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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, 594

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Sigv Austv 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 8’ 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. 594.

Mista ek fyr austan
Eiðaskóg á leiðu
Ôstu bús, es æstak
ókristinn hal vistar.
Ríks fannka son Saxa;
saðr vas engr fyrir þaðra
(út vask eitt kveld heitinn)
inni (fjórum sinnum).

Ek mista bús Ôstu á leiðu fyr austan Eiðaskóg, es æstak ókristinn hal vistar. Fannka son ríks Saxa; engr saðr vas fyrir inni þaðra; vask heitinn út fjórum sinnum eitt kveld.

I missed [felt the want of] Ásta’s farm on the way east of Eidskogen when I asked the unchristian man for lodging. I did not meet the son of powerful Saxi; no truth was present in that place; I was ordered out four times in one evening.

Mss: Holm2(26r), R686ˣ(49v), 972ˣ(178va), 325VI(17ra), 75a(15ra), 73aˣ(65r), 68(24v), 61(94ra-b), Holm4(17rb), 325VII(12v), Flat(93ra), Tóm(113v) (ÓH); Kˣ(304v), Bb(153ra) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] fyr: so 972ˣ, 325VI, 68, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, fór Holm2, er ek fór R686ˣ, 75a;    austan: ‘aistan’ R686ˣ    [2] ‑skóg: ‑skógs R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 75a, Flat;    leiðu: leiðum 73aˣ, 61, Flat    [3] Ôstu: so 325VI, 73aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Ásta Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VII, Bb, ‘osta’ 75a;    bús: bú 325VI, búss 75a, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Kˣ, býs Bb;    es (‘er’): þá es 61, sem Flat;    æstak (‘ec ęsta’): ‘ek ęst’ Bb    [4] ókristinn: ókristin R686ˣ, 972ˣ, Bb;    vistar: vista Flat    [5] Ríks: ‘riz’ 325VII;    fannka (‘fanka ec’): ‘fazka ec’ Tóm;    son: sagði R686ˣ;    Saxa: slíkan 68    [7] vask (‘var ec’): var Tóm;    heitinn: heitin R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 68, Bb    [8] inni: so 68, 61, Holm4, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Kˣ, Bb, innan Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ;    sinnum: sínum Flat, Bb

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 3. Austrfararvísur 8: AI, 235, BI, 222, Skald I, 115, NN §151; Fms 4, 188, Fms 12, 84, ÓH 1853, 81, 273, ÓH 1941, I, 201 (ch. 75), Flat 1860-8, II, 114; Hkr 1777-1826, II 126, VI, 86, Hkr 1868, 308 (ÓHHkr ch. 92), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 172, ÍF 27, 139, Hkr 1991, I, 348 (ÓHHkr ch. 91); Ternström 1871, 18-19, 47, Konráð Gíslason 1892, 37, 178, 231, Jón Skaptason 1983, 89, 240.

Context: As for st. 7.

Notes: [3] bús Ôstu ‘Ásta’s farm’: (a) The reference seems to be to Ásta, King Óláfr’s mother, and hence to the king’s hospitality. Judging from ÓHLeg (1982, 80-1) she resided by the great lake of Mjǫrs (Mjøsa) in southern Norway, hence on the route that Toll (1924) and Sahlgren (1927-8, I, 181-2) believe Sigvatr took from the north, though Beckman (1934, 214 n. 2) is right that it is not necessary to assume that Sigvatr visited her on this particular journey. (b) Sveinbjörn Egilsson (LP (1860): buss) reads búss/buss in some mss as burs (nom. sg. burr ‘son’), hence ‘I longed for Ásta’s son [Óláfr]’. (c) Ternström (1871, 47) instead reads ástabús ‘loving farmstead’, in reference to desired lodging. The name Ásta may be a fiction (according to de Vries 1932-3, 173, like Ǫlvir in st. 6) chosen only for the ironic implications of its literal meaning. — [5] son Saxa ‘the son of Saxi’: Unidentified. Hildebrand (1869-71, II, 100, followed by Ternström 1871) maintains that saxi is an epithet for a wolf, and hence ‘Saxi’s son’ is Rǫgnvaldr Úlfsson (so also Tveiten 1966, 92); but cf. Toll (1924, 563 n. 1). Toll himself (1925, 157) proposes that son Saxa is Sigtryggr, a chieftain in Næríki (ÓH 1941, I, 500; ÍF 27, 328), though his father’s name is not known. Ellekilde (1933-4) proposes that whoever Saxi’s son is, it was Sigvatr’s intention to stay the night with him, but he could not because he had lost his way in Eidskogen. — [6] engr saðr ‘no truth’: Alternatively, saðr may be an adj. and engr a pron., hence ‘no one true’ (so Jón Skaptason 1983, 89). In either case, the meaning may be simply that Sigvatr was lied to, or more contextually, that he was treated unfairly. — [6] fyrir ‘present’: Or ‘at hand’; the word appears to be adverbial, modifying vas ‘was’.  — [6, 8] þaðra inni ‘in that place’: Lit. ‘therein’. To simplify the word order, Kock (NN §151; so also de Vries 1932-3, 173) prefers the reading innan ‘from within’ of some mss to inni. The word must then depend on vask … heitinn ‘I was ordered’ in l. 7 rather than vas ‘was’ in l. 6. — [8] fjórum sinnum ‘four times’: This refers to the events in sts 6-7.

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