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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

1. Víkingarvísur (Víkv) - 15

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).

Víkingarvísur (‘Vísur about Viking Voyages’) — Sigv VíkvI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur’ 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. 532. <> (accessed 16 January 2022)

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

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 1. Víkingarvísur, 1014-15 (AI, 223-8, BI, 213-16)

SkP info: I, 548

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

10 — Sigv Víkv 10I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 10’ 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. 548.

Tøgr vas fullr í fǫgrum
folkveggs drífahreggi
(helt, sem hilmir mælti,)
Hringsfirði (lið þingat).
Ból lét hann á Hóli
hôtt — víkingar ôttu —
— þeir bôðut sér síðan
slíks skotnaðar — brotna.

Tøgr vas fullr {drífahreggi {folkveggs}} í fǫgrum Hringsfirði; lið helt þingat, sem hilmir mælti. Hann lét hôtt ból brotna á Hóli; víkingar ôttu; þeir bôðut sér síðan slíks skotnaðar.

The ten was complete {with a driving storm {of the battle-wall}} [SHIELD > BATTLE] in beautiful Hringsfjǫrðr; the troop went there, as the ruler commanded. He had a high building on Hóll destroyed; the vikings owned it; they did not ask for such luck for themselves after that.

Mss: (228r), papp18ˣ(67v) (Hkr); Holm2(7r), R686ˣ(13r), J2ˣ(123r-v), 325VI(6vb), 73aˣ(21r), 78aˣ(20v), 68(6v), 61(80rb), 75c(3v), 325V(9ra), 325VII(2r), Bb(127ra), Flat(80va), Tóm(96v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Tøgr: tugr R686ˣ, 325VI, 78aˣ, ‘tygr’ J2ˣ;    fullr: fylldr 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68;    fǫgrum: fǫgru 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘fǫgr[...]’ 325VII    [2] folk‑: folks‑ R686ˣ, 61, Bb;    ‑veggs: ‑vegs Holm2, J2ˣ, 78aˣ, 61, 325V, Bb, ‑hreggs 325VII, ‑vegg Tóm;    drífa‑: so papp18ˣ, Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, drífar Kˣ    [3] hilmir: hilmi papp18ˣ;    mælti: ‘mellti’ Bb    [4] Hrings‑: hring‑ J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325VII;    ‑firði: ‑firðir 78aˣ;    þingat: þingum 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ    [5] Ból: ‘lol’ R686ˣ, blóð 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    Hóli: so papp18ˣ, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, Bb, ‘hǫli’ Kˣ, ‘høli’ Holm2, hæli 325V, hlóði 325VII, Flat, hljóði Tóm    [7] þeir: þar 325VI, 78aˣ, 61;    bôðut: buðu R686ˣ, bôðu J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, Flat, Tóm, báðir 325VII, bôðuð Bb    [8] slíks: slíkt 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    skotnaðar: kostnaðar 325V;    brotna: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, þrotna Kˣ, papp18ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 10: AI, 226, BI, 215, Skald I, 112, NN §§1858, 2480A; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 23, IV, 112, ÍF 27, 22-3, Hkr 1991, I, 265 (ÓHHkr ch. 16); ÓH 1941, I, 48 (ch. 24), Flat 1860-8, II, 21; Fell 1981b, 118-19, Jón Skaptason 1983, 62, 224-5.

Context: After the death of Aðalráðr (Æthelred), Óláfr heads suðr um sjá ‘south across the sea’. He fights a battle in Hringsfjǫrðr and captures and destroys a castle at Hóll.

Notes: [4, 5] Hringsfirði; Hóli ‘Hringsfjǫrðr; Hóll’: The context in Hkr suggests that this was in what is now France, and most commentators, following Johnsen (1916, 15-16), have linked this episode with an attack on Dol in Brittany by a certain Olaf, king of the Norwegians, referred to in William of Jumièges’ Gesta Normannorum Ducum (Houts 1992-5, II, 24-7), and have assumed that Hóll is simply an erroneous form of that name. If so, then Hringsfjǫrðr is most likely the estuary of the river Rance, west of Dol, which penetrates deep inland in a fjord-like way. The Fsk compiler does not mention Hringsfjǫrðr, nor cite the stanza, but seems to have known it. Instead of á Hóli, Fsk has á Hœli, and it identifies the vikings (l. 6) there as Danes, as in st. 6 (see Context). An alternative suggestion (Morales Romero 2006, 202-4) is that this location is in Spain, which may have some merit in that the following stanzas are most likely about Spain. — [6] víkingar ôttu ‘the vikings owned it’: The abruptness of this clause caused Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B), following Sveinbjörn Egilsson, to attach an enclitic rel. pron. (e)s ‘which’ to the preceding word hôtt, giving ‘which vikings owned’. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27) assumes a rel. clause in his translation, but does not print the rel. pron. in his text. — [8] skotnaðar ‘luck’: This is gen. sg. of a word skotnuðr or skotnaðr which occurs only here but must derive from the impersonal verb skotna ‘to get a piece of good luck or gain’ (CVC: skotna). — [8] brotna ‘destroyed’: An inf. dependent on lét ‘had’. This, the reading of all ÓH mss, is more apt in context than þrotna ‘dwindle, come to an end’ in the K transcripts.

Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated