for the Day 11th
a large band of Viking marauders meets a force of East Saxons under the
command of Byrhtnoth, on the River Blackwater at Maldon in Essex. Gallantly
allowing the invaders to cross the stream unmolested in order to make
the fight fairer, the natives are subsequently defeated, as commemorated
in a great Anglo-Saxon poem, The Battle of Maldon. (The date of
Bryhtnoths death in battle is recorded as 11th August in an early
the north-west of England, in what is now Cumbria, the Vikings were already
well established, as evidenced by the four towering sandstone crosses
they erected in the churchyard of St Marys, Gosforth, about 50 years
before that southern fight. Of the four, only this one survives.
A Wild Inhabitation
They grounded their beast-
and bird-headed craft
on Braystones milling pebbles, at Silecroft
overlooked by dunes, on a beach of suave
slick mud up an inlet at Ravenglass.
A summer day. Standing on
a green grave
watching a breeze slowly heave and then pass,
stifled among yews, looking at their cross
carved rust-red sandstone honed on hot blue sky.
The fells mount up, Atlantic
pitch and toss
and swell of rock. Their mark is the long I,
five yards tall and ten centuries across.
They made land in ships of
dust. When the heart
describes itself, its pride is raised in art
and stands by lies though all of times denial.
Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar