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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.

 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, 536

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

2 — Sigv Víkv 2I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 2’ 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. 536.

Þar vas enn, es ǫnnur
Ôleifr — né svik fôlusk —
odda þing í eyddri
Eysýslu gekk heyja.
Sitt ôttu fjǫr fótum
— fár beið ór stað sára —
enn, þeirs undan runnu,
allvaldr, búendr gjalda.

Þar vas enn, es Ôleifr gekk heyja {ǫnnur þing odda} í eyddri Eysýslu; svik né fôlusk. Allvaldr, búendr, þeirs runnu undan, ôttu enn gjalda fótum fjǫr sitt; fár beið sára ór stað.

There it came about also that Óláfr proceeded to hold {other assemblies of weapon-points} [BATTLES] in destroyed Saaremaa; treachery was not hidden. Mighty ruler, the farmers who ran away had again their feet to thank [lit. to repay] for their lives; few stood waiting for wounds.

Mss: (222v), papp18ˣ(65v) (Hkr); Holm2(6r), R686ˣ(11r), J2ˣ(120r-v), 325VI(5vb), 73aˣ(18r), 78aˣ(17r), 68(5v), 61(79rb), 325V(7va), Bb(126ra), Flat(80ra), Tóm(95v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Þar: þat Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    es (‘er’): so 325VI, 68, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm, ok Kˣ, papp18ˣ, Holm2, R686ˣ, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, Bb, at J2ˣ;    ǫnnur: annat 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, unnut 61    [2] Ôleifr: Óláf R686ˣ, Óláfs 325V, ‘ola(f)e’(?) Bb;    fôlusk: fáluð J2ˣ, ‘falut’ 68, fôluzk Bb    [3] þing: hríð 61;    eyddri: auðri 61    [6] fár: frá papp18ˣ, fárir 325VI;    beið: leið 78aˣ;    ór: í J2ˣ, 78aˣ;    sára: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm, om. Kˣ, sára added later papp18ˣ    [7] þeirs (‘þeir er’): þeir en 325VI, þeim 78aˣ    [8] ‑valdr: so papp18ˣ, Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 78aˣ, 61, 325V, Bb, Tóm, ‑valds Kˣ, ‑valdi 325VI, 73aˣ, Flat, ‑vald 68;    búendr: bœndr 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 61, 325V, Tóm, ‘bendr’ 68, ‘bondr’ Bb, fé Flat

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 2: AI, 223, BI, 213, Skald I, 111, NN §§1856, 2467, 2480A; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 11-12, IV, 107, ÍF 27, 10, Hkr 1991, I, 257 (ÓHHkr ch. 8); ÓH 1941, I, 39 (ch. 22), Flat 1860-8, II, 17; Fell 1981b, 110-11, Jón Skaptason 1983, 54, 220.

Context: The inhabitants of Eysýsla (Saaremaa) offer Óláfr a payment. When they come, ostensibly with the payment, he meets them with an armed force. It turns out that they too had arrived with weapons, and there is a battle.

Notes: [All]: Ótt Hfl 7 mentions the fleeing of the people of Eysýsla, after stating that Óláfr got tribute from the people of Gotland. — [1] þar vas enn, es ‘there it came about also that’: (a) The interpretation here (also that of Skj B and ÍF 27) rests on adopting the rel. conj. es ‘that’ (l. 1). This is found in mss from the three main classes of ÓH mss and is to be preferred to ok ‘and’ or possibly ‘also’ (= adv. auk), since the positioning of gekk ‘went, proceeded’ late in the clause (l. 4) shows that the clause is subordinate. (b) Fell (1981b) keeps the reading of her main ms. Holm2, Þat var enn ok ǫnnur ‘That was next and second’. (c) Kock (NN §§1856, 2467) eclectically chooses variants to make for smoother syntax and more logical meaning: Þat var enn, es annat… ‘It was further, that a second …’. The choice of sg. annat rather than pl. ǫnnur enables the battle-kenning þing odda to be taken as sg., which as Kock points out is preferable in the context of the poem as a whole, where each stanza tells of only one battle. — [2] svik né fôlusk ‘treachery was not hidden’: Svik is n. pl. This presumably refers to the duplicity of the inhabitants; see Context. — [3] eyddri ‘destroyed’: The fact that Óláfr goes to battle in a place that is described as ‘destroyed’ could simply anticipate the outcome, but together with enn ‘again’ in l. 7 it might rather suggest prior military activity in the place, and this is implied in Snorri’s prose, which refers to raiding before the pitched battle, though the exact sequence of events is not clear. The constraints of the metrical lines and the need, in Víkv, for a numbered sequence of decisive battles could well have led Sigvatr to simplify a more complex sequence of events. — [4] Eysýslu ‘Saaremaa’: Lit. ‘island-district’. The Estonian island known as Ösel in Swedish.  — [5-8]: ÓHLeg (1982, 42) echoes the metaphor of the farmers praising or thanking their feet for their lives, raising the possibility that it had access to more of the poem than it cites (see Introduction, above). — [6] beið ór stað ‘stood waiting for’: Lit. ‘waited for from [their] position, waited for in that place’. For this idiom, see Fritzner: bíða 1 and ONP: bíða A1, also Hávh Lv 11/4V (Háv 12). — [7] enn ‘again’: See Note to l. 3.

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