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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Lv 1I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 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. 699.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonLausavísur

text and translation

Fiskr gengr oss at óskum,
eitrs sem vér hǫfum leitat
lýsu vangs ór lyngvi
leygjar orm at teygja.
Atrennir lét (annars)
ǫngulgripinn hanga
(vel hefr aurriða at egna)
agngalga (mér hagnat).

Fiskr gengr oss at óskum, sem vér hǫfum leitat at teygja {orm eitrs leygjar} ór {lyngvi {vangs lýsu}}. {Atrennir {agngalga}} lét ǫngulgripinn hanga; annars hefr hagnat mér vel at egna aurriða.
‘The fishing goes according to our [my] wishes, in that we have tried to lure the poison-serpent of the sea [FISH] out of the heather of the field of the cod [SEA > SEAWEED]. The caster of the bait-gallows [FISHING LINE > FISHERMAN] let the one grasped by the hook hang; at all events, things have turned out well for me in catching the trout.

notes and context

As a boy, Sigvatr catches a large and beautiful fish in Apavatn in Iceland. A Norwegian who cooks the fish for him tells him to eat the head first, since that is where the intelligence of every living creature is hidden. Sigvatr does so and then delivers this stanza. Ever afterwards he is a clever person and a good poet.  

The stanza itself does not overtly commemorate anything other than a successful fishing trip, but the tale that supplies its context is of great interest. For conflicting views on its Irish or Norse derivation, see Bugge (1897a) and Lie (1946a), and on the tradition, in Old Icelandic literature, of miraculous origins for a poet’s craft, see Turville-Petre (1972b, 42-3) and ÍF 9, c-ci. See also Clunies Ross (1999a), who emphasises the wonder-tale elements of an initiatory rite of passage and the acquisition of special powers by ingestion of a marvellous substance. For another skaldic stanza attached to an anecdote accounting for a gift of poetry, see Hhal Lv and Introduction to that. — [5-8]: The lines clearly express satisfaction with the catch, but more than one construal is possible. (a) The interpretation adopted here assumes that ǫngulgripinn (l. 6) is a p. p., lit. ‘hook-grasped’, used as a substantive, ‘the one grasped by the hook’, and is the object of lét hanga ‘let hang’ (ll. 5, 6), while aurriða ‘trout’ is the object of egna ‘catch’ (l. 7). (b) The main alternative is to take ǫngulgripinn aurriða together, leaving the normally transitive egna without an explicit object (so Skj B), but this produces an awkward word order and a tripartite l. 7. (c) Jón Skaptason (1983) takes -gripinn to be acc. sg. of gripr ‘costly thing’ plus def. art., and he renders the cpd ‘the hook-trophy’; but use of the def. art. as a suffix would be most unusual if the stanza is to be dated to Sigvatr’s day.



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, 13. Lausavísur 1: AI, 265, BI, 246, Skald I, 127, NN §§669, 670; Fms 4, 89, Fms 12, 77, Flat 1860-8, III, 243, ÓH 1941, II, 690, 707; Jón Skaptason 1983, 183, 312-3.


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