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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
France: Vols. IX–X. 1876–79.

Cressy (Crécy)

The Ballad of Crécy

By Richard Henry Stoddard (1825–1903)

WHAT man-at-arms, or knight

Of doughty deeds in fight,—

What king whose dauntless might

Still lives in story,

Deserves such fame as one

Who, when his sight was gone,

Fought till he fell,—King John,

Bohemia’s glory?

That fatal August day

The French and English lay

Drawn up in dread array,

With bows and lances,

Determined then to try

Which host could bravest die,

Which host would soonest fly,—

England’s or France’s.

The morning light revealed,

On Crécy’s famous field,

Armed with his spear and shield,

This fearless foeman,

Who, with his old blind eyes,

Will for his French allies

Do battle till he dies,—

And fly from no man!

His bridle-rein he tied

To a good knight’s at his side,

Among the French to ride,

That saw astounded

Who with their foremost prest,

His shield before his breast,

His long spear set in rest,—

The trumpet sounded!

Full tilt against their foes,

Where thickest fell the blows,

And war-cries mingling rose,

“St. George!” “St. Denys!”

Driven by the trumpet’s blare

Where most the English dare,

And where the French despair,—

He there and then is!

Up, down, he rode, and thrust;

Unhorsed, knights rolled in dust;

Whom he encounters must

Go down or fly him:

All round the bloody field

Spears rattle on his shield,

But none can make him yield;

Few venture nigh him.

Here, there, he rides until

His horse perforce stands still:

He spurs it, but it will

No longer mind him;

It cannot stir for fright,

So desperate now the fight,

Death on the left, the right,

Before, behind him!

But this, so blind was he,

The old king could not see;

An he had seen, pardie!

His soul delighting

Had faster rained down blows

Upon his puny foes,

And in the dark death-throes

Had gone out fighting!

When the last rout was done,

And when the English won,

They found the brave King John,

Who fought so lately,

Stone dead,—his old blind eyes

Uplooking to the skies,

As he again would rise

And battle greatly!

They bore him to his rest,

His shield upon his breast,

Where blazoned was his crest,—

Three ostrich feathers;

Under, in gold, was seen

The royal words, “ICH DIEN,”

Which most kings now think mean,—

Save in foul weathers!

Not so the Black Prince thought,

Who then at Crécy fought,

And old John’s valor caught,

And was victorious.

“Who serve like him,” quoth he,

“Commend themselves to me;

Such royal servants be

Forever glorious!”