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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, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

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, 549

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — Sigv Víkv 11I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 11’ 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. 549.

Ôleifr, vannt, þars jǫfrar,
ellipta styr, fellu,
— ungr, komt af því þingi,
þollr — í Gríslupolli.
Þat frák víg at víttu
Viljalms fyr bœ hjalma
— tala minnst es þat telja —
tryggs jarls háit snarla.

Ôleifr, vannt ellipta styr í Gríslupolli, þars jǫfrar fellu; ungr þollr, komt af því þingi. Frák þat víg, háit snarla fyr bœ Viljalms, tryggs jarls, at víttu hjalma; minnst tala es telja þat.

Óláfr, you won the eleventh battle in Gríslupollr, where princes fell; young fir-tree [warrior], you came away [safely] from that assembly. I have heard that that battle, fought briskly before the town of Viljálmr, the trustworthy jarl, destroyed helmets; it is the least of lists to enumerate that.

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

Readings: [1] þars (‘þar er’): er Bb;    jǫfrar: jǫfur R686ˣ, jǫfra 68    [2] ellipta: ellipta þar er J2ˣ;    fellu: felldu 61, felldi Tóm    [3] ungr: hrings 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    þingi: þungi R686ˣ, þangat J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ    [4] Gríslu‑: Gíslu‑ R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    ‑polli: so papp18ˣ, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Tóm, polla Kˣ, 68, 61, Bb, Flat, pollum Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, pollu 325VI    [5] Þat: þar papp18ˣ, 68;    víg: vígs 325VI, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    at: om. 61, er Tóm;    víttu: veittu R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325V, Bb, Flat, áttu Tóm    [6] fyr: frá 68;    bœ: bý 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘híe’ Tóm;    hjalma: álmar 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, malma 68, Flat    [7] minnst es (‘minzt er’): ‘mint’ papp18ˣ, minnst var R686ˣ, J2ˣ, mín er 73aˣ, 61, 75c, Bb, Flat, Tóm, minnisk 325VII;    þat: þar 325VII;    telja: ‘tel⸜a⸝e’ papp18ˣ    [8] tryggs jarls: tal jarls R686ˣ, trygði 61;    háit: so J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, hátt Kˣ, papp18ˣ, er hátt Holm2, ‘og hartz’ R686ˣ, hátt at 61;    snarla: bygðum 61

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 11: AI, 226-7, BI, 215, Skald I, 112, NN §§1111, 1853A, 2394, 2807B; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 24, IV, 112-13, ÍF 27, 23-4, Hkr 1991, I, 265 (ÓHHkr ch. 17); ÓH 1941, I, 48 (ch. 24), Flat 1860-8, II, 21; Fell 1981b, 119, Jón Skaptason 1983, 63, 225.

Context: Óláfr heads west to Gríslupollar where he defeats some vikings outside a place called Viljálmsbœr.

Notes: [3, 4] ungr þollr ‘young fir-tree [warrior]’: Þollr is a half-kenning, rare at this period, lacking a determinant such as a term for treasure, battle or weapons that would normally combine with a tree-heiti to form a man-kenning (see Meissner 271 for examples with þollr). The variant hrings in place of ungr would give a full kenning þollr hrings ‘fir-tree of the ring/sword [WARRIOR]’, but it is found in only three A-class ÓH mss, and would produce a full rhyme in an odd line (though there are parallels, e.g. in st. 10/5).  — [3] þingi ‘assembly’: This is doubtless the same event as styr ‘battle’ (l. 2). — [4] Gríslupolli ‘Gríslupollr’: The place has been identified with Castropol in Asturias, on the north coast of Spain (Johnsen 1916, 16). The frequent variants in Gísl- must be influenced by the frequency of ON personal names with this element. The second element appears to be either dat. sg. polli or dat. pl. pollum ‘pool(s)’; the pl. form is used in the preceding prose in Hkr and ÓH. Polli in papp18ˣ may suggest that its exemplar K had a dat. sg. form like some other mss, and that is chosen here. The variant polla in would be acc. pl., implying a different understanding of the syntax. — [5] frák þat víg … at víttu ‘I have heard that that battle … destroyed’: (a) This is taken here, as in Skald and ÍF 27, as an acc. with past inf. construction, lit. ‘(I heard) that battle to have destroyed’. That the inf. is preceded by at is unusual, though Kock (NN §1111) claims eddic parallels. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B) emends to 3rd sg. pret. indic. vítti ‘destroyed’, presumably in order to avoid the problem of at, but he seems to interpret the resulting construction differently in the two eds. — [5] víttu ‘destroyed’: The verb víta normally means ‘to impose a fine or other penalty’ (Fritzner: víta 1). The variant veittu ‘granted’ in several mss does not fit the sense or syntax, since veita governs the dat. case. — [6] bœ Viljalms ‘the town of Viljálmr’: Snorri interprets this as a p. n. (see Context above) and Fell (1981b) has suggested that this is ‘a corruption’ of the p. n. Villameá in Galicia, some 30 kilometres up the Río Eo from Castropol, and that the otherwise unknown ruler of the place has been extrapolated from its name. The place names in the Spanish section of the poem are all uncertain. — [7] tala minnst es telja þat ‘it is the least of lists to enumerate that’: Sigvatr presumably means not that the king’s achievements are few, but that (re)counting them is an easy task.

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