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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, 687

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

19 — Sigv ErfÓl 19I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 19’ 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. 687.

Hǫrðs, síz hermenn firrðu
— hlíf raufsk fyr gram — lífi,
auðn at Engla stríði
ómjúk, konung sjúkan.
Ǫr brá Ôleifs fjǫrvi
ǫld, þars herr klauf skjǫldu;
folks odda gekk fylkir
fund, en Dagr helt undan.

Hǫrð, ómjúk auðn [e]s at {stríði Engla}, síz hermenn firrðu sjúkan konung lífi; hlíf raufsk fyr gram. Ǫr ǫld brá fjǫrvi Ôleifs, þars herr klauf skjǫldu; fylkir folks gekk {fund odda}, en Dagr helt undan.

There is a hard, unyielding desolation after [the death of] {the opponent of the English} [= Óláfr], since warriors removed the wounded king from life; the shield was sundered in front of the ruler. The bold troop destroyed the life of Óláfr, where the army clove shields; the leader of the army advanced into {the meeting of points} [BATTLE], but Dagr headed away.

Mss: (477r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(69v), J2ˣ(230r) (ll. 1-4), 321ˣ(263), 73aˣ(205r-v), Holm4(65va), 61(127ra), 325V(83rb), 325VII(39v), Bb(200vb), Flat(126ra), Tóm(157v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] Hǫrðs (‘Hǫrð er’): ‘hǫr er’ 73aˣ, 325V, hǫrð var Tóm;    síz hermenn: sú er menn Tóm;    firrðu: gerðu all others    [2] raufsk: rauzk J2ˣ, raufi 321ˣ, rauf 73aˣ, 325V, rauzt Holm4, róf Bb;    lífi: om. Bb    [3] auðn: ǫnd Holm2, J2ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 61, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, auð 321ˣ;    stríði: sendi J2ˣ, Holm4, 61, Flat, strindi 73aˣ    [5] Ǫr: of 61, auk Bb, ok Flat, Tóm    [6] klauf: hlaup Bb, ‘[…]’ Flat    [7] folks: fjúks Tóm;    gekk: komsk 321ˣ, fekk 73aˣ, Tóm    [8] fund: fundr Holm4

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 19: AI, 262, BI, 243, Skald I, 126, NN §§1117, 2479, 2480E; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 504, IV, 173, ÍF 27, 393-4, Hkr 1991, II, 540 (ÓHHkr ch. 235); ÓH 1941, I, 586 (ch. 235), Flat 1860-8, II, 366; Jón Skaptason 1983, 174, 307-8.

Context: Stanzas 19 and 20 follow on from some comments on the date and time of Óláfr’s death and are introduced as Sigvatr’s words about the close of the battle.

Notes: [1, 3] firrðu; auðn ‘removed; desolation’: Although both readings are found only in  (and papp18ˣ) they are adopted here as in previous eds. The variants in the remaining mss, respectively gerðu ‘made’ and ǫnd ‘breath’, do not give good sense. — [2] fyr gram ‘in front of the ruler’: Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) takes this instead as ‘by the king’, to give det hårde skjold kløvedes af kongen ‘the hard shield was sundered by the king’. However, this assumes a non-standard sense of fyr and sits uneasily with the otherwise elegaic tone of this stanza. A further possibility is that fyr has the sense ‘to the disadvantage or disfavour of’ (LP: fyr, fyrir B4). — [3] auðn ‘desolation’: Lit. ‘wilderness, desert’. For the comparison of mood and landscape, cf. Sigv Lv 24. The desolation of the land on the death of a ruler is also mentioned in Eyv Hák 21, Hfr ErfÓl 28 and ÞKolb Eirdr 10. In each case a word etymologically related to auðn (adj. auðr ‘desolate(d)’ or eyðask ‘to be/become deserted’) is used. — [4] ómjúk ‘unyielding’: Following Kock (NN §1117) and ÍF 27, the adj. is construed with auðn ‘desolation’. Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) construes it with hlíf ‘shield’. — [4] sjúkan ‘wounded’: Lit. ‘sick, ill’. Kock (NN §§1117, 2480E) points out that the adj. can have both meanings; cf., e.g., Blakkr Lv 2/6II. — [7, 8] gekk fund odda ‘advanced into the meeting of points [BATTLE]’: This absolute usage of ganga + acc. is not common, but seems to mean ‘be present at’ (LP: ganga 2; Fritzner: ganga 10). — [7] fylkir folks ‘the leader of the army’: Folk can mean either ‘army’ or ‘battle’ (LP: folk 1, 2). (a) Kock’s suggestion (NN §2479) is adopted here, of construing folks ‘army’ with fylkir ‘leader’. (b) Alternatively, ǫld ǫr folks would give ‘the troop bold in battle’ (as in Skj B and ÍF 27). This entails a more complex word order. — [8] Dagr: Dagr Hringsson, a distant relative of the king (ÍF 27, 348), fought with his troop on Óláfr’s side (cf. Þorm Lv 22/4), but was eventually overpowered by the farmers’ army in a phase of the battle known as Dagshríð ‘Dagr’s blizzard’ (ÍF 27, 386; cf. Þorm Lv 24/8).

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