Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > France
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X.  1876–79.
 
Cressy (Crécy)
The Ballad of Crécy
Richard Henry Stoddard (1825–1903)
 
WHAT man-at-arms, or knight
Of doughty deeds in fight,—
What king whose dauntless might
        Still lives in story,
Deserves such fame as one        5
Who, when his sight was gone,
Fought till he fell,—King John,
        Bohemia’s glory?
 
That fatal August day
The French and English lay        10
Drawn up in dread array,
        With bows and lances,
Determined then to try
Which host could bravest die,
Which host would soonest fly,—        15
        England’s or France’s.
 
The morning light revealed,
On Crécy’s famous field,
Armed with his spear and shield,
        This fearless foeman,        20
Who, with his old blind eyes,
Will for his French allies
Do battle till he dies,—
        And fly from no man!
 
His bridle-rein he tied        25
To a good knight’s at his side,
Among the French to ride,
        That saw astounded
Who with their foremost prest,
His shield before his breast,        30
His long spear set in rest,—
        The trumpet sounded!
 
Full tilt against their foes,
Where thickest fell the blows,
And war-cries mingling rose,        35
        “St. George!” “St. Denys!”
Driven by the trumpet’s blare
Where most the English dare,
And where the French despair,—
        He there and then is!        40
 
Up, down, he rode, and thrust;
Unhorsed, knights rolled in dust;
Whom he encounters must
        Go down or fly him:
All round the bloody field        45
Spears rattle on his shield,
But none can make him yield;
        Few venture nigh him.
 
Here, there, he rides until
His horse perforce stands still:        50
He spurs it, but it will
        No longer mind him;
It cannot stir for fright,
So desperate now the fight,
Death on the left, the right,        55
        Before, behind him!
 
But this, so blind was he,
The old king could not see;
An he had seen, pardie!
        His soul delighting        60
Had faster rained down blows
Upon his puny foes,
And in the dark death-throes
        Had gone out fighting!
 
When the last rout was done,        65
And when the English won,
They found the brave King John,
        Who fought so lately,
Stone dead,—his old blind eyes
Uplooking to the skies,        70
As he again would rise
        And battle greatly!
 
They bore him to his rest,
His shield upon his breast,
Where blazoned was his crest,—        75
        Three ostrich feathers;
Under, in gold, was seen
The royal words, “ICH DIEN,”
Which most kings now think mean,—
        Save in foul weathers!        80
 
Not so the Black Prince thought,
Who then at Crécy fought,
And old John’s valor caught,
        And was victorious.
“Who serve like him,” quoth he,        85
“Commend themselves to me;
Such royal servants be
        Forever glorious!”
 
 
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