The Battle of Maldon and Other Old English Poems by Kevin Crossley-HollandFascinating. Anglo-Saxon culture caught in the crosshairs of religion - to be pagan or to believe in the mystical power of the cross (over their own penchant for the mystical power of sword and boar). What I find most fascinating is their ability to allow inanimate objects speaking subject positions. In The Dream of the Rood the cross as a tree tells its story from the point when it was chopped out of the forest and set up as a punitive device for criminals to the day that it fulfilled its purpose and gained a lord (in the same way a knight might gain a lord) to serve and honour. In the end, the duty-bound cross allows itself to become an icon covered in gold and silver so as to be worthy of worship. It almost reads as a kind of justification for the kind icon worship that would have been a leap an Anglo-Saxon nation.
Old English Online
Participate today. A century after Alfred the Great, Danish Vikings still controlled a substantial part of Northumbria -- an area referred to as the Danelaw. From there and elsewhere, they continually raided southern areas of England. In an Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entry for the year , there is a simple report that Alderman Byrhtnoth was slain at Maldon; no other details are preserved in that source. However, a surviving fragment of an epic poem records the event and, in so doing, presents what is surely the most magnificent portrait of Anglo-Saxon comitatus loyalty in Old English literature. In August of that year, Danish forces had sailed to the mouth of the Panta now Blackwater River in Essex, and established a garrison on an island; Byrhtnoth arrived with an Essex levy, intending to drive the invaders away. As the tide ebbed and the Vikings struggled to cross a narrow ford, easily defended by the English, the Danish leader boldly asked to be allowed to advance unimpeded and establish a position on the shore prior to resuming a proper fight.
It is incomplete, its beginning and ending both lost. The poem is remarkable for its vivid, dramatic combat scenes and for its expression of the Germanic ethos of loyalty to a leader. The poem, as it survives, opens with the war parties aligned on either side of a stream the present River Blackwater near Maldon , Essex. The Vikings offer the cynical suggestion that the English may buy their peace with golden rings. The English commander Earl Byrhtnoth replies that they will pay their tribute in spears and darts. When the Vikings cannot advance because of their poor position, Byrhtnoth recklessly allows them safe conduct across the stream, and the battle follows. In panic some of the English warriors desert.
In August Byrhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, encountered an army of vikings camped on Northey Island in the estuary of the River Blackwater near the town of Maldon, Essex. This island was as it still is connected to the mainland by a causeway which was covered at high tide. As the causeway was flooded when the armies met, battle could not be joined; when the tide went out, uncovering the causeway, the English were able to keep the vikings bottled up on the island. Then, in a notable tactical blunder, Byrhtnoth decided to allow the viking army to cross to the mainland, presumably so as to break the stalemate. In the battle that followed, Byrhthnoth was slain, much of his army routed, and many perhaps most of those who remained slaughtered.