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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Knútdr 10I

Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 10’ 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. 661.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonKnútsdrápa

Kom á fylki
farlyst, þeims bar
hervíg í hug,
hafanda staf.
Rauf ræsir af
Rúms veg suman
kærr keisara
klúss Pétrúsi.

Farlyst kom á fylki hafanda staf, þeims bar hervíg í hug. Ræsir, kærr keisara, klúss Pétrúsi, rauf af suman veg Rúms.

Desire for a journey came upon the ruler bearing a staff, who bore warfare in his heart. The leader, dear to the emperor, close to Peter, enjoyed some of the glory of Rome.

Mss: FskAˣ(198), 301ˣ(72v) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] Kom á: kómu FskAˣ, 301ˣ    [2] ‑lyst: ‑laust FskAˣ, 301ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 251, Skj BI, 234, Skald I, 121, NN §§651, 652, 2516C; Fsk 1902-3, 189 (ch. 33), ÍF 29, 205 (ch. 40).

Context: This stanza is preserved only in Fsk, where, in illustration of an account of Knútr’s pilgrimage to Rome, it is quoted together with st. 11.

Notes: [All]: This stanza and the next commemorate Knútr’s pilgrimage to Rome. This took place in early 1027, and while in Rome Knútr attended the coronation of Conrad II as Holy Roman Emperor on 26 March 1027. The date of this pilgrimage is thus secure, though it is possible that Knútr made a second one later in his reign (see Lawson 1993, 102-4). Knútr’s visit to Rome is also recorded in his 1027 Letter to his subjects, originally written in Old English but now preserved only in Latin translation in John of Worcester and William of Malmesbury (Darlington and McGurk 1995-, II, 512-19; Mynors, Thomson and Winterbottom 1998-9, I, 324-9). — [2] farlyst ‘desire for a journey’: Emendation of ‘-laust’ seems necessary here. (a) Skj B emends to -lystir ‘desires’, adopting the pl. form in order to supply a subject for ms. kómu in l. 1. However, in order to retain a line of only four syllables, þeim is deleted, leading to farlystir, ’s bar ‘desires for a journey, which he bore’ (cf. farlystir, es bar in Finnur Jónsson’s 1902-3 edn of Fsk). ÍF 29 adopts Skj B’s emendation, but retains þeims, resulting in a five-syllable line. (b) Kock (NN §651) prefers the more modest emendation ‑lyst ‘desire’ in l. 2, with concomitant emendation in l. 1 to sg. kom á, assuming the fourth letter <a> to have been misread as <o>. (c) However, later reconsideration by Kock (NN §2516C; Skald) results in a more radical emendation in l. 1, with kómu ‘came’ being replaced by fell á (hence ‘desire for a journey fell upon the ruler’), in order to give both alliteration and skothending in the line. Kock’s first proposal ((b) above) is adopted here, as the processes of scribal miscopying involved seem more plausible than those required for Skj B’s farlystir. Moreover, the phrase kom á fylki gives better sense than simple koma fylki. — [4] staf ‘a staff’: The symbol of the pilgrim. — [5, 6] rauf af suman veg ‘enjoyed some of the glory’: The basic meaning of rjúfa is ‘to break, tear’, and af must be adverbial, hence ‘enjoyed’, lit. ‘broke off’, with suman veg as the acc. sg. object. There are two identical nouns vegr, both m., one meaning ‘way’ and the other ‘glory’. (a) Finnur Jónsson (Skj B; LP: rjúfa 5) assumes the former, and so interprets the clause ‘quickly put behind him some of the way’, i.e. ‘quickly travelled some of the way’. (b) Kock prefers the latter (NN §652), and so offers skördade en del av Roms berömmelse ‘reaped a portion of the glory of Rome’. Kock’s reading is preferred here, as it avoids the potential illogicality of Finnur’s reading (why did Knútr not travel all of the way to Rome?), and more appropriately emphasises Knútr’s glory and European horizons. In his 1027 Letter Knútr declares that in Rome the pope, the emperor, and the attendant nobles omnes me et honorifice suscepere et muneribus pretiosis honorauere ‘all both received me with honour and honoured me with precious gifts’ (Darlington and McGurk 1995-, II, 514-15). — [7-8]: As Frank (1994b, 118) points out, all three of the alliterating words in this couplet are loanwords. Kærr ‘dear’ is from French (Fischer 1909, 80), keisari ‘emperor’ from Lat. via OE or Ger. (Fischer 1909, 59), and klúss ‘close’ probably also from Lat. via OE or Ger. (though Fischer 1909, 79 suggests French), while the fourth word, Pétrús(i), is a Biblical name in Latinate form. As Frank (loc. cit.) states, ‘The four words, linked by rhyme and consonance, re-enact, recapitulate, Cnut’s successful “networking” with the two great political powers of Western Europe’. For all four words, this is their first recorded occurrence in skaldic verse. — [7] keisara ‘the emperor’: Conrad II, who reigned 1024-39, first as German king, then as Holy Roman Emperor. Conrad’s son Henry later married Knútr’s daughter Gunnhildr. — [8] Pétrúsi ‘to Peter’: The pope, holder of the see of S. Peter, at the time of Knútr’s visit to Rome was John XIX (1024-32).


  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. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  7. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  8. Darlington, R. R. and P. McGurk, eds. 1995-2007. The Chronicle of John of Worcester. 3 vols. Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford: Clarendon.
  9. Fischer, Frank. 1909. Die Lehnwörter des Altwestnordischen. Palaestra 85. Berlin: Mayer & Müller.
  10. Frank, Roberta. 1994b. ‘King Cnut in the Verse of his Skalds’. In Rumble 1994, 106-24.
  11. Lawson, M. K. 1993. Cnut: The Danes in England in the Early Eleventh Century. London: Longman.
  12. Mynors, R. A. B., R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom, eds and trans. 1998-9. William of Malmesbury: Gesta Regum Anglorum. 2 vols. Oxford Medieval Texts. Oxford: Clarendon.
  13. Internal references
  14. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ 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. clix-clxi.

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