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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, 670

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

4 — Sigv ErfÓl 4I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 4’ 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. 670.

Goll buðu opt, þeirs ollu
úthlaupum, gram kaupask
rautt, en ræsir neitti,
ríklunduðum undan.
Skǫr bað hann með hjǫrvi
— herland skal svá verja —
— ráns biðu rekkar sýna
refsing — firum efsa.

Buðu, þeirs ollu úthlaupum, opt ríklunduðum gram rautt goll kaupask undan, en ræsir neitti. Hann bað efsa skǫr firum með hjǫrvi; svá skal verja herland; rekkar biðu sýna refsing ráns.

Those who carried out plundering expeditions often offered the mighty-spirited prince red gold to buy themselves off, but the ruler refused. He ordered men’s hair to be cut with the sword; that is how to defend the people’s land; the warriors suffered visible punishment for their robbery.

Mss: (438v-439r), papp18ˣ(165r) (Hkr); Holm2(59v), J2ˣ(211v), 321ˣ(225), 73aˣ(183r), 68(59r), Holm4(57vb), 61(118ra), 325V(71rb), 325VII(33r), Bb(191ra), Flat(119vb), Tóm(148r), 325XI 2 g(4vb) (ÓH)

Readings: [1] buðu: ‘ludu’ 321ˣ;    opt: om. 325V;    þeirs (‘þeir er’): þeim er papp18ˣ, þeir 321ˣ, þar er Flat    [2] úthlaupum: út hlupum Tóm;    gram: grams J2ˣ;    kaupask: kaupa J2ˣ    [3] rautt: rétt 61;    neitti: so papp18ˣ, 321ˣ, 68, 325V, 325XI 2 g, neytti Kˣ, netti Holm2, nítti J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325VII, Bb, Flat, ‘⸜n⸝atti’ 61, veitti Tóm    [4] ‑lunduðum: ‑lynduðum Bb;    undan: slíku 68    [5] Skǫr: skotit Bb;    bað: bauð papp18ˣ, J2ˣ, bar 68, lét 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm    [6] her‑: hér 325VII;    ‑land: lǫndum 321ˣ, ‑lǫnd 73aˣ;    svá: om. 321ˣ    [7] ráns: rá ráns papp18ˣ, rán Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 73aˣ, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Bb, Flat, 325XI 2 g, raun 68, 61, rann Tóm;    biðu: biðr Bb;    rekkar: réttrar 68, rekka 61, Bb, Tóm, rekka corrected from rekkar Flat;    sýna: so Holm4, 325VII, sína Kˣ, papp18ˣ, sona Holm2, 325XI 2 g, reiðir J2ˣ, þínir 321ˣ, 73aˣ, sýnar 68, trjónur 61, Flat, Tóm, sóna 325V, ‘trino’ Bb    [8] firum: konungr 61, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    efsa: ofsa Holm2, J2ˣ, 321ˣ, ‘hnefsa’ 61, 325VII, Bb, Flat, Tóm, efla 325V

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 12. Erfidrápa Óláfs helga 4: AI, 257-8, BI, 240, Skald I, 124, NN §§658, 1871, 1936B; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 421, IV, 159, ÍF 27, 329, Hkr 1991, II, 493 (ÓHHkr ch. 181); ÓH 1941, I, 501 (ch. 177), Flat 1860-8, II, 316; Jón Skaptason 1983, 159, 302.

Context: King Óláfr is said to have put an end to the practice whereby the sons of Norwegian aristocrats and powerful farmers went raiding, both within Norway and abroad. He brings security to the land and curtails their robbery by punishing them with death or maiming; neither pleas nor bribes deflect him.

Notes: [3] neitti ‘refused’: Neitti and nítti (as in several ÓH mss) are from neita and níta, both weak verbs meaning ‘to say no, refuse’, and both are metrically possible. However, the variant neytti (from neyta ‘to use, enjoy’) and the other variants suggest an original neitti (as in papp18ˣ, an independent copy of K). — [5, 8] hann bað efsa skǫr firum með hjǫrvi ‘he ordered men’s hair to be cut with the sword’: The image of hair-cutting noted by Kock (NN §658) here and in st. 6 (cf. also st. 14) may be a form of humiliating punishment (see Ebel 1999, 240). It is also doubtless a euphemism for beheading. Efsa is recorded only here. Kock compares OE efesian ‘clip, shear, cut’, and the fact that Sigvatr spent time in England and is known for his lexical resourcefulness makes OE influence possible. — [6] herland ‘the people’s land’: This follows the suggestion of Kock (NN §1871) that this is a cpd equivalent to fólkland ‘the people’s land’. This is plausible, particularly in view of the fact that herr can mean ‘population, inhabitants of a country’ (LP: herr 2); and cf. Ótt Hfl 7/3, 4 varða þjóðlǫnd ‘defend the nation’s lands’. (b) ÍF 27, followed by Jón Skaptason (1983) and Hkr 1991, understands it as land, sem verður fyrir hernaði ‘land that is subject to raids’. However, there are no close parallels for such a construction among the large number of nominal compounds in her-. (c) Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV; Skj B) treats this as two unconnected words, taking land as the object of verja and her (dat.) as the hostile army against which the land must be defended. — [6] svá skal verja ‘that is how to defend’: Lit. ‘so must (one) defend’. — [7, 8] biðu refsing ráns ‘suffered punishment for their robbery’: is the sole ms. to have the reading ráns (gen. sg., though cf. rá ráns in papp18ˣ) but this must be correct as the majority reading rán (nom./acc. sg.) cannot be accounted for in the syntax. The verb refsa ‘punish’ normally takes an acc. object referring to the offence (e.g. SnSt Ht 66/7-8II), but refsing ráns is similar to the use of a gen. object with verbs like gjalda ‘(re)pay’, hefna ‘avenge’ (NS §134). — [7] sýna ‘visible’: Although found only in Holm4 and 325VII, this reading is clearly the most plausible. It is partially supported by some of the other (curiously diverse) ms. readings and is adopted by previous eds.

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