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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;

11. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (ErfÓl) - 28

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).

Erfidrápa Óláfs helga (‘Memorial drápa for Óláfr inn helgi (S. Óláfr)’) — Sigv ErfÓlI

Judith Jesch 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga’ 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. 663.

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga, o. 1040 (AI, 257-65, BI, 239-45)

SkP info: I, 665

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

1 — Sigv ErfÓl 1I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 1’ 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. 665.

Tolf frák tekna elfar
tálaust viðu bála;
olli Ôleifr falli
eirsamr konungr þeira.
Svía tyggja leitk seggi
sóknstríðs (firum) ríða
(bǫl vas brátt) til Heljar
(búit mest) Sigars hesti.

Frák tálaust {tolf viðu {bála elfar}} tekna; Ôleifr, eirsamr konungr, olli falli þeira. Leitk seggi {sóknstríðs tyggja Svía} ríða {hesti Sigars} til Heljar; mest bǫl vas brátt búit firum.

I heard without equivocation that {twelve trees {of the pyres of the river}} [GOLD > MEN] were captured; Óláfr, the merciful king, caused their death. I saw the men {of the battle-hard king of the Swedes} [= Óláfr sœnski] ride {the horse of Sigarr <legendary king>} [GALLOWS] to Hel; the greatest harm was quickly prepared for the men.

Mss: R686ˣ(29v), 972ˣ(100va), Peringskiöld 1697 I(439) (ÓH)

Readings: [2] tálaust: ‘tallaust’ 972ˣ, Peringskiöld 1697 I    [4] eirsamr: ‘eiarsamr’ R686ˣ, eirlaust 972ˣ, Peringskiöld 1697 I    [5] tyggja: so 972ˣ, Peringskiöld 1697 I, ‘tiggi’ R686ˣ;    leitk (‘leit ek’): so Peringskiöld 1697 I, ‘lett ek’ R686ˣ, lét ek 972ˣ    [6] firum: fyr um Peringskiöld 1697 I

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 1: AI, 257, BI, 239, Skald I, 124, NN §§656, 1870; ÓH 1941, II, 1086; Jón Skaptason 1983, 156, 299-301.

Context: ÓH 1941, I, 110 (ch. 45) and Hkr (ÍF 27, 74-7) recount that, early in his reign, King Óláfr’s men capture and hang Ásgautr, one of the two messengers sent by King Óláfr of Sweden to collect taxes from the farmers of Norway, along with his eleven followers. The stanza is cited only in the transcriptions of the lost Uppsala ms.

Notes: [All]: The surviving texts of this stanza seem to derive from the lost Uppsala ms. (*U) of ÓH (see ÓH 1941, II, 1086). — [1, 5] frák; leitk ‘I heard; I saw’: If these are taken literally, Sigvatr was not present at the capture of the Swedish party, but did witness their subsequent hanging. — [1, 2] bála elfar ‘of the pyres of the river [GOLD]’: Bál ‘pyre’ as the base-word in gold-kennings is not normally pl. (Meissner 229-30, though cf. Kálf Kátr 11/6VII), but Meissner notes (Meissner 226) that the pl. can be used in gold-kennings, not only for poetic emphasis but also to suggest individual items of gold. Bála may, alternatively or additionally, have been preferred for its disyllabic form. — [2] tálaust ‘without equivocation’: The first element is either f. ‘pair’ (cf. SnE 1998, I, 106; LP: tálauss) or tál-, i.e. tôl ‘deceit’ (cf. Sigv Erlfl 8/3). The former is assumed here, on the basis of the spelling of the main ms. and because the concept of ‘deceit’ does not seem relevant. — [4] eirsamr ‘merciful’: No text has precisely this spelling, but it seems to be indicated by the readings and by the context. Eirsamr is preferable as the lectio difficilior, while the variant eirlaust ‘mercilessly’ is doubtless influenced by ‑laust in l. 2. Kock (NN §1870) points out that Sigvatr uses the paradox of the gentle, merciful king dealing ruthlessly with miscreants again in st. 5. — [6] firum ‘for the men’: Kock (NN §656) suggests reading this with sóknstríðs, giving ‘hard in battle against men’, but this construction seems awkward, and what Kock calls Finnur Jónsson’s paranteskonglomerat ‘conglomeration of parentheses’ is preferable in a helmingr where there is interlacing of clauses under any interpretation. — [7] Heljar ‘Hel’: The realm of the dead, and the monstrous goddess presiding over it (see Note to HSt Rst 34/1, 4). — [8] hesti Sigars ‘the horse of Sigarr <legendary king> [GALLOWS]’: See Note to Eyv Hál 4/5.

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