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, ‘(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.

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, 733

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

27 — Sigv Lv 27I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 27’ 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. 733.

Munu, þeirs mestar skynjar
munvágs Dáins kunna,
síðr at Sighvats hróðri
svinns braglǫstu finna.
Sik vill hverr, es hnekkir,
haldorðr boði skjaldar
éls, þvís allir mæla,
iflaust gera at fifli.

Munu, þeirs kunna mestar skynjar {munvágs Dáins}, síðr finna braglǫstu at hróðri svinns Sighvats. {Hverr haldorðr boði {éls skjaldar}}, es hnekkir, þvís allir mæla, vill iflaust gera sik at fifli.

Those who comprehend the greatest knowledge {of the delightful wave of Dáinn <dwarf>} [POETRY] will hardly [lit. less] find verse-flaws in the encomium of judicious Sigvatr. {Every word-holding announcer {of the storm of the shield}} [BATTLE > WARRIOR] who rejects what all say will doubtless make himself a fool.

Mss: Flat(126vb), Tóm(162v-163r), 73aˣ(223r-v), 71ˣ(195v), 76aˣ(244v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] mestar skynjar: so Tóm, mest um skynja Flat, mest of skynja 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ    [2] mun‑: so Tóm, munn Flat, menn 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ;    ‑vágs Dáins: ‘uígurs dáins’ Flat, ‘vígs daínns’ Tóm, Óláfs vígs 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ;    kunna: kenna 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ    [3] síðr at: síðr á Tóm, síð á 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ;    hróðri: ‘hröðu’ 71ˣ    [4] svinns: ‘suinzst’ Flat, ‘suínnz’ Tóm, sinn 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ;    ‑lǫstu: ‑lǫstinn 73aˣ, 76aˣ, ‑lǫstum 71ˣ    [5] Sik: ‘suk’ 73aˣ;    es (‘er’): so Tóm, 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, at Flat;    hnekkir: kvikir Tóm    [6] skjaldar: skorðar Tóm    [7] éls: at Tóm;    þvís (‘þui er’): so Tóm, því at Flat, 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ    [8] iflaust: í flaust 71ˣ;    gera at: so Tóm, 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, gerat Flat

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 29: AI, 274, BI, 253, Skald I, 130-1, NN §§680, 2295; Fms 5, 209, Fms 12, 211, Flat 1860-8, II, 372, ÓH 1941, II, 830, 831; Jón Skaptason 1983, 211, 327-8.


Sigvatr travels incognito in Denmark because of King Knútr’s enmity to those who had been friends of King Óláfr. He stays at a farm where the people are discussing poetry, and they find fault with Sigvatr’s verses (not knowing he is present). He delivers this stanza, revealing his identity and necessitating a rapid escape.

Notes: [All]: The import of this vísa is that if critics find fault with Sigvatr’s poetry, it is because their knowledge of versecraft is faulty, and their criticisms only expose their ignorance. For a discussion of some unusual formal features of Sigvatr’s verse, see Finnur Jónsson LH I, 597-8. — [2] munvágs ‘of the delightful wave’: The cpd could also mean ‘soul-wave, mind-wave’ (so LP (1913-16), but cf. Meissner 60); or the Flat reading munn- , which could plausibly also underlie mun- and menn-, would give ‘mouth-wave’. The mss read vígs and vigrs for -vágs (the emendation first suggested in Nj 1875-8, II, 399), and Kock (NN §2295) takes them instead as corruptions of viggs (so, tentatively, Jón Skaptason 1983, 328), which, according to a þula (Þul Skipa 4III), may mean ‘ship’. But the normal meaning of vigg is ‘horse’ and poetry is called a dwarf’s ship rather than a dwarf’s horse (SnE 1998, I, 11). On poetry-kennings alluding to the myth of the mead of poetry, see Note to Eskál Vell 1 [All]. — [4] svinns ‘of judicious’: A minimal emendation, required to secure a gen. sg. adj. qualifying Sighvats ‘of Sigvatr’. — [6] haldorðr ‘word-holding’: The word can be used in a positive sense, ‘faithful’, i.e. ‘keeping one’s word’ (as in Hharð Lv 14/4II, Anon Krm 18/2VIII (Ragn)), or a negative one, ‘obstinate’, i.e. ‘holding stubbornly to one’s opinions’, as here: see LP: haldorðr. — [8] fifli ‘a fool’: The aðalhending seems to indicate shortening in what is usually fífli; cf. skirr (Lv 23/4 and Note), and see Kock, NN §680.

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