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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv ErfÓl 23I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 23’ 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. 692.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonErfidrápa Óláfs helga

Lýgk, nema Ôleifr eigi
ýs sem kykvir tívar
(gœðik helzt í hróðri)
hárvǫxt (konungs ôru).
Enn helzk, þeims sýn seldi,
svǫrðr, * es óx, í Gǫrðum,
(hann fekk læs) af ljósum
(lausn) Valdamar, hausi.

Lýgk, nema Ôleifr eigi hárvǫxt sem {kykvir tívar ýs}; gœðik helzt ôru konungs í hróðri. Enn helzk svǫrðr, * es óx af ljósum hausi, þeims seldi sýn Valdamar í Gǫrðum; hann fekk lausn læs.

I lie unless Óláfr has hair-growth like {living gods of the yew-bow} [WARRIORS]; I benefit especially the servants of the king in [this] poem. There is still the hair that grew on the bright skull of the one who granted sight to Vladimir in Russia [Óláfr]; he got relief from disability.

Mss: (486r-v), 39(11ra) (Hkr); Holm2(71v), 325VI(39va), 321ˣ(273), 73aˣ(209v), Holm4(67vb), 61(128vb), 325V(86ra), Bb(203rb), Flat(127rb), Tóm(159r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] nema: om. 73aˣ, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm;    Ôleifr: Ôleifi 73aˣ, 325V, Flat, Tóm    [2] ýs: ‘yfs’ 325VI, ‘yss’ Flat;    kykvir: kvikir 325VI, 321ˣ, 325V, Bb, Flat, ‘kuitir’ 73aˣ, kviknir Holm4;    tívar: ‘ti[…]’ 325VI, trúar Bb    [3] gœðik (‘gøþi ec’): so 39, Holm2, 325VI, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, ‘goði ec’ Kˣ, grœði ek 73aˣ, Tóm, greiði ek Holm4    [4] konungs: om. Tóm;    ôru: ôrum Holm4, ári 61    [5] helzk: heldr 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ;    þeims (‘þeim er’): ‘[…]m er’ 325VI, þeir er Bb;    sýn: son 39, 73aˣ, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm;    seldi: seldu Flat, Tóm    [6] svǫrðr: svǫrð 39, 73aˣ, 325V, suðr 61, Flat, Tóm;    * es: þann er Kˣ, 39, Holm2, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm, þeim er Bb    [7] læs: ‘[…]es’ 325VI, laug 73aˣ    [8] Valdamar: so Holm2, 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm, ‘valldhamar’ Kˣ, Holm4, ‘valdhamars’ 39, 325VI, Valdamars 321ˣ, ‘valldmars’ 73aˣ, ‘valldimars’ 325V

Editions: Skj AI, 263-4, Skj BI, 244, Skald I, 126, NN §667; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 519, IV, 174, ÍF 27, 406, Hkr 1991, II, 549 (ÓHHkr ch. 245); ÓH 1941, I, 603 (ch. 245), Flat 1860-8, II, 376; Jón Skaptason 1983, 178, 309.

Context: Miraculous signs of sanctity are witnessed around Óláfr’s body, which is enshrined in Niðaróss (Trondheim). Bishop Grímkell preserves Óláfr’s relics, cutting his hair and nails, which continue to grow as if he were alive.

Notes: [All]: On the continued growth of Óláfr’s hair (and nails) after death, see also Þloft Glækv 5. This conception contrasts with the references to the cutting of hair in sts 4, 6 and 14, which are associated with Óláfr punishing his enemies. — [2] tívar ýs ‘gods of the yew-bow [WARRIORS]’: On bows, see Note to st. 10/5-6, above. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) notes that the internal rhyme of ý- and tív-, though not perfect, is possible (see also Kuhn 1983, 78; Gade 1995a, 5-6). — [3] gœðik ‘I benefit’: Gœða is derived from góðr and means lit. ‘to make good’, hence normally ‘enrich, endow, benefit’. The precise sense here is uncertain but could be that Óláfr’s grieving men are cheered by the poem (so Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B; LP: gœða, and cf. Sigv Lv 20/7-8 for their mourning) or honoured by its content, especially the praise of Óláfr’s miraculous powers (so ÍF 27). It is also possible that the ‘servants’ of the dead king are Christian priests whose promotion of Óláfr’s cult is aided by Sigvatr’s poem. — [5-8]: (a) The syntax of this helmingr is a modified version of that in ÍF 27, itself a modified version of that proposed in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and Skj B. (b) Kock (NN §667) rejects Finnur Jónsson’s convoluted syntax, but his solution makes little sense, involving the slightly absurd readings svǫrðr es óx í Gǫrðum ‘the hair that grew in Russia’ and hann fekk læs lausn af ljósum hausi ‘he got relief from disability from the bright skull’. — [5]: Helzk: seldi provides an aðalhending where only a skothending is required. — [6] * es óx ‘that grew’: This edn follows Hkr 1893-1901 and Jón Skaptason (1983) in emending, as there is no obvious m. acc. sg. antecedent for the near-ubiquitous reading þann er (normalised þanns), unless the variant son ‘son’ is accepted in l. 5 (a possibility acknowledged in ÍF 27 and adopted in Hkr 1991). — [6] í Gǫrðum ‘in Russia’: For an early reference to a church dedicated to S. Óláfr in Novgorod, see the C11th Sjusta rune stone (U 687; cf. Jansson 1987, 48-50). — [8] Valdamar ‘Vladimir’: Valdamarr is normally the ON equivalent of Vladimir, but there is no record of a miracle involving such a man, and his identity is unknown. It cannot be the Kievan prince Vladimir who died in 1015 (Franklin and Shepard 1996, 151-80), since Óláfr’s exile in Russia fell in the late 1020s.


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. 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.
  6. Gade, Kari Ellen. 1995a. The Structure of Old Norse dróttkvætt Poetry. Islandica 49. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  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. 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.
  9. Kuhn, Hans (1899). 1983. Das Dróttkvætt. Heidelberg: Winter.
  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. 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.
  14. Jansson, Sven B. F. 1987. Runes in Sweden. Stockholm: Gidlunds.
  15. Internal references
  16. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  17. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 20’ 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. 725.
  18. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Þórarinn loftunga, Glælognskviða 5’ 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. 870.

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