Michael Linton's Bayeux Tapestry: 1066 - A Medieval Mosaic and Puzzles
his Chronicle of
THE NORMAN CONQUEST
ROMAN DE ROU
EDGAR TAYLOR ESQ. F. S. A.
WILLIAM PICKERING, 1837
This electronic edition
was prepared by
Michael A. Linton, 2004
HOW THE THREE NORMAN COMPANIES MOVED ON TO ATTACK THE ENGLISH.
Meanwhile the Normans appeared, advancing over the ridge of a rising ground; and the first division of their troops moved onwards along the hill and across a valley. As they advanced king Harold saw them afar off, and calling to Gurth, said,
"Brother, which way are you looking? See you the duke coming yonder? Our people will have no mischief from the force I see yonder. There are not men enough there to conquer the great force we have in this land. I have four times a hundred thousand armed men, knights and peasants."
"By my faith," answered Gurth, "you have many men; but a great gathering of vilanaille is worth little in battle. You have plenty of men in every day clothes, but I fear the Normans much; for all who have come from over sea are men to be feared. They are all well armed, and come on horseback, and will trample our people under foot; they have many lances and shields, hauberks and helmets; glaives and swords, bows and barbed arrows that are swift, and fly fleeter than the swallow."
"Gurth," said Harold, "be not dismayed, God can give us sufficient aid, if he so pleases; and there certainly is no need to be alarmed at yonder army." But while they yet spoke of the Normans they were looking at another division, still larger, came in sight, close following upon the first; and they wheeled towards another side of the field, forming together as the first body had done. Harold saw and examined them, and pointing them out to Gurth, said to him,
"Gurth, our enemies grow; knights come up thickening their ranks; they gather together from all around; I am dismayed, and was never before so troubled: I much fear the result of the battle, and my heart is in great tribulation."
"Harold," said Gurth, "you did ill when you fixed a day for the battle. I lament that you came, and that you did not remain at London, or at Winchester: but it is now too late; it must be as it is."
"Sire brother," replied Harold, "bygone counsel is little worth; let us defend ourselves as we can; I know no other remedy."
"If," said Gurth, "you had stayed in London, you might have gone thence from town to town, and the duke would never have followed you. He would have feared you and the English, and would have returned or made peace; and thus you would have saved your kingdom. You would not believe me, nor value the advice I gave; you fixed the day of battle, and sought it of your own free will."
"Gurth," said Harold, "I did it for good; I named Saturday because I was born on a Saturday; and my mother used to tell me that good luck would attend me on that day."
"He is a fool," said Gurth, "who believes in luck, which no brave man ought to do. No brave man should trust to luck. Every one has his day of death; you say you were born on a Saturday, and on that day also you may be killed."
Meanwhile, a fresh company came in sight, covering all the plain; and in the midst of them was raised the gonfanon that came from Rome. Near it was the duke, and the best men and greatest strength of the army were there. The good knights, the good vassals and brave warriors were there; and there were gathered together the gentle barons, the good archers, and the lancemen, whose duty it was to guard the duke, and range themselves around him. The youths and common herd of the camp, whose business was not to join in the battle, but to take care of the harness and stores, moved off towards a rising ground. The priests and the clerks also ascended a hill, there to offer up prayers to God, and watch the event of the battle. Harold saw William come, and beheld the field covered with arms, and how the Normans divided into three companies, in order to attack at three places. I know not of which he was most afraid; but his trouble was so great that he could scarcely say,
"We are fallen on an evil lot, and I fear much lest we come to shame. The count of Flanders bath betrayed me: I trusted to him, and was a fool for so doing; when he sent me word by letter, and assured me by messages that William could never collect so great a chivalry. On the faith of his report I delayed my preparations, and now I rue the delay."
Then his brother Gurth drew near, and they placed themselves by the standard; each praying God to protect them. Around them were their kinsmen, and those barons who were their nearest friends; and they besought all to do their best, seeing that none could now avoid the conflict. Each man had his hauberk on, with his sword girt and his shield at his neck. Great hatchets were also slung at their necks, with which they expected to strike heavy blows. They were on foot in close ranks, and carried themselves right boldly; yet if they had foretold the issue, well might they have bewailed the evil fate, cruel and hard of a truth, that was approaching. 'Olicrosse' they often cried, and many times repeated 'God Emite'.
'Olicrosse' is in English what 'Sainte Croix' is in French, and 'Godemite' the same as 'Dex tot poissant' in French.
The Normans brought on the three divisions of their army to attack at different places. They set out in three companies, and in three companies did they fight. The first and second had come up, and then advanced the third, which was the greatest; with that came the duke with his own men, and all moved boldly forward. As soon as the two armies were in full view of each other, great noise and tumult arose. You might hear the sound of many trumpets, of bugles and of horns; and then you might see men ranging themselves in line, lifting their shields, raising their lances, bending their bows, handling their arrows, ready for assault and for defence. The English stood steady to their post, the Normans still moving on; and when they drew near, the English were to be seen stirring to and fro; men going and coming; troops ranging themselves in order; some with their colour rising, others turning pale; some making ready their arms, others raising their shields; the brave man rousing himself to the fight, the coward trembling at the approaching danger.