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Selfishness or Sacrifice at The Battle of Maldon Purpose shall be firmer heart the keener courage shall be more as our might lessens1 These famous lines from the poem The Battle of Maldon introduce a theme which depicts how Englishmen in the Middle Ages perceived life death and what can be seen as their most prized possession of all heroism The idea that as strength is depleted the combatants hearts will grow with determination is a theme which can still be found in todays concepts of heroism What makes this Middle Ages definition different from that of modern times is the way this rhetoric was consumed and practiced to its completion No longer was death itself to be feared but dying without a heroic act So strong was the attachment to this that circumstances and perceptions were often altered to create heroes after death It can be understood that as the Scandinavian forces attacks on England became more frequent and severe that the Englishmans concept of death would be altered That is as death became more imminent a creation of glory in death was a needed comfort This ideology of putting so much merit on dying a heroes death is illustrated throughout The Battle of Maldon The unknown Anglo-Saxon poet lifts what was most likely a common battle of the times to the heights of an epic tale of heroism But despite the poets bias on the events the myopic acts done in the name of honour discount any heroism found there The poet manufactures acts of bravery and courage after the fact to create his heroes The story begins in the year 991 AD The English stage a battle of retaliation near Essex at Maldon Having a clear line on the Scandinavian troops Birhtnoth leader of the English militia concedes his strategic position to accommodate a battle on equal ground When the loathed strangers saw that and understood clearly that they
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