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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 20 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, 732

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

26 — Sigv Lv 26I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 26’ 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. 732.

Alfífu mun ævi
ungr drengr muna lengi,
es oxamat ôtum
inni, skaf sem hafrar.
Annat vas, þás Ôleifr
ógnbandaðr réð landi;
hverr átti þá hrósa
hjalmþornuðu korni.

Ungr drengr mun lengi muna ævi Alfífu, es ôtum oxamat inni, sem hafrar skaf. Vas annat, þás Ôleifr, {ógnbandaðr}, réð landi; hverr átti þá hrósa hjalmþornuðu korni.

A young fellow will long remember the days of Álfífa (Ælfgifu), when we ate cattle fodder indoors, as goats [eat] peeled bark. It was otherwise when Óláfr, {the battle-gesturer} [WARRIOR], ruled the country; everyone then had to praise the rick-dried grain.

Mss: DG8(103r) (ÓHLeg); Bb(202rb), Flat(129va), Tóm(163r) (ÓH); Ágr(13vb) (Ágr)

Readings: [1] Alfífu: so all others, ‘[…]lfiuu’ DG8;    mun: man DG8;    ævi: arfi Tóm    [3] es (‘er’): so Bb, Flat, Ágr, þar er DG8, þá er Tóm;    ôtum: ôtu Ágr    [4] inni skaf: inni skap Tóm, ‘iniskaf’ Ágr;    sem hafrar: ‘sem hafarar’ Flat, hafta Tóm    [6] ógn‑: ǫgn‑ Bb, Ágr;    ‑bandaðr: so Bb, Ágr, ‑bannaðr DG8, ‑bráðr er Flat, ‑bráðr um Tóm;    réð: ræð Ágr;    landi: so Bb, Ágr, lǫndum DG8, láði Flat, Tóm    [7] hverr: hvert Tóm;    hrósa: ‘hrꜹsa’ Ágr    [8] hjalmþornuðu: hjalmr þornuðu Bb, hjalmþornaðu fræ DG8, hjalmþorns freku Flat, hjalm þorn fræri Tóm, hjalmar hlǫðnu Ágr;    korni: borin or borni Tóm

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 28: AI, 274, BI, 253, Skald I, 130, NN §1877, 3069B; ÓHLeg 1849, 75, 121, ÓHLeg 1922, 91, ÓHLeg 1982, 208-9, Fms 5, 209-10, 219-20, Fms 12, 111, Flat 1860-8, II, 393, ÓH 1941, II, 837, 838, 839, n.; Fms 10, 400, Fms 12, 229, Ágr 1880, 51, ÍF 29, 31, Ágr 2008, 44-5; Jón Skaptason 1983, 210, 327.

Context: It is said that Norway fares pitiably under the reign of Sveinn Álfífuson/Knútsson and his mother Álfífa, and the people live more on fodder than on food for human beings because there is no plenty in the land during their day, as may be heard in this stanza that Sigvatr composed.

Notes: [All]: Olsen (1945b, 188) perceives a connection between this stanza and Eyv Lv 12, concerning the lean years under Queen Gunnhildr, and indeed the two stanzas share references to goats eating bark (and to being indoors). — [1] Alfífu ‘of Álfífa (Ælfgifu)’: Ælfgifu or Ælfgyfu of Northampton, the English concubine of Knútr inn ríki Sveinsson and mother of Sveinn Álfífuson, who ruled in Norway 1029/30-1035 (see M. Campbell 1971). — [3] es ôtum oxamat ‘when we ate cattle fodder’: Kock (NN §3069B) would rearrange the words to read oxa mat es ôtum, on the ground that the frumhending (the first part of an internal rhyme) is not otherwise found in the fourth position except in lines of Type E. — [4] sem hafrar skaf ‘as goats [eat] peeled bark’: Bark was used as fodder for goats and cattle. Kock (NN §1877) objects to this interpretation, saying that the meaning is instead that ‘we had to content ourselves with fodder’. He also objects that inni ‘indoors’ is meaningless in the present arrangement, and he would instead form a cpd inniskaf (see Readings; so already Fms), referring to bark dried and brought in (i.e. brought home). But inni sufficiently conveys the meaning not that the people ate like cattle (outdoors) but that they had only fodder to put on their tables indoors. Such is the interpretation of Olsen (1945b, 189), who rejects the supposition that farmers ate bark. — [5] Ôleifr ‘Óláfr’: Gering (1912, 139) points out that Sigvatr otherwise never uses the name Áleifr/Ôleifr in the cadence of a line, because the second syllable is not unstressed. For this name he would instead read sonr Ôstu ‘son of Ásta’, i.e. Óláfr. On the faulty hending, see Note to Lv 1/7 egna. — [7] hverr átti þá hrósa ‘everyone then had to praise’: Due to the faulty hending, Gering (loc. cit.) would emend this line to halir ôttu þá hœla, with the same meaning. — [8] hjalmþornuðu korni ‘the rick-dried grain’: That is, the grain (korni) was plentiful, raked into ricks or heaps (hjalm-) and dried (-þornuðu).

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