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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, ‘(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.

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, 544

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Sigv Víkv 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 7’ 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. 544.

Enn lét sjaunda sinni
sverðþing háit verða
endr á Ulfkels landi
Ôleifr, sem ferk máli.
Stóð Hringmaraheiði
(herfall vas þar,) alla
Ellu kind (es olli
arfvǫrðr Haralds starfi).

Enn lét Ôleifr endr {sverðþing} verða háit sjaunda sinni á landi Ulfkels, sem ferk máli. {Kind Ellu} stóð alla Hringmaraheiði; herfall vas þar, es {arfvǫrðr Haralds} olli starfi.

Yet again Óláfr caused {a sword-assembly} [BATTLE] to be held for the seventh time in Ulfcytel’s land, as I recount the tale. {The offspring of Ælla} [= Englishmen] stood over all Ringmere Heath; there was slaying of the army there, where {the guardian of Haraldr’s inheritance} [= Óláfr] caused exertion.

Mss: (226v), papp18ˣ(67r) (Hkr); Holm2(7r), R686ˣ(12va), J2ˣ(122r), 325VI(6va), 73aˣ(20r), 78aˣ(19r-v), 68(6r), 61(80ra), 75c(3r), 325V(8vb), 325VII(2r), Bb(126vb), Flat(80rb), Tóm(96v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] sjaunda: ‘[…]vndi’ 325VI, ‘siunda’ Bb    [2] sverðþing: sverða þing 78aˣ;    háit: hátt papp18ˣ, J2ˣ, 78aˣ, 61, 325V, Tóm, hart R686ˣ, ‘ha(it)’(?) 325VI;    verða: ‘[...]da’ 325VI    [3] á: om. Bb;    Ulf‑: ‘ul‑’ papp18ˣ, ‘ylf‑’ Bb    [4] máli: môlum 61    [6] þar: þá R686ˣ, þat J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 61    [7] Ellu: ‘elle’ 68;    es (‘er’): en Holm2, R686ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [8] Haralds: Haraldr R686ˣ;    starfi: starfa J2ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 7: AI, 225, BI, 214, Skald I, 112; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 19-20, IV, 110, ÍF 27, 18, Hkr 1991, I, 262 (ÓHHkr ch. 14); ÓH 1941, I, 45 (ch. 23), Flat 1860-8, II, 20; Fell 1981b, 115-16, Jón Skaptason 1983, 59, 223.

Context: Óláfr spends the winter with King Aðalráðr (Æthelred) in England and they jointly fight and win a battle against Úlfkell (Ulfcytel) snillingr at Hringmaraheiðr (Ringmere Heath).

Notes: [All]: For the battle at Ringmere Heath, see also Ótt Hfl 9, and for a seemingly later encounter in the same place, see ÞKolb Eirdr 15. — [3] endr ‘again’: Endr can mean either ‘again’ or ‘formerly, long ago’ (Fritzner: endr 1, 2). — [3] landi Ulfkels ‘Ulfcytel’s land’: East Anglia. Úlfkell is Ulfcytel, ealdorman (earl or chief nobleman) of the East Angles. Despite his Scandinavian name, he was a defender of English soil and is several times mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ASC) as a military leader opposing the viking raiders led by Þorkell. Úlfkell is also mentioned in Anon Liðs 6/2, where the form Ullkell appears to be required (see Note). His ON nickname snillingr would mean ‘man of valour’ or possibly ‘man of eloquence’. — [5] stóð ‘stood over’: The transitive use of standa is rare. It mainly has the sense ‘overcome’ or ‘surprise’ (LP: standa 7), but since a statement that troops overcame a heath would be problematic, this contextual interpretation has been tentatively adopted. The image is perhaps comparable with Sigv ErfÓl 10/1, 2 Vítt vas fold und fótum ... mǫnnum ‘Far and wide the ground was under the feet of men’. — [5] Hringmaraheiði ‘Ringmere Heath’: The location of this battle is not known for certain, though there is a Ringmere Pit near Thetford in Norfolk which is a likely candidate (see also Note to Ótt Hfl 9/3, where the metre of the two lines is also discussed, and Townend 1998, 38-42). The battle is referred to in the ASC (s. a. 1010), though its location is not named in English sources before John of Worcester (Townend 1998, 41). These sources describe a battle between Ulfcytel’s forces and Viking invaders, which can be reconciled with Sigvatr’s stanza (which implies that Óláfr’s opponents were English) but not with Snorri’s prose. On the historical problems with the sources, and the possibility that Óláfr intially fought against the English but later for them, see Note to st. 6 [All]. — [7-8] es arfvǫrðr Haralds olli starfi ‘where the guardian of Haraldr’s inheritance [= Óláfr] caused exertion’: As noted in ÍF 27, the subordinate clause could be taken with either of the other clauses in the helmingr. The analysis of the kenning is uncertain. (a) Structurally, it is taken here as a simple kenning in which arfvǫrðr, lit. ‘inheritance-guardian’ is equivalent to arfi ‘heir’, frequent in kennings (LP: arfi). It is assumed that the kenning designates Óláfr as the son of his father Haraldr grenski ‘from Grenland’ Guðrøðarson (so also Krag 1989, 297-8). (b) It has often been interpreted as a reference to Óláfr’s distant ancestor Haraldr hárfagri ‘Fair-hair’ and his unification of Norway. If so, the phrase could be construed as an inverted tvíkent kenning, ‘the guardian of the inheritance of Haraldr [NORWAY > = Óláfr]’. — [7] kind Ellu ‘the offspring of Ælla [= Englishmen]’: The allusion may be to the Northumbrian king Ælla who according to the ASC (s. a. 867) was not of royal birth and was killed by the Danes at York in 867, yet who appears in skaldic poetry as ‘a defining ancestor for the Anglo-Saxon royal house’ (see Note to Sigv Knútdr 1/1 and Townend 1997). — [8] arfvǫrðr ‘the guardian ... of inheritance’: Hofmann (1955, 81) argues for English influence on arfvǫrðr, but see Note to st. 1/4 above.

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