Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Austv 19I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 19’ 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. 609.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonAustrfararvísur

Folk réð of sik, fylkir,
flest, es ek kom vestan,
ætt sem áðr of hvatti
Eireks svika þeira.
En, þvít jarla frænda
eins þats tókt af Sveini,
yðr, kveðk jǫrð es nôðuð,
Ulfs bróður lið stóðusk.

Flest folk réð of sik, fylkir, es ek kom vestan, sem {ætt Eireks} áðr of hvatti svika þeira. En kveðk, es nôðuð jǫrð, þvít eins lið {frænda jarla}, {bróður Ulfs}, þats tókt af Sveini, stóðusk yðr.

Most people considered their options, chieftain, when I came from the west, as {the kinsman of Eiríkr} [?= Sveinn] earlier had incited [them] to that treason. But I declare that you got hold of the land only because the troop {of the jarls’ kinsman} [= Eilífr], {Úlfr’s brother} [= Eilífr], which you took away from Sveinn, supported you.

Mss: Holm2(26r), R686ˣ(50v), 972ˣ(180va), 325V(32bis rb), 325VI(17va), 75a(15vb), 73aˣ(66r), 61(94rb), 68(25r), Holm4(17va), 325VII(12v), Flat(93rb), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(306r), Bb(153rb) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] réð: reið R686ˣ, er Bb;    of (‘um’): und 325V, við 325VI, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    sik: sek 325VII;    fylkir: fylki R686ˣ, ‘fvlker’ Bb    [2] es (‘er’): en Kˣ    [3] ætt: ótt R686ˣ, 972ˣ, eitt 325V, Bb, æt 68;    áðr: yðr 61;    of: ef Bb;    hvatti: ‘hatti’ R686ˣ, hittak 61    [4] svika: Svía R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325V, 325VI, 61, 68, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    þeira: þína 325VI, fleiri 61    [5] En: endr 73aˣ;    þvít (‘því at’): því at er 68    [6] þats (‘þat er’): því er Holm4, Kˣ;    tókt: rétt 61, tók 68    [7] kveðk (‘kveð ec’): kvað ek Flat, Tóm;    jǫrð: orð 75a, 73aˣ;    es (‘er’): þá er 61;    nôðuð: nôðu 75a, ôttuð 61, nôðusk 325VII    [8] Ulfs: ‘ylfs’ 75a;    stóðusk: ‘stuðuz’ 325V, om. 325VI, stóðu 73aˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 239, Skj BI, 225, Skald I, 117, NN §629; Fms 4, 191, Fms 12, 86, ÓH 1941, I, 205 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 115; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 128, VI, 88-9, Hkr 1868, 310 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 175, ÍF 27, 143, Hkr 1991, I, 351 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 24-5, 51-2, Jón Skaptason 1983, 100, 244-5.

Context: As for st. 17.

Notes: [1] folk réð of sik ‘people considered their options’: Lit. ‘deliberated about themselves’. The implication seems to be that they changed their minds. — [2] flest ‘most’: This is taken here as an adj. qualifying folk ‘people’. In Skj B it is an adverbial, ‘altogether, overall’ (i alt). — [3] svika þeira ‘that treason’: Lit. ‘those treasons’ or possibly ‘their treasons’. — [3, 4] ætt Eireks ‘the kinsman of Eiríkr [? = Sveinn]’: The word ætt means ‘family’ in prose, but in verse it may refer to a single kinsman (though Toll 1930-3, 542 argues that the sense of the word is here pl.). Since his brother Sveinn is mentioned later in the stanza, Eirekr may be Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson of Hlaðir (Lade; so ÍF 27; Hkr 1991) rather than King Eiríkr inn sigrsæli ‘the Victorious’ Bjarnarson, father of Óláfr, the then current King of Sweden (though Ternström 1871 adopts the latter view, as does Finnur Jónsson 1932, 18). — [3] sem ‘as’: A conceivable alternative is to take this as the rel. pron. ‘whom’, hence Flest folk, sem ætt Eireks áðr of hvatti þeira svika ‘Most people whom the kinsman of Eiríkr earlier had incited to those/their treasons’; but such a use of sem is considered late (LP: sem 5). — [3] áðr ‘earlier’: This may be another anglicism (cf. Notes to st. 16/2 and 16/8) if áðr with a pret. verb merely indicates pluperfect aspect, the way OE ǣr ‘earlier’ often does. — [5-8]: Editors have proposed very diverse interpretations of the helmingr, none of which provides a conclusive answer to its linguistic and historical difficulties. (a) The text and translation above are indebted to a suggestion of Kari Ellen Gade. ‘Þvi at’ in most mss (l. 5) is taken straightforwardly as þvít ‘because’, and ‘er’ (l. 7) as a subordinating conj. es ‘that’ (see LP: es 7 for alternation of es and at in this role), dependent on kveðk ‘I declare’. Stóðusk (l. 8) is taken as 3rd pers. pl. pret. indic. ‘supported’, since a pl. verb is possible with the collective noun lið ‘troop’ (see NS §66 Anm. 2). Grammatically it could, alternatively, be taken as a past inf., together with kveðk ‘I declare’. (b) Ternström (1871, 51) makes of bróður lið (l. 8) a cpd ‘brother-support’ (so also Tveiten 1966, 93), on which he would have frænda ‘kinsman’s’ (l. 5) depend, and he would have eins ‘alone’ in l. 6 modify frænda, while jarla ‘of jarls’ in l. 5 would modify jǫrð. With other eds he reverses ms. ‘þvi at’ (l. 5), taking it as at því ‘to this end’, with es (l. 7) depending on it. The resulting meaning is ‘But I say, the brotherly help of Úlfr’s kinsman (i.e. Rǫgnvaldr) alone was useful to you to the end that you gained the jarls’ land (i.e. Norway), which you took from Sveinn’. Ternström (1871, 52) takes Sigvatr to mean that the best sign of Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty to Óláfr Haraldsson is the help he afforded in the defeat of Sveinn (on whom, see Note below), though Snorri makes no mention of this in ÓH or Hkr. However, þvít, being unstressed, cannot be construed as at því. (c) Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27, owing much to Sveinbjörn Egilsson, SHI 4, 183, and to Ternström 1871, 51-2) also analyses þvít ‘because’ in l. 5 as if it were at því ‘to this end’ (or ‘when’: Hkr 1991), and assumes that þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 takes its n. dat. sg. form from an unexpressed landi ‘land’ rather than agreeing (if emended) with f. jǫrð ‘land’. (d) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; 1934a, 37) shares many of Ternström’s editorial preferences, but he alters þvís ‘that which’ in l. 6 to þás, to agree with jǫrð ‘land’ in l. 7, and he takes es in l. 7 to introduce a clause from which the word order isolates it. Also, for en ‘but’ in l. 5 he reads enn ‘again’, which is likewise taken to stand outside its clause. The meaning produced is, ‘By this means only (þvít eins) did you manage again to keep the jarls’ land, which you took from Sveinn, [the means] that Úlfr’s kinsman’s brother-help, as I say, was given to you’. Finnur Jónsson (1932, 18) understands this to mean that in the face of the conspiracies against him, Óláfr might have lost control of Norway, had Rǫgnvaldr not been so trusty. (e) The interpretation of Kock (NN §629) is similar, but he would emend frænda to nom. sg. frændi, making of frændi jarla a vocative addressed to King Óláfr. This reduces some of the tortuousness of the word order, but there is no ms. evidence for this reading. The strained syntax of these interpretations results from efforts to have the text say that Óláfr Haraldsson was assisted by Rǫgnvaldr, who cannot be called ‘Úlfr’s brother’ (see below). It is natural to expect that the text should refer to him, since the preceding two stanzas indicate that Sigvatr’s message to Óláfr is that he can rely on Rǫgnvaldr’s loyalty; but no very plausible interperetation of the syntax will allow this helmingr to be about Rǫgnvaldr. — [6] af Sveini ‘from Sveinn’: Sveinn jarl Hákonarson is the brother of Eiríkr (see l. 4). His defeat at the hands of Óláfr Haraldsson in the battle of Nesjar in 1016 sealed the latter’s hold on Norway, ending Swedish control. Sveinn was brother-in-law to King Óláfr of Sweden, and at Óláfr’s behest he had governed the areas of Norway controlled by the Swedish king since the defeat of Óláfr Tryggvason in the battle of Svǫlðr (c. 1000). The Swedish Óláfr, according to Snorri, took him in after the defeat at Nesjar, and with the king’s support he was planning a reinvasion of Norway at the time of his death. — [8] bróður Ulfs ‘of Úlfr’s brother [= Eilífr]’: The reference is generally taken to be to a son of Rǫgnvaldr jarl. Rǫgnvaldr is named as Úlfr’s father (faðir Ulfs, with some ms. variants) in Sigv Erlfl 9/7 and in prose sources, and Úlfr’s brother is named as Eilífr, e.g., in Hkr (ÍF 27, 148) and Fsk (ÍF 29, 227). Toll (1930-3, supported by van Eeden 1943, 232) instead contends that Úlfr and Eilífr are the sons of Þorgils sprakaleggr ‘Flounder-Limb’ (?), who is said by Snorri to have had a son named Úlfr (ÍF 27, 235, 275).


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  8. NS = Nygaard, Marius. 1906. Norrøn syntax. Kristiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. 1966.
  9. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  10. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  11. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  13. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  14. Jón Skaptason. 1983. ‘Material for an Edition and Translation of the Poems of Sigvat Þórðarson, skáld’. Ph.D. thesis. State University of New York at Stony Brook. DAI 44: 3681A.
  15. SHI = Sveinbjörn Egilsson, ed. 1828-46. Scripta historica islandorum de rebus gestis veterum borealium, latine reddita et apparatu critico instructa, curante Societate regia antiquariorum septentrionalium. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp etc. and London: John & Arthur Arch.
  16. Tveiten, Hallvard, trans. 1966. Norrøne skaldekvad. Oslo: Saabye.
  17. Eeden, W. van. 1943. ‘Een Opmerking over Sigvatr Þórðarson’s Austrfararvísur’. Neophilologus 28, 228-32.
  18. Finnur Jónsson. 1932. Austrfararvísur. Avhandlinger utgitt av Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi i Oslo, II. Hist.-filos. kl.1931, 1. Oslo: Dybwad.
  19. Ternström, Alfred. 1871. Om skalden Sighvat Thordsson och tolkning af hans Austrfararvísur, Vestrfararvísur och Knútsdrápa. Lund: Ohlsson.
  20. Hkr 1777-1826 = Schöning, Gerhard et al., eds. 1777-1826. Heimskringla edr Noregs konunga-sögor. 6 vols. Copenhagen: Stein.
  21. Hkr 1868 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1868. Heimskringla eller Norges kongesagaer af Snorre Sturlassøn. Christiania (Oslo): Brøgger & Christie.
  22. Toll, Hans. 1930-3. ‘Ulvs frändes broderhjelp’. HT(N) 29, 541-4.
  23. Internal references
  24. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ in Kari Ellen Gade (ed.), Poetry from the Kings’ Sagas 2: From c. 1035 to c. 1300. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 2. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  25. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH)’ 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, pp. clxxvi-clxxix.
  26. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ 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, pp. clix-clxi.
  27. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘(Biography of) Óláfr Tryggvason’ 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. 383.
  28. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  29. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Flokkr about Erlingr Skjálgsson 9’ 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. 640.

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