The Fight at Finnsburh
.....'the gables are not burning.'
Then the king, a novice in battle, said:
'This is not dawn from the east, no dragon
flies here, the gables of the hall are not burning,
5 but men are making an attack. Birds of battle screech,
the gray wolf howls, spears rattle,
shield answers shaft. The wandering moon gleams
under the clouds; evil deeds will now
be done, bringing grief to this people.
10 But rouse yourself now, my warriors!
Grasp your shields, steel yourselves,
fight at the front and be brave!'
Then many a thane, laden in gold, buckled his sword-belt.
Then the stout warriors, Sigeferth and Eawa,
15 went to one door and unsheathed their swords;
Ordlaf and Guthlaf went to guard the other,
and Hengest himself followed in their footsteps.
When he saw this, Guthere said to Garulf
that he would be unwise to go to the hall doors
20 in the first rush, risking his precious life,
for fearless Sigeferth was set upon his death.
But that daring man drowned the other voices
and demanded openly who held the door.
'I am Sigeferth, a prince of the Secgs
25 and a well-known warrior; I've braved many trials,
tough combats. Even now it is decreed
for you what you can expect of me here.'
Then the din of battle broke out in the hall;
the hollow shield called for men's hands,
30 helmets burst; the hall floor boomed.
Then Garulf, son of Guthlaf, gave his life
in the fight, first of all the warriors
living in that land, and many heroes fell around him,
the corpses of brave men. The raven wheeled,
35 dusky, dark brown. The gleaming swords so shone
it seemed as if all Finnsburh were in flames.
I have never heard of sixty warriors
who bore themselves more bravely in the fight
and never did retainers better repay
40 glowing mead than those men repaid Hnæf.
They fought for five days and not one of the followers
fell, but they held the doors firmly.
Then Guthere withdrew, a wounded man;
he said that his armour was almost useless,
45 his corselet broken, his helmet burst open.
The guardian of those people asked him at once
how well the warriors had survived their wounds
or which of the young men .....
Translated by Kevin Crossley-Holland.