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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, 709

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Sigv Lv 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 8’ 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. 709.

Eigi sôtuð ítrum,
Ívarr, meginfjarri,
orð þás ossum fœrðak
— at sóttisk lof — dróttni.
Þérs, alls hann réð hlýða
hróðr sínn, lofi þínu
— hljóðs hefk beitt á báða
bekki — vant at hnekkja.

Ívarr, eigi sôtuð meginfjarri ítrum, þás fœrðak orð dróttni ossum; lof sóttisk at. Þérs vant at hnekkja lofi þínu, alls hann réð hlýða hróðr sínn; hefk beitt hljóðs á báða bekki.

Ívarr, you did not sit very far from the glorious one when I conveyed words to our lord; praise rushed forth. For you it is inadvisable to reject praise of yourself, since he saw fit to listen to his encomium; I have requested a hearing from both benches.

Mss: Mork(12v) (Mork); Flat(200ra-b) (Flat); H(50v-51r), Hr(36vb) (H-Hr)

Readings: [2] ‑fjarri: ‘fí[…]rrí’ H    [3] þás (‘þá er’): er ek Flat, þar er Hr;    ossum: ‘aurum’ Flat, oss um H;    fœrðak: so H, Hr, ferðak Mork, fœrða Flat    [4] sóttisk: ‘sattíz’ Hr    [5] Þérs (‘þer er’): yðr er Flat;    hann: om. Hr    [6] þínu: mínu Hr    [7] hljóðs: ‘[…]ioðs’ H;    báða: ‘[…]aða’ H    [8] bekki: bekk H;    vant: vant er Flat;    hnekkja: ‘hneck[…]’ H

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 9: AI, 268, BI, 248, Skald I, 128, NN §§674, 2480D; Mork 1867, 76, Mork 1928-32, 206, Andersson and Gade 2000, 226, 477 (MH); Flat 1860-8, III, 360; Fms 6, 288, Fms 12, 153; Jón Skaptason 1983, 191, 317-18.

Context: When Sigvatr is praised at a feast for a poem he delivers in honour of King Óláfr Haraldsson, a district chieftain by the name of Ívarr hvíti ‘the White’ chides him for praising only the king and expecting reward from him alone, neglecting other important men. Subsequently, with Óláfr’s grudging permission Sigvatr goes to Vík (Viken) to visit Ívarr, saying he has composed a poem about him. But Ívarr gives him a hostile reception, saying it is just like a skald, when a king grows tired of him, to go off and try to extract reward from farmers. In response, Sigvatr delivers this vísa, whereupon Ívarr agrees to listen to the poem that Sigvatr has composed. Sigvatr recites it (none is quoted) and is rewarded well. 

Notes: [1] ítrum ‘the glorious one’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B, followed by Jón Skaptason 1983, 191) takes this adj. to be attributive, qualifying dróttni ‘lord’, and thus meginfjarri ‘very far away’ would be used absolutely. Kock (NN §674) argues for the present interpretation of the syntax, with the substantivized adj. ítrum as a complement to prep. meginfjarri . — [2] Ívarr: See Context. Ívarr’s son Hákon became a threat to the power of King Haraldr harðráði ‘Hard-rule’ Sigurðarson, and he is the subject of Hákonar saga Ívarssonar (see SkP II, lxii). — [4] lof sóttisk at ‘praise rushed forth’: (a) This reading takes sóttisk and lof, consecutive in the text, together and is based on the facts that m. v. sœkjask most commonly has the meaning ‘to advance’ (as applied to a piece of work), and transitive sœkja at means ‘rush at’. In this reading orð ‘words’ and færðak ‘I conveyed’ (both l. 3) are also taken together (so also Kock in Skald; NN §2480D). (b) The syntactic connections are reversed in the reading of Finnur Jónsson in Skj B, who forms an intercalary clause orð at sóttisk, taking the meaning to be ‘words were found to the purpose’; so also Jón Skaptason (1983): ‘Words came together’. It has been suggested (Finnur Jónsson, LH I, 587) that the praise-poem for Óláfr was possibly Sigv Nesv. — [5] hlýða ‘to listen’: Most eds emend to heyra ‘hear’ for the sake of the skothending (with þérs), but the rhyme þérs : hlýða (i.e. r : ð) is licit: see Andersson and Gade (2000, 477), and Note to Lv 16/4. Note that réð cannot rhyme because frumhending (the first part of an internal rhyme) in position 4 in odd-numbered lines is very rare and occurs only in stamhent (Gade 1995a, 6, 249). — [7-8] á báða bekki ‘from both benches’: That is, from Óláfr’s party and from Ívarr’s. The reference is to the opposing sides of a Norse hall, the king or chieftain sitting on one side, with honoured guests opposite him.

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