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, 658

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Sigv Knútdr 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 7’ 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. 658.

Knútr vas und himnum.
Hann austan frá,
fríðr fylkis niðr
fráneygr Dana.
Skreið vestan viðr
varrglæstr, sás bar
út andskota
Aðalráðs þaðan.

Knútr vas und himnum … Hann frá austan, {fríðr, fráneygr niðr {fylkis Dana}}. Varrglæstr viðr, sás bar {andskota Aðalráðs} út þaðan, skreið vestan.

Knútr was under the heavens … He learned [news] from the east, {the handsome, bright-eyed descendant {of the ruler of the Danes}} [= Sveinn > = Knútr]. The sea-splendid ship which carried {the enemy of Æthelred} [= Knútr] out from there glided from the west.

Mss: (407r), 325XI 1(3va) (Hkr); Holm2(51r), J2ˣ(195v), 321ˣ(181-182), 73aˣ(158r), 68(49r), Holm4(45va), 61(111va), 325V(57va), Bb(180vb), Flat(114vb), Tóm(137v) (ÓH); FskBˣ(46r) (Fsk); DG8(92r) (ÓHLeg)

Readings: [1] Knútr: Hnútr Bb;    vas (‘var’): er J2ˣ, 73aˣ, Bb;    und: unn Tóm;    himnum: ‘him[…]’ 325XI 1    [2] Hann: ‘[…]’ 325XI 1, herr J2ˣ, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, hinns FskBˣ, her DG8;    austan: ‘[…]an’ 325XI 1;    frá: so FskBˣ, DG8, fram Kˣ, 325XI 1, Holm2, 68, Holm4, ferr J2ˣ, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, ‘franin’ 321ˣ, fann 73aˣ, gram Tóm    [3] fríðr: frið 325XI 1, Holm2, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, Holm4, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, FskBˣ, DG8, fram J2ˣ, ‘fidur’ Tóm;    niðr: nið 325XI 1, 61, 325V, Bb, lið 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Flat, FskBˣ, DG8    [4] ‑eygr: ‘æyct’ DG8    [5] Skreið: ‘[…]’ 325XI 1, skeið 61, Tóm, skriðu FskBˣ, DG8;    vestan: austan 68, vestar DG8;    viðr: veðr 61, ‘ver’ FskBˣ, DG8    [6] varr‑: var all;    ‑glæstr: glæst 61, 325V, hvert FskBˣ, hvert or hverr DG8;    sás (‘sa er’): er FskBˣ, DG8    [7] út: unz 61, útan Bb, Flat    [8] Aðal‑: ‘[…]’ 325XI 1

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 10. Knútsdrápa 7: AI, 250, BI, 233, Skald I, 121, NN §§649, 2516A; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 353, IV, 144-5, ÍF 27, 274 (ÓHHkr ch. 147); ÓH 1941, I, 428 (ch. 137), Flat 1860-8, II, 277; Fsk 1902-3, 161 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 183 (ch. 32); ÓHLeg 1922, 59, ÓHLeg 1982, 140-1.

Context: In ÓH-Hkr, sts 7-8 are quoted as a pair following an account of the splendour of Knútr’s fleet. In Fsk and ÓHLeg, they are also paired, and are the first stanzas of Sigvatr’s poem to be quoted; they are adduced in corroboration of a brief account of the allied attack on Denmark by Óláfr and Ǫnundr, and Knútr’s response by bringing a great fleet from England.

Notes: [All]: ÓH-Hkr identify sts 7-8 as from Sigvatr’s Knútsdrápa, and Fsk and ÓHLeg refer to the erfidrápa ‘memorial drápa’ that Sigvatr composed about Knútr. — [1]: The line opens the klofastef ‘split refrain’; see Note to st. 3/1 above.  — [2] frá ‘learned [news]’: There is a variety of ms. readings, and of interpretational possibilities, for the helmingr. Skj B, ÍF 27 and ÍF 29 all read frá for the last word in l. 2, but assume different objects (or none) for the verb: (a) ÍF 27, following in taking hann as the first word, assumes that frá is intransitive (see also ÓHLeg 1982); this interpretation is followed here. (b) Skj B prefers Her austan frá (‘He learned of an army from the east’). (c) ÍF 29 (following FskBˣ with reservations) gives Hinns austan frá | frið (‘the one who learned of peace from the east’). (d) Kock (Skald; NN §2516A) prefers a different interpretation for the line, and consequently for the helmingr as a whole, reading eygr as eykr, hence Herr austan ferr; | frið fylkis niðr | fránn eykr Dana ‘An army travels from the east; the valiant descendant of the ruler increases the peace of the Danes’. — [5] viðr ‘the ship’: Lit. ‘wood’, but the word can also stand alone as a term for ‘ship’ (LP: viðr 5; Jesch 2001a, 134). It is not necessary to combine it with varr ‘sea’ to form a kenning, as Skj B does (see Note to l. 6). — [6] varrglæstr ‘sea-splendid’: The mss clearly indicate ‘var’, often writing <v> plus superscript tittle. (a) The first element alliterates and carries strong stress, and is taken in this edn, as in most others, as varr ‘sea’, which combines with glæstr to form a cpd adj. ‘sea-splendid’ qualifying viðr ‘ship’ (so also NN §649, Skald and ÍF 29). In Skj B it is taken with viðr to form, through tmesis, a kenning for ‘ship’. (b) ‘Var’ in the mss is taken as the 3rd pers. sg. pret. indic. ‘was’ in ÍF 27, with the normalised spelling var. This produces the short clause var glæstr ‘it [the ship] was spendid’. However, var ‘was’ is less likely to carry strong stress, and the appropriate form for Sigvatr’s time is vas, which would leave the line without aðalhending.

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