David Bruce: KING EDWARD III: A Retelling — Act 4, Scenes 1-7

— 4.1 —

Lord Mountfort, who was holding a coronet in his hand, talked with the Earl of Salisbury.

Lord Mountfort said, “My lord of Salisbury, since by your aid my enemy, Sir Charles of Blois, has been slain and I am again quietly possessed of Bretagne’s dukedom, know that I resolve, for this kind assistance of your King and you, to swear allegiance to his majesty, in token whereof receive this coronet. Bear it to King Edward III, and also bear my oath to never be anything but Edward III’s faithful friend.”

The Earl of Salisbury took the coronet from Lord Mountfort and said, “I do take it, Lord Mountfort, and like this I hope before long the whole dominions of the realm of France will be surrendered to King Edward III’s conquering hand.”

Lord Mountfort exited.

Alone, the Earl of Salisbury said to himself, “Now, if I only knew how to pass through France safely, I would gladly meet his grace King Edward III at Calais, where I am reliably informed by letters that he intends to have his army moved.”

He thought a moment, came up with a plan, and said, “It shall be so; this plan will serve.”

He then called, “Ho, who’s within? Bring Villiers to me.”

Villiers, a French lord, walked into the room.

The Earl of Salisbury said, “Villiers, you know you are my prisoner, and that I might, if I would, require from you one hundred thousand francs for ransom, or else I could retain and keep you captive always.

“But it is possible that for a smaller charge you may be released from paying that huge sum and if you are willing, you yourself will be released.

“And this is how that can happen: Just procure for me a passport from Prince Charles Duke of Normandy, so that I, without constraint, may have recourse to Calais through all the regions where he has power.”

A passport is a document allowing the bearer to travel safely and without fear of arrest through a particular region.

He continued, “This passport you may easily obtain, I think, because I have often heard you say that Prince Charles Duke of Normandy and you were students once together. If you will do this, then you shall be set at liberty. What do you say? Will you undertake to do it?”

Villiers said, “I will, my lord, but I must speak with him.”

“Why, so you shall,” the Earl of Salisbury said. “Take a horse and ride posthaste away from here. Only, before you go, swear by your faith that if you cannot accomplish what I want that you will return and be my prisoner again. Your oath shall be sufficient warrant for me.”

Villiers said, “To that condition I agree, my lord, and I will honestly keep my oath.”

He exited.

“Farewell, Villiers,” the Earl of Salisbury said. “For just this once I mean to test a Frenchman’s faith.”

— 4.2 —

King Edward III and the Earl of Derby talked together. Some English soldiers were present. They were in front of the walls of Calais.

King Edward III said, “Since they refuse our proffered league, my lord, and will not open their gates and let us in, we will entrench ourselves on every side so that neither food nor any supply of men may come to help and succor this accursed town. Famine shall do combat where our swords are stopped.”

Six poor Frenchmen came out of the city of Calais.

The Earl of Derby said, “The promised aid that made them stand aloof has now retired and gone another way: John II will not relieve them. The men of Calais will repent of their stubborn will.”

Seeing the six poor Frenchmen, he asked, “But who are these poor ragged slaves, my lord?”

King Edward III ordered, “Ask who they are; it seems they come from Calais.”

The Earl of Derby said to the six poor Frenchmen, “You wretched pictures of despair and woe, who are you — living men or gliding ghosts who have crept from your graves to walk upon the earth?”

The first poor Frenchman answered, “No ghosts, my lord, but men who breathe a life far worse than is the quiet sleep of death. We are distressed poor inhabitants who long have been diseased, sick, and lame, and now because we are not fit to serve, the Captain of the town of Calais has thrust us out so that some expense for food may be saved.”

King Edward III said sarcastically, “A charitable deed no doubt, and worthy of praise!”

He then asked, “But how do you think then you will survive? We are your enemies in any case. We can do no less but put you to the sword and kill you because when we offered a truce, it was refused.”

The first poor Frenchman said, “If your grace can do no otherwise than kill us, know that to us death is as welcome as life.”

King Edward III said, “You are poor defenseless men, much wronged and more distressed.”

He ordered, “Go, Earl of Derby, go, and see that they are given help. Command that food be given to them, and give to everyone five crowns apiece.”

The Earl of Derby and the six poor Frenchmen exited.

King Edward III said to himself, “The lion scorns to touch the yielding prey, and Edward’s sword must plunge itself in the flesh of such men as willful stubbornness has made perverse and intransigent.”

Seeing Lord Percy arrive, King Edward III said, “Lord Percy, welcome. What’s the news in England?”

Lord Percy answered, “The Queen, my lord, comes here to Calais to your grace, and from her highness and the lord vicegerent I bring these happy tidings of success: King David II of Scotland, who was recently up in arms, thinking perhaps that he would very quickly prevail since your highness is absent from the realm, by the fruitful service of your peers — and the painstaking travail of the Queen herself who, despite being big with child, was every day in arms — has been vanquished, subdued, and taken prisoner.”

“Thanks, Percy, for your news with all my heart,” King Edward III said. “What manner of man was he who captured him and made him prisoner on the battlefield?”

“A squire, my lord,” Lord Percy answered. “John Copland is his name, who since entreated by her majesty, denies to make surrender of his prize to any but to your grace alone, at which the Queen is grievously displeased.”

“Well, then we’ll have a royal messenger dispatched to summon Copland hither out of hand,” King Edward III said, “and with him he shall bring his royal prisoner.”

Lord Percy said, “The Queen herself, my lord, is by this time sailing at sea, and as soon as the wind will allow her she intends to land at Calais and to visit you.”

“She shall be welcome,” King Edward III said, “and to await her coming I’ll pitch my tent close to the sandy shore.”

A Captain of Calais arrived and said, “The burgesses of Calais, mighty King, have by a counsel willingly decreed to yield the town and castle to your hands, upon the condition that it will please your grace to grant them benefit of life and goods.”

“They will so?” King Edward III said sarcastically. “Then perhaps they may command, dispose, elect, and govern as they wish.”

He then said seriously, “No, sirrah, tell them that since they refused our Princely clemency when it was at first proclaimed, they shall not have it now although they want it. I will accept nothing but fire and sword, unless, within these next two days, six of the men who are the wealthiest merchants in the town come to me entirely naked except for their linen shirts. Each rich merchant will wear a halter hung about his neck and will prostrate yield himself to me upon his knees to be afflicted, hanged, or whatever I please. And so you may inform their masterships.”

Everyone except the Captain of Calais exited.

Alone, he said to himself, “Why, this is what it means to trust a broken staff. Had we not been persuaded that John II our King would with his army relieve the town, we would not have stood upon defiance so. But no man can recall time that has passed, and it is better that some go to destruction rather than that all go.”

— 4.3 —

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy and Villiers spoke together.

“I marvel, Villiers,” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, “that you should beg me for a favor for someone who is our deadly enemy.”

Villiers replied, “It is not for his sake, my gracious lord, that I have so much become an earnest advocate, as that by my doing this my ransom will be quit.”

“Your ransom, man?” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said. “Why do you need to talk about that? Aren’t you free? And aren’t all occasions that happen to give us an advantage over our foes to be accepted, and stood upon?”

“No, my good lord, unless the occasions are just,” Villiers said, “for profit must with honor be combined, or else our actions are simply scandalous. But letting pass these intricate objections, will it please your highness to sign the passport or not?”

“Villiers, I will not and I cannot do it,” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said. “The Earl of Salisbury shall not have his will so much to claim a passport from me at his own convenience.”

“Why then I know the outcome, my lord,” Villiers said. “I must return to the prison from which I came.”

“Return!” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said. “I hope you will not. What bird that has escaped the fowler’s snare will not beware lest she’s ensnared again? Or what man is so senseless and overconfident that, having with great difficulty passed a dangerous gulf, he will put himself in peril there again?”

“Ah, but it is my oath, my gracious lord,” Villiers said, “which I in conscience may not violate. If not for my oath, a Kingdom should not draw me away from here.”

 “Your oath!” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said. “Why, your oath binds you to stay here. Haven’t you sworn obedience to your Prince?”

“Yes, in all things that uprightly and honorably he commands,” Villiers said. “But either to persuade or threaten me to make me not perform the covenant of my word is lawless and dishonorable, and I need not obey.”

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, “Why, is it lawful for a man to kill, and not to break a promise with, his foe?”

Villiers replied, “To kill, my lord, when war is once proclaimed, so that our quarrel is for wrongs received, no doubt is lawfully permitted us. But in an oath we must be well advised to what we swear, and, when we once have sworn, not to infringe it although we die therefore. Therefore, my lord, as willingly I return to prison as if I were to fly to Paradise.”

He started to leave.

“Stay, my Villiers,” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said. “Your honorable mind deserves to be eternally admired. Your suit to me shall be no longer thus deferred — give me the paper; I’ll sign my name to it, and while until now I loved you as Villiers, hereafter I’ll embrace you as if you were myself. Stay, and be always in favor with your lord.”

“I humbly thank your grace,” Villiers said. “I must dispatch and send this passport first to the Earl of Salisbury, and then I will attend upon your highness’ pleasure.”

“Do so, Villiers,” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, and then, referring to himself, added, “and may Charles’ soldiers, when he has need, be like you, Villiers, whatever happens to him.”

Villiers exited.

King John II of France entered the room and said, “Come, Charles, and arm yourself: Edward the Black Prince is trapped. The Prince of Wales has fallen into our hands, and we have surrounded him — he cannot escape.”

“But will your highness fight today?” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy asked.

“What else, my son?” King John II of France replied. “He’s scarcely eight thousand soldiers strong, and we have threescore thousand soldiers at the least.”

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, “I have a prophecy, my gracious lord, wherein is written what outcome is likely to happen to us in this outrageous war. It was delivered me on Crécy’s battlefield by a man who is an aged hermit there.”

He read the prophecy out loud:

When feathered fowl shall make your army tremble,

And flintstones rise and break the battle array,

Then think on him who does not now dissemble,

For that shall be the hapless dreadful day;

Yet in the end your foot you shall advance,

As far in England as your foe in France.”

King John II of France said, “According to this prophecy, it seems we shall be fortunate. For as it is impossible that stones should ever rise and break the battle array, or airy fowl make men in arms quake, so is it likely we shall not be subdued.

“Or let’s say these things might be true and might happen, yet in the end, since the hermit promises we shall drive the English hence and ravage their country as they have done ours, with that revenge our loss will seem the less.

“But all such prophecies are frivolous fancies, trifles, and dreams. Once we are sure we have ensnared the son, we will afterward catch the father however we can.”

— 4.4 —

Edward the Black Prince and Lord Audley talked together. Some English soldiers were present.

Edward the Black Prince said, “Lord Audley, the arms — and weapons — of death embrace us round, and comfort have we none except that in dying we pay in advance for a sweeter life.

“On the Crécy battlefield, our clouds of warlike cannon-smoke choked and smothered those French mouths and dispersed the French soldiers, but now their multitudes of millions hide the beauteous burning sun, as if it were behind a mask, leaving no hope to us but instead leaving sullen dark and the eyeless terror of all-ending night.”

Lord Audley said, “This sudden, mighty, and quick headway that they have made, fair Prince, is wonderful. Before us in the valley lies King John II of France, with all the advantages that Heaven and earth can yield. His part of the French forces is stronger in the number of deployed troops than our whole army.

“His son Charles, the defiant Duke of Normandy, has arrayed the mountain on our right hand in shining plate armor, so that now the aspiring hill looks like a silver quarry, or an orb — the silvery moon. On the hill the banners, bannerets, and stretched-out-by-the-wind pendants often cuff the air and beat the winds that struggle to kiss them on account of their gaudiness.

“On our left hand lies Philip, the younger son of King John II, coating and covering the other hill in such array that all his gilded upright pikes seem to be straight trees of gold and the pendants seem to be leaves, and their device of ancient heraldry, quartered in colors suitable for sundry fruits, makes it the orchard of the Hesperides — the goddesses of the west.

“Behind us, too, the hill presents its height, for like a half-moon opening only one way, it rounds us in — there at our backs are lodged the fatal crossbows, and the army there is governed by the rough Chatillon.

“Then thus it stands: King John II has made secure for the French the valley we could use for our flight. The hills on either hand are proudly made royal by his royal sons. And on the hill behind us stands certain death — Death is in the pay of and provides service to Chatillon.”

Edward the Black Prince said, “Death’s name is much mightier than his deeds; your mentioning separately the parts of the military force of the French King has made it seem more than it is. These quarters, these squadrons, and these regiments, before us, behind us, and on either hand of us, are only one military force.

“When we name a man, his hand, his foot, and his head have individual strengths, but they are all one being with the strength of one self. Why, Lord Audley, all this many is only one, and we can call it all only one man’s strength.

“He who has far to go counts the distance by miles. If he were to count the distance by steps, it would kill his heart and completely discourage him.

“The number of drops of water that make a flood is infinite, and yet you know we call it only a rain.

“As many sands as these my hands can hold are only my handful of so many sands; they are easily taken up and quickly thrown away. But if I stand to count them sand by sand, the number would confound and dumbfound my memory and make a thousand millions of a task that briefly is no more indeed than one: one handful of sand.

“There is only one France, and only one King of France: France has no more Kings than one, and that same King has only the powerful military force of one King.

“And we also have one powerful military force.

“So then fear no odds, for one to one is fair odds and fair equality.”

A herald from King John II of France arrived.

Edward the Black Prince said, “What are your tidings, messenger? Speak plainly and briefly.”

The French herald said, “King John II of France, my sovereign lord and master, through me greets his foe, the Prince of Wales. If you will call forth a hundred men of reputation — lords, knights, esquires, and English gentlemen — and if they and you will kneel at his feet, he immediately will fold his bloody battle flags, and ransom shall redeem your forfeited lives. If you will not, then this day shall drink more English blood than ever was buried in our Breton earth. What is the answer to his proffered mercy?”

Edward the Black Prince replied, “This Heaven that covers France contains the mercy that draws from me submissive prayers. May the Lord forbid that such base breath should vanish from my lips to urge the plea of mercy to a man.

“Return and tell your King that my tongue is made of steel, and it shall beg my mercy on his coward helmet. My tongue is my sword.

“Tell him my battle flags are as red as his, my men as bold, our English arms as strong. Return to him my defiance in his face.”

“I go,” the herald said.

A second French herald arrived, leading a jennet — a small Spanish horse.

Edward the Black Prince asked, “What message do you bring?”

The second French herald said, “Prince Charles Duke of Normandy, who is my lord and master, pitying your youth that is so surrounded with peril, by me has sent a nimble-jointed jennet, as swift as any yet you have bestrode, and he advises you to use it to flee, else Death himself has sworn that you shall die.”

Edward the Black Prince asked, “Go back with the beast to the beast that sent it! Tell him I cannot sit on a coward’s horse. Tell him to bestride the jade himself today, for I will stain my horse quite all over with blood and double gild my spurs with blood, but I will catch him.”

A jade is a poor horse.

Edward the Black Prince continued, “So tell the capering dancing boy, and get yourself gone.”

The second French herald exited, and a third French herald arrived. He was carrying a book of prayers.

The third French herald said, “Edward of Wales, Philip the younger son to the most mighty Christian King of France, seeing that your body’s living date has expired, he, all full of charity and Christian love, hands over this book that is fully packed with prayers to your fair hand, and he entreats you that during your last remaining hour of life you meditate on the prayers therein and arm your soul for her long journey that is approaching.

“Thus have I done his bidding, and I return.”

Edward the Black Prince said, “Herald of Philip, greet your lord from me. All good that he can send I can receive, but don’t you think the foolhardy boy has wronged himself in thus far feeling concern for me?

“Perhaps he cannot pray without the book. I don’t think he is an extempore clergyman. So then take back to him this compilation of prayers to do himself good in adversity.

“Besides, he doesn’t know my sins’ quality, and therefore he knows no prayers for my benefit.

“Before this night his prayer may be to pray to God to put it in my heart to hear his prayer — his prayer for me to be merciful to him.

“Tell the courtly wanton boy this, and go now.”

The third French herald said, “I go.”

Edward the Black Prince said, “How confident their strength and numbers makes them! Now, Lord Audley, sound those silver wings of yours and let those milk-white messengers of time show your time’s learning in this dangerous time.”

The silver wings were silver words, and the milk-white messengers of time were words that reflected the wisdom acquired by Lord Audley, who was older than the Black Prince and who had silvery white hair.

Edward the Black Prince said, “You yourself are constantly engaged in and scarred with many battles, and past stratagems are with iron pens — swords — written in the scars of your honorable face. You are a married — experienced — man in this distress, but danger woos me as it would woo a blushing maid. Teach me an answer to this perilous time. How should I respond when facing a dangerous battle of this kind?”

Lord Audley said, “To die is entirely as common as to live. The one in choice holds the other in chase. We choose one or the other, but whichever we choose, we then chase after the other. We may choose life, but we then continue on to death. If we choose death, we then continue on to the life that follows death.

“From the instant we begin to live, we pursue and hunt the time to die. First we bud, then we blossom, and afterward we mature and bear fruit, and then soon we fall, and just as a shade follows the body, so we follow death.

“If then we hunt for death, why do we fear it?

“If we fear death, why do we follow it?

“If we fear death, how can we shun it?

“If we fear death, then with fear we only aid the thing we fear to seize on us the sooner.

“Even if we don’t fear death, still no determined effort can overthrow the fixed end and prescribed time of our fate, for whether we are ripe or rotten, we shall drop and die when we draw the lottery of our doom.”

Edward the Black Prince said, “Ah, good old man, a thousand thousand armors these words of yours have buckled on my back.

“Ah, what an idiot you have shown life to be when it seeks the thing it fears; and how you have disgraced the imperial victory of murdering Death, since all the lives his conquering arrows strike seek him, and he does not seek them. This shames Death’s glory.

“I will not give a penny for a life, nor half a halfpenny to shun grim death since to live is only to seek to die, and dying is only the beginning of new life.

“Let come the hour of my death when He Who rules it wishes it to come. I am indifferent whether I live or die.”

— 4.5 —

King John II of France and his son Prince Charles Duke of Normandy talked together.

King John II of France said, “A sudden darkness has defaced the sky, the winds are gone, having crept into their caves because of fear, the leaves do not move, the world is hushed and still, the birds cease singing, and the wandering brooks murmur no accustomed greeting to their shores. Silence awaits some wonder, and expects that Heaven should pronounce some prophecy. Where or from whom proceeds this silence, Charles?”

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy replied, “Our men with open mouths and staring eyes look at each other, as if they await each other’s words, and yet no creature speaks. A tongue-tied fear has made a midnight hour, and speeches sleep through all the waking regions.”

King John II of France said, “Just now the splendid sun in all its pride looked through his golden coach upon the world, and suddenly it has hidden itself so that now the earth under the sun is like a grave: dark, deadly, silent, and comfortless.”

Ravens cried.

King John II of France said, “Listen, what a deadly outcry I hear.”

Prince Philip, his younger son, arrived.

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, “Here comes Philip, my brother.”

“He is all dismayed,” King John II of France said.

He then asked Prince Philip, “What fearful words are those that your looks presage?”

“A flight! A flight!” Prince Philip said.

King John II of France, immediately thinking of a flight of his soldiers, said, “Coward, what flight? You lie — there is no need for flight.”

“A flight!” Prince Philip repeated.

King John II of France said, “Awaken your cowardly powers, and pull yourself together. Tell the substance of that complete fear indeed that is so ghastly printed in your face. What is the matter?”

Prince Philip said, “A flight of ugly ravens croak and hover over our soldiers’ heads, and keep in triangles and cornered squares, imitating exactly those in which our forces are drawn up. With their approach there came this sudden fog, which now has hidden the airy flower of Heaven — the sun — and made at noon an unnatural night upon the quaking and dismayed world. In brief, our soldiers have let fall their weapons and stand like petrified images, bloodless and pale, each one gazing on another.”

“Aye, now I call to mind the prophecy, but I must give no entrance to a fear,” King John II of France said. “Return and put some heart in these yielding souls. Tell them that the ravens, seeing them in arms — so many fair French soldiers against a famished few English soldiers — have come simply to dine upon their handiwork and prey upon the carrion that they will kill. For when we see a horse lying down to die, although it is yet not dead, the ravenous birds sit watching and waiting for the departure of its life. Just like that, these ravens are waiting for the carcasses of those poor English soldiers who are marked to die. The ravens hover about, and if they cry to us it is only because of the meat that we must kill for them.

“Go now, and comfort my soldiers, and sound the trumpets, and at once deal with and end this little business of a foolish delusion.”

Prince Philip exited.

The Earl of Salisbury arrived; he was the prisoner of a French Captain.

The French Captain said to King John II, “Behold, my liege, this knight and forty more knights — of whom the better part have been slain or have fled — with all endeavor sought to break our ranks and make their way to the surrounded Edward the Black Prince. Dispose of him as it pleases your majesty.”

King John II of France ordered, “Go, and the next bough, soldier, that you see, hang him on it. Disgrace the bough with his body immediately. For I hold a tree in France too good to be the gallows of an English thief and therefore hanging an English thief on it is a disgrace to the tree.”

The Earl of Salisbury said to Prince Charles Duke of Normandy, “My lord of Normandy, I have your passport and warrant for my safety as I ride through this land.”

“Villiers procured it for you, didn’t he?” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy asked.

“He did,” the Earl of Salisbury answered.

“And it is current and valid,” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said. “You shall freely pass.”

“Yes,” King John II of France said to the Earl of Salisbury. “You shall pass freely to the gallows to be hanged, without denial or impediment.”

He then ordered, “Take him away.”

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, “I hope your highness will not so disgrace me and destroy the virtue of my seal at arms. He has my never-broken promise of safety to show, a passport signed by this Princely hand of mine, and it is better to let me cease to be a Prince than to break the firm pledge of a Prince. I earnestly beg you to let him pass through this territory peaceably and safely.”

King John II of France said, “Both you and your word are in my command. What can you promise that I cannot break? Which of these two is the greater infamy: to disobey your father or to disobey yourself? Your word, and no man’s word, may exceed the King’s power.

“A man does not break his word as long as he keeps his word to the utmost of his power. The breach of faith dwells in the soul’s consent; if you without your consent break your faith, you are not charged with the breach of faith.”

He ordered, “Go and hang him, for your license to act lies in me, and my forcing you to do this is your excuse for doing it. My command exonerates you.”

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, “Am I not a soldier in my word? Then arms, adieu, and let them fight who wish. Shall I not give away my belt from my waist only to have a guardian control me and tell me that I may not give my own things away?

“Upon my soul, if Edward Prince of Wales had given his word, written down in his noble handwriting, for all your knights to pass through the land of his father, then the royal King Edward III of England, to show favor to his warlike son, would not just give safe conduct to them, but would with all generosity have feasted them and theirs.”

King John II of France replied, “Do you dwell on precedents, on worthy examples of chivalry? Then so be it.”

He then asked the Earl of Salisbury, “Tell me, Englishman, what rank you are.”

The Earl of Salisbury replied, “I am an Earl in England, although a prisoner here, and those who know me call me Earl of Salisbury.”

King John II of France said, “Then, Earl of Salisbury, say where you are going.”

“To Calais, where my liege, King Edward III, is,” the Earl of Salisbury answered.

“To Calais, Earl of Salisbury?” King John II of France said. “Then to Calais be off, and tell King Edward III to prepare a noble grave in which to put his Princely son, black Edward.

“And as you travel westward from this place, some two leagues from here there is a lofty hill whose top seems topless, for the embracing sky hides the hill’s high head in her blue, azured bosom.

“Upon the hill’s tall top, when your foot reaches it, look back at the humble vale below — humble recently, but now made proud with arms — and there behold the wretched Prince of Wales hooped with a bond of iron round about him.

“After you see this sight, to Calais spur speedily and say that the massive numbers of his enemies smothered and suffocated the Black Prince with no need to slay him with a sword or arrow, and tell the King this is not all his trouble and ill, for I will greet him before he thinks I will.

“Away, be gone! Just the smoke of our shot will choke our foes, although bullets hit them not.”

— 4.6 —

Edward the Black Prince and the Count of Artois talked together during the Battle of Poitiers.

The Count of Artois asked, “How fares your grace? Aren’t you exhausted, my lord?”

“No, dear Count of Artois, I am not exhausted,” Edward the Black Prince said, “but I am choked with dust and smoke, and so I stepped aside a moment for breath and fresher air.”

“Breathe then and rest a moment, and then go to it again,” the Count of Artois said. “The amazed French are quite distracted with gazing on the crows, and if our quivers were full of arrows again, your grace would see a glorious day of this.”

He prayed, “Oh, for more arrows, Lord — that’s our need.”

“Have courage, Count of Artois,” Edward the Black Prince said. “I wouldn’t give a fig for feathered arrows when feathered fowls band together and fight on our side! What need have we to fight and sweat and keep making a fuss, when railing crows outscold our adversaries?”

Of course, he knew that they had to keep on fighting.

He said, “Up, up, Count of Artois! The ground itself is armed with fire-containing flint; command our archers to hurl away their variegated-in-color yew bows and go to battle with stones.”

Sparks fly when flint and steel are struck together.

Edward the Black Prince continued, “Away, Count of Artois, away! My soul prophesies we will win the day.”

Birds had frightened the French army, fulfilling this prophecy: “feathered fowl shall make your army tremble.”

The English archers began to fight with stones, fulfilling this prophecy: “flintstones [shall] rise and break the battle array.

In another part of the battlefield, King John II of France said to himself, “Our multitudes are in themselves stunned, dismayed, and distraught with fear; swift-starting fear has buzzed — whispered — a cold dismay through all our army, and every petty disadvantage prompts the fear-possessed abject soul to flee. Even I, whose spirit is steel compared to their dull lead, what with recalling of the prophecy that stated that our native stones from English arms will rebel against us, find myself tainted with the strong surprise of weak and yielding fear.”

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy arrived and said, “Flee, father, flee! The French kill the French: Some who would make a stand and fight let drive at some who flee. Our drums strike nothing but discouragement. Our trumpets sound dishonor and retreat. The spirit of fear that fears nothing but death — and does not fear dishonor — cowardly works confusion on itself.”

Prince Philip arrived and said, “Pluck out your eyes, so you don’t see this day’s shame! An arm has beaten an army: one poor David has with a stone foiled twenty stout Goliaths. Some twenty naked starvelings with small stones of flint have driven back a powerful army of men arrayed and fortified in all military trappings.”

Mort Dieu!” King John II of France said. “They throw stones at us and kill us. No less than forty thousand wicked elders have this day been stoned to death by forty lean slaves.”

Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said, “Oh, I wish that I were the citizen of some other country! This day has set derision on the French, and all the world will mock us and scorn us.”

King John II of France asked, “Is there no hope left?”

“No hope but death to bury our shame,” Prince Philip said.

“Move up to the front once more with me!” King John II of France said. “The twentieth part of those who live are men enough to make quail the feeble handful of the English.”

“Then let us charge again,” Prince Charles Duke of Normandy said. “If Heaven is not opposed to us, we cannot lose the day.”

King John II of France said, “On! Away! Let’s go!”

In another part of the battlefield, Lord Audley fought, but was wounded. Two esquires rescued him. An esquire is a young nobleman who is in training to be a knight.

“How fares my lord?” the first esquire asked. “How are you?”

Punning on “fare,” Lord Audley replied, “I fare just as a man may do who dines at such a bloody feast as this.”

“I hope, my lord, that is no mortal wound,” the second esquire said.

Lord Audley replied, “It doesn’t matter if it is, the account of my life is cast, and at the worst a mortal man dies.

“Good friends, convey me to the Princely Edward the Black Prince so that in the crimson bravery of my blood I may honor him by saluting him. I’ll smile and tell him that this open wound ends the harvest of his Lord Audley’s war.”

— 4.7 —

The battle was over, and the English had won. Edward the Black Prince stood with two important prisoners: King John II of France and Prince Charles Duke of Normandy. Many battle flags were displayed, and some English soldiers were present. A French retreat sounded.

Edward the Black Prince said, “John in France, and lately John King of France, your bloody battle flags are now my captive colors, and both John and you, high vaunting Charles Duke of Normandy, who earlier today sent me a horse on which to flee, are now the subjects of my clemency.

“Ha, lords, isn’t it a shame that English boys, whose early days are not yet worth a beard, should in the bosom of your Kingdom thus, one against twenty, beat both of you?”

King John II of France said, “Your fortune, not your military force, has conquered us.”

Edward the Black Prince said, “That is an argument that Heaven has aided the side that is in the right.”

The Count of Artois arrived, with Prince Philip as his prisoner.

Edward the Black Prince said, “See! See! The Count of Artois brings along with him the French Prince Philip who recently advised me about my soul.

“Welcome, Count of Artois, and welcome, Prince Philip, too.

“Prince Philip, who now, you or I, has a need to pray?

“Now is the proverb verified in you: Too bright a morning breeds a gloomy day.”

Trumpets sounded. Lord Audley arrived, helped by the two esquires.

Edward the Black Prince said, “But say, what grim discouragement comes here? Alas, what thousand armed men of France have written that note of death in Lord Audley’s face?

“Speak, Lord Audley, you who are wooing death with your carefree smile and are looking so merrily upon your grave as if you were in love with your death. What hungry sword has so devastated your face and lopped a true friend from my loving soul?”

Lord Audley said, “Oh, Prince, your sweet sorrowful speech to me is like a mournful knell to one who is deadly sick.”

“Dear Lord Audley,” Edward the Black Prince said, “if my tongue rings out your end, my arms shall be your grave. What may I do to win your life or to revenge your death? If you will drink the blood of captive Kings, or if such blood is restorative, order a round of drinks of Kings’ blood, and I’ll drink to you. If honor may gain exemption for you from death, take the whole share of the never-dying honor of this day, Lord Audley, for yourself and live.”

Lord Audley said, “Victorious Prince, and to prove that you are so, behold a Caesar’s fame in Kings’ captivity — look at your Princely prisoners. If I could hold dim death at bay until after I saw my liege, your royal father, my soul with all willingness would then yield this castle of my flesh, this mangled tribute, to darkness, consummation, dust, and worms.”

“Fortunately, bold man, your soul is all too proud to yield her city for one little breach, one little wound,” Edward the Black Prince said. “Your soul is all too proud to be divorced from her earthly spouse by the soft temper of a Frenchman’s sword.

“Listen, to repair your life I give to you three thousand marks a year in English land.”

Lord Audley said, “I take your gift to pay the debts I owe. At the strong and dear risk of their lives, these two poor esquires rescued me from the French soldiers. What you have just given to me, I give to them, and as you love and respect me, Prince, give your consent to this bequest in my last testament.”

“Renowned Lord Audley,” Edward the Black Prince said, “live and have from me this gift doubled. These esquires shall have and you shall have three thousand marks a year in English land. But live or die, what you have given away to these and theirs shall be freely granted in perpetuity.”

He then ordered, “Come, gentlemen, I will see my friend placed on a comfortable litter, and then we’ll march proudly toward Calais at a triumphant pace to my royal father; and there bring the tribute of my wars: fair France’s King.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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