Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/210

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204 BATTLE OF HASTINGS.


pale; some making ready their arms, others raising their shields; the brave man rousing himself to fight, the coward trembling at the approach of danger.

"Then Taillefer, who sang right well, rode, mounted on a swift horse, before the duke, singing of Charlemagne and of Roland, of Oliver, and the peers who died in Roncesvalles. And when they drew nigh to the EngUsh, 'A boon, sire!' cried Taillefer; 'I have long served you, and you owe me for all such service. To-day, so please you, you shall repay it. I ask as my guerdon, and beseech you for it earnestly, that you will allow me to strike the first blow in the battle!' And the duke answered, 'I grant it.' Then Taillefer put his horse to a gallop, charging before all the rest, and struck an Englishman dead, driving his lance below the breast into his body, and stretching him upon the ground. Then he drew his sword, and struck another, crying out, 'Come on, come on! What do ye, sirs? lay on, lay on!' At the second blow he struck, the English pushed forward, and surrounded, and slew him. Forthwith arose the noise and cry of war, and on either side the people put themselves in motion.

"The Normans moved on to the assault, and the English defended themselves well. Some were striking, others urging onward; all were bold, and cast aside fear. And now, behold, that battle was gathered whereof the fame is yet mighty.

"Loud and far resounded the bray of the horns; and the shocks of the lances, the mighty strokes of maces, and the quick clashing of swords. One while the Englishmen rushed on, another while they fell back; one while the men from over sea charged onward, and again at other times retreated. The Normans shouted Dex Aie, the English people Out. Then came the cunning maneuvers, the rude shocks and strokes of the lance and blows of the swords, among the sergeants and soldiers, both English and Norman.

"When the English fall the Normans shout. Each side taunts and defies the other, yet neither knoweth what the other saith; and the Normans say the English bark, because they understand not their speech.

"Some wax strong, others weak: the brave exult, but the cowards tremble, as men who are sore dismayed. The Normans press on the assault, and the English defend their post well: they pierce the hauberks, and cleave the shields, receive and re-