Page:Bright's Anglo-Saxon Reader.djvu/307

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146, 12. — feld dennode etc., ‘the field became slippery with the blood of warriors.’ This interpretation of dennode is merely conjectural. Holthausen suggests dunnade, became darkened (stained).’

147, 1. — Myrce. The Mercians belonged to the forces of Æthelstan.

148, 31. — on Dinges męre has not been satisfactorily explained. Dinges, as a proper name, is very doubtful; the variant readings are dynges, dyniges, dinnes. See Glossary.

148, 4 f. — Lēton him behindan etc. In a conventional figure of the poets the raven, eagle and wolf are attendants of the battle-field; cf. 152, 23–24.


The supremacy of the West-Saxon kings was broken in the disastrous reign of Æthelred. The Northmen invaded England anew, and ultimately placed a Danish king upon the English throne. The invaders met the bravest resistance at the Battle of Maldon. In 991 they attacked the eastern coasts of England “seemingly with the intention of making a settlement. This seems to have been a Norwegian expedition; the leaders were Justin and Guthmund, sons of Steitan, and there seems every reason to believe that Olaf Tryggvesson hirnself was present also” (Freeman). They first plundered Ipswich, and then proceeded into Essex; the East-Saxon ealdorman Brihtnoth promptly collected his forces, and gave the invaders battle on the banks of the Blackwater (then called Panta) near Maldon. “The town lies on a hill; immediately at its base flows one branch of the river, while another, still crossed by a mediæval bridge, flows at a little distance to the north. The Danish ships seem to have lain in the branch nearest to the town, and their crews must have occupied the space between the two streams, while Brihtnoth came to the rescue from the north. He seems to have halted on the spot now occupied by the church of Heybridge, having both streams between him and the town” (Freeman).

The poet has described this battle with the fidelity of an eye-witness. From the minuteness of details it is to be inferred that the poem was composed soon after the event; these details relate exclusively to the English side, even the names of those in command of the enemy