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~ Historical & Classical Poetry ~

The Lay of Guthorm's Army at Ethandun

(Anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem about the retreat of the Danish army
after their defeat at Ethandun (Edington) on Salisbury Plain in the year 878.)

Upon the Salisbury Plain face to face
Englishmen eager for home's defence
Shieldwalls woven in tight protection
Guthorm's warriors call to Odin

With voices grumbling
Danes delight in battle always.
`Gainst attack from either side,
Wielding words to frighten foemen.

Gods of battle grow greedy for slaughter
The shouts of men fighting fiercely
On biting sword's and gory axe's field
Beneath men's boots, bodies fall

The ravens bark above the din,
The plain runs red with blood.
Shields ring out and split asunder
From either side in equal number.

The gods of war council Vikings:
Each man must valiant be
After death, talk recalls deeds
The Valkyries gather valiant men

Warriors fight fearless and strong!
Before the blade his skull bites.
Little is lost for men who fight well.
To fight again another day.

Guthorm's men fought fiercely, far from home
But saw not Odin's favour that day.
Back to Chippenham weary behind walls
Little the loss for men who fight well;

They wielded weapons
Guthorm turned his warriors back,
To fight again another day.
Yet Odin gives fickle fortune.