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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
12

Fiskr ‘The fishing’

fiskr (noun m.): fish

[1] Fiskr: fisk 78aˣ

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gengr ‘goes’

2. ganga (verb; geng, gekk, gengu, genginn): walk, go

[1] gengr: so 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, 61, gekk Flat, yggr 78aˣ

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eitrs ‘the poison’

eitr (noun n.; °; dat. -um): poison

[2] eitrs: eitr 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, 61, ‘ettr’ 78aˣ

kennings

orm eitrs leygjar
‘the poison-serpent of the sea ’
   = FISH

the poison-serpent of the sea → FISH

notes

[2] eitrs ‘poison-’: Lit. ‘of poison’. This is equivalent to ‘poisonous’, and it should be understood that it is the serpent to which the fish is analogized that is poisonous, not the fish itself. Kock (NN §669) points out that the kenning can also refer to a warship, though he does not attribute that meaning to it here.

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hǫfum ‘have’

hafa (verb): have

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lýsu ‘of the cod’

1. lýsa (noun f.; °-u): cod, whiting

kennings

lyngvi vangs lýsu.
‘the heather of the field of the cod. ’
   = SEAWEED

the field of the cod. → SEA
the heather of the SEA → SEAWEED

notes

[3] lyngvi vangs lýsu ‘the heather of the field of the cod [SEA > SEAWEED]’: The base-word lyng ‘heather’ suggests some kind of vegetation as the referent, and Meissner 99 suggests seaweed (Tang). Strictly, ‘water-weed’ might be more appropriate since the scene is the inland lake Apavatn, south-west Iceland, judging from the prose context. An alternative is ‘ice’, since ice covers the water as heather does the moor, and Snorri’s prose indicates that Sigvatr was ice fishing, so very possibly he understood the kenning this way. However, other ice-kennings have a term denoting some kind of roof or covering as their base-word (see Meissner 100). 

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lýsu ‘of the cod’

1. lýsa (noun f.; °-u): cod, whiting

kennings

lyngvi vangs lýsu.
‘the heather of the field of the cod. ’
   = SEAWEED

the field of the cod. → SEA
the heather of the SEA → SEAWEED

notes

[3] lyngvi vangs lýsu ‘the heather of the field of the cod [SEA > SEAWEED]’: The base-word lyng ‘heather’ suggests some kind of vegetation as the referent, and Meissner 99 suggests seaweed (Tang). Strictly, ‘water-weed’ might be more appropriate since the scene is the inland lake Apavatn, south-west Iceland, judging from the prose context. An alternative is ‘ice’, since ice covers the water as heather does the moor, and Snorri’s prose indicates that Sigvatr was ice fishing, so very possibly he understood the kenning this way. However, other ice-kennings have a term denoting some kind of roof or covering as their base-word (see Meissner 100). 

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vangs ‘of the field’

1. vangr (noun m.): field, plain

[3] vangs: ‘vangs’ or ‘vanger’ 61

kennings

lyngvi vangs lýsu.
‘the heather of the field of the cod. ’
   = SEAWEED

the field of the cod. → SEA
the heather of the SEA → SEAWEED

notes

[3] lyngvi vangs lýsu ‘the heather of the field of the cod [SEA > SEAWEED]’: The base-word lyng ‘heather’ suggests some kind of vegetation as the referent, and Meissner 99 suggests seaweed (Tang). Strictly, ‘water-weed’ might be more appropriate since the scene is the inland lake Apavatn, south-west Iceland, judging from the prose context. An alternative is ‘ice’, since ice covers the water as heather does the moor, and Snorri’s prose indicates that Sigvatr was ice fishing, so very possibly he understood the kenning this way. However, other ice-kennings have a term denoting some kind of roof or covering as their base-word (see Meissner 100). 

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vangs ‘of the field’

1. vangr (noun m.): field, plain

[3] vangs: ‘vangs’ or ‘vanger’ 61

kennings

lyngvi vangs lýsu.
‘the heather of the field of the cod. ’
   = SEAWEED

the field of the cod. → SEA
the heather of the SEA → SEAWEED

notes

[3] lyngvi vangs lýsu ‘the heather of the field of the cod [SEA > SEAWEED]’: The base-word lyng ‘heather’ suggests some kind of vegetation as the referent, and Meissner 99 suggests seaweed (Tang). Strictly, ‘water-weed’ might be more appropriate since the scene is the inland lake Apavatn, south-west Iceland, judging from the prose context. An alternative is ‘ice’, since ice covers the water as heather does the moor, and Snorri’s prose indicates that Sigvatr was ice fishing, so very possibly he understood the kenning this way. However, other ice-kennings have a term denoting some kind of roof or covering as their base-word (see Meissner 100). 

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ór ‘out of’

3. ór (prep.): out of

[3] ór: á 76aˣ

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lyngvi ‘the heather’

lyng (noun n.; °dat. -vi/-i; -): heather

[3] lyngvi: so 78aˣ, 61, lyngi Flat, 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ

kennings

lyngvi vangs lýsu.
‘the heather of the field of the cod. ’
   = SEAWEED

the field of the cod. → SEA
the heather of the SEA → SEAWEED

notes

[3] lyngvi vangs lýsu ‘the heather of the field of the cod [SEA > SEAWEED]’: The base-word lyng ‘heather’ suggests some kind of vegetation as the referent, and Meissner 99 suggests seaweed (Tang). Strictly, ‘water-weed’ might be more appropriate since the scene is the inland lake Apavatn, south-west Iceland, judging from the prose context. An alternative is ‘ice’, since ice covers the water as heather does the moor, and Snorri’s prose indicates that Sigvatr was ice fishing, so very possibly he understood the kenning this way. However, other ice-kennings have a term denoting some kind of roof or covering as their base-word (see Meissner 100). 

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leygjar ‘of the sea’

1. leygr (noun m.): flame

kennings

orm eitrs leygjar
‘the poison-serpent of the sea ’
   = FISH

the poison-serpent of the sea → FISH
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orm ‘serpent’

ormr (noun m.; °-s, dat. -i; -ar): serpent

kennings

orm eitrs leygjar
‘the poison-serpent of the sea ’
   = FISH

the poison-serpent of the sea → FISH
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Atrennir ‘The caster’

atrennir (noun m.): [caster]

[5] Atrennir: atrennis 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, ‘surennis’ 78aˣ, ‘at renis’ 61

kennings

Atrennir agngalga
‘The caster of the bait-gallows ’
   = FISHERMAN

the bait-gallows → FISHING LINE
The caster of the FISHING LINE → FISHERMAN
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lét ‘let’

láta (verb): let, have sth done

[5] lét: má 61

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annars ‘at all events’

1. annarr (pron.; °f. ǫnnur, n. annat; pl. aðrir): (an)other, second

[5] annars: so all others, annan Flat

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ǫngul ‘the one grasped by the hook’

ǫngull (noun m.): fishing hook < ǫngulgripinn (adj./verb p.p.)

[6] ǫngul‑: anga 73aˣ, 71ˣ, 76aˣ, 78aˣ

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hanga ‘hang’

1. hanga (verb): hang

[6] hanga: fanga 61

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hefr ‘things have’

hafa (verb): have

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aurriða ‘the trout’

aurriði (noun m.): [trout]

notes

[7] aurriða ‘the trout’: The species is given as salmo trutta ‘salmon trout’, i.e. brown trout, in CVC: aurriði.

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egna ‘ catching’

egna (verb; °-gnd-): [ catching, baits]

[7] egna: erja 61

notes

[7] egna ‘catching’: Consonant rhyme (skothending) fails in an odd line here, as in another four instances in Sigvatr’s oeuvre: see Höskuldur Þráinsson (1970, 27); Gade (1995a, 31-3). In order to provide proper skothending, Kock (NN §670) would adopt the reading erja ‘to plough’. However, his assumption of the sense ‘to cut’ is not convincing, and the fact that this reading is unique to ms. 61 suggests a scribal attempt to correct the hending (so Gering 1912, 134 n. 2, who ascribes the verse to a different, inferior poet; so also Bugge 1897a, 211). Jón Skaptason (1983, 183) adopts erja and renders it ‘baiting’, for no very clear reason.

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agn ‘of the bait’

agn (noun n.; °; *-): [bait] < agngalgi (noun m.)

kennings

Atrennir agngalga
‘The caster of the bait-gallows ’
   = FISHERMAN

the bait-gallows → FISHING LINE
The caster of the FISHING LINE → FISHERMAN
Close

agn ‘of the bait’

agn (noun n.; °; *-): [bait] < agngalgi (noun m.)

kennings

Atrennir agngalga
‘The caster of the bait-gallows ’
   = FISHERMAN

the bait-gallows → FISHING LINE
The caster of the FISHING LINE → FISHERMAN
Close

galga ‘gallows’

galgi (noun m.): gallows < agngalgi (noun m.)

[8] ‑galga: ‘galiga’ 76aˣ, gagli 61

kennings

Atrennir agngalga
‘The caster of the bait-gallows ’
   = FISHERMAN

the bait-gallows → FISHING LINE
The caster of the FISHING LINE → FISHERMAN
Close

galga ‘gallows’

galgi (noun m.): gallows < agngalgi (noun m.)

[8] ‑galga: ‘galiga’ 76aˣ, gagli 61

kennings

Atrennir agngalga
‘The caster of the bait-gallows ’
   = FISHERMAN

the bait-gallows → FISHING LINE
The caster of the FISHING LINE → FISHERMAN
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hagnat ‘turned out’

hagna (verb): turn out

[8] hagnat: fagnat 78aˣ, 61

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Interactive view: tap on words in the text for notes and glosses

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.

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