Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

12. Lausavísur (Lv) - 30

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).

Lausavísur — Sigv LvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) 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.

 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, 712

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

11 — Sigv Lv 11I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 11’ 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. 712.

Seinn þykki mér sunnan
sókndjarfr Haralds arfi;
langrs, en lýðum þrøngvir
lífs sorg, konungs morginn.
Hvatkis heiðis gatna
hyrtælanda sælan
— nú hefk vætt í dag dróttins —
dvelr, bíðk hans í Selju.

{Sókndjarfr arfi Haralds} þykki mér seinn sunnan; langrs morginn konungs, en sorg lífs þrøngvir lýðum. Hvatkis dvelr {sælan {{heiðis gatna} hyr}tælanda}, bíðk hans í Selju; nú hefk vætt dróttins í dag.

{The attack-brave heir of Haraldr} [= Óláfr] seems late to me [in coming] from the south; long is the king’s morning, and life’s sorrow presses on men. Whatever delays {the fortunate destroyer {of the flame {of the paths of the hawk}}} [ARMS > GOLD > GENEROUS MAN], I await him in Selja; now I have been expecting [my] lord today.

Mss: Flat(129vb), Tóm(163r), 73aˣ(224r), 71ˣ(196r), 76aˣ(245v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Seinn: Sveinn Tóm;    þykki: so 73aˣ, 71ˣ, ‘þiki’ Flat, Tóm    [3] langrs (‘langr er’): ‘laung er’ Tóm;    en lýðum: so 73aˣ, 71ˣ, at lýða Flat, Tóm, ‘enn lydinn’ 76aˣ;    þrøngvir: so 73aˣ, 71ˣ, þengils Flat, þengil Tóm, þreyngir 76aˣ    [4] konungs: þat Tóm    [5] Hvatkis (‘huatkí er’): so Tóm, 73aˣ, 71ˣ, hvatka ek Flat, 76aˣ;    heiðis: hilmi 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ;    gatna: gǫtva Flat, Tóm, gotna 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ    [6] ‑tælanda: ‑tælandi Tóm, tælandann 73aˣ, 71ˣ, ‘‑talandann’ 76aˣ;    sælan: sæla 73aˣ, 71ˣ    [7] vætt: vátt Tóm    [8] bíðk: býð ek 76aˣ;    hans: hann Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 14: AI, 269, BI, 249, Skald I, 129Fms 5, 211, Fms 12, 111, Flat 1860-8, II, 394, ÓH 1941, II, 840, 841; Jón Skaptason 1983, 196, 321.

Context: After King Óláfr’s death, Sigvatr, while anchored by an island called Selja, is composing a drápa about him. On the mainland nearby a farmer is ill, and his wife cares for him as his strength diminishes. The king appears to her in a dream, telling her that he will tend her husband if she will go to Sigvatr and tell him to intercalate the poem with allusions to Uppreistarsaga (perhaps the story of Creation; Flat and Tóm add that this was to replace allusions to the story of Sigurðr). She does so, and when she returns, the saint has healed her husband. Sigvatr does as he has been told, and then he falls ill. The king appears to him and tells him to come with him, and he names the day when that will happen. When the day comes, Sigvatr delivers this stanza. Then he dies.

Notes: [All]: By placing this stanza in the middle of Sigvatr’s lausavísur, previous eds presumably signal their belief that it alludes to an event earlier in Sigvatr’s life than the prose Context would suggest. — [2] arfi Haralds ‘heir of Haraldr [= Óláfr]’: The reference is most likely to be to Óláfr’s father Haraldr grenski ‘from Grenland’, though a claim of descent from Haraldr hárfagri (so Jón Skaptason 1983, 321) is also possible; cf. Note to Sigv Knútdr 3/2, 3. — [3, 4] langrs morginn konungs ‘long is the king’s morning’: Cf. Anon Mhkv 13/8III for this expression. — [3] en … þrøngvir lýðum ‘and … presses on men’: There is a general consensus that only the Bæb reading represented in 73aˣ and 71ˣ gives sense here (Skj B; Skald; Jón Skaptason 1983, 196). — [5] gatna ‘of the paths’: The emendation is defended by Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1902, 204) against the argument of Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson (Nj 1875-8, II, 86) that gǫtva in Flat is perhaps correct, representing the gen. pl. of an otherwise unattested f. noun from the stem *gatva-. — [8] Selju ‘Selja’: An island off the west coast of Norway, south of Stadlandet in northern Sogn og Fjordane, identified as the place where Óláfr Haraldsson landed on return from his English campaigns (see Note to Ótt Hfl 15/8). It became the site of a C12th Benedictine foundation and was associated with S. Sunnifa (see Note to Anon Mey 53VII [All]).

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