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tions are from original sketches with which we For although they with their counter-mining have been favoured.
The siege of Harfleur is somewhat briefly described by Holinshed. The conduct of that enterprise was agreeable to the rules of war laid down by "Master Giles," the principal military authority of that period. The loss sustained by the besieging army was very great; and in a few days the English forces were visited by a frightful dysentery. Many of the most eminent leaders fell before its ravages. This was, probably, to be attributed to the position of the invading army; for, according to Holinshed, those who valiantly defended the siege, damming up the river that hath his course through the town, the water rose so high betwixt the king's camp, and the Duke of Clarence's camp, divided by the same river, that the Englishmen were constrained to withdraw their artillery from one side." The mines and the counter-mines of Fluellen are to be found in Holinshed: "Daily was the town assaulted: for the Duke of Gloucester, to whom the order of the siege was committed, made three mines under the ground, and approaching to the walls with his engines and ordinance, would not suffer them within to take any rest.
somewhat disappointed the Englishmen, and came to fight with them hand to hand within the mines, so that they went no further forward with that work; yet they were so enclosed on each side, as well by water as land, that succour they saw could none come to them." Harfleur surrendered on the 22nd of September, after a siege of thirty-six days. The previous negociations between Henry and the governor of the town were conducted by commissioners. Shakspere, of course, dramatically brought his principal personage upon the scene, in the convention by which the town was surrendered. Holinshed, who in general has an eye for the picturesque, has no description of the gorgeous ceremony which accompanied the surrender; but such a description is found in the older narratives, which represent the king upon "his royal throne, placed under a pavilion at the top of the hill before the town, where his nobles and other principal persons, an illustrious body of men, were assembled in numbers, in their best equipments; his crowned triumphal helmet being held on his right hand upon a halbert-staff, by Sir Gilbert Umfreville." (Cotton MS.) The account of the loss which the
English army sustained, during the thirty-six days subsequent to its landing, would be almost incredible, if its accuracy were not supported by every conflicting testimony. It appears that if Henry landed with thirty thousand men, more than two-thirds must, during the short period of the siege, have been slain, have died of disease, or have been sent back to England as incapable of proceeding. The English army, when it quitted Harfleur, did not amount to much more than eight thousand fighting men. The priest who accompanied the expedition says, "There remained fit for drawing the sword or for battle not above nine hundred lancers, and five thousand archers." Monstrelet, and other French writers, rate the English forces at a much greater number.
"King Henry," says Holinshed, "after the winning of Harfleur, determined to have proceeded further to the winning of other towns and fortresses: but because the dead time of the winter approached it was determined by advice of his council, that he should in all convenient speed set forward, and march through the country towards Calais by land, lest his return as then homewards should of slanderous tongues be named a running away." From the contemporary writers it appears that this resolution was taken by Henry against the advice of his council. There was a chivalrous
hardihood in the resolve, which almost entirely covers its rashness. His trust, said the king, was in God; he was resolved to see the territories which were his own; he would not subject himself to the reproach of cowardice. "Our mind," said he, "is prepared to endure every peril, rather than they shall be able to breathe the slightest reproach against your king. We will go, if it pleases God, without harm or danger, and if they disturb our journey, we will frustrate their intentions with honour, victory, and triumph." The army commenced its perilous march about the 8th of October. The king, upon landing in France, had issued a proclamation forbidding, under pain of death, all plunder and other excesses. This proclamation was now renewed. The army was five days before it reached Abbeville. The bridges of the Somme were everywhere broken down; and the dispirited forces were, in consequence, compelled to march up the south bank of the river till they reached Nesle. There, over a temporary bridge, Henry at length crossed the Somme. The opposition to his march had now become most formidable. The daring character of his movement from Harfleur had roused the French from their supineness. The fifth Scene of this Act is a most spirited representation of the mingled contempt and anger with which the French nobility regarded Henry's progress
through the heart of the country. Holinshed describes the resolution to send the herald Montjoy to Henry. Three heralds, according to the contemporary accounts, appeared before the English king on the 20th. His answer is thus given in Holinshed :-"Mine intent is to do as it pleaseth God; I will not seek your master at this time; but if he or his seek me, I will meet with them, God willing. If any of your nation attempt once to stop me in my journey now towards Calais, at their jeopardy be it; and wish I not any of you so unadvised as to be the occasion that I dye your tawny ground with your red blood." Henry continued to press on his troops with great regularity, though they suffered the most serious privations. They were "shrewdly out of beef," as Orleans says; they were "with sickness much enfeebled," as Henry declares. Holinshed describes their situation with great quaintness: "The enemies had destroyed all the corn before
they came. Rest could they none take, for their enemies with alarms did ever so infest them; daily it rained, and nightly it freezed: of fuel there was great scarcity, of fluxes plenty: money enough, but wares for their relief to bestow it on had they none." And yet, under these circumstances, the proclamation against plunder was enforced with undeviating justice. The fact of a man being hanged for stealing a sacred vessel is found in Holinshed.
The oriflamme had been hoisted, the last time that the sacred banner was displayed in France. Sixty thousand princes, and knights, and esquires, and men at arms, were gathered round the national standard. When Henry crossed the river Ternoise, on the 24th of October, this mighty army stood before him, "filling," says the priest who accompanied the march, very large field as with an innumerable host of locusts."
19 CHORUS." Fills the wide vessel of the universe."
WE are gravely informed by Warburton that "we are not to think Shakspere so ignorant as to imagine it was night over the whole globe at once." Ben Jonson has these lines:
"O for a clap of thunder now, as loud
As to be heard throughout the universe!" We are not to think Jonson so ignorant as not to know that a clap of thunder could not possibly be heard throughout the mundane system.
20 CHORUS.-"Each battle sees the other's umber'd face."
"The author's profession," says Malone, "probably furnished him with this epithet." But players redden their cheeks as well as brown them, and we therefore must in the same way suppose that when the Friar says to Juliet
"The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade,"
Shakspere was thinking of rouge.
21 CHORUS." With busy hammers closing rivets
The plate armour was not only riveted in parts, before it was put on; but the armourers were employed in closing up parts which fitted on to each other by rivets, when the knight
the silent despair-which the French imputed to the poor "beggar'd host" of the English-is suggested by this image, when we rightly understand it. Mr. Douce had such an ancient
"fixed candlestick" in his possession ;-and the copy of this is worth pages of verbal explanation.
The magnificent chorus of this Act presents such a vivid picture of the circumstances that marked the eve of the battle of Agincourt, that even if they were not, for the most part, supported by authentic history, it would be impossible to dispossess ourselves of the belief that they were true. "The French," according to Holinshed, "were very merry, pleasant, and full of game"-"the English made peace with God in confessing their sins." Holinshed also mentions the French playing at dice for the English prisoners. But the narratives of Monstrelet and of St. Remy are much more minute than Holinshed; and in one or two small particulars they differ from that of the poet. The account of Monstrelet is exceedingly interesting:
"The French, with all the royal officers, that is to say, the Constable, the Marshal Boucicault, the Lord of Dampierre and Sir Clignet de Brabant, each styling himself admiral of France; the Lord of Rambures, master of the cross-bows; with many other princes, barons, and knightsplanted their banners with loud acclamations of joy around the royal banner of the Constable, on the spot they had fixed upon, situated in the county of St. Pol, or territory of Azincourt, by which the next morning the English must pass on their march to Calais. Great fires were this night lighted near to the banner under which each person was to fight; but, although the French were full one hundred and fifty thousand "chevaucheurs," with a great number of wagons and carts, cannon, ribaudequins, and all other military stores, they had but little music to cheer their spirits; and it was remarked with surprise, that scarcely any of their horses neighed during the night, which was considered by many as a bad omen. The English during the whole night played on their trumpets and various other instruments, insomuch that the whole neighbourhood resounded with their music; and notwithstanding they were much fatigued and oppressed by cold, hunger, and other annoyances, they made their peace with
God, by confessing their sins with tears, and numbers of them taking the sacrament; for, as it was related by some prisoners, they looked for certain death on the morrow."
The foundation of the great scene when Westmoreland wishes
"But one ten thousand of those men in England,
is in Holinshed. "It is said, that as he heard
one of the host utter his wish to another thus: I would to God there were with us now so many good soldiers as are at this hour within England!' The king answered: 'I would not wish a man more here than I have; we are indeed in comparison to the enemies but a few, but if God of his clemency do favour us and our
just cause (as I trust he will), we shall speed well enough."" This circumstance, however, really occurred, not as Holinshed has described it on the day of the battle, but when the French host
was first seen by the English; and he who uttered the wish for some more men was Sir Walter Hungerford.
The French forces, on the morning of the 25th of October, were drawn up in three lines on the plain of Agincourt, through which the route to Calais lay. The battle-field is thus described by Dr. John Gordon Smith, in a paper in 'The Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature,' 1829:
"Those who travel to Paris vid St. Omer and Abbeville, pass over the field of battle, which skirts the high road (to the left, in the direction just mentioned), about sixteen miles beyond St. Omer; two on the Paris side of a considerable village or bourg named Fruges; about eight north of the fortified town of Hesdin; and thirty, or thereabout, in the same direction from Abbeville. All accounts of the battle mention the hamlet of Ruisseauville, through which very place the high-road to Paris now passes. Azincour is a commune, or parish, consisting of a most uninteresting collection of
'Slobbery dirty farms,'
(or rather farmers' residences,) and cottages, such as, in that part of the country, are met with in all directions; once, however, distinguished by a castle, of which nothing now remains but the foundation. The scene of the contest lies between this commune and the adjoining one of Tramecour, in a wood belonging to which latter the king concealed those archers whose prowess and vigour contributed so eminently to the glorious result. Part of this wood still remains; though (if I remember rightly), at the time of our visit, the corner into which the bowmen were thrown had been materially thinned, if, indeed, the original timber had not been entirely cut down, and its place but scantily supplied by brush or underwood. Some of the trees, however, in the wood of Tramecour, were very old in 1816."
It is unnecessary for us to follow the Chroniclers, or the more minute contemporary historians, through their details of the fearful carnage and victory of Agincourt. We may, however, put the facts shortly before our readers, as they may be collected from Sir H. Nicolas's elaborate and careful history of the battle: :
The fighting men of France wore "long coats of steel, reaching to their knees, which were very heavy; below these was armour for the legs; and above, white harness, and bacinets,
with camails." They were drawn up between two woods, in a space wholly inadequate for the movements of such an immense body; and the ground was soft from heavy rains. It was with the utmost difficulty they could stand or lift their weapons. The horses at every step sunk into the mud. Henry formed his little band in one line, the archers being posted between the wings, in the form of a wedge, with sharp stakes fixed before them. The king, habited in his "cote d'armes," mounted a small gray horse; but he subsequently fought on foot. He addressed his troops with his usual spirit. Each army remained inactive for some hours. A truce was at length proposed by the French. The reply of Henry, before an army ten times as great as his own, differed little from the terms he had offered in his own capital. Towards the middle of the day the order was given to the English to advance, by Henry crying aloud, "Advance banners." Sir Thomas de Erpyngham, the commander of the archers, threw his truncheon into the air, exclaiming, "Now strike!" The English immediately prostrated themselves to the ground, beseeching the protection of Heaven, and proceeded in three lines on the French army. The archers of Henry soon put the French cavalry in disorder; and the whole army rushing on, with the national huzza, the archers threw aside their bows, and slew all