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, 559

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Sigv Nesv 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 2’ 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. 559.

Veitti sókn, þars sótti,
siklingr firum mikla
— blóð fell rautt á Róða
rein — í hǫfn at Sveini.
Snjallr helt at, sás olli,
eirlaust konungr, þeira,
en Sveins liðar, sínum,
saman bundu skip, fundi.

Siklingr veitti firum mikla sókn, þars sótti í hǫfn at Sveini; blóð fell rautt á {rein Róða}. Snjallr konungr, sás olli fundi þeira, helt at eirlaust sínum, en liðar Sveins bundu skip saman.

The king gave the men a great onslaught, where he advanced into the harbour against Sveinn; blood fell red on {the strip of land of Róði <sea-king>} [SEA]. The brave king, who brought about their encounter, steered on relentlessly with his [ships], and Sveinn’s supporters tied the ships together.

Mss: (250v), papp18ˣ(75v) (Hkr); Holm2(12v), R686ˣ(25r), 972ˣ(85va), J1ˣ(158r), J2ˣ(134r), 325VI(10vb), 321ˣ(53), 73aˣ(34v), 78aˣ(31v), 68(11v), 61(84vb), Holm4(4va), 325V(16ra), 325VII(5r), Bb(135ra), Flat(83va), Tóm(102r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Veitti: veittu Holm4, 325V, Tóm;    sókn: ‘soc(h)’(?) Holm4;    þars (‘þar er’): þá er R686ˣ, 972ˣ;    sótti: ‘soti’ 61, sætti 325VII    [2] siklingr: siklingum 78aˣ;    firum: ‘fírrum’ Tóm;    mikla: ‘mikka’ J1ˣ    [3] rautt: ‘rǫtt’ 321ˣ;    á: í 73aˣ, 61;    Róða: rauða papp18ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 325V, rjóða 61, roðna Flat, Tóm    [4] rein: reini 68;    Sveini: svein J1ˣ, om. 78aˣ    [5] Snjallr: ‘snallr’ R686ˣ, J1ˣ;    at: om. Tóm;    sás (‘sa er’): þar er Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    olli: ollu J1ˣ, J2ˣ    [6] konungr þeira: om. 78aˣ    [7] Sveins: sveinn 68;    liðar: síðar 325V, lið er Flat;    sínum: sýnum Holm2, sínu 325V, sunnum 325VII, at sǫnnu Flat, sǫnnu Tóm    [8] saman: ‘samm‑’ R686ˣ;    bundu: so 73aˣ, 68, 61, Flat, Tóm, bundusk Kˣ, papp18ˣ, Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 321ˣ, 78aˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb;    skip: lið 68, 61;    fundi: sundi 325VII, Flat, Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur 3: AI, 228-9, BI, 217, Skald I, 113; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 69, IV, 119-20, ÍF 27, 60-1 (ÓHHkr ch. 49); Fms 4, 97, Fms 12, 78, ÓH 1941, I, 91 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 43; CPB II, 127, Poole 2005d, 172.

Context: This occurs in ÓH-Hkr as the first stanza cited from Nesv. The king’s preparations are described, including the arming of his men and the saying of the devotional Hours, followed by a bald statement that the battle commenced.

Notes: [1] sókn; sótti ‘onslaught; advanced’: Sigvatr juxtaposes etymologically related words, a device found elsewhere in skaldic poetry and reminiscent of the figura etymologica of classical rhetoric. Another instance occurs, similarly positioned, in st. 3/1. — [3] blóð fell ‘blood fell’: Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) notes the anticipation of events to be described more fully in the subsequent narrative. — [3-4] rein Róða ‘the strip of land of Róði <sea-king> [SEA]’: The variant readings in the mss of Nesv suggest that the heiti Róði had become obscure. In the þulur (Þul Sækonunga 3/7III, Þul Sea-kings 1/5III), Róði is listed as a sea-king (cf. LP: 1. Róði) but perhaps as an ex post facto rationalisation of a poorly understood word for ‘tempest, storm, the deep’ that enters into various idioms (Fritzner: róði; cf. Jón Skaptason 1983, 231). — [4] hǫfn ‘the harbour’: Nesjar, the site of the battle, comprises the headlands between Langesundsfjorden and Tønsbergfjorden in Vestfold. The battle has been located off the present-day Brunlanes peninsula, perhaps in or near the harbour of Nevlunghavn (Johnsen 1916, 37-8; Krag 2003b, 193). — [7] sínum ‘with his [ships]’: (a) The syntax assumed here and in ÍF 27 is highly compressed, with skipum left tacit (clarified by skip in the final line of the helmingr), evidently confusing some copyists but nevertheless fully compatible with Sigvatr’s idiom (cf. st. 1/6, interpretation (c)). (b) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; followed in Skald) avoids complex syntax by opting for the (poorly supported) reading sýnum, which he takes with fundi in the sense of ‘overt, unavoidable’. — [8] bundu skip saman ‘tied the ships together’: Sea-battles were fought similarly to land-battles, with the combatants able to pursue the enemy from one ship to another (cf. Jesch 2001a, 211).

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