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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 24 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, 568

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Sigv Nesv 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 8’ 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. 568.

Vér drifum hvatt, þars heyra
hátt vápnabrak knátti,
— rǫnd klufu roðnir brandar —
reiðir upp á skeiðar.
En fyr borð, þars bǫrðusk,
— búin fengusk skip — gengu
— nár flaut ǫrt við eyri
ófár — búendr sárir.

Vér drifum reiðir hvatt upp á skeiðar, þars knátti heyra hátt vápnabrak; roðnir brandar klufu rǫnd. En sárir búendr gengu fyr borð, þars bǫrðusk; búin skip fengusk; ófár nár flaut ǫrt við eyri.

We pressed, enraged, keenly up on to the ships, where the loud clash of weapons could be heard; reddened blades split the shield. And wounded farmers went overboard, where they fought; the well-appointed ships were captured; not a few corpses floated swiftly by the land-spit.

Mss: (252r), papp18ˣ(76r) (Hkr); Holm2(12v), R686ˣ(25v), 972ˣ(86va), J1ˣ(159r), J2ˣ(135r), 325VI(11ra), 75a(1rb), 73aˣ(35r), 78aˣ(32v), 68(11v-12r), 61(84vb), Holm4(4vb), 325V(16rb), 325VII(5r), Bb(135ra-b), Flat(83va), Tóm(102r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] drifum: so Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, drifu Kˣ, papp18ˣ, drápum Tóm;    hvatt: ‘huart’ papp18ˣ, J1ˣ, hvat R686ˣ, 68, 325VII, Tóm, hart 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    þars (‘þar er’): ‘þar ed’ papp18ˣ, enn Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, at 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    heyra: herja 325VII    [2] ‑brak: ‘bruk’ R686ˣ;    knátti: ‘tnatti’ Holm2, mátti 972ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Bb    [3] rǫnd: rendr 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    roðnir: ‘roðrir’ Holm2, rauðra 325VI;    brandar: branda 325VI    [4] reiðir: reiðr J1ˣ, reiðar 68;    á: í Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb;    skeiðar: skeiðir 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 61, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, ‘skiðir’ 325V    [5] En: er Bb;    borð þars (‘borð þar er’): so Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm, om. Kˣ, papp18ˣ, borð þeir er 325VII;    bǫrðusk: bǫrðumsk Holm2, 972ˣ, 75a, Holm4, Bb    [6] búin: so Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, búinn Kˣ, papp18ˣ, 61;    fengusk: fengu Holm4, Flat, Tóm;    gengu: drengir Flat, Tóm    [7] nár: ‘narr’ 325VI, 78aˣ, nær 68, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, ‘nerr’ 61;    ǫrt: so Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, 61, 325VII, Bb, Tóm, út Kˣ, papp18ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, Holm4, Flat, om. 325VI, autt 325V;    við: om. Holm4, fyrir 325V    [8] ófár: ófáir Flat;    búendr: gumar 325V, ‘ámer’ 325VII, hrutu Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur 7: AI, 230-1, BI, 218, Skald I, 113-14, NN §§620, 2988C; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 71-2, IV, 122, ÍF 27, 63-4 (ÓHHkr ch. 50); Fms 4, 99, Fms 12, 79, ÓH 1941, I, 93 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 44; CPB II, 128, Poole 2005d, 175.

Context: The stanza is introduced after st. 7, with the comment that Sveinn’s men suffer many casualties and some leap overboard.

Notes: [1] þars ‘where’: The variant enn, here ‘and’, has widespread ms. support and is also possible; it is adopted by Kock in Skald. — [7] ǫrt ‘swiftly’: Syntactically, the adv. could modify bǫrðusk ‘they fought’ (so Finnur Jónsson in Skj B), or gengu (fyr borð) ‘went (overboard)’, or flaut ‘floated’. On grounds of word order the latter is favoured here, following Kock (NN §620). Kock (NN §2988C) compares fljóta hvatt ‘float briskly’ in KormǪ Lv 42/1-2V (Korm 61). The reading út ‘out’ in and other mss gives equally good sense and is adopted in Hkr 1893-1901 and ÍF 27. — [7] eyri ‘the land-spit’: This has been identified with Mølen (Hkr 1893-1901, IV), a prominent location at the entrance to Nevlunghavn (see Note to st. 2/4).

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