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His subjects governing with justest sway,
Tyrants o’erawed, twelve years had pass’d away,
When Europe’s noxious pestilence stalk’d forth.
And pour’d the barbarous legions from the North.
Then pirate Anlaf the briny surge
Forsakes, while deeds of desperation urge.
Her king consenting, Scotia’s land receives
The frantic madman and his horde of thieves:
Now flush’d with insolence, they shout and boast,
And drive the harmless natives from the coast.
Thus while the king, secure in youthful pride,
Bade the soft hours in gentle pleasure glide,
Though erst he stemm’d the battle’s furious tide,
With ceaseless plunder sped the daring horde,
And wasted districts with their fire and sword.
The verdant crops lay withering on the fields,
The glebe no promise to the rustic yields.
Immense the numbers of barbarian force,
Countless the squadrons both of foot and horse.
At length fame’s rueful moan alarm’d the king,
And bade him shun this ignominious sting,
That arms like his to ruffian bands should bend:
“Tis done—delays and hesitations end.
High in the air the threatening banners fly,
And call his eager troops to victory,
His hardy force, an hundred thousand strong,
Whom standards hasten to the fight along.
The martial clamour scares the plund’ring band,
And drives them bootless tow’rds their native land.
The vulgar mass a dreadful carnage share,
And shed contagion on the ambient air;
While Anlaf alone, of all the crew,
Escapes the meed of death so justly due,
Reserved by fortune’s favour, once again
When Aethelstan was dead, to claim our strain.’
(From the lost ‘Life of Aethelstan’ source quoted by William of Malmesbury)