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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 22 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, 569

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Sigv Nesv 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 9’ 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. 569.

Ǫld vann ossa skjǫldu
(auðsætt vas þat) rauða,
(hljóms) þás hvítir kómu
(hringmiðlǫndum) þingat.
Þar hykk ungan gram gǫngu
(gunnsylgs), en vér fylgðum,
(blóðs fekk svǫrr) þars slæðusk
sverð, upp í skip gerðu.

Ǫld vann skjǫldu ossa rauða, þás kómu þingat hvítir; þat vas auðsætt {{hljóms hring}miðlǫndum}. Þar hykk ungan gram gerðu gǫngu upp í skip, þars sverð slæðusk, en vér fylgðum; {svǫrr blóðs} fekk {gunnsylgs}.

Men made our shields red, that came there white; that was obvious {to the sharers {of the sword-clamour}} [(lit. ‘sword-sharers of clamour’) BATTLE > WARRIORS]. There I think the young king made his advance up on to the ship, where swords were blunted, and we followed; {the bird of blood} [RAVEN/EAGLE] gained {a battle-draught} [BLOOD].

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

Readings: [1] vann: corrected from hef 325VI;    ossa: ‘oss a’ Holm2, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, 68, 325VII, Tóm;    skjǫldu: skjǫldum 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ    [2] auðsætt: auðsær 325VII, ‘aut sætt’ Flat;    vas (‘var’): er 325VII;    þat: þar R686ˣ, 325V;    rauða: rauðu Bb    [3] hljóms: hljóm Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, ‘hlom’ 325V;    þás (‘þá er’): so papp18ˣ, Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, Holm4, Bb, þar er Kˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    hvítir: hvítr R686ˣ;    kómu: komum 61    [4] hring‑: hrings 78aˣ;    ‑miðlǫndum: ‘midlǫmþom’ papp18ˣ, ‘mid lundum’ 972ˣ, 325V, miðlǫngum 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, ‘miðluðum’ 73aˣ, 61;    þingat: ‘þingit’ 972ˣ, hingat 68    [5] Þar: om. J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    ungan: øngan Holm2, undan J1ˣ, J2ˣ, ǫngvan Tóm;    gǫngu: so Holm2, 972ˣ, gengu Kˣ, papp18ˣ, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [6] gunnsylgs en vér fylgðum: gall strengr ein vá þengill R686ˣ;    ‑sylgs: ‑sylg Holm2, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, 68, 325V, 325VII, Bb;    en: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, er Kˣ, papp18ˣ, 972ˣ, 68;    vér: vit Flat    [7] blóðs: blóð R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, gjóð Holm4, bráð 325V, 325VII, Tóm, brátt Flat;    fekk: ‘f(e)ll’(?) 61, ‘fesk’ Bb, gekk Tóm;    svǫrr: ‘su ǫr’ papp18ˣ, svanr R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, Flat, saur J1ˣ, J2ˣ, ‘síǫr’ 68, sjór 61, tafn Holm4, ‘gannr’ 325VII, svart Tóm;    þars (‘þar er’): þar 325VII;    slæðusk: ‘slædast’ 972ˣ, sæfðusk 325VI, 68, 61, ‘slæfðuz’ 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, ‘slioðuz’ Holm4, slæður Bb, ‘slædduzt’ Tóm    [8] sverð: ‘huerd’ 972ˣ, sverðs Bb;    gerðu: ‘gerðri’ 73aˣ, gerði Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, gjǫrðisk Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur 8: AI, 230-1, BI, 218, Skald I, 114, NN §§451A, 485; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 72, IV, 122, ÍF 27, 64 (ÓHHkr ch. 50); Fms 4, 100, Fms 12, 79, ÓH 1941, I, 94 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 44; CPB II, 128, Poole 2005d, 175-6.

Context: The stanza appears immediately after st. 8.

Notes: [2, 3, 4] þat vas auðsætt hljóms hringmiðlǫndum ‘that was obvious to the sharers of the sword-clamour [(lit. ‘sword-sharers of clamour’) BATTLE > WARRIORS]’: Sigvatr appeals to the shared experience of those who partook in the fight. An inverted kenning is assumed here, following previous eds. The cpd hringmiðlǫndum in itself would make sense as ‘ring-sharers’, with hring understood as ‘arm-ring’ or ‘finger-ring’, but in combination with the gen. hljóms ‘clamour’ it must be construed as a pars pro toto for ‘sword’ (cf. LP: 2. hringr and Note to Þhorn Harkv 1/1). The interweaving of the kenning through the helmingr is typical of Sigvatr’s highly complex handling of word order. — [2, 3] rauða; hvítir ‘red; white’: Sigvatr contrasts the reddened state of the shields after the battle with their white pristine state on arrival. The ‘white’ might refer either to the natural colour of the wood used for the shield-board or to the colour in which it was painted (Foote and Wilson 1980, 278; Steuer 2004, 83-6; see also Falk 1914b, 128-32). The imagery of the red and white shield is also found in Sjórs Lv 3II. — [5] ungan ‘young’: Óláfr’s birth can be placed at 995 (Johnsen 1916, 4), making him around twenty at the time of the battle. — [5] gǫngu ‘his advance’: The majority reading gengu, past inf. ‘to have gone’, may have arisen in well-intentioned error to supply an inf. following hykk ‘I think’, since the actual inf. gerðu ‘made’ is delayed until l. 8. — [6] en vér fylgðum ‘and we followed’: The minority reading er (normalised es) gives the equally reasonable ‘whom we followed’. — [7] svǫrr blóðs ‘the bird of blood [RAVEN/EAGLE]’: The species of the svǫrr remains unidentified (cf. NN §451A), and the rarity of this base-word evidently caused confusion in transmission. The variant svanr ‘swan’, although well represented, is probably the result of scribal emendation. Also productive of confusion is Sigvatr’s contrived placement of the two gen.-case nouns gunnsylgs ‘of battle-draught’ and blóðs ‘of blood’ in advance of the base-word svǫrr ‘bird’, so that the listener must decide which connects to svǫrr and which to fekk ‘gained’ (which in this sense takes a gen. object). The solution adopted here follows Kock (NN §485); Finnur Jónsson’s gunnsvǫrr fekk blóðs sylg ‘the battle-bird [RAVEN] got blood to drink’ (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B) unnecessarily assumes tmesis of the cpd; Sigvatr is not otherwise known for his use of this device.

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