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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 2 July 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, 715

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

13 — Sigv Lv 13I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 13’ 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. 715.

Fjandr ganga þar þengils
(þjóð býðr opt) með sjóða
(hǫfgan malm fyr hilmis
haus ófalan) lausa.
Sitt veit hverr, ef harra
hollan selr við golli,
— vert es slíks — í svǫrtu,
sinn, helvíti innan.


Enemies of the prince go there with open purses; people are repeatedly offering solid metal for the not-for-sale skull of the ruler [Óláfr]. Everyone knows his lot will be within black Hell if he sells his gracious lord for gold; that is deserving of such.

context: King Knútr sends his emissaries throughout Norway to distribute money to those who will support him and resist King Óláfr. Some who accept the money do so openly, but most keep it a secret. King Óláfr hears all about this, and Sigvatr composes this stanza and the next.

notes: For Lv 13-15, the text in J2ˣ belongs to the Hkr redaction; see Introduction. — [5-8]: (a) The overall analysis of clauses shown above is also that of most previous eds, including Skj B. However, it assumes a convoluted word order, and there is disagreement as to the status of sitt in l. 5 and sinn in l. 8. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27; so also Hkr 1991) takes sinn to be a n. noun meaning ‘company, fellowship’, a usage that is unattested but supported by the sense of the closely related sinni. He would have this qualified by sitt, enabling him to interpret the first clause to mean ‘Everyone knows his company to be (i.e. has an assigned place) in Hell’. Jón Skaptason (1983, 198) approves this interpretation, but he suggests the meaning ‘lot’ for sitt, taking sinn with harra, as also in the present edn. Kock (NN §1119) earlier gave a similar interpretation, but he took sinn to mean ‘journey’ (with the same etymological problem), rendering the sense ‘Everyone knows that his wandering will be in (i.e. that he will go to) Hell’. (b) A further possibility is to read Hverr innan í svǫrtu helvíti veit sitt, ef selr hollan harra sinn við golli; vert es slíks ‘Everyone within black Hell understands his own circumstances, if he sells his gracious lord for gold; that is deserving of such’. The general sense is then ‘Everyone in Hell knows why he is there, i.e. what his sins have been’. Then vert in l. 7 agrees with sitt, giving the intercalary clause the sense ‘His circumstances/sins are worthy of such punishment’.

texts: Flat 550, ÓH 113 (109), ÓHHkr 106 (II 106), Hkr 307 (II 106)

editions: Skj Sigvatr Þórðarson: 13. Lausavísur 16 (AI, 270; BI, 250); Skald I, 129, NN §1119; Fms 4, 376-7, Fms 12, 91, ÓH 1853, 172, ÓH 1853, 172, ÓH 1941, I, 457 (ch. 153), Flat 1860-8, II, 291; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 285, VI, 97-8, Hkr 1868, 431 (ÓHHkr ch. 171), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 382, IV, 148-9, ÍF 27, 294-5, Hkr 1991, II, 467 (ÓHHkr ch. 161); Konráð Gíslason 1892, 38, 180, Jón Skaptason 1983, 198, 322.


Holm perg 2 4° (Holm2) 54v, 26 - 54v, 28 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
Thott 972 folx (972x) 401vb, 34 - 401vb, 41 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  image  
Thott 972 folx (972x) 401va, 22 - 401va, 29 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 321 4°x (321x) 193, 1 - 193, 3 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 73 a folx (73ax) 166r, 9 - 166r, 9 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 68 fol (68) 52r, 20 - 52r, 22 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
Holm perg 4 4° (Holm4) 49ra, 32 - 49ra, 36 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 61 fol (61) 114ra, 6 - 114ra, 10 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  image  
AM 75 c fol (75c) 35r - 35v, 2 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 325 V 4° (325V) 62ra, 17 - 62ra, 23 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
Holm perg 1 fol (Bb) 184ra, 9 - 184ra, 13 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
GKS 1005 fol (Flat) 116va, 39 - 116va, 41 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  image  image  image  
GKS 1008 fol (Tóm) 142r, 9 - 142r, 11 (ÓH)  transcr.  image  
AM 36 folx (Kx) 419v, 14 - 419v, 21 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  
AM 38 folx (J2x) 202r, 19 - 202r, 26 (Hkr)  transcr.  image  
AM 761 b 4°x (761bx) 308r, 20 - 308v, 3  transcr.  image  
Runic data from Samnordisk runtextdatabas, Uppsala universitet, unless otherwise stated