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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, 613

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

21 — Sigv Austv 21I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 21’ 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. 613.

Fast skalt, ríkr, við ríkan
Rǫgnvald, konungr, halda
— hann es þýðr at þinni
þǫrf nôtt ok dag — sôttum.
Þann veitk, þinga kennir,
þik baztan vin miklu
á austrvega eiga
allt með grœnu salti.

Skalt, ríkr konungr, halda fast sôttum við ríkan Rǫgnvald; hann es þýðr at þǫrf þinni nôtt ok dag. Þann veitk þik eiga, {kennir þinga}, miklu baztan vin á austrvega allt með grœnu salti.

You must, powerful king, hold fast this covenant with the powerful Rǫgnvaldr; he is well-disposed to your needs night and day. In him I know you, {master of assemblies} [RULER], to have by far the best friend in the east all along the green brine.

Mss: Holm2(26v), 325V(32bis va) (ll. 1-4), R686ˣ(50v), 972ˣ(181va), J2ˣ(161v), 325VI(17vb), 75a(16rb), 73aˣ(66v), 61(94va), 68(25r), Holm4(17vb-18ra), 325VII(13r), Flat(93rb), Tóm(114r) (ÓH); Kˣ(307v), Bb(153va-b) (Hkr); FskBˣ(45r), FskAˣ(169) (Fsk, ll. 1-4)

Readings: [1] ríkan: ríkjan 325V, 68    [2] Rǫgn‑: ‘Regn‑’ 325VII;    ‑vald: ‑valdr FskBˣ    [3] es (‘er’): stendr Kˣ;    þýðr: ‘þigðr’ J2ˣ, om. Kˣ;    at: so 325VI, 73aˣ, 68, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, FskBˣ, Bb, FskAˣ, af Holm2, 325V, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, 75a, 61, om. Kˣ;    þinni: om. Kˣ    [4] dag: dags 73aˣ;    sôttum: sôttu R686ˣ, ôttum 73aˣ, sótta 68, sôttumsk Kˣ    [5] veit: veitt Bb;    kennir: ‘kennr’ R686ˣ    [6] þik: þín 325VII, Bb    [7] á: í 972ˣ, 68;    ‑vega: vega with ‘v’ written above ‘a’ Holm2, ‑vegum 325V, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, Flat, ‑vegi R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J2ˣ, ‑vegu 61, Holm4;    eiga: eigu Tóm    [8] grœnu: grœna 325V, rauða 61

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 21: AI, 240, BI, 225, Skald I, 117; Fms 4, 193, Fms 12, 86, ÓH 1941, I, 208 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 115; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 130, VI, 89, Hkr 1868 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 175-6, ÍF 27, 145, Hkr 1991, I, 353 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Fsk 1902-3, 158, ÍF 29, 180 (ch. 30); Ternström 1871, 24-5, 52-3, Jón Skaptason 1983, 102, 245.

Context: In ÓH and Hkr, after his return from a trip to Rǫgnvaldr’s court, Sigvatr assures King Óláfr of the jarl’s loyalty. In Fsk, sts 18/1-4 and 21/5-8 comprise a stanza. See Context to st. 18 and Note to ll. 1-4 below.

Notes: [1-4]: The context provided in Fsk for the stanza formed by this helmingr and st. 18/5-8 (see Context to st. 18) raises the possibility that Sigvatr’s journey to Russia was separate from the visit to the Swedish court and hence, since Fsk (ÍF 29, 179) associates Austv with the Swedish visit, that the stanza may not belong to the poem. The Hkr context also gives confusing information about when this stanza was composed, since it describes a journey by Sigvatr to visit Rǫgnvaldr as if it were separate from the journey on which he composed Austv. However, the repetition of wording and narrative material (ÍF 27, 144, cf. 134), together with the evidence of the ÓH mss (ÓH 1941, I, 206) makes it clear that this is a recapitulation rather than a separate journey. Snorri’s separation of this stanza from the others cannot be motivated by the seeming allusion to the Baltic Sea contained in it (see below), since his prose gives no indication that Sigvatr went near the Baltic on this trip. — [1] ríkr : ríkan: On the peculiar hending, see Konráð Gíslason (1877, 18). — [3] es ‘is’: The reading stendr of is adopted by Ternström (1871), but the passage is corrupt in , where the remainder of the line is wanting. — [5] kennir þinga ‘master of assemblies [RULER]’: Other possible meanings of kennir are ‘knower, connoisseur’, ‘instructor’ and ‘tester’. It is possible that kennir þinga is a warrior-kenning, since þing ‘assembly’ is occasionally used alone as a half-kenning to refer to battle (see LP: þing 3, and cf. ESk Geisl 29VII malmþings kennir ‘tester of the weapon-meeting [BATTLE > WARRIOR]’). — [7, 8] á austrvega allt með grœnu salti ‘in the east all along the green brine’: On the seeming word-play here in reference to the Baltic, and on the difficulty of locating Rǫgnvaldr’s domain, see the Introduction. Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 174-5) objects to the acc. after á, and he would read -vegum with the greater number of mss; but the better mss have -vega, and Finnur Jónsson (1932, 16) responds that a dat. form is unnecessary. He also argues that the reference is to ‘Sweden’ in the modern sense.

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