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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, 696

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

27 — Sigv ErfÓl 27I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 27’ 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. 696.

Róms létk ok helt heiman
hermóðr á fǫr góðri
gjallar vǫnd, þanns golli
gaf mér konungr vafðan,
sult, þás silfri hjaltat
sverð dýrt, þats viðr þverrðan,
lǫgðum vápn en vígðum,
vers ylgjar, staf fylgðum.

Létk hermóðr {vǫnd gjallar}, þanns konungr gaf mér, vafðan golli, ok helt heiman á góðri fǫr Róms, þás lǫgðum dýrt sverð, vápn hjaltat silfri, þats viðr þverrðan sult {vers ylgjar}, en fylgðum vígðum staf.

War-weary, I left behind {the rod of clamour} [SWORD], which the king gave me, wound about with gold, and set out from home on the good journey to Rome, when we [I] put down my precious sword, the weapon hilted with silver, which succeeds in lessening the hunger {of the husband of the she-wolf} [WOLF], and we [I] followed the consecrated staff.

Mss: Holm2(73r-v), 325VI(41rb), 321ˣ(278), 73aˣ(214r), Holm4(68vb), 61(129vb), 325V(88rb), 325VII(41r), Bb(205rb), Flat(126vb), Tóm(160v) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] létk ok helt (‘let ek ok hellt’): ‘hef […]g hafdan’ 325VI, hefi ek hafðan 321ˣ, lét en ek helt Flat;    heiman: heima 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [2] á: af 61, í Tóm;    góðri: ‘go[…]’ 325VI, góðir 61    [3] gjallar: ‘[…]allar’ 325VI    [4] konungr: konungi Tóm    [5] sult: ‘smellt’ 325VI, svalt 321ˣ, sælt 325VII;    þás (‘þa er’): þat er 325VI, 321ˣ, þá ek 73aˣ    [6] dýrt þats (‘dyrt þat er’): ok blátt 325VI, er blátt 321ˣ, 73aˣ;    viðr: með 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, við 61, 325VII, viðir Flat;    þverrðan: herðu 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, ‘þvnnlan’ Bb, þverrðu Flat    [7] lǫgðum: ‘laugð[…]’ 325VI, lǫgðu Flat;    en: hinu 61;    vígðum: vígðu 61, Flat, Tóm    [8] vers ylgjar: so 61, Flat, Tóm, ver sylgjar Holm2, 325VI, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb;    fylgðum: fylgjum Bb, fylgðu Flat

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 27: AI, 264-5, BI, 245, Skald I, 127, NN §§668, 1853F; ÓH 1941, I, 617 (ch. 254), Flat 1860-8, II, 371; Jón Skaptason 1983, 181, 310.

Context: Sigvatr receives leave of absence from Óláfr when the king leaves for Garðar (Russia), and travels the following summer to Rome.

Notes: [All]: The stanza is introduced, þa qvað hann visu þessa ‘then he spoke this stanza’ in ÓH, which might suggest that the stanza is a lausavísa, or was taken to be so by the prose compiler. It is included here on the grounds of a clear link with st. 9; see Introduction. — [1] heiman ‘from home’: Skj B instead reads heima, hence létk heima ‘I left at home’, but see NN §668. — [3] vǫnd gjallar ‘the rod of clamour [SWORD]’: Gjǫll is a rare word, but its meaning is indicated by the cognate verb gjalla ‘resound, make a loud noise’, a concept frequent in battle-kennings, and LP: gjǫll 2 takes it as a term for battle. Skj B and Skald print it with a capital letter, perhaps implying either one of the rivers demarcating Hel (cf. Grí 28; SnE 2005, 9, 47), or the flat stone to which the Fenrisúlfr was bound (SnE 2005, 29), though the connection of either of these with swords is unclear. — [3, 4, 5] vafðan golli; hjaltat silfri ‘wound about with gold; hilted with silver’: Cf. st. 9/2, 4 above and Note. Sigvatr may have inherited the very weapon used by Óláfr at Stiklastaðir, or have been given one of equal quality earlier (cf. Sigv Lv 3). The late Viking Age Dybäck sword found in southern Sweden (Graham-Campbell 1980, 70-1, 246) accords closely with Sigvatr’s description here. — [6] viðr þverrðan ‘succeeds in lessening’: Lit. ‘makes lessened’, with viðr = vinnr (3rd pers. sg. pres. indic.) ‘makes, wins, achieves’ + þverrðan (m. acc. sg. p. p.) ‘lessened’, qualifying sult ‘hunger’. — [7, 8] vígðum staf ‘the consecrated staff’: This is the pilgrim’s staff; cf. Sigv Knútdr 10/4.

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