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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Berv 1II

Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur 1’ 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, pp. 12-14.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonBersǫglisvísur

Fregnk, at suðr með Sygnum
Sighvatr hefr gram lattan
folkorrostu at freista;
fer, ef þó skulum berjask.
Fǫrum í vôpn ok verjum
(vel tvist, konungr) lystir
(hvé lengi skal) hringum
hans grund (til þess fundra)?

Fregnk, at Sighvatr hefr lattan gram at freista folkorrostu suðr með Sygnum; fer, ef þó skulum berjask. Fǫrum í vôpn ok verjum lystir grund hans hringum; konungr, hvé lengi skal fundra vel tvist til þess?

I hear that Sigvatr has [I have] dissuaded the lord from waging civil war in the south among the Sygnir; I shall go, if we nonetheless must fight. Let us put on arms and let us defend, eager, his land with swords; king, how long must one ponder so very silent on this?

Mss: (504r), 39(14va), E(5v), J2ˣ(245r) (Hkr); Holm2(74r), 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI(42ra-b), 321ˣ(282), 73aˣ(216r), Holm4(69vb) (ll. 1-3), 325VII(41v), 325V(89va), 61(130rb), Tóm(161r), Bb(206rb) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Fregnk at (‘Fregn ek at’): so 39, E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI, 321ˣ, Holm4, 325VII, 325V, Tóm, Bb, Fregn ek á Kˣ, Fregnat 73aˣ, Fregni ek at 61;    suðr: ‘syðr’ 325VI, 321ˣ;    Sygnum: ‘suignum’ 39    [2] Sighvatr: ‘Sigvat’ 972ˣ(584va), ‘sigh’ 972ˣ(584vb);    ‑hvatr: so 39, E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 325VI, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, Tóm, Bb, ‑vatr Kˣ, 325VII, 61, ‘‑hvatur’ 321ˣ;    hefr: hafa 972ˣ(584va), ‘hꜹfer’(?) 972ˣ(584vb)    [3] folkorrostu at: om. 73aˣ, folkorrostur at 325VII, 61;    freista: so 39, Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI, 73aˣ, 325VII, 325V, 61, Bb, fresta Kˣ, E, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, fremja Tóm    [4] fer: so E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 325VII, 325V, 61, Tóm, Bb, fer ek Kˣ, 39, 972ˣ(584va);    ef: om. 972ˣ(584va);    þó: so 39, E, J2ˣ, Holm2, 972ˣ(584va), 972ˣ(584vb), 325VI, 73aˣ, 325VII, 325V, 61, Tóm, Bb, svá Kˣ, 321ˣ;    skulum: skal 39, ‘skom’ 321ˣ    [5] Fǫrum: farim 325VI, 321ˣ;    vôpn: vápni 972ˣ(584vb);    verjum: verjumsk 73aˣ, 325V, 61, Tóm, ‘væriumc’ 325VII    [6] tvist: traust Bb;    konungr: konung 39, E, J2ˣ, 972ˣ(584va), 325VI, 73aˣ, 325VII, 61, Tóm, Bb, konungar 972ˣ(584vb), kóng 321ˣ;    lystir: listir 972ˣ(584va), 73aˣ, 325V, ‘lustir’ 61, hraustan Bb    [8] grund: grundar 325VII;    fundra: so 39, E, Holm2, 972ˣ(584vb), 325VII, 325V, fundar Kˣ, J2ˣ, 972ˣ(584va), 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, 61, Tóm, Bb

Editions: Skj AI, 253-4, Skj BI, 236-7, Skald I, 122-3, NN §§653, 2260; ÍF 28, 26-7 (Mgóð ch. 16), E 1916, 17; ÓH 1941, I, 625 (ch. 261); Jón Skaptason 1983, 146, 292-3.

Context: According to Hkr and ÓH, the people of Sogn were threatening to revolt against Magnús who was staying in Hordaland deliberating his next move. Sigvatr was chosen by lot to act as the spokesman for the king’s friends. In the words of Hkr (ÍF 28, 26): ok hefr hann fyrst um þat, at þeim þótti konungr of mjǫk velkja ráðin at setja bœndr aptr, þá er heituðusk at reisa ófrið í móti honum ‘and he first opens by addressing the fact that the king seemed to them to have hesitated far too long to act on the advice to restrain the farmers who threatened to wage war on him’.

Notes: [All]: Hkr gives this st. as the first st. in Berv, and from the content it is reasonable to treat it as such (see also Jón Skaptason 1983, 292). It is not clear why Finnur Jónsson changes the order of sts and gives it as st. 9 in Skj. — [3] folkorrostu ‘civil war’: Taken in the meaning ‘battle or war fought between different factions of the population’. It could also be glossed as ‘pitched battle’ (cf. OE folcgefeoht). LP: folkorrusta provides the translation hovedkamp ‘major battle’. See also Note to GullásÞ Víðdr 1/2. Holm4 ends after the first element of this cpd. — [3] freista ‘wage’: Lit. ‘attempt, try’. So the majority of mss. The variant fresta ‘delay, hesitate’ (so , E, J2ˣ, 321ˣ) makes little sense and could have been influenced by the prose context. — [4] fer ‘I shall go’: The pron. ek ‘I’ (introduced in Skj B, Skald) has been omitted on the evidence of the majority of mss. — [5] fǫrum í vôpn ok verjum ‘let us put on arms and and let us defend’: These verbs can either be construed as imp. pl. (so NN §653) or as 1st pers. pl. (so Skj B). In view of the general content of the st., the former is more likely. — [6] tvist ‘silent’: Earlier eds emend to tyst to retain the aðalhending (cf. ODan. tyst; AEW: tvistr), and it is quite likely that Sigvatr could have used an Old East Norse form since he had just spent a long time in Sweden (1031-5; see ÍF 28, 17-18). For another, possibly Old East Norse form, see st. 10/4 below. Skj B translates the word as tvedragt ‘discord, division’ (so also LP: tvistr 1), but it is otherwise unattested in that meaning. — [6] konungr (m. nom. sg.) ‘king’: All earlier eds adopt the variant konung (m. acc. sg.) ‘king’. However, the nom. form is higher up on the stemma, and it would be natural for Sigvatr to address the king in the opening st. of his poem. For a similar apostrophe in an identical metrical environment, see st. 9 below. — [7] hringum (dat. instr.) ‘with swords’: Hringr ‘ring’ referred to the rings on sword-hilts, and is used pars pro toto for ‘swords’. See LP: 2. hringr and Note to st. 16/4 below. — [8] fundra ‘ponder’: Skj B retains the reading fundar (m. gen. sg.) ‘meeting’ (so also ÍF 28). However, fundra is the form warranted by the ms. witnesses, and it is easy to see how this lectio difficilior could have been replaced by the familiar fundar. Kock was the first to adopt the variant fundra (NN §2260), which he connected with Swed., Norw., Icel. dialects fundra ‘lurk, lie in wait for’, OSwed. funda ‘ruminate’ (see AEW: fundra). That meaning is corroborated by the prose context (see Context above).


  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. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. AEW = Vries, Jan de. 1962. Altnordisches etymologisches Wörterbuch. 2nd rev. edn. Rpt. 1977. Leiden: Brill.
  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. 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.
  8. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  9. E 1916 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1916. Eirspennill: AM 47 fol. Nóregs konunga sǫgur: Magnús góði – Hákon gamli. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske historiske kildeskriftskommission.
  10. Jón Skaptason. 1983. ‘Material for an Edition and Translation of the Poems of Sigvat Þórðarson, skáld’. Ph.D. thesis. State University of New York at Stony Brook. DAI 44: 3681A.
  11. Internal references
  12. 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].
  13. 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.
  14. Kari Ellen Gade 2009, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Bersǫglisvísur’ 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, pp. 11-30.
  15. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2009, ‘Gullásu-Þórðr, Víðkunnsdrápa 1’ 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, pp. 470-1.

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