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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, 683

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

16 — Sigv ErfÓl 16I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 16’ 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. 683.

Mildr fann gǫrst, hvé galdrar,
gramr sjalfr, meginrammir
fjǫlkunnigra Finna
fullstórum barg Þóri,
þás hyrsendir Hundi
húna golli búnu
— slætt réð sízt at bíta —
sverði laust of herðar.

Mildr gramr fann gǫrst sjalfr, hvé meginrammir galdrar fjǫlkunnigra Finna barg fullstórum Þóri, þás {{húna hyr}sendir} laust sverði búnu golli of herðar Hundi; slætt réð sízt at bíta.

The gracious prince discovered most clearly himself how the mightily strong spells of the magic-skilled Saami saved the very powerful Þórir when {the sender {of the fire of the mast-tops}} [(lit. ‘fire-sender of the mast-tops’) GOLD > GENEROUS MAN = Óláfr] struck with the sword adorned with gold across the shoulders of Hundr (‘Dog’); the blunt one succeeded least in biting.

Mss: (470v-471r) (Hkr); Holm2(68r), J2ˣ(226v-227r), 321ˣ(256), 73aˣ(201v), Holm4(63va), 61(125va), 325V(81ra), 325VII(38r), Flat(124vb), Tóm(156r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] fann: veit J2ˣ;    gǫrst: mest Tóm    [2] gramr: grams Flat;    sjalfr: ‘siafr’ Holm2, silfurs Flat, silfr‑ Tóm;    ‑rammir: ‑rammar 61, Tóm    [5] hyrsendir Hundi: með Hundi harðar 321ˣ;    ‑sendir: ‑sendi Flat    [6] búnu: búin 321ˣ, búna 61    [8] laust: ‘luzt’ 73aˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 16: AI, 261, BI, 242-3, Skald I, 125, NN §663; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 492, IV, 169-70, ÍF 27, 383-4, Hkr 1991, II, 532-3 (ÓHHkr ch. 228); ÓH 1941, I, 573 (ch. 226), Flat 1860-8, II, 356; Jón Skaptason 1983, 171, 306.

Context: Óláfr strikes Þórir hundr (‘Dog’; see Note to l. 4 below) on the shoulders but his sword does not ‘bite’, and it seems as if dust rises from the reindeer skin he is wearing.

Notes: [4, 5] fullstórum Þóri; Hundi ‘the very powerful Þórir; Hundr (“Dog”)’: Þórir hundr (‘Dog’) Þórisson, originally a lendr maðr ‘landed man, district chieftain’ of Óláfr, became a follower of King Knútr, who gave him the Finnferð, the job of travelling to collect tax from the Saami (ÍF 27, 306). While on one of these expeditions, he acquired twelve reindeer skins which were impervious to weapons and soon after led a naval expedition from the north to defend the country from Óláfr, coming from the east (ÍF 27, 345). Þórir is one of two or three attackers accused of having been directly responsible for Óláfr’s death (ÍF 27, 385; Fidjestøl 1987). It is not clear whether fullstórum ‘very powerful’ refers to Þórir’s size or his significance, though the latter is more likely as Snorri calls him ríkastr maðr ‘the most powerful man’ in northern Norway (ÍF 27, 177). Kock (NN §663) accepts that fullstórum could be an adj. referring to Þórir, but notes the possibility that it could rather be an adv. modifying barg ‘saved’, meaning ‘fully’ or ‘strongly’. — [4] barg ‘saved’: The fact that this sg. verb is predicated to a pl. subject galdrar ‘spells’ in l. 1 is probably explained by the distance between the two (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; cf. NS §66 Anm. 3). — [6] húna ‘of the mast-tops’: The húnn was a strengthened area at the top of the mast through which the halyards passed and on which the shrouds could rest. As Finnur Jónsson points out (Hkr 1893-1901, IV), the kenning is unusual and rather depends on the assumption that such mast-tops were gilded. This stanza seems to be the only definite evidence that these were gilded, however; there is a possible but not certain instance in Arn Hryn 10/7-8II (see Note and Jesch 2001a, 160-2). — [7] slætt ‘the blunt one’: The king’s magnificent sword has presumably been blunted by the Saami magic. — [7] sízt ‘least’: This is doubtless an instance of litotes: the sword did not bite at all.

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