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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, 547

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Sigv Víkv 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 9’ 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. 547.

Vann ungr konungr Englum
ótrauðr skarar rauðar;
endr kom brúnt á branda
blóð í Nýjamóðu.
Nú hefk orrostur, austan
ógnvaldr, níu talðar;
herr fell danskr, þars dǫrrum
dreif mest at Ôleifi.

Ungr, ótrauðr konungr vann Englum rauðar skarar; brúnt blóð kom endr á branda í Nýjamóðu. Nú hefk talðar níu orrostur, {ógnvaldr} austan; danskr herr fell, þars dǫrrum dreif mest at Ôleifi.

The young, not unwilling king made the hair of the English red; dark red blood again came onto swords in Nýjamóða. Now I have enumerated nine battles, {battle-causer} [WARRIOR] from the east; the Danish army fell, where spears drove most against Óláfr.

Mss: (227v) (Hkr); Holm2(7r), R686ˣ(12va-b), J2ˣ(123r), 325VI(6va), 73aˣ(20v-21r), 78aˣ(20r), 68(6r), 61(80ra-b), 75c(3v), 325V(9ra), 325VII(2r), Bb(127ra), Flat(80va), Tóm(96v) (ÓH); FskBˣ(40v), FskAˣ(154) (Fsk, ll. 5-8); DG8(73v) (ÓHLeg, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] konungr: om. 325V    [2] ótrauðr: ‘otruþr’ R686ˣ;    skarar: skarr R686ˣ, skarir 73aˣ, Tóm    [3] brúnt: brant R686ˣ, ‘brundt’ J2ˣ, brýnt Tóm    [5] hefk (‘hefi ec’): hefði ek R686ˣ, hefir FskBˣ;    orrostur: orrostu R686ˣ, orrostan Flat, ‘orrostr’ FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    austan: om. Flat    [6] ‑valdr: so R686ˣ, 325VI, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, DG8, ‘dvalþ̄’ Kˣ, ‑djarfr Holm2, 68, ‑djarfs J2ˣ, ‑valds 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 75c, ‘dualdr’ 61    [7] þars (‘þar er’): fyrir 73aˣ, er 61, þá er Bb, með Flat, Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 9: AI, 225-6, BI, 215, Skald I, 112, NN §614; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 22, IV, 111-12, ÍF 27, 21, Hkr 1991, I, 264 (ÓHHkr ch. 15); ÓH 1941, I, 47 (ch. 24), Flat 1860-8, II, 21; Fsk 1902-3, 142 (ch. 25), ÍF 29, 169 (ch. 27); ÓHLeg 1922, 13, ÓHLeg 1982, 56-7; Fell 1981b, 117-18, Jón Skaptason 1983, 61, 224.

Context: In ÓH-Hkr, it is said that Óláfr had responsibility for defending England and won a battle against the þingmannalið ‘troop of assembly members’ in Nýjamóða. Both Fsk and ÓHLeg note that Óláfr’s ninth battle was at Nýjamóða and that Sigvatr says that he ‘again fought against the Danes’.

Notes: [4] Nýjamóðu ‘Nýjamóða’: It is likely that this represents the now obsolete p. n. Newemouth (recorded in 1286), ‘on the Suffolk coast between Orford and Aldeburgh’ (Townend 1998, 61). ON ný- is cognate with ME newe ‘new’, while ON móða normally means ‘river’ (LP: móða) but provides a useful approximation to OE mūða ‘mouth, estuary’.  — [5] austan ‘from the east’: In the absence of a better solution, this is taken here as qualifying the noun ógnvaldr ‘battle-causer [WARRIOR]’ (so also NN §614, ÍF 27 and LP: austan, with emendation of ógnvaldr to allvaldr). In addressing Óláfr as ‘from the east’, Sigvatr may simply mean ‘from Norway’, from an Icelandic point of view (cf. austmaðr ‘Norwegian’), or else may refer specifically to Óláfr’s early campaigns in the Baltic. The usage is unusual, since austan most often qualifies verbs or full sentences, as in Sigv Knútdr 7/2 frá austan ‘learned [news] from the east’. Finnur Jónsson (see Note to l. 7 below) originally took austan with danskr herr ‘Danish army’, which gives good sense but awkward word order. — [6] ógnvaldr ‘battle-causer [WARRIOR]’: The rhyming of -ld- : -lð- (here vald- : talð-) is allowed in dróttkvætt (Kuhn 1983, 79). The reading ‘dvalþ̄’ does not make sense but may have arisen as a hypercorrect attempt to produce a rhyme of -- : --. The reading ógnvaldr is chosen here since it has the widest support in the paradosis, and the second person address to Óláfr is paralleled in sts 2/8 (which has allvaldr ‘mighty ruler’), 5/1 and 11/1. The main alternatives ógnvalds ‘of the warrior’ and ógndjarfr ‘battle-brave’ are possible but poorly represented. — [7] danskr herr ‘the Danish army’: Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901; Skj B), construing this with austan ‘from the east’ (l. 5), takes it strictly to mean Danes, though in LP he revised his view of austan (see Note above). Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27) suggests a broader reference to the company of Nordic vikings (cf. Note to st. 15/8).

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