The Battle of Maldon

Part III

 

GODRIC BEGINS THE FLIGHT

Then fled those from the fight that wished not to be there.
Then were Odda's sons first in the flight
Godric from the battle, and left his good lord
Who had often given him many a mare,
He sprang upon the horse that his lord had owned,
Upon the trappings where no right had he,
And with him his brothers - they both galloped off,
Godrinc and Godwig, 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,
And men more than had any right
If they had all bethought them of the blessings
That he had done them for their good comfort.
Even thus to him Offa one day ere had said
In the meeting-place where he held his moot.
That with proud minds many did then speak
Who later at need would not endure.
Then fell that leader of the folk,
Aethelred's earl and all did see,
His hearth companions - that their lord was laid low.

 

MANY CONTINUE THE BATTLE

Then went forth the proud thanes,
Brave men - hastened eagerly,
And 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 Aelfric,
A warrior young in winters - with words he spake,
Aelfwin thus said - boldly he spoke,
"Think ye of the times when we oft spake at mead
When we on the benches did raise up our boast,
Henchmen in the hall - about hard strife,
Now may each one make trial of how bold he be.
Now will I tell my lineage to all
That I was in Mercia of a mighty kindred
Mine old father - Aldhelm was hight,
An alderman wise - and rich in wealth;
Nor shall the thanes mid the people reproach me,
That I would consent to flee from this fight,
My home to seek, now my lord lieth low,
Slain 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,
So that with his spear one he slew.
A pirate 'mong his people - that he fell to the earth.
Slain by his weapon. He 'gan to urge on
His comrades and friends - that they should go forth.
Offa spake, his spear-shaft shook,
"Lo thou, Aelfwin, 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
Warrior to war, while he his weapon may
Have and hold, his hard blade,
His spear and good sword - for Godric hath us,
Odda's coward son, all betrayed.
For many men thought when he rode off on the mare,
On that proud steed, that he was our lord.
And for that cause are the folk scattered over the field
The shield wall broken. May his plan come to nought!
For that he so many men hath set to flight."
Leofsund spoke, his buckler uphove,
His shield for safety - and that man answered,
"I do promise this, that I will not hence
Fly a foot's step, but shall further go
To avenge in the war my friendly lord.
Then shall not need in Sturmere the steadfast soldiers
To twit me with words, now my friend is fall'n,
For that I returned home without my lord,
Turned from the battle, but the sword shall take me,
The point and the steel." And he, most wroth, departed.
Fought steadfastly - flight he despised.
Dunmer then spoke - shook his spear,
A humble churl - called out above all,
Bade each warrior - "Brithnoth avenge!
Now may not go he who thinketh to avenge
His friend among the folk, nor mourn for his life."

Next part - IV

 


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