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Old English - The Battle of Maldon: Passage 1

The Battle of Maldon: Byrhtnoth’s response

  1. Byrhtnoð maþelode,    bord hafenode,
  2. wand wacne æsc,    wordum mælde,
  3. yrre and anræd    ageaf him andsware:
  4. ‘Gehyrst þu, sælida,    hwæt þis folc segeð?
  5. Hi willað eow to gafole    garas syllan,
  6. ættrynne ord    and ealde swurd,
  7. þa heregeatu    þe eow æt hilde ne deah.
  8. Brimmanna boda,    abeod eft ongean,
  9. sege þinum leodum    miccle laþre spell,
  10. þæt her stynt unforcuð    eorl mid his werode,
  11. þe wile gealgean    eþel þysne,
  12. Æþelredes eard,    ealdres mines,
  13. folc and foldan.    Feallan sceolon
  14. hæþene æt hilde.    To heanlic me þinceð
  15. þæt ge mid urum sceattum    to scype gangon
  16. unbefohtene,    nu ge þus feor hider
  17. on urne eard    in becomon.
  18. Ne sceole ge swa softe    sinc gegangan;
  19. us sceal ord and ecg    ær geseman,
  20. grim guðplega,    ær we gofol syllon.’
Byrhtnoth made a speech, raised his shield, 
waved his slender ash-spear, spoke in words, 
angry and resolute gave him back an answer: 
‘Do you hear, seafarer, what this people says?  
They are willing to give you spears as tribute, 
deadly point and tested swords, 
a payment in war-gear  that will do you no good in battle.  
Report back again, sailors’ messenger, 
tell your people a much more hateful account, 
that an undaunted leader stands here with his troop, 
one who desires to defend this land, 
my lord Æthelred’s country, 
the people and the ground. Heathens 
must fall in battle. It seems to me too shameful 
that you should go unfought to your ships with our money,
now that you have come so far 
here into our country.  
You ought not to win treasure so easily; 
but spear-point and sword-edge, terrible battle-play, 
must arbitrate between us before we give tribute.’