Sunday 23 December 2012

"To Britain's Shores" - Interlude - "A sword passed..."

We got royally drunk again that evening - it only seemed right to be roaring drunk on such a night. One of the men who came over with Beornwulf was a Scop - a poet. Oswulf was his name, hair blond as the grain, with a fine, small lyre that he made good use of. He walked among us a lot that day, listening, drawing out stories as he had been the previous evening, until, as one of those occasional lulls settled on us, he stepped up onto one of the tables and declaimed, in a ringing voice:
"Ale-drinker, armsman, axe of the Saxons;
Warrior, wine-stealer, wencher and friend.
Faced down his foes, fearless and taunting,
Time upon time bringing treasure to his Lord. 
"Springtime's sun rose on this son of the barrel;
Cheerful companion, cousin to Wulfhere.
Horn raised to heaven, held brimming with bloodwine,
Roaring, rejoicing at the rout he would bring. 
"Britons beheld him, bravest of Saxons:
A dozen of Duguth, drawn up for the fight.
Declaiming defiance, to danger unheeding,
To fen-bound foemen forward he strode.
Bright the blade of this boldest of warriors,
Spear thrust sharp, striking the Tribune,
Undaunted, unwavering, up to the foeman,
Heedless of hurt, insults hurling, he fought.
Sword and spear clashing, sparks in the dawn's light
Leofric last of the liegemen to fall. 
"Ale-drinker, armsman, axe of the Saxons;
Warrior, wine-stealer, wencher and friend.
Fell facing the foe, fearless in death,
Home now in Odin's halls, hero now mourned."

Aelfric turned to me after a moment or two, asked, quietly, "What do you think of Beornwulf?"

I arched an eyebrow, shrugged a little, then answered the question he really wanted answered. "He'd do."

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