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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, 681

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

14 — Sigv ErfÓl 14I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 14’ 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. 681.

Rauð í rekka blóði
rǫnd með gumna hǫndum
dreyrugt sverð, þars dýran
drótt þjóðkonung sótti.
Auk at ísarnleiki
Innþrœndum lét finnask
rœkinn gramr í reikar
rauðbrúnan hjǫr túnum.

Dreyrugt sverð rauð rǫnd með hǫndum gumna í blóði rekka, þars drótt sótti dýran þjóðkonung. Auk rœkinn gramr lét rauðbrúnan hjǫr finnask í {túnum reikar} Innþrœndum at {ísarnleiki}.

Gory sword reddened shield, along with the hands of men, in the blood of warriors, where the troop attacked the glorious mighty king. And the capable prince caused the red-brown sword to be found in {the homefields of the hair-parting} [HEAD] of Innþrœndir in {the iron-play} [BATTLE].

Mss: (469v) (Hkr); Holm2(67v), J2ˣ(226r), 321ˣ(254), 73aˣ(201r) (ll. 1-4), Holm4(63rb), 61(125rb), 325V(80va), 325VII(38r), Flat(124va-b), Tóm(155v) (ÓH)

Readings: [3] dreyrugt: so 73aˣ, 325VII, dreyrug Kˣ, Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, Flat, Tóm;    þars (‘þar er’): þá er 73aˣ, 325V, fyrir 325VII;    dýran: dyggvan 73aˣ, 325V, dýrum 61    [4] ‑konung: ‑konungr 61, Tóm;    sótti: sóttu 325V    [5] Auk: ok Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Holm4, 325V, ‘ott’ 61, 325VII, Tóm;    ísarn‑: so Holm2, jarna‑ Kˣ, J2ˣ, Holm4, 61, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, í sár 325V    [6] Innþrœndum: innþrœndir Flat;    lét: sókn Flat;    finnask: stinna Flat    [7] rœkinn: rekinn var 61, Flat, Tóm;    gramr: ‘grarr’ Flat, grár Tóm    [8] ‑brúnan: brúnum Tóm;    túnum: túni 321ˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 14: AI, 260-1, BI, 242, Skald I, 125, NN §§620, 661, 2988C; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 490, IV, 168, ÍF 27, 381, Hkr 1991, II, 531 (ÓHHkr ch. 226); ÓH 1941, I, 571 (ch. 224), Flat 1860-8, II, 355; Jón Skaptason 1983, 169, 304.

Context: The fighting gets fiercer and the king presses forward in the hand-to-hand fighting.

Notes: [1-3]: (a) Dreyrugt sverð ‘gory sword’, although the reading of only two mss, is adopted here (as in Skj B, Skald and Jón Skaptason 1983) to provide a subject for the sg. verb rauð. (b) The majority reading dreyrug sverð is retained in ÍF 27 (followed by Hkr 1991), and taken as acc. pl., while rauð is assumed to be impersonal. This leads to the syntactically awkward Rauð rǫnd með hǫndum gumna, dreyrug sverð ‘One reddened the shield, along with the hands of men, (and) gory swords’. — [2] með hǫndum gumna ‘along with the hands of men’: Here (with Kock, NN §§661, 2988C, and ÍF 27), með is taken in the sense ‘together with’. Finnur Jónsson in Skj B suggested a sg. sense for the pl. gumna ‘of men’, hence ‘(sword) in the man’s hands’. — [5-8]: It is possible to construe the helmingr in two ways, depending on the interpretation of rauð (l. 8). (a) Rauð could form part of a cpd adj. rauðbrúnan (m. acc. sg.) ‘red-brown’ (so Skj B, Skald and this edn), cf. rauðljóss, lit. ‘red-light’, in Hallv Knútdr 4/1III (-brúnn is unlikely to mean ‘sharp’; see Note to Arn Magndr 2/8II). In this case ll. 5-8 constitute a single clause. (b) Rauð could be the pret. verb ‘reddened’, with gramr ‘prince’ as its understood subject (so ÍF 27). However, this interpretation presents difficulties in ll. 6-7, requiring lét ‘caused’ to take a dat. object (Innþrœndum ‘Innþrœndir’) and leaving the role of finnask ‘be found’ unclear. — [5] auk at ísarnleiki ‘and ... in the iron-play [BATTLE]’: The same phrase is found (only) in Þjóð Haustl 14/5, where the fight is a mythic one between the god Þórr and the giant Hrungnir. Given the further resemblance to Haustl (see Note to ll. 7, 8 below), Sigvatr’s stanza may consciously or unconsciously recall Haustl. — [7] rœkinn ‘capable’: Apart from this instance, the adj. (apparently the p. p. of an unrecorded strong verb) is attested only in various compounds (LP: rœkinn) and the meaning is not entirely clear, though it may be related to the weak verb rœkja ‘to take care’. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes rœkinn with at ísarnleiki ‘in iron-play [BATTLE]’, hence ‘capable in battle’, but the prepositional phrase is more naturally taken with lét finnask ‘caused to be found’ (cf. NN §620). — [7, 8] túnum reikar ‘the homefields of the parting [HEAD]’: The pl. túnum might suggest ‘hair’ as the referent of this kenning, but the context and skaldic parallels (Meissner 127) rather suggest ‘head’. Compare the similar hneigihlíðum hárs ‘inclined slopes of the hair [HEAD]’ in Þjóð Haustl 20/1-2III: in both cases the head is assaulted by a weapon (a whetstone in Haustl) described as rauðr ‘red’. Sigvatr’s kenning continues the preoccupation with hair in recounting Óláfr’s punitive actions against his enemies; cf. st. 4/5, 8, st. 6/2, 3, 4 and Notes.

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