The University's motto, Thought the harder, heart the keener, is adapted from the Anglo-Saxon poem The Battle of Maldon.
Byrhtnoth, or The Fight at Maldon.
* * * * * * * * * * * Byrhtnoth and his East-Saxons are drawn up on the bank of the Panta. The wikings' herald demands tribute. Byrhtnoth angrily offers arms for tribute. Wulfstan defends the bridge. Byrhtnoth proudly permits the wikings to cross. The fight rages. Byrhtnoth is wounded. He slays the foe. He is wounded again. He prays to God to receive his soul, and is hewn down by the heathen men. Godric flees on Byrhtnoth's horse. His brothers follow him. Ælfwine encourages the men to avenge the death of their lord. So does Offa, who curses Godric. Leofsunu will avenge his lord or perish. Dunnere also. Others follow their example. Offa is slain and many warriors. The fight still rages. The aged Byrhtwold exhorts them to be the braver as they become the fewer. So does another Godric, not he who fled. * * * *
Hé very boldly exhorted the warriors:
"The braver shall thought be, the bolder the heart,
The more the mood,  as lessens our might.
Here lieth our lord, all hewn to pieces,
The good on the ground: ever may grieve315
Who now from this war-play thinketh to wend.
· Translated by James M. Garnett at Project Gutenberg
The Battle of Maldon is the name given to an Old English poem of uncertain date celebrating the real Battle of Maldon of 991, at which the Anglo-Saxons failed to prevent a Viking invasion. Only 325 lines of the poem are extant; both the beginning and the ending are lost.
- 1 The poem
- 2 History of the text
- 3 Date of composition
- 4 Scholarship
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
THE FIGHT AT MALDON.* * * * * * was broken.Then bade he each youth his horse to forsake,To hasten afar and forwards to go,Be mindful of might, of mood courageous.This Offa's kinsman at once perceived5That the earl was unwilling faint heart to endure.Then he let from his hands his lief  hawk fly,His hawk to the holt, and to battle he stepped;By thát might one know that the knight was unwillingTo be weak in the war when to weapons he took.10By him too would Eadric, by his overlord, stand,His chief in the fight; then forth gan he bearHis spear to the battle: brave spirit had heThe while that with hands he was able to holdShield and broad sword; his boast he fulfilled, 15When hé 'fore his lord was bound to fight.There Byrhtnoth gan then his warriors embolden,Rode and gave rede, instructed his menHów they should stand, and the stead sustain,And bade that rimmed shields they rightly should hold20Fast with their fists, and frightened be never.When hé had the folk fairly emboldened,With his men he alighted where was liefest to him,Whére his hearth-followers most faithful he knew.Then stood on the stathe,  stoutly did call25The wikings' herald, with words he spake,Who boastfully bore fróm the brine-farersAn errand to th' earl, where he stood on the shore:"To thee me did send the seamen snell, Bade to thee say, thou must send to them quickly30Bracelets for safety; and 'tis better for youThat ye this spear-rush with tribute buy offThan we in so fierce a fight engage.We need not each spill,  if ye speed to this:We will for the pay a peace confirm.35If thou that redest who art highest in rank,If thou thy lieges art willing to loose,To pay to the seamen at their own pleasureMoney for peace, and take peace from us,We will with the treasure betake us to ship,40Fare on the flood, and peace with you confirm."Byrhtnoth replied, his buckler uplifted,Waved his slim spear, with words he spake,Angry and firm gave answer to him:"Hear'st thou, seafarer, what saith this folk?45They will for tribute spear-shafts you pay,Poisonous points and trusty  swords,Those weapons that you in battle avail not.Herald of seamen, hark  back again,Say to thy people much sadder words,50Here stands not unknown an earl with his band,Whó will defend this father-land,Æthelred's home, mine own liege lord's,His folk and field: ye're fated to fall,Ye heathen, in battle. Too base it me seems55That ye with our scats  to ship may goUnfought against, so far ye now hitherIntó our country have come within;Ye shall not so gently treasure obtain;Shall spear and sword sooner beseem us,60Grim battle-play, ere tribute we give."Then bade he shield bear, warriors advance,So that on the burn-stathe  they all were standing.Might not thére for the water one war-band to th' other,When flowing flood came after the ebb,65Sea-streams interlocked; too long seemed it themTill they together their spears should bear.Then Panta's stream with pomp  [?] they beset,East-Saxons' chief and the host from the ships:No one of them might do harm to the other,70But he who by dart's flight his death should receive.The flood ebbed forth; the fleetmen stood ready,Many of wikings, eager for war.Bade heroes' buckler  then hold the bridgeA war-hardened warrior, who Wulfstan was named,75Bold 'mid his kin (he was Ceola's son),Who the first man with his dart shot downThat there most boldly stepped on the bridge.There stood with Wulfstan warriors fearless,Ælfhere and Maccus, courageous the twain;80At the ford they would nót seek safety in flight,But firm 'gainst the foes themselves they defended,The while that they weapons were able to wield.When they that perceived and earnestly sawThat there bridge-fenders [so] fierce they found,85Began to lie these loathly guests:Begged that out-going they might obtain,Fare o'er the ford, their footmen lead.Then gan the earl on account of his prideLeave too much land to the loathly people.90Began then to call o'er the water coldThe son  of Byrhthelm (the warriors listened):"Now room is allowed you, come quickly to us,Warriors to war; wot God aloneWho thís battle-field may be able to keep."95Waded the war-wolves, for water they recked not,The wikings' band, west over Panta,O'er the clear water carried their shields,Boatmen to bank their bucklers bore.There facing their foes ready were standing100Byrhtnoth with warriors: with shields he badeThe war-hedge  work, and the war-band holdFast 'gainst the foes. Then fight was nigh,Glory in battle; the time was comeThat fated men should there [now] fall.105Then out-cry was raised, the ravens circled,Eagle eager for prey; on earth was uproar.Then they let from their fists the file-hardened spears,The darts well-ground, [fiercely]  fly forth:The bows were busy, board point received,110Bitter the battle-rush, warriors fell down,On either hands the youths lay dead.Wounded was Wulfmær, death-rest he chose,Byrhtnoth's kinsman, with bills  was hé,His sister's son, mightily hewn.115There was to the wikings recompense given;Heard I that Edward one of them slewStrongly with sword, stroke he withheld not,That fell at his feet the fated warrior;For that did his prince give thanks to him,120To his bower-thane,  when he had opportunity.So firmly stood the fierce-in-mind,The youths in fight, eagerly thoughtWho there with his spear might soonest be ableFrom a fated man the life to win,125A warrior with weapons: the dead to earth fell.Steadfast they stood; strengthened them Byrhtnoth,Bade that each youth of battle should thinkHe whó on the Danes glory would gain.Went then a war-brave, his weapon uplifted,130His shield for defence, and strode towards the chief;So earnest he went, the earl to the churl:Each for the other of evil was thinking.Sent then the seaman his spear from the southThat wounded wás the warrior's lord;135Then he shoved with his shield that the shaft in two broke,And the spear was shivered; so sprang it back.Enraged was the warrior: with his spear he thrustThe wiking proud, who the wound him gave.Wise was the warrior; he let his spear pierce140Through the neck of the youth; his hand it guidedSo that hé his foe of life deprived.Then he another speedily shot,That the byrnie burst; in breast was he woundedThrough the ringèd mail; there stood in his heart145The poisonous point. The earl was the gladder;Laughed the proud man, to his Maker gave thanksFor the work of that day that the Lord him gave.Then let one of warriors a dart from his hands,Fly from his fist, that forth it went150Thróugh that noble thane of Æthelred.There stood by his side a youth not grown,A boy in the fight, whó very boldlyDrew from the warrior the bloody spear,The son of Wulfstan, Wulfmær the young;155He let the hard weapon fly back again;The point in-pierced, that on earth he layWho erst his lord strongly had struck.Went then an armored man to the earl,He would the warrior's jewels fetch back,160Armor and rings and sword well-adorned.Then Byrhtnoth drew his sword from its sheath,Broad and brown-edged, and on byrnie he struck:Too quickly him hindered one of the seamen,When he of the earl the arm had wounded;165Fell then to earth the fallow-hilt sword:He might not hold the hardened brand,His weapon wield. Yet the word he spake,The hoary hero the youths encouraged,Bade forwards go his good companions:170He might not on foot longer stand firm;He looked up to heaven, [the earl exclaimed: ]"I thanks to thee give, Ruler of nations,For all those joys that on earth I experienced:Now, Maker mild, most need have I175That thou to my spirit the blessing grant,That my soul to thee may take its course,Intó thy power, Prince of angels,With peace may go: I pray to thee,That fiends of hell may not it harm."180Then hewed him down the heathen hinds,And both the warriors, who by him stood,Ælfnoth and Wulfmær both lay down dead,Beside their lord gave up their lives.Then bowed they from battle who there would not be;185There Odda's sons were erst in flight:From battle went Godric, and the good one forsook,Who hád on him many a steed oft bestowed:He leaped on the horse that his lord had owned,Upon those trappings that right it was not,190And his brothers with him both ran away,Godrinc and Godwig, recked not of war,But went from the fight, and sought the wood,Fled to the fastness, and saved their lives,And more of the men than wás at all meet,195If they those services all had remembered,That he for their welfare to them had done;So Offa to him one day had erst saidAt the meeting-place, when he held a moot,That there [very] proudly they many things spake200Which after in need they would not perform. Thén was down-fallen the prince of the folk,Æthelred's earl: all of them saw,The hearth-companions, that their lord lay dead.Then hurried there forth the haughty thanes,205The valiant men eagerly hastened:They would then all the one of the two,Their lives forsake or their loved one avenge.So urged them ón the son of Ælfric,A winter-young warrior, with words them addressed.210Then Ælfwine quoth (boldly he spake):"Remember the times that we oft at mead spake,When we on the bench our boast upraised,Heroes in hall, the hard fight anent:Now may be tested who is the true. 215I will my lineage to all make known,That I 'mong the Mercians of mickle race was,My grandfather wás Ealhhelm by name,An alderman wise, with wealth endowed.Ne'er shall 'mong this folk me thanes reproach220That I from this host will hasten to wend,My home to seek, now lies my lordDown-hewn in fight; to me 'tis great harm:By blood he was kin and by rank he was lord." Then went he forth, was mindful of feud,225That hé with his spear one of them pierced,A sailor o' the folk, that he lay on the groundKilled with his weapon. Gan he comrades exhort,Friends and companions, that forth they should go.Offa addressed them, his ash-spear shook:230"Lo! Ælfwine, thóu hast all admonished,Thanes, of the need. Now lieth our lord,Earl on the earth, to us all there is needThat each one of us should strengthen the otherWarrior to war, while weapon he may235[Still] have and hold, the hardened brand,Spear and good sword. Us hath Godric,Cowed son of Offa, all [basely] deceived:So many men thought when on mare he rode,On thát proud steed, that it wás our lord:240Therefore in field here the folk was divided,The phalanx broken: may perish his deed,That he here so many men caused to flee!"Leofsunu spake, and uplifted his shield,His buckler for guard; to the warrior he quoth:245"I promise thee this, that hence I will nótA foot's breadth flee, but further will go,Avenge in battle mine own dear lord.Me need not 'round Stourmere the steadfast heroesWith words reproach, now my friend has fallen,250That, lacking my lord, home I depart,Wend from the war, but weapons shall take me,Spear and iron."  Full angry he strode,Firmly he fought, flight he despised.Then Dunnere spake, his spear he shook,255The agèd churl, called over all,Bade that each warrior should Byrhtnoth avenge:"He may not delay who thinks to avengeHis lord on the folk, nor care for his life."Then forwards they went, they recked not of life;260Gan then his followers valiantly fight,Spear-bearers grim, and to God they prayed,That théy might avenge their own dear lord,And upon their foes slaughter fulfil.Then gan the hostage eagerly help:265He was 'mong Northumbrians of valiant race,The son of Ecglaf, his name was Æscferth:Ne'er wavered hé in that play of war,But he hastened forth many a dart;At times shot on shield, at times killed a chief,270Ever and anon inflicted some wound,The while that he weapon was able to wield.Then still in front stood Edward the long,Ready and eager; boastingly saidThat hé would not flee a foot-breadth of land,275Backwards withdraw, when his better lay dead:Broke he the shield-wall and fought 'gainst the warriors,Till hé his ring-giver upón the seamenWorthily avenged, ere he lay on the field.So [too] did Ætheric, noble companion,280Ready and eager, earnestly fought he;Sigebryht's brother and many anotherCleft the curved  board, them bravely defended;Shield's border burst, and the byrnie sangA terrible song. In battle then slew285Offa the seaman that on earth he fell,And the kinsman of Gadd there sought the ground;Quickly in battle was Offa hewn down:He had though fulfilled what he promised his lord,As hé before vowed in face of his ring-giver,290That both of them shóuld ride to the borough,Hale to their homes, or in battle should fall,Upón the slaughter-place die of their wounds;He lay like a thane his lord beside.Then was breaking of boards; the seamen stormed,295Enraged by the fight; the spear oft piercedThe fated one's life-house. Forth then went Wigstan,Son of Thurstan, fought 'gainst the foes:He wás in the throng the slayer of three,Ere Wigelin's bairn lay dead on the field.300There fierce was the fight: firmly they stood,Warriors in war, the fighters fell,Weary with wounds; fell corpses to earth.Oswald and Ealdwald during all the while,Both of the brothers, emboldened the warriors,305Their kinsman-friends bade they in words,That they in need should there endure,Unwaveringlý their weapons use.Byrhtwold [then] spake, uplifted his shield,—Old comrade was he,—his spear he shook,310Hé very boldly exhorted the warriors:"The braver shall thought be, the bolder the heart,The more the mood,  as lessens our might.Here lieth our lord, all hewn to pieces,The good on the ground: ever may grieve315Who now from this war-play thinketh to wend.I am old in years: hence will I not,But here beside mine own dear lord,So loved a man, I purpose to lie."So Æthelgar's bairn them all emboldened,320Godric, to battle: oft let he his spear,His war-spear wind amongst the wikings;So 'midst the folk foremost he went,Hewed he and felled, till in battle he lay;This was nót that Godric who fled from the fight.325* * * * * * * * Dear. Or, 'maintained.' Bank. Bold. Destroy. Lit., 'old.' Lit., 'announce.' Money. Bank of the stream. i.e., 'battle-array,' Sw., but the word is uncertain; Kr. suggests 'fascines'; Zl. merely gives 'Prunk.' i.e., Byrhtnoth. i.e., Byrhtnoth. i.e., the phalanx with interlocked shields. Some such word as grame, or grimme, seems needed for the alliteration. i.e., battle-axes. Chamberlain. Inserted by Kr. to fill the lacuna, whom W. follows; Sw. and Zl. omit. Lit., 'suffer,' 'endure.' Lit., 'bold.' Lit., 'He was both my kinsman and my lord.' i.e., 'sword.' i.e., 'hollow shields.' Cellod is found only here and in Finnsburg, 29. i.e., 'courage.'
One of the most famous Viking battles in Britain, the Battle of Maldon, took place directly beside the river in 991. The Vikings were successful in battle against the Anglo-Saxons, claiming victory in this Dark Age battle.
The Blackwater was a source of fish and oysters for the town of Maldon during the Roman occupation. The remains of Saxon fish traps were discovered in the river in the 1990s.
- Epping Forest
- Castle Point
- Thurrock (Unitary)
- Southend-on-Sea (Unitary)