In the poem “Prayer to Woden,” I imagined the narrator as being a fyrdman, perhaps a free ceorl, called up by the local thegn to join Harold’s army at Hastings in the defence of his homeland. He is a certainly not a professional warrior but is a farmer, a Christian, yet proud of his heritage, dismayed by the sight of the Papal Banner being flown by the invading army of William’s.
He therefore offers a prayer to his people’s old god of war, as it seems as if the Christian faith has abandoned him and his comrades. He is doubtful of whatever lies beyond death but will be content in showing courage, and hopes, that in some small way, he and his comrades will be remembered.—Rob Bayliss
Prayer to Woden (Rob Bayliss)
Woden, hear me.
God of battles, furious.
Beyond the light of holy rood cast, we remember you.
Over the whale road you led us here.
Blessed our fathers with this sod to gain.
I stand before you, a lesser man than my ancestors.
Not for me the sword arm, bloodied in foreign lands.
I have been house-bound, to fair wife and sweet earth.
Children we have grown and crops we have sown.
Nurtured land and home.
Now behind linden shield I stand, with ashen spear in my hand.
With others called from farm and cot.
Oaths and duty not forgot.
May you watch over us, from the high world ash. Your ravens caw.
Flesh will be yielded to beak and claw.
They come, a bastard’s army of despoilers under papal flag.
To rob, kill and burn.
Beneath his banners unfurled, our king he calls.
“Ut! Ut! Ut!” we take up the chant.
Woden, forget us not.
Know that we stood against the storm of arrows, sword and lance.
Let children remember.
If death and defeat steals all. A foreign boot strides our halls.
We stood here, huscarl, thegn and ceorl.
If I am denied Christ’s heaven or your famed benches of gold.
May my ghost remain, a curse. A fierce wind blowing cold.
Across this ridge until sea swallows earth.
Woden, hear me.
Lord of battles, lend me your frenzy.
That I may stand with my fathers, that they may find me worthy.
About the poet …
Rob Bayliss is a cider loving, mandolin plucking, amateur writer and reviewer who pens for his own blog, Rob’s Ramblings, as well as The Review. He is the author of Hymns of Mortality: A Collection of Short Stories and contributor to Felinity, an anthology of flash fiction. Additionally he has published, so far, books I and II in his Flint and Steel, Fire and Shadow series: The Sun Shard and The Dead Gods, with book III in the works. Titles may be purchased here. Bayliss writes of himself:
I’ve always had a love of history (and Anglo Saxon history in particular) and through the wonder of social media I found mutual aficionados of the subject. Always ravenous of books of historical fiction, I found myself guided by Facebook friends to The Review. Here, as the name suggests, books are reviewed, discussed and word of them spread far and wide amongst a supportive network of readers and writers. Through The Review I have been made aware of, and subsequently read , a wide variety of books outside my usual comfort zone of historical fiction and fantasy.
With many regards and kind thanks to Rob Bayliss for his permission to reprint this thoughtful and poignant poem of a patriot who indeed is remembered.