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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, 686

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

18 — Sigv ErfÓl 18I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 18’ 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. 686.

Bjǫrn frák auk af œrnum
endr stǫllurum kenndu
hug, hvé halda dugði
— hann sótti framm — dróttin.
Fell í her með hollum
hann verðungar mǫnnum;
leyfðrs at hilmis hǫfði
hróðrauðigs sá dauði.

Frák auk Bjǫrn endr kenndu stǫllurum af œrnum hug, hvé dugði halda dróttin; hann sótti framm. Hann fell í her með hollum mǫnnum verðungar; sá dauði at hǫfði hróðrauðigs hilmis [e]s leyfðr.

I have heard also how Bjǫrn at that time taught the marshals, with abundant courage, how it was fitting to protect their lord; he pressed forward. He fell in the army with the loyal men of the retinue; that death at the head of the fame-rich leader is praised.

Mss: (471v) (Hkr); Holm2(68r), J2ˣ(227r-v), 321ˣ(257), 73aˣ(202r), Holm4(63vb), 61(125vb), 325V(81rb), 325VII(38v), Bb(199ra), Flat(124vb), Tóm(156r) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] auk: at J2ˣ, 321ˣ, ok 73aˣ, 325V, ‘okr’ Holm4, auð 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    af: om. 73aˣ, 325V, at 61;    œrnum: œrnu Holm2, J2ˣ, Flat, ‘ornum’ 321ˣ, ernum 61, Tóm, ǫrnum 325VII    [2] stǫllurum: ‘stallerum’ J2ˣ, ‘stallaurum’ 321ˣ, ‘stallar[…]vm’ 61, stallara Flat, Tóm;    kenndu: kenndi J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, Flat, kenndan 325VII, kennda Bb, kenndum Tóm    [3] hvé: om. 61;    dugði: skyldi 73aˣ, 325V    [5] hollum: hylli 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [6] hann: her 325VII, Bb;    verðungar: virðinga 61, ‘verdungra’ Bb, ‘verdugra’ Flat;    mǫnnum: manni J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, manna Holm4, 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm, sverða 325VII    [7] leyfðrs (‘leyfðr er’): ‘leyfr er’ Holm2, leyfði er 73aˣ, leyfðr Holm4, 61, 325VII, frægr 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [8] hróðr‑: hróð‑ Flat;    ‑auðigs: auðigr 321ˣ;    sá: sjá 73aˣ, 325V;    dauði: dauða 73aˣ, 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 18: AI, 261-2, BI, 243, Skald I, 126, NN §§620, 665, 1116, 1121, 1825, 1879, 2478, 2480D; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 494-5, IV, 171, ÍF 27, 386, Hkr 1991, II, 534 (ÓHHkr ch. 228); ÓH 1941, I, 575 (ch. 226), Flat 1860-8, II, 357; Jón Skaptason 1983, 173, 307.

Context: The close fighting continues at Stiklastaðir (Stiklestad) between the king with his defenders (including Bjǫrn stallari ‘the Marshal’) and a small group of opponents. Bjǫrn attacks, but is killed by, Þórir hundr. Óláfr is then felled by three different blows and most of his troop also die. BjHall Kálffl 5 is cited as a witness to Kálfr Árnason’s role, then this stanza concerning Bjǫrn.

Notes: [1] Bjǫrn: Bjǫrn digri ‘the Stout’ was King Óláfr’s marshal, who sat in the high-seat opposite the king in the royal hall at Niðaróss (Trondheim; ÍF 27, 72), and regularly acted as the king’s spokesman (see index in ÍF 27, 455). See also Sigv Lv 5 on Bjǫrn and other stallarar ‘marshals’. — [1, 3, 4] af œrnum hug, hvé dugði halda dróttin ‘with abundant courage, how it was fitting to protect their lord’: (a) This is construed following ÍF 27, with halda + acc. meaning ‘protect’ (cf. the same construction in Steinn Nizv 5/5, 8II, where the protectors are also hugfylldir ‘courage-filled’). Œrnum ‘abundant, enough’ qualifies hug ‘courage, mind’. (b) Both Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) and Kock (NN §1116) assume that hug is the direct object of halda, normally ‘hold’, Finnur by assuming a cpd dróttinhug ‘loyalty to one’s lord’ (with tmesis) and Kock by assuming dróttinn is an error for dat. sg. dróttni, which he does not explain. Both also adopt the minority reading œrnu rather than œrnum, hence adv. at/af œrnu ‘fully, abundantly’. Finnur chooses at, the reading of 61 alone, while Kock (NN §2478) prefers the majority reading af. — [5-8]: This helmingr is taken as two independent clauses with relatively natural word order, following Kock (NN §§620, 665). At hǫfði hróðrauðigs hilmis ‘at the head of the fame-rich leader’ is taken here with sá dauði ‘that death’. It could alternatively be taken with hann fell ‘he fell’ in ll. 5-6 (so Skj B; ÍF 27). — [7] at hǫfði ‘at the head’: The phrase is not to be taken literally (Bjǫrn falls while Óláfr is still standing), and hǫfði (nom. sg. hǫfuð) presumably refers to the king’s person; cf. Note to st. 21/2 and Yt 25/7. Frank (1978, 130) suggests a reminiscence of the last words and ‘heroic self-sacrifice’ of the Danish hero Bjarki; his name means ‘little bear’ while Bjǫrn means ‘bear’. — [8] hróðrauðigs ‘fame-rich’: Kock (NN §§1121, 1879) believes that this word shows the influence of OE hrēðēadig ‘glorious, victorious’, but this is not necessary as both elements are common in ON. Hróðr can also mean ‘poem’ and in this collocation with leyfðr ‘praised’ there may also be an allusion to the many poems composed about Óláfr, by Sigvatr and others.

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