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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;

12. Lausavísur (Lv) - 30

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).

Lausavísur — Sigv LvI

R. D. Fulk 2012, ‘(Introduction to) Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur’ 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. 698.

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Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson: 13. Lausavísur (AI, 265-75, BI, 246-54); stanzas (if different): 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32

SkP info: I, 729

old edition introduction edition manuscripts transcriptions concordance search files

24 — Sigv Lv 24I

edition interactive full text transcriptions old edition references concordance

 

Cite as: R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 24’ 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. 729.

Hô þótti mér hlæja
hǫll of Nóreg allan
— fyrr vask kenndr á knǫrrum —
klif, meðan Ôleifr lifði.
Nú þykki mér miklu
— mitt stríð es svá — hlíðir
— jǫfurs hylli varðk alla —
óblíðari síðan.

Hô, hǫll klif þótti mér hlæja of allan Nóreg, meðan Ôleifr lifði; vask fyrr kenndr á knǫrrum. Nú þykki mér hlíðir miklu óblíðari síðan; svá es stríð mitt; varðk alla hylli jǫfurs.

The high, sloping cliffs seemed to me to laugh over all Norway while Óláfr was alive; I was once recognized on ships. Now the slopes seem to me much less agreeable since; such is my affliction; I have lost all favour of the ruler.

Mss: (499v), 39(13va), F(38ra), J2ˣ(242r-v), E(4v) (Hkr); 761bˣ(311r)

Readings: [1] þótti: þóttu J2ˣ, E, 761bˣ    [2] hǫll: ǫll J2ˣ, E, 761bˣ    [3] knǫrrum: knerri F    [4] Ôleifr: ‘Olif’ 39    [5] þykki: þykkja J2ˣ, E, 761bˣ    [6] es svá (‘er sva’): vera F, er þat J2ˣ, E, 761bˣ;    hlíðir: liðir 39, síðan F    [7] hylli: falli F;    varðk alla (‘varð ec alla’): kann ek illa F    [8] síðan: hlíðir F

Editions: Skj: Sigvatr Þórðarson, 13. Lausavísur 26: AI, 273, BI, 252, Skald I, 130, NN §1934C; Hkr 1777-1826, III, 12, VI, 126, Hkr 1868, 521 (MGóð ch. 9), Hkr 1893-1901, III, 19, IV, 184, ÍF 28, 17, Hkr 1991, II, 566 (MGóð ch. 8), F 1871, 173, E 1916, 12; Konráð Gíslason 1892, 41, 189-91, Jón Skaptason 1983, 208.

Context: Sigvatr is ill content at home (see Context to Lv 23). One day he goes out and speaks this stanza.

Notes: [All]: The attribution of the poet’s feelings to the natural environment (the ‘pathetic fallacy’) is notable: see Guðrún Nordal et al. (1992-2006, I, 220). — [1] : hlæja: On the hending without consonant rhyme, see Note to Sigv Austv 6/5. The line resembles Anon Liðs 5/1. — [3] vask fyrr kenndr á knǫrrum ‘I was once recognized on ships’: This line seems to be a claim on the skald’s part that he was a recognized and valued retainer of the king. Alternatively, the import could be a plaintive ‘I sail no longer’. Konráð Gíslason (1892, 191) suggested that this responds to the question, ‘Do you know all of Norway?’ and implies ‘I have sailed so much on the seas about Norway that I know very well what this country looks like, seen from the sea’ (similarly Flo 1902, 110). — [7] varðk ‘I have lost’: Such is the usual meaning of verða with an acc. object (as in Lv 20/6). Finnur (Skj B, similarly Hallberg 1975, 163) here assigns the opposite meaning, ‘I gained’; see LP: verða 10, criticised by Kock (NN §1934C) but defended by Turville-Petre (1976, 86-7, with references).

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