»  The Battle of Maldon

 

The Battle of Maldon

 

•  Background

The battle of Maldon was fought on Monday, August 10th, a.d. 991 near Maldon, a small town in Essex, southeastern England. The men of Essex, defending their land, were led by Earl Birhtnoth (variously spelled). Their enemy was a Viking raiding-party that had landed nearby. Birhtnoth's force lost the battle. This was in the reign of Ethelred, the ninth King of England (counting Alfred as the first).

This poem was written in commemoration of the battle. The date of the poem's composition is a matter of scholarly dispute: the Wikipedia entry for the poem gives details.

Both the battle and the poem are described on numerous websites. The reading I have borrowed here is by Michael D. C. Drout, Prentice Professor of English at Wheaton College, Norton, MA. Prof. Drout has compiled an excellent collection of readings on his "Anglo-Saxon Aloud" website.

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The poem has come down to us with the beginning and end missing. What survives is 325 lines or part-lines in Old English. I have broken these into 13 distinct narrative stanzas to make the poem easier on the eye. The translation is by E.T. Donaldson, from here.

The stanzas are as follows.

   Theme   Lines
    1     Birhtnoth tells his men to leave their horses and advance on foot. 1-17
    2     Birhtnoth deploys his men for battle. 18-25
    3     The Vikings send forward a herald to demand tribute, offering peace in return. 25-42
    4     Birhtnoth replies defiantly to the Viking herald. 43-62
    5     The Saxons move forward; but it is high tide, the causeway is covered, and neither side can advance to meet the other. 63-72
    6     The tide ebbs, the causeway appears. Saxon warriors defend it. The Vikings can't cross. They ask for passage. 73-88
    7     The earl withdraws his men from the causeway so that the Vikings can pass over. 89-95
    8     The Vikings cross over and battle is joined. 96-129
    9     Birhtnoth in combat; he is wounded twice. 130-161
    10     Birhtnoth and his two companions are slain. 162-184
    11     Some cowards flee. The others make speeches to hearten each other, and fight on. 185-272
    12     Eadweard, Æthelric, and Offa die bravely. 273-294
    13     The men of Essex fight on to avenge their fallen lord. 295-325


•  Notes

"Offa's kinsman" — Offa is mentioned later in the poem as one of Birhtnoth's principal retainers; his young kinsman is not otherwise identified.

"Eadric" — We don't know who Eadric was. He is not otherwise mentioned.

"heriot" — literally "military equipment": the horse and arms supplied by a tenant to his lord, returnable upon the tenant's death

"Eadweard … chamberlain" — they are the same person

"churl" — common soldier, by contrast with the noble Earl. A churl is a freeman of the lowest rank.

"southern-made spear" — made in England or France; the Vikings preferred such weapons, made in the nations to their south

"he thrust the spear with his shield" — this maneuver frees the spear from the wounded man's body and enables him to take retaliatory action

"Mercia" — One of the old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, at this point just the West Midlands (Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire), its northeastern parts having been swallowed up in the Danelaw 100 years earlier.

"Sturmer" — a village in northern Essex, 20 miles southeast of Cambridge; presumably the speaker's home village

"the hostage" — presumably taken in some previous fight with the Northumbians. Among Germanic peoples, hostages of high rank generally fought on the side of the warriors who held them in hostage.

"The shield's rim broke" — we seem to have lost an account of a Viking's attack on Offa here.

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•  Play the reading

        Note:  The reading lasts 20 minutes 54 seconds.

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Text of the poem.

The Battle of Maldon
      [Lines 1-17:  Birhtnoth tells his men to leave their horses and advance on foot.  Notes are here.]
        … … … brocen wurde.
Het þa hyssa hwæne        hors forlætan,
feor afysan,        and forð gangan,
hicgan to handum        and to hige godum.
Þa þæt Offan mæg        ærest onfunde,
þæt se eorl nolde        yrhðo geþolian,
he let him þa of handon        leofne fleogan
hafoc wið þæs holtes,        and to þære hilde stop;
be þam man mihte oncnawan        þæt se cniht nolde
wacian æt þam wige,        þa he to wæpnum feng.
Eac him wolde Eadric        his ealdre gelæstan,
frean to gefeohte,        ongan þa forð beran
gar to guþe.        He hæfde god geþanc
þa hwile þe he mid handum        healdan mihte
bord and bradswurd;        beot he gelæste
þa he ætforan his frean        feohtan sceolde.
    … would be broken. Then he commanded each of his warriors to leave his horse, drive it far away, and walk forward, trusting in his hands and in his good courage. When Offa's kinsman understood that the earl would not put up with cowardice, he let his beloved hawk fly from his hand toward the woods and advanced to the battle: by this men might know that the youth would not weaken in the fight once he had taken up his weapons. Eadric wished also to serve his lord the earl in the battle; he carried his spear forward to the conflict. He was of good heart as long as he might hold shield and broadsword in his hands; he carried out the vow that he had made, now that he was to fight before his lord.
      [Lines 18-25:  Birhtnoth deploys his men for battle.]
    Ða þær Byrhtnoð ongan        beornas trymian,
rad and rædde,        rincum tæhte
hu hi sceoldon standan        and þone stede healdan,
and bæd þæt hyra randas        rihte heoldon
fæste mid folman,        and ne forhtedon na.
Þa he hæfde þæt folc        fægere getrymmed,
he lihte þa mid leodon        þær him leofost wæs,
þær he his heorðwerod        holdost wiste.
    Then Birhtnoth began to place his men at their stations; he rode about and advised them, taught the troops how they should stand and hold the place and bade them grasp their shields aright, firm in their hands, and have no fear. When he had arranged his folk properly, he alighted among them where it seemed best to him, where he knew his retainers to be most loyal.
      [Lines 26-42:  The Vikings send forward a herald to demand tribute, offering peace in return.]
    Þa stod on stæðe,        stiðlice clypode
wicinga ar,        wordum mælde,
se on beot abead        brimliþendra
ærænde to þam eorle,        þær he on ofre stod:
"Me sendon to þe        sæmen snelle,
heton ðe secgan        þæt þu most sendan raðe
beagas wið gebeorge;        and eow betere is
þæt ge þisne garræs        mid gafole forgyldon,
þon we swa hearde        hilde dælon.
Ne þurfe we us spillan,        gif ge spedaþ to þam;
we willað wið þam golde        grið fæstnian.
Gyf þu þat gerædest,        þe her ricost eart,
þæt þu þine leoda        lysan wille,
syllan sæmannum        on hyra sylfra dom
feoh wið freode,        and niman frið æt us,
we willaþ mid þam sceattum        us to scype gangan,
on flot feran,        and eow friþes healdan."
    Then the Vikings' herald stood on the river bank, cried out loudly, spoke words, boastfully proclaimed the seafarers' message to the earl where he stood on the shore: "Bold seamen have sent me to you, have commanded me to say to you that you must quickly send treasure in order to protect yourself; and it is better for you to buy off this spear-assault with tribute than to have us give you harsh war. There is no need for us to destroy one another, if you are rich enough to pay. With the gold we will confirm truce. If you that are highest here decide upon this, that you will ransom your people, and in return for peace give the seamen money in the amount they request, and receive peace from us, we will go to ship with the tribute, set sail on the sea, and keep peace with you."
      [Lines 43-62:  Birhtnoth replies defiantly to the Viking herald.  Notes are here.]
    Byrhtnoð maþelode,        bord hafenode,
wand wacne æsc,        wordum mælde,
yrre and anræd        ageaf him andsware:
"Gehyrst þu, sælida,        hwæt þis folc segeð?
Hi willað eow to gafole        garas syllan,
ættrynne ord        and ealde swurd,
þa heregeatu        þe eow æt hilde ne deah.
Brimmanna boda,        abeod eft ongean,
sege þinum leodum        miccle laþre spell,
þæt her stynt unforcuð        eorl mid his werode,
þe wile gealgean        eþel þysne,
Æþelredes eard,        ealdres mines,
folc and foldan.        Feallan sceolon
hæþene æt hilde.        To heanlic me þinceð
þæt ge mid urum sceattum        to scype gangon
unbefohtene,        nu ge þus feor hider
on urne eard        in becomon.
Ne sceole ge swa softe        sinc gegangan;
us sceal ord and ecg        ær geseman,
grim guðplega,        ær we gofol syllon."
    Birhtnoth spoke, raised his shield, his slender ash-spear, uttered words, angry and resolute gave him answer: "Do you hear, seafarer, what this folk says? They will give you spears for tribute, poisoned point and old sword, heriot that avails you not in battle. Sea-wanderers' herald, take back our answer, speak to your people a message far more hateful, that here stands with his host an undisgraced earl who will defend this country, my lord Ethelred's homeland, folk and land. Heathen shall fall in the battle. It seems to me too shameful that you should go unfought to ship with our tribute, now that you have come thus far into our land. Not so easily shall you get treasure: point and edge shall first reconcile us, grim battle-play, before we give tribute."
      [Lines 63-72: The Saxons move forward; but it is high tide, the causeway is covered, and neither side can advance to meet the other.]
    Het þa bord beran,        beornas gangan,
þæt hi on þam easteðe        ealle stodon.
Ne mihte þær for wætere        werod to þam oðrum;
þær com flowende        flod æfter ebban,
lucon lagustreamas.        To lang hit him þuhte,
hwænne hi togædere        garas beron.
Hi þær Pantan stream        mid prasse bestodon,
Eastseaxena ord        and se æschere.
Ne mihte hyra ænig        oþrum derian,
buton hwa þurh flanes flyht        fyl gename.
    Then he ordered the men to bear their shields, go forward so that they all stood on the river bank. Because of the water neither band could come to the other: after the ebb, the floodtide came flowing in; currents met and crossed. It seemed to them too long a time before they might bear their spears together. On the river Pant they stood in proud array, the battle-line of the East Saxons and the men from the ash-ships. Nor might any of them injure another, unless one should receive death from the flight of an arrow.
      [Lines 73-88:  The tide ebbs, the causeway appears. Saxon warriors defend it. The Vikings can't cross. They ask for passage.]
    Se flod ut gewat;        þa flotan stodon gearowe,
wicinga fela,        wiges georne.
Het þa hæleða hleo        healdan þa bricge
wigan wigheardne,        se wæs haten Wulfstan,
cafne mid his cynne,        þæt wæs Ceolan sunu,
þe ðone forman man        mid his francan ofsceat
þe þær baldlicost        on þa bricge stop.
Þær stodon mid Wulfstane        wigan unforhte,
ælfere and Maccus,        modige twegen,
þa noldon æt þam forda        fleam gewyrcan,
ac hi fæstlice        wið ða fynd weredon,
þa hwile þe hi wæpna        wealdan moston.
Þa hi þæt ongeaton        and georne gesawon
þæt hi þær bricgweardas        bitere fundon,
ongunnon lytegian þa        laðe gystas,
bædon þæt hi upgang        agan moston,
ofer þone ford faran,        feþan lædan.
    The tide went out. The seamen stood ready, many Vikings eager for war. The earl, protector of men, bade a war-hard warrior — he was named Wulfstan, of bold lineage — to hold the bridge: he was Ceola's son, who with his spear pierced the first man bold enough to step upon the bridge. There stood with Wulfstan fearless fighters, Ælfhere and Maccus, bold men both who would not take flight from the ford, but defended themselves stoutly against the enemy as long as they might wield weapons. When the loathed strangers saw that, and understood clearly that they would face bitter bridge-defenders there, they began to prefer words to deeds, prayed that they might have access to the bank, pass over the ford and lead their forces across.
      [Lines 89-95:  The earl withdraws his men from the causeway so that the Vikings can pass over.]
    Ða se eorl ongan        for his ofermode
alyfan landes to fela        laþere ðeode.
Ongan ceallian þa        ofer cald wæter
Byrhtelmes bearn        (beornas gehlyston):
"Nu eow is gerymed,        gað ricene to us,
guman to guþe;        god ana wat
hwa þære wælstowe        wealdan mote."
    Then in his overconfidence the earl began to yield ground — too much ground — to the hateful people: Birhthelm's son began to call over the cold water while warriors listened: "Now the way is laid open for you. Come straightway to us, as men to battle. God alone knows which of us may be master of the field."
      [Lines 96-129:  The Vikings cross over and battle is joined.  Notes are here.]
    Wodon þa wælwulfas        (for wætere ne murnon),
wicinga werod,        west ofer Pantan,
ofer scir wæter        scyldas wegon,
lidmen to lande        linde bæron.
Þær ongean gramum        gearowe stodon
Byrhtnoð mid beornum;        he mid bordum het
wyrcan þone wihagan,        and þæt werod healdan
fæste wið feondum.        þa wæs feohte neh,
tir æt getohte.        Wæs seo tid cumen
þæt þær fæge men        feallan sceoldon.
Þær wearð hream ahafen,        hremmas wundon,
earn æses georn;        wæs on eorþan cyrm.
Hi leton þa of folman        feolhearde speru,
gegrundene        garas fleogan;
bogan wæron bysige,        bord ord onfeng.
Biter wæs se beaduræs,        beornas feollon
on gehwæðere hand,        hyssas lagon.
Wund wearð Wulfmær,        wælræste geceas,
Byrhtnoðes mæg;        he mid billum wearð,
his swuster sunu,        swiðe forheawen.
Þær wearð wicingum        wiþerlean agyfen.
Gehyrde ic þæt Eadweard        anne sloge
swiðe mid his swurde,        swenges ne wyrnde,
þæt him æt fotum        feoll fæge cempa;
þæs him his ðeoden        þanc gesæde,
þam burþene,        þa he byre hæfde.
Swa stemnetton        stiðhicgende
hysas æt hilde,        hogodon georne
hwa þær mid orde        ærost mihte
on fægean men        feorh gewinnan,
wigan mid wæpnum;        wæl feol on eorðan.
Stodon stædefæste;        stihte hi Byrhtnoð,
bæd þæt hyssa gehwylc        hogode to wige
þe on Denon wolde        dom gefeohtan.
    The slaughter-wolves advanced, minded not the water, a host of Vikings westward over the Pant, over the bright water bore their shields: sailors to land brought shields of linden. Opposite stood Birhtnoth with his warriors, ready for the fierce invaders. He ordered his men to form a war-hedge with their shields and to hold the formation fast against the enemy. Now was combat near, glory in battle. The time had come when doomed men should fall. Shouts were raised; ravens circled, the eagle eager for food. On earth there was uproar. They let the file-hard spears fly from their hands, grim-ground javelins. Bows were busy, shield felt point. Bitter was the battle-rush. On either side warriors fell, young men lay dead. Wulfmær was wounded, chose the slaughter-bed: kinsman of Birhtnoth — his sister's son — he was cruelly hewn down with swords. Then requital was made to the Vikings: I have heard that Eadweard struck one fiercely with his sword, withheld not the stroke, so that the warrior fell doomed at his feet; for this his lord gave the chamberlain thanks when he had opportunity. Thus men stood firm in the battle, stern of purpose. Eagerly all these armed fighters contended with one another to see who could be the first with his weapon's point to take life from doomed man. The slain fell, carrion, to the earth. The defenders stood fast; Birhtnoth urged them on, bade each man who would win glory from the Danes to give his whole heart to the battle.
      [Lines 130-161:  Birhtnoth in combat; he is wounded twice.  Notes are here.]
    Wod þa wiges heard,        wæpen up ahof,
bord to gebeorge,        and wið þæs beornes stop.
Eode swa anræd        eorl to þam ceorle,
ægþer hyra oðrum        yfeles hogode.
Sende ða se særinc        suþerne gar,
þæt gewundod wearð        wigena hlaford;
he sceaf þa mid ðam scylde,        þæt se sceaft tobærst,
and þæt spere sprengde,        þæt hit sprang ongean.
Gegremod wearð se guðrinc;        he mid gare stang
wlancne wicing,        þe him þa wunde forgeaf.
Frod wæs se fyrdrinc;        he let his francan wadan
þurh ðæs hysses hals,        hand wisode
þæt he on þam færsceaðan        feorh geræhte.
Ða he oþerne        ofstlice sceat,
þæt seo byrne tobærst;        he wæs on breostum wund
þurh ða hringlocan,        him æt heortan stod
ætterne ord.        Se eorl wæs þe bliþra,
hloh þa, modi man,        sæde metode þanc
ðæs dægweorces        þe him drihten forgeaf.
Forlet þa drenga sum        daroð of handa,
fleogan of folman,        þæt se to forð gewat
þurh ðone æþelan        Æþelredes þegen.
Him be healfe stod        hyse unweaxen,
cniht on gecampe,        se full caflice
bræd of þam beorne        blodigne gar,
Wulfstanes bearn,        Wulfmær se geonga,
forlet forheardne        faran eft ongean;
ord in gewod,        þæt se on eorþan læg
þe his þeoden ær        þearle geræhte.
Eode þa gesyrwed        secg to þam eorle;
he wolde þæs beornes        beagas gefecgan,
reaf and hringas        and gerenod swurd.
    A war-hard Viking advanced, raised up his weapon, his shield to defend himself, moved against Birhtnoth. As resolute as the churl, the earl advanced toward him. Each of them meant harm to the other. Then the seaman threw his southern-made spear so that the fighters' chief was wounded. But he thrust the spear with his shield so that the shaft split and the spearhead broke off and sprang away. The war-chief was maddened; with his spear he stabbed the proud Viking that had given him the wound. Wise in war was the host's leader: he let his spear go through the man's neck, guided his hand so that he mortally wounded the raider. Then he quickly stabbed another, breaking through the mail-shirt: in the breast, quite through the corselet, was this one wounded; at his heart stood the deadly point. The earl was the blither; the bold man laughed, gave thanks to God that the Lord had given him this day's work. One of the Vikings loosed a javelin from his hand, let it fly from his fist, and it sped its way through Æthelred's noble thane. By the earl's side stood a lad not yet grown, a boy in the battle, son of Wulfstan, Wulfmær the young, who plucked full boldly the bloody spear from the warrior. He sent the hard spear flying back again: its point went in, and on the earth lay the man who had sorely wounded his lord. Then an armed Viking stepped toward the earl. He wished to seize the earl's war-gear, make booty of rings and ornamented sword.
      [Lines 162-184:  Birhtnoth and his two companions are slain.]
    þa Byrhtnoð bræd        bill of sceðe,
brad and bruneccg,        and on þa byrnan sloh.
To raþe hine gelette        lidmanna sum,
þa he þæs eorles        earm amyrde.
Feoll þa to foldan        fealohilte swurd;
ne mihte he gehealdan        heardne mece,
wæpnes wealdan.        Þa gyt þæt word gecwæð
har hilderinc,        hyssas bylde,
bæd gangan forð        gode geferan;
ne mihte þa on fotum leng        fæste gestandan.
He to heofenum wlat: "Geþancie þe,        ðeoda waldend,
ealra þæra wynna        þe ic on worulde gebad.
Nu ic ah, milde metod,        mæste þearfe
þæt þu minum gaste        godes geunne,
þæt min sawul to ðe        siðian mote
on þin geweald,        þeoden engla,
mid friþe ferian.        Ic eom frymdi to þe
þæt hi helsceaðan        hynan ne moton."
ða hine heowon        hæðene scealcas
and begen þa beornas        þe him big stodon,
Ælfnoð and Wulmær        begen lagon,
ða onemn hyra frean        feorh gesealdon.
    Then Birhtnoth took his sword from its sheath, broad and bright-edged, and struck at his assailant's coat of mail. Too soon one of the seafarers hindered him, wounded the earl in his arm. Then the gold-hilted sword fell to the earth: he might not hold the hard blade, wield his weapon. Yet he spoke words, the hoar battle-leader, encouraged his men, bade them go forward stoutly together. He might no longer stand firm on his feet. He looked toward Heaven and spoke: "I thank thee, Ruler of Nations, for all the joys that I have had in the world. Now, gentle Lord, I have most need that thou grant my spirit grace, that my soul may travel to thee — under thy protection, Prince of Angels, depart in peace. I beseech thee that fiends of hell harm it not." Then the heathen warriors slew him and both the men who stood by him; Ælfnoth and Wulfmær both were laid low; close by their lord they gave up their lives.
      [Lines 185-272:  Some cowards flee. The others make speeches to hearten each other, and fight on.  Notes are here.]
    Hi bugon þa fram beaduwe        þe þær beon noldon.
Þær wearð Oddan bearn        ærest on fleame,
Godric fram guþe,        and þone godan forlet
þe him mænigne oft        mear gesealde;
he gehleop þone eoh        þe ahte his hlaford,
on þam gerædum        þe hit riht ne wæs,
and his broðru mid him        begen ærndon,
Godwine and Godwig,        guþe ne gymdon,
ac wendon fram þam wige        and þone wudu sohton,
flugon on þæt fæsten        and hyra feore burgon,
and manna ma        þonne hit ænig mæð wære,
gyf hi þa geearnunga        ealle gemundon
þe he him to duguþe        gedon hæfde.
Swa him Offa on dæg        ær asæde
on þam meþelstede,        þa he gemot hæfde,
þæt þær modiglice        manega spræcon
þe eft æt þearfe        þolian noldon.
Þa wearð afeallen        þæs folces ealdor,
Æþelredes eorl;        ealle gesawon
heorðgeneatas        þæt hyra heorra læg.
Þa ðær wendon forð        wlance þegenas,
unearge men        efston georne;
hi woldon þa ealle        oðer twega,
lif forlætan        oððe leofne gewrecan.
Swa hi bylde forð        bearn Ælfrices,
wiga wintrum geong,        wordum mælde,
Ælfwine þa cwæð,        he on ellen spræc:
"Gemunan þa mæla        þe we oft æt meodo spræcon,
þonne we on bence        beot ahofon,
hæleð on healle,        ymbe heard gewinn;
nu mæg cunnian        hwa cene sy.
Ic wylle mine æþelo        eallum gecyþan,
þæt ic wæs on Myrcon        miccles cynnes;
wæs min ealda fæder        Ealhelm haten,
wis ealdorman,        woruldgesælig.
Ne sceolon me on þære þeode        þegenas ætwitan
þæt ic of ðisse fyrde        feran wille,
eard gesecan,        nu min ealdor ligeð
forheawen æt hilde.        Me is þæt hearma mæst;
he wæs ægðer min mæg        and min hlaford."
Þa he forð eode,        fæhðe gemunde,
þæt he mid orde        anne geræhte
flotan on þam folce,        þæt se on foldan læg
forwegen mid his wæpne.        Ongan þa winas manian,
frynd and geferan,        þæt hi forð eodon.
Offa gemælde,        æscholt asceoc:
"Hwæt þu, ælfwine, hafast        ealle gemanode
þegenas to þearfe,        nu ure þeoden lið,
eorl on eorðan.        Us is eallum þearf
þæt ure æghwylc        oþerne bylde
wigan to wige,        þa hwile þe he wæpen mæge
habban and healdan,        heardne mece,
gar and godswurd.        Us Godric hæfð,
earh Oddan bearn,        ealle beswicene.
Wende þæs formoni man,        þa he on meare rad,
on wlancan þam wicge,        þæt wære hit ure hlaford;
forþan wearð her on felda        folc totwæmed,
scyldburh tobrocen.        Abreoðe his angin,
þæt he her swa manigne        man aflymde!"
Leofsunu gemælde        and his linde ahof,
bord to gebeorge;        he þam beorne oncwæð:
"Ic þæt gehate,        þæt ic heonon nelle
fleon fotes trym,        ac wille furðor gan,
wrecan on gewinne        minne winedrihten.
Ne þurfon me embe Sturmere        stedefæste hælæð
wordum ætwitan,        nu min wine gecranc,
þæt ic hlafordleas        ham siðie,
wende fram wige,        ac me sceal wæpen niman,
ord and iren."        He ful yrre wod,
feaht fæstlice,        fleam he forhogode.
Dunnere þa cwæð,        daroð acwehte,
unorne ceorl,        ofer eall clypode,
bæd þæt beorna gehwylc        Byrhtnoð wræce:
"Ne mæg na wandian        se þe wrecan þenceð
frean on folce,        ne for feore murnan."
Þa hi forð eodon,        feores hi ne rohton;
ongunnon þa hiredmen        heardlice feohtan,
grame garberend,        and god bædon
þæt hi moston gewrecan        hyra winedrihten
and on hyra feondum        fyl gewyrcan.
Him se gysel ongan        geornlice fylstan;
he wæs on Norðhymbron        heardes cynnes,
Ecglafes bearn,        him wæs Æscferð nama.
He ne wandode na        æt þam wigplegan,
ac he fysde forð        flan genehe;
hwilon he on bord sceat,        hwilon beorn tæsde,
æfre embe stunde        he sealde sume wunde,
þa hwile ðe he wæpna        wealdan moste.
    Then there retired from the battle those who did not wish to be there. The son of Odda was the first to flee: Godric went from the fight and left the good man that had given him many a steed. He leaped upon the horse that his lord had owned, upon trappings that he had no right to, and both his brothers galloped with him, Godwine and Godwig cared not for battle, but went from the war and sought the wood, fled to its fastness and saved their lives — and more men than was in any way right, if they remembered all the favors he had done for their benefit. So Offa had said to him that day at the meeting he had held in the place, that many there spoke boldly who would not remain firm at need. The folk's leader had fallen, Æthelred's earl: all his hearth-companions saw that their lord lay dead. Then the proud thanes advanced; men without fear pressed eagerly on. They all desired either of two things, to leave life or avenge the man they loved. Thus Ælfric's son urged them on; the warrior young of winters spoke words; Ælfwine it was who spoke, and spoke boldly: "Remember the speeches we have spoken so often over our mead, when we raised boast on the bench, heroes in the hall, about hard fighting. Now may the man who is bold prove that he is. I will make my noble birth known to all, that I was of great kin in Mercia. My grandfather was named Ealhelm, a wise earl, worldlyprosperous. Thanes among that people shall not have reason to reproach me that I would go from this band of defenders, seek my home, now that my lord lies hewn down in battle. To me that is greatest of griefs: he was both my kinsman and my lord." Then he went forward, bent on revenge, and with the point of his spear pierced one of the pirate band, so that he lay on the earth, destroyed by the weapon. Then Ælfwine began to encourage his comrades, friends and companions, to go forward. Offa spoke, shook his ash-spear: "Lo, you, Ælfwine, have encouraged us all, thanes in need. Now that our lord the earl lies on the earth, there is need for us all that each one of us encourage the other, warriors to battle, as long as he may have and hold weapon, hard sword, spear and good blade. The coward son of Odda, Godric, has betrayed us all; when he rode off on that horse, on that proud steed, many a man thought that he was our lord. Therefore here on the field folk were dispersed, the shield-wall broken. Curses on his action, by which he caused so many men here to flee." Leofsunu spoke, raised the linden buckler, his shield to defend himself; he answered the warrior: "I promise that I will not flee a footstep hence, but I will go forward, avenge my dear lord in the fight. Steadfast warriors about Sturmer need not reproach me with their words that now that my patron is dead I would go lordless home, abandon the battle. But weapon, point and iron, shall take me." Full wrathful he went forward, fought fiercely; flight he despised. Then Dunnere spoke, shook his spear; humble churl, he cried over all, bade each warrior avenge Birhtnoth: "He who intends to avenge his lord on the folk may not hesitate nor care for life." Then they advanced: they cared not for life. The retainers began to fight hardily, fierce spear-bearers, and prayed God that they might avenge their patron and bring destruction to their enemies. The hostage began to help them eagerly. He was of bold kin among the Northumbrians, the son of Ecglaf: his name was Æscferth. He did not flinch at the war-play, but threw spears without pause. Now he hit shield, now he pierced man: each moment he caused some wound, as long as he might wield weapons.
      [Lines 273-294: Eadweard, Æthelric, and Offa die bravely.  Notes are here.]
    þa gyt on orde stod        Eadweard se langa,
gearo and geornful,        gylpwordum spræc
þæt he nolde fleogan        fotmæl landes,
ofer bæc bugan,        þa his betera leg.
He bræc þone bordweall        and wið þa beornas feaht,
oðþæt he his sincgyfan        on þam sæmannum
wurðlice wrec,        ær he on wæle læge.
Swa dyde Æþeric,        æþele gefera,
fus and forðgeorn,        feaht eornoste.
Sibyrhtes broðor        and swiðe mænig oþer
clufon cellod bord,        cene hi weredon;
bærst bordes lærig,        and seo byrne sang
gryreleoða sum.        Þa æt guðe sloh
Offa þone sælidan,        þæt he on eorðan feoll,
and ðær Gaddes mæg        grund gesohte.
Raðe wearð æt hilde        Offa forheawen;
he hæfde ðeah geforþod        þæt he his frean gehet,
swa he beotode ær        wið his beahgifan
þæt hi sceoldon begen        on burh ridan,
hale to hame,        oððe on here crincgan,
on wælstowe        wundum sweltan;
he læg ðegenlice        ðeodne gehende.
    Eadweard the Long still stood in the line, ready and eager, spoke boasting words, how he would not flee a footstep nor turn back, now that his chief lay dead. He broke the shield-wall and fought against the foe until he had worthily avenged his treasure-giver on the seamen — before he himself lay on the slaughter-bed. So also did Æthelric, noble companion, eager and impetuous; he fought most resolutely, this brother of Sibirht, as did many another: they split the hollow shield and defended themselves boldly. The shield's rim broke and … the mail-shirt sang one of horror's songs. Then in the battle Offa struck the seafarer so that he fell on the earth, and there Gadd's kinsman himself sought the ground: Offa was quickly hewn down in the fight. He had, however, performed what he had promised his lord, what he had vowed before to his ringgiver, that they should either both ride to the town, hale to their home, or fall among the host, die of wounds in the slaughter-place. He lay as a thane should, near his lord.
      [Lines 295-325:  The men of Essex fight on to avenge their fallen lord.]
    ða wearð borda gebræc.        Brimmen wodon,
guðe gegremode;        gar oft þurhwod
fæges feorhhus.        Forð þa eode Wistan,
þurstanes sunu,        wið þas secgas feaht;
he wæs on geþrange        hyra þreora bana,
ær him Wigelines bearn        on þam wæle læge.
Þær wæs stið gemot;        stodon fæste
wigan on gewinne,        wigend cruncon,
wundum werige.        Wæl feol on eorþan.
Oswold and Eadwold        ealle hwile,
begen þa gebroþru,        beornas trymedon,
hyra winemagas        wordon bædon
þæt hi þær æt ðearfe        þolian sceoldon,
unwaclice        wæpna neotan.
Byrhtwold maþelode        bord hafenode
(se wæs eald geneat),        æsc acwehte;
he ful baldlice        beornas lærde:
"Hige sceal þe heardra,        heorte þe cenre,
mod sceal þe mare,        þe ure mægen lytlað.
Her lið ure ealdor        eall forheawen,
god on greote.        A mæg gnornian
se ðe nu fram þis wigplegan        wendan þenceð.
Ic eom frod feores;        fram ic ne wille,
ac ic me be healfe        minum hlaforde,
be swa leofan men,        licgan þence."
Swa hi Æþelgares bearn        ealle bylde,
Godric to guþe.        Oft he gar forlet,
wælspere windan        on þa wicingas,
swa he on þam folce        fyrmest eode,
heow and hynde,        oðþæt he on hilde gecranc.
Næs þæt na se Godric        þe ða guðe forbeah …
    Then there was a crash of shields. The seamen advanced, enraged by the fight. Spear oft pierced life-house of doomed man. Then Wistan advanced: Thurstan's son fought against the men. He was the slayer of three of them in the throng before the son of Wighelm lay dead in the carnage. There was stubborn conflict. Warriors stood fast in the fight. Fighting men fell, worn out with wounds: slain fell among slain. All the while Oswold and Eadwold, brothers both, encouraged the men, with their words bade their dear kinsmen that they should stand firm at need, wield their weapons without weakness. Birhtwold spoke, raised his shield — he was an old retainer — shook his ash spear; full boldly he exhorted the men: "Purpose shall be the firmer, heart the keener, courage shall be the more, as our might lessens. Here lies our lord all hewn down, good man on ground. Ever may he lament who now thinks to turn from war-play. I am old of life; from here I will not turn, but by my lord's side, by the man I loved, I intend to lie." So also the son of Æthelgar encouraged them all to the battle: this Godric oft let spear go, slaughter-shaft fly on the Vikings; thus he advanced foremost among the folk, hewed and laid low until he died in the fighting: he was not that Godric who fled the battle …