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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, 689

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

21 — Sigv ErfÓl 21I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 21’ 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. 689.

Ôleifr réð it øfra
andprútt hǫfuð landi
fulla vetr, áðr felli,
fimmtán, á því láni.
Hverr hafi hers inn nørðra
heims enda sér kenndan
— skjǫldungr helzk an skyldi
skemr — landreki inn fremri?

Ôleifr, andprútt hǫfuð, réð landi it øfra fulla fimmtán vetr, áðr felli á því láni. Hverr {landreki hers inn fremri} hafi kenndan sér inn nørðra enda heims? Skjǫldungr helzk skemr an skyldi.

Óláfr, the proud-spirited chief, ruled the land higher up for fifteen full years, before he died on that allotted land. Which {better land-ruler of the army} [KING] had claimed the more northerly end of the world? The monarch survived for a shorter time than he should have.

Mss: (488r) (Hkr); Holm2(72v), 325VI(40rb), 321ˣ(276), 73aˣ(212v), 61(129ra), 325V(87ra), 325VII(40v), Bb(204rb), Flat(127ra), Tóm(159v), 325XI 2 n(1v) (ÓH)

Readings: [2] and‑: auð‑ 325V, ǫnd‑ Tóm;    ‑prútt: ‑prúðr 73aˣ, 61, Flat, ‑framt 325V, ‘firudt’ Bb;    hǫfuð: jǫfurr 325VI, 73aˣ, fyrir því 61, Flat, fyrir Tóm;    landi: land 325VI, landa 73aˣ    [4] á: af 61;    láni: ‘lanni’ 61, láði Bb, Flat, Tóm    [5] Hverr hafi hers inn nørðra: enn hverr hans eð neðra 73aˣ;    hafi: ‘[…]’ 325VI, om. 321ˣ;    hers: hans 325VI, 325V, Bb, hann 321ˣ, ‘hęzt’ 61, ‘hælz’ 325VII, ‘fædzst’ Flat, ‘hefnzt’ Tóm;    inn: hit Flat, ins 325XI 2 n;    nørðra: ‘na(i)rdra’(?) Bb    [6] heims: heim Holm2;    enda: ‘end[…]’ 325VI;    sér: ‘[…]’ 325VI, svá Tóm    [7] skjǫldungr: so Holm2, 61, 325V, 325VII, 325XI 2 n, Bb, Flat, Tóm, skjǫldr Kˣ, skjaldar 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ;    helzk: helt 73aˣ, 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [8] landreki: landrekan 325VII;    inn (‘hinn’): enn Holm2, 73aˣ, om. 61, 325VII, en Bb;    fremri: fremra 325VII

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 21: AI, 262-3, BI, 244, Skald I, 126, NN §§666, 1853A, 1956, 2247A, 2261, 2988C; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 522, IV, 176, ÍF 27, 409-10, Hkr 1991, II, 552 (ÓHHkr ch. 246); ÓH 1941, I, 609 (ch. 248), Flat 1860-8, II, 374; Jón Skaptason 1983, 176, 308.

Context: Óláfr is said to have been king for fifteen years at the time of his death, since the departure of Sveinn jarl Hákonarson. He had gained the title of king from the people of Upplǫnd (Opplandene) the winter before.

Notes: [1]: The line has the same unusual metrical structure as st. 2/1 (see Note to st. 2/1-4). — [1] it øfra ‘higher up’: A n. acc. sg. phrase used adverbially; it can also mean ‘by the higher or inland route’ or ‘further in’ (Fritzner: efri 1b, c). The inland district of Norway known as Upplǫnd (cf. modern Oppland(ene)) is extensively mountainous. The reference of landi it øfra could be to the fact that Óláfr’s rule of Norway began there (LP: efri 1, and see st. 2 above), but here the phrase seems to stand metonymically for the whole of Norway. — [2] andprútt ‘proud-spirited’: Lit. ‘spirit-proud’, cf. hugprúðr, lit. ‘mind-proud’. The first element of this cpd is here interpreted, with previous eds, as ǫnd ‘spirit’. It is also possible to take it as the prefix and- ‘opposite’, giving something like ‘splendid to look at’ (cf. andlit ‘face’ and LP: andprúðr). — [2] hǫfuð ‘chief’: Lit. ‘head’. LP: hǫfuð 2 gives several examples where this word means ‘person, individual’. For a similar metonymic usage of hǫfuð, see ÞjóðA Sex 19/8II, though there the allusion seems to be to the ruler’s intellect, whereas here it is taken to allude to the ruler’s role, cf. hǫfðingi ‘chieftain’. Kock (NN §2261C) is justifiably sceptical about the Skj B translation skikkelse ‘form, figure’. — [4] á því láni ‘on that allotted land’: Lit. ‘loan, gift’. As Kock points out (NN §2261), því ‘that’ would indicate a concept that has already been mentioned, and that is presumably landi ‘land’ (l. 2). Finnur Jónsson in Skj B translates ved (den ham givne) lykke ‘with the good fortune given to him’. Both Kock and Finnur choose prep. af, but it is the reading of 61 only and they interpret it differently. Sigvatr uses the word lán in Sigv Lv 29/3, where lán goðs ‘God’s gift’ refers to Magnús Óláfsson’s life and rule, and it is possible that the reference is to the Christian notion that the land ruled by an earthly monarch is only a loan from God. Although a connection with lén ‘land held in fief from the king’ is sometimes suggested (e.g. ÍF 27), the latter is a loan word from MHG (AEW: lén) and is not relevant here. — [5-6] inn nørðra enda heims ‘the more northerly end of the world’: For the idea of Norway as the northernmost land-mass, cf. SnE 2005, 6. — [5, 8] landreki hers ‘land-ruler of the army [KING]’: Landreki ‘land-ruler’ usually occurs without any qualifier in the praise poetry of the C11th (see Þul Konunga 2/6III), though later it can form the base-word of kennings, e.g. the C12th ESk Hardr II 1/6, 8II landreki Dana ‘land-ruler of the Danes [DANISH KING = Eiríkr]’. Kock (NN §§666, 2988C) argues for taking landreki hers together, which is the construal adopted here. Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) takes hers ‘of the army’ with skjǫldungr ‘monarch’ in the intercalary, producing a more complex word order.

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