Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson’ 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. 629.
The ten stanzas of Sigvatr Þórðarson’s Flokkr about the Norwegian chieftain Erlingr Skjálgsson (Sigv Erlfl) focus chiefly on Erlingr’s defeat in battle, and subsequent killing, by the forces of King Óláfr Haraldsson c. 1027 off Bókn (Bokn in Boknafjorden, Rogaland, south-west Norway; see further ‘Biographies of other dignitaries’ in Introduction to this volume). Erlingr repeatedly came into conflict with Óláfr, who wanted to curb his power in the west of Norway, and on occasion made common cause with Óláfr’s enemies, including King Knútr. Despite the poet’s closeness to King Óláfr, the poem is a rather strongly-worded criticism of the killing of Erlingr, with extensive praise for his heroic life and death. Sigvatr appears to pick up on the ambivalent feelings the king himself had about this killing (see the blend of regret and justification in Ólhelg Lv 6-7; also Fidjestøl 1982, 67-70), but includes some formulaic praise for Óláfr in st. 2. Admiration for Erlingr as the greatest Norwegian among those without a greater title is also reflected in the prose sources (e.g. ÍF 27, 318), and cf. Sigv Erl.
The genre and the contents of the poem are indicated by Snorri in introducing st. 1 (ÍF 27, 314, cf. ÓH 1941, I, 481): Sigvatr orti flokk um fall Erlings, ok er þessi vísa þar í ‘Sigvatr composed a flokkr about the death of Erlingr, and this is a stanza in it’. From this and the internal evidence of the poem Erlfl therefore appears to be a separate composition from the single stanza in which Sigvatr addresses Erlingr directly (Sigv Erl; see Introduction). Stanzas 1-7 and 9-10 are preserved in Snorri Sturluson’s Óláfs saga helga in both the Separate version (ÓH) and the Hkr version (ÓHHkr), jointly designated ÓH-Hkr below. Stanzas 1-7 are cited in the chapter describing Erlingr’s final battle (ÓHHkr ch. 176; ÓH ch. 172), while sts 9 and 10 are preserved much earlier in the saga (ÓHHkr ch. 22; ÓH ch. 30), in an account of Erlingr’s relationships with Óláfr Haraldsson’s predecessors. The preservation of the stanzas elsewhere complicates the reconstruction of Erlfl. Stanza 3 is preserved in Fsk, while sts 3 and 8 are preserved in ÓHLeg, flanking Sigv Erl, but no reference is made in either of these texts to a flokkr or any other kind of longer poem. Stanza 8 is also preserved among the excerpts (articuli) relating to Óláfr and deriving from Styrmir Kárason’s Lífssaga which are collected in Flat, and here again Sigvatr is named, but without any indication of the source poem.
The place of sts 8-10 in the poem is uncertain and the traditional ordering (as in Skj) is followed here in the absence of any better one. The content of st. 8 clearly suggests it belongs near the end of the poem and st. 10 probably alludes to Erlingr’s last battle (see Note to st. 10/4 below). Stanza 9/1-4 refers to Erlingr’s power and his kinship in law with Óláfr Tryggvason, and st. 9/5-8 to a marriage alliance between Óláfr and Rǫgnvaldr jarl Úlfsson. The relationship internally between the helmingar, and between the stanza and the rest of the poem, is problematic (see Notes to this stanza below), but its use of the preterite tense about Erlingr suggests it belongs in this poem rather than Sigv Erl. Both sts 9 and 10 could be seen as summarising Erlingr’s career in general terms, unlike the other stanzas which relate specifically to the battle, hence their placing together at the end of the poem.
The mss used in this edition are as follows: the Hkr ms. Kˣ for sts 1-7, 9-10; the ÓH mss Holm2, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 68, 61, 325V, Tóm for sts 1-7, 9-10, plus R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 78aˣ, Holm4ˣ, 75c, 325VII, Bb, Flat, 325XI2b for subsets of these; 325V has only ll. 1-4 of st. 1, J2ˣ has only ll. 1-4 of st. 4 and several mss have only ll. 1-2 of st. 10. The remaining mss are the ÓT mss 61, 53, 54, 325VIII 2g, Bb, Flat for sts 9, 10; ms. Flat, within an extract from Styrmir Kárason’s Lífssaga, for st. 8; the ÓHLeg ms. DG for sts 3, 8; and the Fsk mss FskBˣ, FskAˣ for st. 3. Kˣ is adopted as the main ms., except for st. 8, where it is Flat.
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