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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Nesv 7I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 7’ 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. 566.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonNesjavísur

Stǫng óð gylld, þars gengum
Gǫndlar serks und merkjum
gnýs, fyr gǫfgum ræsi,
greiðendr á skip reiðir.
Þági vas, sem þessum
þengils, á jó strengjar,
mjǫð, fyr malma kveðju,
mær heiðþegum bæri.

Gylld stǫng óð fyr gǫfgum ræsi, þars gengum, {greiðendr {gnýs {serks Gǫndlar}}}, reiðir á skip und merkjum. Vas þági á {jó strengjar} fyr {kveðju malma}, sem mær bæri þessum heiðþegum þengils mjǫð.

The gilded standard advanced before the noble king, where we, {suppliers {of the din {of the shirt of Gǫndul <valkyrie>}}} [MAIL-SHIRT > BATTLE > WARRIORS], went enraged onto the ships under the banners. It was not then on {the horse of the rope} [SHIP], before {the greeting of metal weapons} [BATTLE], as if a maiden were bringing these retainers of the prince mead.

Mss: (251v-252r), papp18ˣ(76r) (Hkr); Holm2(12v), R686ˣ(25v), 972ˣ(86va), J1ˣ(158v-159r), J2ˣ(134v-135r), 325VI(11ra), 75a(1ra-b), 73aˣ(35r), 78aˣ(32v), 68(11v), 61(84vb), Holm4(4vb), 325V(16rb), 325VII(5r), Flat(83va), Tóm(102r) (ÓH); FskBˣ(43r), FskAˣ(163-164) (Fsk, ll. 1-4); R(36r), Tˣ(37v), W(82), U(35v) (SnE, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] Stǫng: sǫng 325V, strǫng FskBˣ;    gylld: so 75a, 78aˣ, Holm4, 325V, gyllt Kˣ, papp18ˣ, Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 68, 61, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    þars (‘þar er’): þá er 75a;    gengum: gengu 75a, 68, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [2] Gǫndlar: gunna 325VI, 75a, gunnar 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325VII, ‘gaunnla’ Tóm, ‘gunnlar’ FskBˣ, ‘gonla’ FskAˣ;    serks: serkjum R686ˣ    [3] fyr: ‘for’ papp18ˣ, með Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    gǫfgum: ‘gvfom’ R686ˣ, ‘gǫfg[…]m’ 325VI    [4] á: í Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    skip: bauð 61;    reiðir: reiðar 61, ‘riðir’ FskAˣ    [5] Þági: þeygi R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Tˣ, ‘þey[…]i’ U;    vas: val 78aˣ;    sem: om. Tˣ;    þessum: ‘þessor’ 68, þegnum 61    [6] þengils: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, R, W, ‘þen’ Kˣ, þengil papp18ˣ, 972ˣ, þengill Tˣ, U;    jó: jós 325VII, jór Flat;    strengjar: strengja 972ˣ, 73aˣ, Flat, stengjar Tóm, sprengir U    [7] mjǫð: corrected from ‘moð’ J2ˣ, með 68, mjǫk U;    malma: mála U;    kveðju: kveðjur 61, U    [8] heiðþegum: ‘heiþengvm’ U;    heið‑: ‘hanum’ R686ˣ, heim‑ J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘hæít’ 325VII;    ‑þegum: ‑dregum R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 75a, ‘‑þægvm’ 972ˣ, 68, 325VII, ‑drǫgum 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘‑sæfum’ 61, ‘‑þe᷎giom’ Holm4, ‘‑þægnat’ 325V;    bæri: beri R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, Tˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 229-30, Skj BI, 218, Skald I, 113, NN §§1853B, 1859, 3066; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 71, IV, 121, ÍF 27, 63 (ÓHHkr ch. 50); Fms 4, 99, Fms 12, 79, ÓH 1941, I, 93 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 44; Fsk 1902-3, 152 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 175 (ch. 29); SnE 1998, I, 81; CPB II, 128, Poole 2005d, 174-5.

Context: ÓH-Hkr introduces st. 7 after st. 5, with an account of the boarding. In Fsk, st. 7 is cited after st. 1. In SnE, the second helmingr is cited in a discussion of terms for members of a court or retinue.

Notes: [1] gengum ‘we ... went’: (a) The 1st pers. pl. gengum is the reading of the main ms. and others, and arguably the lectio difficilior, and hence is adopted here. If the correct reading, it continues the emphasis on the poet’s solidarity with the hirð ‘retinue’, and the warrior-kenning with base-word greiðendr ‘suppliers’ is in apposition to the subject ‘we’. (b) The 3rd pers. form gengu is a well-attested variant and is printed in Skj B and Skald. — [2] und merkjum ‘under the banners’: Evidently the king enjoyed the services of several merkismenn ‘standard-bearers’, a practice current from the C10th (Andersen 1977, 292). — [5, 6, 7, 8] sem mær bæri þessum heiðþegum þengils mjǫð ‘as if a maiden were bringing these retainers of the prince mead’: Contrasting the perils of battle with the comforts of the hall (here the woman welcoming victorious warriors) is a favourite skaldic theme. The metaphorical base-words of the battle-kennings in the helmingr may allude to the maiden’s greeting (kveðju, l. 7) to the warrior, who arrives on horseback (, l. 6). — [5] þessum ‘these’: Kock defends the reading þegnum ‘retainers, men’ by positing an apposition with heiðþegum (NN §1859, cf. §1853B), but the reading is poorly supported and can be explained as a scribal anticipation of the postponed indirect object heiðþegum. — [6] þengils ‘of the prince’: This gen. could qualify strengjar ‘horse of the rope [SHIP]’ (l. 6), mjǫð ‘mead’ (l. 7), heiðþegum ‘retainers’ (l. 8, as assumed here), or indeed all three of these (Jesch 2001a, 236). — [6] jó strengjar ‘the horse of the rope [SHIP]’: The sg. number of strengjar might suggest that the anchor- or mooring-rope is specially referred to (Jesch 2001a, 169). With the exception of KormǪ Lv 61/3V (Korm 82) strengmarr ‘rope-steed [SHIP]’, the word strengr is not attested in ship-kennings (cf. Poole 2005b, 187). Fsk (ÍF 29, 174), Hkr (ÍF 27, 65) and other sources report that Einarr þambarskelfir used an anchor-rope or anchor to rescue Sveinn, and, if true, this may have prompted the use of the word. — [7] fyr kveðju malma ‘before the greeting of metal weapons [BATTLE]’: If the prep. fyr has this straightforward temporal application, it is suited to the scene, the prelude to the battle. It could also perhaps be translated as ‘on account of’, ‘instead of’ or ‘in return for’ (cf. SnE 1998, I, 204). — [8] heiðþegum ‘retainers’: The correct reading is difficult to establish (see Jesch 2001a, 235-7 for full discussion). The word heið is explained by the comment in SnE that heiðfé heitir máli ok gjǫf er hǫfðingjar gefaheið-money is the name of the wages and gift that chieftains give’ (SnE 1998, I, 81; cf. LP: 2. heið f.). The alternative reading heimdregum ‘stay-at-homes’ can be explained as stigmatising those who did not support the king. But possibly some other word has been garbled in all witnesses. Jesch (loc. cit.) proposes heimþegum ‘persons given a home’, a comitatus term that occurs in Danish runic inscriptions; it is not attested in the skaldic corpus or OWN but given Sigvatr’s lexical eclecticism elsewhere he might well have used such a word.


  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. 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.
  7. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  12. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  13. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  14. SnE 1998 = Snorri Sturluson. 1998. Edda: Skáldskaparmál. Ed. Anthony Faulkes. 2 vols. University College London: Viking Society for Northern Research.
  15. Andersen, Per Sveaas. 1977. Samlingen av Norge og kristningen av landet 800-1130. Handbok i Norges historie 2. Bergen: Universitetsforlaget.
  16. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  17. Poole, Russell. 2005d. ‘The Nesjavísur of Sigvatr Þórðarson’. MS 15, 171-98.
  18. Poole, Russell. 2005b. ‘“Orð eftir orð”, “orð eftir orði”: The Progress of the Dictionary of Old Norse Prose’. Scandinavian-Canadian Studies/Études scandinaves au Canada 15, 92-118.
  19. Internal references
  20. Edith Marold 2017, ‘Snorra Edda (Prologue, Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál)’ 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].
  21. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘Heimskringla (Hkr)’ 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].
  22. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘The Separate Saga of S. Óláfr / Óláfs saga helga in sérstaka (ÓH)’ 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. clxxvi-clxxix.
  23. 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.
  24. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  25. Not published: do not cite (KormǪ Lv 61V (Korm 82))

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