the breaking of Byrhtnoth
(at the battle of maldon)
he ordered the men to loose the horses
go forth and drive them far,
consider both hands and a goodstout heart.
when Offa’s kinfellow first found out
his lord wouldn’t take cowardice
he let his friend fly:
hawk from his hands to the forest,
and stepped up to battle.
so man might know about that boy,
wouldn’t weak-knee at the war; to weapons he went.
beside him, Eadric wished to last
for his leader, follow his lord to the fight,
and he went forth with spear to war.
he had a stoutmind
that while his hands might hold
shield-slab and broadsword
he vowed to last (his boast to stand)
with his lord when he should have to fight.
then Byrhtnoth began preparing the men.
ready and riding
taught the warriors
how to stand and hold position,
bade them hold their shields fast in fingers
and not to fear.
when he had the folk fittingly taught,
he dismounted ‘midst his most dear people
where he knew his most loyal hearth-host,
then stood on shore, crashly crying:
a vikings’ messenger, spouting words,
the seafarer’s boast, announced
a message to the earl where he stood on the other side
“keen sailors sent me to you
ordered to say you must send soon
rings for peace!
better to forfeit spears for tribute
then share a bitter battle,
no need to annihilate if you are plenty prosperous
we want to fashion a truce from that gold
if the greatest here should want to see
his people redeemed
sell the sea-men (on your own judging)
fortune for friendship, and
we will go back to our ships with the treasure
set out on the sea, and you can keep your quiet.”
Byhtnoth speech-made, shield-board grasped
whirled his slender spear of ash, spouted words
all-one-angry-minded answered back:
“do you hear what this folk says?
they will give you spears for tribute
and practiced swords;
this war gear won’t help you in battle
watermen’s errand-boy, announce back again
this mighty loathsome news:
the earl and his troop stand unfouled
they’ll defend this homeland
Aethelred’s earth, of my elders
the folk, the country
heathens should fall in battle.
you think me too shameful, that you
should go unfought to ships with our treasure?
now that you came
this far into our country
not so softly shall you overrun our riches--
first point and edge will smooth us over
before we’ll give you tribute.
then the shield-bearer ordered the men to go so
they all stood on the riverbank,
but couldn’t for water, (flowing floodtide enlocking light streams)
one troop to the other.
it seemed too long ‘till bearing spears together
all tumultuous arrayed, straddling there
the Pantan streams,
and an army from ships.
nor might any harm the other
except with airborne arrows arraying death.
the flood went out.
the shipmen stood ready
plenty of vikings, just waiting for war.
a hero then demanded
defense for the causeway,
a war-hardened warrior quick with his kin,
it was Wulfstan’s command.
picked off with his lance
the first to step boldly onto the bridge.
There stood with Wulfstan two bold-souled warriors
unafraid, Aelfere and Maccus
who wouldn’t make flight from the ford
but steadfast stood against the enemy
while they might wield a weapon.
but when they understood, and eagerly saw
that they met fierce bridge-guards,
the loathsome strangers started dissembling,
asked that they might
poses the path to the land
leading the foot-troop over the ford.
then the earl
in a pulsing blood-mood
allowed all the loathsome
people to land.
Byhthelm’s son began
calling over cold water
“now you’re all opened up, come quick
you men to war,
God only knows who
will wield the death-pile’s meeting.”
the death-pile-wolves waded
without care for water
viking troop west over Pantan
carrying shields over shining water
shipmen bearing lindenwood shields to land.
Byrhtnoth ‘midst men fierce and ready
stood against them.
he ordered that troop to work a shield-wall,
and to hold fast against the enemy.
the fight was near: glory by battle
the time had come the fated men
rage heaved up
eagles eager for meat; was on the earth a cry.
then let fly from fingers
bows were busy, shield-board seized the point.
the battle-rush was bitter: warriors fell,
on either hand youths lay dead.
Wulmaer was wounded
the chopper cut down his sister’s son:
slaughter-pile sleep chose Byrhtnoth’s kin,
but there was reward for the vikings:
Eadward (i heard) alone, slew
cruel with his sword swing not withholding,
so the fated champion
fell at his feet,
so to him his lord gave thanks to
the servant at his side.
So stood firm the fierce-minded
youth in battle,
eagerly thinking, how they with point
might first claim life from fated men,
warriors with weapons.
death-pile fell to earth.
standing steadfast, Byhrtnoth directed,
bade each youth give thought to war
that would win glory from the Danes.
the war-hardened one waded, weapon aloft
shield-board for defense,
and stepped against the warrior,
earl to churl resolute
each of them evil-minded
for the other.
the sea-warrior sent a southern shaft
that wounded the warrior’s lord,
he shoved with his shield that the
and the spear split-sprang back.
mad-minded was the war-hero
he stung the viking with his spear
so that he gave back the wound.
sage was the soldier, he let his javelin loose
through that youth’s neck
hand guiding so it reached
the fast-fighter’s life.
then he speedily shot another
who’s mail burst, wounded on the breast
through the ringshirt
from his heart stood
a poisoned point.
the earl was joyous,
to the Creator, (the Lord gave a day’s work).
so some danish dandy flung
the dart from his hands
that it went too deeply
through the nobleman Aethelred’s thane,
at his side stood a soldier ungrown
a battleboy so boldly
pulled the bloody spear from the man
(Wulfstan’s son, Wulfmaer the young)
let go so hard, sent back again
that piercing point,
so that he on the earth lay
his king had
went then armed, one to the earl
so he could fetch the warrior’s
rings raiment and ring-mail,
then Byhtnoth drew
chopper from sheath
broad and bright edged sword,
but too soon some waterman
hindered him, he
wasted the earl’s arm
fell then to the ground
the yellow-dust-hilted sword
he not able to hold a hard blade,
or wield a weapon.
but still the battle-man had
a word to quote to embolden the war-youth,
the grey battle-man bade “go forth to meet with glory”
could not on feet stand-up-firm for long,
he looked to the heavens:
“thank you Ruler of people
for all the benefit i on the world enjoyed,
now i have, kind Creator
the greatest need
that you allow my ghost my soul
to travel to you by your
wielding, king of angels, to go in quiet
so the hell-thief can’t crush. . .
then heathen soldiers hacked him down
and both men that stood about,
Aelfnoth and Wulmaer both lay,
gave up their life alongside their lord.
they bent themselves from battle then,
was first to flee, Godric from the fighting
forsook the good man who often gave him
many a mare,
leapt up on the horse his lord
had owned, on the harness
as it wasn’t right,
and his brother with him both in gallop,
Godwine and Godwig didn’t care about war
but turned from the battle
wandered to woods, fleeing for a fortress,
their lives to preserve,
and many more than was right
if they should at all remember the gifts
he gave to move them to glory,
so Offa had said to him
in the day, on the meeting place
where they called a council,
men spiritedly spoke who later wouldn’t
endure the danger.
then the folk’s lord fell
Aethelred’s earl; all the hearthfolk
saw their lord, lying there.
then the splendid thanes went forth
undaunted men eagerly advanced,
all wanted to forget their life
for a dear revenge.
so Aelfric’s son emboldened them on,
the unwintered youth made words.
Aelfwin talked then, with zeal spoke:
“remember the meals
when we’d speak over mead
raising boasts over benches?
heroes of the hall now
in a bitter battle, now
find out how brave you are!
i’ll make my lineage known to all
that i’m of mighty kin in Mercia,
my old father was Ealhelm,
wise elder-man world-well-blessed.
king’s thanes shan’t taunt me,
that i will go from this band to seek my home,
now my lord lies
hacked down in battle. hardest for me:
he was both friend and lord.”
then he went forth, considering the feud
pierced with his point some sea-floater
so he lay on the ground with his weapon.
then he began to call his comrades
friends and fellows, so they came forth
Offa speech-made, shook his ash-pole:
“Aelfwin you have urged us all
thanes to the need, now our king lies dead,
earl on earth,
we all need each other to embolden
warriors to war, that while we can
our weapons grasp and hold,
Godric, Oddan’s son deceived us all
turned many men when he rode that
majestic mare, as if he were their lord.
and on the field folks split up
shield-wall shattered damn his act!
that put so many
men to flight.”
Leofsunu speech-made, linden shield aloft,
shield-board to defense, the man to say:
“i then vow
i hence won’t flee a footstep,
but further go awaken war,
Sturnmer steadfast and hero-hard
will not have a word of taunt about me
now my loved lord is fallen,
if i should lordless return home
turn from war
i’ll take to weapons, point and iron,”
full of anger
he fought fiercely forgetting flight.
Dunnere then spoke, daring with dart,
simple peasant cried over all
asked the warriors each to avenge Byrhtnoth:
“must not flinch, intend to avenge
lord of this people, not mourning for life.
then they went forth not caring for lives
the hall-men began to fight hard
(and God grant that they might avenge the loved lord
and summon slaughter for their enemy)
the hostage began eagerly helping
he from hard Northumbrian kin
Ecglaf’s son Aeshferth his name,
he wouldn’t pull back from war-play
but often shot forth arrows:
tore men apart.
every time he could, if he could wound, he would
as long as he could wield a weapon.
still on the point stood Eadward the tall
spoke boasting-words eager
that he wouldn’t flee a foot-space of land
move back any bit since his better lay dead.
he shattered the shield-wall
and fought against the warriors:
to the sea-people
until he lay on a death-pile.
so did Aetheric, noble comrade
striving, eager advanced and firmly fought,
Sibyrhtes brother, very many others
split celloid shields, keenly defended
the mail-coat sang!
(some sorrow song)
look! Offa slew that sailor in the fight!
so he fell to ground,
then Gad’s kinsman too
soon hacked down in battle
and he had still to advance enough
to avenge his lord,
see he had a boast
with his ring-giver,
that they should both to stronghold ride
whole to home, but
on the slaughter-place he died of wounds
and loyally lay beside the king.
shield-boards broke, watermen
trudged completely enraged to the fight,
often a spear passed through a life-house
Wistan advanced, Thurstan’s son against the soldiers,
in the throng was the bane of three
before he, Wigeline’s son, lay
on the deathpile.
it was a hard meeting
warriors standing fast in war,
wound-weary war-men falling.
sorrow fell on earth.
Oswald and Eadwold all the while
both the brothers toughened the men
giving their war-kin words
that they in danger should endure
putting weapons to use.
hoisted his shield-board
(the comrade was old) shook his ash-pole,
very boldly taught the men:
“mind must be harder heart braver spirit more
as our strength diminishes,
here your leader lies all
hacked down, good and great.
might always murmur he who from this war-place
thought to turn,
I, an old-life, i won’t from here.
by the side of my lord
by so dear to men
think to lie.
so Aethelgar’s son emboldened them all,
Godric to battle,
he often let loose spears
whaling slaughter-spears at the vikings
so he in that folk first went
hacking and humbling till he
fell in battle.
he was not that Godric who
fled the fight