printed in Skj B and Skald and the compounding form lý- in ÍF 27. Both nom. sg. spellings, ‘lyrr’ and ‘lyr’, are found in the ms. texts of Þul Fiska 3/8III.

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