Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
 
Extract from Albion’s England: Before the Battle of Hastings
By William Warner (1558?–1609)
 
[From Bk. iv. Cap. 22.]

‘SEE, valiant war-friends, yonder be the first, the last, and all
The agents of our enemies: they henceforth cannot call
Supplies: for weeds at Normandy by this in porches grow:
Then conquer these would conquer you, and dread no further foe.
They are no stouter than the Brutes, whom we did hence exile:        5
Nor stronger than the sturdy Danes, our victory erewhile:
Nor Saxony could once contain, or scarce the world beside,
Our fathers who did sway by sword where listed them to bide.
Then do not ye degenerate, take courage by descent,
And by their burials, not abode, their force and flight prevent.        10
Ye have in hand your country’s cause, a conquest they pretend,
Which (were ye not the same ye be) even cowards would defend.
I grant that part of us are fled, and linked to the foe,
And glad I am our army is of traitors cleared so,
Yea, pardon hath he to depart that stayeth malcontent:        15
I prize the mind above the man, like zeal hath like event.
Yet troth it is no well or ill this island ever had,
But through the well or ill support of subjects good or bad.
Not Caesar, Hengest, Swayn, or now (which ne’ertheless shall fail)
The Norman bastard (Albion true) did, could, or can prevail.        20
But to be self-false in this isle a self-foe ever is,
Yet wot I, never traitor did his treason’s stipend miss.
Shrink who will shrink, let armour’s weight press down the burdened earth,
My foes with wondering eyes shall see I over-prize my death.
But since ye all (for all, I hope, alike affected be,        25
Your wives, your children, lives and land, from servitude to free)
Are armed both in show and zeal, then gloriously contend
To win and wear the home-brought spoils of victory the end.
Let not the skinner’s daughter’s son possess what he pretends,
He lives to die a noble death that life for freedom spends.’        30
As Harold heartened thus his men, so did the Norman his;
And looking wishly on the earth Duke William speaketh this:
‘To live upon, or lie within, this is my ground or grave,
My loving soldiers, one of twain your duke resolves to have:
Nor be ye, Normans, now to seek in what you should be stout,        35
Ye come amidst the English pikes to hew your honours out.
Ye come to win the same by lance, that is your own by law;
Ye come, I say, in righteous war revenging swords to draw.
Howbeit, of more hardy foes no passed fight hath sped ye,
Since Rollo to your now-abode with bands victorious led ye,        40
Or Turchus, son of Troylus, in Scythian Fazo bred ye.
Then worthy your progenitors ye seed of Priam’s son,
Exploit this business: Rollons, do that which ye wish be done.
Three people have as many times got and foregone this shore,
It resteth now ye conquer it not to be conquered more:        45
For Norman and the Saxon blood conjoining, as it may,
From that consorted seed the crown shall never pass away.
Before us are our armed foes, behind us are the seas,
On either side the foe hath holds of succour and for ease;
But that advantage shall return their disadvantage thus,        50
If ye observe no shore is left the which may shelter us.
And so hold out amidst the rough, whil’st they hale in for lee,
Whereas, whilst men securely sail not seldom shipwrecks be.
What should I cite your passed acts, or tediously incense
To present arms? your faces show your hearts conceive offence,        55
Yea, even your courages divine a conquest not to fail;
Hope, then, your duke doth prophesy, and in that hope prevail.
A people brave, a terrene Heaven, both objects worth your wars
Shall be the prizes of your prow’s, and mount your fame to stars.
Let not a traitor’s perjur’d son extrude us from our right,        60
He dies to live a famous life, that doth for conquest fight.’
 
 
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