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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigvatr Þórðarson (Sigv)

11th century; volume 1; ed. Judith Jesch;

3. Austrfararvísur (Austv) - 21

Skj info: Sigvatr Þórðarson, Islandsk skjald, o. 995-o. 1045 (AI, 223-75, BI, 213-54).

Skj poems:
1. Víkingarvísur
2. Nesjavísur
3. Austrfararvísur
4. En drape om kong Olaf
5. Vestrfararvísur
6. Et kvad om Erlingr Skjalgsson
7. Flokkr om Erlingr Skjalgsson
8. Tryggvaflokkr
9. Et digt om dronning Astrid
10. Knútsdrápa
11. Bersǫglisvísur
12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga
13. Lausavísur
14. Et par halvvers af ubestemmelige digte

Sigvatr or Sighvatr Þórðarson (Sigv) is said (ÍF 27, 54) to have been the son of Þórðr Sigvaldaskáld ‘Poet of Sigvaldi’, an Icelander who served, in succession, Sigvaldi jarl Strút-Haraldsson, leader of the Jómsvíkingar, his brother Þorkell inn hávi ‘the Tall’, who campaigned in England, and Óláfr Haraldsson, later king of Norway (r. c. 1015-30) and saint. Þórðr is listed as one of Sigvaldi’s skalds in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 259, 268), but none of his poetry survives. The family tradition of poetry can also be traced in Óttarr svarti ‘the Black’, said to have been Sigvatr’s sister’s son (ÍF 27, 144; ÓH 1941, I, 203). Sigvatr was brought up by a certain Þorkell, at Apavatn in south-west Iceland. When nearly fully grown he sailed to what is now Trondheim, where he met up with his father and joined King Óláfr’s retinue. According to Snorri (ÍF 27, 54-6; ÓH 1941, I, 81-3), Sigvatr recited Lv 2-3 at this time, and he interceded with the king on behalf of Icelandic merchants forced to pay a heavy tax in Norway (cf. Sigv Lv 4). It is also likely that this is when Þórðr provided Sigvatr with the material for Víkv (see Introduction to Sigv Víkv), which may be the poem referred to in the prose introduction to Sigv Lv 2 (Fidjestøl 1982, 118). There is no evidence that Sigvatr ever returned to Iceland, and according to the anecdote in which Sigv Lv 11 is preserved, he died on the island of Selja in north-western Norway and was buried at Kristskirkja (Kristkirken) in Trondheim. His poetry records his various journeys to Sweden, England and the Continent, as well as incidents in Norway. We know nothing of Sigvatr’s private life, except that he had a daughter called Tófa, who had King Óláfr himself as her godfather (Sigv Lv 19).

Sigvatr’s surviving poetic oeuvre is both large and remarkably diverse, encompassing different kinds of encomia not only on King Óláfr (Sigv Víkv, Sigv Nesv, Sigv Óldr, Sigv ErfÓl), but also on King Knútr of Denmark (Sigv Knútdr) and the Norwegian nobleman Erlingr Skjálgsson (Sigv Erl, Sigv Erlfl). Sigvatr was godfather to King Magnús inn góði ‘the Good’ Óláfsson and composed some avuncular words of advice to the boy-king (Sigv BervII). All of these patrons are recognised in Skáldatal (SnE 1848-87, III, 252-4, 258, 260-2, 269), where Sigvatr is also credited with having composed for the Swedish king Ǫnundr Óláfsson (although no such poetry survives, cf. Sigv Knútdr 4/6) and the Norwegian chieftain Ívarr inn hvíti ‘the White’ (cf. Context to Sigv Lv 8). Sigvatr also composed a poem on the Norwegian pretender Tryggvi Óláfsson (Sigv Tryggfl) and is unique in having composed in dróttkvætt in praise of a woman, Óláfr Haraldsson’s widow Ástríðr Óláfsdóttir (Sigv Ást). Several of Sigvatr’s poems are more or less loosely connected sequences of stanzas rather than more formal compositions, and encompass both travelogue (Sigv Austv) and political commentary (Sigv Vestv, Sigv BervII). The latter genre is also well represented in his lausavísur, which also include some remarkably personal stanzas expressing his grief at the death of King Óláfr (Sigv Lv 22-4). Sigvatr’s status as a hǫfuðskáld ‘chief skald’ was recognised in the twelfth century (cf. Esk Geisl 12/8VII). His versatility as a poet has clearly inspired a number of anecdotes focusing on the composition of poetry, mostly of doubtful authenticity (cf. Contexts to Sigv Lv 1, 8, 11, 27; also Introduction to Ótt Hfl). Apart from two fragments preserved in SnE (Sigv Frag 1-2III), Sigvatr’s poetry is transmitted in a wide range of texts within the tradition of the kings’ sagas and is therefore edited in this volume or (in the case of the late Sigv Berv) in SkP II. For general studies of Sigvatr’s life and works, see Paasche (1917), Hollander (1940) and Petersen (1946).

Austrfararvísur (‘Verses on a Journey to the East’) — Sigv AustvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur’ 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. 578.

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 3. Austrfararvísur, 1019 (AI, 233-40, BI, 220-5)

SkP info: I, 600

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

12 — Sigv Austv 12I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 12’ 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. 600.

Út munu ekkjur líta,
allsnúðula, prúðar,
— fljóð séa reyk — hvar ríðum
Rǫgnvalds í bý gǫgnum.
Keyrum hross, svát heyri
harða langt at garði
hesta rôs ór húsum
hugsvinn kona innan.

Prúðar ekkjur munu líta út, hvar ríðum allsnúðula í gǫgnum bý Rǫgnvalds; fljóð séa reyk. Keyrum hross, svát hugsvinn kona heyri rôs hesta at garði harða langt innan ór húsum.

Fine ladies will look out where we ride very quickly through Rǫgnvaldr’s town; the women will see the dust-cloud. Let’s spur our horses so that a wise-minded woman may hear [our] steeds’ race to the manor at a very great distance from inside the buildings.

Mss: Holm2(17v), 325V(22vb), R686ˣ(35v), 972ˣ(123va), 325VI(15vb), 75a(8ra), 73aˣ(47r), 78aˣ(46r), 68(16v-17r), 61(88va), Holm4(9ra), 75c(9v), 325VII(8v), Flat(85va), Tóm(106v) (ÓH); Kˣ(272r-v), Bb(143vb) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] munu: ‘manu’ Holm4    [2] ‑snúðula: ‘snvþarla’ 325V, 68, Tóm, ‘‑smiðula’ 78aˣ, ‘suðula’ Holm4, ‘snudalla’ Flat;    prúðar: prýðar 75c    [3] fljóð: flóð R686ˣ, brúðr Holm4, ferð Flat;    séa: sér Holm4, sjái Flat, sá Tóm;    hvar: er R686ˣ, hvé 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ    [4] Rǫgn‑: Regn‑ 325VII;    gǫgnum: gǫngum R686ˣ    [5] hross: hest 68, hvatt 61;    heyri: heyrum Tóm    [6] harða: harðla 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, Flat;    at: so 68, 61, Holm4, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, ór Holm2, 325V, frá R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ    [7] ór: at Flat    [8] hugsvinn: om. Tóm;    kona: so 75a, Holm4, Kˣ, konan Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, 75c, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Bb;    innan: ‘inan’ 325V, inni 75c, 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 12: AI, 237, BI, 223, Skald I, 116, NN §§318, 486, 1862; Fms 4, 136-7, Fms 12, 82, ÓH 1853, 56, 269, ÓH 1941, I, 136 (ch. 53), Flat 1860-8, II, 58; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 82-3, VI, 82, Hkr 1868, 275 (ÓHHkr ch. 70), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 114, ÍF 27, 94, Hkr 1991, I, 316 (ÓHHkr ch. 71); Ternström 1871, 10-11, 41, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 36, 175, Jón Skaptason 1983, 93, 242.

Context: The travellers enter Skarar (Skara) and approach the residence of Rǫgnvaldr jarl.

Notes: [All]: Fidjestøl (1997a, 339-40) finds this stanza paradigmatic of the treatment of women in Old Norse literature. — [1]: A nearly identical line depicting a female onlooker begins Anon Liðs 8, which Poole (1987, 282-3) dates to 1017. A similar line occurs in ÞjóðA Har 2/3II, composed c. 1060. — [2] allsnúðula ‘very quickly’: The adv. is here construed with ríðum ‘we ride’ in l. 3, an interpretation supported by rôs ‘race, rush’ in l. 7. It can alternatively be connected with líta út ‘look out’ in l. 1, producing simpler word order but less transparent sense (assuming, perhaps, the women are dashing to the window; so E. Noreen 1923, 39 and several other eds). — [3] hvar ‘where’: The clause which begins with this word is attached to fljóð séa reyk ‘the women will see the dust-cloud’ in l. 3 by Kock (NN §1862), followed by Jón Skaptason (1983, 93). — [6] harða langt ‘at a very great distance’: So Hallberg (1975, 167). The sense could instead be temporal (so Ternström 1871, 11). Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes harða to be an adj. ‘hard’, qualifying rôs ‘race, rush’ in l. 7. Jón Skaptason (1983, 93) takes the sense of the passage to be that the woman will hear the galloping ‘from far inside the halls’. — [6] at garði ‘to the manor’: Kock (NN §486) points out that the phrase has been taken to modify keyrum ‘we spur’ (l. 5), heyri ‘hear’ (l. 5), or rôs ‘race’ (l. 7). He disapproves of the first choice (that of Finnur Jónsson, Skj B) and discards the second (that of E. Noreen 1923, 39); his favoured option of rás/rôs at garði ‘race to the manor’ is also adopted here. The eds of ÍF 27 and Hkr 1991 instead connect it with langt ‘at a distance’ (or ‘a long way’). The present interpretation of the syntax of this helmingr is in agreement with that of Konráð Gíslason (1892, 175).

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