Dedicated to the exhausted army of doctors, nurses, and ancillary workers who have woken up in many countries to another endless day of struggle against a faceless epidemic. And particularly to those who relax reading Anglo-Saxon poetry.
From The Battle of Maldon, ca. 1000 CE. The Saxon war-leader Byrhtnoth has been killed and his band is losing the battle to the Viking invaders; some Saxons have run away. His old retainer Byrhtwold speaks to the remnant standing fast. Try reading it aloud to catch the alliteration. The letter þ is a voiced “th”. [Update: sound file on YouTube.]
Hige sceal þē heardra, heorte þē cēnre,
mōd sceal þē māre, þē ūre mægen lytlað.
Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener,
Mood [mind, courage] the more, as our might lessens [lit: littles.].
Suitably, the text is incomplete, and breaks off before the battle ends. We don’t know who wins – then or now.