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The Warrior of Stamford Bridge

This is not really a fantasy poem, but is more a battle poem is a based on a true story about an epic battle in England in 1066 when a large viking force led by King Harald Hardrada of Norway and the English king’s younger brother tried to usurp English King Harold Godwinson, and take over the English throne. Godwinson’s army caught the vikings unprepared, and completely routed them, in somewhat of a slaughter. Attempting to retreat back to their ships by crossing Stamford Bridge — a lone viking warrior volunteered to block the bridge, and managed to hold off the English forces for almost an hour before being killed. The heroic act only delayed the inevitable, and Godwinson’s army was still able to engage the retreating vikings, as well as a rear guard — and slaughtered all but a few hundred who were allowed to surrender. While this is a battle poem, I admit taking liberty with the facts to embellish the effect of the poem.
©2011 by Jon Gutmacher
He fought thru death
with axe and shield
though overwhelmed
he would not yield

and on that bridge
he stood as stone
for none
would he
let pass

They sent their best
in two’s and three’s
but he fought them there
struck thru their greaves

and armor did not
stop his swing
or the power
of his resolve

For he was one
against them all
he would not stop
he would not fall
or let the them pass
or let them go
for he was there
to stay

And then a lull did slowly come
where men had fought
and some had run
and high above
on wayward hill
the Saxon King
did watch

King Godwinson sat
on steed
in awe
his army stopped
of that – he saw
by a single viking
a warrior true
who did not deserve
to die

“Take this message
“to that man:
“Put down your arms
“and take my hand
“and join my army
“at my side
“this way
“I’d honor you”

The courier took the message fast
unto the bridge
thru uncut grass
and there he raced
neath flag of white
and from his horse
he did alight

“Oh, warrior who is brave and true
My king gives Honor
direct to you
For brave you are
beyond all men
your death
would not be fair

“Please take your leave
and freedom, too
or join us here
as a warrior
true
For men like you
are few and far
of this
you can be sure

And the warrior thought
then shook his head
and looked around
at all the dead
and looked upon the hill
and king
and said these fateful words

“Your king is great
He honors me
And vast your army
that, I see
but I cannot
forsake my oath
no matter what the cost

The courier nodded
and raised his hand
put fist to chest
to salute the man
and then rode back
to tell his king
of what he had
been told

“Take archers hence
“Three score or more
“and cut him down
“to end this war
“for though he die
“I’ll cross that bridge
“ my reign
“it shall endure

And so the sky turned black with spear
the arrows coming ever near
until like rain
they pierced and slew
and down He went
his life was through

And there was silence
no words were spoke
and as he died
his own blood soaked
his body – then taken
to top of hill
in honor
for all
to see

And in a voice heard all around
the Saxon king
his heart did pound
did honor this
brave, fallen man
for all around
to see

And when t’was over
the king moved on
the other army
fled, not gone
but they were caught
and overwhelmed
near slaughtered to
the man

Now centuries passed
this place known not
the kings long dead
their names forgot
but on that hill
on stones pilled high
this story lives
it cannot die

For a warrior so brave
His honor fast
Who’d rather fight
unto his last
than surrender there
though overwhelmed
for all around
to see

I remember you well
Oh, Valiant Man
Who stood alone
with axe in hand
And to all those men
who wavered not
At Stamford Bridge
that day

The image is by an incredible fantasy artist, Michal Ivan, and is titled “Feel My Wrath”. The full image is astounding, and I am working on getting it to fit. Ivan’s website is http://michalivan.net Visit it! The image is also found at http://fantasyinspiration.com/inspiration/outstanding-inspirational-concept-art-by-perzo/ and at
http://www.unstage.com/2009/11/artwork-by-michal-ivan/
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