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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 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, 575

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Sigv Nesv 14I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 14’ 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. 575.

Afli vex, þvít efla
Upplendingar sendi
— Sveinn, funduð þat — þenna
þilblakks konung vilja.
Raun es hins, at Heinir
(hrælinns) megu vinna
(þeir œxla frør) fleira
fjǫlrekks an ǫl drekka.

Afli vex, þvít Upplendingar vilja efla {þenna sendi {þilblakks}} konung; Sveinn, funduð þat. Raun es hins, at Heinir megu vinna fleira an drekka ǫl fjǫlrekks; þeir œxla {frør {hrælinns}}.

[His] strength increases, because the Upplendingar want to support {this launcher {of the plank-horse}} [SHIP > SEAFARER = Óláfr] as king; Sveinn, you discovered that. There is proof of this, that the Heinir can do more than drink the ale of the man with many warriors; they augment {the frost {of the corpse-snake}} [SWORD > BATTLE].

Mss: (254v), papp18ˣ(77r) (Hkr); Holm2(13r), R686ˣ(26v), 972ˣ(90va), J1ˣ(160v-161r), J2ˣ(136v), 325VI(11va), 75a(2rb), 68(12v), 61(85ra), Holm4(5rb), 325V(17ra), 325VII(5v), Bb(135vb), Flat(83vb), Tóm(102v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] vex: vætt Holm2, 972ˣ, vætr R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, vóx Holm4;    þvít (‘þvi at’): þá er 325VI, 75a, þat er 68, þar er 61;    efla: afla 68    [2] ‑lendingar: ‑lendinga Holm2, 325VI, Holm4, ‑lendingum R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, ‘‑ledinga’ 75a;    sendi: sendu 972ˣ, 68, sendis Holm4    [3] Sveinn: Sveins Holm2, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, ‘su[…]’ R686ˣ, svinn 61, Svein 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    funduð: finnum 61, finnit Bb, fundu Flat;    þat: þar Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 325VII, þér Holm4, Flat, Tóm;    þenna: þinna 972ˣ    [4] þilblakks: ‘þilklaks’ R686ˣ, ‘þic blakks’ 75a, þriðja til 61, þvílíks Tóm;    konung: konungs papp18ˣ, 75a, 68, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm, konungr 325VI, Holm4, 325VII    [5] Raun: rán J1ˣ, J2ˣ, ‘[…]n’ 325V;    hins: ‘herins’ with ‘hins’ in margin Holm2, ‘hin[…]’ R686ˣ;    Heinir: heinar R686ˣ, 972ˣ, ‘heynir’ 61    [6] ‑linns: ‑linn 75a, 68, 61, Flat, Tóm;    megu: so Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, megut Kˣ, papp18ˣ, megi 325VI, 75a, megir Tóm    [7] þeir: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, vér Kˣ, papp18ˣ, þar 972ˣ, þeim 75a, om. Tóm;    œxla: so 325VII, Flat, gerðum Kˣ, papp18ˣ, ôttu Holm2, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 68, 61, Bb, reyndu R686ˣ, ætla Holm4, ‘æskia’ 325V, axla Tóm;    frør: fǫr Kˣ, papp18ˣ, flug Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 68, 61, Holm4, Bb, fals 325V, ‘faus’ 325VII, foss Flat, ‘fros’ Tóm;    fleira: fleina Holm2, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 68, 61, Bb, Tóm, ‘flei[…]’ R686ˣ, fleiri 325VII    [8] fjǫlrekks (‘fiolrecs’): so R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, ‘folcreks’ Kˣ, papp18ˣ, ‘folrecs’ Holm2, ‘fiolkræs’ J1ˣ, ‘fiallrecks’ 325VI, 75a, ‘folk hrekks’ 61, ‘fiolrek’ Bb, ‘fiolreck(a)’(?) Tóm;    an: er J1ˣ, eigi J2ˣ;    ǫl: ǫll J1ˣ;    drekka: dreka R686ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur 12: AI, 232, BI, 219-20, Skald I, 114, NN §623; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 77, IV, 125-6, ÍF 27, 69-70 (ÓHHkr ch. 52); Fms 4, 104-5, Fms 12, 81, ÓH 1941, I, 98-9 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 46; CPB II, 128-9, Poole 2005d, 178.

Context: ÓH-Hkr places st. 14 immediately after sts 11 and 12.

Notes: [1, 2, 3, 4] efla þenna sendi … konung ‘support this launcher … as king’: Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27, followed by Jón Skaptason 1983, 235) notes this unusual construction, in place of more usual efla til konungs ‘support as king’; see further Note to l. 4 konung. — [2] Upplendingar: The people of Upplǫnd (Opplandene, Norway), which comprised present-day Hedmark (home of the Heinir, l. 5), Hadeland, Romerike, Gudbrandsdalen and Østerdalen. — [3] Sveinn: A remarkable use of apostrophe to the certainly absent Sveinn. — [4] þilblakks ‘of the plank-horse [SHIP]’: The first element in this kenning is þil n., a collective noun meaning ‘decking’ and cognate with the more familiar þilja ‘deck-plank’ (Jesch 2001a, 151). — [4] konung ‘king’: It is difficult to establish the original reading here. (a) The weight of ms. support is for the acc. (selected in ÍF 27, and see first Note above). (b) Finnur Jónsson selects konungs, governing afli ‘strength’ (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B). (c) Kock (NN §623) defends nom. konungr, construing it as an apostrophe, a counterpart to Sveinn in l. 3. — [6, 7] þeir œxla frør hrælinns ‘they augment the frost of the corpse-snake [SWORD > BATTLE]’: Lines 6-7 exhibit a wide variance in readings, and the main solutions adopted by previous eds present difficulties. (a) K (represented by and papp18ˣ) gives hrælinns … vér gerðum fǫr ‘we made a journey of the corpse-snake [SWORD > BATTLE]’ (cf. ÍF 27). However, fǫr is unique to K, and although K stands high in the stemma and is normally a reliable guide, it is not free from scribal emendations. Gerðum fǫr ‘we made a journey’ looks like a simplification designed to supply hrælinns ‘corpse-snake [SWORD]’ with a base-word fǫr ‘journey’, the whole yielding a kenning for ‘battle’. (b) Mss J1ˣ, J2ˣ, Holm2, 325VI, Bb read hrælinns … þeir ôttu flug fleina ‘of the corpse-snake [SWORD] they had the flight of barbs [BATTLE]’. Here flug can form a battle-kenning with either fleina ‘of barbs’ or possibly with hrælinns ‘of the corpse-snake [SWORD]’ (so Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B), but the other is then superfluous. It therefore appears that fleina is a modification of original fleira ‘more’, which is needed in association with an ‘than’ in l. 8 (and is adopted in Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B). Flug fleina may well have been been prompted in transmission by the identical phrase in st. 5/5. (c) Flug is also a doubtful reading since flug(r) ‘flight’ is unlikely to be combined with the sword-kenning hrælinns and since, as an obvious piece of vocabulary, flugr could scarcely have given rise to the array of alternative readings ‘fals’, ‘faus’, ‘foss’ and ‘fros’. Flug and fǫr are most probably substitutions for a less familiar word that would have combined with hrælinns to form a kenning for ‘shield’, ‘blood’, or ‘battle’. The only suitable candidate is frør ‘frost’, which yields a kenning for ‘battle’ parallel to frost in st. 3/3. The similarly wide variation in readings of the verb (ôttu, reyndu, ætla, ‘æskia’, axla and œxla) can be accounted for as originating in œxla ‘augment’, a relatively uncommon word. Preceded as it is by the cognate word vex ‘increases’ in l. 1, it could be seen as selected by Sigvatr in a further instance of etymological word-play (see Notes to sts 2/1 and 3/1). — [8] fjǫlrekks ‘of the man with many warriors’: Amongst the variant readings, this can be identified as the most likely original (cf. CPB), a cpd of fjǫl- ‘many’ and rekkr ‘man, warrior’. Although a hap. leg., it represents a natural extension from the familiar cpd fjǫlmennr ‘with many men, with a large following’, also fjǫlgestr ‘with many guests’. Its use here as a substantival adj. may have led to confusion in transmission. Fjǫlrekks is further supported by the fact that ÓHLeg (1982, 72) seems to draw upon st. 14 (though without citing it) in a version that contained this word when it mentions that Óláfr gained fiolmenne ‘a numerous following’ by distributing largesse to the Upplendingar. The first element folk in the reading of K (and 61) and adopted by Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B; LP: folkrekr ‘people’s ruler’) appears to be a secondary development from fjǫl (Poole 2005d, 180-1 and cf. the comments on K in the Note to ll. 6-7 above). — [8] drekka ǫl ‘drink the ale’: It was the custom to make pledges of allegiance and support during the drinking of ale or mead.

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