have you ever wondered what Anglo-Saxon might have sounded like ?
Despite first appearances, the English we speak now is a direct descendant of Anglo-Saxon. So have you ever wondered what Anglo-Saxon might have sounded like ? In this article we look at one particular epic Anglo-Saxon poem, ‘The Battle of Maldon’ to see how Anglo-Saxon was written and how it would have sounded.
When the Saxon invaders came to Britain in the 5th and 6th centuries they brought with them their own language. Although they did not kill all the native Britons they did almost destroy their language and replacing the native ‘Celtic’ language with their own ‘Germanic’ tongue. With the new language, of course, came new place names, many of which survive to the present day. The existing settlements were not destroyed, but the Saxons found the names difficult to pronounce, so they renamed them in their own language.
The Anglo-Saxon poem of ”The Battle of Maldon” is an excellent example of written and spoken Early English. It’s split into 3 sections below with the Anglo-Saxon text, a modern English translation and a narration of the poem so we can again here the ancient tongue of early English. It’s fun to see how much we can recognize from a direct descendant of our modern language that’s over 1,000 years old.
The Battle of Malden
The Battle of Maldon is a poem describing a historical skirmish between East Saxons and Viking (mainly Norwegian) raiders in 991. The poem is remarkable for its vivid, dramatic combat scenes and for its expression of the Germanic ethos of loyalty to a leader. The poem, as it survives, opens with the war parties aligned on either side of a stream (the present River Blackwater near Maldon, Essex). The Vikings offer the cynical suggestion that the English may buy their peace with golden rings. The English commander Earl Byrhtnoth replies that they will pay their tribute in spears and darts.
The poem is incomplete hence the rather odd beginning!Lines 1-99
In preparation for battle, a warrior sets his hawk free to fly to the forest. Likewise the warriors send their horses to the rear.
Byrhtnoth, the Ealdorman, arranges the young men who have come to fight [the untrained youths of the Essex levy, it seems], teaches them how to hold sword and shield and where to stand. Then he goes to the company of his hearth companions who will be in the vanguard of the fight.
The Viking herald calls across the water, offering to accept tribute for peace and not to fight.
Byrhtnoth scornfully refuses.
The English and the Vikings are not able to attack each other, save with arrows, while the water flows between them. Then, when the narrow causeway becomes passable, the English have the advantage, and no Vikings can gain the shore.
The Vikings call for Byrhtnoth to allow them to cross to have a more even fight, and then the Eorl, on account of his ofermod, allows them to come across the water.
|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. 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.
|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.” 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.” 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. 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. 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.” Wodon þa wælwulfas (for wætere ne murnon), wicinga werod, west ofer Pantan, ofer scir wæter scyldas wegon, lidmen to lande linde bæron.
|would be broken. Then he ordered a warrior each horse be let free, driven afar and advance onward, giving thought to deeds of arms and to steadfast courage.
|Then it was that Offa’s kinsman first perceived, that the Earl would not endure cowardice, for he let then from his hand flee his beloved falcon towards the woods and there to battle went forth. By this a man might understand that this youth would not
|prove soft at the coming battle, when he takes up arms. Further Eadric desired to serve his chief, his lord to fight with; and so he advanced forward his spear to battle. He had a dauntless spirit as long as he with hands might be able to grasp
|shield and broad sword: the vow he would carry out that he had made before his lord saying he would fight. Then Byrhtnoth marshalled his soldiers, riding and instructing, directing his warriors how they should stand and the positions they should keep,
|and ordering that their shields properly stand firm with steady hands and be not afraid. Then when he beheld that people in suitable array, he dismounted amid his people, where he was most pleased to be, there amid his retainers knowing their devotion.
|Then stood on the shore, stoutly calling out a Viking messenger, making speech, menacingly delivering the sea-pirate’s message to this Earl on the opposite shore standing: "I send to you from the bold seamen,
|a command to tell that you must quickly send treasures to us, and it would be better to you if with tribute buy off this conflict of spears than with us bitter battle share. No need to slaughter each other if you be generous with us;
|we would be willing for gold to bring a truce. If you believe which of these is the noblest path, and that your people are desirous of assurance, then pay the sea-farers on their own terms money towards peace and receive peace from us,
|for we with this tribute will take to our ships, depart on the sea and keep peace with you." Byrhtnoth spoke, his shield raised aloft, brandishing a slender ash-wood spear, speaking words, wrathful and resolute did he give his answer:
|"Hear now you, pirate, what this people say? They desire to you a tribute of spears to pay, poisoned spears and old swords, the war-gear which you in battle will not profit from. Sea-thieves messenger, deliver back in reply,
|tell your people this spiteful message, that here stands undaunted an Earl with his band of men who will defend our homeland, Aethelred’s country, the lord of my people and land. Fall shall you
|heathen in battle! To us it would be shameful that you with our coin to your ships should get away without a fight, now you thus far into our homeland have come. You shall not so easily carry off our treasure:
|with us must spear and blade first decide the terms, fierce conflict, is the tribute we will hand over." He then ordered their shields taken up, his soldiers advancing until on the river-bank they all stood. Because of the river they were not able this band of men to fight the other:
|there came flowing the flood after the tide; joining in the tidal stream. Too long it seemed to him until the time when they together with spears join in battle. There they on the Pante stream with pride lined the banks, East Saxon spears and the sea-raider army;
|nor might any harm the other unless through an arrow’s flight death receive. Then the tide went out. The seamen stood ready, many Vikings eager for battle. Then the heroes’ protector ordered that the causeway be held
|by a warrior stern — Wulfstan was his name — valiant with his people: that was Ceola’s son, who the first man with his spear slain was one who boldly on the causeway stood. There fought with Wulfstan warriors fearless,
|Aelfere and Maccus, two great in courage, who would not at this fjord take to flight, but stoutly against the enemy defended themselves while with their weapons they might wield. Then they understood and clearly saw,
|that this guarding of the causeway was a fierce encounter, and so began to use guile, the hateful strangers, asked that passage to land they might have, to the shore and pass the fjord would this force lead. Then the Earl permitted in his great pride
|to allow land many of these hateful people; and so then shouted on the shore of the cold water Byrhtelm’s child — and the warriors listened: "Now the way is open to you: come quickly to us you men to battle. God alone knows
|who on this field of honor may be allowed to be the master of." Then advanced the wolves of slaughter, for water they cared not for, this band of Vikings; west over the Pante’s shining water shore they carried their shields, these men of the fleet towards land advanced their linden shields.
The Vikings cross and the battle begins in earnest. For a while the English are doing well, with many individual acts of heroism but then Byrhtnoth is killed by a thrown spear. Wulfmaer the Young draws out the spear and throws it back at the Viking, killing him, but Byrhtnoth has received his fatal wound.
Byrhtnoth thanks God for all the blessings he has received on earth, but then the Vikings kill him and the men next to him. And with Byrhtnoth dead, some of the English flee the battle, most visibly the sons of Odda. Godric leaps on Byrhtnoth’s horse and rides away.
The hearth-companions do not give up, however, and continue to fight and inspire each other with speeches.
|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.
|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. 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.
|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.
|There against the enemy stood ready Byrhtnoth with his soldiers. He with his shield commanded to form the battle ranks and that force of men to hold fast firmly towards the enemy. Then was the fight near, glory in battle. The time was come
|that these doomed men would fall in battle. There came the loud clamor. Ravens circled around, eagles eager for carrion. On Earth was the battlecry. They then sent forth from their hands shafts hard as file, murderously sharpened spears flew.
|Bows were busily at work, shields received spears. Fierce was that onslaught. Warriors fell in battle on either side, young men lay slain. Wounded was Wulfmaer, meeting death on the battlefield, Byrhtnoth’s kinsman: he with sword was,
|his sister’s son, cruelly hewn down. There were the Vikings given requital: I hear that Eadweard smote one fiercely with his sword, withholding not in his blow, so that at his feet fell a doomed warrior;
|for this he of his people gave thanks for, this chamber-thane, when the opportunity arose. So stood firm of purpose these young men in battle, eagerly giving thought to who there with spear-points was first able
|of doomed men’s life destroy, warriors with weapons. The slain in battle fell to Earth. Steadfast and unyielding, Byrhtnoth exhorted them, bidding that each young warrior’s purpose to this battle, against the Danes a desire to win glory in war.
|Advanced again to fierce battle, weapons raised up, shields to defense, and towards these warriors they stepped. Resolute they approached Earl to the lowest Yeoman: each of them intent on harm for the enemy. Sent then a sea-warrior a spear of southern make
|that wounded the warrior lord. He thrust then with his shield such that the spear shaft burst, and that spear-head shattered as it sprang in reply. Enraged became that warrior: with anger he stabbed that proud Viking who had given him that wound.
|Experienced was that warrior; he thrust his spear forward through the warrior’s neck, his hand guiding so that he this ravager’s life would fatally pierce. Then he with another stab speedily pierced the ravager so that the chainmail coat broke: this man had a breast wound
|cut through the linked rings; through his heart stuck a deadly spear. The Earl was the better pleased: laughed then this great man of spirit, thanking the Creator for the day’s work which the Lord had given him. And so then another warrior a spear from the other side
|flew out of hand, which deeply struck through the noble Aethelred’s retainer. To him by his side stood a young man not fully grown, a youth on the battlefield, who valiantly pulled out of this warrior the bloody spear,
|Wulfstan’s child, Wulfmaer the younger; and so with blinding speed came the shaft in reply. The spear penetrated, for that who on the Earth now lay among his people, the one who had sorely pierced. Went then armed a man to this Earl;
|he desirous of this warrior’s belongings to take off with, booty and rings and an ornamental sword. Then Byrhtnoth drew his sword from its sheath broad and bright of blade, and then struck the man’s coat of mail. But too soon he was prevented by a certain sea-scavenger,
|and then the Earl’s arm was wounded. Fall then to the ground with his gold-hilted sword: his grip unable to hold the heavy sword, or wield the weapon. Then still uttered those words of the grey-haired warrior, encouraging the younger warriors,
|bidding to advance stoutly together. Not could he on his feet any longer stand firmly up, and so he looked to heaven: "I thank you, Lord of my people, all the joys which I on this world have experienced.
|"Now I ask, oh merciful Creator, the greatest hope that to you my spirit shall be granted salvation that my soul to thee be permitted to journey and into your power, King of Angels, with peace I depart. I only beseech that
|the fiends of hell shall not be permitted to harm me." Then he was slain by the heathen warriors; and both of those warriors which by him stood, Aelfnoth and Wulmaer were each slain, close by their lord did they give up their lives.
|Then turned away from battle those that would not stay: there went Odda’s child first to flight, Godric fled from the battle, and the noble abandoned the one which had often given him many a horse. He leapt upon the mount of the steed which had once been his lord’s,
|on those trappings of which he was not fit, he and with his brothers both galloped away, Godwine and Godwig not caring for battle, but turned away from this battlefield and to the forest fled, seeking a place of safety and to protect their lives,
|and many more men than what is right were there, then if they had acted deservingly and all remembered he, who had to them, all benefits did make. Thus had Offa on that day first said at the meeting place, there at the council,
|that there would be boldly many a boastful speech which at the time of stress would not endure. So now was laid low the Chief of this army, Aethelred’s Earl. All saw those sharers of the hearth that their lord lay slain.
|But then there advanced onward those splendid retainers, undaunted men hastening eagerly: they desired all one of two things, to leave life or else to avenge their dear lord. And so exhorting them to advance was the child of Aelfrices,
|a warrior young in winters whose words spoke, Aelfwine then said, he in valiant talk: "Remember the speeches which we had often at mead spoken, that we on the bench had loudly uttered vows, warriors in the hall, concerning bitter strife:
|Now may we prove who is truly valiant! I am willing that my royal descent be made known to all men, that I was of Mercian blood greatly kindred; my grandfather was named Ealhelm, a wise alderman and very prosperous.
|Not shall me these people’s liegeman reproach that I of this army am willing to depart from, a homeland seek, now that my lord lies slain and hewn down in battle. Mine is that sorrow greatest: he was both my kinsman and my lord."
|Then he advanced onward, remembering with hostility, then he with spear-point pierced one pirate in their host, and to the ground lie slain killed with the weapon. He began then to exhorted his comrades, friends and compatriots, that they advance onward.
Offa speaks, saying the Godric has doubly betrayed them all, as some of the English, seeing Byrhtnoth’s horse riding away, think that the Ealdorman had given a signal for retreat. It is now obvious that the Vikings will own the day. But Leofsunu swears not to step back one foot from the battle but instead will fight to the death. Other men also refuse to leave.
Byrhtwold, the old retainer, then utters the most famous lines in Old English poetry:
The heart must be braver, courage the bolder
Mind the stronger, as our strength lessens.
He, and the rest, stay fighting by the side of their dead lord. The poem ends by mentioning another Godric who was killed fighting, not the cowardly one who had fled.
|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. 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.
|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
|Offa spoke, shaking his ashen spear: "Lo, thou Aelfwine, have your words thus reminded us liegemen to our allegiance. Now our people’s protector lies slain, the Earl is on the Earth, and to us all is our need that one another encourage each other
|warriors to battle, while with weapons we are able to have and grasp, the hard blade, the spear and the good sword. To us has Godric, that cowardly sun of Odda, all betrayed. Many men believed, then when he rode on the horse,
|on that splendid steed, that it was our lord. Because of that happening here on the battlefield the people scattered, the wall of shields breaking asunder. Shame on that action, for because of him thus many a man was caused to flee!" Leofsunu spoke and his linden shield was raised,
|the board to defense; this warrior replied: "I that swear, that from here I will not flee a foot’s space, as my desire is to advance further, avenge in battle-strife my lord and friend. I have no desire among Sturmere’s unyielding heroes
|to reproach my word, now that my patron has perished, that I now lordless go on a homeward journey, having turned away from battle, but rather I shall be taken by weapons, either spear or iron." Wrathfully he advanced, fighting resolutely, for he despised flight.
|Dunnere then said, brandishing his spear, a simple yeoman calling out to the entire shore, exhorting that each warrior avenge Byrhtnoth: "One cannot retreat who intends vengeance for our lord of the host, if their lives they care not for."
|So then they pressed forward, caring not about their lives. Then began these retainers to fiercely fight, ferocious warriors armed with spears, and praying to God that they might avenge their lord and patron and on their enemy death make.
|Thus the hostage himself willingly helped; he was a Northumbrian of a brave family, Ecglaf’s child; he was named Aescferth. He hesitated not at the play of battle, but shot forward many arrows;
|here striking a shield, there cutting down a warrior, at almost every moment giving out some wound, all the while with his weapon he would wield. Yet still at the battle front stood Eadweard the tall ready and eager, speaking vaunting words
|that he would not flee a foot’s ground, or turn away back to the bank, then leave his superior where he lay. He broke through that wall of shields and among the warriors fought, until his bounteous lord upon those sea-men did worthily avenge, and he on the battlefield lie slain.
|So did Aetheric, noble comrade, press forward and eager to advance fight resolutely, Sibyrht’s brother and very many others; splitting the enemy’s shields, valiantly they defended themselves. Rang the shield rims, and sang the corselets of mail
|a certain terrible dirge. Then at the battle’s height Offa a sea-farer sent to the Earth dead, and there Gadd’s kinsman was laid low to the ground: soon it was at battle that Offa was hewn down. He had however accomplished that vow to his lord
|that he had uttered before to his giver of rings, that either they both ride to the fortified home unhurt or else perish fighting on the battlefield and die of their wounds. He lay slain nobly near the lord of his people.
|Then it happened that the shields broke through. The sea-warriors advanced, to battle enraged. Spear often pierced the doomed houses of life. Onward then advanced Wistan, Thurhstan’s son, to these warriors fought. He was among the throng and slew three,
|before Wigelm’s child lay slain in battle. There was severe combat. Stood firm did these warriors in battle. Warriors perished exhausted by their wounds. The slain fell dead to the Earth. Oswold and Eadwold all this time,
|both of these brothers encouraged the soldiers, their beloved kinsman they would exhort through words that they needed to endure without weakening and make use of their weapons. Byrhtwold spoke, shield raised aloft —
|he was an old loyal retainer — and brandished his spear; he very boldly commanded the warriors: "Our hearts must grow resolute, our courage more valiant, our spirits must be greater, though our strength grows less. Here lies our Lord all hewn down,
|goodly he lies in the dust. A kinsman mourns that who now from this battle-play thinks to turn away. I am advanced in years. I do not desire to be taken away, but I by my liege Lord, by that favorite of men I intend to lie."
|So then did Aethelgar’s child enbolden them all, Godric to battle. Often he sent forth spears, deadly shaft sped away onto the Vikings; thus he on this people went out in front of battle, cutting down and smiting, until he too on the battlefield perished.
|This was not that Godric who from the battle had flown away…
The Anglo-Saxons are in fact a combination of 3 different European peoples: the Angles; Saxons and Jutes. They originated from what is modern day Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands.
The impetus to move was land pressure in their home countries. The land was often of poor quality, often flooded and therefore proved difficult to grow crops, so they were looking for new places to farm. In addition some Britons invited them to keep out invaders from Scotland and Ireland, offering them money in return.
The native Britons were gradually displaced by the invaders. Those that didn”t like the Anglo-Saxons fled westward to live in Wales and Cornwall. The evidence of which we can still see today in the Celtic languages of Welsh & Cornish.
Old English was the West Germanic language spoken in the area now known as England between the 5th and 11th centuries. Speakers of Old English called their language Englisc, themselves Angle, Angelcynn or Angelfolc and their home Angelcynn or Englaland. Old English began to appear in writing during the early 8th century. Most texts were written in West Saxon, one of the four main dialects. The other dialects were Mercian, Northumbrian and Kentish.The Anglo-Saxon Alphabet
Old English / Anglo-Saxon was sometimes written with a version of the Runic alphabet, brought to Britain by the Anglo-Saxons until about the 11th century.
Runic inscriptions are mostly found on jewellery, weapons, stones and other objects. Very few examples of Runic writing on manuscripts have survived.
Old English Alphabet
The days of the week are named after early Anglo-Saxon Gods:
- Monday : The Moon is the Goddess of hunting. She wears a white robe and carries a bow and arrow.
- Tuesday : Tiw is the God of war. He dresses like an Anglo-Saxon warrior and carries a battle-axe.
- Wednesday : Woden is the chief God. He dresses like a king and carries a spear to show his authority.
- Thursday : Thunor is the God of thunder. He dresses like a warrior and carries a bolt of lightening.
- Friday : Freya is the Goddess of love and the wife of Woden. She carries no symbols because she is so beautiful.
- Saturday : Saturn is the God of fun and feasting. He is fat and jolly.
- Sunday : The Sun is the God of life. He is often shown as a youth with a sun halo.