Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
The Night after the Battle of Hastings
By Edward Augustus Freeman (18231892)
From The History of the Norman Conquest
THE FIGHT was now over; night had closed in, and those among the English host who had not fallen around their King had left the field under cover of the darkness. William now came back to the hill, where all resistance had long been over. He looked around, we are told, on the dead and dying thousands, not without a feeling of pity that so many men had fallen, even as a sacrifice to his own fancied right. But the victory was truly his own; in the old phrase of our Chroniclers, the Frenchmen had possession of the place of slaughter. A place of slaughter indeed it was, where, from morn till twilight, the axe and javelin of England, the lance and bow of Normandy, had done their deadly work at the bidding of the two mightiest captains upon earth. Dead and dying men were heaped around, and nowhere were they heaped so thickly as around the fallen Standard of England. There, where the flower of Englands nobility and soldiery lay stretched in death, there, where the banner of the Fighting Man now lay beaten to the ground, the Conqueror knelt, he gave his thanks to God, and bade his own banner be planted as the sign of the victory which he had won. He bade the dead be swept aside; the ducal tent was pitched in this, as it were, the innermost sanctuary of the Conquest, and meat and drink were brought for his repast in the midst of the ghastly trophies of his prowess. In vain did Walter Giffard warn him of the rashness of such an act. Many of the English who lay around were not dead; many were only slightly wounded; they would rise and escape in the night, or they would seek to have their revenge, well pleased to sell their lives at the price of the life of a Norman. But the strong heart of William feared not; God had guarded him thus far, and he trusted in God to guard him still. Then he took off his armour; his shield and helmet were seen to be dinted with many heavy blows, but the person of the Conqueror was unhurt. He was hailed by the loud applause of his troops, likening him to Roland and Oliver and all the heroes of old. Again he gave thanks to God, again he thanked his faithful followers, and sat down to eat and drink among the dead.