THE BATTLE OF BRUNANBURH

[The poem celebrates a victory won in 937 by Æthelstan against Constantine, King of Scotland, allied with the Strathclyde Welsh and the Norwegians. The site of Brunanburh is uncertain; perhaps it is on the Solway Firth. Tennyson's translation of the poem is well known.]

IN this year King Æthelstan, the lord of earls, ring-giver of men, and his brother also, Prince Eadmund, won in battle everlasting glory with the edges of their swords at Brunanburh. The sons of Eadweard split the shield wall, hewed the linden targes with forged brands; as befitted their descent from noble kinsmen, often in fight they guarded their land, treasure, and homes against every foe. Enemies fell, Scots and seafarers sank doomed; the field grew slippery with the blood of men when the sun, the famous light, glided over the earth in the morning, the bright candle of God, the eternal Lord, until that noble creation sank to rest. There many a warrior lay destroyed with spears, many a Northman and Scot likewise pierced above his shield, weary, sated with war. The West Saxons in bands pursued the hateful troops all day, hewed the fugitives sorely from behind with swords ground sharp. The Mercians refused not the hard hand-play to any heroes who, fated to the fight, sought land with Anlaf in the bosom of the ship over the surging waves. Five young kings lay low on that field of battle, put asleep by swords, likewise seven earls of Anlaf and a countless number of the host, seamen and Scots. There the leader of the Northmen was put to flight, driven to the prow of the boat with a small troop; the galley hastened to sea; the king went out on the dark flood, saved his life. Also there the crafty one, Constantine, went fleeing north to his native land; the old warrior had no cause to exult at the meeting of swords; he was reft of his kinsmen, deprived of friends on the battle-field, slain in fight, and he left his son destroyed with wounds on the place of slaughter, the young man in battle. The grey-haired man, the old crafty one, had no cause to vaunt of the striking with swords, and no more had Anlaf. They had no cause to laugh with the remnants of their host that they had the better in warlike deeds in the clash of standards on the battle-field, the

-327-

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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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