From the ninth through the 11th centuries, Saxon England was prey to hordes of Viking pirates, called "Danes". Under Alfred the Great the Saxons rose to the challenge, fought off the Danes, and made treaties only under conditions favorable to the Saxons. The attacks continued and one hundred years later, the Saxons, under Aethelred the Unready chose to pay tribute rather than continue to fight. This, of course, resulted in disaster, and within a generation the Saxon king was driven into exile, and a Danish King assumed the throne.


It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,

To call upon a neighbour and to say:

"We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,

Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Danegeld,

And the people who ask it explain

That you've only to pay 'em the Danegeld

And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,

To puff and look important and to say:

"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.

We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Danegeld;

But we've proved it again and again,

That if once you have paid him the Danegeld

You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,

For fear they should succumb and go astray,

So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,

You will find it better policy to say:

"We never pay any one Danegeld,

No matter how trifling the cost,

For the end of that game is oppression and shame,

And the nation that plays it is lost!"

—Rudyard Kipling