FINNESBURH

[This fragment was found written on a single leaf in the library of Lambeth Palace by George Hickes and was printed by him in 1705. Since then the manuscript has unfortunately been lost. The story told in the fragment can be made out fairly plainly. A young king guarding a hall, apparently with a companion, is startled by moonlight gleaming on the armour of approaching enemies. He rouses his men. Sigeferth and Eaha station themselves at one door; Ordlaf, Guthlaf, and Hengest at the other door. We then turn to the assailants. Garulfis about to lead the attack. Guthere tries to dissuade him from risking his life at the beginning of the fight. But Garulf advances to the door and asks who holds it. Sigeferth replies and the fight begins. Garulf is the first to fall. For five days the hall is held without loss to the defenders. Finally the attackers draw off mid reckon their losses. So much is clear, but the poem presents many difficulties. Garulf is called son of Guthlaf. Among the defenders there is also a Guthlaf. Possibly the two Guthlafs are the same, and the story involves the tragic opposition of son and father. The chief problem is the relationship of the fragment to the story of Finn as told in Beowulf (Sections xvii and xviii). There is no agreement on this matter. One view which has a good deal to recommend it is as follows: The fragment deals with the treacherous attack made by Finn upon his Danish guests. The young king would then be Hnæf. Ordlaf and Guthlaf, mentioned among the defenders of the hall, are probably the same as Oslaf and Guthlaf in the Beowulf account.]

. . . the gables are never burning.' Then the king young in war spoke: 'This is neither the dawn from the east, nor does a dragon fly hither, nor are the gables of this hall here burning, but they are launching a sudden attack; the birds are singing; the grey corslet rings; the spear clashes; shield answers to shaft. Now gleams the wandering moon beneath the clouds; now dire deeds come to pass which will enact the hatred of this people. But awake now, my warriors, grasp your shields, be mindful of courage, strive in the front of the fight, be resolute.'

Then rose up many a gold-decked thane, girded on his sword; then to the door went the excellent warriors, Sigeferth and Eaha, drew their swords; and Ordlaf and Guthlaf at the other door, and Hengest himself came behind them.

Then Guthere exhorted Garulf that he in his armour should not risk so noble a life at the first onslaught on the doors of the hall, since one bold in attack1 was minded to take it away; but

____________________
1
That is, Sigeferth.

-63-

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Anglo-Saxon Poetry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents xiii
  • Beowulf 1
  • Finnesburh 63
  • Waldhere 65
  • Widsith 67
  • Deor 71
  • The Wanderer 73
  • The Seafarer 76
  • The Wife's Lament 79
  • The Husband's Message 81
  • Wulf and Eadwacer 83
  • The Ruin 84
  • Charms 85
  • Genesis 95
  • Exodus 112
  • Daniel 121
  • Christ and Satan 127
  • Juliana 165
  • The Fates of the Apostles 178
  • Andreas 181
  • Elene 211
  • The Dream of the Rood 235
  • The Phoenix 239
  • Physiologus 252
  • Guthlac 256
  • The Soul's Address to the Body 280
  • Doomsday 284
  • Riddles 289
  • Gnomic Poetry 309
  • The Arts of Men 316
  • The Fates of Men 318
  • Judith 320
  • The Battle of Brunanburh 327
  • The Battle of Maldon 329
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