Chapter VIII OF HAROLD'S JOURNEY TO NORMANDY, AND WHAT HE DID THERE.
Now in that country of England there was a seneschal, Heraut by name, a noble vassal, who on account of his worth and merits, had great influence, and was in truth the most powerful man in all the land. He was strong in his own men, and strong in his friends, and managed all England as a man does land of which he has the seneschalsy. On his father's side he was English, and on his mother's Danish; Gite his mother being a Danish woman, born and brought up in great wealth, a very gentle lady, the sister of King Kenut. She was wife to Godwin, mother to Harold, and her daughter Edif was queen. Harold himself was the favourite of his lord, who had his sister to wife. When his father had died (being choked at the feast), Harold, pitying the hostages, was desirous to cross over into Normandy, to bring them home. So he went to take leave of the king. But Edward strictly forbade him, and charged and conjured him not to go to Normandy, nor to speak with duke William; for he might soon be drawn into some snare, as the duke was very shrewd; and he told him, that if he wished to have the hostages home, he would choose some messenger for the purpose. So at least I have found the story written. But another book tells me that the king ordered him to go, for the purpose of assuring duke William, his cousin, that he should have the realm after his death. How the matter really was I never knew, and I find it written both the one way and the other.
Whatever was the business he went upon, or whatever it was that he meant to do, Harold set out on his way, taking the risk of what might fall out. What is fated to happen no man can prevent, let him be who he will. What must be will come to pass, and no one can make it nought.
He made ready two ships, and took the sea at Bodeham. I know not how the mischief was occasioned; whether the steersman erred, or whether it was that a storm arose; but this I know, that he missed the right course, and touched the coast of Pontif, where he could neither get away, nor conceal himself. A fisherman of that country, who had been in England and had often seen Harold, watched him; and knew him, both by his face; and his speech; and went privily to Guy, the count of Pontif, and would speak to no other; and he told the count how he could put a great prize in his way, if he would go with him; and that if he would give him only twenty livres, he should gain a hundred by it, for he would deliver him such a prisoner, as would pay a hundred livres or more for ranson. The count agreed to his terms, and then the fisherman showed him Harold. They seized and took him to Abbeville; but Harold contrived to send off a message privily to duke William in Normandy, and told him of his journey; how he had set out from England to visit him, but had missed the right port; and how the count of Pontif had seized him, and without any cause of offence had put him in prison: and he promised that if the duke would deliver him from his captivity, he would do whatever he wished in return.
Guy guarded Harold mean time with great care; fearing some mischance, he sent him to Belrem, that he might be further from the duke. But William thought that if he could get Harold into his keeping, he might turn it to good account; so he made so many fair promises and offers to the earl, and so coaxed and flattered him, that he at last gave up his prisoner; and the duke thus got possession of him, and gave in return to the count Guy a fair manor lying along the river Alne.
William entertained Harold many days in great honour, as was his due. He took him to many rich tournaments, arrayed him nobly, gave him horses and arms, and led him with him into Britanny — I am not certain whether three or four times — when he had to fight with the Bretons. And in the meantime he bespoke Harold so fairly, that he agreed to deliver up England to him, as soon as king Edward should die; and he was to have Ele, one of William's daughters, for his wife if he would; and to swear to all this if required, William also binding himself to those terms.
To receive the oath, he caused a parliament to be called. It is commonly said that it was at Bayeux that he had his great council assembled. He sent for all the holy bodies thither, and put so many of them together as to fill a whole chest, and then covered them with a pall; but Harold neither saw them, nor knew of their being there; for nought was shewn or told to him about it; and over all was a philactery, the best that he could select; 'oh de boef', I have heard it called. When Harold placed his hand upon it, the hand trembled, and the flesh quivered; but he swore, and promised upon his oath, to take Ele to wife, and to deliver up England to the duke: and thereunto to do all in his power, according to his might and wit, after the death of Edward, if he should live, so help him God and the holy relics there! Many cried "God grant it!" and when Harold had kissed the saints, and had risen upon his feet, the duke led him up to the chest, and made him stand near it; and took off the chest the pall that had covered it, and shewed Harold upon what holy relics he had sworn; and he was sorely alarmed at the sight.
Then when all was ready for his journey homeward; he took his leave; and William exhorted him to be true to his word, and kissed him in the name of good faith and friendship. And Harold passed freely homeward, and arrived safely in England.
Chapter IX HOW KING EDWARD DIED, AND HAROLD WAS CROWNED IN HIS STEAD; AND HOW DUKE WILLIAM TOOK COUNSEL AGAINST HIM.
The day came that no man can escape, and king Edward drew near to die. He had it much at heart, that William should have his kingdom, if possible; but he was too far off, and it was too long to tarry for him, and Edward could not defer his hour. He lay in heavy sickness, in the illness whereof he was to die; and he was very weak, for death pressed hard upon him.
Then Harold assembled his kindred, and sent for his friends and other people, and entered into the king's chamber, taking with him whomsoever he pleased. An Englishman began to speak first, as Harold had directed him, and said; "Sire, we sorrow greatly that we are about to lose thee; and we are much alarmed, and fear that great trouble may come upon us: yet we cannot lengthen thy life, nor alter thy fate. Each one must die for himself, and none for another; neither can we cure thee; so that thou canst not escape death; but dust must return to dust. No heir of thine remains who may comfort us after thy death. Thou hast lived long, and art now old, but thou hast had no child, son or daughter; nor hast thou other heir, who may remain instead of thee to protect and guard us, and to become king by lineage. On this account the people weep and cry aloud, and say they are ruined, and that they shall never have peace again if thou failest them. And in this, I trow, they say truly; for without a king they will have no peace, and a king they cannot have, save through thee. Give then thy kingdom in thy lifetime to some one who is strong enough to maintain us in peace. God grant that none other than such may be our king! Wretched is a realm, and little worth, when justice and peace fail; and he who doth not or cannot maintain them, has little right to the kingdom he hath. Well hast thou lived, well hast thou done, and well wilt thou do; thou hast ever served God, and wilt be rewarded of him. Behold the best of thy people, the noblest of thy friends; all are come to beseech thee, and thou must grant their prayer before thou goest hence, or thou wilt not see God. All come to implore thee that Harold may be king of this land. We can give thee no better advice, and no better canst thou do."
As soon as he had named Harold, all the English in the chamber cried out that he said well, and that the king ought to give heed to him. "Sire," they said, "if thou dost it not, we shall never in our lives have peace."
Then the king sat up in his bed, and turned his face to the English there, and said, "Seignors, you well know, and have ofttimes heard, that I have given my realm at my death to the duke of Normandy; and as I have given it, so have some among you sworn that it shall go."
But Harold, who stood by, said, "Whatever thou hast heretofore done, sire, consent now that I shall be king, and that your land be mine; I wish for no other title, and want no one to do any thing more for me." "Harold," said the king, "thou shalt have it, but I know full well that it will cost thee thy life. If I know any thing of the duke, and the barons that are with him, and the multitude of people that he can command, none but God can avail to save thee."
Then Harold said that he would stand the hazard, and that if the king would do what he asked, he feared no one, be he Norman or other. So the king turned round and said, — whether of his ownfree will I know not, — "Let the English make either the duke or Harold king as they please, I consent." Thus he made Harold heir to his kingdom, as William could not have it. A kingdom must have a king; without one, in fact, it would be no kingdom; so he let his barons have their own will.
And now he could abide no longer. He died, and the English lamented much over him. His body was greatly honoured, and was buried at Westminster; and the tomb which was made for him was rich, and endureth still. As soon as king Edward was dead, Harold, who was rich and powerful, had himself anointed and crowned, and said nought of it to the duke, but took the homage and fealty of the richest, and best born of the land.
The duke was in his park at Rouen. He held in his hand a bow, which he had strung and bent, making it ready for the arrow; and he had given it into the hands of a page, for he was going forth, I believe, to the chace, and had with him many knights and pages and esquires, when behold! at the gate appeared a serjeant, who came journeying from England, and went straight to the duke and saluted him, and drew him on one side, and told him privily that king Edward was dead, and that Harold was raised to be king.
When the duke had listened to him, and learnt all the truth, how that Edward was dead, and Harold was made king, he became as a man enraged, and left the craft of the woods. Oft he tied his mantle, and oft he untied it again; and spoke to no man, neither dared any man speak to him. Then he crossed the Seine in his boat, and came to his hall, and entered therein; and sat down at the end of a bench, shifting his place from time to time, covering his face with his mantle, and resting his head against a pillar. Thus he remained long, in deep thought, for no one dared speak to him; but many asked aside, "What ails the duke, why makes he such bad cheer?" Then behold in came his seneschal, who rode from the park on horseback; and he passed close by the duke, humming a tune as he went along the hall; and many came round him, asking how it came to pass that the duke was in such plight. And he said to them, "Ye will hear news, but press not for it out of season; news will always spread some time or another, and he who gets it not fresh, has it old."
Then the duke raised himself up, and the seneschal said to him, "Sire, sire, why do you conceal the news you have heard? If men hear it not at one time, they will at another; concealment will do you no good, nor will the telling of it do harm. What you keep so close, is by this time known all over the city; for men go through the streets telling, and all know, both great and small, that king Edward is dead, and that Harold is become king in his stead, and possesses the realm."
"That indeed is the cause of my sorrow," said the duke, "but I know no help for it. I sorrow for Edward, and for his death, and for the wrong that Harold has done me. He has wronged me in taking the kingdom that was granted and promised to me, as he himself had sworn." To these words Fitz Osber, the bold of heart, replied, "Sire, do not vex yourself, but bestir yourself for your redress; that you may be revenged on Harold, who hath been so disloyal to you. If your courage fail not, the land shall not abide with him. Call together all that you can call; cross the sea, and take the kingdom from him. A bold man should begin nothing unless he pursue it to the end; what he begins he should carry through, or abandon it without more ado."
Thus the fame of king Harold's act went through the country. William sent to him often, and reminded him of his oath; and Harold replied injuriously, that he would do nought for him, neither take his daughter, nor yield up the land. Then William sent him his defiance, but Harold always answered that he feared him nought. The Normans who dwelt in England, who had wives and children there, men whom Edward had invited and endowed with castles and fiefs, Harold chased out of the country, nor would he leave one there; he drove out fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
Harold received the crown at Easter; but it would have been better for him if he had done otherwise, for he brought nought but evil on his heirs, and on all the land. He perjured himself for a kingdom, and that kingdom endured but little space; to him it was a great loss, and it brought all his lineage to sorrow. He refused to take the duke's daughter to wife, he would neither give nor take according to his covenant, and heavily will he suffer for it; he, and all he loves most.
When William found that Harold would do nothing towards performing his covenant, he considered and took counsel, how to cross the sea, and fight him, and by our Lord's leave, take vengeance for his perjury. He pondered much on the wrongs Harold had done him, and on his not deigning even to speak with him before he got himself crowned, and thus robbed him of what Edward had given him, and Harold himself had sworn to observe. If, he said, he could attack and punish him without crossing the sea, he would willingly have done so; but he would rather cross the sea than not revenge himself, and pursue his right. So he determined to go over sea, and take his revenge.
Chapter X HOW THE BARONS MET AT LILLEBONNE, AND WHAT AID THEY AGREED TO GIVE.
To consult on this matter before he opened his mind to any other, he sent for Robert, the count d'Ou, who dwelt by the men of Vimou, and Rogier de Montgomeri, whom he accounted a great friend, and Fitz Osber of Bretuil, William by name, the proud of spirit; and for Gautier Giffart, a man of great worth; and for his brother Odun, the bishop, and Robert of Moretoin, who was his brother also, and loved him much. Both these were his brothers, but only on the mother's side. He sent moreover for Rogier de Vilers, who was much honoured and esteemed for his wisdom, and was now of considerable age, having sons who were already noble and brave knights. He was lord of Belmont-le-Rogier, and possessed much land. And he sent also for Iwun al Chapel, who had Muriel to wife, sister of the duke on the mother's side, Herluin being her father. I know not if children were born to them; I never heard speak of any.
To these barons he told his design, before he made any great preparation. He told them how he had lost his right, which Harold had seized; and that if they approved, he would cross the sea to avenge himself. If they were willing, he could easily recover his right by the aid of the people he could summon, and by God's permission. And they said they were all ready to go with him, if need were; and to pledge their lands, and even sell them, if necessary; that he need lose nothing of his right, but might rely on his men and his clerks. "You have," said they, "a great baronage, many valiant and wise men, who have very great power, and are as able as we to whom you speak: shew these things to them; all should be taken into counsel who have to share the labour."
So the barons were all summoned, and being assembled at a set day, the duke shewed to them that Harold had cheated him, and had stolen the realm whereof Edward had made him heir; that he wished to avenge himself if he could, but that great aid was wanted; and that he could not, without their help, have many men and many ships, as he needed; let each say what he would do, how many men and ships he would bring. And they said they would speak together about it, and that after holding counsel, they would answer him; and he consented thereto.
They remained long in council; and the debate lasted a great while; for they hesitated long among themselves what they should say, what answer they should give, and what aid they would afford. They complained much to each other, saying that they had often been aggrieved; and they murmured much, conferring together in small parties; here five, there fifteen, here forty, there thirty, sixty, a hundred. Some said they were willing to bring ships and cross the sea with the duke; others said they would not go, for they owed much and were poor. Some would, others would not, and there was great contention amongst them.
Then Fitz Osber came forward and said, "Why do you go on wrangling with your natural lord, who seeks to gain honour? You ought never to be wanting. You owe him service for your fiefs, and what you owe him you ought to render with all your might. Wait not for him to beseech you; ask him for no respite; but go forward at once, and offer him even more than you can perform. Let him not have cause to complain, nor miss his undertaking on your account. If he fail, he will perchance soon say (for he is of a jealous temper) that you are the cause of his loss. Take care that he has not to say, that his expedition failed through you."
"Sire," said they, "we fear the sea, and we are not bound to serve beyond it; speak for us, we pray you, we put the speech upon you. You shall say what you will, and we will do accordingly." "Do you put it upon me?" said he. "Yes," said each, "I agree, let us go to the duke; speak for us, for you know our minds."
Then Fitz Osber went at their head, and spoke for them. "Sire, sire, look, around; there is no people under Heaven that so love their lord, or that will do so much for his honour, as the people you have; and much should you love and protect them."
"They say that to advance you, they would swim through the sea, or throw themselves into the raging fire; you may trust them much, for they have served you long, and followed you at great cost, and they will willingly continue to serve you. If they have hitherto done well, they will hereafter do yet better. They will pass with you over sea, and double their service. He who should bring twenty knights, will cheerfully bring forty; he who should serve with thirty, will now serve you with sixty; and he who owes a hundred will willingly bring two hundred. For myself, I will in good love bring to my lord, in his need, sixty ships, well furnished and charged with fighting men."
At these words the barons marvelled and murmured much, grumbling loudly at the great promises he made, for which he had no warranty. Many began to disavow him, and the court became much troubled; great noise arose, and the barons stormed. They feared that doubling their service would be turned into a charge on their fiefs, that it would grow to a custom, and would thenceforth become permanently due. The assembly was greatly troubled, the noise was great, and the clamour loud. No one could hear another speak; no one could either listen to reason, or render it for himself.
Then the duke, being greatly disturbed by the noise, drew on one side, and sent for the barons one by one; and spoke with and entreated each, telling them what need he had; how much they stood in his love and grace; and that if they doubled their service, and did of their own accord more than they were bound in this undertaking, they would do well; but he pledged himself that they should not be called on in future for service beyond what was the custom of the land, and such as their ancestors were wont to do for their lord. Each said what he would do, and how many ships he could bring; and the duke had it all recorded at once, numbering the ships and knights which the barons agreed to find; thus each named how many knights he would provide, and how many ships he could bring. Of his brother Odo, the bishop, he received forty ships as a gift. The bishop of Mans furnished thirty ships with their crews; for he desired much to advance the duke. Each of the barons in like manner promised ships, but how many each one said he would bring I do not know.
Then the duke called on his good neighbours, the Bretons, Mansels, and Angevins, and those of Pontif and Boloigne, to come with him in his need. To those who wished he promised lands, if he should conquer England. To many he promised other rewards, good pay, and rich gifts. From all sides he summoned soldiers who would serve for hire.
He shewed to the king of France his lord, how for good cause and for his honour's sake he was about to cross the sea against Harold, who had broken faith and defrauded him. The duke went to speak with the king at St. Girmer in Belveisen. He sought and found him there, and told him his situation, and that if he would aid him, and if by his help he should have his right, he would hold England of him, and would willingly serve him for it.
But the king of France said he would not do it, and that with his consent William should not go. For the French had besought their king, and counselled him not to advance the duke, or suffer him to strengthen himself. They said he was too strong already, and that it would be foolish to let him become still stronger; for if he were allowed to add the great power beyond sea, the wealth and great force of England, to the good chivalry and pride of Normandy, the king would never have peace in his life; he therefore ought rather to think of disturbing William, and preventing his rising higher, or passing into England. "You cannot aid the duke if you would," they said, "without means and money; all France would thereby be injured and impoverished, and therefore no Frenchman will follow you; no one will pass the sea, and if mischance befall you, you will be brought to great shame. The duke seeks your aid only for his own interest, for no good can come of it to you. When he shall have conquered England, you will have no more service from him; he serves you but little now, and he will then serve you still less. The more he has, the less he will do for you."
After what the Frenchmen said, still more and more opposing it, the king would not assist the duke, but rather hindered him all he could. I know not exactly what the king answered, but I know well that he failed him altogether. When the duke took leave of him, he said like a man who is wroth at heart, "Sire, I will go, and will do the best I can. If God please, I will seek my right. If I win it (which God grant) you shall do me no harm; and if the English are able to defend themselves, so that I fail, I shall not lose heart or head on that account. All things shall be set in order; my children shall have my land, and you shall not take any advantage of them; whether I die or live, whatever befall me, I fear the threats of no man." Then William tried no more to persuade the king, but went his way. He besought the count of Flanders to go with him as his brother-in-law and friend; but the count answered, that if he would make sure of aid from him, he must first let him know what share of England he was to have, and what division he would make of the spoil.
The duke said that he would go and talk with his barons about the matter, and take their counsel, and afterwards state by letter what they advised him to do. So he went away without more ado, and did such a thing as no one ever did before; for he took a small piece of parchment which had neither letter nor writing upon it, sealed it up with wax, all blank as it was, and wrote upon the label that the count should have such part of England as the letter within stated.
Then he sent the letter to the count by a cunning varlet, who had long been with him; and the varlet delivered it to the count, who broke the seal, and opened the parchment, and looked within, but saw nothing. So he shewed it to the messenger, and the shrewd varlet said to him off hand, "Nought is there, and nought shalt thou have! therefore look for nothing! The honour that the duke seeks will be for your sister and nephews as much as for himself; and if he and they should win England, no one would have more advantage from their success than yourself. All theirs would in truth be yours. If God please, he will conquer it by himself, and seek none of your help." What the count answered I know not, but the varlet thereupon went his way.
The duke determined to make his preparations prudently. He sent to the apostle, by clerks who could tell truly how Harold had used him; how he had broken his oath and lied; and how he would neither take his daughter, nor render him up the kingdom which Edward bad given him, and Harold had guaranteed on oath. He said that perjury ought to be punished according to the rules of holy church; and that if by God's will he should conquer England, he would receive it of St. Peter, and do service for it to none but God. The apostle granted his request, and sent him a gonfanon, and a very precious, rich and fair ring, which, he said, had under the stone one of Saint Peters hairs. With these tokens he commanded, and in God's name granted to him, that he should conquer England, and hold it of Saint Peter.
Now while these things were doing, a great star appeared, shining for fourteen days, with three long rays streaming towards the south; such a star as is wont to be seen when a kingdom is about to change its king. I have seen many men who saw it, men of full age at the time, and who lived many years after. Those who discourse of the stars would call it a comet.
Chapter XI HOW THE NORMAN HOST MET AT ST. VALERY, AND SAILED THENCE.The duke rejoiced greatly at receiving the gonfanon, and the license which the apostle gave him. He got together carpenters smiths and other workmen, so that great stir was seen at all the ports of Normandy, in the collecting of wood and materials, cutting of planks, framing of ships and boats, stretching sails, and rearing masts, with great pains and at great cost. They spent all one summer and autumn in fitting up the fleet and collecting the forces; and there was no knight in the land, no good serjeant, archer, nor peasant of stout heart, and of age for battle, that the duke did not summon to go with him to England: promising rents to the vavassors, and honors to the barons. When the ships were ready, they were moored in the Somme at St. Valeri, and there delivered to the barons. Many were the ships and boats in the river there, which is called the Somme, and separates Ponthieu and Vimou. Vimou extends as far as Ou, which separates Normandy from Vimou, a country under different government. Ou is a river, and Ou is also a fair castle situate upon that river. The duke had men from many and various parts. Haimon, the viscount of Toarz, came thither, a man of very great power, who could bring much people. Alain Felgan also came to the crossing, and brought with him great baronage from among the Bretons; and Fitz Bertran de Peleit, and the Sire de Dinan came also; and Raol de Gael, and many Bretons from many castles, and from about Brecheliant, concerning which the Bretons tell many fables. It is a forest long and broad, much famed throughout Brittany. The fountain of Berenton rises from beneath a stone there. Thither the hunters are used to repair in sultry weather; and drawing up water with their horns, they sprinkle the stone for the purpose of having rain, which is then wont to fall, they say, throughout the whole forest around; but why I know not. There, too, fairies are to be seen (if the Bretons tell truth) and many other wonders happen. The ground is broken and precipitous, and deer in plenty roam there, but the husbandmen have deserted it. I went thither on purpose to see these marvels. I saw the forest and the land, and I sought for the marvels, but I found none. I went like a fool, and so I came back; I sought after folly, and hold myself a fool for my pains. The fame of the Norman duke soon went forth through many lands; how he meant to cross the sea against Harold, who had taken England from him. Then soldiers came flocking to him, one by one, two by two, and four by four; by fives and sixes, sevens and eights, nines and tens; and he retained them all, giving them much and promising more. Many came by agreement made with them beforehand; many bargained for lands, if they should win England; some required pay, allowances and gifts; and the duke was often obliged to give at once to those who could not wait the result. I shall never put in writing, and would not undertake to set down, what barons, and how many knights, how many vavassors, and how many soldiers the duke had in his company, when he had collected all his navy; but I heard my father say — I remember it well, although I was but a lad — that there were sevenhundred ships, less four, when they sailed from St. Valeri; and that there were besides these ships, boats and skiffs for the purpose of carrying the arms and harness. I have found it written (but I know not whether it be true) that there were in all three thousand vessels bearing sails and masts. Any one will know that there must have been a great many men to have furnished out so many vessels. They waited long at St. Valeri for a fair wind, and the barons were greatly wearied. Then they prayed the convent to bring out the shrine of St. Valeri, and set it on a carpet in the plain; and all came praying the holy reliques, that they might be allowed to pass over sea. They offered so much money, that the reliques were buried beneath it; and from that day forth, they had good weather and a fair wind. The duke placed a lantern on the mast of his ship, that the other ships might see it, and hold their course after it. At the summit was a vane of brass, gilt. On the head of the ship, in the front, which mariners call the prow, there was the figure of a child in brass, bearing an arrow with a bended bow. His face was turned towards England, and thither he looked, as though he was about to shoot; so that whichever way the ship went, he seemed to aim onwards. Of so large a fleet with so many people, only two ships were in any peril, and those perhaps from being overloaded. The duke had a great chivalry in his ships; and besides these, he had many archers and serjeants, many brave men and warriors, carpenters and engineers, good smiths and other handicraftsmen.
Chapter XII HOW THE DUKE AND HIS HOST LANDED NEAR TO HASTINGS, AND MADE THEMSELVES A FORT.The ships steered to one port; all arrived and reached the shore together; together cast anchor, and ran on dry land; and together they discharged themselves. They arrived near Hastings, and there each ship ranged by the other's side. There you might see the good sailors, the serjeants and squires sally forth and unload the ships; cast the anchors, haul the ropes, bear out shields and saddles, and land the warhorses and palfreys. The archers came forth, and touched land the foremost; each with his bow bent, and his quiver full of arrows slung at his side. All were shaven and shorn, and all clad in short garments, ready to attack, to shoot, to wheel about and skirmish. All stood well equipped, and of good courage for the fight; and they scoured the whole shore, but found not an armed man there. After the archers had thus gone forth, the knights landed next, all armed; with theirhauberks on, their shields slung at their necks, and their helmets laced. They formed together on the shore, each armed up on his warhorse. All had their swords girded on, and passed into the plain with their lances raised. The barons had gonfanons, and the knights pennons. They occupied the advanced ground, next to where the archers had fixed themselves. The carpenters, who came after, had great axes in their hands, and planes and adzes hung at their sides. When they had reached the spot where the archers stood, and the knights were assembled, they consulted together, and sought for a good spot to place a strong fort upon. Then they cast out of the ships the materials, and drew them to land, all shaped framed and pierced to receive the pins which they had brought, cut and ready in large barrels; so that before evening had well set in, they had finished a fort. Then you might see them make their kitchens, light their fires, and cook their meat. The duke sat down to eat, and the barons and knights had food in plenty; for he had brought ample store. All ate and drank enough, and were right glad that they were ashore. Before the duke left the Somme, a clerk had come to him, who knew, he said, astronomy and necromancy, and held himself a good diviner, and predicted many things. So he divined for the duke, and predicted that he should pass the sea safely, and succeed in his expedition, without fighting at all; for that Harold would make such promises, and come to such terms, that he would hold the land of the duke, and become his liegeman, and so William would return in safety. As to the good passage, he predicted right enough; but as to not fighting, he lied. When the duke had crossed, and arrived safely, he remembered the prediction, and inquired for the diviner. But one of the sailors said he had miscarried and was drowned at sea, being in one of the lost ships. "Little matters it," said the duke; "no great deal could he have known. A poor diviner indeed must he be about me, who could predict nought about himself. If the things to come were known to him, he might well have foreseen his own death; foolish is he who trusts in a diviner, who takes heed for others but forgets himself; who knows the end of other men's work, and can not discern the term of his own life." Such was the end of the diviner. As the ships were drawn to shore, and the duke first landed, he fell by chance upon his two hands. Forthwith all raised a loud cry of distress, "An evil sign," said they, "is here." But he cried out lustily, "See, seignors, by the splendour of God! I have seized England with my two hands; without challenge no prize can be made; all is our own that is here; and now we shall see who will be the bolder man." Then one of his men ran forward and put his hand on a hut, and took a handful of the thatch, and turned to the duke, saying heartily, "Sire, come forward and receive seizin; of this land I give you seizin; without doubt the country is yours." And the duke said, "I accept it; may God be with us." Then he ordered proclamation to be made, and commanded the sailors that the ships should be dismantled, and drawn ashore and pierced, that the cowards might not have the ships to flee to. All cannot be told or written at once; but, passing backward and forward to each matter in its turn, I have now to tell that the duke, after his arrival, made all his host arm themselves: The first day they held their course along the seashore; and on the morrow came to a castle called Penevese. The squires and foragers, and those who looked out for booty, seized all the clothing and provisions they could find, lest what had been brought by the ships should fail them; and the English were to be seen fleeing before them, driving off their cattle, and quitting their houses. All took shelter in the cemeteries, and even there they were in grievous alarm.
Chapter XIII HOW AN ENGLISH KNIGHT RODE TO HAROLD WHO WAS FIGHTING TOSTI; AND WHAT MESSAGE WAS SENT BY THE DUKE.A knight of that country heard the noise and cry made by the peasants and villains when they saw the great fleet arrive. He well knew that the Normans were come, and that their object was to seize the land. He posted himself behind a hill, so that they should not see him, and tarried there, watching the arrival of the great fleet. He saw the archers come forth from the ships, and the knights follow. He saw the carpenters with their axes, and the host of people and troops. He saw the men throw the materials for the fort out of the ships. He saw them build up and enclose the fort, and dig the fosse around it. He saw them land the shields and armour. And as he beheld all this, his spirit was troubled; and he girt his sword and took his lance, saying he would go straightway to king Harold, and tell the news. Forthwith he set out on his way, resting late and rising early; and thus he journey ed on by night and by day to seek Harold his lord. He found him beyond the Humber, in a town where he had just dined. Harold carried himself very loftily, for he had been beyond Humber, and had had great success in overcoming Tosti. Tosti was Harold's brother; but unfortunately they had become enemies, and Tosti had sent his friends to Harold, calling upon him to give him his father's fief, now that it had fallen out, that, right or wrong, he had become king; and requiring him to let him have the lands their father held by inheritance; and he promised on this being done to ask no more; but to become his man, and acknowledge him for lord, and serve him as well as he did King Edward. But Harold would not agree to this; he would neither give nor exchange ought with him; so Tosti became very wroth, and crossed over to Denmark, and brought with him Danes and Norwegians, and landed over against Euroick. When Harold learnt the news, he made himself ready, and set out against Tosti, and fought with and conquered him and his troops. Tosti was killed near Pontfrait, and his army besides suffered great loss. Then Harold set out on his return from Pontfrait, and glorified himself exceedingly. But foolish is he who glorifies himself, for good fortune soon passeth away; bad news swiftly comes; soon may he die himself who has slain others; and the heart of man often rejoiceth when his ruin is nigh. Harold returned rejoicing and triumphing, bearing himself right proudly, when news met him that put other thoughts in his mind; for lo! the knight is come who set out from Hastings. "The Normans," he cried, "are come! they have landed at Hastings! thy land will they wrest from thee, if thou canst not defend thyself well; they have enclosed a fort, and strengthened it round about with palisades and a fosse." "Sorry am I," said Harold, "that I was not there at their arrival. It is a sad mischance; I had better have given what Tosti asked, so that I had been at the port when William reached the coast, and had disputed his landing; we might then have driven so many into the sea that they would never have made good their landing, nor have touched ought of ours: neither would they have missed death on land, if they had escaped the dangers of the sea. But thus it hath pleased the heavenly king; and I could not be every where at once." There was a baron of the land — I do not know his name — who had loved the duke well, and was in secret council with him, and desired, so far as he was able, that no harm should befall him. This baron sent word to him privily, that he was too weak; that he had come with too little force, as it seemed to him, to do what he had undertaken; for that there were so many men in England, that it would be very hard to conquer. So he counselled him in good faith, and in true love, to leave the country and go home to his own land before Harold should arrive; for he feared lest he should miscarry, and he should grieve much, he said, if any misfortune should befall him. The duke answered briefly, that he saw no reason for doubt; that he might rely upon it, if he had but ten thousand of as noble knights as those of whom he had sixty thousand or more, he would still fight it out. Yea, he said, he would never go back till he had taken vengeance on Harold. Harold came full speed to London, ordering that from every part of England all should come forthwith, fully equipped, by a time appointed them, without allowing any excuse except sickness. He would have challenged the duke, and at once fixed a day for the battle, but he waited till his great baronage should come together: and they came in haste on receiving the summons. The duke soon heard that Harold was assembling a great host, and that he was come to London from the north, where he had killed his brother Tosti. Then he sent for Huon Margot, a tonsured monk of Fescam; and as he was a learned man, well known, and much valued, the duke despatched him to Harold. And Margot set out on his way, and finding Harold at London, spoke to him thus "Harold! hearken to me! I am a messenger, hear ye from whom! The duke tells thee, by my mouth, that thou hast too soon forgotten the oath, which thou didst but lately take to him in Normandy, and that thou hast forsworn thyself. Repair the wrong, and restore him the crown and lordship, which are not thine by ancestry; for thou art neither king by heritage, nor through any man of thy lineage. King Edward of his free will and power, gave his land and realm to his best kinsman William. He gave this gift as he had a right to do, to the best man he had. He gave it in full health before his death, and if he did wrong, thou didst not forbid it; nay, thou didst assent, and warrant and swear to maintain it. Deliver him his land; do justice, lest greater damage befall thee. No such hosts can assemble as thou and he must combat with, without great cost and heavy loss; and thus there will be mischief to both sides. Restore the kingdom that thou hast seized! woe betide thee if thou shalt endeavour to hold it!" Harold was exceedingly proud, and it is said that he had sometimes fits of madness. He was enraged at the words with which Margot had menaced him; and it is thought he would have ill used him, had not Gurth his brother sprung forth and stood between them, and sent Huon Margot away; and he went forth without taking leave, not choosing to stay longer, and neither said nor did any thing more concerning the matter he came about, but returned to duke William, and told him how Harold had insulted him. Then Harold chose a messenger who knew the language of France, and sent him to duke William, charging him with these words; "Say to the duke that I desire he will not remind me of my covenant nor of my oath; if I ever foolishly made it and promised him anything, I did it for my liberty. I swore in order to get my freedom; whatever he asked I agreed to; and I ought not to be reproached, for I did nothing of my own free will. The strength was all on his side, and I feared that unless I did his pleasure, I should never return, but should have remained there for ever. If I have done him any wrong, I will make him recompense. If he want any of my wealth, I will give it according to my ability. I will refit all his ships, and give them safe conduct; but if he refuse this offer, tell him for a truth, that if he wait for me so long, I will on Saturday seek him out, and on that day will do battle with him." The messenger hastened to the duke, and on the part of king Harold, told him that if he would return to his own land, and free England of his presence, he should have safe conduct for the purpose; and if money was his object, he should have as much gold and silver as should supply the wants of all his host. Duke William replied, "Thanks for his fair words! I am not come into this country with so many escus, to change them for his esterlins; but I am come that I may have all his land, according to his oath, and the gift of king Edward, who delivered me two youths of gentle lineage as hostages; the one the son, the other the nephew of Godwin. I have them still in my keeping, and keep them I will, if I can, till I have right done unto me." Then the messenger replied, "Sire, you ask too much of us, far too much of my lord; you would rob him of his honour and fair name, requiring him to deliver up his kingdom, as if he dared not defend it. All is still safe, and in good order with us; there is no weakness or decay in his force. He is not so pressed by the war, as that he should give up his land to you; neither is it very agreeable that, because you wish for his kingdom, he should at once abandon it to you. Harold will not give you what you cannot take from him; but in good will, and as a matter of favour, and without fear of your threats, he will give you as much as you desire of gold and silver, money and fine garments: and thus you may return to your country before any affray happen between you. If you will not accept this offer, know this, that if you abide his coming, he will be ready in the field on Saturday next, and on that day he will fight with you."
The duke accepted this appointment, and the messenger took his leave; but when he proposed to go, the duke gave him a horse and garments: and when he came back to Harold thus arrayed, he shewed all that the duke had given him, and told how he had been honoured, and all that had passed; and Harold repented much that he had done otherwise by Huon Margot.
Chapter XIV HOW THE ENGLISH CONSULTED, AND WENT TO MEET THE NORMAN HOST; AND HAROLD AND GURTH WENT FORTH TO RECONNOITRE.Whilst Harold and William communicated in this way by messengers, clerks and knights, the English assembled at London. When they were about to set out thence, I have heard tell that Gurth, one of Harold's brothers, reasoned thus with him. "Fair brother, remain here, but give me your troops; I will take the adventure upon me, and will fight William. I have no covenant with him, by oath or pledge; I am in no fealty to him, nor do I owe him my faith. It may chance that there will be no need to come to blows; but I fear that if you fight, you will pay the penalty of perjury, seeing you must forswear yourself; and he who has the right will win. But if I am conquered and taken prisoner, you, if God please, being alive, may still assemble your troops, and fight or come to such an arrangement with the duke, that you may hold your kingdom in peace. Whilst I go and fight the Normans, do you scour the country, burn the houses, destroy the villages, and carry off all stores and provisions, swine and goats and cattle; that they may find no food, nor any thing whatever to subsist upon. Thus you may alarm and drive them back, for the duke must return to his own country if provisions for his army shall fail him." But Harold refused, and said that Gurth should not go against the duke and fight without him; and that he would not burn houses and villages, neither would he plunder his people. "How," said he, "can I injure the people I should govern? I cannot destroy or harass those who ought to prosper under me." However all agreed that Gurth's advice was good, and wished him to follow it; but Harold, to skew his great courage, swore that they should not go to the field or fight without him. Men, he said, would hold him a coward, and many would blame him for sending his best friends where he dared not go himself. So he would not be detained, but set out from London, leading his men forward armed for the fight, till he erected his standard and fixed his gonfanon right where 'The Abbey of the Battle' is now built. There he said he would defend himself against whoever should seek him; and he had the place well examined, and surrounded it by a good fosse, leaving an entrance on each of three sides, which were ordered to be all well guarded. The Normans kept watch and remained throughout the night in arms, and on their guard; for they were told that the English meant to advance and attack them that night. The English also feared that the Normans might attack them in the dark; so each kept guard the whole night, the one watching the other. At break of day in the morning, Harold rose and Gurth with him. Noble chiefs were they both. Two warhorses were brought for them, and they issued forth from their entrenchment. They took with them no knight, varlet on foot, nor squire; and neither of them bore other arms than shield, lance and sword; their object being to reconnoitre the Normans, and to know where and how they were posted. They rode on, viewing and examining the ground, till from a hill where they stood they could see those of the Norman host, who were near. They saw a great many huts made of branches of trees, tents well equipped, pavilions and gonfanons; and they heard horses neighing, and beheld the glittering of armour. They stood a long while without speaking; nor do I know what they did, or what they said, or what counsel they held together there; but on their return to their tent Harold spoke first. "Brother," said he, "yonder are many people, and the Normans are very good knights, and well used to bear arms. What say you? what do you advise? With so great a host against us, I dare not do otherwise than fall back upon London: I will return thither and assemble a larger army." "Harold!" said Gurth, "thou base coward! This counsel has come too late; it is of no use now to flinch, we must move onward. Base coward! when I advised you, and got the barons also to beseech you, to remain at London and let me fight, you would not listen to us, and now you must take the consequence. You would take no heed of any thing we could say; you believed not me or any one else; now you are willing, but I will not. You have lost your pride too soon; quickly indeed has what you have seen abated your courage. If you should turn back, every one would say that you ran away. If men see you flee, who is to keep your people together? and if they once disperse, they will never be brought to assemble together again." Harold and Gurth disputed, till their words grew angry, and Gurth would have struck his brother, had he not spurred his horse on, so that the blow missed, and struck the horse behind the saddle, glancing along Harold's shield. Had it gone aright, it would have felled him to the ground. Gurth thus vented his humour, charging his brother with cowardice; but they galloped on to the tents, and shewed no sign of their dispute, neither let any ill-will appear between them, when they saw their people coming. Lewine, Harold's next brother after Gurth, had also arisen early, and gone to Harold's tent; and when he found not his two brothers where he left them over night, he thought he should see them no more. "By Heaven," cried he, "they have been taken and delivered to their enemies;" for he thought they must either have been killed, or betrayed to the Normans; and he ran forth like a madman, shouting and crying out as if he had lost his senses. But when he learned where they were, and that they had gone out to reconnoitre the Normans, he and his companions, and the earls and barons, mounted quickly upon their horses, and set out from the tents; when behold! they met the brothers. The barons took it ill that they went so imprudently, and without any guard; but all turned back to the tents, and prepared for battle. When they came in front of the enemy, the sight alarmed them grievously; and Harold sent forth two spies to reconnoitre the opposite troops, and see what barons and armed men the duke had brought with him. As they drew near to his army, they were observed, and being taken before William, were sore afraid. But when he learnt what was their errand, and that they wanted to estimate his strength, he had them taken through all the tents, and shewed the whole host to them. Then he used them exceeding well, gave them abundantly to eat and drink, and let them go without injury or molestation. When they returned to their lord, they spoke very honourably of the duke; and one of them, who had seen that the Normans were so close shaven and cropt, that they had not even moustaches, supposed he had seen priests and mass-sayers; and he told Harold that the duke had more priests with him than knights or other people. But Harold replied, "Those are valiant knights, bold and brave warriors, though they bear not beards or moustaches as we do."
Chapter XV WHAT FURTHER PARLEY WAS HAD BETWEEN THE KING AND DUKE WILLIAM BEFORE THE BATTLE.Then the duke chose a messenger, a monk learned and wise, well instructed and experienced, and sent him to king Harold. He gave him his choice, to take which he would of three things. He should either resign England and take his daughter to wife; or submit to the good judgment of the apostle and his people; or meet him singly and fight body to body, on the terms that he who killed the other, or could conquer and take him prisoner, should have England in peace, nobody else suffering. Harold said he would do neither; he would neither perform his covenant, nor put the matter in judgment, nor would he meet him and fight body to body. Before the day of the battle, which was now become certain, the duke of his great courage told his barons, that he would himself speak with Harold; and summon him with his own mouth to render up what he had defrauded him of, and see what he would answer; that he would appeal him of perjury, and summon him on his pledged faith; and if he would not submit, and make reparation forthwith, he would straightway defy, and fight him on the morrow; but that if he yielded, he would, with the consent of his council, give up to him all beyond the Humber towards Scotland. The barons approved this, and some said to him, "Fair sir, one thing we wish to say to you; if we must fight, let us fight promptly, and let there be no delay. Delay may be to our injury, for we have nothing to wait for, but Harold's people increase daily; they come strengthening his army constantly with fresh forces." The duke said this was true, and he promised them that there should be no more delay. Then he made a score of knights mount upon their war-horses. All had their swords girt, and their other arms were borne by the squires who went with them. A hundred other knights mounted next, and went riding after them, but at a little distance; and then a thousand knights also mounted and followed the hundred, but only so near as to see what the hundred and the twenty did. The duke then sent to Harold, whether by monk or abbot I know not, and desired him to come into the field, and speak with him, and to fear nothing, but bring with him whom he would, that they might talk of an arrangement. But Gurth did not wait for Harold's answer, and neither let him speak, nor go to talk with the duke; for he instantly sprang up on his feet, and said to the messenger, "Harold will not go! tell your lord to send his message to us hither, and let us know what he will take, and what he will leave, or what other arrangement he is willing to make." Whilst the messenger returned to carry this answer, Harold called together his friends and his earls, all by their names, to hear what message the duke would send back. And he sent word to Harold, that if he would abide by his covenant, he would give him all Northumberland, and whatever belonged to the kingdom beyond Humber; and would also give to his brother Gurth the lands of Godwin their father: And if he refused this, he challenged him for perjury in not delivering up the kingdom, and not taking his daughter to wife, as he ought: in all this he had lied and broken faith; and unless he made reparation he defied him. And he desired the English should know and take notice, that all who came with Harold, or supported him in this affair, were excommunicated by the apostle and the clergy. At this excommunication the English were much troubled; they feared it greatly, and the battle still more. And much murmuring was to be heard on all hands, and consulting one with the other; none was so brave, but that he wished the battle might be prevented. "Seignors," said Gurth, "I know and see that you are in great alarm; that you fear the event of the battle, and desire an arrangement: and so do I as much, and in truth more, I believe; but I have also great fear of duke William, who is very full of treachery. You have heard what he says, and how low he rates us, and how he will only give us what he likes of a land which is not yet his. If we take what he offers, and go beyond the Humber, he will not long leave us even that, but will push us yet further. He will always keep his eye upon us, and bring us to ruin in the end. When he has got the uppermost, and has the best of the land, he will leave little for us, and will soon try to take it all. He wants to cheat us into taking instead of a rich country, a poor portion of one, and presently he will have even that. I have another fear, which is more on your than on my account, for I think I could easily secure myself. He has given away all your lands to knights of other countries. There is neither earl nor baron to whom he has not made some rich present: there is no earldom, barony, nor chatelainie, which he has not given away: and I tell you for a truth, that he has already taken homage from many, for your inheritances which he has given them. They will chase you from your lands, and still worse, will kill you. They will pillage your vassals, and ruin your sons and daughters: they do not come merely for your goods, but utterly to ruin you and your heirs. Defend yourselves then and your children, and all that belong to you, while you may. My brother hath never given away, nor agreed to give away the great fiefs, the honors, or lands of your ancestors; but earls have remained earls, and barons enjoyed their rights; the sons have had their lands and fiefs after their fathers deaths: and you know this to be true which I tell you, that peace was never disturbed. We may let things remain thus if we will, and it is best for us so to determine. But if you lose your houses, your manors, demesnes, and other possessions, where you have been nourished all your lives, what will you become, and what will you do? Into what country will you flee, and what will become of your kindred, your wives and children? In what land will they go begging, and where shall they seek an abode? When they thus lose their own honour, how shall they seek it of others ?" By these words of Gurth, and by others which were said at his instance, and by pledges from Harold to add to the fiefs of the barons, and by his promises of things which were then out of his power to give, the English were aroused, and swore by God, and cried out, that the Normans had come on an evil day, and had embarked on a foolish matter. Those who had lately desired peace, and feared the battle, carried themselves boldly, and were eager to fight; and Gurth had so excited the council, that no man who had talked of peace would have been listened to, but would have been reproved by the most powerful there.
The morrow was Sunday; and those who had slept upon the field of battle, keeping watch around, and suffering great fatigue, bestirred themselves at break of day, and sought out and buried such of the bodies of their dead friends as they might find. The noble ladies of the land also came, some to seek their husbands, and others their fathers, sons, or brothers. They bore the bodies to their villages, and interred them at the churches; and the clerks and priests of the country were ready, and, at the request of their friends, took the bodies that were found, and prepared graves and lay them therein. King Harold was carried and buried at Varham; but I know not who it was that bore him thither, neither do I know who buried him. Many remained on the field, and many had fled in the night.
Translated By EDGAR TAYLOR 1837