You are on page 1of 13

The Battle of Maldon Translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Wilfrid Berridge Part I


Then he ordered each of his warriors his horse to loose Far off to send it and forth to go, To be mindful of his hands and of his high heart. Then did Offa's Kinsman first know That the earl would not brook cowardice, Loosed he from his hands his darling to fly, His Hawk to the wood, and to the battle strode. From that one could tell that the chieftain would never eaken in the warfare ! when he his wea"ons sei#ed. $nd after him %dric chose his chief to follow, His friend in the fight ! then 'gan he forth to bear The s"ear to the strife ! high s"irit had he, &o long as he with his hands to hold was able His buckler and broadsword' his boast he fulfilled That he by his friend's side should fight.

BRITHNOTH PR!PAR!S HIS ARRA% Then did (rithnoth begin his men to bestow ! He rode u" and counselled them ! his soldiers he taught How they should stand, and their standing to kee", $nd bade them their round shields rightly to hold Fast to their forearms, that they flinch not at all. $nd when he had his folk fairly bestowed He lighted there with his "eo"le, where he would liefest be

here he knew his own troo"s were most to be trusted.

TH! &I'IN$S PAR(!% Then stood forth on the strand and sternly s"ake The messenger of the )ikings, delivered his tidings' He boastfully s"oke, for the seafarers Their sentence to the earl, where he stood on the shore. *They sent me to thee, those bold seamen, $nd bade me to say that thou must send swiftly +ing!money for "ledges. For you were it better That you buy off this s"ear!rush with your ta,, Than that we should have so hard a battle. hat need we to ve, us, if you will agreee will for this gold a sure com"act make .f thou wilt agree to it ! thou that art strongest. .f that thou be willing thy "eo"le to redeem, To yield to the seamen at their own choice Tribute for a truce, and so take "eace of us, Then will we with the ta, to shi" betake us To sail on the sea ! and hold truce with you. (rithnoth made answer ! his buckler he gras"ed, (randished his slender s"ear ! and s"oke. *Hearest thou, sea!robber, what this "eo"le sayFor tribute they're ready to give you their s"ears, The edge "oison!bitter, and the ancient sword. ar!gear that will bring you no "rofit in the fight. Thou messenger of the seamen, back with thy message. Tell to thy "eo"le, these far more hateful tidings, There stands here a good earl in the midst of his men, ho will this country ever defend, The kingdom of $ethelred, mine overlord, The folk and the ground ! but they shall fall,

The foemen in the fight' too shameful methinks That ye with our tribute, to shi" should be gone ithout a blow struck ! now that ye have thus far /ade your incoming into our land. 0or shall ye so softly carry off our riches. &ooner shall "oint and edge reconcile us, 1rim war"lay indeed ! before we give tribute.* (ade he then to bear the shields, the warriors to go, &o that they on the river's bank all stood.

TH! TI !

!(A%S TH! #I$HTIN$

0or could for the water, the army come at the other, For there came flowing, flood after ebb' Locked were the ocean!streams, and too long it seemed 2ntil they together might carry their s"ears. There by 3anta's stream in array they bestood, %sse, men's rank, and the men from the shi"s, 0or might any one of them in4ure the other %,ce"t where from arrow's flight one had his death. The flood went out ! the "irates stood ready. Full many of the )ikings, eager for battle.


O&!R TH! #OR

Then bade the men's saviour, one to hold the bridge, $ warrior war!hardened, that was ulfstan hight5,

6ourageous mid his kin ! he was 6eola's son, ho the first foeman with his s"ear did fell That bravest ste""ed forth u"on the bridge. There stood with ulfstan warriors goodly $elfere and /accus, high hearted both,

That never at the ford would turn them to flight, (ut they steadfastly 'gainst their foes made defence, hile their wea"ons to wield they were able.

TH! &I'IN$S AR! BA)('! hen they saw that, and keenly es"ied That bitter bridge!guardians there they met Then began they to feign ! those loathed guests ! $nd begged that they might some foothold get, To fare over the ford ! the foemen to lead.

BRITHNOTH A((OWS TH! &I'IN$S TO "ROSS Then did the earl, in his overweening heart Lend land too much to that loathed "eo"le. Then 'gan he call out ! across the cold water (righthelm's son, and all the band listened. *0ow room is meted you, come swiftly to us, arriors to war. Only 1od knows ho at the end shall "ossess this fight's field*. Then went the war wolves ! for water they recked not. The troo" of the "irates, west over 3anta. Over the shining water they carried their shields &eamen to the shore, their bucklers they shouldered. There against the raiders ready stood (rithnoth with his band, and with the bucklers bade Form the shield wall, and make firm the ranks Fast against the foes. Then was fighting nigh, Fame in the fight ! now was the hour come hen that the feymen7 must fall.

5 8hight9 : archaic, literary word meaning 8named9 or 8called9 7 8feymen9 : 8doomed men9 destined to die in the battle

Part II
TH! BATT(! IS *OIN! 0ow was riot raised, the ravens wheeled, The eagle, eager for carrion, there was a cry on earth. Then loosed they from their hands the file!hard lance, The shar"!ground s"ears to fly. (ows were busied ! buckler met "oint (itter was the battle!rush, warriors fell On either hand, the young men lay; ounded was ulfmur, a war bed he chose, %ven (rithnoth's kinsman, he with swords as straight cut down, his sister's son. Then to the )ikings was re<uital given. . heard that %dward did slay one &traightly with his sword, nor stinted= the blow, That at his feet fell ! the fey warrior. For this his thane did to him give thanks, %ven to his chamberlain ! when he had a s"ace.



&o stood firm the stout!hearted arriors in the war ! they did keenly strive ho with his "oint first should be able From fey men to win life.

arriors with wea"ons> wrack fell on earth. They stood steadfast' (rithnoth stirred them, (ade each of his men intend to the strife That would from the ?anes win glory.

A &I'IN$ ATTA"'S BRITHNOTH ent one stern in battle ! his wea"on u"heaved, His shield for safety ! and 'gainst the chief strode ! $s resolute against him the earl did go, %ach to the other did evil intend. &ent then the seafarer a southern dart, $nd wounded was the warriors' chieftain. (ut he shoved with his shield ! so that the shaft burst, $nd the s"ear broke, and it s"rang away. roth was the chieftain, he "ierced with his s"ear That "roud )iking who gave him that wound. @et "rudent was the chieftain' he aimed his shaft to go Through the man's neck ! his hand guided it &o that he reached his sudden enemy's life. Then he a second swiftly sent That the breast"late burst ! in the heart was he wounded Through the ring!harness ! and at his heart stood The "oisoned "oint' the earl was the blither>! Laughed then that high!heart ! made thanks to 1od For his day's work ! that his &aviour granted him .



Loosed then one of the foemen a dart from his hands, To fly from his finders ! that it rushed forth Through the noble thane of $ethelred. 6lose to his side stood a youth not yet grown

ulfstan's child ! even

ulfmeer the younger.

He "lucked from his chieftain that bloody s"ear Then loosed the hard s"ear 'gainst that other to go' .n ran the "oint ! so that he on earth lay ho ere had sorely wounded his chief. ent an armed )iking against the earl ho wished the earl's 4ewels to "lunder, His armour and rings ! and well!adorned sword. Then (rithnoth drew his sword from sheath (road and brown edged ! and at his breast!"late smote. Too soon hindered him one of the seamen, &o that the earl's arm he did in4ure. Fell then to earth the fallow!hilted sword, 0or could he hold the hard brand Or wield his wea"on.

BRITHNOTH,S %IN$ WOR S @et then this word did s"eak The old warrior' cheered on his men Ordered to go forward ! his good brethren. 0o longer could he firmly on his feet stand. He looked u" to heaven........ *. thank Thee, Lord of all "eo"les For all those 4oys that . on earth have known. 0ow, my /aker mild ! . have most need That thou to my ghost should grant good. That my soul to Thee may 4ourney, .nto thy kingdom ! O lord of the $ngels, /ay "ass with "eace ! . do desire of Thee That the hell!fiends may not hurt it.* Then hewed at him those heathen men $nd at both those men that stood him beside, $elfnoth and ulfmeer ! both fell'

Then beside their liege ! their lives they yielded.

= 8stinted9 : restrained, held back

Part III
$O RI" B!$INS TH! #(I$HT Then fled those from the fight that wished not to be there. Then were Odda's sons first in the flight 1odric from the battle, and left his good lord ho had often given him many a mare, He s"rang u"on the horse that his lord had owned, 2"on the tra""ings where no right had he, $nd with him his brothers ! they both gallo"ed off, 1odrinc and 1odwig, they loved not the battle, They went from that war ! and the wood they sought, They fled to the fastness ! and saved their own lives, $nd men more than had any right .f they had all bethought them of the blessings That he had done them for their good comfort. %ven thus to him Offa one day ere had said .n the meeting!"lace where he held his moot. That with "roud minds many did then s"eak ho later at need would not endure. Then fell that leader of the folk, $ethelred's earl and all did see, His hearth com"anions ! that their lord was laid low.

MAN% "ONTIN)! TH! BATT(! Then went forth the "roud thanes, (rave men ! hastened eagerly,

$nd willed they all ! for one of two things> Their lives to lose, or their loved lord to avenge. Thus urged them forth the son of $elfric, $ warrior young in winters ! with words he s"ake, $elfwin thus said ! boldly he s"oke, *Think ye of the times when we oft s"ake at mead hen we on the benches did raise u" our boast, Henchmen in the hall ! about hard strife, 0ow may each one make trial of how bold he be. 0ow will . tell my lineage to all That . was in /ercia of a mighty kindred /ine old father ! $ldhelm was hight, $n alderman wise ! and rich in wealth' 0or shall the thanes mid the "eo"le re"roach me, That . would consent to flee from this fight, /y home to seek, now my lord lieth low, &lain in the strife' but yet it most grieves me For that he was both ! my kinsman and my lord.* Then went he forth ! full mindful of the feud, &o that with his s"ear one he slew. $ "irate 'mong his "eo"le ! that he fell to the earth. &lain by his wea"on. He 'gan to urge on His comrades and friends ! that they should go forth. Offa s"ake, his s"ear!shaft shook, *Lo thou, $elfwin, hast all heartened Thanes at need ! now our lord lieth, The earl on the earth ! for us all is need That each one of us should hearten the other arrior to war, while he his wea"on may Have and hold, his hard blade, His s"ear and good sword ! for 1odric hath us, Odda's coward son, all betrayed. For many men thought when he rode off on the mare, On that "roud steed, that he was our lord.

$nd for that cause are the folk scattered over the field The shield wall broken. /ay his "lan come to nought; For that he so many men hath set to flight.* Leofsund s"oke, his buckler u"hove, His shield for safety ! and that man answered, *. do "romise this, that . will not hence Fly a foot's ste", but shall further go To avenge in the war my friendly lord. Then shall not need in &turmere the steadfast soldiers To twit me with words, now my friend is fall'n, For that . returned home without my lord, Turned from the battle, but the sword shall take me, The "oint and the steel.* $nd he, most wroth, de"arted. Fought steadfastly ! flight he des"ised. ?unmer then s"oke ! shook his s"ear, $ humble churl ! called out above all, (ade each warrior ! *(rithnoth avenge; 0ow may not go he who thinketh to avenge His friend among the folk, nor mourn for his life.*

Part I&

$nd then they went forth ! for life they recked not. Then 'gan the house men hardly to fight, The fierce s"ear bearers ! and they begged 1od That they might avenge their friendly lord, $nd on their enemies bring death. Then the hostage 'gan eagerly hel", He was in 0orthumbria of a hardy kin, %claf's child, and $esferth his name. He weakened not a whit in the war"lay, (ut he sent forth often a shaft, Often he a buckler struck, often a man hit, %ver and again he dealt out wounds

The while he his wea"ons might wield. Then yet in the rank stood %adward the tall, +eady and eager ! a boastful word s"oke, That he would not flee a foot's s"ace of land, Or budge back, now that his better chief was fall'n. He shattered the shield wall and fought with the soldiers 2ntil he his treasure!giver u"on the seamen Had worthily avenged ! 'ere he lay with the slain. &o did $eturic ! a noble com"anion, %ager and im"etuous ! he fought keenly, &ibright's brother, ! and full many more, ! &"lit the hollow shields, shar"ly "arried. The buckler's edge burst, breast!"late sang $ grisly song. Then in the strife struck Offa a seaman, that he sank to the earth, $nd then 1adda's kinsman the ground sought. &oon in the struggle was Offa struck down @et had he done what he boasted to his friend $s he bragged before to his ring!giver>! That they both to the burg should ride Hale to their home, or in the battle fall, On the war field "erish of their wounds. He fell like true thane at his chief's side. Then was breaking of bucklers, the seamen came on &tern to the strife' the s"ear often "ierced $ feyman's body. Forth then went istan, Thurstan's son, with the enemy fought, He was in the throng ! of three men the bane %re him igelin's son on the battlefield laid. Then was stern meeting, stood fast arriors in the war, then men sank down earied with wounds ! slaughter fell on earth. Oswald and %aldwald all the while (rothers both, urged on the men,

Their dear kinsmen, with words incited That they there at need should hold out, &toutly wield their wea"ons. (rythwold s"oke, gras"ed his buckler, He was an old comrade, urged the men, He full boldly cheered his soldiers, *Thought must be the harder, heart the keener &"irit shall be more ! as our might lessens. There lies our chief all cut down, 1ood man on the ground' for ever may he grieve ho now from this war!"lay thinketh to go. . am old in years ! hence . will not, (ut by the side of mine own lord, (y my chief so loved, . think to lie.* $nd thus them all did $ethelgar's son urge, %ven 1odric, to the battle ! oft he cast a s"ear, $ s"ear of slaughter to go u"on the )ikings, $s he 'mid the folk foremost went, &mote and struck down till he sank down in the fight. He was not that 1odric who left the battle.

Wilfrid Berridge ilfrid (erridge /.$., author of this translation of the (attle of /aldon, was born in London in 5ABC. He was the son of 6anon Desse (erridge, a "riest in the "arish of 6olchester, then at itham, also in %sse,, and finally at Little (addow where ilfrid s"ent most of his childhood.

He was educated at boarding school at &t Dohn's, Leatherhead, in &urrey, from where he went on to study 6lassics at adham 6ollege, O,ford. On leaving O,ford, he obtained a "ost as a teacher at /aldon 1rammar &chool, where he remained for his entire teaching career until his retirement in 5AE7. He was head of both the 6lassics and %nglish de"artments, and was well known for "roducing some remarkable &hakes"earean school "lays. Towards the end of his career, the 1rammar &chool became com"rehensive and was linked with the &econdary /odern &chool to form what is now the 3lume &chool in /aldon> he was the first Headteacher of the Lower 3lume &chool, and saw it through its early formative years. He married Olive in 5A=A whom he had met during his role in the $.+.3. during the war. He died in 5AFE and is buried in Little (addow churchyard, a few miles from /aldon.

Related Interests