The Battle of Maldon (partially lost old English Poem; date uncertain)

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Status: Partially Lost

The Battle of Maldon is an Old English poem about the historical Battle of Maldon in 991 between Norse Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons. Many historians praise The Battle of Maldon for its dramatic combat scenes and loyalty of soldiers to a leader. Despite only 325 lines of the poem surviving today, The Battle of Maldon has inspired many authors, including J.R.R. Tolkien.[1]

Plot

With what remains of the poem, it begins with the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse Vikings lining up on a stream of battle. This stream is said to be on the River Blackwater in modern-day Essex. The Norse Vikings try to persuade the Anglo-Saxons into buying peace by handing over gold rings. Anglo-Saxon Byrhtnoth who was an Ealdorman replied with they will pay their tribute in spears and darts and proceeds to attack the Norse Vikings across the stream. During the battle, Byrhnoth is killed which causes many soldiers to panic and desert. The poem ends with a rallying speech of an Anglo-Saxon warrior who says Mind must be firmer, heart the more fierce, Courage the greater, as our strength diminishes.[2]

Fire

The poem was translated by librarian David Casey in 1726. In 1731, a fire broke out at the Ashburnham House where The Battle of Maldon and other historical works of literature, such as Beowulf were stored. After the fire was extinguished, it was thought that the entire poem and the translation were lost in the fire. In the early 1930's, the poem was discovered in the Bodleian Library (which serves as the main research library for the University of Oxford) but massive portions of the poem were missing.[3]

References