Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)
11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;
1. Víkingarvísur (Víkv) - 15
2. Nesjavísur (Nesv) - 15
3. Austrfararvísur (Austv) - 21
4. Óláfsdrápa (Óldr) - 1
5. Vestrfararvísur (Vestv) - 8
6. Poem about Erlingr Skjálgsson (Erl) - 1
7. Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson (Erlfl) - 10
8. Tryggvaflokkr (Tryggfl) - 1
9. Poem about Queen Ástríðr (Ást) - 3
10. Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 11
11. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (ErfÓl) - 28
12. Lausavísur (Lv) - 30
II. Bersǫglisvísur (Berv) - 18
III. Fragments (Frag) - 2
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’)
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.
Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 5. Vestrfararvísur, 1025-26 (AI, 241-3, BI, 226-8)
SkP info: I, 622
5 — Sigv Vestv 5I
Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Vestrfararvísur 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. 622.
|Knútr hefr okkr inn ítri
hendr, es hilmi fundum,
Húnn, skrautliga búnar.
|Þér gaf hann mǫrk eða meira |
margvitr ok hjǫr bitran
golls — ræðr gǫrva ǫllu
goð sjalfr — en mér halfa.
Inn ítri Knútr, alldáðgǫfugr, hefr búnar hendr okkr bôðum skrautliga, Húnn, es fundum hilmi. Þér gaf hann margvitr mǫrk eða meira golls ok bitran hjǫr, en mér halfa; goð sjalfr ræðr ǫllu gǫrva.
The excellent Knútr, highly renowned for deeds, has adorned both our arms splendidly, Húnn (‘Bear-Cub’) [Bersi], when we met the ruler. To you he, wise in many ways, gave a mark or more of gold and a sharp sword, and to me half [a mark]; God himself decides everything completely.
Mss: Kˣ(369v) (Hkr); Holm2(41v), 325V(44va), 972ˣ(296va), J2ˣ(182v), 325VI(29vb), 75a(30vb), 73aˣ(134v), 68(40r), 61(104vb), Holm4(34vb), 325VII(23v), Bb(171va), Flat(111vb), Tóm(129v), 325XI 2 g(2va) (ÓH); JÓ(34), 873ˣ(15r), 20dˣ(14v), 41ˣ(14r-v), 20i 23ˣ(19v-20v) (Knýtl)
Readings:  Knútr hefr okkr: ‘[…](oc)r’(?) 325XI 2 g; inn: ‘e’ 325XI 2 g  ‑dáðgǫfugr: ‘‑daðgꜹfgr’ J2ˣ, ‘‑daðgavfor’ 68, ‑dag gǫfugr Bb, ‑dáðgǫfugr with ‘‑dafugr’ in margin (citing ‘membr’) JÓ, 20i 23ˣ, ‘dadgofigr’ 873ˣ, ‘‑dafugur’ 41ˣ; bôðum: ‘baþ[…]’ 325XI 2 g, om. 20dˣ  hendr es hilmi: ‘[…]lmi’ 325XI 2 g; hendr: hendi 73aˣ; es (‘er’): síz 325V, Tóm, enn 68, Bb, Flat, ‘s[…]’ 325VII; hilmi: holmi J2ˣ; fundum: fundu 41ˣ  Húnn: so 73aˣ, Tóm, hún Kˣ, Holm2, 325V, J2ˣ, Holm4, 325VII, Bb, Flat, 325XI 2 g, húns 325VI, 68, 61, JÓ, 873ˣ, 20dˣ, 41ˣ, 20i 23ˣ; skrautliga: skrautligast Holm4, 325VII, Bb, Flat; búnar: corrected from búnir 325VII  Þér gaf hann mǫrk: ‘[…]ꜹrc’ 325XI 2 g; Þér: corrected from þar 325VII; hann: om. 75a  margvitr: ‘Mart[…]vitr’ 972ˣ, ‘marg[…]r’ 325VI, manvitr 325VII; bitran: ‘tiartan’ 972ˣ, bjartan 325VII, Tóm, ‘[…]’ 325XI 2 g  golls: ‘[…]’ 325XI 2 g; ræðr: réð 75a; ǫllu: heillum J2ˣ, 75a  mér halfa: mér sjalfa Flat, ‘[…]’ 325XI 2 g
Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 5. Vestrfararvísur 5: AI, 242, BI, 227, Skald I, 118; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 286, IV, 140, ÍF 27, 224, Hkr 1991, I, 413 (ÓHHkr ch. 131); ÓH 1941, I, 342 (ch. 120), Flat 1860-8, II, 253; ÍF 35, 126-7 (Knýtl ch. 19); Jón Skaptason 1983, 108, 251.
In ÓH-Hkr, Sigvatr is in England with King Knútr when he makes a claim on Norway. The king gives Sigvatr a gold ring and Bersi Skáld-Torfuson two gold rings and a sword. In Knýtl, the citation of Þloft Tøgdr 7 is followed by a reference to Knútr’s gift to Bersi and this stanza, but there is no mention of a gift to Sigvatr.
Notes:  Húnn ‘Húnn (“Bear-Cub”) [Bersi]’: Bersi Skáld-Torfuson (Bersi; see skald Biography). He is here referred to by ofljóst, since both húnn and bersi are common nouns for ‘bear’, the former particularly meaning ‘bear-cub’ (LP: 1. húnn 1). — [7-8] goð sjalfr ræðr ǫllu gǫrva ‘God himself decides everything completely’: It is not clear whether the dominant tone here is of resignation (cf. Hkr 1893-1901, IV) or of hope for better things (ÍF 27; also Hkr 1991). The stanza is probably best read in conjunction with st. 7 as the poet accepting the financial consequences of not becoming a firm supporter of Knútr.