Gournay is a small, clean, and airy place. The last two circumstances are no trifling recommendation to those who have just escaped from the dirt and closeness of Rouen. Its streets are completely those of a country town: the intermixture of wood and clay in the houses gives them a mean aspect, and there are scarcely two to be found alike, either in size, shape, color, or materials.—The records of Gournay begin in the reign of Rollo. That prince gave the town, together with the Norman portion of the Pays de Bray, to Eudes, a nobleman of his own nation, to be held as a fief of the duchy, under the usual military tenure. In one of the earliest rolls of Norman chieftains, the Lord of Gournay is bound, in case of war, to supply the duke with twelve soldiers from among his vassals, and to arm his dependants for the defence of his portion of the marches. Hugh, the son of Eudes de Gournay, erected a castle in the vicinity of the church of St. Hildebert, and the whole town was surrounded with a triple wall and double fosse. The place was inaccessible to an invading enemy, when these fosses were filled with the waters of the Epte; but Philip Augustus caused the protecting element to become his most powerful auxiliary. Willelmus Brito relates his siege with minuteness in his Philippiad, an heroic poem, devoted to the acts and deeds of the French monarch.—After advancing through Lions and Mortemer, Philip encamped before Gournay, thus described by the historical bard;—
“Non procul hinc vicum populosa
Divitiis plenum variis, famaque celebrem,
Rure situm piano, munitum triplice muro,
Deliciosa nimis speciosaque vallis habebat.
Nomine GORNACUM, situ inexpugnabilis ipso,
Etsi nullus ei defensor ab intus adesset;
Cui multisque aliis praeerat Gornacius HUGO.
Fossae cujus erant amplae nimis atque profundae
Quas sic Epta suo repleret flumine, posset
Nullus ut ad muros per eas accessus haberi.
Arte tamen sibi REX tali pessundedit ipsum.
Haud procul a muris stagnum pergrande tumebat,
Cujus aquam, pelagi stagnantis more, refusam
Urget stare lacu sinuoso terreus agger,
Quadris compactus saxis et cespite multo.
Hunc REX obrumpi medium facit, effluit inde
Diluvium immensum, subitaque voragine tota
Vallis abit maris in speciem, ruit impete vasto
Eluvies damnosa satis, damnosa colonis.
* * * * *
Municipes fugiunt ne submergantur, et omnis
Se populus villa viduat, vacuamque relinquit.
* * * * *
Armis villa potens, muris munita virisque,
Arte capi nulla metuens aut viribus ullis,
Diluvio capitur inopino...............
* * * * *
REX ubi GORNACUM sic in sua jura redegit,
Indigenas omnes revocans ad propria, pacem
Indicit populis libertatemque priorem;
Deinde re-aedificat muros.............