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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, ‘ 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. <> (accessed 1 July 2022)

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, 623

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

6 — Sigv Vestv 6I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Vestrfararvísur 6’ 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. 623.

Heim erum hingat komnir
— hygg at, jǫfurr skatna —
— menn nemi môl, sem innik,
mín — stallarar þínir.
Seg, hvar sess hafið hugðan
seims, þjóðkonungr, beimum
(allr es þekkr) með þollum
(þinn skáli mér innan).

Erum komnir heim hingat, stallarar þínir; hygg at, jǫfurr skatna; menn nemi môl mín, sem innik. Seg, þjóðkonungr, hvar hafið hugðan beimum sess með {þollum seims}; allr skáli þinn es mér þekkr innan.

We have come home here, your marshals; consider [that], prince of men [Óláfr]; let people take note of my words as I utter them. Say, mighty king, where you have decided on a seat for men [us] among {the firs of gold} [MEN]; all the inside of your hall is agreeable to me.

Mss: (418v), J2ˣ(201v) (Hkr); Holm2(54v), 972ˣ(399va), 321ˣ(192), 73aˣ(165r), 68(52r), Holm4(48vb), 61(113vb), 75c(34v-35r), 325V(61vb), Bb(183vb), Flat(116ra-b), Tóm(141v) (ÓH)

Readings: [2] hygg (‘hygg þu’): hugða Holm2;    at: om. Bb, Tóm;    jǫfurr: konungr 68, jǫfurr at því Bb    [3] innik: ‘[...]’ 75c    [4] mín: minn J2ˣ;    stallarar: stallari 61, stallara Flat;    þínir: þínu 61    [5] Seg: ‘seigu’ 972ˣ;    sess: þess Holm2;    hafið: hefr 972ˣ    [6] seims: ‘semis’ or seims 321ˣ, seim 61, 75c, Bb, Flat;    beimum: so Holm2, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, Holm4, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, beima corrected from seima Kˣ, beima J2ˣ, 972ˣ, Tóm    [7] allr: allt 321ˣ;    þekkr: þaktr 75c, þokkr Bb, þýðum Tóm;    með: om. Tóm;    þollum: þollr 68

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 5. Vestrfararvísur 6: AI, 242-3, BI, 227, Skald I, 118, NN §§634, 1879, 1914C, 2258, 2983Hkr 1893-1901, II, 380, IV, 148, ÍF 27, 292-3, Hkr 1991, II, 466 (ÓHHkr ch. 160); ÓH 1941, I, 455 (ch. 152), Flat 1860-8, II, 288Jón Skaptason 1983, 109, 251-2.

Context: In a chapter focusing on Sigvatr, the passage refers back to the time when, having received permission from Knútr to sail to Norway (see st. 2 and its Context), Sigvatr goes directly to King Óláfr in Borg (Sarpsborg). The king does not return his greeting.

Notes: [All]: For sts 6 and 7, the text in J2ˣ was copied from K and hence belongs to the Hkr redaction, unlike the remainder of the Vestv stanzas in J2ˣ, which belong to the ÓH redaction. — [4, 6] stallarar þínir; beimum ‘your marshals; men [us]’: The prose account makes no mention of any travelling companions, though such are referred to in sts 1/1 (Bergr) and 5/4 (Húnn = Bersi). Alternatively, the plurals could have sg. reference, and that is how they are taken in Skj B and ÍF 27. — [6-8]: Kock (NN §634) achieves a simpler word order by construing seims ‘of gold’ with þjóðkonungr ‘mighty king’, but the parallels he cites for this unusual expression (not a kenning) are not convincing, and þollum ‘firs’ is left without a determinant. — [7, 8] allr skáli þinn es mér þekkr innan ‘all the inside of your hall is agreeable to me’: Lit. ‘all your hall is agreeable to me on the inside’. This could mean that Sigvatr would be happy to sit anywhere in the hall (so ÍF 27; also Hkr 1991), though in the light of l. 1 it may rather be the poet stressing that he has returned to his rightful place, despite his visit to Knútr in England. It seems to have been understood in this way by Snorri (ÍF 27, 293) who after citing st. 7 says that Óláfr directed Sigvatr to his usual seat.

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