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Runic Dictionary

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

5. Vestrfararvísur (Vestv) - 8

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).

Vestrfararvísur (‘Verses on a Journey to the West’) — Sigv VestvI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Vestrfararvísur’ 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. 615.

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 5. Vestrfararvísur, 1025-26 (AI, 241-3, BI, 226-8)

SkP info: I, 617

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Sigv Vestv 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Vestrfararvísur 1’ 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. 617.

Bergr, hǫfum minnzk, hvé margan
morgun Rúðu borgar
bǫrð létk í fǫr fyrða
fest við arm inn vestra.

Bergr, hǫfum minnzk, hvé margan morgun létk bǫrð fest við inn vestra arm borgar Rúðu í fǫr fyrða.

Bergr, we have remembered how, many a morning, I caused the stem to be moored to the western rampart of Rouen’s fortifications in the company of men.

Mss: (406r) (Hkr); Holm2(51r), 972ˣ(368va), 321ˣ(181), 73aˣ(157v-158r), 68(49r), Holm4(45rb), 61(111rb), 325V(57ra-b), Bb(180va), Flat(114vb), Tóm(137v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] hǫfum: hefir Flat;    hvé: ‘hu’ 325V;    margan: marga 61, margar Flat    [2] morgun: morgin 972ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, Tóm;    Rúðu: rauðu 325V, ‘Rodar’ Tóm    [3] bǫrð: borð 73aˣ, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm, om. 61;    létk (‘let ec’): lét 321ˣ, 73aˣ, leit ek Tóm;    í fǫr fyrða: í fǫr í fyrða 61, ‘ifavrða’ 325V, í fǫr jǫfra ferða Tóm    [4] fest: flest Flat, fýst Tóm;    við: í Flat;    vestra: fyrsta Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 5. Vestrfararvísur 1: AI, 241, BI, 226, Skald I, 117, NN §§620, 630Hkr 1893-1901, II, 351, IV, 142, ÍF 27, 271, Hkr 1991, II, 450 (ÓHHkr ch. 146); ÓH 1941, I, 426 (ch. 136), Flat 1860-8, II, 276Jón Skaptason 1983, 104, 247.

Context: Sigvatr and his companion Bergr travel to England from Rúða (Rouen), where they have been on a trading voyage.

Notes: [1] Bergr: This, and the prose context, is the sole mention of this man, though see Note to st. 6/4, 6. — [1-2] margan morgun ‘many a morning’: Skj B (followed by ÍF 27 and Jón Skaptason 1983) links this adverbial phrase with the verb hǫfum minnzk ‘we have remembered’, which leaves the conj. hvé ‘how’ separated from the clause it introduces. — [2] borgar Rúðu ‘of Rouen’s fortifications’: The names of certain foreign towns were Scandinavianised in ON by using the element borg ‘fortifications, fortified place’ (e.g. Akrsborg for Acre in ESk Sigdr I 3/8II, Þsvart Lv 1/8II, Oddi Lv 4/8II, -borg rhyming with morgin in the first two), and it is possible that Rúðuborg should be regarded as a cpd p. n. However, borg may also have specific reference to the fortifications, as suggested here, with borgar qualifying inn vestra arm ‘the western arm or rampart’ (so also NN §630, ÍF 27 and Jón Skaptason 1983, and compare Bǫlv Hardr 2/8II and Anon (HSig) 2/8II, in each of which armr ‘rampart’ is qualified by borgar). Skj B takes borgar instead as the gen. object of minnzk ‘remembered’. On the possible historical and archaeological context of this reference, see Jesch (2004a, 264-5). — [3] bǫrð ‘the stem’: Bǫrð, the pl. of n. barð, is chosen not only as the reading of the main ms., but also because it refers specifically to the stem of a ship, often the fore-stem or the prow, and so is particularly appropriate in a context which concerns tying up at a landing-place (Jesch 2001a, 148-50). The pl. bǫrð here may designate a single prow, perhaps because barð designated a feature on both sides of the prow, hence the prow itself (see LP: barð 3). Alternatively, it could refer to both stems, and the ship could be tied up at both ends. The common variant reading borð ‘plank(s)’, as a pars pro toto for ‘ship’, is also possible.

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