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Scots saw that the commander of the Northmen in the pay of Athelstan had fallen, they raised a shout of triumph that reached the ears of Egill, and when he, looking across the field, saw his brother's ensign in retreat, he made sure that Thorolf was dead. Then rushing to that part of the heath where Thorolf had been, stung with fury and mad with grief, he urged his men to follow him, and striding before them, whirling his sword, "the Adder," he flung himself upon the foe. The standard-bearer, Thorfrid, at once pressed forward and attended him, so that his advance was marked by the progress of two ensigns. Before his long blade the enemy were mown down as grass before a scythe, and he cut his way to Adils, whom at one blow he cleft from the head to the shoulders.

On the death of the Earl, the men of the ambush gave way, and fled among the Scots, pursued by Egill and his Vikings. The flying men broke the Scottish line, and the men constituting it made no determined stand. They wavered, then broke and fled. Then, when this wing of the enemy was routed, Egill and his mercenaries wheeled about and went to the aid of Athelstan. A great slaughter ensued. Bursting

. through the bodyguard of the King of Dublin, Egill cut down, as he supposed, Olaf the Red. The rout now became complete. Every man of the invaders who could be overtaken was slaughtered without compunction, and no quarter was given. The wide grey plain was strewn with corpses. The lay of Brunaburh says :

There lay many a warrior
By javelin strewed;
Northern man
Over shield shot;
So the Scots eke
Weary, were sad.
West Saxons onward,
Throughout the day,
In bands,
Pursued the footsteps
Of the loathed nations.
They heaped the fugitives
Behind, amain,

With swords mill-sharp.
It was related that five kings and seven earls were slain.
Constantine, “hoary warrior,” escaped north. The

poem in the Chronicle calls Olaf always Anlaf. He fled, according to the same authority, to his ships, which had probably coasted north from the Humber. Returning from the field, Athelstan entered the burh from which he had set out, there to pass the night. Egill, however, had followed the fugitives, dealing slaughter among them, till the night fell. But even then he would not rest till he had discovered the body of his brother.

1 Olaf Cuaran was not killed in the of " the young Olaf." In the lay of the battle, but his son was.

Egill, in his

battle in the Chronicle, it is said that lament for his brother, speaks of the fall Constantine lost his son in it.

Next day he had Thorolf buried with all solemnity, girt in his harness, and with his sword and spear at his side. Taking off his own golden armlets, he thrust them above the wrists of his brother. Then a mound of earth was heaped above him, and Egill sang the following lay :-

Forth the never fearing
Fared the Earl slayer.
Valiant in soul fell
Thorolf in war fierce.
Green will the grass grow
Now on Vinheithe,
Over my brother.
We the survivors
Smother our sorrow.
Here have I heaped mold
High in a West land,
High among standards.
Headstrong with blue blade
Sought I Earl Adils;
Young Olaf lies slaughtered,
Circled by Angles ;

Full fed are the ravens. Then Egill, with his followers, entered the hall where sat Athelstan on his high-seat drinking ale. The King welcomed him, and bade room be made for him so that he might be placed over against himself.

The hall was a long building, with seats running parallel with the wails, and facing each other across the hearth, a stone trough in the floor in which burnt the fire.

Egill seated himself, cast his shield at his feet, and laid his sword, half unsheathed, across his knees. He sat bolt upright, speechless, and wearing a stern countenance. Egill was broad-faced, broad-browed, heavy-eyebrowed. His was not long, but was remarkably broad; the lips thick and large; his chin was very broad, and so all his jaw, thick neck and broad shoulders, so that when he was angry he appeared more savage than other men. He was well - grown, and taller than any other man; his hair grey as


a wolf's


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fell and thick, but he was early bald. And as he sat, as
described, down went one of his brows towards his cheek,
and the other up towards his hair. Egill was black-eyed
and dusky-skinned. He would not drink, though it was offered
him, and his brows went up and down. King Athelstan sat
in the high-seat. He had his sword laid across his knees. And
when they had sat thus awhile, the King drew his sword
out of its sheath, took a gold ring off his arm, great and
good, put it on the point of the blade, stood up, went on the
floor, and extended it to Egill across the fire. Egill stood up,
drew his sword, and went on the floor. He thrust his sword
into the hoop of the ring and drew it to himself, then went
back to his place. The King resumed his place on the high-
seat. And when Egill had reseated himself, he drew the ring
over his hand, and his brows resumed evenness. He laid aside
his sword and helmet, and took the wildbeast's horn that was
brought to him and drank of it, and he sang :

My brows were downward drooping,
I mourned the slasher of chain-mail.
The King on whose hand sits the hawk
Has handed me armlet of gold.

Well is it worthy the giver.?
Thenceforth Egill drank his share, and spoke to the other
men. After that, the King had two chests brought in, two
men bare each. They were full of silver. The King said :
' These chests, Egill, you shall have, and when you go to
Iceland, you must convey this money to your father as com-
pensation for his son. I send it him; and some of the money
you shall distribute among the relatives of yourself and Thorolf;
and as compensation for the loss of your brother, you shall
have of me either land or cash, just as you please. And
if you will remain with me I will confer on you honour and
office, such as you desire. Egill accepted the money, and
thanked the King for his gifts and his friendly words. Then
Egill became cheerful, and sang :-


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The grief of my heart made my eyebrows
To hang as a threatening cloud,
But now is my sorrow dispersed.
The King, by his liberal presents,
Has lifted my eyebrows once more.

My savageness from me is gone." 1 The description of wolf grey hair and ? A difficult and almost unintelligible baldness applies to Egill at a later

This is a loose rendering of its period of life.

probable meaning.


We must now consider some of the points that have been taken for granted in the preceding narrative. First, as to the battle fought at Axminster. In the register of Newnham Abbey near by, is a statement made in the reign of Edward III, recording an ancient tradition that a great battle was fought by Athelstan and the Ethelings" at Munt S. Calyxt en Devonsyr,' and that it ended at Colecroft, near Axminster. S. Calyxt

Coaxdon. We know from William of Malmesbury that on the night before the battle a relay under the Bishop of Sherborne arrived, and that the Bishop of Wilton was with the King. After the battle the bodies of the Ethelings were laid in the Church of Malmesbury. Athelstan, moreover, endowed a chapter at Axminster, that prayers might ever be said there for the souls of such as had fallen in the fight. It is not possible to reconcile the story of the battle, as told by William of Malmesbury, with the account in the Aigla. William, no doubt, gave the traditional account of the battle prevalent at Malmesbury, where were laid the bodies of the Ethelings who fell in it. William has confused the two battles, and calls that he describes Brumford. He says that Constantine fell in it. There are serious difficulties in the way of accepting the story as given by the Saga writer as exact history. He makes grave mistakes. According to him the battle of Vinheath is given too early in the life of Egill, in 927, instead of 937. What has occurred is that the writer has confused the order of events. Egill was twice in the service of Athelstan, in 927, and also in 937, and the writer has put the battle as occurring during the first period in place of the second.

It must be remembered that the narrative was traditional till committed to writing. A tale told again and again, in the long winter nights, among the descendants of Thorolf and Egill would present the minute particulars—such as the personal appearance of the hero, his armour, etc., but would be liable to confuse the sequence of events. Egill was born in 904, and had the battle been in 927 he would have been aged but 23, too young to be given command of a battalion, whereas in 937 he would have been aged 33. We do not get much aid as to the circumstances of the battle and its site from the poem in the Chronicle. As Freeman says: “There is in the song nothing like a story or legend, nothing, if you strip it of its poetic language, except a few plain facts which the writer might have put into three or four lines of prose. King Athelstan


and his brother, the Etheling Edmund, fought a battle at Brunanburh against the Scots, under Constantine, and the Danes from Ireland, under Anlaf (Olaf), and gained a great victory. Five Danish kings, seven earls, and the son of the king of the Scots were killed, whilst Constantine and Anlaf escaped. Then Athelstan and Edmund went back in triumph to Wessex.”

With regard to the site of Brunanburh or Vinheath, the broad dreary flat by Boroughbridge to Raskelf suits the description admirably. Brunanburh means the burgh at the bridge, and at Aldborough was the Roman bridge to Watling-street. Later, when this was broken down, another bridge was built in a different place, and the present town of Boroughbridge grew up by it, and Aldborough was deserted. If Vinheath was the waste north extending to Easingwold and Thormanby, and the wood described was a spur of the forest of Galtres, then the burh where Athelstan rested before and after the battle was Aldborough. Although Brunanburh was a great victory,

a yet Athelstan was unable effectively to enforce his supremacy in Northumbria, and after his death, which took place two years later, the Danish King of Dublin was able again to assert, and in a measure maintain, his claim over it.

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