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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv ErfÓl 2I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 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. 666.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonErfidrápa Óláfs helga

text and translation

Upplǫnd fekk til enda
ôss gneista ok þar reisti
kristnihald, þats heldu
hverr veitir sverðs beita.
Áðr stýrðu þeim eyðar
ellifu fyrr hella
mildings máls, en guldu
menn vísliga gísla.

{Ôss gneista} fekk Upplǫnd til enda, ok reisti þar kristnihald, þats {hverr veitir {beita sverðs}} heldu. {Ellifu eyðar {máls {mildings hella}}} stýrðu þeim áðr fyrr, en menn guldu gísla vísliga.
‘The god of the sword [WARRIOR = Óláfr Haraldsson] got the whole of Opplandene, and established Christianity there, which each benefactor of the swingers of the sword [WARRIORS > GENEROUS MAN] maintained. Eleven destroyers of the speech of the lord of the cave [GIANT > GOLD > GENEROUS MEN] ruled it [Opplandene] previously, but men wisely gave hostages.

notes and context

Styrmir (inn fróði ‘the Wise’ Kárason) is cited as having reckoned up, j sinne bok ‘in his book’, six kings who had ruled in Norway in addition to the five already mentioned (see Note to l. 6 below). The citation is followed by a statement that King Óláfr took hostages from the lendir menn ‘landed men, district chieftains’ and farmers.

[1-4]: The helmingr may be corrupt, being preserved in only two mss and containing several metrical irregularities. In l. 1 (Type A2l) the frumhending (first part of an internal rhyme) is in position 2 on a syllable with secondary stress (though the same feature occurs in st. 21/1, which curiously also seems to refer to Opplandene, by a pun); l. 2 has elision on ‑a ok in a Type D4 line; l. 3 has alliteration on the second element of the cpd kristnihald, and l. 4 violates Craigie’s Law (on which, see Gade 1995a, 29-30) by having a long nominal syllable (sverðs) in position 4. The interpretation of these lines is also uncertain. (a) This edn tentatively follows Kock (NN §657) in keeping the readings of Flat, though a word such as til still needs to be added in l. 1 (see also Note to l. 5, below). Kock’s interpretation involves reading ‘os næista’ (Flat), ‘os neista’ (761bˣ) as ôss gneista, lit. ‘god of the spark’ and assuming that gneisti is a heiti for ‘sword’ and that the whole makes a warrior-kenning. Kock adduces several parallels, including kennings with brands or elds as determinant, both of which can mean ‘sword’ as well as ‘fire’; cf. also Þul Sverða 8/1, 2, 7III and Note to 8/1III. The word ôss ‘god’ is both rare as a base-word (Meissner 264) and unexpected in Sigvatr’s poetry (by contrast with the avowedly pagan Edáð Banddr 8/7), though he does make use of individual gods’ names as base-words in kennings. It is conceivable that there is also a subtext here that Óláfr, the saint to be, is an ôss ‘god’ of the light of Christendom, with the word gneisti translated literally as ‘spark, fire’ (cf., e.g., the light imagery in ESk Geisl 1-3VII). Also problematic is veitir beita sverðs ‘benefactor of the swingers of the sword [WARRIORS]’ which Kock glosses as hövding eller bonde ‘chieftain or farmer’. This stretches the meaning of veitir somewhat, as it usually means ‘giver’ and in kennings is normally qualified by a word for treasure or weapons (Meissner 306). (b) Despite these difficulties, Finnur Jónsson’s alternative interpretation (Skj B; also Jón Skaptason 1983) is less convincing because it requires two further emendations (of hverr to hvers and beita to beitar in l. 4) and highly unnatural word order.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 2: AI, 257, BI, 239, Skald I, 124, NN §§657, 2777; ÓH 1941, II, 768, Flat 1860-8, II, 68; Jón Skaptason 1983, 157, 301-2.


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