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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, 725

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

20 — Sigv Lv 20I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 20’ 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. 725.

Fúss læzk maðr, ef missir
meyjar faðms, at deyja;
-keypt es ôst, ef eptir,
of-, látinn skal gráta.
En fullhugi fellir
flóttstyggr, sás varð dróttin,
várt torrek lízk verra,
vígtôr, konungs ôrum.

Maðr læzk fúss at deyja, ef missir faðms meyjar; ôst es ofkeypt, ef skal gráta eptir látinn. En flóttstyggr fullhugi, sás varð dróttin, fellir vígtôr; torrek várt lízk verra ôrum konungs.

A man claims he is ready to die if he misses the embrace of a maiden; love is too dearly bought if one must weep for the departed. But the flight-shunning man full of courage who has lost his lord sheds slaying-tears; our grievous loss seems worse to the servants of the king.

Mss: Holm2(73v), 972ˣ(580va), 325VI(41rb), 321ˣ(278), 73aˣ(214r), Holm4(68vb-69ra), 61(129vb), 325V(88va), 325VII(41r), Bb(205rb), Flat(126vb), Tóm(160v) (ÓH); Kˣ(498v-499r), 39(13rb), F(38ra), J2ˣ(241v), E(4r) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] læzk: so Flat, Kˣ, lézk Holm2, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Tóm, 39, F, J2ˣ, E, lét 325VI, 61;    ef: en 325VII, er Tóm, F;    missir: misti 325VII    [2] meyjar: þreyjar Tóm;    faðms: ‘famðs’ E;    deyja: dýja Tóm    [3] ‑keypt: geyst Bb;    ef: ok 325VI, om. 321ˣ, 61, Kˣ, enn 73aˣ, ⸜ef⸝ Holm4    [4] of‑: so all others, ‘ob‑’ Holm2;    látinn: ‑lati Holm2, ‑látinn 325VI, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, 39, F, J2ˣ, ‘‑lan’ 321ˣ, látan 73aˣ, ‑látum 61, ‘latunn’ 325V, ‑látin Bb, Kˣ, E    [5] En: en ef 325V;    ‑hugi: so Kˣ, 39, ‑huginn Holm2, 972ˣ, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, F, J2ˣ, E, hugum 61    [6] flótt‑: fljótt‑ 325VI, Flat, 39, flot 61, flóð Tóm;    sás (‘sa er’): sá 325VI, 321ˣ;    varð: var 325VI, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, ann 61, Flat, Tóm, varr 325VII;    dróttin: dróttinn 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325VII, 39, J2ˣ, E, dróttar Bb, dróttni Flat, dróttni or dróttin Tóm    [7] várt: vár 325V, ‘var[…]’ 325VII;    torrek: ‘tor hrek’ 972ˣ, ‘torck’ 73aˣ, af rek 61, ‘[…]’ 325VII, ár rekk Flat, ár rek Tóm, ‘torreg’ F;    lízk: ‘lict’ 39;    verra: vera 321ˣ, 325V    [8] konungs: konung 61

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 22: AI, 272, BI, 251, Skald I, 130, NN §§679, 1120; Fms 5, 122-3, Fms 12, 107, ÓH 1853, 236, ÓH 1941, I, 618 (ch. 253), Flat 1860-8, II, 372; Hkr 1777-1826, III, 10-11, VI, 125, Hkr 1868, 521 (MGóð ch. 9), Hkr 1893-1901, III, 16-17, IV, 182-3, ÍF 28, 15, Hkr 1991, I, 565 (MGóð ch. 7), F 1871, 172, E 1916, 12; Konráð Gíslason 1892, 41, 187-8, Jón Skaptason 1983, 204, 325.

Context: In ÓH and Hkr, one day Sigvatr, while walking through a village, hears a man wailing about having lost his wife. The man beats his breast, tears his clothing, and weeps a great deal, saying he wishes to die. Then Sigvatr speaks this stanza. In Flat it is said that Sigvatr wept when he lost his king, and those who saw this said he was unmanly to react so to such news, and he must have little courage. He responds with this stanza.

Notes: [4] of- ‘too’: (a) The present interpretation assumes that of ‘too’ and keypt ‘bought’ (l. 3) form a cpd by tmesis (so also Skj B). (b) Kock (NN §679), objecting to this separation of elements, proposes that the word is actually an adverbial case-form of the noun óf ‘excess’, or that it should be gen. ófs, in either event producing the same meaning. (c) The eds of ÍF 28 and Hkr 1991, as well as Jón Skaptason (1983, 204), form with of a cpd oflátinn ‘the ostentatious person’, as in nearly all the mss, and take ef oflátinn skal eptir gráta to mean ‘if the ostentatious person must weep after (the death of his wife)’. Some such interpretation must lie behind the context offered by Snorri. But the use of the suffixed def. art. is not likely to be what Sigvatr intended, and omission of an object meaning ‘the departed one’ for eptir … gráta ‘weep after’ is awkward. In CVC: oflátinn the word is cited from Sigvatr with the meaning ‘much lamented’. — [7] torrek ‘grievous loss’: The word is rare: unique in the skaldic corpus, though attested in prose (see Fritzner: torrek) and in the title of Egill Skallagrímsson’s poem Sonatorrek (Egill StV), in which he rails against the deaths of his sons. The prefix tor- implies ‘difficult’ (AEW: tor-). — [8] vígtôr ‘slaying-tears’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes the sense of the cpd to be ‘tears for the slain one’; Kock (NN §1120; 1929, 17) takes it to be ‘bitter tears’. In Flat it is said after this stanza, Uigtár kollum ver þat sagde Sighuatr er ver fellum vid slik tidende ‘“Slaying-tears” is what we call that,’ said Sigvatr, ‘which we shed at such news.’ A further possibility is some such sense as ‘battle tears’ or ‘warrior’s tears’ (as perhaps suggested by ÍF 28’s tár, sprottið af vígahug ‘tears springing from a warlike mood’), since the stanza establishes a contrast between what is perceived as a trivial and effete loss and manly grief for a lord.

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