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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;

2. Nesjavísur (Nesv) - 15

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).

Nesjavísur (‘Vísur about Nesjar’) — Sigv NesvI

Russell Poole 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur’ 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. 555.

 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15 

Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 2. Nesjavísur, 1016 (AI, 228-32, BI, 217-20); stanzas (if different): 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 14

SkP info: I, 566

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

7 — Sigv Nesv 7I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance


Cite as: Russell Poole (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Nesjavísur 7’ 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. 566.

Stǫng óð gylld, þars gengum
Gǫndlar serks und merkjum
gnýs, fyr gǫfgum ræsi,
greiðendr á skip reiðir.
Þági vas, sem þessum
þengils, á jó strengjar,
mjǫð, fyr malma kveðju,
mær heiðþegum bæri.

Gylld stǫng óð fyr gǫfgum ræsi, þars gengum, {greiðendr {gnýs {serks Gǫndlar}}}, reiðir á skip und merkjum. Vas þági á {jó strengjar} fyr {kveðju malma}, sem mær bæri þessum heiðþegum þengils mjǫð.

The gilded standard advanced before the noble king, where we, {suppliers {of the din {of the shirt of Gǫndul <valkyrie>}}} [MAIL-SHIRT > BATTLE > WARRIORS], went enraged onto the ships under the banners. It was not then on {the horse of the rope} [SHIP], before {the greeting of metal weapons} [BATTLE], as if a maiden were bringing these retainers of the prince mead.

Mss: (251v-252r), papp18ˣ(76r) (Hkr); Holm2(12v), R686ˣ(25v), 972ˣ(86va), J1ˣ(158v-159r), J2ˣ(134v-135r), 325VI(11ra), 75a(1ra-b), 73aˣ(35r), 78aˣ(32v), 68(11v), 61(84vb), Holm4(4vb), 325V(16rb), 325VII(5r), Flat(83va), Tóm(102r) (ÓH); FskBˣ(43r), FskAˣ(163-164) (Fsk, ll. 1-4); R(36r), Tˣ(37v), W(82), U(35v) (SnE, ll. 5-8)

Readings: [1] Stǫng: sǫng 325V, strǫng FskBˣ;    gylld: so 75a, 78aˣ, Holm4, 325V, gyllt Kˣ, papp18ˣ, Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 73aˣ, 68, 61, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    þars (‘þar er’): þá er 75a;    gengum: gengu 75a, 68, 61, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm    [2] Gǫndlar: gunna 325VI, 75a, gunnar 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 325VII, ‘gaunnla’ Tóm, ‘gunnlar’ FskBˣ, ‘gonla’ FskAˣ;    serks: serkjum R686ˣ    [3] fyr: ‘for’ papp18ˣ, með Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm;    gǫfgum: ‘gvfom’ R686ˣ, ‘gǫfg[…]m’ 325VI    [4] á: í Holm2, R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    skip: bauð 61;    reiðir: reiðar 61, ‘riðir’ FskAˣ    [5] Þági: þeygi R686ˣ, 972ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, Tˣ, ‘þey[…]i’ U;    vas: val 78aˣ;    sem: om. Tˣ;    þessum: ‘þessor’ 68, þegnum 61    [6] þengils: so Holm2, R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, 68, 61, Holm4, 325V, 325VII, Flat, Tóm, R, W, ‘þen’ Kˣ, þengil papp18ˣ, 972ˣ, þengill Tˣ, U;    jó: jós 325VII, jór Flat;    strengjar: strengja 972ˣ, 73aˣ, Flat, stengjar Tóm, sprengir U    [7] mjǫð: corrected from ‘moð’ J2ˣ, með 68, mjǫk U;    malma: mála U;    kveðju: kveðjur 61, U    [8] heiðþegum: ‘heiþengvm’ U;    heið‑: ‘hanum’ R686ˣ, heim‑ J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 325VI, 75a, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘hæít’ 325VII;    ‑þegum: ‑dregum R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 75a, ‘‑þægvm’ 972ˣ, 68, 325VII, ‑drǫgum 325VI, 73aˣ, 78aˣ, ‘‑sæfum’ 61, ‘‑þe᷎giom’ Holm4, ‘‑þægnat’ 325V;    bæri: beri R686ˣ, J1ˣ, J2ˣ, 68, Tˣ

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 2. Nesjavísur 6: AI, 229-30, BI, 218, Skald I, 113, NN §§1853B, 1859, 3066; Hkr 1893-1901, II, 71, IV, 121, ÍF 27, 63 (ÓHHkr ch. 50); Fms 4, 99, Fms 12, 79, ÓH 1941, I, 93 (ch. 40), Flat 1860-8, II, 44; Fsk 1902-3, 152 (ch. 27), ÍF 29, 175 (ch. 29); SnE 1998, I, 81; CPB II, 128, Poole 2005d, 174-5.

Context: ÓH-Hkr introduces st. 7 after st. 5, with an account of the boarding. In Fsk, st. 7 is cited after st. 1. In SnE, the second helmingr is cited in a discussion of terms for members of a court or retinue.

Notes: [1] gengum ‘we ... went’: (a) The 1st pers. pl. gengum is the reading of the main ms. and others, and arguably the lectio difficilior, and hence is adopted here. If the correct reading, it continues the emphasis on the poet’s solidarity with the hirð ‘retinue’, and the warrior-kenning with base-word greiðendr ‘suppliers’ is in apposition to the subject ‘we’. (b) The 3rd pers. form gengu is a well-attested variant and is printed in Skj B and Skald. — [2] und merkjum ‘under the banners’: Evidently the king enjoyed the services of several merkismenn ‘standard-bearers’, a practice current from the C10th (Andersen 1977, 292). — [5, 6, 7, 8] sem mær bæri þessum heiðþegum þengils mjǫð ‘as if a maiden were bringing these retainers of the prince mead’: Contrasting the perils of battle with the comforts of the hall (here the woman welcoming victorious warriors) is a favourite skaldic theme. The metaphorical base-words of the battle-kennings in the helmingr may allude to the maiden’s greeting (kveðju, l. 7) to the warrior, who arrives on horseback (, l. 6). — [5] þessum ‘these’: Kock defends the reading þegnum ‘retainers, men’ by positing an apposition with heiðþegum (NN §1859, cf. §1853B), but the reading is poorly supported and can be explained as a scribal anticipation of the postponed indirect object heiðþegum. — [6] þengils ‘of the prince’: This gen. could qualify strengjar ‘horse of the rope [SHIP]’ (l. 6), mjǫð ‘mead’ (l. 7), heiðþegum ‘retainers’ (l. 8, as assumed here), or indeed all three of these (Jesch 2001a, 236). — [6] jó strengjar ‘the horse of the rope [SHIP]’: The sg. number of strengjar might suggest that the anchor- or mooring-rope is specially referred to (Jesch 2001a, 169). With the exception of KormǪ Lv 61/3V (Korm 82) strengmarr ‘rope-steed [SHIP]’, the word strengr is not attested in ship-kennings (cf. Poole 2005b, 187). Fsk (ÍF 29, 174), Hkr (ÍF 27, 65) and other sources report that Einarr þambarskelfir used an anchor-rope or anchor to rescue Sveinn, and, if true, this may have prompted the use of the word. — [7] fyr kveðju malma ‘before the greeting of metal weapons [BATTLE]’: If the prep. fyr has this straightforward temporal application, it is suited to the scene, the prelude to the battle. It could also perhaps be translated as ‘on account of’, ‘instead of’ or ‘in return for’ (cf. SnE 1998, I, 204). — [8] heiðþegum ‘retainers’: The correct reading is difficult to establish (see Jesch 2001a, 235-7 for full discussion). The word heið is explained by the comment in SnE that heiðfé heitir máli ok gjǫf er hǫfðingjar gefaheið-money is the name of the wages and gift that chieftains give’ (SnE 1998, I, 81; cf. LP: 2. heið f.). The alternative reading heimdregum ‘stay-at-homes’ can be explained as stigmatising those who did not support the king. But possibly some other word has been garbled in all witnesses. Jesch (loc. cit.) proposes heimþegum ‘persons given a home’, a comitatus term that occurs in Danish runic inscriptions; it is not attested in the skaldic corpus or OWN but given Sigvatr’s lexical eclecticism elsewhere he might well have used such a word.

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