Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/208

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

202 BATTLE OF HASTINGS.


Normans,' said he, 'are good vassals, valiant on foot and on horseback; good knights are they on horseback, and well used to battle; all is lost if they once penetrate our ranks. They have brought long lances and swords, but you have pointed lances and keen-edged bills; and I do not expect that their arms can stand against yours. Cleave whenever you can; it will be ill done if you spare aught.'

"The English had built up a fence before them with their shields, and with ash and other wood, and had well joined and wattled in the whole work, so as not to leave even a crevice; and thus they had a barricade in their front, through which any Norman who would attack them must first pass. Being covered in this way by their shields and barricades, their aim was to defend themselves; and if they had remained steady for that purpose, they would not have been conquered that day; for every Norman who made his way in, lost his life in dishonor, either by hatchet or bill, by club or other weapon. They wore short and close hauberks, and helmets that hung over their garments. King Harold issued orders, and made proclamation round, that all should be ranged with their faces toward the enemy, and that no one should move from where he was, so that whoever came might find them ready; and that whatever any one, be he Norman or other, should do, each should do his best to defend his own place. Then he ordered the men of Kent to go where the Normans were likely to make the attack; for they say that the men of Kent are entitled to strike first; and that whenever the king goes to battle, the first blow belongs to them. The right of the men of London is to guard the king's body, to place themselves around him, and to guard his standard; and they were accordingly placed by the standard to watch and defend it.

"When Harold had made all ready, and given his orders, he came into the midst of the English, and dismounted by the side of the standard; Leofwin and Gurth, his brothers, were with him; and around him he had barons enough, as he stood by his standard, which was, in truth, a noble one, sparkling with gold and precious stones. After the victory William sent it to the pope, to prove and commemorate his great conquest and glory. The English stood in close ranks, ready and eager for the fight; and, they, moreover, made a fosse, which went across the field, guarding one side of their army.