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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, 682

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

15 — Sigv ErfÓl 15I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 15’ 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. 682.

Undr láta þat ýtar
eigi smátt, es máttit
skæ-Njǫrðungum skorðu
skýlauss rǫðull hlýja.
Drjúg varð á því dœgri
— dagr náðit lit fǫgrum —
— orrostu frák austan
atburð — konungs furða.

Ýtar láta þat eigi smátt undr, es skýlauss rǫðull máttit hlýja {{skorðu skæ-}Njǫrðungum}. Drjúg varð furða konungs á því dœgri; dagr náðit fǫgrum lit; frák atburð orrostu austan.

People declare that no small wonder, that the cloudless sun was not able to warm {the Njǫrðungar <gods> {of the steed of the prop}} [(lit. ‘steed-Njǫrðungar of the prop’) SHIP > MEN]. Great was the portent concerning the king during that daytime; the day did not achieve its beautiful colour; I heard of the event at the battle from the east.

Mss: (470r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(68r), J2ˣ(226v), 321ˣ(255), 73aˣ(201r), Holm4(63va), 61(125va), 325V(80vb), 325VII(38r), Flat(124vb), Tóm(156r) (ÓH); W(168) (ll. 1-4) (SnE)

Readings: [1] Undr: auðr 321ˣ;    þat: því 61, þat corrected from þeir 325VII    [2] máttit: metit 321ˣ, máttuð 73aˣ, 325V, mátta 61, mátti Flat, ‘ma(ttud)’(?) W    [3] skæ‑Njǫrðungum: ‘ske mordungum’ 321ˣ, ‘skein j orðungum’ 73aˣ, ‘sk(yniorvngvm)’(?) 61, ‘skeiniordvngvm’ 325V, ský‑Njǫrðungum Flat, Tóm;    skorðu: skorðum 73aˣ, skatna 61    [4] ‑lauss: ‑laust 321ˣ, Flat;    hlýja: hylja Holm2, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, Tóm, W    [5] Drjúg: drýg Holm2, ‘dvinor’ 321ˣ, draug 73aˣ, 325V, drjúgr 325VII;    dœgri: degi 73aˣ    [6] náðit: náði 73aˣ, 61, Flat;    lit: lítt Flat, Tóm    [7] frák (‘fra ec’): ‘[…]’ 61;    austan: ‘austa’ J2ˣ, ‘[…]st[…]’ 61    [8] furða: fyrða Holm2, furðu 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, spurðan 61

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 15: AI, 261, BI, 242, Skald I, 125, NN §662; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 491, IV, 169, ÍF 27, 382-3, Hkr 1991, II, 532 (ÓHHkr ch. 227); ÓH 1941, I, 572 (ch. 225), Flat 1860-8, II, 356; SnE 1848-87, II, 497, W 1924, 105; Jón Skaptason 1983, 170, 305-6.

Context: In ÓH-Hkr, the narrative mentions the solar eclipse (see Note to [All]). In the W text of SnE, ll. 1-4 are adduced as an example of the fact that men can be called Njǫrðungar (see Note to l. 3 below).

Notes: [All]: There was a solar eclipse on 31 August 1030; for discussion of the dating of the battle, and whether it coincided with the eclipse see ÍF 27, xcii-xcviii. — [3] skorðu skæ-Njǫrðungum ‘the Njǫrðungar <gods> of the steed of the prop [(lit. ‘steed-Njǫrðungar of the prop’) SHIP > MEN]’: Njǫrðungar appears to be derived from the god-name Njǫrðr, and is used in kennings for ‘man’ or ‘warrior’, always in the pl., and normally in compounds (LP: njǫrðungar). Skorða ‘prop’, used occasionally in ship-kennings (Meissner 215), is a support for the ship on dry land (Jesch 2001a, 171). — [5] dœgri ‘daytime’: Dœgr normally refers to either the daytime or night-time half of the twenty-four-hour period (LP: dœgr; see also Introduction to Þul DœgraIII). — [7] austan ‘from the east’: The force of this is uncertain, since Sigvatr was seemingly in Rome at the time of the battle (see Sigv Lv 18; ÍF 28, 14). (a) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) suggests that austan is equivalent to austr ‘in the east, i.e. Norway’ (cf. Sigvatr’s apparent use of austan in Sigv Víkv 9/5 to mean ‘from the east, Norwegian’). See also Note to st. 17/2. In this case austan refers to the source of the news and characterises Norway as easterly, perhaps from the general viewpoint of an Icelander, though not from the specific viewpoint of an Icelander currently in Rome. (b) ÍF 27 suggests more specifically that Sigvatr was í Vesturlöndum ‘in the British Isles’ when he heard the news from Norway, presumably on his way back from Rome. This matches the usage in Sigv Knútdr 7/2, where Knútr in England frá austan ‘learned [news] from the east’, in this case Denmark. (c) Kock (NN §662B) translates austan as i öster ‘in the east’, noting that Sigvatr’s travels c. 1030 took him south and east. This seems to presuppose that austan locates the hearer of the news, rather than the source of the news. — [7] frák ‘I heard’: See Note to st. 7/1, above.

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