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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Víkv 3I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Víkingarvísur 3’ 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. 537.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonVíkingarvísur

text and translation

Hríð varð stáls í stríðri
strǫng Herdala gǫngu
Finnlendinga at fundi
fylkis niðs in þriðja.
En austr við lô leysti
leið víkinga skeiðar;
Bálagarðs at borði
brimskíðum lá síða.

{In þriðja strǫng hríð stáls} {niðs fylkis} varð í stríðri gǫngu Herdala at fundi Finnlendinga. En leið leysti skeiðar víkinga austr við lô; Bálagarðssíða lá at borði {brimskíðum}.
‘The third powerful storm of steel [BATTLE] of the descendant of the ruler [= Óláfr] happened during the difficult journey to Herdalar in a meeting with Finns. And the sea let loose the warships of the vikings east by the breakers; Bálagarðssíða lay alongside the surf-skis [SHIPS].

notes and context

Óláfr has a difficult fight against some forest-dwelling Finns, in which he loses many men. The Finns use magic to raise a storm, but Óláfr escapes by beating along the coast and sailing out to sea.  

The reference to Finnlendingar ‘Finns’ in this stanza locates Herdalar (l. 2) and Bálagarðssíða (ll. 7, 8) in Finland, and previous eds assume Bálagarðssíða is on the south-west coast of Finland, which fits the Baltic context of the previous stanza. Snorri’s prose (see Context) also locates these events in Finnland, though the reference to magic suggests confusion with the more usual meaning of ON Finnar, ‘Saami’. The prose of ÓHLeg (1982, 42) assumes two separate events, first the third battle a Finnlande austr ‘in the east in Finland’ and then a raid in Bálagarðssíða, which it locates a Siolande ‘in Zealand’, consistent with this text’s interest in events in Denmark (see Introduction to this poem). — [5-6]: The detailed interpretation is problematic. (a) Here, it is assumed that leið is a heiti for ‘sea’ (cf. SnE 1998, I, 92, citing Anon (SnE) 11III; also SnSt Ht 34/3III) and is the subject of the sentence. Leysti ‘loosened, set loose’ with flota ‘fleet’ as its object is found as a variant in ESk IngdrII 4/6 (see Note), and with lábrostinn lögr ‘wave-bursting sea’ as its subject and flaust ‘ships’ as its object in Sturl Hrafn 15/5II, though in the latter there is an adverbial phrase to explain what the ships were loosened from. The use of ‘breakers’ in this sentence and brim- ‘surf’ in l. 8, though conventional diction, might suggest a turbulent sea which could have set the ships loose from their moorings. (b) Indeed, Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes as the subject of the sentence, and reads við austrleið ‘from the east coast’, though this is precluded by the syntax, since prep. við must modify , which follows it (cf. Kuhn 1983, 120-2 on the placing of prepositions). (c) Kock (NN §612) takes the king as the implied subject of the clause, but his interpretation requires an otherwise unknown word leiðvíkinga, in which he regards leið as equivalent to leiðangr, a seaborne expedition (cf. Note to Hár Lv 1/1-4). (d) Jón Helgason (1935-6, 263) preferred to take leið víkinga ‘path of vikings’ as a kenning for the sea. This would be an attractive solution, which avoids attaching the label víkingar to Óláfr’s troop (see Note to l. 6 below), but close parallels are lacking.



Text is based on reconstruction from the base text and variant apparatus and may contain alternative spellings and other normalisations not visible in the manuscript text. Transcriptions may not have been checked and should not be cited.

editions and texts

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 1. Víkingarvísur 3: AI, 223-4, BI, 213, Skald I, 111, NN §§612, 2468; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 13, IV, 107-8, ÍF 27, 11, Hkr 1991, I, 258 (ÓHHkr ch. 9); ÓH 1941, I, 41 (ch. 22), Flat 1860-8, II, 18; Fell 1981b, 111-12, Jón Skaptason 1983, 55, 220-1.


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