The Battle of Maldon Pages

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Robert Diamond's Translation
Kevin Crossley -Holland's Translation
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My Translation


The Battle of Maldon


        would be broken.
The young warrior commanded that the horses be let go
Longing to go forth walking far,

taking thought to arms and the goodness of courage

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Then Offa’s kinsman first understood

that the Earl was unwilling to suffer cowardice,

he let, from his hand, fly his beloved

hawk towards the forest and then went forth to battle;

            Thereby the mighty man would understand that the youth would refuse

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to be weak, stiving therefore with the weapon he has seized.                                  

Moreover Eadric he would follow, his Chief,

to fight for his lord, while approaching baring

his spear for war. He had a good thought

that while with hands,  he could hold mightily

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Shield-board and broadsword; boasting he followed

In the presence his lord to fight as vowed.

Then Byrhtnoð approached the warriors marshalling them

riding among and advising the men, teaching

            how they must stand to hold their position,

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and beseeched the mercenaries to hold their shields right,

fast with their hands and never timidly.

When he marshaled that fair people,

then he dismounted where his most beloved countrymen were,

             There he was guarded by his most favored bodyguard.

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Then on shore stood a firmly speaking

Viking, the messenger began speaking,

boasting that he carried, for the norse-seaman,

an errand to their lord, who stood on the riverbank.

“The ready norse-seamen who sent me

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commanded which to say that if you quickly send

treasure you will be covered with protection,

so that you will pay tribute for this battle

then we separate this hard war.

If your gift is successful there will not be need for us to kill you.

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We wish to secure a truce with the gold.

As ruler here, if you take this advice,

your country will be spared,

if you supply silver as judgment, hiring the norse-seamen.

With goods take peace and receive refuge.

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We will therefore, with the tribute money paid to us, journey

            on the ocean, departing and you will keep peace.

Byrthnoth spoke lifting his shield,

brandishing shaking spear, declaring words,

angry and resolute he gave answer:

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 “Hear sailor, what these people say to you?

They,will give you a tribute of spears’

with poisonous tips, and ancient swords,

that weaponry is not good for you!

            Messenger of the Seamen go back and declare,

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saying to thine people, a great hateful account,

that here stands a honorable Lord with his army

that will defend this their homeland,

Aethelred’s country my lord,

            people, and gound. Fall shall the

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heathens in battle. It seems to me a disgrace

that you would go to your ships with our treasure

unopposed, now thus far hither

into our country you have gotten.

            Not so gently shall the treasures be gotten;

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We shall use spear-point and sword-edge ere we make peace,

and bitter battle ere we give you tribute.”

Then he had the shield-boards borne by warriors going

to the riverbank, they all stood.

            No mighty band, because of the waters could go to the other;

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there came flowing, after the flood ebbed,

separate streams. It seemed too long to him

when together they would bear spears.

There at Blackwater stream they stood across with proud array,

            Eastsaxons with their spears and the Viking force.

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None of the mighty soldiers could damage the others,

unless though arrows’ flight someone fell.

When the flood went out then the ships stood ready,

with many eager Viking fighters.

            Then commanded the hero and protector:  hold the bridge,

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be stout in the fight, this was the command to Wulfstan,

swift for his people, was Ceol’s son,

then with his spear he wounded the first man

that there boldly walked on the bridge.

            There stood, with Wulfstane, fearless warriors,

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Ǽlfere and Maccus, two noble spirits,

unwilling, while at the ford to give flight,

but they firmly defended against the enemy,

as long as they could wield their weapons.

            They (Vikings) perceived, and diligently confirmed,

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that the defenders of the bridge were bitter and experienced fighters.

They began to be cunning, hated guests,

asking that they may go up

over the ford, traversing on foot.

           The earl went, in his arrogance,

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giving leave for many people to have passage to land.

            Crying out, going over the cold water,

Byrthelm’s child spoke, the men listened:

 “Now you can expand, come swiftly to us,

            as men to war; God alone knows

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who will control that battlefield.”

The warriors moved, caring not about the water

the Viking band, west over the Blackwater,

over the bright waters, carrying the shields,

            the sailors landed carrying their linden-wood(shields).

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there stood ready the fierce

Byrthnoth with his noble warriors; he with shields had

prepared the shield-wall and the company that held it

fast against the fiends. Then the fight was near

to the glory of making war. The time had come

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that fated men there were destined to fall.

There was a worthy noise, ravens rose on the winds,

eagles eager for carrion; crying on the earth.

They then gave leave of file hardened spears from their hands,

            sharpened spears taking flight;

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Bows were busy, shields receiving the points.

Bitter was the rush of battle as the nobles fell

on either hand, young warriors laid to rest.

A wound happened to chose Wulmare for the deathbed,

            Byrthnoth’s kinsmen; with battle ax,

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his sister’s son, was fiercely hewn asunder.

There, to the Vikings, compensation was delivered.

I heard that Edward alone struck

fiercely with his sword, unhindered strokes,

            that, at his feet the doomed warriors fell;

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for this his prince said thanks

to the Chamberlain when he had time.

So determined and standing firm

the young warriors gave thought

            to where their spear point might first

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strive for the souls of fated men,

fighting with weapons; the dead fell to earth.

They stood steadfast as directed by Byrthnoth

he commanded that each warrior striving for war glory

            should be judged by their fighting with the Danes. 

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Then fighters, hard fierce men, with weapons raised

defending with warriors raised shields.

As one the earl and the churl moved together,

each of them intent to do evil to the other.

Then the seamen sent a southern (French) spear

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that wounded the worthy warrior lord:

he then thrust with his shield so that the shaft burst,

and that spear scattered as it sprang back.

The warrior became provoked and with the spear stabbed

            the proud Viking who gave him the wound.

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The wise warrior allowed his French spear to move

through the young warriors neck, guided by his hand,

that he reached the enemies’ life force.

Then he swiftly hurled another,

            that burst the armor-shirt; he was wounded on the breast

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through the ring-mail, stopping at his heart

by deadly spear-point. The Earl, he was happy

laughing then, the daring man said thanks to God

this time of service the Lord appointed him.

            Then the warriors let go a certain spear from his hand,

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flying from hand departing forth

through that noble, Ethelred’s retainer

 

stood by his side, a young warrior

a youth to combat boldly fully

            pulled there from the warrior the bloody spear,

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Wulfstane’s son, Wulfmare the younger,

let go forth again hard

the spear going in so that on the earth lay

he who before had laid low his chieftain.

            Then went the armed warrior to the Earl;

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He wished to fetch the rings of this warrior,

the plunder and rings and bejeweled sword.

Then Byrthnoth pulled his sword from his sheath

broad with gleaming blade and then struck the armor.

            Too hasty a Sea-fairer hindered him, someone

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then injured the Earl’s arm.

The gold hilted sword then fell to the earth;

he was not able to grasp hard the sword,

wielding weapons. Yet then spoke the word,  

            a hoary warrior, encouraging the young warriors,

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entreating them to go forth with a good march;

not able then to stand fast long on his feet.

He looked to the heavens:

 “Thank thee almighty of this people,

            for all the joys of this world, I pray.

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Now, gentle God, I a most poor man go,

that thou God grant my soul

that to thee may my soul travel

to thine rule king of angles,

            with peace I depart. I am begging thee,

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that the foes from hell may not overcome.”

Then the heathen soldiers hewed at him

and both of the warriors that stood by him,

Aelfnoth and Wulmare both were laid low

            when alongside their lord they gave up their souls.

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They then departed from the battle, who were unwilling to be there.

There Odda’s son became the first in flight,

Godric from the battle, and then abandoned the good man

that often had given him many horses;

            he then mounted his lord’s horse,

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on which was horse barding that was not his right,

and his brothers both rode with him,

Godwin and Godwig not caring about war,

but turned from the fight and sought the woods,

flying to the safety and the hirelings saved their souls

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and more men than was right,

if they would remember all the favors

that he had given to the army.

So Offa said to him (Byrthnoth) ere that day,

in council that on battlefield

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there would be many speaking proudly

who after would be unwilling to endure at need.

Then it happened, laid low was this people’s chief,

Aethelred’s earl; all perceived,

            hearth-companions of him, that their lord lay dead.

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Then there went forth proud thanes,

brave men eagerly hastening;

they all wished then the second of two things,

to relinquish life or avenge their beloved (Lord).

            So the son of Aelfric encouraged them forth,

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a warrior young in winters, proclaimed with words,

Aelfwine the proclaimed, speaking with great courage:

 “Remember when on occasion, that we often drank mead speaking,

then we on bench, raised boasts

            fighters in the hall, concerning hard won fighting;

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now male kinsmen test who will be so bold.

I wish to declare my lineage,

that I was from a great Mercian family;

Ealhelm was my direct elder father (grandfather),

            he was a wise alderman who was prosperous.

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Thanes, thriving there, shall not reproach me

that I wish to leave this muster,

to visit my native land, now that my elder is lain low

hewn to pieces at war. Grief is foremost for me;

            He was both my kinsmen and my lord.”

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Then he went forth, remembering revenge,

that with his spear he hit one

Sea-men (Viking) of their army, such that they lay on the earth

killed with this weapon. Instigating attack of the enemy

            that friends and comrades to go forth.

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Offa spoke, shaking his ashwood spear:

 “Lo, Aelfwine you have exhorted all

the thanes as needed, now our lord lies dead,

an earl upon the earth. We are in need

            that we should encourage each other

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to fight the war then, while, with weapons, we are able

hold and with hardness our swords hold fast

spear and good sword. Godric has us,

Odda’s cowardly son, all betrayed.

            Turning thence many men, when he rode on horse,

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on the proud horse that to them it were as our lord;

then became the people on the field divided,

the shieldwall broke. Failing in his undertaking,

that here so many men put to flight!”

            Leofsunu spoke and his linden-wood (shield) he raised,

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a shield to protect; therein he declared

 “I promise that I henceforth am unwilling

to flee even a foot, but will go forward,

pressing on in strife for my lord and friend.

            Around Sturmere steadfast warriors need not me

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reproach with words, now my lord has fallen in battle

that I would return home lordless

turning from war, but I would rather receive a weapon

a spear or an iron sword.” He was full of senseless ire,

            resolute to fight he despised fleeing.

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Dunnere then spoke, shaking his spear

an honest fellow, calling out over all

entreating each nobleman that would avenge Byrthnoth

 “No kinsman should hesitate, he that press forward would think on

            a friend in the army, no hesitation or be fearful of (losing) life.”

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Then they went forth, they cared not about life;

then the retainers began to fight fiercely,

fierce spearmen, and prayed to God

that he would allow them to avenge their gracious lord,

            And on their foe death should fall and wreak havoc.

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The hostage he began to eagerly help;

he was from Northumbria, of a strong family

Ecglaf’s son. His name was Aescferth.

He did not hesitate at the battle,

            and he sent forth sufficient arrows;

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sometimes he shot on shield, sometimes wounding a warrior

ever in that moment he gave some wounds,

then he wielded a weapon, while he might.

Then yet, in the front rank stood Edward a long time, who

            was equipped and eager, boasting he spoke

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that he was unwilling to flee a foot of the land

back over stooping down, when his better (superior) lay dead.

He then broke the shield-wall and then fought the warriors,

until he his lord, on the Seamen,

            he honorably avenged, ere he lay dead in the slaughter.

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Thus did Aetheric a noble comrade

fight earnestly ready and eager to advance,

Sibyrth’s brother, and very many others

clove the round shields, boldly they defended;

            shield cover’s burst, and so Byrne sang

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some terrible song. Then in battle struck

Offa a Seafairer, so that he fell to the earth,

and there Gadd’s kinsman fell to the ground.

it quickly happened that Offa in battle was hewn to pieces;

            he had carried out the promise accepted from his lord,

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thus he pledge before, with his lord,

that they would both ride into the fortress

unharmed to home, or to fall in battle to the enemy army,

on battlefield they perished from wounds

            he near at hand to his noble chief.

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Then the worthy shields crashed. The Seamen advanced,

enraged by war; spears often pierced

fated (men’s) bodies. Then Wistan went forth,

Thurstan’s son, with these warriors he fought;

            while he was in the throng he killed three,

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ere he, Wigelin’s son, lay in death.

there was a hard encounter; standing fast

warriors struggled on, warriors fell,

weary from wounds. Falling dead to the earth.

            Oswald and Eadwald all the while,

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both the brothers, warriors strengthened

their dear kinsmen with words urging

that they shall endure at need

using strong weapons.

            Byrthwald spoke raising his shield

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 (he was an old warrior), shaking his spear;

he instructed the fighters full of boldness:

 “Courage must be harder, heart then fiercer,

heart must then be more, when our strength grows less.

            Here lies our lord all cut down,

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a good one in the dirt. Ever will one be sad,

he that now thinks to turn from this game of war.

I am an old soul; I have no wish to leave

but I will be beside my lord,

            by so beloved a man lie at rest thence.”

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Thus encouraged all he, Aethegar’s son

Godric to battle. Often he let spears fly,

deadly spears turning on the Vikings,

thus he went foremost on those people,

            striking until he was brought low and fell in battle.

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Now it was not Godric who fled the battle