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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv ErfÓl 4I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 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. 670.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonErfidrápa Óláfs helga

Goll buðu opt, þeirs ollu
úthlaupum, gram kaupask
rautt, en ræsir neitti,
ríklunduðum undan.
Skǫr bað hann með hjǫrvi
— herland skal svá verja —
— ráns biðu rekkar sýna
refsing — firum efsa.

Buðu, þeirs ollu úthlaupum, opt ríklunduðum gram rautt goll kaupask undan, en ræsir neitti. Hann bað efsa skǫr firum með hjǫrvi; svá skal verja herland; rekkar biðu sýna refsing ráns.

Those who carried out plundering expeditions often offered the mighty-spirited prince red gold to buy themselves off, but the ruler refused. He ordered men’s hair to be cut with the sword; that is how to defend the people’s land; the warriors suffered visible punishment for their robbery.

Mss: (438v-439r), papp18ˣ(165r) (Hkr); Holm2(59v), J2ˣ(211v), 321ˣ(225), 73aˣ(183r), 68(59r), Holm4(57vb), 61(118ra), 325V(71rb), 325VII(33r), Bb(191ra), Flat(119vb), Tóm(148r), 325XI 2 g(4vb) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] buðu: ‘ludu’ 321ˣ;    opt: om. 325V;    þeirs (‘þeir er’): þeim er papp18ˣ, þeir 321ˣ, þar er Flat    [2] úthlaupum: út hlupum Tóm;    gram: grams J2ˣ;    kaupask: kaupa J2ˣ    [3] rautt: rétt 61;    neitti: so papp18ˣ, 321ˣ, 68, 325V, 325XI 2 g, neytti Kˣ, netti Holm2, nítti J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325VII, Bb, Flat, ‘⸜n⸝atti’ 61, veitti Tóm    [4] ‑lunduðum: ‑lynduðum Bb;    undan: slíku 68    [5] Skǫr: skotit Bb;    bað: bauð papp18ˣ, J2ˣ, bar 68, lét 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [6] her‑: hér 325VII;    ‑land: lǫndum 321ˣ, ‑lǫnd 73aˣ;    svá: om. 321ˣ    [7] ráns: rá ráns papp18ˣ, rán Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, 325XI 2 g, raun 68, 61, rann Tóm;    biðu: biðr Bb;    rekkar: réttrar 68, rekka 61, Bb, Tóm, rekka corrected from rekkar Flat;    sýna: so Holm4, 325VII, sína Kˣ, papp18ˣ, sona Holm2, 325XI 2 g, reiðir J2ˣ, þínir 321ˣ, 73aˣ, sýnar 68, trjónur 61, Flat, Tóm, sóna 325V, ‘trino’ Bb    [8] firum: konungr 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    efsa: ofsa Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, ‘hnefsa’ 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, efla 325V

Editions: Skj AI, 257-8, Skj BI, 240, Skald I, 124, NN §§658, 1871, 1936B; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 421, IV, 159, ÍF 27, 329, Hkr 1991, II, 493 (ÓHHkr ch. 181); ÓH 1941, I, 501 (ch. 177), Flat 1860-8, II, 316; Jón Skaptason 1983, 159, 302.

Context: King Óláfr is said to have put an end to the practice whereby the sons of Norwegian aristocrats and powerful farmers went raiding, both within Norway and abroad. He brings security to the land and curtails their robbery by punishing them with death or maiming; neither pleas nor bribes deflect him.

Notes: [3] neitti ‘refused’: Neitti and nítti (as in several ÓH mss) are from neita and níta, both weak verbs meaning ‘to say no, refuse’, and both are metrically possible. However, the variant neytti (from neyta ‘to use, enjoy’) and the other variants suggest an original neitti (as in papp18ˣ, an independent copy of K). — [5, 8] hann bað efsa skǫr firum með hjǫrvi ‘he ordered men’s hair to be cut with the sword’: The image of hair-cutting noted by Kock (NN §658) here and in st. 6 (cf. also st. 14) may be a form of humiliating punishment (see Ebel 1999, 240). It is also doubtless a euphemism for beheading. Efsa is recorded only here. Kock compares OE efesian ‘clip, shear, cut’, and the fact that Sigvatr spent time in England and is known for his lexical resourcefulness makes OE influence possible. — [6] herland ‘the people’s land’: This follows the suggestion of Kock (NN §1871) that this is a cpd equivalent to fólkland ‘the people’s land’. This is plausible, particularly in view of the fact that herr can mean ‘population, inhabitants of a country’ (LP: herr 2); and cf. Ótt Hfl 7/3, 4 varða þjóðlǫnd ‘defend the nation’s lands’. (b) ÍF 27, followed by Jón Skaptason (1983) and Hkr 1991, understands it as land, sem verður fyrir hernaði ‘land that is subject to raids’. However, there are no close parallels for such a construction among the large number of nominal compounds in her-. (c) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) treats this as two unconnected words, taking land as the object of verja and her (dat.) as the hostile army against which the land must be defended. — [6] svá skal verja ‘that is how to defend’: Lit. ‘so must (one) defend’. — [7, 8] biðu refsing ráns ‘suffered punishment for their robbery’: is the sole ms. to have the reading ráns (gen. sg., though cf. rá ráns in papp18ˣ) but this must be correct as the majority reading rán (nom./acc. sg.) cannot be accounted for in the syntax. The verb refsa ‘punish’ normally takes an acc. object referring to the offence (e.g. SnSt Ht 66/7-8II), but refsing ráns is similar to the use of a gen. object with verbs like gjalda ‘(re)pay’, hefna ‘avenge’ (NS §134). — [7] sýna ‘visible’: Although found only in Holm4 and 325VII, this reading is clearly the most plausible. It is partially supported by some of the other (curiously diverse) ms. readings and is adopted by previous eds.


  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. 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.
  6. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  7. NS = Nygaard, Marius. 1906. Norrøn syntax. Kristiania (Oslo): Aschehoug. Rpt. 1966.
  8. 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.
  9. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  10. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  11. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  12. 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.
  13. Ebel, Else. 1999. ‘Haar- und Barttracht §2. Überlieferung im Norden’. In RGA, 13, 240-4.
  14. Internal references
  15. 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.
  16. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  17. Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Óttarr svarti, Hǫfuðlausn 7’ 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. 749.
  18. Kari Ellen Gade (ed.) 2017, ‘Snorri Sturluson, Háttatal 66’ in Kari Ellen Gade and Edith Marold (eds), Poetry from Treatises on Poetics. Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 3. Turnhout: Brepols, p. 1178.

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