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Short poem

Michael Drayton (1563-1631)

Ode to the Cambro-Britons and their Harp, His Ballad of Agincourt

              1Fair stood the wind for France,
              2When we our sails advance;
              3Nor now to prove our chance
              4     Longer will tarry;
              5But putting to the main,
              6At Caux, the mouth of Seine,
              7With all his martial train
              8     Landed King Harry.

              9And taking many a fort,
            10Furnish'd in warlike sort,
            11Marcheth towards Agincourt
            12     In happy hour;
            13Skirmishing day by day
            14With those that stopp'd his way,
            15Where the French gen'ral lay
            16     With all his power.

            17Which, in his height of pride,
            18King Henry to deride,
            19His ransom to provide
            20     To the King sending;
            21Which he neglects the while,
            22As from a nation vile
            23Yet with an angry smile
            24     Their fall portending.

            25And turning to his men
            26Quoth our brave Henry then:
            27"Though they to one be ten
            28     Be not amazed.
            29Yet have we well begun:
            30Battles so bravely won
            31Have ever to the sun
            32     By Fame been raised!

            33"And for myself," quoth he,
            34"This my full rest shall be:
            35England ne'er mourn for me,
            36     Nor more esteem me;
            37Victor I will remain,
            38Or on this earth lie slain;
            39Never shall she sustain
            40     Loss to redeem me!

            41"Poitiers and Cressy tell
            42When most their pride did swell
            43Under our swords they fell;
            44     No less our skill is
            45Than when our grandsire great,
            46Claiming the regal seat,
            47By many a warlike feat
            48     Lopp'd the French lilies."

            49The Duke of York so dread
            50The eager vaward led;
            51With the main Henry sped
            52     Amongst his henchmen:
            53Excester had the rear,
            54A braver man not there
            55O Lord, how hot they were
            56     On the false Frenchmen!

            57They now to fight are gone;
            58Armour on armour shone;
            59Drum now to drum did groan:
            60     To hear, was wonder;
            61That, with cries they make,
            62The very earth did shake;
            63Trumpet to trumpet spake,
            64     Thunder to thunder.

            65Well it thine age became,
            66O noble Erpingham,
            67Which didst the signal aim
            68     To our hid forces;
            69When, from a meadow by,
            70Like a storm suddenly,
            71The English archery
            72     Stuck the French horses

            73With Spanish yew so strong,
            74Arrows a cloth-yard long,
            75That like to serpents stung,
            76     Piercing the weather.
            77None from his fellow starts,
            78But playing manly parts,
            79And like true English hearts
            80     Stuck close together.

            81When down their bows they threw,
            82And forth their bilboes drew,
            83And on the French they flew,
            84     Not one was tardy;
            85Arms were from shoulders sent,
            86Scalps to the teeth were rent,
            87Down the French peasants went:
            88     Our men were hardy.

            89This while our noble King,
            90His broad sword brandishing,
            91Down the French host did ding,
            92     As to o'erwhelm it.
            93And many a deep wound lent,
            94His arms with blood besprent,
            95And many a cruel dent
            96     Bruised his helmet.

            97Gloster, that duke so good,
            98Next of the royal blood,
            99For famous England stood
          100     With his brave brother.
          101Clarence, in steel so bright,
          102Though but a maiden knight,
          103Yet in that furious fight
          104     Scarce such another!

          105Warwick in blood did wade,
          106Oxford the foe invade,
          107And cruel slaughter made,
          108     Still as they ran up.
          109Suffolk his axe did ply;
          110Beaumont and Willoughby
          111Bare them right doughtily;
          112     Ferrers and Fanhope.

          113Upon Saint Crispin's Day
          114Fought was this noble fray,
          115Which fame did not delay
          116     To England to carry.
          117O when shall English men
          118With such acts fill a pen,
          119Or England breed again
          120     Such a King Harry?


1] First published in 1606 and revised in 1619. The latter text is here followed. Cf. Shakespeare's Henry V, where the Welsh contribution to the battle is also given its due, and whose dramatis personae include Sir Thomas Erpingham and other leaders of the British army referred to in the poem.

41] Poitiers and Cressy: sites of earlier battles in the Hundred Years' War.

50] vaward: vanward.

51] main: main body.

53] Excester: the Duke of Exeter.

71] The English archery: archers played a famous part in the victory.

82] bilboes: swords; from Bilboa, Spain, where fine swords were made.

113] Saint Crispin's Day: October 25, 1415. See Henry V, III, iv, 40-67.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Michael Drayton, Poems (W. Stansby for J. Swethwicke, 1619). STC 7222. Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1969. PR 2255 A1 1619A.
First publication date: 1606
RPO poem editor: F. D. Hoeniger
RP edition: 3RP 1.134.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/8

Rhyme: aaabcccb

Other poems by Michael Drayton