As when October’s sun, long caught in a curtain
With a flood of impatient crimson breaks out, at the dying of day,
And trees and green fields, the hills and the skies, are all steep’d in
So o’er the English one hope flamed forth, one moment,—in vain!
As hail when the corn-fields are deep,
Down the fierce arrow-points sweep:
Now the basnets of France o’er the palisade frown;
The shield-fort is shatter’d; the Dragon is down.
O then there was dashing and dinting of axe and of
broad-sword and spear:
Blood crying out to blood: and Hatred that casteth out fear!
Loud where the fight is the loudest, the slaughter-breath hot in the air,
O what a cry was that!—the cry of a nation’s despair!
—Hew down the best of the land!
Down them with mace and with brand!
The fell foreign arrow has crash’d to the brain;
England with Harold the Englishman slain!
Yet they fought on for their England! of ineffaceable
Worthy, and stood to the death, though the greedy sword, like a flame,
Bit and bit yet again in the solid ranks, and the dead
Heap where they die, and hills of foemen about them are spread:—
—Hew down the heart of the land,
There, to a man, where they stand!
Till night with her blackness uncrimsons the stain,
And the merciful shroud overshadows our slain.
Heroes unburied, unwept!—But a wan gray
thing in the night
Like a marsh-wisp flits to and fro through the blood-lake, the steam of
Turning the bodies, exploring the features with delicate touch;
Stumbling as one that finds nothing: but now!—as one finding too much:
Love through mid-midnight will see:
Edith the fair! It is he!
Clasp him once more, the heroic, the dear!
Harold was England: and Harold lies here.
The hide of the tanyard; See the story of Arlette or Herleva, the tanner’s daughter, mother to William ‘the Bastard.’
At Stamford; At Stamford Bridge, over the Derwent, Harold defeated his brother Tostig and Harold Hardrada, Sep 25, 1066.
Your castle; Harold’s triple palisade upon the hill of battle is so described by the chronicler, Henry of Huntingdon.
Rome’s gonfanon; The consecrated banner, sent to William from Rome.
The fierce standards; These were planted on the spot chosen by the Conqueror for the high-altar of the Abbey of Battle. The Warrior was Harold’s ‘personal ensign.’
In a summer to be; June 18, 1815.
The ventayle; Used here for the nasale or nose-piece shown in the Bayeux Tapestry.
DEATH IN THE FOREST
August 2: 1100
Where the greenwood is greenest
At gloaming of day,
Where the twelve-antler’d stag
Faces boldest at bay;
Where the solitude deepens,
Till almost you hear
The blood-beat of the heart
As the quarry slips near;
His comrades outridden
With scorn in the race,
The Red King is hallooing
His bounds to the chase.