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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Vestv 4I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Vestrfararvísur 4’ 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. 621.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonVestrfararvísur

text and translation

Átti jarl at sætta
allframr búendr gamla
ok, þeirs optast tóku,
Ôleif, at því máli.
Þeir hafa fyrr af fári
— framts Eireks kyn — meira
hǫfðum keypt an heiptir
Hôkun saman mundi.

Allframr jarl átti at sætta gamla búendr, þeirs optast tóku at því máli, ok Ôleif. Þeir hafa fyrr keypt hǫfðum af fári, meira an Hôkun mundi saman heiptir; {kyn Eireks} [e]s framt.
‘The most excellent jarl was to reconcile the old farmers, who most often brought up that matter, and Óláfr. They have previously dealt in heads out of rage, to a greater degree than Hákon was able to cancel out the animosities; Eiríkr’s kin [= Hákon] is outstanding.

notes and context

The stanza is cited shortly after st. 3, but seemingly not as evidence for the same military expedition; see Introduction to this poem.

The stanza eludes definite interpretation, but is assumed here to refer to animosities between Óláfr and the farmers, which Hákon jarl (in the first helmingr) intended to, or was expected to, resolve, but which (in the second helmingr) have gone too far to be resolved. Thus Sigvatr may be making excuses for his friend Hákon (see Introduction). This appears to be the implication of the stanza, although there is no evidence of such an attempt at reconciliation (as noted in ÍF 27 and Jón Skaptason 1983, 250) or of good relations between Hákon and Óláfr. Nor is it clear what the matter (því máli, l. 4) brought up by the old farmers was, and the second helmingr, which might explain it, is particularly difficult to construe (see Note to ll. 5-8). — [5-8]: On the overall interpretation of this helmingr, see Note to [All] above. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV, 144; LP: kaupa) failed to make full sense of it, and the interpretation presented here develops that of Kock in NN §633 (as do ÍF 27 and Jón Skaptason 1983). The key points in Kock’s interpretation are the following. En(n) in l. 7 is taken as normalised an, hence meira an, lit. ‘more than, to a greater degree than’. Keypt (l. 7), lit. ‘bought, traded, bargained’ (inf. kaupa), belongs with hǫfðum ‘heads’, meaning that the sides indulged in reciprocal killings, and supplies the understood inf. kaupa to complete the auxiliary verb mundi ‘was able’ (l. 8). It is assumed here that þeir ‘they’ refers back to the farmers and Óláfr, and that meira modifies keypt hǫfðum ‘deal in heads’, contrasted with kaupa saman heiptir which means something like ‘cancel out animosities’, based on the idea of ‘exchange’ that is implicit in the verb. Kaupa saman ‘to have dealings, exchange’ is attested in HHj 3/7 (NK 141). Although there are no parallels for it taking an object (here heiptir ‘animosities’) there is a certain similarity with the expression rœkja heiptir manna ‘carry out the animosities of men’ (Þorm Þorgdr 7/3-4V (Fbr 10)). Unlike Kock, both ÍF 27 and Jón Skaptason (1983) take meira with af fári ‘out of rage’ and Jón adds the suggestion that þeir refers back to Hákon and Óláfr, who are both mentioned in the previous helmingr, resulting in his translation ‘They [Hákon and Óláfr] have traded heads [killed each other’s men] with too much violence for Hákon now to bring about reconciliation’.



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, 5. Vestrfararvísur 4: AI, 242, BI, 227, Skald I, 118, NN §633Hkr 1893-1901, II, 352, IV, 144, ÍF 27, 273, Hkr 1991, II, 451 (ÓHHkr ch. 146); ÓH 1941, I, 427 (ch. 136), Flat 1860-8, II, 277; Jón Skaptason 1983, 107, 250-1.


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