Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Nesv 1I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 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. 558.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonNesjavísur

Fór ór Vík á vári
válaust konungr austan,
— þeir kníðu blô báðir
borð — en jarl kom norðan.
Kannk sigrviðum segja,
sund*, hvé þeira fundir,
œrin skil, þeims ôrum,
at bôrusk, þar skôru.

Konungr fór válaust austan ór Vík á vári, en jarl kom norðan; þeir báðir kníðu blô borð. Kannk segja {sigrviðum}, þeims skôru sund* þar ôrum, œrin skil, hvé fundir þeira bôrusk at.

The king set forth, without doubt, from the east out of Vík in spring, and the jarl came from the north; they both urged on the black planks. I am able to tell {the victory-trees} [WARRIORS], those who cut the sea there with their oars, sufficient information as to how their encounters took place.

Mss: FskBˣ(43r), 51ˣ(39r), 302ˣ(65v), FskAˣ(163), 301ˣ(60r) (Fsk); A(5r), W(104) (TGT, l. 1)

Readings: [1] á: at 51ˣ, 302ˣ    [3] kníðu: so 51ˣ, 302ˣ, ‘knyðu’ FskBˣ, knúðu FskAˣ, 301ˣ    [5] ‑viðum: ‘vidrum’ 301ˣ    [6] sund*: sunds all;    fundir: fyndir all    [7] œrin: so corrected from ‘[…]en’ 51ˣ, ‘æirinn’ FskBˣ, ‘o᷎rem’ 302ˣ, œrinn FskAˣ, 301ˣ    [8] bôrusk: ‘breculz’ FskAˣ, ‘bæcusz’ 301ˣ;    skôru: so FskAˣ, 301ˣ, vôru FskBˣ, 51ˣ, 302ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 228, Skj BI, 217, Skald I, 113, NN §618; Fsk 1902-3, 151 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 175 (ch. 29); SnE 1848-87, II, 120-1, TGT 1884, 79, TGT 1927, 55, TGT 1998, 144-5; CPB II, 127, Poole 2005d, 171-2.

Context: In Fsk, the citation of st. 1 is preceded by a summary of the battle at Nesjar, noting that Óláfr had the victory and that Sveinn jarl narrowly evaded capture, thanks to Einarr þambarskelfir. It is followed by a comment that Sigvatr composed the poem (kvæðit) when the events were of recent occurrence (ný orðin), and that he had been present at the battle; further stanzas are announced. In TGT, the first line is cited to illustrate cacenphaton (see Note to l. 1).

Notes: [All]: Although st. 3 has already been cited in Fsk, this stanza is stated there to be first in the poem: Sigvatr hefr svá Nesjavísur ‘Sigvatr begins Nesjavísur thus’. — [1-4]: On the trope of two forces approaching each other from different directions, see Note to Sigv Tryggfl 1/1-4. — [1] fór … ór ‘set forth … out of’: In TGT the repetition of sounds in these two opening words is used to illustrate one variety of the rhetorical vice of cacenphaton, Gk ‘ill-sounding’.  — [2] válaust ‘without doubt’: The function of the adv., lit. ‘without calamity or danger’, is probably to vouch for the truth of the statement, as it does in ESk Geisl 37/6VII, but it could alternatively characterise the king’s action as decisive. — [3, 4] blô borð ‘the black planks’: Black probably because tarred. This is among the few references to the colour of ships’ hulls in the skaldic corpus (Jesch 2001a, 144). — [5, 6, 7, 8] kannk segja sigrviðum, þeims skôru sund* þar ôrum, œrin skil ‘I am able to tell the victory-trees [WARRIORS], those who cut the sea there with their oars, sufficient information’: Sigvatr asserts his entitlement to give an authoritative account of the engagement in front of an audience of persons who had themselves participated. Finnur Jónsson’s emendation of ôrum to órut in l. 7 (Skj B) gives þeims órut þar ‘who were not there’, producing a contrast with the skald, but emendation is unnecessary, as shown by Fidjestøl (1982, 227-8: see Note to l. 7 below). — [6] sund* ‘the sea’: Various interpretations address the problems of the helmingr: the function of sunds, and the fact that skôru ‘cut’ seems to lack an object. (a) Following ÍF 29, the minor emendation of sunds to sund ‘sea’ is adopted here. This provides an object for skôru ‘cut’, which would be normal (cf. ESk Run 10/1II skark sund súðum ‘I cut the sea with ship-sides’, LP: skera 1, and Jesch 2001a, 177). Although the word order is convoluted this is often a feature of Sigvatr’s style, and it might well account for the presumed corruption. (b) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) emends more drastically: sunds to n. nom. pl. sund ‘inlets’, and skôru ‘cut’ (l. 8) to m. v. skôrusk, producing sund skôrusk ‘inlets were cut’. (c) Ms. sunds could be retained as a gen. defining fundir ‘encounters’, hence ‘encounters of the sea, naval encounters’. Skôru ‘cut’ is then left without formal object, but this finds a partial parallel in Hharð Gamv 2II súð sneið ‘the hull sliced’ (noted by Jesch 2001a, 177); or an object is provided if sund ‘the sea’ is understood from sunds; cf. interpretation (a) in Note to st. 2/7. (d) Sunds could alternatively be construed as an adverbial gen. of location, ‘at sea’ (cf. Poole 2004). — [7] ôrum ‘with their oars’: The interpretation of ms. orom as dat. pl. of ár ‘oar’ is due to Fidjestøl (1982, 227-8) and renders unnecessary the very complex interpretations by Finnur Jónsson (Skj B), Kock (NN §618) and Bjarni Einarsson (ÍF 29).


  1. Bibliography
  2. TGT 1884 = Björn Magnússon Ólsen, ed. 1884. Den tredje og fjærde grammatiske afhandling i Snorres Edda tilligemed de grammatiske afhandlingers prolog og to andre tillæg. SUGNL 12. Copenhagen: Knudtzon.
  3. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  4. 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.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  7. 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.
  8. Fidjestøl, Bjarne. 1982. Det norrøne fyrstediktet. Universitet i Bergen Nordisk institutts skriftserie 11. Øvre Ervik: Alvheim & Eide.
  9. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  10. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  11. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  13. TGT 1927 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1927b. Óláfr Þórðarson: Málhljóða- og málskrúðsrit. Grammatisk-retorisk afhandling. Det kgl. Danske Videnskabernes Selskab. Historisk-filologiske meddelelser 13, 2. Copenhagen: Høst.
  14. TGT 1998 = Krömmelbein, Thomas, ed. and trans. 1998. Dritte grammatische Abhandlung. Studia nordica 3. Oslo: Novus.
  15. Poole, Russell. 2004. ‘Adverbial Genitives in Skaldic Poetry’. MS 104, 115-31.
  16. Poole, Russell. 2005d. ‘The Nesjavísur of Sigvatr Þórðarson’. MS 15, 171-98.
  17. Internal references
  18. Tarrin Wills 2017, ‘The Third Grammatical Treatise’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols [check printed volume for citation].
  19. 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.
  20. Martin Chase (ed.) 2007, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Geisli 37’ in Margaret Clunies Ross (ed.), Poetry on Christian Subjects. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7. Turnhout: Brepols, pp. 37-8.
  21. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Einarr Skúlason, Runhenda 10’ 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, pp. 558-9.
  22. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Haraldr harðráði Sigurðarson, Gamanvísur 2’ 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, pp. 36-7.
  23. Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Tryggvaflokkr 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. 644.

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