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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Austv 2I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 2’ 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. 585.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonAustrfararvísur

Létk til Eiðs, þvít óðumk
aptrhvarf, dreginn karfa
(vér stiltum svá) valtan
vátr (til glœps á báti).
Taki hlœgiskip hauga
herr; sákat far verra;
létk til húms á hrúti
hætt; fór betr an vættak.

Vátr létk valtan karfa dreginn til Eiðs, þvít óðumk aptrhvarf; vér stiltum svá til glœps á báti. {Herr hauga} taki hlœgiskip; sákat verra far; létk hætt til á {hrúti húms}; fór betr an vættak.

Wet, I had the unsteady vessel dragged to Eið, because I dreaded turning back; we had managed so badly in the boat. May {the host of burial mounds} [TROLLS] take the laughable ship; I never saw a worse craft; I courted danger on {the ram of the sea} [SHIP]; it went better than I had expected.

Mss: Holm2(25v), R686ˣ(49r), 972ˣ(177va), 325VI(16vb), 75a(14va), 68(24v), 61(94ra), Holm4(17ra), 75c(14v), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113r) (ÓH); Kˣ(303v), Bb(152vb) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Létk (‘let ek’): læt ek 75c, 325VII, leit Tóm;    til: eigi 325VII;    óðumk: óðusk 68    [2] ‑hvarf: ‘huerf’ or ‘huorf’ R686ˣ, ‑hvarfs Kˣ;    dreginn: ‘dre(ck)ín’(?) Bb    [4] vátr: nátt Tóm;    glœps: glóps Bb    [5] Taki hlœgi‑: ‘her taci lægi’ 325VII, taki hlœgis Flat, taki hlæði Tóm;    hauga: hǫrga 68, hauka Tóm    [6] sákat (‘saka ek’): so R686ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 68, 61, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Bb, sakaða ek Holm2, eigi Kˣ    [7] létk (‘let ec’): læt ek 325VI, 75c, Tóm, lét 68;    til: om. Bb;    húms: heims Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 68, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, hafs 61;    hrúti: hrauti Tóm    [8] fór: fǫr 325VI, 75a, 68, Tóm, fórsk Kˣ;    betr: bœttr R686ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 233, Skj BI, 220, Skald I, 115, NN §626; Fms 4, 185-6, Fms 12, 83, ÓH 1853, 80, 271, ÓH 1941, I, 199 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 113; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 124, VI, 84, Hkr 1868, 307 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 169-70, ÍF 27, 135-6, Hkr 1991, I, 346 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 12-15, 42-3, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 36, 176, 231, Jón Skaptason 1983, 83, 237-8.

Context: Sigvatr and his men go east to Eiðar and cross the river with great difficulty, using an unreliable boat, a kind of ferry. Afterwards, the poet delivers this stanza.

Notes: [All]: The stanza seems to say that the men crossed the water in a leaky, laughable boat, then dragged it, presumably across a neck of land. Snorri, however, does not mention any portage. — [1] til Eiðs ‘to Eið’: Eið n. means ‘isthmus’, hence this is a classic site for portage. If Snorri’s identification of the travellers’ route is correct, the name (also used in the pl.: see the Note to st. 3/2) may refer to the area of Stora Edet (at or near modern Trollhättan on the Götaälv in Bohuslän), the analysis advocated by Beckman (1923 and 1934; see Noreen 1922a, 69-70, for references to similar, earlier proposals). Also suggested, in connection with a more northerly route (see the Introduction), are Eid on the Glomma in Blaker sogn, Aurskog, Akershus (von Friesen 1942, 225) and Eidsvoll, just south of Lake Mjøsa (Schreiner 1927-9c, 38), in which event the forest mentioned in the following stanza would be Eidskogen in Norway. Even Ternström (1871, 43), who accepts Snorri’s account, rejects the identification of Eið with Stora Edet. He instead proposes Ed in Dalsland, near the present Norwegian border, at the southern end of Store Le (as suggested earlier by Munthe in Aall 1838-9, 240, and Munch 1852-63, II, 563 n. 1). Cf. the criticisms of Noreen (loc. cit.) and of Beckman (1934, 216). — [2] aptrhvarf ‘turning back’: Ternström (1871, 42-3) takes the word to refer to the return journey, after they have reached their destination, but this requires less probable word order, with þvít ‘because’ in l. 1 introducing not the clause headed by óðumk ‘I dreaded’ but the intercalary clause. Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 185) also assumes this meaning for aptrhvarf, but he surmises, contradicting Snorri’s account, that the party alternately dragged and rowed the boat across Norway to Eda in Värmland and left it there (see also Noreen 1922a, 74, and cf. Beckman 1923, 323-4; Beckman 1934, 207-8). Thus he is able to construe þvít with óðumk, taking the sense of the passage to be that Sigvatr dreaded the prospect of a return journey without a boat. This explains admirably the logical connection between the clauses beginning with Létk and þvít, but it obscures the logical ties between these clauses and the rest of the stanza. — [2] karfa ‘vessel’: The term occurs only here in the skaldic corpus, and its meaning is elusive (Jesch 2001a, 135). Snorri identifies this as an eikjukarfi ‘ferry-boat’, an interpretation that Finnur Jónsson (1932, 11) defends against Noreen’s suggestion (1922a, 70-1) that it was actually a rather substantial vessel, one with at least six pair of oars, better suited to crossing a large lake than a river. It is not improbable that karfa here is intended to be comically grandiose: see Beckman (1923, 322); Beckman (1934, 213); and cf. rǫnn ‘mansions, great halls’ in reference to cottages (Ótt Lv 3/2, a vísa possibly by Sigvatr). — [4] vátr ‘wet’: The word might be construed with the intercalary clause (so, e.g., Hollander 1964a, 335), but the word order would then seem exceptionally knotty. If it is to be placed in the principal clause, as in this edn, Eið must lie beyond the water crossed, since it is not to be supposed that Sigvatr was wet before the crossing. — [4] til glœps ‘badly’: The phrase more literally means ‘for a crime’ or ‘for badness’, but prepositional phrases with til sometimes have adverbial force, as with til fulls ‘fully’ and til loks ‘finally’. The sense of the clause is thus that the reason Sigvatr will not turn back is that he would have to cross the dangerous water again. This is not precisely how the phrase has generally been understood. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; so also Noreen 1922a, 69) assigns glœpr the unrecorded sense ‘mortal danger’; Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27) suggests that the clause may mean ‘We thus decided on a mad undertaking in the boat’; the eds of Hkr 1991 propose the sense ‘We thus got ourselves into trouble’; Jón Skaptason (1983, 83) renders this ‘Thus we began [this] folly on a boat’. Kock (NN §626) rather makes of til glœps an intensifier modifying vátr ‘wet’ (cf. Ger. sündhaft ‘terribly, very’, Icel. firna- ‘terribly, very’, etc.), but this obliges him to construe á báti ‘in the boat’ with the principal clause (beginning with Létk ‘I had’, l. 1), where it makes little sense. It also renders the remaining intercalary relatively pointless: vér stiltum svá ‘we managed so’ (or ‘thus did I arrange it’, Turville-Petre 1976, 81). Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 183-4), rejecting Kock’s view, suggests etymological links with words meaning ‘swallow, gulp, idiot’ and reads vátr til glóps/glœps ‘wet up to the neck’. — [7] húms ‘of the sea’: The mss almost all have heims ‘world’s’, though 61 has hafs ‘ocean’s’ (the reading adopted in Fms). Plainly the meaning ‘sea’s’ is required, and the assumption of húms (first adopted in Hkr 1777-1826, II, 124, and accepted in most critical eds, excluding ÍF 27, Hkr 1991) best explains how heims entered the textual tradition of the poem. Turville-Petre (1976, 81), retaining heims, takes it to be a half-kenning for ‘sea’, comparing Bragi Rdr 4/7III lǫnd Leifa ‘lands of Leifi <sea-king>’, though this seems unlikely.


  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. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  7. Turville-Petre, Gabriel. 1976. Scaldic Poetry. Oxford: Clarendon.
  8. 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.
  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. Munch, P. A. 1852-63. Det norske folks historie. 8 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Tønsberg.
  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. Noreen, Erik. 1922a. Studier i fornvästnordisk diktning: Andra samlingen. Uppsala Universitets årsskrift, filosofi, språkvetenskap och historiska vetenskaper 4. Uppsala: Akademiska bokhandeln.
  16. Konráð Gíslason, ed. 1892. Udvalg af oldnordiske skjaldekvad, med anmærkninger. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  17. Sahlgren, Jöran. 1927-8. Eddica et Scaldica. Fornvästnordiska studier I-II. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  18. Aall, Jacob, trans. 1838-9. Snorre Sturlesons norske kongers sagaer. Christiania (Oslo): Guldberg & Dzwonkowski.
  19. Beckman, Nat. 1923. ‘Til Sigvats Austrfararvísur’. ANF 39, 321-32.
  20. Beckman, Nat. 1934. ‘Ytterligare om Sigvats Austrfararvísur’. ANF 50, 197-217.
  21. Finnur Jónsson. 1932. Austrfararvísur. Avhandlinger utgitt av Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi i Oslo, II. Hist.-filos. kl.1931, 1. Oslo: Dybwad.
  22. Friesen, Otto von. 1942a. ‘Fredsförhandlingarna mellan Olov Skötkonung och Olav Haraldsson’. HT(S) 62, 205-70.
  23. Schreiner, Johan. 1927-9c. ‘Olav den hellige og nabolandene’. HT(N) 28 (5 ser. 7), 22-76.
  24. Ternström, Alfred. 1871. Om skalden Sighvat Thordsson och tolkning af hans Austrfararvísur, Vestrfararvísur och Knútsdrápa. Lund: Ohlsson.
  25. Hkr 1777-1826 = Schöning, Gerhard et al., eds. 1777-1826. Heimskringla edr Noregs konunga-sögor. 6 vols. Copenhagen: Stein.
  26. Hkr 1868 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1868. Heimskringla eller Norges kongesagaer af Snorre Sturlassøn. Christiania (Oslo): Brøgger & Christie.
  27. Hollander, Lee M., trans. 1964a. Heimskringla: History of the Kings of Norway by Snorri Sturluson. Austin: The American-Scandinavian Foundation. Rpt. 1991 (rpt. cited in SkP II).
  28. ÓH 1853 = Munch, P. A. and C. R. Unger, eds. 1853. Saga Olafs konungs ens helga. Christiania (Oslo): Det kongelige norske Fredriks Universitet.
  29. Internal references
  30. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  31. Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.) 2017, ‘Bragi inn gamli Boddason, Ragnarsdrápa 4’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 33.
  32. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Lausavísur 3’ 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. 788.

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