Monday, January 18, 2010

Battle of Brunanburh

The Battle of Brunanburh is an Old English (Anglo Saxon) heroic poem from the early 900s CE about the battle of the same name. The battle, which was fought between the Anglo-Saxon kings against Scottish, Pictish, and Viking rulers, succeeded in forging the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms into a unified whole Britain. Aethelstan and Eadmund, grandsons of Alfred the Great, led the English; Constantine and Anlaf led the Scots, Picts, Welsh, and Vikings. The following is the last verse of this heroic poem.

Original Anglo-Saxon

Ne wearð wæl mare
on þis eiglande æfre gieta
folces gefylled beforan þissum
sweordes ecgum, þæs þe us secgað bec,
ealde uðwitan, siþþan eastan hider
Engle and Seaxe up becoman,
ofer brad brimu Brytene sohtan,
wlance wigsmiþas, Wealas ofercoman,
eorlas arhwate eard begeatan.

Modern Translation

Nor was there more slaughter
on this island, never yet as many
people killed before this
with sword's edge: never according to those who tell us
from books, old wisemen,
since from the east Angles and Saxons came up
over the broad sea. Britain they sought,
Proud war-smiths who overcame the Welsh,
glorious warriors they took hold of the land.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 1876 Translation

Never had huger
Slaughter of heroes
Slain by the sword edge--
Such as old writers
Have writ of in histories--
Hapt in this isle, since
Up from the East hither
Saxon and Angle from
Over the broad billow
Broke into Britain with
Haughty war-workers who
Harried the Welshman, when
Earls that were lured by the
Hunger of glory gat
Hold of the land.

[Edited 1/15/10: Inexplicably, this post that was scheduled to post on Monday, went live today itself.]


Barbara Monajem said...

Beautiful, Keira. I love Anglo-Saxon poetry (and it's wonderful read out loud).

In one of my stories (now about to be rewritten) my heroine was (but may not continue to be) illustrating an Anglo-Saxon poem called Deor. That poem, and the stories it mentions, totally captured my imagination. Not only that, the script in which it was written was gorgeous.

Keira Soleore said...

Barbara, thanks for visiting and commenting.

I love the AS heroic poems. To me, Beowulf reads like the Scandivian sagas or the Old Irish Cuchulainn myth.

How wonderful that you are(were?) using one of these poems that your heroine was illustrating. I hope she can still continue to do that.