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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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 27 May 2022)

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, 540

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Sigv Víkv 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 5’ 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. 540.

Víg vannt, hlenna hneigir,
hjǫlmum grimmt it fimmta
— þolðu hlýr fyr hári
hríð Kinnlimasíðu —,
þás við rausn at ræsis
reið herr ofan skeiðum,
enn í gegn at gunni
gekk hilmis lið rekkum.

{Hneigir hlenna}, vannt it fimmta víg, grimmt hjǫlmum — hlýr þolðu hríð fyr hári Kinnlimasíðu —, þás herr reið ofan við rausn at skeiðum ræsis, enn lið hilmis gekk í gegn rekkum at gunni.

{Oppressor of thieves} [JUST RULER = Óláfr], you won the fifth battle, dangerous to helmets — the bows suffered a storm off high Kinnlimasíða —, when the army rode down magnificently to the ruler’s warships and the leader’s troop advanced against warriors in battle.

Mss: (224r) (Hkr); Holm2(6v), R686ˣ(11v), J2ˣ(121r), 325VI(6ra), 73aˣ(18v-19r), 78aˣ(17v), 68(5v), 61(79va), 325V(8ra), Bb(126rb), Flat(80ra), Tóm(96r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] hneigir: ‘h(n)ęgir’(?) Bb    [2] hjǫlmum: hǫlðum 61    [3] þolðu: þolðut 61, ‘þorldu’ Bb;    fyr: á Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    hári: hára 325V    [4] ‑síðu: ‘sudu’ Tóm    [5] þás (‘þa er’): þar er Holm2, R686ˣ, 68, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm, þat er J2ˣ;    at: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 325V, Bb, Tóm, at corrected from ok Kˣ, er Flat;    ræsis: ‘ræsizt’ Tóm    [6] reið: reiðr 325VI, 73aˣ, reiði 78aˣ, réð 325V;    herr: hverr 68, ferð 325V, Flat, Tóm;    ofan: ófám 325V;    skeiðum: sverðum 325V, skeiðu Flat    [7] gunni: grunni 73aˣ, ‘gunn’ Bb, gumnum Tóm    [8] hilmis: ‘hilms’ 78aˣ;    rekkum: rekkinn Bb

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 5: AI, 224, BI, 214, Skald I, 111; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 14-15, IV, 108, ÍF 27, 13, Hkr 1991, I, 259 (ÓHHkr ch. 11); ÓH 1941, I, 41 (ch. 22), Flat 1860-8, II, 18; Fell 1981b, 113-14, Jón Skaptason 1983, 57, 222.

Context: Having sailed to Frísland (Frisia) and waited out a storm, Óláfr goes ashore with his troop and the inhabitants ride down to meet them in battle.

Notes: [3, 4] hári Kinnlimasíðu ‘high Kinnlimasíða’: This is usually explained as Kennemerland, a coastal district in North Holland, with steep sand-dunes (Samplonius 1998, 93). Despite this, it is hard to imagine any Norwegian or Icelander describing anything in the Netherlands as ‘high’, or depicting the local army riding ‘down’ to the ships (l. 6). There are also philological difficulties; for further discussion, see Jesch (2001a, 82-3). — [7] enn ‘and’: The conj. en(n) ‘and, but’, rather than the adv. ‘again, further’, is indicated by the word order in ll. 7-8. Most eds including Skj B and ÍF 27 print the conj. in the form en, but enn is a possible form of the conj., produces a better rhyme with gunn- than en, and is the reading of all mss but Bb. 

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