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  Life of Saint Oswald

This is a near contemporary source believed to be independent of the poem and, although it survives in an incompetently transcribed copy, provides important supporting information on the battle.

‘During his (Aethelred’s) reign the abominable Danes came to the Kingdom of the English, and laying waste and burning everything, did not spare men, but, glorying in flashing blades and poisoned arrows, armed themselves in bronze helmets, in which they fought and were wont to terrify beholders….. When not many months had passed, another very violent battle took place in the east of this famous country, in which the glorious Ealdorman Brihtnoth held the front rank, with his fellow soldiers. How gloriously, how manfully, how boldly he urged his leaders to the front of the battle, who, relying on an elegant style, can make known? He himself, tall in stature, stood conspicuous above the rest; his hand was not sustained by Aaron and Hur, but supported by the manifold faithfulness of the Lord, since he was worthy. He smote also on his right hand, unmindful of the swan-like whiteness of his head, for alms-deeds and holy masses strengthened him. He protected himself on his left hand, forgetful of the weakness of his body, for prayers and good deeds sustained him. And when the beloved leader in the field saw his enemies fall, and his own men fight bravely and cut them down in many ways, he began to fight with all his might for his country. An infinite number, indeed of them and of our side perished, and Brihtnoth fell, and the rest fled. The Danes also were wondrously wounded, and could scarcely man their ships.’

Whitelock. English Historical Documents: 500-1042, London, 1968

 

   
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