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, 553

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Sigv Víkv 14I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 14’ 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. 553.

Malms vann Mœra hilmir
munnrjóðr, es kom sunnan,
gang, þars gamlir sprungu
geirar, upp at Leiru.
Varð fyr víga Njǫrðum
Varrandi sjá fjarri
brenndr á byggðu landi
— bœr heitir svá — Peitu.

{{Malms munn}rjóðr}, {hilmir Mœra}, vann, es kom sunnan, gang upp at Leiru, þars gamlir geirar sprungu. Varrandi, fjarri sjá á byggðu landi Peitu, varð brenndr fyr {Njǫrðum víga}; bœr heitir svá.

{The reddener {of the mouth of the sword}} [(lit. ‘mouth-reddener of the sword’) SWORD BLADE > WARRIOR], {the ruler of the Mœrir} [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr], when he came from the south, fought his way up to the Loire, where old spears shattered. Varrandi, far from the sea in the settlements of Poitou, was burned for {the Nirðir <gods> of battles} [WARRIORS]; the town is so named.

Mss: (229r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(7v), R686ˣ(13v), J2ˣ(124r), 73aˣ(22r), 78aˣ(21v), 68(6v), 61(80vb), 75c(4r), 325V(9va), 325VII(2v), Bb(127va), Flat(81rb), Tóm(97r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Malms: so Holm2, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, ‘Mals’ Kˣ, malms with malmr written above R686ˣ, malm 78aˣ, 61;    vann Mœra hilmir: om. 78aˣ;    vann: rauð 61, fann 325V;    Mœra: meira Bb    [2] es kom sunnan: hugins kunnan 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    es (‘er’): om. 68;    kom: komt R686ˣ, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [3] gang: so R686ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Bb, gangr Kˣ, gagn Holm2, J2ˣ, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    gamlir: ‘gamlr’ R686ˣ;    sprungu: sungu 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [4] geirar: ‘geirer’ R686ˣ;    upp: út 68, 61;    at: á J2ˣ, Flat, Tóm;    Leiru: ‘leitu’ Tóm    [5] Varð fyr: ‘warrðuð’ 73aˣ;    Njǫrðum: morði 61, meiðum 325V    [6] Varrandi: Varranda 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    sjá: sá 325VII, Bb;    fjarri: ‘fí[...]a’ Tóm    [7] brenndr: brennd R686ˣ, 68    [8] Peitu: ‘(f)etto’(?) R686ˣ, Peita Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 14: AI, 227, BI, 216, Skald I, 112-13, NN §§616, 1855, 2470; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 26, IV, 114, ÍF 27, 26, Hkr 1991, I, 267 (ÓHHkr ch. 19); ÓH 1941, I, 50 (ch. 25), Flat 1860-8, II, 28; Fell 1981b, 121-2, Jón Skaptason 1983, 66, 226.

Context: Following a dream summoning him to kingship in Norway, Óláfr abandons his plan to visit the Holy Land and raids Peituland (Poitou), sacking a market town called Varrandi. The stanza follows immediately on from Ótt Hfl 12.

Notes: [1, 2] malms munnrjóðr ‘the reddener of the mouth of the sword [(lit. ‘mouth-reddener of the sword’) SWORD BLADE > WARRIOR]’: Meissner would count this and similar expressions for sword blades as free combinations (freie Verbindungen, Meissner 163) rather than kennings as such. — [1] hilmir Mœra ‘the ruler of the Mœrir [NORWEGIAN KING = Óláfr]’: See the Note to st. 13/2-3. The kenning is taken here (as in Skald and ÍF 27) in apposition to the warrior-kenning in ll. 1-2. In Skj B it is taken as the subject to the intercalary es kom sunnan ‘when he came from the south’. — [4, 6, 8] Leiru; Varrandi; Peitu ‘the Loire; Varrandi; Poitou’: Leira is the Loire, and there is indeed a Guerrande (now mostly spelt Guérande) at the mouth of this river, a name which accords well with Varrandi. However, it is in southern Brittany, not in Poitou, nor is it ‘far from the sea’ (l. 6). Sigvatr is either mildly confused in his geography here, or has conflated two or more separate incidents. Ótt Hfl 12/1-2 states that Óláfr ‘laid waste to Poitou’ and fought in Touraine (the area around Tours, also on the Loire). Óttarr’s stanza may indeed record raids in these areas that were not mentioned by Sigvatr, or that have not survived in Víkv (note that the numbering of battles has ceased by this point: see Introduction above). For Continental records of Óláfr’s stay in France, see Note to Ótt Hfl 12 [All]. — [5] fyr Njǫrðum víga ‘for the Nirðir <gods> of battles [WARRIORS]’: The prep. fyr could mean either ‘before’, hence ‘(burned) by’, with the kenning referring to the attacking Scandinavian warriors (so Kock, NN §2470; Fell 1981b), or ‘for, to the disadvantage of’ (cf. Note to Hfr ErfÓl 24/8), referring to the inhabitants of the town (so ÍF 27). The translation here assumes the latter, since otherwise this would be the only full stanza without any mention of Óláfr’s opponents.

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