In Praise of Byrhtnoth

By Lord Janos Katona
Panta’s foam plied our prows;
Sails sated by Njord’s breath,
Calm currents carried us
To light on land, sheltered
By shallow sea from strike.

On Saxon shores, our band
Sought not turmoil or strife!
We wished but wealth, to wed
Their bounty, take our bite
And demand our dividend.

Boldly bid Olaf, but
Byrhtnoth denied our due,
Defied us our Danegeld,
Our gold and guarding garb
And flared his fangs to fight!

Paid they their prosperity,
The women of their warriors
Would weep not as widows!
Warm would be their bedding,
Full families still forged.

But over-heart made Byrhtnoth bold,
The pay he offered paltry:
Spear tips and sword blades,
Tendered not as tribute
But thrust forth as a threat.

Tide turned, transformed water
To land, led our legion
To lay them low, to meet
Their mettle with our might
And bring fury to our foes.

Byrhtnoth brought his brigade:
Bare peasants with pikes!
But fierce was the fighting
Their devotion to duty
Full equal to our own.

Olaf, blood boiled by battle
Begged a boon of Byrhtnoth.
“Grant us a gap aground,
For greater is the glory
You will find from your foes!”
And Byrhtnoth, bold and brave
Gave grant to Olaf’s ask!
To Saxon soil we strode
Full forceful in fighting,
With steel and soldiers matched.

Now commenced the killing!
Warriors wielded wounds.
In the pow’r of the press
Byrhtnoth did fall, bloodied,
Thus reborn in Valhalla!

Their leader lost, foes fled!
Ranks ran, returned to homes
To cower from our clout!
Their backs bared, braying as they
Huddled low on horses.

But the field was not forgone!
Still Saxons stood, swords drawn!
Faces ferocious, they fought!
Loki could let them live.
Freja could recast the runes.

But Asgaard meddled not with men,
Nor stayed the fight afield.
Granted we their grave-lust
And began their journey to join
Their leader in new life.

At Viking we were victors,
Won the Warriors’ Way.
But those who dare defy our might
Pay passage through the gate
Of eternal meat and mead.