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Runic Dictionary

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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, 656

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Sigv Knútdr 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 5’ 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. 656.

Lét * lǫnd lokit
liðs gramr saman
marbe*ðjum með
mǫrg nefbjǫrgum,
þars garðr fyr gnóð
grôum hjǫlmum
þornheims þrimu
Þundi at *undri.


The lord of the army [Knútr] had many lands along the sea-coasts enclosed together by nose-guards, where a wall of grey helmets lay before the ship to the wonder {of the Þundr {of the home {of the thorn of battle}}}. [(lit. ‘thorn-home of battle’) SWORD > SHIELD > WARRIOR = Óláfr]

context: See Context to st. 3 above.

notes: Ms. 972ˣ preserves a text of this stanza which seems to derive from the lost Uppsala ms. (*U) of ÓH. — Although it means that the term gramr ‘lord’ alludes to Óláfr in st. 4/2 but to Knútr in l. 2 of this stanza (and lið ‘fleet, army’ is also repeated from st. 3/6 with changed reference), the most likely interpretation of this stanza is that the first helmingr describes Knútr’s military defences in Denmark (or at least Zealand), and the second helmingr Óláfr’s consternation at encountering those defences. — [5-8]: This helmingr is extremely difficult to construe, and all eds suggest varying degrees of emendation (except for ÍF 29, which emends hjǫlmum to hjǫlmun in l. 6, perhaps unwittingly, but does not attempt a translation). (a) Kock’s proposed emendations are modest, and yield good sense, both in terms of the resultant kenning and the larger structure of the stanza (NN §§648, 2924; Skald). They are consequently adopted here, as also in ÓHLeg 1982, although the phrase garðr grôum hjǫlmum ‘wall (made) of grey helmets’ is perhaps slightly forced. (b) Finnur Jónsson in Skj B emends very heavily indeed, suggesting the following: þars garðr fyr gnóð | grô hjǫlmunlô, | þreifsk brims þruma | Þundar umb ǫndur ‘where the grey billow resounded before the ship, the thunder of Þundr <= Óðinn> [BATTLE] flourished around the ski of the surf [SHIP]’. Finnur marks garðr in his prose order (and in LP: garðr 8) as uninterpretable, and seems to see it as a corruption of a verb ‘resounded’; he also hesitates over the ship-kenning. In Þul Á 4/3III, Hjalmunlá or Hjǫlmunlá is a river-name, but here Finnur takes it to be a wave or billow.

texts: Fsk, ÓH, ÓHLeg 34

editions: Skj Sigvatr Þórðarson: 10. Knútsdrápa 5 (AI, 249; BI, 233); Skald I, 121, NN §§648, 873, 2516B, 2924; Fsk 1902-3, 163 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 185 (ch. 32); ÓHLeg 1922, 60, ÓHLeg 1982, 144-5; ÓH 1941, II, 1086,


OsloUB 371 folx (FskBx) 46v, 13 - 46v, 20 (Fsk)  transcr.  image  
DG 8 (DG8) 92r, 24 - 92r, 26 (ÓHLeg)  image  
Thott 972 folx (972x) 367va, 10 - 367va, 17 (ÓH)  image  image  
AM 51 folx (51x) 42v, 10 - 42v, 17 (Fsk)  image  
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