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The refrain of the poem is founded on Froissart, who says that, when asked to send reinforcements to his son the Black Prince, the King replied: 'Is my son dead, unhorsed, or so badly wounded that he cannot support himself?' 'Nothing of the sort, thank God,' rejoined the knight, 'but he is in so hot an engagement that he has great need of your help.' 'Now Sir Thomas,' answered the King, 'return to those that sent you, and tell them from me not to send again for me this day, nor expect that I shall come, let what will happen, as long as my son has life; and say that I command them to let the boy win his spurs, for I am determined, if it please God, that all the glory of this day shall be given to him, and to those into whose care I have entrusted him.' The knight returned to his lords and related the King's answer, which mightily encouraged them, and made them repent they had ever sent such a message.
AT Crecy by Somme in Ponthieu
A mill stands out like a tower;
As Vesuvius seethes with flame,
Crimson with shame and with fame:
To the King run the messengers, crying
Let alone: for to-day will be written in story
Erin and Gwalia there
With England are rank'd against France;
The red dragons of Merlin advance :-
The lances bend o'er the fields;
Knighthood to yeomanry yields :-
'To-day is a day will be written in story
Harold at Senlac-on-Sea
By Norman arrow laid low,—
When the shield-wall was breach'd by the shaft,
-Thou art avenged by the bow!
Chivalry! name of romance!
Thou art henceforth but a name!
As a lightning-struck forest the foemen
-'O to-day is a day will be written in story
Pride of Liguria's shore
Genoa wrestles in vain;
Vainly Bohemia's King
Kinglike is laid with the slain.
The Blood-lake is wiped out in blood,
The shame of the centuries o'er;
Where the pride of the Norman had sway
The legions of France are no more:
-The Prince to his father kneels lowly; -'His is the battle! his wholly!
'For to-day is a day will be written in story To the great world's end, and for ever:
So, let him have the spurs, and the glory!'
F. T. PALGRAVE.
15. Erin and Gwalia. The Irish and Welsh contingent, armed with large knives, fell upon earls, barons, knights, and squires who were hampered by the flight of the Genoese bowmen, and slew many.
17. oriflamme. The royal standard of France.
18. dragons of Merlin. The Welsh flag. Merlin was the wizard at the court of King Arthur.
29. Senlac-on-Sea. Battle of Hastings, 1066. See the account in Lytton's Harold.
43. Liguria. The district of Italy whence came the Genoese bowmen.
45. Bohemia's King. The morning after the battle the blind King of Bohemia was found dead in the field with his companions. He had persuaded them to lead him into the fight, with bridles tied together, that he might strike one blow for France and chivalry.
47. Blood-lake (Senlac). Battle of Hastings.
WAT TYLER'S SONG
The first two lines of this poem are contemporary; they were used as a party cry by John Ball, one of the leaders in the 'Peasants' Revolt' of 1381. The peasants demanded the abolition of serfdom, the liberty to buy or sell at fairs and markets free of taxes, and the fixing of their rent at a certain amount per acre.
[See Green's Short History, pp. 250-2.]
'WHEN Adam delved and Eve span,
Wretched is the infant's lot,
While the peasant works,-to sleep,
Still to hold despotic rule,
Trampling on his slaves with scorn!
'When Adam delved and Eve span,
I. delved] dug.
Oxford: Horace Hart, Printer to the University