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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

12. Lausavísur (Lv) - 30

Skj info: Sigvatr Þórðarson, Islandsk skjald, o. 995-o. 1045 (AI, 223-75, BI, 213-54).

Skj poems:
1. Víkingarvísur
2. Nesjavísur
3. Austrfararvísur
4. En drape om kong Olaf
5. Vestrfararvísur
6. Et kvad om Erlingr Skjalgsson
7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson
8. Tryggvaflokkr
9. Et digt om dronning Astrid
10. Knútsdrápa
11. Bersǫglisvísur
12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga
13. Lausavísur
14. Et par halvvers af ubestemmelige digte

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 6 December 2021)

 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, 734

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

28 — Sigv Lv 28I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 28’ 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. 734.

Heim sóttir þú hættinn
hǫnd, en vel mátt lǫndum
— þinn stoðak môtt — sem mǫnnum,
Magnús konungr, fagna.
Fœrak víst, þvít vôrum
varðr at þér, í Garða;
skrifnask skírinafna
skript, þjóðkonungr, niptar.

Hættinn sóttir þú heim hǫnd, Magnús konungr, en mátt fagna vel lǫndum sem mǫnnum; stoðak môtt þinn. Víst fœrak í Garða, þvít vôrum varðr at þér; skript niptar skrifnask skírinafna, þjóðkonungr.

Bold, you came back home, King Magnús, and you can be most glad of [your] lands as well as [your] people; I support your power. Certainly, I would have travelled to Russia, since we were [I was] closely connected to you; a document of [your] kinswoman is written to [my] godson, great king.

Mss: (500r), 39(13va), F(38rb), J2ˣ(242v), E(4v) (Hkr); 761bˣ(311v)

Readings: [3] sem: með J2ˣ, 761bˣ    [6] varðr at: so 39, F, varðat Kˣ, vǫrðr at J2ˣ, E, 761bˣ    [7] skrifnask: ‘scrifnaþz’ 39, ‘skipnask’ J2ˣ, E, 761bˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 30: AI, 274, BI, 253, Skald I, 131, NN §§152, 681, 1878, 1879; Hkr 1777-1826, III, 13, VI, 126, Hkr 1868, 522 (MGóð ch. 10), Hkr 1893-1901, III, 20-1, IV, 185, ÍF 28, 18-19, Hkr 1991, 567 (MGóð ch. 9), F 1871, 173-4, E 1916, 13; Konráð Gíslason 1892, 41, 191-2, 232, Jón Skaptason 1983, 212, 328-9.

Context: Magnús Óláfsson comes to Sweden from Russia, to much rejoicing. Sigvatr is there with Magnús’s stepmother the queen, Ástríðr Óláfsdóttir, and speaks this stanza.

Notes: [All]: Jesch (1994a) adduces parallels between Lv 28-30 and Sigv Ást, arguing that whereas the two sets of vísur are separate compositions, they were composed on the same occasion, to welcome Magnús to Norway and celebrate his enthronement. — [1, 2] sóttir þú heim hǫnd ‘you came back home’: The hand (hǫnd) referred to in the idiom was originally a literal one, as when the same expression is used to describe the way that the hammer Mjǫllnir, when cast, returns to the hand of Þórr (SnE 1998, I, 42). The kernel of the expression is thus sóttir . . . hǫnd ‘sought the hand’, heim functioning as the equivalent of ‘again’. On the basis of comparison to heim nam hon Helga | hǫnd at sœkia ‘she took Helgi’s hand’ (HHund II 14/3-4, NK 153), Kock (NN §1878) suggests the sense ‘you decisively grasped the hand outstretched to you from Norway’. — [2] en ‘and’: If the sense of the word is adversative (as it often is), the implied opposition is that even though it was bold of Magnús to return, he need have no fear. — [4] Magnús konungr ‘King Magnús’: Son of Óláfr Haraldsson and Álfhildr (on whom, see Note to Lv 30/2), a young boy at the time of his return from exile in Russia. — [6] varðr at ‘closely connected to’: The meaning ‘concerned about’ is proposed by Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1913, 58-9), on the assumption that poetic vǫrð ‘woman’ originally meant ‘mindful, assiduous’ (about one’s husband and house). Kock (NN §152) takes the sense to be that Sigvatr was on his way to Magnús in Russia, on the basis of perceived parallels in ME and MLG (and cf. ModEngl. toward). — [7] skrifnask ‘is written’: The unexampled verb is assumed to have been formed by analogy to the derivation of, e.g., hlotnask ‘to fall to one’s lot’ from hlotinn ‘allotted’, with a similar semantic relation (ÍF 28). — [7] skírinafna ‘godson’: So also ÍF 28. How Sigvatr came to be the godfather of Magnús is related in ÓHHkr ch. 122 (ÍF 27, 209-11). — [8] skript ‘a document’: It is unknown what document is referred to here. It is usually assumed (e.g. in ÍF 28) to be a letter from Ástríðr to Magnús in Russia, resulting in his return to Sweden. In Hkr 1991 it is tentatively suggested that the document is Ástríðr’s written affirmation of Magnús’s right to the throne. Björn Magnússon Ólsen (1913, 57-8) would make skript the direct object of fœrðak ‘I brought’ in l. 4, emended from fœrak. Kock (NN §§681, 1879) discerns instead a reference to Sigvatr’s penitential pilgrimage to Rome (cf. Lv 23), on the basis of perceived parallels in early English. Finnur Jónsson makes no attempt to translate ll. 7-8 in Skj B, though he had made tentative suggestions in Hkr 1893-1901, IV.

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