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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;

10. Knútsdrápa (Knútdr) - 11

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).

Knútsdrápa (‘Drápa about Knútr’’) — Sigv KnútdrI

Matthew Townend 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa’ 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. 649.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 10. Knútsdrápa, o. 1038 (AI, 248-51, BI, 232-4)

SkP info: I, 659

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

8 — Sigv Knútdr 8I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: Matthew Townend (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Knútsdrápa 8’ 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. 659.

Ok bôru í byr
blô segl við rô
— dýr vas dǫglings fǫr —
drekar landreka.
En, þeirs kómu,
kilir, vestan til,
of leið liðu
Limafjarðar brim.

Ok drekar landreka bôru blô segl við rô í byr; fǫr dǫglings vas dýr. En kilir, þeirs kómu til vestan, liðu brim Limafjarðar of leið.

And the dragon-ships of the land-ruler [Knútr] carried dark sails against the yard in the favouring wind; the sovereign’s journey was glorious. And the keels which arrived there from the west travelled the surf of Limfjorden on their way.

Mss: (407r), 325XI 1(3va) (Hkr); Holm2(51r), J2ˣ(195v), 321ˣ(182), 73aˣ(158r-v), 68(49r), Holm4(45va), 61(111va), 325V(57va), Bb(180vb), Flat(114vb), Tóm(137v) (ÓH); FskBˣ(46r) (Fsk); DG8(92r) (ÓHLeg)

Readings: [2] blô: blô var 321ˣ    [3] dýr: ‘dy’ Holm2;    vas: om. Flat;    fǫr: ‘[…]or’ 325XI 1    [4] drekar: dreka 73aˣ, 68, 325V, Bb, Flat;    land‑: ‘lan‑’ 325V;    ‑reka: rekar Tóm, DG8    [5] En: ok FskBˣ, DG8;    þeirs (‘þeir er’): þeir J2ˣ, 321ˣ, þá 73aˣ, ‘þieir er’ FskBˣ, þar DG8    [7] of (‘vm’): ok um Holm4, vôru Flat;    leið: ‘[…]eið’ 325XI 1    [8] brim: brimi 61, til DG8

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 10. Knútsdrápa 8: AI, 250, BI, 233-4, Skald I, 121, NN §650; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 353, IV, 145, ÍF 27, 274 (ÓHHkr ch. 147); ÓH 1941, I, 428 (ch. 137), Flat 1860-8, II, 277; Fsk 1902-3, 162 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 183-4 (ch. 32); ÓHLeg 1922, 59-60, ÓHLeg 1982, 142-3.

Context: See Context to st. 7 above. 

Notes: [3] vas dýr ‘was glorious’: Here as elsewhere Skald reads pres. tense es ‘is’ and elides (dýr’s), in order to preserve a strictly four-syllable line, but there is no ms. authority for this. — [4] drekar ‘the dragon-ships’: Ships with dragons’ heads carved on their prows, for which there is archaeological evidence. Jesch (2001a, 127-8) sees dreki as a poetic term (of which this appears to be the earliest skaldic example) rather than a technical term referring to a particular type of warship. — [6] til ‘there’: The fact that til ‘to’ is stressed here suggests that it has an adverbial function, hence kómu til ‘arrived there’, rather than being a prep. governing Limafjarðar ‘Limfjorden’. — [8] Limafjarðar ‘of Limfjorden’: Limfjorden is a major fjord in the north of Jutland, running approximately west-east from the North Sea to the Kattegat, between Vendsyssel and the rest of Jutland. It had silted up from the west by Saxo Grammaticus’s day (Saxo 2005, II, 11, 13, 5, pp. 48-9), but from evidence including the present stanza and Þloft Tøgdr 1/5, 6 it appears to have been fully navigable in the eleventh century (ÍF 28, 140 n.) — [8] brim Limafjarðar ‘the surf of Limfjorden’: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B, followed by ÓHLeg 1982) assumes tmesis, taking brim and leið (l. 7) together to form a cpd brimleið, hence ‘(travelled on) the surf-way, sea’. Kock (NN §650) takes leið Limafjarðar together, hence ‘on the Limfjorden-way’.

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