Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/350

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memoirs which have preserved, for the delight and instruction of many lands and of many generations, the vivid picture of a France which has long passed away. Though the boy's family was at that time very hard pressed for money, he travelled with thirty-five horses and sumpter mules. The princesses of the blood, each surrounded by a group of highborn and graceful ladies, accompanied the King; and the smiles of so many charming women inspired the throng of vain and voluptuous but highspirited gentlemen with more than common courage. In the brilliant crowd which surrounded the French Augustus appeared the French Virgil, the graceful, the tender, the melodious Racine. He had, in conformity with the prevailing fashion, become devout, had given up writing for the theatre; and, having determined to apply himself vigorously to the discharge of the duties which belonged to him as historiographer of France, he now came to see the great events which it was his office to record.[302] In the neighbourhood of Mons, Lewis entertained the ladies with the most magnificent review that had ever been seen in modern Europe. A hundred and twenty thousand of the finest troops in the world were drawn up in a line eight miles long. It may be doubted whether such an army had ever been brought together under the Roman eagles. The show began early in the morning, and was not over when the long summer day closed. Racine left the ground, astonished, deafened, dazzled, and tired to death. In a private letter he ventured to give utterance to an amiable wish which he probably took good care not to whisper in the courtly circle: "Would to heaven that all these poor fellows were in their cottages again with their wives and their little ones!"[303]

After this superb pageant Lewis announced his intention of attacking Namur. In five days he was under the walls of that city, at the head of more than thirty thousand men. Twenty thousand peasants, pressed in those parts of the Netherlands