The Battle of Maldon, lines 230-325 [end]

Offa speaks, saying the Godric has doubly betrayed them all, as some of the English, seeing Byrhtnoth’s horse riding away, think that the Ealdorman had given a signal for retreat. It is now obvious that the Vikings will own the day. But Leofsunu swears not to step back one foot from the battle but instead will fight to the death. Other men also refuse to leave.

Byrhtwold, the old retainer, then utters the most famous lines in Old English poetry:

The heart must be braver, courage the bolder

Mind the stronger, as our strength lessens.

He, and the rest, stay fighting by the side of their dead lord. The poem ends by mentioning another Godric who was killed fighting, not the cowardly one who had fled.

The Battle of Maldon, lines 100-229

The Vikings cross and the battle begins in earnest. For a while the English are doing well, with many individual acts of heroism but then Byrhtnoth is killed by a thrown spear. Wulfmaer the Young draws out the spear and throws it back at the Viking, killing him, but Byrhtnoth has received his fatal wound.

Byrhtnoth thanks God for all the blessings he has received on earth, but then the Vikings kill him and the men next to him. And with Byrhtnoth dead, some of the English flee the battle, most visibly the sons of Odda. Godric leaps on Byrhtnoth’s horse and rides away.

The hearth-companions do not give up, however, and continue to fight and inspire each other with speeches.

The Battle of Maldon, lines 1-99

In preparation for battle, a warrior sets his hawk free to fly to the forest. Likewise the warriors send their horses to the rear.

Byrhtnoth, the Ealdorman, arranges the young men who have come to fight [the untrained youths of the Essex levy, it seems], teaches them how to hold sword and shield and where to stand. Then he goes to the company of his hearth companions who will be in the vanguard of the fight.

The Viking herald calls across the water, offering to accept tribute for peace and not to fight.

Byrhtnoth scornfully refuses.

The English and the Vikings are not able to attack each other, save with arrows, while the water flows between them. Then, when the narrow causeway becomes passable, the English have the advantage, and no Vikings can gain the shore.

The Vikings call for Byrhtnoth to allow them to cross to have a more even fight, and then the Eorl, on account of his ofermod, allows them to come across the water.