Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Vestv 3I

Judith Jesch (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Vestrfararvísur 3’ 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. 619.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonVestrfararvísur

Ǫrr tegask Ôleif gerva
(allt hefr sá*) fjǫrvaltan
— konungs dauða munk kvíða —
Knútr ok Hôkun (úti).
Haldisk vǫrðr, þótt vildit
varla Knútr ok jarlar,
(dælla es) fyrst á fjalli
(fundr, ef sjalfr kømsk undan).

Ǫrr Knútr ok Hôkun tegask gerva Ôleif fjǫrvaltan; sá* hefr allt úti; munk kvíða dauða konungs. Vǫrðr haldisk fyrst á fjalli, þótt Knútr ok jarlar vildit varla; dælla es, fundr, ef sjalfr kømsk undan.

Bold Knútr and Hákon prove themselves ready to put Óláfr in danger of his life; he [Knútr] has all [his forces] out; I will dread the death of the king. The guardian [Óláfr] should in the first instance keep himself in the mountains, even though Knútr and the jarls hardly wanted [that]; it is easier, a meeting, if he himself gets away.

Mss: (406r-v) (Hkr); Holm2(51r), 972ˣ(368va-369va), J2ˣ(195r-v), 321ˣ(181), 68(49r), Holm4(45rb), 61(111rb), 325V(57rb), Bb(180va-b), Flat(114vb), Tóm(137v) (ÓH); FskBˣ(48r), FskAˣ(178) (Fsk)

Readings: [1] Ǫrr: ‘Ort’ Flat;    Ôleif: ‘ol̄’ Holm2, Holm4, 325V, Óláfr 972ˣ, 321ˣ, ‘Ol̄’ Bb, Flat, ‘Ola’ FskAˣ    [2] sá*: sá er all;    fjǫr‑: fór 325V;    ‑valtan: ‘valtad’ 972ˣ, ‘‑valltar’ 321ˣ, valdi FskAˣ    [3] konungs: konung J2ˣ;    munk (‘mun ec’): má FskBˣ, megum FskAˣ    [5] Haldisk: haldit Bb, haldi Flat, Haralds Tóm, hallisk FskBˣ;    vǫrðr: landvǫrðr Flat;    þótt (‘þo at’): sem FskBˣ, FskAˣ;    vildit: vildi 972ˣ, Tóm, virðit J2ˣ, valdit 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, vildu FskBˣ, FskAˣ    [6] Knútr: Knúts 61, 325V;    jarlar: jarli 61, 325V, Bb, jarla Flat    [7] á: at á Holm2, at 972ˣ, 321ˣ, af 68, Tóm;    fjalli: falli 972ˣ, 321ˣ    [8] fundr: fund 325V;    ef: er FskAˣ;    sjalfr: sjalf 321ˣ, om. Bb;    kømsk: ‘coms’ FskAˣ

Editions: Skj AI, 241-2, Skj BI, 226, Skald I, 117-18, NN §§631, 632, 2257, 3223Hkr 1893-1901, II, 352, IV, 143-4, ÍF 27, 272-3, Hkr 1991, II, 450-1 (ÓHHkr ch. 146); ÓH 1941, I, 427 (ch. 136), Flat 1860-8, II, 277; Fsk 1902-3, 170 (ch. 28), ÍF 29, 190-1 (ch. 33); Jón Skaptason 1983, 106, 248-50.

Context: In ÓH-Hkr, Sigvatr speaks this stanza when he becomes aware of Knútr’s plans to attack Óláfr and of the strength of his support. In Fsk, Sigvatr is in England, on his way to Rome, and speaks this stanza when he hears of Knútr’s and Hákon’s intentions to sail from England to Norway in a bid for power there.

Notes: [1] ǫrr ‘bold’: This adj. can mean either ‘bold’, appropriate to this context of Knútr preparing to attack Óláfr, or ‘generous’, which would tally with references to Knútr’s generosity in sts 5 and 7. — [1, 2] gerva Ôleif fjǫrvaltan ‘to put Óláfr in danger of his life’: Literally, ‘to make Óláfr life-unsteady’, cf. Sigvatr’s use of the adj. valtr of his rickety boat in Austv 2/3. — [2, 4] sá* hefr allt úti ‘he [Knútr] has all [his forces] out’: The word order is highly problematic if ms. ‘sa er’ (normalised sás), rel. pron. ‘who’, is retained in l. 2, since it is preceded not only by the object of the clause, allt ‘everything’, here ‘all [his forces]’, but also by the finite verb hefr ‘has’. Kock proposed two solutions: the present one in NN §631 (except that he takes úti with the main clause), and another in NN §§2257, 3223 and Skald, in which sás ‘who’ is followed by the verb fór ‘went’, but this is the reading of a single ms. and fjǫr-, in the cpd fjǫrvaltan ‘in danger of his life’, is likely to be the original reading. The clause could mean literally that Knútr has the whole of his fleet at sea, ready for the attack, or more metaphorically that he has used all available means to make the attack happen, cf., perhaps, the ModIcel. expression hafa allar klær úti ‘have all one’s claws out’ cited in Hkr 1893-1901, IV and ÍF 27. — [4] Hôkun ‘Hákon’: Hákon jarl Eiríksson; see Introduction, and see ‘Ruler biographies’ in Introduction to this volume. — [5-8]: The analysis here largely follows ÍF 27, but the relationship between the clauses is uncertain and, as Finnur Jónsson (Hkr 1893-1901, IV) noted, á fjalli ‘in the mountains’ could be construed with haldisk ‘should keep himself’ (as here), or fundr ‘meeting’, or the clause introduced by ef ‘if’. Kock (NN §632) chooses fundr but like Finnur is uncertain about the overall meaning. — [5] vǫrðr ‘the guardian [Óláfr]’: This is common as a base-word in kennings for ‘king’, as when Sigvatr calls Óláfr vǫrðr Nóregs ‘guardian of Norway’ in Austv 13/7-8 (and see LP: vǫrðr 1), but in the absence of a gen. phrase to act as determinant, it appears that vǫrðr is, uniquely, used here as a half-kennning. — [5-6] vildit varla ‘hardly wanted [that]’: The enclitic -t and varla lit. ‘hardly’ (or by litotes, ‘at all’) produce a double negative; cf., e.g., Gizsv Lv 1/1. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27) suggests that vildi ‘wanted’ would be more correct. Jón Skaptason (1983, 249-50) takes varla ‘hardly’ as a form of varliga ‘cautiously’ and construes it with haldisk vǫrðr á fjalli, giving ‘let the king keep cautiously to the mountains’, but this is not justified. — [6] jarlar ‘the jarls’: No other jarl is mentioned in this context, so despite the pl., this must refer to Hákon Eiríksson, cf. the expression kyn Eireks ‘Eiríkr’s kin’ referring to Hákon in st. 4/6, and Note to st. 6/4, 6.  — [7, 8] dælla es, fundr ‘it is easier, a meeting’: LP: dæll notes the expression dælla es ‘it is easier, better’, and ÍF 27, ÍF 29 suggest the sense líklegra er, vera má ‘it is more likely, it can be’. As dælla is the n. nom. sg. form of the comp. adj., it cannot directly qualify the m. noun fundr, but rather qualifies the unexpressed subject of es, ‘it’ in the English translation (cf. also Sigv Lv 15/7). For a similar, though not identical, quasi-adverbial usage of dælla, see Fritzner: dælla adv. What sort of a meeting is meant by fundr, and between whom, is not clear, and deliberate ambiguity cannot be ruled out. Bjarni Einarsson in ÍF 29 thinks it refers to the impending battle, though why this should be more likely if the king gets away is not clear. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson in ÍF 27 suggests it is between the poet and the king, which at least fits with the more personal tone of l. 3. — [7] fyrst ‘in the first instance’: For the meaning ‘in the first instance, in the immediate future’, see Fritzner: fyrst 2.  — [7] á fjalli ‘in the mountains’: Kock (NN §632) suggests this is an expression for ‘Norway’, but it may just be intended to suggest an inaccessible, and therefore safe, place.


  1. Bibliography
  2. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  3. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  4. LP = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1931. Lexicon poeticum antiquæ linguæ septentrionalis: Ordbog over det norsk-islandske skjaldesprog oprindelig forfattet af Sveinbjörn Egilsson. 2nd edn. Copenhagen: Møller.
  5. Flat 1860-8 = Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and C. R. Unger, eds. 1860-8. Flateyjarbók. En samling af norske konge-sagaer med indskudte mindre fortællinger om begivenheder i og udenfor Norge samt annaler. 3 vols. Christiania (Oslo): Malling.
  6. Fritzner = Fritzner, Johan. 1883-96. Ordbog over det gamle norske sprog. 3 vols. Kristiania (Oslo): Den norske forlagsforening. 4th edn. Rpt. 1973. Oslo etc.: Universitetsforlaget.
  7. ÓH 1941 = Johnsen, Oscar Albert and Jón Helgason, eds. 1941. Saga Óláfs konungs hins helga: Den store saga om Olav den hellige efter pergamenthåndskrift i Kungliga biblioteket i Stockholm nr. 2 4to med varianter fra andre håndskrifter. 2 vols. Det norske historiske kildeskriftfond skrifter 53. Oslo: Dybwad.
  8. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  9. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  10. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  11. Fsk 1902-3 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1902-3. Fagrskinna: Nóregs kononga tal. SUGNL 30. Copenhagen: Møller.
  12. ÍF 29 = Ágrip af Nóregskonunga sǫgum; Fagrskinna—Nóregs konungatal. Ed. Bjarni Einarsson. 1985.
  13. Jón Skaptason. 1983. ‘Material for an Edition and Translation of the Poems of Sigvat Þórðarson, skáld’. Ph.D. thesis. State University of New York at Stony Brook. DAI 44: 3681A.
  14. Internal references
  15. Diana Whaley 2012, ‘Fagrskinna (Fsk)’ 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, pp. clix-clxi.
  16. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
  17. Diana Whaley (ed.) 2012, ‘Gizurr svarti (gullbrárskáld), Lausavísa 1’ 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. 818.
  18. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 13’ 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. 601.
  19. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Austrfararvísur 2’ 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. 585.
  20. R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 15’ 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. 717.

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