BETA

The Battle of Cressy.

A Reading.


The ever-memorable battle of Cressy
was fought on the 26th of August,
1346.
Both the French and English armies
having been greatly fatigued and harassed
by forced marchings, it was three o’clock
in the afternoon before the conflict com-
menced, the greater portion of the day
having been spent in preparation.
The opposing forces were very dispropor-
tioned, the French being four times stronger
than the English: indeed, some chroniclers
go so far as to assert that there were six
Frenchmen to each Englishman. But it
must also be stated that the English were
fresher and in much better condition for the
encounter than their opponents. Just as
the battle commenced there was a heavy
fall of rain, which so relaxed the bowstrings
of the French and Genoese archers, that
they were rendered almost useless for a
time ; whereas the English bowmen were
supplied with cases for their crossbows ;
and when the shower had passed over, they
were favoured with a gleam of sunshine
which served to dazzle the enemy, and for a
short time great confusion prevailed in the
French ranks. Observing this, the Prince
of Wales led his men to the charge ; when
the French cavalry, commanded by the
Count D’Alengon, suddenly wheeled, and
began to hem them in. At this juncture,
as the Prince appeared to be in imminent
peril, a messenger was despatched for as-
sistance to the King, who, with a strong
reserve force, was watching the conflict
from the brow of an adjacent hill. On
seeing the officer approach, Edward asked
him if his son was killed.
No, my Liege,” was the reply.
Then why have you come to me?”
Because, Sire, the Prince is likely to be
overcome in this fight, and he is greatly in
need of help.”
Then return at once to those who sent
you, and say that my son must look for no
assistance from me to-day. Tell them, too,
it is my wish that the boy should win his
spurs ; and if he is victorious, let it be en-
tirely due to his own merit.”
This reply being reported to the Prince,
it inspired him and his soldiers with fresh
ardour ; and they fought so fiercely and
vigorously, that before sunset the French
army was totally routed, and in full flight.
The loss sustained by the French was very
severe, more than 30,000 of their men-at-
arms being left dead upon the field, together
with eleven princes, and upwards of a thou-
sand noblemen and knights. That of the
English was comparatively trifling.
The following is supposed to be a de-
scription by an eye-witness of the en-
counter:—
On Cressy’s fair and verdant plain two hostile armies
stand ;
1
For France and England meet to-day upon the
Frenchman’s land.
2
On either side the combatants are marshall’d in
array,
3
And wait their leaders’ orders to commence the
deadly fray.
4

*****

Charge, archers, charge!” the French King cries ;
charge on these English now
5
We’ll show their haughty chivalry that we can fight,
we trow.”
6
Sire, let the bowmen rest awhile,” the Genoese
captains say ;
7
They’re sore fatigued, for they have marched full
many a league to-day.”
8
How !” quoth the Count D’Alengon, “ do they
refuse to fight ?
9
Charge !— for the day is waning fast, full soon it will
be night.
10
Cowards ! to stand irresolute !— your King’s com-
mand obey ;
11
Forward ! and chase these English curs off yonder
field. Away!”
12
Unwillingly to battle the Genoese archers go13
For forced and hasty marchings have worn their
courage low ;
14
And more their ardour still to quench, the rain-
clouds ’gin to flow,
15
As though the heavens conspired with men to work
their overthrow.
16
For every English man-at-arms the French have
four to-day ;
17
But every English soldier there is burning for the
fray.
18
Full well on many a distant field they’ve won their
spurs before ;
19
And brave young Edward leads the host, the Prince
whom they adore.
20
Far to the west, beneath the trees that fringe the
green hillside,
21
With England’s nobles gathered round, England’s
loved King doth ride ;
22
And there he keeps a chosen force of archers in
reserve.
23
His eyes are bent upon the host, and not one man
will swerve.
24
And now the signal trumpet’s heard. The conflict
rages round ;
25
Right valiantly the foemen fight upon the rain-
drench’d ground ;
26
And loud the English battle-cry across the field
doth ring,
27
The cry that oft has rung before— “ For England
and the King !”
28
At length the dark clouds disappear ; the sun is
breaking through,
29
Full in the Frenchmen’s eyesight, and hindering
their view.
30
See—they are in confusion! Forward ! Our foe-
men reel !”
31
The Black Prince cries, “ The vict’ry’s ours !” But
Alençon’s horsemen wheel
32
Wheel and surround the English. But succour is at
hand
33
The Lord Arundel hastens up with all his gallant
band.
34
The Prince is fighting val’rously : though but a boy
in years,
35
A man in strength and prowess—a man, without
man’s fears.
36
The Frenchmen press him closely now But he
deals right and left
37
The blows from his two-edgéd sword ; and see ! he
just has cleft :
38
Yon stalwart horseman to the earth, through shield,
and helm, and brain,
39
And never more that fiery steed shall bear his weight
again,
40
The danger still increases.  “ God ! I would this
fight were done,
41
For much I fear me for the fate of good King Ed-
ward’s son ;
42
Ho ! captain ! Mount your charger fleet, and hasten
to the King !”
43
Outspake the Earl of Arundel, “ And quick ! assist-
ance bring.”
44
Away at once the horseman spurs. He nears the
hillside, where
45
King Edward and his archers wait.  “ What are
the news ye bear ?
46
Is my son dead ?” the monarch asks.  “ Or is he
vanquished ?”   “ Nay !
47
For I left him even now, Sire, in the thickest of the
fray.”
48
Then wherefore ridé ye in such haste ?”
Liege, I come for aid,
49
For peril doth beset the Prince,” the Lord Arundel
said.
50
Then back to those who sent thee, and let this
your answer be :
51
To-day the Prince must not expect to receive help
from me.
52
The honour of this battle shall be reaped by him
alone ;
53
That I’d not share it with him, Arundel might have
known.
54
The vict’ry shall be all my son’s—I leave this field
to him.”
55
But, Sire!—”  “ No answer! Hie thee hence !
I tell thee, ’tis my whim.”
56
The captain slowly turns away, and tears steal down
his cheeks
57
As he remounts his charger, and again the battle
seeks.
58
Once more he is beside the Prince; he tells the
monarch’s tale.
59
Then hasten back, and say to him, his Edward
will not fail.”
60
Soldiers !  Upon the enemy make we a fresh
attack.
61
Down like a flood upon their ranks, and force these
Frenchmen back !
62
The sun is sinking rapidly behind yon gray old
towers,
63
But ere it disappears this eve, the battle shall be
ours.”
64
The brave young Prince is answered by a deaf’ning
English cheer ;
65
And hearts beat high, and bright eyes flash, those
stirring words to hear.
66
The tumult for a time is stayed. Meanwhile the
ranks re-form,
67
And silently the armies wait—a calm before a storm.68
Again the signal trumpet sounds; again the armies
close.
69
The English, like a surging sea, charge on their
wondering foes ;
70
Who, with a nameless panic seized, in swift confu-
sion fly,
71
Like withered leaves before the wind, ’neath an au-
tumnal sky.
72
The conquerors in fierce pursuit the flying French-
men track ;
73
But night’s dull shades are gathering, and the trum-
pet calls them back.
74
And hark ! like thunder through the air the shouts
of vict’ry ring,
75
And on the evening breezes they are wafted to the
King.
76

*****

Full brightly shine the stars to-night, and yon pale
moon o’erhead,
77
Looks calmly down upon the plain, strewn thickly
with the dead.
78
And thus by Edward the Black Prince, our third
King Edward’s son,
79
In the golden August twilight, is the field of Cressy
won.
80