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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, ‘ 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 30 June 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

in texts: Ágr, Flat, Gramm, H-Hr, Hkr, MGóð, MH, Mork, ÓH, ÓHHkr, ÓHLeg, TGT

SkP info: I, 698

notes: ms. refs separated from first cards

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance references search files


Most of Sigvatr’s lausavísur (Sigv Lv) pertain to the poet’s dealings with King Óláfr inn helgi Haraldsson (S. Óláfr; Lv 2-17) and to his inconsolable grief over the death of the king in 1030 (Lv 18-24). Also found in the mss are a possibly spurious lausavísa described as a juvenilium (Lv 1) and a few lausavísur pertaining to Óláfr’s successors (Lv 25-30). Finnur Jónsson (Skj) assigns the following dates of composition to the lausavísur, chiefly on the basis of the prose contexts that the sagas provide: c. 1010: Lv 1; 1015: Lv 2-4; 1018: Lv 5-7; c. 1020-7: Lv 8-17, 19; 1030: Lv 18, 20; 1031-5: Lv 21-7; 1035: Lv 28-9; 1036: Lv 30. In the sagas, these lausavísur are all ascribed to Sigvatr on specific occasions, but possibly a few of them should be regarded as belonging to longer compositions (Finnur Jónsson LH I, 595), most notably Lv 6 and 7.

The order of the stanzas in the present edition departs from that employed in Skj and Skald in three ways: (1) what is Lv 5 in those editions is now st. 5 of Sigv Nesv, and this has necessitated the renumbering of all the subsequent lausavísur; (2) what is Lv 11 in those editions is now Lv 19 (for reasons summarised in the Note to Lv 19/8); (3) what is Lv 12 in those editions is now Ótt Lv 3 (see Introduction to this for the reasons for preferring the ascription to Óttarr).

Many of the lausavísur appear in the main text of Snorri Sturluson’s Separate Óláfs saga helga (ÓH) as well as in either the version of ÓH found in Hkr (Lv 2-7, 12-17) or in MGóð in the same (Lv 18, 20, 23), while a smaller number (Lv 21-2, 24-5 and 28-30) are found in MGóð but not in the main ÓH text. The ÓH mss used are Holm2 (as main ms.), 972ˣ, 61, Holm4, Bb and Flat for Lv 2-7, 12-18, 20, 23, plus R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 321ˣ, Bæb, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 325V, 75c, 325VII, Tóm, 325XI 2g and 325XI 2l for subsets of these. It may be noted that among the ÓH mss the defective 75a is supplemented where necessary by 321ˣ and the defective Bæb by 73ˣ. The Hkr mss used are for Lv 2-7, 12-17, J2ˣ for Lv 13-15, and , 39, F, J2ˣ and E for Lv 18, 20-5, 28-30 (with as main ms. in Lv 21-2, 24-5, 28-30). The Bb text for the lausavísur belongs to the ÓH redaction except for Lv 5-7, where it follows a Hkr ms.; see Note to Lv 5. In the case of J2ˣ its text of stanzas from MGóð belongs to the Hkr tradition, while its text of Óláfs saga helga belongs to the Separate saga (ÓH) recension rather than the Hkr one, except that certain lacunae in the J2ˣ text of Óláfs saga helga were filled from K (Kringla; see Jørgensen 2000a, 39), so that verse texts at those points belong to the Hkr recension; this applies to Lv 13-15. Lv 23/6 is also cited in TGT (mss A, W).

Of the remaining vísur most are found not in ÓH proper but in extracts from various sources, especially the now lost Lífssaga of Óláfr helgi by Styrmir Kárason, inserted into certain compilations containing interpolated texts of ÓH. Thus Lv 1, 9-11, 19, 22, 26-7 are found in Flat and subsets of these in 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76ˣ, 78aˣ, 61, Bb and Tóm. Of these, Lv 9, 19, 26 are also preserved in ÓHLeg (DG8) and Lv 26 is found additionally in Ágr (Ágr). Finally, Lv 8 stands out in that it is attested in none of these works, but only in Mork (Mork), Flat (Flat) and H-Hr (H, Hr). Ms. 761bˣ is generally copied from 61, or, for lausavísur not preserved in 61, from Tóm or Flat, but for Lv 21, 24, 25 and 28-30, not preserved in those mss, it is copied from the now mostly destroyed Jöfraskinna (J), perhaps directly, and so only in regard to these vísur is the witness of 761bˣ taken into account.

Previous editions of Sigvatr’s lausavísur are mainly of two kinds: editions of the prose works in which they are preserved (such as the invaluable 1941 diplomatic edition of ÓH, or critical editions of Hkr from 1777 to 1991) and editions of the skaldic corpus (Skj and Skald, with NN). In addition, Jón Skaptason (1983) focuses on the poetry of Sigvatr, and most of the lausavísur are in Konráð Gíslason (1892). A number of individual articles which address problems relating to particular lausavísur are cited in the Notes.

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