Anglo-Saxon thought for the day

From The Battle of Maldon.

Dedicated to the exhausted army of doctors, nurses, and ancillary workers who have woken up in many countries to another endless day of struggle against a faceless epidemic. And particularly to those who relax reading Anglo-Saxon poetry.

From The Battle of Maldon, ca. 1000 CE. The Saxon war-leader Byrhtnoth has been killed and his band is losing the battle to the Viking invaders; some Saxons have run away. His old retainer Byrhtwold speaks to the remnant standing fast. Try reading it aloud to catch the alliteration. The letter þ is a voiced “th”. [Update: sound file on YouTube.]

Hige sceal þē heardra, heorte þē cēnre,
mōd sceal þē māre, þē ūre mægen lytlað.

Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener,
Mood [mind, courage] the more, as our might lessens [lit: littles.].

Suitably, the text is incomplete, and breaks off before the battle ends. We don’t know who wins - then or now.






Author: James Wimberley

James Wimberley (b. 1946, an Englishman raised in the Channel Islands. three adult children) is a former career international bureaucrat with the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. His main achievements there were the Lisbon Convention on recognition of qualifications and the Kosovo law on school education. He retired in 2006 to a little white house in Andalucia, His first wife Patricia Morris died in 2009 after a long illness. He remarried in 2011. to the former Brazilian TV actress Lu Mendonça. The cat overlords are now three. I suppose I've been invited to join real scholars on the list because my skills, acquired in a decade of technical assistance work in eastern Europe, include being able to ask faux-naïf questions like the exotic Persians and Chinese of eighteenth-century philosophical fiction. So I'm quite comfortable in the role of country-cousin blogger with a European perspective. The other specialised skill I learnt was making toasts with a moral in the course of drunken Caucasian banquets. I'm open to expenses-paid offers to retell Noah the great Armenian and Columbus, the orange, and university reform in Georgia. James Wimberley's occasional publications on the web

3 thoughts on “Anglo-Saxon thought for the day”

  1. Tolkein wrote an imagined ending to the text of the Battle of Maldon - see “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm’s Son.”

  2. Shoot, I wish I had gotten hold of the English history book you suggested before the libraries closed. I am off to go look that up on wiki. I was just thinking that one upside of this time is, we get the unity of a war but with - I think - fewer casualties. Maybe not proportionally but in absolute numbers? I guess really it depends on what war we compare it to, and the chosen area. But, I do think, at least the medical soldiers can know that we will win, sort of. It’s kind of a Moses thing. Easy for me to say, I know.

    1. I have a feeling that what I just wrote may not make any sense, in terms of casualties. Plus, a lot of the people who die during wars die because of illness, so, maybe I should just retract that entire thing. Hmm.

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