This interface will soon cease to be publicly available. Use the new interface instead. Click here to switch over now.

Cookies on our website

We use cookies on this website, mainly to provide a secure browsing experience but also to collect statistics on how the website is used. You can find out more about the cookies we set, the information we store and how we use it on the cookies page.

Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

login: password: stay logged in: help

Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

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

2. Nesjavísur (Nesv) - 15

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).

Nesjavísur (‘Vísur about Nesjar’) — Sigv NesvI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘ Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur’ 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. 555. <> (accessed 27 September 2021)

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 2. Nesjavísur, 1016 (AI, 228-32, BI, 217-20); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 14

SkP info: I, 563

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

5 — Sigv Nesv 5I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 5’ 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. 563.

Teitr, sák okkr í ítru
allvalds liði falla
(gerðisk harðr) of herðar
(hjǫrdynr) svalar brynjur.
En mín at flug fleina
falsk und hjalm inn valska
(okkr vissak svá, sessi,)
svǫrt skǫr (við her gǫrva).

Teitr, sák svalar brynjur falla of herðar okkr í ítru liði allvalds; {harðr hjǫrdynr} gerðisk. En svǫrt skǫr mín falsk und inn valska hjalm at {flug fleina}; sessi, vissak okkr svá gǫrva við her.

Teitr, I saw chill mail-shirts fall over the shoulders of us both in the glorious war-band of the mighty ruler; {a hard sword-din} [BATTLE] was waged. And my black hair hid itself under the Frankish helmet at {the flight of barbs} [BATTLE]; bench-mate, I knew us both to be thus prepared against the army.

Mss: (251v) (Hkr); Holm2(12v), R686ˣ(25r), 972ˣ(85va-86va), J1ˣ(158v), J2ˣ(134v), 325VI(11ra), 75a(1ra), 73aˣ(35r), 78aˣ(32r), 68(11v), 61(84va-b), Bb(135ra) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Teitr: Teit 73aˣ;    okkr: ǫrt 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    í ítru: út J1ˣ, ítra J2ˣ, á ítru 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ    [2] ‑valds: ‑vals 972ˣ, ‑valdr Bb;    falla: faldna J1ˣ    [3] gerðisk: þá var 61;    harðr: hár J1ˣ, J2ˣ, hǫrð 68    [4] ‑dynr: ‑dyns 68, Bb;    brynjur: ‘briyn(yir)’(?) Bb    [5] En: ok R686ˣ;    mín: minn J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    fleina: flæma J2ˣ    [6] falsk: falk R686ˣ, 68, ‘[…]alsk’ 325VI    [7] vissak: so all others, vísa ek Kˣ    [8] skǫr: ‘skuar’ J1ˣ, J2ˣ;    við: var R686ˣ;    her: hjǫr R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ;    gǫrva: gǫrvan Bb

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 5: AI, 266-7, BI, 247, Skald I, 128; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 70-1, IV, 121, ÍF 27, 62 (ÓHHkr ch. 49); Fms 4, 98, Fms 12, 79, ÓH 1941, I, 92 (ch. 40); CPB II, 127, Poole 2005d, 173-4.

Context: The stanza is introduced after st. 4, with the comment that although Sveinn jarl had a larger force King Óláfr had an elite and excellently equipped band on his ship.

Notes: [1] Teitr: Although teitr could be the adj. ‘glad, cheerful’, it appears to be a pers. n. here, since Sigvatr uses the dual pron. (acc. and dat. okkr ‘us both’) in the stanza rather than the pl. seen consistently elsewhere in the poem. This Teitr is otherwise unknown but on the available onomastic evidence was probably a fellow Icelander (Lind 1905-15: Teitr). The stanza thus apparently addresses not the broader audience of the retinue addressed in st. 1 but instead an individual comrade. Among those who, on the basis of these features, regard st. 5 as a separate lausavísa, are Finnur Jónsson (Skj; LH I, 595) and Petersen (1946, 54-7), and Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson does not count it among the Nesv stanzas (ÍF 27, 61 n.). However, the preservation of the stanza between sts 4 and 7 in ÓH-Hkr, with the same routine introduction, svá segir Sigvatr ‘so says Sigvatr’, favours the present arrangement. Stanza 5 is included in Nesv in CPB (II, 119, 127-9), indeed the eds propose that the entire poem is addressed to Teitr. Fidjestøl also advocates inclusion, noting that Nesv appears to have been loosely-structured throughout (1982, 118; cf. Hellberg 1972, 24; Jesch 2001a, 209). Potential parallels to this incidental address occur in Sigv Vestv 1 and in Arn Magndr 4II (Poole 2005d, 192-5, though contrast Whaley 1998, 119 and Note to Arn Magndr 4/4II). — [4] brynjur ‘mail-shirts’: The skald lays emphasis upon his superb military equipment, which indicates the king’s special favour (cf. Graham-Campbell and Batey 1998, 35-6, 67). — [5] flug fleina ‘the flight of barbs [BATTLE]’: If a kenning, this is rather a marginal one, since it could also be taken in its restricted literal sense; and normally the base-word of battle-kennings has meanings such as ‘noise, speech, meeting, sport, storm’. — [6] inn valska hjalm ‘the Frankish helmet’: On the adj. valskr, see Note to Sigv Víkv 6/5. Frankish swords were particularly prized in the Viking Age (Jesch 2001a, 78); perhaps the same applied to metal helmets, at a time when most fighters wore simple leather caps (Graham-Campbell and Batey 1998, 35-6).

© Skaldic Project Academic Body, unless otherwise noted. Database structure and interface developed by Tarrin Wills. All users of material on this database are reminded that its content may be either subject to copyright restrictions or is the property of the custodians of linked databases that have given permission for members of the skaldic project to use their material for research purposes. Those users who have been given access to as yet unpublished material are further reminded that they may not use, publish or otherwise manipulate such material except with the express permission of the individual editor of the material in question and the General Editor of the volume in which the material is to be published. Applications for permission to use such material should be made in the first instance to the General Editor of the volume in question. All information that appears in the published volumes has been thoroughly reviewed. If you believe some information here is incorrect please contact Tarrin Wills with full details.