« PreviousContinue »
" King Harold Hardrada, on his coal- • To your axes and charge!' cried Hablack steed, with his helm all shining rold; and passing at once from the cenwith gold, rode from the lines, and came tre to the front, he led on the array. into bearing, and then this extraordinary The impetus of that artful phalanx was person, who united in himself all the tremendous ; it pierced through the ring types of an age that vanished for ever in of the Norwegians; it clove the rampart his grave, and who is the more inte- of the shields, and King Harold's battleresting, as in him we see the race from axe was the first that strode into the inwhich the Norman sprang, began in the nermost circle that guarded the ravager rich full voice, that pealed deep as an of the world. Then forth from under organ, to chaunt his impromptu war- the shade of that great flag, came himsong. He halted in the midst, and with self, also on foot, Harold Hardrada. great composure said
Shouting and chaunting, he leaped with *Tbat verse is but ill-turned; I must long strides into the thick of the ontry a better.'
slaught. He had flung away his shield, "He passed his hand over his brow, and swaying with both his hands his mused an instant, and then, with his fair enormous sword, he hewed down man face all illumined, he burst forth, as if after man, till space grew clear before inspired. This time, air, rhyme, words, him; and the English, recoiling in awe all so chimed in with his own enthusiasm, before an image of might and strength and that of his men, that the effect was that seemed superhuman, left but one irrepressible. It was, indeed, like the form standing firm and in front to opcharm of one of those runs which are pose his way. At that moment the whole said to have maddened the Berserker strife seemed not to belong to an age into the frenzy of war. Meanwhile the comparatively modern-it took a chaSaxon phalanx came on, slow and firm, racter of remotest date; and Thor and and in a few minutes the battle began. Odin seemed to have returned to the It commenced first with the charge of earth. Behind this towering and Titan the English cavalry (never numerous) warrior, their wild hair streaming long led by Leofwine and Haco, but the dou- under their helms, came his Skalds, all ble palisade of the Norman spears form- singing their hymns, drunk with the ed an impassable barrier, and the horse- madness of battle. And the ravager of men, recoiling from the frieze, rode the world tossed and flapped as it folround the iron circle, without other da- lowed, so that the vast raven wing demage than the spear and javelin could picted on its side seemed moved with life ; effect. Meanwhile King Harold, who and calm and alone, his eye watchful, his had dismounted, marched, as was his are ready for rush or for spring-but firm wont, with the body of footmen. He as an oak against flight-stood the last of kept his foot in the hollow of the trian
the Saxon kings. gular wedge, whence he could best issue “Down bounded Hardrada, and down his orders. Avoiding the side over shore his sword-King Harold's shield which Tostig presided, he halted his ar- was cloven in two, and the force of the ray, in full centre of the enemy, where blow brought himself to his knee. But, the ravager of the world, streaming high swift as the flash of that sword, he above the inner rampart of shields, sprang to his feet, and as Hardrada still shewed the presence of the giant Har- bowed his head, not recovered from the drada.
force of the blow, the axe of the Saxon “ The air was now literally darkened came so full on his helmet, that the giant with the flights of arrows and spears ; dropped his sword, and staggered back, and in a war of missives the Saxons were while his skalds and chiefs rushed around less skilled than the Norsemen. Still King him. The gallant stand of King Harold Harold restrained the ardour of his men, saved his English from flight; and now, who, sore harassed by the darts, yearned as they saw him, almost lost in the to close on the foe. He himself, standing throng, yet still cleaving his way-onon a little eminence, more exposed than on-to the raven standard-they rallied his meanest soldier, deliberately eyed with one heart, and shouting forth, the rallies of the horse, and watched the Out, out !' Holy Crosse !' forced their moment he foresaw, when, encouraged way to his side, and the fight now waged by his own suspense, and the feeble
hot and equal, hand to hand. Meantacks of the cavalry, the Norsemen would while Hardrada, borne a little apart, lift up their spears from the ground, and and relieved from his dusted helmet, readvance themselves to the assault. That covered the shock of the weightiest blow moment came; unable to withhold their that had ever dimmed his eye or numbed own fiery zeal, stimulated by the tramp, his hand. Tossing the helmet on the and the clash, and the war-hymns of ground, his bright locks glittering like their king, and his choral Skalds, the sunbeams, he rushed back to the mélée. Norsemen broke ground and came on. Again helm and mail went down before him ; again through the crowd he saw The splendour and beauty of this the arm that had smitten him ; again he grand historical picture it would be sprang forth to finish the war with one
difficult, indeed, to equal ; and great blow, when a shaft from some distant
as is the fame which the author has bow pierced the throat, which the casque
acquired by the brilliant beauty of his now left bare; a sound like the wail of a death-song murmured brokenly from
previous productions, there are strikhis lips, which then gushed out with ing and remarkable passages in this blood, and, tossing his arms wildly, he
book which, we are inclined to believe, fell to the ground a corpse.
At that have never been equalled in the annals sight a yell of such terror, and woe, and of English literature. Magnificent as wrath, all commingled, arose from the is the description of the battle-scene Norsemen, that it hushed the very war which we have just extracted, the enfor the moment! “Onl'cried the Saxon
counter between the Welsh king, king, let our earth take its spoiler !
Griffyth, and the English army is on to the standard, and the day is our
scarcely a whit behind it. Griffyth own !' "On to the standard ! cried Haco,
ap-Llewellyn, the most accomplished who, his horse slain under him, all bloody prince of his time in the art of war, with wounds not his own, now came to
had effected an alliance with Algar, the the kirg's side. Grim and tall rose the Lord of Mercia, and joined by a forstandard, and the streamer wrinkled midable host of the dreadful vikings, and flapped in the wind, as if the raven had broken out into open rebellion in the had voice, when, right before Harold, defiles of Wales, which country being right between him and the banner, stood impracticable for the evolutions of ca. Tostig his brother, known by the splen
valry, afforded them an almost invadour of his mail--the gold-work on bis
riable retreat. mantle-known by the fierce laugh and
It was, therefore, defying voice. : What matter,' cried
necessary for the English army to Haco ; 'strike, O king, for thy crown!
advance upon foot, storming succesHarold grasped Haco's arm convulsively, sively these mountain fastnesses, which he lowered his axe, turned round, and the Welsh king defended inch by inch. passed shudderingly away. Both armies Driven, however, successively from now paused from the attack, for both
these defences one by one, the indomiwete thrown into great disorder, and table Welsh king at last took up his each gladly gave respite to the other, to re-form its own shattered array. The
position on the heights of PenmaenNorsemen were not the soldiers to yield
mawr, where, protected by inaccessible because their leader was slain-rather rocks and lofty mountains, he seemed the more resolute to fight, since revenge
to defy all the might of Saxon Eng. was now added to valour ; yet, but for land. The place of this, his last rethe daring and promptness with which treat, beside all the security it took Tostig had cut his way to the standard, from nature, had a claim from ancient the day had been already decided. Dur- art. A rude Roman fortress rose being the pause, Harold, summoning Gurth, side the stream, and near it the grey said to him, with great emotion-For ruins of the imperial city, destroyed the sake of nature, for the love of God, go, oh Gurtb-go to Tostig; urge him,
ages ago by lightning. now Hardrada is dead, urge him to
The battle scene is grand in terrible
beauty :-peace. The Viking refused to surrender, and at last fell by a javelin from the hand of “Once in the open space, the scene Haco. As if in him had been embodied was terrific. Brief as had been the onthe unyielding war-god of the Norsemen, slaught, the carnage was already un. in that death died the last hope of the speakable. By dint of sheer physical Vikings--they fell literally where they numbers, animated by a valour that stood; many, from sheer exhaustion and seemed as the frenzy of madmen or the weight of their mail, died without a the hunger of wolves, hosts of the Briblow; and, in the shades of nightfall, tons had crossed trench and stream, Harold stood amid the shattered ram- seizing with their bands the points of part of shields--his foot on the corpse of the spears opposed to them, bounding the standard-bearer-bis hand on the over the corpses of their countrymen, ravager of the world. Thy brother's and, with yells of wild joy, rushing upon corpse is borne yonder,' said Haco, in the close-serried lines, drawn up before the ear of the king, as, wiping the blood the port. The stream seemed literally from his sword, he plunged it into the to run gore. Pierced by javelins and sheath."
arrows, corpses floated and vanished;
while numbers, undeterred by the havoc, against the shirt of mail, and the short leaped into the waves from the opposite Roman sword against the long Norman banks. Like bears, that surround the falchion, the lion king of Wales fronted ship of a sea-king beneath the polar the knight. meteors, or the midnight sun of the “Unequal seems the encounter. So north, came the savage warriors, quick was the spring of the Briton, so through that glaring atmosphere. pliant his arm, and so rapid his weapon,
** Amidst all, two forms were pre. that that good knight (who, rather eminent—the one, tall and towering, from skill and valour than prowess of stood by the trench, and behind a ban- William's band of martial brothers) ner, that now drooped round the stave, would willingly have preferred to be now streamed wide and broad, stirred before him, Fitzosborne, or Montby the rush of men, for the night in gomery, all clad in steel, and armed itself was breezeless, with a vast Danish with mace and steel, than parried those axe, wielded by both hands, stood this dazzling strokes, and fronted the angry man, confronting hundreds, and at each majesty of that helmless brow. Al. stroke, rapid as the lion, fell a foe. All ready the strong rings of his mail had round him was a wall of his own_the been twice pierced, and his blood dead. But in the centre of the space, trickled fast, while his great sword had leading on a fresh troop of shouting but smitten the air in its sweeps at the Welshmen, who had found their way foe, when the Saxon phalanx, taking from another part, was a form which advantage of the breach in the ring that seemed charmed against arrow and girt them, caused by this diversion, spear ; for the defensive arms of this and recognizing, with fierce ire, the chief were as slight as if worn but for gold torque and breastplate of the ornament. A small corselet of gold Welsh king, made their desperate covering the centre of his breast ; a charge. Then for some minutes the gold collar of twisted wires circled his péle-mêle was confused and indistinct. throat, and a gold bracelet adorned his Blows, blind and at random-death bare arm, dropping gore, not his own, coming no man knew whence or how, from the wrist to the elbow. He was till discipline and steadfast order (which small and slight-shaped, below the the Saxons kept as by mechanism common standard of men, but he seemed through the discord) obstinately preas one made a giant by the sublimer in- vailed. The wedge forced its way ; spiration of war. He wore no helmet, and, though reduced in numbers and merely a golden circlet; and his hair, sore wounded, the Saxon troops cleared of a deep red, longer than was usual the ring, and joined the main force with the Welsh, hung like the mane of drawn up by the fort, and guarded a lion over his shoulders, tossing loose in the rere by its walls. Meanwhile with each stride. His eyes glared like Harold, supported by the band under the tiger's at night, and he leaped on Leswolf, had succeeded at length in the spears with a bound. Lost a mo. repelling farther reinforcements of the ment amidst hostile ranks, save by the Welsh at the more accessible part of bright glitter of his short sword, he the trenches; and casting now his pracmade amidst all a path for himself and tised eye over the field, he issued orders his followers, and emerged from the for some of the men to regain the fort, heart of the steel, unscathed and loud and open from the battlements and breathing ; while round the line he had from every loophole, the batteries of broken, wheeled and closed his wild stone and javelins, which then (with men, striking, rushing, slaying, slain. the Saxons, unskilled in sieges) formed ** Pardieu! this is
war worth the the main artillery of forts. These orsharing,' said the knight, who, left to ders given, he planted Leswolf and himself, did not hesitate a moment most of his band to keep watch round more, and he was in the midst of the the trenches ; and shading his eye with Welsh force, headed by the chief with his hand, and looking towards the the golden panoply. Secure in his ring- moon, all waning and dimmed in the mail against the bright weapons of the watch-fires, he said calmlyWesh, the sweep of the Norman sword " Now patience fights for us. Ere was as the scythe of death. Right and the moon reaches yon hill-top, the troops left he smote through the throng, which at Abu and Caerneu will be on the he took in the flank, and had almost slopes of Penmaur, and cut off the regained the small phalanx of Saxons, treat of yon strife.' that lay firm in the midst, when the “But as the earl, with his axe swung Cymrian chief's flashing eye was drawn over his shoulder, and followed by some to this new and strange foe by the roar half score or more with his banner, and the groans round the Norman's strode on where the wild war was now way; and with the half-naked breast mainly concentered, just midway be
tween trench and fort, Gryffith caught these reinforcements, the Saxons presssight both of the banner and the earl,
Tumult, and flight, and indisand left the press at the very moment criminate slaughter, wrapped the field. when he had gained the greatest advan- The Welsh rushed to the streams and tage, and when, indeed, but for the the trenches, and in the bustle and hulNorman, who, wounded as he was, and labaloo, Griffyth was swept along, as a unused to fight on foot, stood resolute bull by a torrent, still facing the foe; in the van, the Saxons, wearied out now chiding, now inciting his own men; by numbers, and falling fast beneath now rushing alone on the pursuers, and the javelins, would have fled from their halting their onslaught, he gained, still walls, and so sealed their fate, for the unmolested, the stream, paused a moWelsh would have entered at their ment, laughed loud, and sprang into the heels. But it was the misfortune of the
wave. A hundred javelins hissed into Welsh heroes never to learn that war the bloody and swollen waters. is a science; and instead of now cen- “ • Hold !' cried Harold the earl, lifttering all force on the point most weak- ing his hand on high, ‘no dastard dart ened, the whole field vanished from the at the brave !!” fierce eye of the Welsh king, when he saw the banner and form of Harold.
To add one single word of comThe earl beheld the coming foe wheeling round as the hawk on the heron; halt
ment upon the glorious beauty of this ed, drew up his few men in a semicircle,
scene, unequalled, since the days of with their large shields as a rampart,
Scott, for interest and animation, for and their level spears as a palisade,
breadth of drawing and magnificent ef. and before them all, as a tower, stood fect, were worse than profanation. Had Harold with his axe. In a minute more we not already trespassed very largehe was surrounded, and through the ly upon the bounds allotted to usrain of javelins that poured round him, we should add to this extract the brightly glittered the sword of Griffyth.
narration of Harold's visit to the court But Harold, more practised than the
of the Duke of Normandy, as presentwild Graville in the sword-play of the Welsh, and unencumbered by other de
ing, perhaps, the best specimen which fensive armour (save only the helm,
the book affords of the author's pecu. which was shaped like the Normans),
liar and wonderfully graphic power of than his light coat of mail, opposed portraying the habits and manners of quickness to quickness, and suddenly the times in which the scene of his dropping his axe, sprang upon his foe, story is laid; but as we have so largely and clasping him round with the left exceeded our prescribed limits, we arm, with the right hand griped at his
must, however reluctant, omit it. throat. • Yield, and quarter !-yield for thy
In order more fully to develop the life, son of Llewellyn !
attributes of the age in which the “Strong was that embrace, and death
scene of this story is laid, the author like that gripe; yet as the snake from
has made a liberal use of its superstithe hand of the dervise—as a ghost tions; and we have, accordingly, the chafrom the grasp of the dreamer-the racter of the prophetess Hilda, drawn little Cymrian glided away, and the with great power and beauty. She is broken torque was all that remained in described as one of the last remnants the clutch of Harold. At this moment
of that race, who, under the outward a mighty yell of despair broke from the
semblance of Christianity, secretly Welsh near the fort. Stones and jave. lins rained upon them from the walls ;
cultivated the worship of Thor and and the fierce Norman was in the
Odin. Her worthy father, as we are midst with his sword, drinking blood;
informed, “ had died as he had wished but not for javelin, stone, and sword,
to die, the last man aboard his ship, shrank and shouted the Welshmen. with the soothing conviction that the On the other side of the trenches were Valkyrs would bear him to Valballa." marching against them their own coun- She was left an orphan-an Englishtrymen, the rival tribes that helped the woman at heart, but as much a Dane stranger to rend the land; and far to
in her habits, as if she had been born the right were seen the spears of the
and rear Saxon from Aber, and to the left was
amidst the glades and knolls heard the shout of the forces under
from which the smoke of her hearth Godwin, from Caernêu ; and they who
rose through the old Roman comhad caught the leopard in his lair, were
pluvium." A grand and magnificent now themselves the prey caught in the conception is the picture of this mys; toils. With new heart, as they beheld terious vala; and if these sour and
atrabilious critics, who attribute the Abbey, rose the glittering dragon that results which its author has achieved surmounted the consecrated banner of to incessant industry, and laborious
the Norman victor. working up of minute details, can gaze
“ Close by his banner, amidst the unmoved on the glorious lineaments of piles of the dead, William the Conqueror that splendid picture_can gaze, and
pitched his pavilion, and sat at meat ;
and over all the plain, far and near, gazing deny that it was drawn by the
torches were moving, like meteors on a hand of a master, they are truly in- marsh: for the duke had permitted the sensible to the power of the sublime Saxon women to search for the bodies and beautiful ; " neither could they of their lords; and as he sat, and talked, be persuaded though one rose from the and laughed, there entered the tent two dead."
humble monks; their lowly mien, their The very beautiful and skilful dejected faces, their homely serge, in mode in which he has worked
mournful contrast to the joy and splen
up their ancient superstitions, mate
dour of the victory-feast.
" They came to the Conqueror and rially enhance the interest of the
knelt story; but there is something so awful
We come but to ask,' they said, 'to and so grandly sublime about the fe
bury in our sacred cloisters, the corpse vered visions of the giant prophetess, of him, so lately king over all England that while we willingly accord to the --our benefactor Harold.' author the highest praise which is due
“ The duke's brow fell. to the triumph of his genius and art,
" • And see,' said Ailred eagerly, as We feel a greater pleasure in contem
he drew out a leathern pouch, we have plating the sweet and touchingly beau
brought with us all the gold that our tiful portrait of her grandchild, Edith,
poor crypts contained, for we mis
doubted this day,' and he poured out the to whom the Vala forms so terrible
glittering pieces at the Conqueror's feet. and dark a contrast.
“No! said William, fiercely, we Waving his wand above that “realm take no gold for a traitor's body, no not of shadows which lies behind the Nor- even if Githa, the usarper's brother, ofman conquest,” among those mighty fered us its weight in the shining metal forms which the author has brought
-unburied be the accursed of the to life, the contemplation of which
Church, and let the birds of prey feed has afforded to us the greatest plea
their young with his carcase.
“Two murmurs, distinct in tone and sure, are Harold and the Norman
meaning, were heard in that assembly; conqueror. They stand out from this
the one of approval from fierce mercegrand historical picture with a breadth
naries insolent with triumph: the other of drawing, and a magnificence of ef
of generous discontent, and indignant fect, which has rarely, if ever, been amaze, from the large majority of Norequalled. We have them living and man nobles. But William's brow was breathing before us: the lofty, gene- still dark, and his eye still stern, for his rous, and noble Saxon, so sorely tried,
policy confirmed his passions; and it was and so bravely surmounting the strug
only by stigmatizing, as dishonoured and gle; the wily and astute Norman, so
accursed, the memory and the cause of keenly alive to the chances of the
the dead king, that he could justify the mighty game; not a touch which could
sweeping spoliation of them who had
fought against himself, and confiscate complete the portrait is wanting. Both the lands to which his own Quens and have our admiration--one our sympa- warriors looked for their reward. thy and love. But we cannot conclude The murmurs had just died into a this notice without allowing the au- thrilling hush, when a woman, who had thor to describe the last scene of all, followed the monks unperceived and unand, possibly, the most touchingly heeded, passed, with a swift and noiseless beautiful, which concludes this event.
step, to the duke's footstool; and, without ful history, and in which is told all
bending knee to the ground, said, in a that remains to be narrated of its in
voice which though low was heard by all, cidents :
“Norman, in the name of the women of England, I tell thee, that thou darest
not do this wrong to the hero who died "The sun had set, the first star was in defence of their hearths and their in heaven, 'the Fighting Man' was laid children.' low, and on that spot, where now, all Before she spoke she had thrown forlorn and shattered, amidst stagnant back her hood; her hair, dishevelled, water, stands the altar-stone of Battle- fell over her shoulders, glittering like VOL. XXXII.--NO. CLXXXIX.