Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

1. Víkingarvísur (Víkv) - 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).

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.

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

SkP info: I, 551

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — Sigv Víkv 13I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 13’ 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. 551.

Þrettanda vann Þrœnda
— þat vas flótta bǫl — dróttinn
snjallr í Seljupollum
sunnarla styr kunnan.
Upp lét gramr í gamla
Gunnvaldsborg of morgin
— Geirfiðr hét sá — gǫrva
gengit, jarl of fenginn.

{Snjallr dróttinn Þrœnda} vann þrettanda kunnan styr sunnarla í Seljupollum; þat vas bǫl flótta. Gramr lét gǫrva gengit upp í gamla Gunnvaldsborg of morgin, jarl of fenginn; Geirfiðr hét sá.

{The brave lord of the Þrœndir} [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr] won the thirteenth renowned battle south in Seljupollar; that was bad luck to those who fled. The prince had the whole troop go up to old Gunnvaldsborg in the morning, [and had] the jarl captured; he was called Geirfiðr.

Mss: (228v) (Hkr); Holm2(7v), R686ˣ(13v), J2ˣ(123v-124r), 325VI(6vb), 73aˣ(21v), 78aˣ(21r), 68(6v), 61(80rb), 75c(3v), 325V(9rb), 325VII(2v), Bb(127rb), Flat(80va), Tóm(97r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] vann: vannt 61    [2] þat: þá 68, 61;    flótta: flotna 325V;    bǫl: ból 68, Bb, ‘duol’ Flat, ‘daul’ Tóm;    dróttinn: dróttum Flat, drótta Tóm    [3] Selju‑: Selu‑ 325V, ‘sęlu’ Bb;    ‑pollum: ‘‑follum’ Bb    [4] kunnan: fullan 61, kunni Tóm    [5] lét: om. Flat;    í: á 61    [6] Gunnvalds‑: Gunnvaldr Bb;    ‑borg: om. Tóm    [7] sá: om. 325V, sá er Flat, Tóm;    gǫrva: gotna R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, gauta 325V, gervar 325VII    [8] gengit: gengum R686ˣ, gengis J2ˣ, genginn 68, 61;    of: af 73aˣ, ok 75c, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    fenginn: fengum R686ˣ, fengit 75c, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 13: AI, 227, BI, 216, Skald I, 112, NN §2983; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 25, IV, 113, ÍF 27, 24-5, Hkr 1991, I, 266 (ÓHHkr ch. 17); ÓH 1941, I, 49 (ch. 24), Flat 1860-8, II, 22; Fell 1981b, 120-1, Jón Skaptason 1983, 65, 226.

Context: Óláfr heads south to Seljupollar where he captures the castle of Gunnvaldsborg and its ruler Geirfiðr. The inhabitants of the castle ransom their leader for twelve thousand gold shillings.

Notes: [1, 2] dróttinn Þrœnda ‘lord of the Þrœndir [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr]’: This kenning, and one in the next stanza (st. 14/1), begin to anticipate the end of the poem, which sees Óláfr’s return to Norway as its ruler. — [3] Seljupollum ‘Seljupollar’: It has been suggested (Johnsen 1916, 17) that this is (Lat.) Cilenorum aqua, now La Guardia (Galician A Guarda), near the mouth of the river Miño, on the north-west coast of Spain. A tributary of the Mino is the river Sil, which could be the element represented by Selju-; and see Note to st. 11/4 for pollr. Spanish sources record the destruction of the nearby episcopal centre Tuy sometime around 1013-16 (Johnsen, loc. cit.) and some connection with Óláfr’s expedition seems likely. — [5, 7-8] lét gǫrva gengit ‘had the whole troop go’: Lit. ‘had completely gone’, i.e. ‘caused completely to go’. This assumes (with Skj B and ÍF 27) that the adv. gǫrva ‘completely’ means that the whole company were ordered into the attack. An alternative suggested in LP: gǫrva is that they went ‘the whole way’. — [6] Gunnvaldsborg: This fortification cannot be identified with certainty. — [7] Geirfiðr: This person is also unidentified. — [8] jarl of fenginn ‘[and had] the jarl captured’: Fenginn ‘captured’ is parallel with gengit, lit. ‘gone’ and both depend on lét ‘had’. Of is the expletive particle, and a conj. ‘and’ is understood. Some mss read ok ‘and’ in place of of, and this reading is adopted in Skj B, but as it is confined to ÓH mss of the C class it seems to be a secondary ‘improvement’.

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