Battle of Maldon
The battle was fought on the 10th or 11th of August, 991 A.D. between forces lead by Earl Byrhtnoth and a party of Vikings. The Vikings had been raiding through Ipswich, when they were holed up on Northey Island by Byrhtnoth's forces. In what was later described as an act of pride Byrhtnoth allowed the Vikings to cross over to the mainland before battle was begun. Suffering from the desertion of some of his forces, Byrhtnoth's forces were destroyed, and Byrhtnoth himself died.
The poem, though incomplete, is a powerful depiction of courage in the name of a doomed cause. In this way it shares a curious link with the poem "The charge of the Light Brigade", written almost nine centuries later.