James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

October 25

The Ballad of Agincourt

By Michael Drayton (1563–1631))

  • A victory gained by the English under Henry V. over the French under the Constable d’Albret, on Oct. 25, 1415. The English loss was about 1,600, that of the French over 10,000.

  • FAIR stood the wind for France,

    When we our sails advance,

    Nor now to prove our chance

    Longer will tarry;

    But putting to the main,

    At Kaux, the mouth of Seine,

    With all his martial train,

    Landed King Harry.

    And taking many a fort,

    Furnished in warlike sort,

    Marched towards Agincourt

    In happy hour—

    Skirmishing day by day

    With those that stopped his way,

    Where the French gen’ral lay

    With all his power,

    Which in his height of pride,

    King Henry to deride,

    His ransom to provide

    To the king sending;

    Which he neglects the while,

    As from a nation vile,

    Yet, with an angry smile,

    Their fall portending.

    And turning to his men,

    Quoth our brave Henry then:

    Though they to one be ten,

    Be not amazed;

    Yet have we well begun—

    Battles so bravely won

    Have ever to the sun

    By fame been raised.

    And for myself, quoth he,

    This my full rest shall be;

    England ne’er mourn for me,

    Nor more esteem me.

    Victor I will remain,

    Or on this earth lie slain;

    Never shall she sustain

    Loss to redeem me.

    Poitiers and Cressy tell,

    When most their pride did swell,

    Under our swords they fell;

    No less our skill is

    Than when our grandsire great,

    Claiming the regal seat,

    By many a warlike feat

    Lopped the French lilies.

    The Duke of York so dread

    The eager vaward led;

    With the main Henry sped,

    Amongst his henchmen.

    Excester had the rear—

    A braver man not there:

    O Lord! how hot they were

    On the false Frenchmen!

    They now to fight are gone;

    Armour on armour shone;

    Drum now to drum did groan—

    To hear was wonder;

    That with the cries they make

    The very earth did shake;

    Trumpet to trumpet spake,

    Thunder to thunder.

    Well it thine age became,

    O noble Erpingham!

    Which did the signal aim

    To our hid forces;

    When, from a meadow by,

    Like a storm suddenly,

    The English archery

    Struck the French horses,

    With Spanish yew so strong,

    Arrows a cloth-yard long,

    That like to serpents stung,

    Piercing the weather;

    None from his fellow starts,

    But playing manly parts,

    And like true English hearts,

    Stuck close together.

    When down their bows they threw,

    And forth their bilbows drew,

    And on the French they flew,

    Not one was tardy:

    Arms were from shoulders sent;

    Scalps to the teeth were rent;

    Down the French peasants went;

    Our men were hardy.

    This while our noble king,

    His broadsword brandishing,

    Down the French host did ding,

    As to o’erwhelm it:

    And many a deep wound lent,

    His arms with blood besprent,

    And many a cruel dent

    Bruised his helmet.

    Glo’ster, that duke so good,

    Next of the royal blood,

    For famous England stood,

    With his brave brother—

    Clarence, in steel so bright,

    Though but a maiden knight,

    Yet in that furious fight

    Scarce such another.

    Warwick in blood did wade;

    Oxford the foe invade,

    And cruel slaughter made,

    Still as they ran up.

    Suffolk his axe did ply;

    Beaumont and Willoughby

    Bare them right doughtily,

    Ferrers and Fanhope.

    Upon Saint Crispin’s day

    Fought was this noble fray,

    Which fame did not delay

    To England to carry;

    O, when shall Englishmen

    With such acts fill a pen,

    Or England breed again

    Such a King Harry?