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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Nesv 6I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 6’ 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. 565.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonNesjavísur

Fekk meira lið miklu
mildr an gløggr til hildar,
hirð þás hugði forðask
heið þjóðkonungs reiði.
En vinlausum vísa
varð, þeim es fé sparði,
— háðisk víg fyr víðum
vangi — þunnt of stangir.

Mildr fekk miklu meira lið til hildar an gløggr, þás heið hirð hugði forðask reiði þjóðkonungs. En vinlausum vísa, þeim es sparði fé, varð þunnt of stangir; víg háðisk fyr víðum vangi.

The generous one [Óláfr] gained a much greater force for the battle than the mean one [Sveinn], when the illustrious retinue thought to escape the wrath of the mighty king. But for the friendless leader [Sveinn], he who scrimped on payment, it became sparse around the standards; war was waged off the broad plain.

Mss: DG8(78v) (ÓHLeg)

Readings: [3] forðask: fœðazk DG8    [4] heið: beið DG8

Editions: Skj AI, 228, Skj BI, 217, Skald I, 113; ÓHLeg 1922, 25, ÓHLeg 1982, 76-7; Poole 2005d, 174.

Context: The stanza is preceded by an account of preparations and the skothríð ‘missile-shower’ and a remark that Óláfr had much the larger force.

Notes: [All]: Sigvatr now develops a contrast between Óláfr and Sveinn, as respectively generous and parsimonious, popular and unpopular. At the same time, it is hinted that Óláfr’s success in amassing support arises not entirely from generosity but also from intimidation. For further discussion of the quantiative comparison, see Note to st. 12/2, 4. On the role of wealth in Óláfr’s consolidation and augmentation of his following, see Fidjestøl (1975 and 1984b). — [2] an gløggr ‘than the mean one [Sveinn]’: Ms. ‘en’ is here normalised as the comp. conj. an. It could alternatively be taken as the conj. en ‘but, and’ juxtaposing two characteristics of Óláfr: mildr ‘generous’, and gløggr (til hildar) ‘clear-sighted, clever (at fighting, in battle)’, but in context this is less likely. — [3] hirð ‘retinue’: This is the earliest attestation of this word, which derives from OE hīred ‘household, band of retainers’. Óláfr may have brought both the term and the institution it denotes to Norway at the end of his English campaigns (cf. Hofmann 1955, 83). — [3] forðask ‘to escape’: The emendation, necessary for sense and skothending, was proposed by Keyser and Unger (ÓHLeg 1849, 20). — [4] heið ‘illustrious’: Another emendation necessary for sense and verse-form, also proposed by Keyser and Unger (loc. cit.). — [4] þjóðkonungs ‘of the mighty king’: Lit. ‘of the nation’s king’. Hofmann (1955, 83, 101) suggests that, although this word occurs in earlier skaldic poetry, its use by the skalds may have been influenced by OE þēodcyning ‘king of a nation, emperor’. — [7-8] fyr víðum vangi ‘off the broad plain’: On the site of the sea-battle, see Note to st. 2/4. Although the epithet víðr may be purely conventional, it would fit Brunlanes as a whole, which contrasts with some extremely long and narrow peninsulas to the north-east. — [8] stangir ‘the standards’: Strictly speaking, the word stǫng denotes the pole on which the banner (merki or ) is held aloft (Jesch 2001a, 253). Evidently Sveinn assembles his forces beneath these standards before they board the ships. The phrase þunnt of stangir ‘sparse around the standards’ also occurs in Anon (Hák) 3/6II.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. Fidjestøl, Bjarne. 1975. ‘Kongetruskap og gullets makt: Om nokre Bibel allusjonar hjå Sigvat skald’. MM, 4-11.
  4. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  5. ÓHLeg 1982 = Heinrichs, Anne et al., eds and trans. 1982. Olafs saga hins helga: Die ‘Legendarische Saga’ über Olaf den Heiligen (Hs. Delagard. saml. nr. 8II). Heidelberg: Winter.
  6. Hofmann, Dietrich. 1955. Nordisch-englische Lehnbeziehungen der Wikingerzeit. BA 14. Copenhagen: Munksgaard.
  7. ÓHLeg 1922 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert, ed. 1922. Olafs saga hins helga efter pergamenthåndskrift i Uppsala Universitetsbibliotek, Delagardieske samling nr. 8II. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 47. Kristiania (Oslo): Dybwad.
  8. Poole, Russell. 2005d. ‘The Nesjavísur of Sigvatr Þórðarson’. MS 15, 171-98.
  9. ÓHLeg 1849 = Keyser, R. and C. R. Unger. eds. 1849. Olafs saga hins helga: En kort saga om kong Olaf den Hellige fra anden halvdeel af det tolfte aarhundrede. Efter et gammelt pergaments-haandskrift i Universitets-bibliotheket i Upsala. Christiania (Oslo): Feilberg & Landmark.
  10. Internal references
  11. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Anonymous Lausavísur, Lausavísur from Hákonar saga Hákonarsonar 3’ 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, p. 850.

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