Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Nesv 10I

Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 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. 571.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonNesjavísur

Sjalfr bað svartar kylfur
Sveinn harðliga skeina
— nær vas áðr í óra
auðvôn róit hônum —,
þás til góðs, en gjóði
gǫrt fengusk hræ svǫrtum
Yggs, lét herr of hǫggvit
hrafni skeiðar stafna.

Sveinn sjalfr bað skeina svartar kylfur harðliga — áðr vas róit nær hônum í auðvôn óra —, þás herr lét stafna skeiðar of hǫggvit til góðs hrafni, en hræ fengusk gǫrt {svǫrtum gjóði Yggs}.

Sveinn himself commanded the black stem-fittings be cut off ruthlessly — previously the rowing was close to him in our expectation of riches —, when [his] army had the stems of the ship hewn off, to the benefit of the raven, and corpses were provided amply {for the black osprey of Yggr <= Óðinn>} [RAVEN/EAGLE].

Mss: (252v), papp18ˣ(76r) (Hkr); Holm2(12v-13r), R686ˣ(25v), 972ˣ(87va), J1ˣ(159r-v), J2ˣ(135v), 325VI(11rb), 75a(1va), 73aˣ(35v), 78aˣ(33r), 68(12r), 61(84vb), Holm4(4vb-5ra), 325V(16rb-va), 325VII(5r), Bb(135rb), Flat(83vb), Tóm(102r-v) (ÓH); FskBˣ(43r-v), FskAˣ(164) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] Sjalfr: sjalf J1ˣ;    bað: bauð J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, Tóm;    svartar: ‘svarta ta’ 325V, svarta 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    kylfur: ‘kylfr’ 972ˣ, 78aˣ, FskAˣ, kylfu 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [2] Sveinn: sein R686ˣ    [3] nær: né FskAˣ;    óra: ‘ærna’ 325VII, óru FskBˣ, orna FskAˣ    [4] auð‑: all 972ˣ, ǫll 73aˣ, 68, 61, ‘avr’ Bb;    ‑vôn: ‑vann Bb, ‘‑nonn’ FskAˣ;    róit: ‘rórt’ papp18ˣ, réð FskAˣ    [5] þás (‘þa er’): þat var 972ˣ;    til: om. FskAˣ;    góðs: gjóðs Flat, Tóm;    en gjóði: ‘enggiodi’ R686ˣ;    en: við FskBˣ, viðr FskAˣ;    gjóði: so Holm2, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 78aˣ, Holm4, 325VII, Bb, Flat, ‘gioðo’ Kˣ, papp18ˣ, gjóða 972ˣ, 68, 61, FskBˣ, FskAˣ, ‘gięði’ 73aˣ, gjóð 325V, góði Tóm    [6] gǫrt: ‘gæ(re)’(?) 325VII, ‘gíor’ Tóm;    fengusk: fengum Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, fennum J1ˣ, fengu FskAˣ;    hræ: vér R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, her Bb;    svǫrtum: sveitum Holm4, snertu Bb, svǫrtu FskAˣ    [7] Yggs: ‘jggs’ papp18ˣ, ‘vggs’ 325V, viggs FskBˣ;    lét: lék papp18ˣ;    herr: ‘hrr’ R686ˣ, hann Bb;    hǫggvit: hǫggvinn 325VI    [8] skeiðar: ‘steiþar’ R686ˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 231, Skj BI, 219, Skald I, 114, NN §§620, 621; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 73, IV, 122-3, ÍF 27, 64-5 (ÓHHkr ch. 50); Fms 4, 100-1, Fms 12, 79-80, ÓH 1941, I, 94 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 45; Fsk 1902-3, 152 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 176 (ch. 29); CPB II, 128, Poole 2005d, 176.

Context: ÓH-Hkr introduces st. 10 after st. 9, describing how the king’s men make to board Sveinn’s ship, fixing grappling hooks on to its stem-fitting (-kylfuna). Sveinn gives orders for the kylfa to be cut down. In Fsk, st. 10 follows immediately after st. 7.

Notes: [1] kylfur ‘stem-fittings’: This is the sole skaldic attestation of kylfa, which normally means ‘club’, as a nautical term. Jesch (2001a, 150) explains it as the highest and narrowest part of the ship’s stem, where ‘stem’ means both prow and stern (ibid., 144; but see Note on ll. 7, 8 of this stanza). The highest part of the stem stood in the way of would-be boarders but, being made of relatively slender pieces of timber, could readily be cut down so as to gain easier access (ibid., 150; cf. Christensen 1985, 158-60, 232). Most boarding and fighting seems to have taken place at either end of the ship, not amidships (Jesch 2001a, 213). The sg. variant svarta kylfu ‘black stem-fitting’ in 325V, 325VII, Flat and Tóm has been explained as an attempt to bring the stanza into closer agreement with the prose narrative (ÍF 27). — [3-4] vas róit nær hônum í auðvôn óra ‘the rowing was close to him in our expectation of riches’: Vas róit, lit. ‘was rowed’, is impersonal, but óra ‘our’ points to the skald and Óláfr’s men as the logical subject. Seemingly their manoeuvres are influenced by high hopes of plunder.  — [5, 8] til góðs hrafni ‘to the benefit of the raven’: Gratifying to the carrion-birds because boarding opens the way for numerous casualties during hand-to-hand fighting calculated to hrjóða ‘clear’ the ship of her complement (Jesch 2001a, 211-13). — [6] hræ fengusk gǫrt ‘corpses were provided amply’: The word gǫrt ‘amply, completely’ is used adverbially, modifying the m. v. form fengusk ‘were provided’ with hræ (pl.) ‘corpses’ as the subject and gjóði (dat.) ‘osprey’ as the object (cf. NN §621). More in line with the copyists’ expectations, to judge from the ms. variants, would have been a construction using the active form fengum ‘we gave’. — [7, 8] herr lét stafna skeiðar of hǫggvit ‘[his] army had the stems of the ship hewn off’: Either this is a restatement of the cutting down of the kylfur in ll. 1-2 or, if kylfa is only the upper part of the ship’s stems, a further development; cf. Note to l. 1 above. The construal adopted by Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) is not credible because it takes of ‘over’ as a prep. with skeiðar ‘ships’, but in this position it must be the expletive particle. — [7] herr ‘[his] army’: This word is used, as in st. 4/6, to refer to Sveinn’s following.


  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. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  5. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. Jesch, Judith. 2001a. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: The Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions and Skaldic Verse. Woodbridge: Boydell.
  7. CPB = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and F. York Powell, eds. 1883. Corpus poeticum boreale: The Poetry of the Old Northern Tongue from the Earliest Times to the Thirteenth Century. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon. Rpt. 1965, New York: Russell & Russell.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  11. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  13. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  14. Poole, Russell. 2005d. ‘The Nesjavísur of Sigvatr Þórðarson’. MS 15, 171-98.
  15. Christensen, Arne Emil. 1985. ‘Boat Finds from Bryggen’. In Hagen et al. 1984-1992, I, 47-278.
  16. Internal references
  17. 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].
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)

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