Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga’ 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. 663.
Twenty-eight whole or partial stanzas are edited here as belonging to Erfidrápa Óláfs helga ‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr inn helgi (S. Óláfr)’ by his chief skald Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv ErfÓl). The poem briefly covers Óláfr Haraldsson’s accession to power (sts 1-2), his acquisition of a ship equal to that of Óláfr Tryggvason (st. 3), and his bringing of order to Norway (sts 4-6), before concentrating on the events of his final battle at Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad, 1030, sts 7-20). Various stanzas then sum up his career (sts 21-2), note some of his miracles (sts 23-4), and explore effects of his sanctity (sts 25-8). The poem is clearly not complete.
The genre of ErfÓl and its stef ‘refrain’ are mentioned when st. 7 is introduced, Svá segir Sigvatr skáld í erfidrápu þeiri, er hann orti um Óláf konung ok stælti eptir uppreistarsǫgu ‘Sigvatr the poet says this in the memorial drápa which he composed about King Óláfr and to which he gave a refrain from the story of Creation’ (ÍF 27, 366-7; cf. ÓH 1941, I, 553). An anecdote found in interpolated versions of ÓH (1941, II, 840, cf. 841) expands on this to claim that Sigvatr composed the poem when he was nearing death himself, and that he proposed to give it a refrain efter Sigurdar so᷎gu ‘from the saga of Sigurðr’ (presumably Fáfnisbani; see Note to Þorf Lv [All] for the legend), but following a dream-vision intervention by Óláfr gave it a refrain from the story of Creation instead (see also Context to Sigv Lv 11). The anecdote is unlikely to be historical and in any case there is no evidence in the surviving stanzas for references to either Sigurðr or the Creation. For a suggestion that st. 22/7-8, with its appeal to God and reference to Óláfr’s son Magnús, is the refrain of the original poem, see Note to that stanza.
The stanzas are preserved in Snorri Sturluson’s Óláfs saga helga, in both the Separate (ÓH) and Hkr (ÓHHkr) versions, jointly referred to as ÓH-Hkr below, and in associated texts, with some fragments in various redactions of SnE. Apart from the section focusing on the battle of Stiklastaðir (sts 7-20), neither the ordering nor indeed the inclusion of the stanzas is certain. Some of them could be seen as lausavísur, e.g. sts 1, 22-7, in all of which Sigvatr refers to himself in the first person. Stanza 1, in particular, is difficult to place as it survives only in transcriptions of a lost ms., but its content accords well with the picture of the rising monarch asserting his authority over various groups in sts 2, 4-6. As Fidjestøl (1982, 121-2) pointed out, the references to Magnús Óláfsson in sts 22/7 and 25/7 could be expected in a memorial poem presumably composed during Magnús’s reign (and cf. st. 6/6). He excludes st. 27 from the poem on the grounds that it is cited as if it were a lausavísa (see Context, and Note to st. 27 [All]) and argues that it should instead be linked with Sigv Lv 18 and 20. However, st. 27, with its description of Sigvatr’s sword, clearly echoes the description of Óláfr’s sword in st. 9. Given Sigvatr’s well-documented affection for his king, this personal angle seems a natural way for the poem to develop, and Fidjestøl (1982, 122) acknowledges parallels with Hfr ErfÓl, which also concludes with reflections on the poet’s loss after the death of his king in battle. Fidjestøl (1982, 121-2, 171) also raised doubts about the inclusion of sts 1-3 and 26-8. Despite these uncertainties, all of the disputed stanzas have been included here on the grounds that a memorial poem about Norway’s royal saint could well have included some account of his earlier career as king, as well as acknowledging his posthumous role as saint.
The reference to miracles at S. Óláfr’s shrine in st. 24 indicates a time of composition some time after the translation of his relics which, to judge from ÓHLeg (1982, 206), took place in 1031 (see also Introduction to Þloft Glækv). However, a somewhat later date is more likely. The references to Magnús Óláfsson suggest that the poem was composed after his return to claim the throne of Norway in 1035 (see Sigv Ást). A date around this time is further supported by the probable allusion to Sigv BervII in st. 8/7 and the reference to the regret of the farmers in st. 11/2, 4.
The following mss are used in this edition. The Hkr ms. Kˣ (as main ms.) is used for sts 3-25, plus 39 for sts 23-5 and F, E, J2ˣ for sts 24-5. Jöfraskinna, represented here by its transcript J2ˣ, belongs to the ÓH redaction for Óláfs saga helga in sts 3, 4, 7-20, and to the Kringla (x) class within the Hkr redaction in sts 21-3, where a lacuna has been filled from K; here the readings are not used. It then reverts to the Jöfraskinna (y) class within the Hkr redaction for sts 24-5. Stanza 1 survives only in transcriptions of the lost Uppsala ms. of ÓH, R686ˣ (as main ms.), 972ˣ and the printed text Hkr 1697 I, and st. 2 survives in one of the articuli from Styrmir Kárason’s saga of Óláfr helgi preserved in Flat (ms. Flat). The ÓH mss used are Holm2 (as main ms. for st. 27), 61, Flat, Tóm for sts 3-25, 27, plus J2ˣ, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, Holm4, 75c, 75e 4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, 325XI 2 g, 325XI 2 n, for subsets of these. Also consulted are 761bˣ for st. 2 (where it is independent of Flat) and papp18ˣ (an independent copy of the vellum K ms. of Hkr) for st. 4. The SnE mss R (as main ms.), Tˣ, W, U, A are used for st. 28, and W for st. 15/1-4. The TGT mss A (as main ms.) and W are used for st. 26. Stanzas 15/1-4 and 28 were copied from W into ms. 2368ˣ of LaufE (1979, 370, 365 respectively). The 2368ˣ readings are therefore not of independent value and are not cited in this edition, except that they are used selectively to supplement the W text where it is damaged in st. 28.
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