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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

12. Lausavísur (Lv) - 30

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).

Lausavísur — Sigv LvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur’ 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. 698. <> (accessed 17 January 2022)

stanzas:  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 13. Lausavísur (AI, 265-75, BI, 246-54); stanzas (if different): 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32

SkP info: I, 710

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

9 — Sigv Lv 9I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 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. 710.

Sendi mér inn mæri
— man þengill sá drengi —
(síð munk heldr at hróðri)
hnytr þjóðkonungr (snytrask).
Opt, en okkr bað skipta
Óttar í tvau dróttinn,
endask môl, sem myndim,
manndjarfr, fǫðurarfi.

Inn mæri þjóðkonungr sendi mér hnytr; sá þengill man drengi; munk snytrask at hróðri heldr síð. Môl endask opt, en manndjarfr dróttinn bað okkr Óttar skipta í tvau, sem myndim fǫðurarfi.

The famous great king sent nuts to me; that prince remembers his fellows; I shall probably grow wise at encomium rather late. Meals often come to an end, and the man-bold lord told Óttarr and me to divide [the nuts] in two as we would a father’s inheritance.

Mss: DG8(91v) (ÓHLeg); Flat(187rb), Tóm(122v), 73aˣ(95v), 71ˣ(78r), 76aˣ(100v-101r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] mæri: mæti Tóm    [2] man: mann Flat    [3] síð: síðan Tóm    [4] hnytr: so 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, nætr DG8, hnetr Flat, Tóm;    snytrask: so Flat, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, vitrask DG8, letjask Tóm, ‘snytras’ 73aˣ    [6] tvau: tvá Flat, Tóm, ‘tvan’ 71ˣ    [7] endask: enda Tóm;    myndim: so Flat, ‘minndi’ DG8, mundum Tóm, 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ    [8] ‑arfi: arfinn 71ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 10: AI, 268, BI, 248, Skald I, 128, NN §§2010, 2338C; ÓHLeg 1849, 47, 110, ÓHLeg 1922, 58, ÓHLeg 1982, 136-7; Fms 5, 176, Fms 12, 109, ÓH 1849, 47, 110, Flat 1860-8, III, 242-3, ÓH 1941, II, 689, 703, 705; Konráð Gíslason 1892, 39, 182, 231, Jón Skaptason 1983, 192, 318-19.

Context: After Sigvatr and his nephew, the skald Óttarr svarti, have served King Óláfr for a long time, they are not as valued as they had once been. One day the king sends them nuts from his table, and Sigvatr composes this stanza. Except in Tóm, the prose adds, either before or after the stanza, that the king tells them to divide the nuts between them as evenly as if they were dividing their paternal inheritance. After Sigvatr delivers the stanza, Óttarr speaks another (Ótt Lv 1). In all the texts but ÓHLeg, it is said that the king smiles at hearing the two stanzas.

Notes: [4] hnytr ‘nuts’: The usual form is hnetr, but Kock (NN §2010B) is right that hnytr, the form required by the aðalhending, is what should be expected on an etymological basis. It is not surprising that a word as uncommon in literature as this should not happen to be attested elsewhere in its older form. — [4] snytrask ‘grow wise’: The verb is found nowhere else, but Kock (NN §2010A) rightly points out that it is presupposed by the agent noun snytrir ‘one who makes wise’ (LP: snytrir). The reading letjask ‘to become unwilling or slow’ chosen by Konráð Gíslason (1892, 39) and by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B, and so also hnetr for hnytr, for the sake of the hending) may in fact be cleverer, but it is found only in Tóm, whose readings for this stanza are generally unreliable. It is easy to explain why snytrask should have been altered to letjask (to rhyme with hnetr once it replaced the older hnytr), but it would not be easy to explain the reverse alteration. What Sigvatr seems to mean, with high irony, is that some day he will learn to compose verses commensurate with the king’s gifts to him. Jón Skaptason (1983, 192) takes the meaning to be ‘I shall not soon become wise (or: lazy) from praising [you]’. Poole (2005a, 273), largely in agreement with Kock, translates, ‘it will be a long time before I devote more art to praise poetry’, and it is quite possible that this is what is meant. — [5, 6] okkr ... Óttar ‘Óttarr and me’: So Kock (NN §2010E, followed by ÓHLeg 1982 and by Jón Skaptason 1983), criticizing Finnur Jónsson’s reading of Óttarr as a vocative in Skj B. For Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’ (Ótt), see the skald Biography. — [5, 7] môl endask opt ‘meals often come to an end’: Môl is probably to be taken as a pun, since it may mean ‘meals’ (in reference to the nuts), ‘tales’ (the one Sigvatr is telling), and ‘matters, affairs’, especially legal affairs (in reference to the dividing of the supposed inheritance). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) hesitatingly takes the meaning to be ‘words are often fulfilled, come true’, and if this is the sense, Sigvatr may be chiding Óláfr for the miserliness of the ‘inheritance’ (or gifts) he provides his poets. That is, ‘as we should divide an inheritance’ may turn out to be an actual case of poor reward, not merely a comparison. But endask, though it may mean ‘to turn out’, is not otherwise attested in the sense ‘come true’. Kock (NN §2010) construes opt with bað ‘asked, told’ (l. 5) in the main clause, where it makes no obvious sense (whereas in the intercalary clause it may have a universalizing, satirically gnomic function), and this in turn obliges him to ignore en ‘and, but’ in l. 5, which he takes as enn in NN §2010D, dismissing it as not needing translation. The purpose of these rearrangements is to allow him to interpret endask môl to mean ‘the poem comes to an end’, parallel to endisk leyfð ‘the praise ends’ and lýkk vísu nú ‘I close my verse now’ in Lv 6/7-8. Jón Skaptason (1983, 192) translates, ‘Disputes often drag on (?)’.

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