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Runic Dictionary

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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 1 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, 719

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

16 — Sigv Lv 16I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 16’ 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. 719.

Út býðr allvaldr sveitum
Englands, en vér fengum
— lítt sék lofðung óttask —
liðfæð ok skip smæri.
Rôð eru ljót, ef láta
landsmenn konung þenna
— lætr einǫrð fé firrða
ferð — liðþrota verða.

{Allvaldr Englands} býðr sveitum út, en vér fengum liðfæð ok smæri skip; lítt sék lofðung óttask. Rôð eru ljót, ef landsmenn láta þenna konung verða liðþrota; fé lætr ferð firrða einǫrð.

{The mighty ruler of England} [= Knútr] calls the war-bands out, but we have got a scarcity of men and smaller ships; little do I see [our] prince show anxiety. Our options are ugly if his countrymen let this king run short of troops; money deprives people of their constancy.

Mss: Holm2(56r), 972ˣ(415va), J2ˣ(205r), 321ˣ(208), Bæb(1vb), 73aˣ(175r), 68(56r), Holm4(53vb), 61(115ra), 325V(66va), Bb(188rb), Flat(118rb), Tóm(145r) (ÓH); Kˣ(425r-v) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] býðr: biðr 73aˣ;    ‑valdr: ‘velldr’ Bb;    sveitum: svǫrtum Tóm    [2] Englands: England 321ˣ;    fengum: fengjum 68    [3] lofðung: ‘lífðung’ Tóm;    óttask: átta 972ˣ    [4] ‑fæð ok: so Kˣ, fær ok Holm2, J2ˣ, Holm4, færri ok 972ˣ, færa 321ˣ, Bæb, 73aˣ, ‑færr ok 68;    smæri: ‘smærri’(?) 321ˣ    [5] eru ljót: er sótt 321ˣ;    láta: óttask 321ˣ    [6] lands‑: liðs Bæb, 73aˣ;    ‑menn: mann 61    [7] lætr: letr 73aˣ, svíkr Tóm;    ‑ǫrð: ‑orði Kˣ;    fé: þó þó Tóm;    firrða: so Bæb, 68, Holm4, 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm, firða Holm2, 972ˣ, Kˣ, finna J2ˣ, 321ˣ, ‘fyrðv’ 325V    [8] ferð: ‘fd’ Bb, ‘þeir pyrir’ Tóm;    ‑þrota: þroti Bæb, 73aˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 19: AI, 271, BI, 250-1, Skald I, 129, NN §2778; Fms 5, 1, Fms 12, 92, ÓH 1853, 178, 287, ÓH 1941, I, 468 (ch. 162), Flat 1860-8, II, 304; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 293, VI, 98-9, Hkr 1868, 437 (ÓHHkr ch. 178), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 392, IV, 150, ÍF 27, 303-4, Hkr 1991, II, 474 (ÓHHkr ch. 168); Konráð Gíslason 1892, 38, 181, Jón Skaptason 1983, 201, 323-4.

Context: When it becomes known that King Knútr is gathering an invincible army for the conquest of Norway, it becomes all the more difficult for King Óláfr to build up his forces. His men often discuss this among themselves, and Sigvatr delivers this stanza.

Notes: [All]: Hellberg (1981a, 11-21) argues that the context is not at all as Snorri says, but that this and the following vísa were composed in Denmark and concern the feudal obligation of vassals to provide troops for King Knútr. — [4] liðfæð ok skip smæri ‘a scarcity of men and smaller ships’: Gering (1912, 134-5) would read, in accordance with Bæb, asyndetic lið færa, skip smæri ‘fewer men, smaller ships’, presumably for metrical reasons, but the rhyme of ð and r is licit: see Kuhn (1936b, 137-8); Kuhn (1983, 46, 79); Note to Lv 8/5 (cf. Sievers 1893, §60 Anm. 4, qualified by Kristján Árnason 1991, 99-100, citing this line). — [7-8] fé lætr ferð firrða einǫrð ‘money deprives people of their constancy’: The sense is clearly that Óláfr has lost support because of bribery, but the syntax is uncertain. (a) The present interpretation follows Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) in regarding as nom. and fir(r)ða as f. acc. sg. p. p. of firra ‘remove’, qualifying ferð ‘company’, hence lit. ‘money makes people removed from constancy’. With a similar interpretation of the syntax, Hellberg (1981a, 16-17) advocates the meaning ‘payment frees people from (fulfilling) obligations’. (b) Alternatively, could be taken as a dat. of cause or means (so ÍF 27, citing NS §111, and Hkr 1991), and firða/fyrða read as the gen. pl. forming a natural unit with ferð, hence ‘company of men’. However, this entails assuming a construction láta e-t e-u ‘abandon sth. for sth.’, which is not paralleled.  — [7] lætr einǫrð: Kock (NN §2778) would metathesize the words lætr einǫrð, metri causa, since it is unusual to find the hending in the third position in a line of type E, but there is no warrant for this in the mss.

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