THE AUTHENTIC VOICE OF ENGLAND

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Athelstan, king, lord of eorls, ring giver to men, and his brother also, the atheling Edmund, lifelong glory struck in battle with sword`s edge at Brunanburh, broke the shield-wall, hewed linden wood with hammer`s leaving. Edward`s sons, as they were noble – born, accustomed to battle, often on campaign had defended their land from each foe, hoard and home; the hated ones were crushed, people of the Scots, men of the ships, fated fell. The fields was slick with men`s blood, from when the burning sun in morning – time mighty star, glided up overground, God`s bright candle, the eternal Lord`s till the noble work sank to it`s setting, many a man lay wrecked by spears, northern – warrior shot over shield……..No stroke did the Mercians refuse to pay in the hard hand – play to any who with Olaf over sea`s swell in the ship`s lap did sought land, fated to fall: five lay dead on the field, young kings put to sleep with the sword; so also seven of Olaf`s eorls, and numberless slain among shipmen and Scots. The Northmen`s lord was put to flight, forced by need to his ship with small company. Keep pressed sea, the king went out on fallow flood, saved his life…..He need not boast of the meeting of swords. He was severed from kin, deprived of friends on that field, slain at war, and left his son on the death ground, destroyed by his wounds, young at war; he need have no proud words, the white haired warrior, the wily one, about striking edges….. with the remnants of an army, they need not laugh that their battle work was better where standards crossed and spears clashed in the meeting of men, when on the death field they played with the sons of Edward. The Northmen went off in nailed ships, sad survivors of spears, in Ding`s mere, over deep water seeking Dublin, Ireland again, ashamed in their hearts…………….

~~ The Anglo – Saxon Chronicle ~~

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From so many treasures and wonders, the Anglo – Saxon Chronicle can lay claim to be England`s greatest of the written word. The above commentary was of the English King Athelstan`s crushing victory in 937, on the blood soaked battle ground of Brunanburh, over a huge coalition of Vikings, Norse Irish, Scots and Strathclyde Welsh, which had invaded northern England.

And yet the Chronicle as it now appears to modern eyes is a post – modern construct; the words and events they portray are Anglo – Saxon ( one of the earliest entries is thought to have been by the Venerable Bede), but the version which we see has been assembled by later scholars, writers and historians who assembled the words into an homogeneous whole.

Seven complete manuscripts of what we can call, The Anglo – Saxon Chronicle exists: copies were made from early medieval times onwards, and these in turn were copied as, and when they were damaged or destroyed by such things as fire or flood; the `Peterborough Chronicle` is a copy made after a disastrous fire in 1116; which gave the monk given the task of making a new copy the wonderful opportunity of slanting events from a Peterborough point of view; and so we have in this manuscript a long and eloquent account of the foundation of the abbey by King Wulfhere in 656 in authentic sounding Anglo – Saxon, but which in all probability, is a monkish invention to `Big Up` his abbey.

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The Anglo – Saxon Chronicle can be viewed as an organic entity which subtly changed over time, until it was ossified in the medieval period by a cessation of monastic literary input. The concept of a Chronicle probably arrived around the reign of King Alfred as a record of his victory over the Danish Vikings, and the beginnings of a national state. The `A` manuscript is written up around 891 by a single hand, and from this flows other versions. It can originally be seen as a kind of bulletin board of important national `doings`, and ` comings and goings` in the Anglo – Saxon world for the public at large, in an age before newspapers, television and social media. But whether the material was  really kept up to date, or by a single monk – as at later Peterborough Abbey – simply throwing together an heterogeneous load of pre – existing material, is perhaps, something we may never know.

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Olaf came with ninety three ships to Folkestone, ravaged outside it – and so to Maldon. There eorldorman Bryhtnoth came against them with his men, and fought. They killed the eorldorman there, and had the power of the battlefield.

This is a very simple entry on the battle of Maldon, 991, when the great Norse warlord, Olaf Tryggvason – otherwise known as `Crowbone`- raided the coast of England for plunder and destroyed a substantial English force. A famous poem called, ` The Battle of Maldon` recounts that Tryggvason was inconvenienced by a shingle bank separating the two armies preventing meaningful combat, which would have put the Norse at a disadvantage if they had attempted to cross; he appealed to the better nature of Brythtnoth, by asking for a fair fight, and allowing the Norse to cross the shingle and fight on equal terms. Instead of holding his ground until Olaf became fed up and retired back to his ships and sailed away, Brythnoth accepted, and his men were swept away by the ferocious heathen host.

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The Anglo – Saxon Chronicle is chock full of such episodes from the history of a land and it`s people, which stirs the blood and raises the hackles, and is, as always, best be told around the warm embers of a campfire.

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