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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

2. Nesjavísur (Nesv) - 15

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).

Nesjavísur (‘Vísur about Nesjar’) — Sigv NesvI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur’ 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. 555. <> (accessed 27 September 2021)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 2. Nesjavísur, 1016 (AI, 228-32, BI, 217-20); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 14

SkP info: I, 572

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — Sigv Nesv 11I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 11’ 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. 572.

Þess getk meir, at missi
morðôrr, sás fór norðan,
harða margr í hǫrðum
heimkvômu styr þeima.
Sǫkk af sunda blakki
sunnu mǫrg til grunna
(satts, at Sveini mœttum)
samknúta (vér úti).

Getk þess meir, at {harða margr morðôrr}, sás fór norðan, missi heimkvômu í þeima hǫrðum styr. Mǫrg samknúta sunnu sǫkk af {blakki sunda} til grunna; satts, at vér mœttum Sveini úti.

I declare this, moreover, that {very many a battle-envoy} [WARRIOR], who travelled from the north, will be missing out on his homecoming in that hard battle. Many a one joined with the sun sank from {the dark steed of the sounds} [SHIP] to the bottom; true it is, that we met Sveinn offshore.

Mss: (254r), papp18ˣ(76v) (Hkr); Holm2(13r), R686ˣ(26v), 972ˣ(90va), J1ˣ(160v), J2ˣ(136v), 325VI(11va), 75a(2ra-b), 73aˣ(36r-v), 78aˣ(33v), 68(12r-v), 61(85ra), Holm4(5rb), 325V(16vb-17ra), 325VII(5v), Bb(135vb), Flat(83vb), Tóm(102v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Þess: þat var þess Bb;    getk (‘get ec’): gekk ek Holm2;    meir: ‘me[…]’ R686ˣ, meir added in margin 325VI;    at: om. 325VI    [2] morðôrr: ‘morð[...]’ Holm2, morðit 78aˣ;    fór: kom Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, Holm4;    norðan: norðar Holm2, ‘niorðan’ J1ˣ    [3] harða: harðla 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    margr: ‘ma[…]gr’ R686ˣ, magr 325V;    hǫrðum: hǫrgum R686ˣ    [4] þeima: þenna Bb    [5] sunda: so R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, syndi Kˣ, Holm2, ‘sinþi’ papp18ˣ, sundi Bb;    blakki: blakk 325V    [6] sunnu: sunnum Holm2, 325V, Bb, Tóm;    mǫrg: ‘morgt’ Holm2, margr R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, Bb    [7] satts (‘satt er’): satt var 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, 61, satt 75a, ‘sartt er’ Bb;    at: om. Holm4;    mœttum: máttum Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, 325V, 325VII, Tóm, máttu Flat    [8] samknúta (‘sám knuta’): ‘sa[…]vta’ Holm2, sann knúta 972ˣ, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    vér: var papp18ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur 10: AI, 231, BI, 219, Skald I, 114, NN §§622, 1860; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 76, IV, 124-5, ÍF 27, 68-9 (ÓHHkr ch. 52); Fms 4, 104, Fms 12, 80-1, ÓH 1941, I, 98 (ch. 41), Flat 1860-8, II, 46; CPB II, 128, Poole 2005d, 176-7.

Context: The stanza follows a lengthy account of the battle and its aftermath. Sigvatr is said to have spoken this, and sts 12 and 14, during the battle.

Notes: [1] getk þess meir ‘I declare this, moreover’: The clause demarcation here follows Kock (NN §1860). Meir ‘more’ could alternatively qualify missi ‘will be missing’ (so Skj B). — [1] missi ‘will be missing out on’: ÓH-Hkr appears to have interpreted the pres. subj. form missi as indicating that st. 11 was composed before the full outcome of the battle was known (see Context above). Fsk by contrast states explicitly that all the stanzas it includes belong within Nesv (see Introduction). — [6, 8] mǫrg samknúta sunnu ‘many a one joined with the sun’: The phrase samknúta sunnu, although kenning-like, remains mysterious, and none of the available solutions is wholly satisfactory. (a) Just conceivably, Sigvatr is stigmatising the Trøndelag faction as heathen sun-worshippers (‘adherents of the sun’): on sun-worship in Norway, see Jón Hnefill Aðalsteinsson (1997, 126-9). The tenacity of Trøndelag and contiguous regions in maintaining pre-Christian worship under the Hlaðajarlar was notorious. The f. gender of samknúta would be unusual, and presumably insulting, in reference to warriors. (b) Finnur Jónsson’s tentative ‘knuckle-bone of the sun of the sea [GOLD > MAN (?)]’ (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; also ÍF 27), is unconvincing. (c) Hjelmqvist (1913, 7), followed by Kock (NN §622), emends sunnu to sunnan, linking this with the variant reading margr so as to result in mången söderifrå ‘many from the south’; in this analysis the cpd samknúta is used substantively, to mean ‘[ships] bound together’ (1913, 19). This produces good sense but the presumed corruption of sunnan would be difficult to account for.

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