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, 554

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

15 — Sigv Víkv 15I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 15’ 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. 554.

Ríkr kvað sér at sœkja
Sauðungs konungr nauðir
fremðar gjarn í fornu
fund Hôkunar sundi.
Strangr hitti þar þengill
þann jarl, es vas annarr
œztr ok ætt gat bezta
ungr á danska tungu.

Ríkr konungr, gjarn fremðar, kvað sér nauðir at sœkja fund Hôkunar í fornu Sauðungssundi. Strangr þengill hitti þar þann jarl, es ungr vas annarr œztr ok gat bezta ætt á danska tungu.

The powerful king, eager for glory, said there was need for him to seek a meeting with Hákon in ancient Sauesund. The strong prince met there that jarl who, [when] young, was the second highest and had the best kin in the Danish-speaking world.

Mss: (235v), J2ˣ(127v-128r), J(1ra) (Hkr); Holm2(9v), R686ˣ(17v), 325VI(7va), 321ˣ(40), 73aˣ(26v), 78aˣ(26v), 68(8v), 61(82ra), Holm4(1ra), 75c(6v) (ll. 1-2), 325V(11vb-12ra), 325VII(3r) (ll. 5-8), Bb(131rb), Flat(82ra), Tóm(99r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Ríkr: eikr Flat, Tóm;    kvað: lét 75c    [2] Sauðungs: Sauðungs sund Bb;    konungr nauðir: om. 75c;    nauðir: nauðr R686ˣ    [3] fremðar: ‘freindr’ R686ˣ, ‘frendar’ 321ˣ, frægðar 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, Flat, Tóm    [4] fund: fund í Tóm;    kunar: ‘hakonr’ 321ˣ    [5] Strangr: ‘stangr’ R686ˣ    [6] vas (‘var’): varð Holm2, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [7] œztr: ‘ǿttr’ 321ˣ, œzt 325V;    ætt: om. Tóm    [8] ungr á: ‘ung(e) a’(?) J2ˣ, ungra 321ˣ;    ungr: ungi J

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 15: AI, 228, BI, 216, Skald I, 113, NN §617; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 40, IV, 117-18, ÍF 27, 38-9, Hkr 1991, I, 275-6 (ÓHHkr ch. 30); ÓH 1941, I, 65 (ch. 32), Flat 1860-8, II, 33; Fell 1981b, 122, Jón Skaptason 1983, 67, 227.

Context: Óláfr uses an ingenious naval trap to capture his young rival Hákon jarl Eiríksson and lets him go on condition he swears never to oppose the king.

Notes: [All]: This stanza is preserved on one of the surviving leaves of the Hkr ms. J, the vellum Jöfraskinna. The text in J2ˣ was copied from K and hence also belongs to the Hkr redaction, unlike the remainder of the Víkv stanzas in J2ˣ, which belong to the ÓH redaction. Holm4 is dark and damaged at this point, and some of its readings uncertain; ÓH 1941 has been consulted. — [All]: The same incident is referred to in Ótt Hfl 16. — [2, 3, 4] fornu Sauðungssundi ‘ancient Sauesund’: It is not clear why this place is described as ‘ancient, old’, except that forn- supplies alliteration and rhyme. It is on the south-east coast of the island of Atløy, in Sunnfjord, Sogn og Fjordane, on the west coast of Norway and thus on an important sailing-route. — [3] fremðar ‘for glory’: Or ‘advancement’. The variant frægðar ‘for fame’ is also possible.  — [4] Hôkunar ‘with Hákon’: For Hákon jarl Eiríksson (r. c. 1014-c. 1015), see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. — [5-8]: Most commentators are agreed that the rel. clause qualifies þann jarl ‘that jarl’, and hence that the praise in the second helmingr refers to Hákon rather than Óláfr. If Hákon is the second best, presumably Óláfr is best, so there is also indirect praise of him. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) thought it impossible that Hákon jarl could be praised so highly in a poem about Óláfr, and took the rel. clause to refer to Óláfr, suggesting that the poet had Óláfr Tryggvason in mind as the best ruler. — [6] vas ‘was’: The variant varð ‘became’ is also possible. — [8] á danska tungu ‘in the Danish-speaking world’: Lit. ‘in the Danish tongue’. This appears to be the earliest recorded use of this common phrase referring to the whole of the Scandinavian-speaking area.

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