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Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages

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Sigv Lv 17I

R. D. Fulk (ed.) 2012, ‘Sigvatr Þórðarson, Lausavísur 17’ 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. 720.

Sigvatr ÞórðarsonLausavísur
161718

Flœja getr, en frýju,
fjandr, leggr oss til handa
— verðk fyr æðruorði —
allvalds, en fé gjalda.
Hverr skal þegn, þótt þverri
þengils vina gengi,
— upp hvalfra svik — sjalfan
sik lengst hafa miklu.

Getr flœja fjandr allvalds, en gjalda fé, en frýju leggr oss til handa; verðk fyr æðruorði. Hverr þegn skal hafa sjalfan sik miklu lengst, þótt gengi vina þengils þverri; svik hvalfra upp.

One can flee the enemies of the mighty ruler and pay out money, but a reproach will be laid on our heads [lit. hands]; I shall be the subject of talk of fear. Each retainer has to keep hold of himself by far the longest, even if the support of the prince’s friends is diminishing; treason will be overturned.

Mss: Holm2(56r), 972ˣ(415va-416va), J2ˣ(205r-v), 321ˣ(208), Bæb(1vb), 73aˣ(175r), 68(56r), Holm4(53vb), 61(115ra), 325V(66vb), Bb(188va), Flat(118rb), Tóm(145r) (ÓH); Kˣ(425v) (Hkr)

Readings: [1] Flœja: so 68, Holm4, Kˣ, ‘Flera’ Holm2, fleira 972ˣ, J2ˣ, Bæb, 73aˣ, 61, 325V, Bb, Flat, Tóm;    getr: getr oss 321ˣ;    frýju: ‘fryíu’ or ‘fryíur’ 73aˣ, frýja 325V, flýja Bb, freyja Tóm    [2] leggr: leggja 972ˣ, 68    [3] verðk (‘verþ ec’): varð ek Tóm;    æðru: so J2ˣ, 321ˣ, Bæb, 68, 61, 325V, Flat, æðra Holm2, 972ˣ, Holm4, Kˣ, ǫðru Bb, Tóm;    orði: orðum J2ˣ    [4] ‑valds: valdr 321ˣ, Bæb, 73aˣ, 68;    en: eða 321ˣ    [5] Hverr: hvar 321ˣ;    skal: skal hefnd enn 61;    þverri: þurfi 61, þykki 325V, þykkni Flat, ‘þy(nk)a’(?) Tóm    [6] vina: ‘uma’ 972ˣ, una Bb;    gengi: lengi 68    [7] upp: ulfs 68, om. 61, Flat, Tóm;    hvalfra: hvalfar 972ˣ, hvalfa J2ˣ, 321ˣ, 325V, hvelfa Bæb, 73aˣ, hvarfa 68, halda 61, Flat, Tóm, hvarfla Bb, ‘hualfara’ Kˣ;    svik: svá 321ˣ, sik 61, sér Flat, Tóm;    sjalfan: so J2ˣ, Bb, Kˣ, sjalfr Holm2, ‘sjalf(ir)’(?) 972ˣ, sjalfa 321ˣ, sjalfum Bæb, 73aˣ, 68, sjalfra Holm4, frá slíku 61, Flat, Tóm    [8] sik lengst: siklings 61, Flat, Tóm, lengst Bb;    miklu: mikinn Tóm

Editions: Skj AI, 271, Skj BI, 251, Skald I, 129, NN §677; Fms 5, 2, Fms 12, 92, ÓH 1941, I, 469 (ch. 162), Flat 1860-8, II, 304; Hkr 1777-1826, II, 294, VI, 99, Hkr 1868, 437 (ÓHHkr ch. 178), Hkr 1893-1901, II, 392-3, IV, 150-1, ÍF 27, 304, Hkr 1991, II, 475 (ÓHHkr ch. 168); Jón Skaptason 1983, 202, 323-4.

Context: This follows close upon the preceding stanza. The king discusses the ominous situation with his men, and they respond in different ways. Sigvatr says this.

Notes: [All]: See Lv 16, Note to [All]. — [1-4]: The interpretation is close to that of Finnur Jónsson (Skj B); it includes the assumption that leggr is used impersonally (so LP: leggja 8c). The clause en gjalda fé ‘and pay out money’ is difficult to account for in historical terms. Kock (NN §677) would have allvalds ‘mighty ruler’s’ in l. 4 modify orði ‘word, talk’, and he construes verðk in l. 3 with both fyr æðruorði in l. 3 and fé gjalda in l. 4 in a kind of zeugma: ‘I am the subject of talk of fear … I must pay out money’, though he takes the sense of fé gjalda to be ‘lose money’. Thus he proposes the sense ‘I will be called timid by the king, and I will lose my reward’. A similar meaning is assumed in ÍF 27 and Hkr 1991, as well as by Jón Skaptason (1983, 202), for en fé gjalda, but the loss of money is there assumed, it seems, to be due to loss of possessions upon fleeing. Hellberg (1981a, 14-17) understands the reference to be to the practice of fulfilling one’s feudal obligation by supplying money rather than troops to King Knútr. Unless, like Hellberg, one rejects Snorri’s account of the context, there does not seem to be any very convincing way to account for en fé gjalda if en means ‘and’, as assumed here and in other eds. The other main option would be to take it as an instance of en = er ‘who’, which would fit the fact that the enemies of the king are said in Lv 13 to have been paying Óláfr’s countrymen and supporters to desert him. See CVC: en 2 ‘which’, though it is regarded as a ‘mere peculiarity or false spelling’. — [5-8]: Finnur Jónsson (Skj B) understands the helmingr to mean, ‘Everyone must try to help himself as much as he can, when the luck of the king’s friends diminishes; the enemies’ treason makes itself apparent’. The interpretation of the other eds is similar. Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson (Nj 1875-8, II, 61) compare the adage Verðr hverr með sjálfum sér lengst at fara ‘Everyone has to go the longest with/by himself’ in Gísla saga (ÍF 6, 49), and Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson (ÍF 27), citing the same comparandum, explains that Sigvatr is both fending off the charge of fear and warning the king to be cautious. But on the heels of Sigvatr’s worry in the preceding helmingr about being accused of cowardice, such a remark would hardly have the desired effect. It may be that the sense of what is literally ‘Each thane has to have himself by far most of the way’ is instead ‘Everyone has to live with himself the rest of his life’, i.e. ‘Do not do what will weigh heavy on your conscience’. (A similar interpretation, ‘Do not do anything rash’, is possible for the adage in Gísla saga.) This makes better sense of the adversative function of þótt ‘even if’ in l. 5, the implication being that flight is a bad choice despite the worsening situation. In that event, the vísa has a balanced structure, the first helmingrweighing the possibility (and the consequences) of flight, the second exhorting the king’s men instead to behave as they ought. — [7] hvalfra ‘be overturned’: Finnur Jónsson in Skj B and Kock in Skald adopt the minority reading hvalfa (assigning it the same meaning), following Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson (Nj 1875-8, II, 60-1), who call hvalfra a ‘monstrous’ reading motivated only by the rhyme with the sjalfr or sjalfra found in Holm2 and Holm4. The word is not otherwise attested, but the meaning is free of problems (ÍF 27): the function of the suffix -r- in weak verbs (klifra, haltra, hliðra, etc.) seems originally to have been intensification, and so it is fully plausible in this context. And there are reasons to think it is correct: sjalfr and sjalfra are so isolated in the ms. tradition that it seems likelier that they are influenced by hvalfra than the reverse; and certainly the reading of Kˣ, ‘hualfara’, is hard to explain by Konráð’s reasoning. It is debatable whether ‘overturn’ is better understood to mean ‘defeat’, as in ‘capsize a vessel’, the use to which hvalfa is commonly put (see CVC: hválfa), or ‘bring to light’ (as in ‘expose the underside’), which is what the previous eds generally assume.

References

  1. Bibliography
  2. Skj B = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1912-15b. Den norsk-islandske skjaldedigtning. B: Rettet tekst. 2 vols. Copenhagen: Villadsen & Christensen. Rpt. 1973. Copenhagen: Rosenkilde & Bagger.
  3. Fms = Sveinbjörn Egilsson et al., eds. 1825-37. Fornmanna sögur eptir gömlum handritum útgefnar að tilhlutun hins norræna fornfræða fèlags. 12 vols. Copenhagen: Popp.
  4. Nj 1875-89 = Konráð Gíslason and Eiríkur Jónsson. 1875-89. Njála: Udgivet efter gamle håndskrifter. Íslendingasögur udgivne efter gamle haandskrifter af Det Kongelige Nordiske Oldskrift-selskab 4. Copenhagen: Thiele.
  5. Skald = Kock, Ernst Albin, ed. 1946-50. Den norsk-isländska skaldediktningen. 2 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  6. NN = Kock, Ernst Albin. 1923-44. Notationes Norrœnæ: Anteckningar till Edda och skaldediktning. Lunds Universitets årsskrift new ser. 1. 28 vols. Lund: Gleerup.
  7. 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.
  8. CVC = Cleasby, Richard, Gudbrand Vigfusson [Guðbrandur Vigfússon] and W. A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English Dictionary. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon.
  9. Hellberg, Staffan. 1981a. ‘Kungarna i Sigvats diktning. Till studiet av skaldedikternas språk och stil’. SI 32, 3-22.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. ÍF 6 = Vestfirðinga sǫgur. Ed. Björn K. Þórólfsson and Guðni Jónsson. 1943.
  13. ÍF 26-8 = Heimskringla. Ed. Bjarni Aðalbjarnarson. 1941-51.
  14. Hkr 1893-1901 = Finnur Jónsson, ed. 1893-1901. Heimskringla: Nóregs konunga sǫgur af Snorri Sturluson. 4 vols. SUGNL 23. Copenhagen: Møller.
  15. Hkr 1991 = Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir et al., eds. 1991. Heimskringla. 3 vols. Reykjavík: Mál og menning.
  16. 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.
  17. Hkr 1777-1826 = Schöning, Gerhard et al., eds. 1777-1826. Heimskringla edr Noregs konunga-sögor. 6 vols. Copenhagen: Stein.
  18. Hkr 1868 = Unger, C. R., ed. 1868. Heimskringla eller Norges kongesagaer af Snorre Sturlassøn. Christiania (Oslo): Brøgger & Christie.
  19. Internal references
  20. Not published: do not cite (ÓHHkrI)
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