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A VISIT TO THE FIELD OF AGINCOURT.

“ The poor condemned English,
Like sacrifices by their watchful fires,
Sit patiently, and inly ruminate
The morning's danger; and their gesture sad
And war-worn coats, investing lean lank cheeks,
Presented them unto the gazing moon

So many horrid ghosts." —Henry V. Tue village of Agincourt, which gives name to one of the most heroic achievements recorded in the annals of British valour, is situated about sixteen miles from St. Omer, and eight from the strongly fortified town of Hesdin. Lying in a secluded situation, at some distance from the high road, it is unvisited and comparatively unknown. Your cockney tourist, from the moment he creeps up the ladder at Calais pier, and has rid himself of the qualms of sea-sickness, seems influenced by a species of mania for racing onwards to Paris. The dissolute pleasures of the French capital inflame his senses; he is unable to glance either to the right hand or to the left, however interesting the objects that intrude themselves on his attention. “ En route!" is the word. Though the high road passes over a portion of the battle-field at Roussainville, not one in a thousand of our countrymen has ever stopped his horses for a single hour, to investigate scenes hallowed in the recollection of national glory, and immortalized in one of the most spirit-stirring dramas to which the pen of Shakspeare has given birth.

The most prominent and impressive sensations, which are produced in the spectator's mind on visiting the scene of great achievements, arise from the force of contrast. He arrives,-his ideas tinged, as it were, with blood and carnage; he seems to hear

“ The battle bray,

Man to man, and horse to horse," and finds all calmness and tranquillity. The sword appears, literally, to have been changed into a plough-share, and the spear into a pruninghook. When I visited Agincourt in the summer of 1831, the field of battle wore the appearance of an immense corn-field some miles in extent. The grain was partly reaped and removed, partly remaining in piles of golden sheaves that dotted the surface of the plain farther than the eye could reach. A merry band of male and female peasantry were engaged in driving the last loaded waggon towards the village, (it was evening,) and several small parties of gleaners, in fanciful and varied costume, passed me at intervals, each having its little burden, the scanty well-earned produce of a sultry day's toil. Yet they sang gaily, and seemed light-hearted and happy, as though the whole crop of the “ great battle-field," and one of the most productive harvests in the memory of man, had been their own. The French are certainly a very cheerful, lively nation ; but still one seeks among them in vain for that admirable gaité du cæur, that almost Arcadian elegance in their amusements, which Sterne describes as existing among them fifty years ago. The elegance, I believe, never existed anywhere, except in his fine imagination,—that threw a charm over everything on which it dwelt. He, possibly, witnessed mere reckless, extravagant mirth ; but that was the rioting of bondsmen,of those who lived in this world without hope. The horrors of one of the most sanguinary revolutions that ever disgraced the pages of history, gave them personal freedom. With liberty comes reflection ; and we rarely find a thinking people remarkable for their love of extravagant mirth.

My journey was pedestrian. I had walked from Calais, and had loitered away a considerable portion of my second day in listening to the peasant's traditionary lore respecting" la grande batlaille avec les Anglois.The sun was rapidly sinking, as emerging from a woodland path, I suddenly encountered two men seated at the root of a tree which grew upon the edge of a very extensive plain. One of them was a woodcutter, the other a garde-chasse, or gamekeeper, whose appearance I shall describe, from the laughable contrast exhibited between his upper and lower integuments. He was of Herculean form, above six feet high, and wore a costly green velvet hunting-coat, crossed by a broad leathern belt. On the centre of this was fixed a large and massive silver badge inscribed with his employer's name, rank, and armorial bearings of at least twenty quarterings. A doublebarrelled gun of the richest Damascus work, and of rather antique fashion, lay at his side, and an elegant and curiously constructed gamepouch, formed of net-work and leather, presented, so far, a very favourable specimen of the French chasseur. But, proh pudor! that the “eternal fitness of things” should have been thus violated. Contrasted with, and, as it were, in absolute mockery of all this finery, he exhibited a pair of filthy deer-hide buskins, the spoils of some gallant "stag of ten," that probably might have ranged his native wilds in the reign of Louis Quatorze; but certainly at no later period. They were a thing of shreds and patches ; " and his rough, bairy, muscular limbs exhibited their “unhoused condition " through a score of rents and fissures; while his hoseless feet were shod with that most hideous of all human coverings,-a pair of sabots, or wooden shoes, However, as Burns observes,

“ A man's a man for a' that." He proved a most obliging fellow, especially learned in woodcraft, and a perfect enthusiast in a profession which, of all others, is best calculated to create enthusiasm. There was no use in attempting to persuade him to speak on any other topic; and finding I had little chance of introducing the subject nearest my thoughts, I patiently submitted to that which seemed uppermost in his. Accordingly, he descanted on the difference between * La grande et la petite chasse ;” the inferiority of the English grey to the French red legged partridge; the splendid feudal magnificence of the royal hunting equipages of the French monarchs before the Revolution; (his father had been one of the valets de chasse to Louis XV. at Fontainbleau ;) and all the stately ceremonies incident to La Chasse Royale," from the unharbouring of the stag, until the moment when the king, riding into the furious and desperate animal at bay before a hundred hounds, gallantly gave him the finishing stroke with his couteau de chasse ; winding up his narrative by drawing from a pocket the snow-white formidable tusk of a wild buar, tipped with silver, and near six inches in length, which he used as .U. S. Journ, No. 59, Oct. 1833.

M

a tobacco-stopper. The ferocious animal to which it belonged had been hunted and slain by his grandfather in the neighbouring wood.

I now ventured to edge in a word respecting the object of my pilgrimage. In answer to a question as to how far from the spot where we were sitting was the field of Agincourt, he pointed with the muzzle of his fowling-piece towards the vast plain that lay before us in all its calmness and beauty, exclaiming, “ Le voila, Monsieur !Unprepared for this intelligence, I sat for some moments in silent contemplation of the scene. The shades of my gallant countrymen appeared to rise before me. I saw “the royal captain of this ruined band," walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent, endeavouring to infuse into the minds of his devoted followers a confidence in the result he could not himself have felt. I beheld the hostile disproportioned armies, drawn up in terrible contemplation of each other, mutually afraid to commence the onset, until Henry perceiving their irresolution, exclaims, “My friends, since they will not begin, it is our's to set them the example; come on, and the blessed Trinity be our protection !" The venerable Erpingham hurling his truncheon into the air, and shouting forth his well-known battle-cry, “ Now strike !" leads on the archers to the charge. Each archer strings his good yew-bow. The "iron sleet of arrowy shower" whistles through the air, each steel point and grey-goose shaft bringing terror and destruction to the mail-clad, too confident chivalry of France.

But to return to realities. As before remarked, the field of battle is at present a vast plain, in a very high state of cultivation. That portion of the harvest yet unreaped waved and rustled in the evening breeze, and, tinged of a deeper gold by the last rays of a setting sun, was beautifully contrasted with the dark masses of forest that occasionally encroached upon, or receded from the plain. Hills of moderate height form the background, and terminate the view. At the upper end of the plain rose the tall slender spire of Agincourt church, the village itself being entirely concealed by a thick grove of orcharding and tall poplar trees. Wishing my companions good evening, I traversed the field in a hundred directions, endeavouring to trace the exact position of the two armies from my recollections of the glowing descriptions of the old chroniclers. My eyes and the iron spear of a fishing-rod, the constant companion of my rambles at home and abroad, were not unfrequently employed in turning over the fresh-ploughed earth in search of arrow-heads, and similar small trophies of the bloody contest. I however found nothing for that time. It was now past nine o'clock, and the shades of evening rendering most objects indistinct, I unwillingly turned towards the village in search of quarters for the night. About forty houses, and these of the humblest description, constitute the whole of Agincourt. The church is built on a rising ground. It is a very ancient Gothic structure. I eagerly climbed up to the windows, in the hope of distinguishing, in the twilight, traces of monumental inscriptions, or perhaps the effigies of some mailed warrior, whose bloody corse had found a resting place within its sacred precincts. It was, however, too dark. I afterwards learnt that an Englishman had, some years ago, purchased and removed from the church some curious relics connected with the battle of Agincourt.

The appearance of the village was sombre in the extreme. Not a human being was visible, not a sound even of a watch-dog was heard, Altogether, the scene was in excellent keeping with my thoughts. At length I deciphered the words, “ Bonne bierre double," scrawled upon the shutter of a wretched hovel. A thundering peal at the door with the butt of my rod awoke every village cur, and quickly roused the landlord from his bed. Vous ne pouvez pas loger ici, Monsieur," cries he through the key-hole, in answer to my request for admittance. “ You can have no bed at all in Agincourt; you must go on to Maisonçelle.”

Fatigue and hunger are admirable dampers to enthusiasm. Though Maisonçelle was the resting place of my gallant countrymen on the night previous to the memorable 25th of October, 1415, and though Harry of Monmouth fixed his head-quarters there, I had already " satisfied the sentiment” for the present, and would gladly have accepted a shake-down of straw, or anything else where I then was. But mine host was inexorable, and I sulkily proceeded on my way.

An eye-witness of the battle describes Maisonçelle as " three bowshots distant” from Agincourt;—it is very possible fatigue in my case may have exaggerated the distance; I am myself an archer, and pull a tolerably strong bow, yet either his information is incorrect, or we of modern days

have awfully degenerated from our predecessors the merry bowmen of England. I could never reach beyond fifteen score yards with the lightest flight arrow ;—the two villages appeared six times that distance from each other.

At length, when nearly sinking from exhaustion, the fumes of a tobacco-pipe saluted my senses with odours more grateful at that moment than ever arose from a field of Arabian spices. Advancing a few yards I saw a peasant smoking at his cottage-door; he quickly directed me to the village auberge, or inn. We have all heard a great deal about our “gude King James's" aversion to tobacco ; had his sacred majesty, however, when bewildered and benighted during one of his frequent hunting excursions been guided like me by the fumes of a tobacco-pipe to a place of rest and refreshment, we probably should have heard nothing of his famous “ Counter-blast.” The world, too, had lost that singular bill of fare with which he proposed to entertain the devil in case his satanic majesty should honour him with a visit at his royal board *.

I soon occupied the huge chimney-seat before a blazing wood-fire, and consoled myself with some excellent cherry-brandy, for which the neighbourhood is famous, while the hostess cooked up a savoury omelet. This, with some little et ceteras and a bottle of good wine, furnished a supper Apicius himself had lauded under similar circumstances. My bed was excellent, and I sallied forth at sunrise like a giant refreshed with sleep, in quest of fresh adventures, and held on my course towards Tramecourt.

Between this village and Agincourt, the most sanguinary and decisive portion of the battle occurred. In the corner of a wood belonging to the former, Henry concealed those two hundred picked bowmen, whose cool bravery and great skill proved so destructive to the flower of the French army, and mainly contributed to the glorious result. Each

• After observing, "a tobacco-pipe is a lively image and picture of hell,he says, " and were I to invite the devil to dinner, he should have three dishes.--Ist, a pig; 2d, a pole of ling and mustard; and 3d, a pipe of tobacco for digesture." -King James's witty Apophthegms, 12mo. 1671.

man was said to have carried “ twenty-four Frenchmen under his belt," in allusion to the sheaf of arrows consisting of that number allotted to every archer. It is said, that when Sir Thomas Erpingham hurled his truncheon into the air, and shouted his war-cry, Nestrocque !" it was as a signal to this band to rush out from their hiding-place, one of their number having ascended a tree for the purpose of conveying intelligence to his companions. They immediately ran forwards about fifty paces in compact order, and each man having hastily planted his pointed stake before him in the earth, delivered his arrows with such cool deliberate aim, that the steel heads rang upon the polished corslets of their foes like the clatter of hammers upon an anvil, while the sides and buttocks of the horses were, as an eye-witness expresses it, " absolutely larded with their arrows.'

Part of this wood still remains in statu quo : the precise spot occupied by the English has, however, been greatly thinned; yet many trees, apparently of great antiquity, are still scattered here and there.

The battle lasted three hours; it began about eleven, and the French were in full rout by one. The king exposed himself to considerable peril, and fought with the utmost bravery. His brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, being stabbed in the belly with a dagger, and thrown to the ground with his feet towards the enemy, he stood between his legs, and defended him until he could be carried off the field.

The commencement and termination of this sanguinary engagement is described in the following animated and graphic manner by

a very ancient historian*

On Friday, 25th October, 1415, the French, that is to say, the Constable and all the other officers of the king, the Dukes of Orleans, Bourbon, Bar, and Alençon, the Counts de Nevers, d'En, de Richement, de Vendôsme, de Marle, de Vaudemont, de Blaumonte, de Salines, de Grand Pré de Roussy, de Dampmartin, and all the other nobles and men-at-arms, put on their armour and sallied out of their quarters. When the battalions were all drawn up it was a grand sight to view, and they were, according to the calculation on seeing them, full six times the number of the English. After they had been thus arranged, they seated themselves by companies as near to their own banners as they could, to wait the coming of the enemy; and while they refreshed themselves with food, they made up all differences that might have before existed between them. In this state they remained until nine or ten of the clock in the morning, no way doubting from their numbers, that the English could not escape them. Some, however, of the wisest of them had their fears, and dreaded the event of an open battle. The English on that morning perceiving the French made no advances to attack them, refreshed themselves with meat and drink. After calling on the divine aid against the French who despised them, they left Maisonçelle, and sent some of their scouts in the rear of the village of Agincourt, where, not finding any men-at-arms, in order to alarm the French they set fire to a barn and house belonging to the priory of St. George of Hesdin. On the other hand, the King of England dispatched about two hundred archers to the rear of his army, that the French might not see them. They entered Tramecourt in a meadow near the van of the French; there remained quietly

#Monstrelet.

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