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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Battle of Hastings
By John Richard Green (1837–1883)
 
From ‘History of the English People’

ON the fourteenth of October, William led his men at dawn along the higher ground that leads from Hastings to the battle-field which Harold had chosen. From the mound of Telham the Normans saw the host of the English gathered thickly behind a rough trench and a stockade on the height of Senlac. Marshy ground covered their right; on the left, the most exposed part of the position, the hus-carles or body-guard of Harold, men in full armor and wielding huge axes, were grouped round the Golden Dragon of Wessex and the Standard of the King. The rest of the ground was covered by thick masses of half-armed rustics, who had flocked at Harold’s summons to the fight with the stranger. It was against the centre of this formidable position that William arrayed his Norman knighthood, while the mercenary forces he had gathered in France and Brittany were ordered to attack its flanks. A general charge of the Norman foot opened the battle; in front rode the minstrel Taillefer, tossing his sword in the air and catching it again, while he chanted the song of Roland. He was the first of the host who struck a blow, and he was the first to fall. The charge broke vainly on the stout stockade, behind which the English warriors plied axe and javelin with fierce cries of “Out! out!” and the repulse of the Norman footmen was followed by a repulse of the Norman horse. Again and again the duke rallied and led them to the fatal stockade. All the fury of fight that glowed in his Norseman’s blood, all the headlong valor that spurred him over the slopes of Val-ès-dunes, mingled that day with the coolness of head, the dogged perseverance, the inexhaustible faculty of resource, which shone at Mortemer and Varaville. His Breton troops, entangled in the marshy ground on his left, broke in disorder; and as panic spread through the army, a cry arose that the duke was slain. William tore off his helmet: “I live,” he shouted, “and by God’s help I will conquer yet!” Maddened by a fresh repulse, the duke spurred right at the Standard; unhorsed, his terrible mace struck down Gyrth, the King’s brother; again dismounted, a blow from his hand hurled to the ground an unmannerly rider who would not lend him his steed. Amidst the roar and tumult of the battle, he turned the flight he had arrested into the means of victory. Broken as the stockade was by his desperate onset, the shield-wall of the warriors behind it still held the Normans at bay, till William by a feint of flight drew a part of the English force from their post of vantage. Turning on his disorderly pursuers, the duke cut them to pieces, broke through the abandoned line, and made himself master of the central ground. Meanwhile the French and Bretons made good their ascent on either flank. At three the hill seemed won; at six the fight still raged around the Standard, where Harold’s hus-carles stood stubbornly at bay, on a spot marked afterwards by the high altar of Battle Abbey. An order from the duke at last brought his archers to the front. Their arrow-flight told heavily on the dense masses crowded around the King, and as the sun went down, a shaft pierced Harold’s right eye. He fell between the royal ensigns, and the battle closed with a desperate melly over his corpse.  1
 
 
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