Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv ErfÓl 28I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 28’ 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. 697.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonErfidrápa Óláfs helga

Endr réð engla senda
Jórðánar gramr fjóra
— fors þó hans á hersi
heilagt skopt — ór lopti.

{Gramr Jórðánar} réð endr senda fjóra engla ór lopti; fors þó heilagt skopt á hersi hans.

{The prince of the Jordan} [CHRIST] once sent four angels from the sky; a waterfall washed the holy hair of his hersir.

Mss: R(35v), Tˣ(37r), W(81), U(34v), A(12v) (SnE); 2368ˣ(107) (LaufE)

Readings: [1] senda: at senda Tˣ, ‘s[…]da’ W, senda 2368ˣ    [2] Jórðánar: ‘[…]d[…]’ W, Jórð́ánar 2368ˣ;    gramr: so Tˣ, W, U, A, gram R    [3] þó: þá Tˣ;    hans: so U, A, hann R, Tˣ, W;    á: um U;    hersi: hersis U, A    [4] heilagt: so Tˣ, U, A, ‘helagt’ R, ‘[…]la[…]’ W, heilagt 2368ˣ;    skopt: ‘[…]’ W, ‘skop’ U, skopt 2368ˣ;    ór: ok Tˣ, ‘[…]r’ W, ór 2368ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 265, Skj BI, 245-6, Skald I, 127; SnE 1848-87, I, 450-1, II, 334, 445, SnE 1931, 159, SnE 1998, I, 77-8, 144, 202; LaufE (1979, 365); Jón Skaptason 1983, 182, 311.

Context: The stanza is cited as evidence for Jórðánar konungr ‘king of the Jordan’ as a kenning for Christ.

Notes: [All]: The text of the stanza in the LaufE ms. 2368ˣ is copied from W, and is used selectively in the Readings above to supplement W where it is damaged and illegible. — [All]: Interpretation of this helmingr is complicated by the incompleteness of the stanza and lack of a prose context (which also raise doubts about its inclusion in the poem; see Introduction). Fidjestøl’s suggestion (1982, 121) that it refers to the baptism of Christ seems to assume that the fors in l. 3 (perhaps ‘watercourse’, but most likely ‘waterfall’) is equivalent to the River Jordan, but there is no evidence for this, and Christ’s baptism in the Jordan is attended by the spirit of God descending like a dove, not by angels (e.g. Mark III.6). It seems more likely that ll. 3-4 refer to the baptism of King Óláfr. He is called dróttinn hersa ‘lord of hersar’ in st. 13/6, above, and could be seen to be in the same relationship to Christ as his hersar (district chieftains) are to him. Faulkes (SnE 1998, I, 202) cites with approval the suggestion in SnE 1848-87, III, 345-6 that the stanza is from ‘an otherwise unknown religious poem about some saint’. — [1, 2] fjóra engla ‘four angels’: The significance of the angels here is uncertain. Cf. Þrándr Kredda 1/3-4 and Note. — [3] hersi hans ‘his hersir’: Faulkes (1987, 127) translates ‘its lord’ but it is not clear what this refers to, since neither Jórðán f. ‘Jordan’ nor lopt n. ‘sky’ can be the antecedent of m. hans ‘his’, while fors m. ‘waterfall’ would trigger a refl. poss. (sinn ‘his’ rather than hans). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends to hersi heims ‘chieftain of the world’, i.e. God. The other early examples of the Christian god being the ‘ruler of all’ use the word allr ‘all’ (Meissner 369), however, and it is preferable to attempt to interpret the text without emendation.


  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. SnE 1848-87 = Snorri Sturluson. 1848-87. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar: Edda Snorronis Sturlaei. Ed. Jón Sigurðsson et al. 3 vols. Copenhagen: Legatum Arnamagnaeanum. Rpt. Osnabrück: Zeller, 1966.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. Meissner = Meissner, Rudolf. 1921. Die Kenningar der Skalden: Ein Beitrag zur skaldischen Poetik. Rheinische Beiträge und Hülfsbücher zur germanischen Philologie und Volkskunde 1. Bonn and Leipzig: Schroeder. Rpt. 1984. Hildesheim etc.: Olms.
  6. Faulkes, Anthony, trans. 1987. Snorri Sturluson. Edda. Everyman’s Library. London and Rutland, Vermont: J. M. Dent & Sons and Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc. Rpt. with new chronology and synopsis 2005.
  7. SnE 1931 = Snorri Sturluson. 1931. Edda Snorra Sturlusonar. Ed. Finnur Jónsson. Copenhagen: Gyldendal.
  8. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  9. 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.
  10. Internal references
  11. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Þrándr í Gǫtu, Kredda 1’ 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. 802.
  12. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Laufás Edda (LaufE)’ 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].

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