Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

MARMION.

CANTO FIFTH.

THE COURT

THE train has left the hills of Braid ;
The barrier guard have open made
(So Lindesay bade) the palisade,

That closed the tented ground;
Their men the warders backward drew,
And carried pikes as they rode through,

Into its ample bound.?
Fast ran the Scottish warriors there,
Upon the Southern band to stare.

1[MS.-" The barrier guard the Lion knew,

Advanced their pikes, and soon withdrew
The slender palisades and few

That closed the tented ground;
And Marmion with his train rode through,

Across its ample bound.”)

And envy with their wonder rose,
To see such well-appointed foes ;
Such length of shafts, such mighty bows,
So huge, that many simply thought,
But for a vaunt such weapons wrought;
And little deem'd their force to feel,
Through links of mail, and plates of steel,
When rattling upon Flodden vale,
The cloth-yard arrows flew like hail.2

II.

Nor less did Marmion's skilful view
Glance every line and squadron through ;
And much he marvell’d one small land
Could marshal forth such various band :

For men-at-arms were here,
Heavily sheathed in mail and plate,
Like iron towers for strength and weight,
On Flemish steeds of bone and height,

With battle-axe and spear.

1 [MS.—“So long their shafts, so large their bows.”]

2 This is no poetical exaggeration. In some of the counties of England, distinguished for archery, shafts of this extraordinary length were actually used. Thus, at the battle of Blackheath, between the troops of Henry VII. and the Cornish insurgents, in 1496, the bridge of Dartford was defended by a picked band of archers from the rebel army, “ whose arrows,” says Hollinshed, “ were in length a full cloth yard.” The Scottish, according to Ascham, had a proverb, that every English archer carried under his belt twentyfour Scots, in allusion to his bundle of unerring shafts.

Young knights and squires, a lighter train,
Practised their chargers on the plain,
By aid of leg, of hand, and rein,

Each warlike feat to show,
To pass, to wheel, the croupe to gain,
And high curvet, that not in vain
The sword sway might descend amain

On foeman's casque below.2
He saw the hardy burghers there
March arm’d, on foot, with faces bare,8

*[MS.-" There urged their chargers on the plain.” ]

2. The most useful air, as the Frenchmen term it, is terris terr; the courbettes, cabrioles, or un pas et un sault, being fitter for horses of parade and triumph than for soldiers: yet I cannot deny but a demivolte with courbettes, so that they be not too high, may be useful in a fight or meslee; for, as Labroue hath it, in his Book of Horsemanship, Monsieur de Montmorency having a horse that was excellent in performing the demivolte, did, with his sword, strike down two adversaries from their horses in a tourney, where divers of the prime gallants of France did meet ; for, taking his time, when the horse was in the height of his courbette, and discharging & blow then, his sword fell with such weight and force upon the two cavaliers, one after another, that he struck them from their horses to the ground.”—Lord Herbert of Cherbury's Life, p. 48.

8 The Scottish burgesses were, like yeomen, appointed to be armed with bows and sheaves, sword, buckler, knife, spear, or a good axe instead of a bow, if worth L.100: their armour to be of white or bright harness. They wore white hats, i. e. bright steel caps, without crest or vizor. By an act of James IV., their weapon-schawings are appointed to be held four times a-year, under the aldermen or bailiffs.

For vizor they wore none,
Nor waving plume, nor crest of knight;
But burnish'd were their corselets bright,
Their brigantines, and gorgets light,

Like very silver shone.
Long pikes they had for standing fight,

Two-handed swords they wore,
And many wielded mace of weight,

And bucklers bright they bore.

III.

On foot the yeoman too, but dress'd
In his steel-jack, a swarthy vest,

With iron quilted well ;
Each at his back (a slender store)
His forty days' provision bore,

As feudal statutes tell.
His arms were halbert, axe, or spear,

1[MS.—“And malls did many wield of weight.”]

2 Bows and quivers were in vain recommended to the peasantry of Scotland, by repeated statutes ; spears and axes seem universally to have been used instead of them. Their defensive armour was the plate-jack, hauberk, or brigantine; and their missile weapons crossbows and culverins. All wore swords of excellent temper, according to Patten; and a voluminous handkerchief round their neck, “not for cold, but for cutting.” The mace also was much used in the Scottish army. The old poem on the battle of Flodden mentions a band

“Who manfully did meet their foes,

With leaden mauls, and lances long." When the feudal array of the kingdom was called forth, A crossbow there, a hagbut here,

A dagger-knife, and brand.
Sober he seem'd, and sad of cheer,
As loth to leave his cottage dear,
And march to foreign strand ;
Or musing, who would guide his steer,

To till the fallow land.
Yet deem not in his thoughtful eye
Did aught of dastard terror lie;

More dreadful far his ire,
Than theirs, who, scorning danger's name,
In eager mood to battle came,
Their valour like light straw on flame,

A fierce but fading fire.

IV.
Not so the Borderer:-bred to war,
He knew the battle's din afar,

And joy'd to hear it swell.
His peaceful day was slothful ease;
Nor harp, nor pipe, his ear could please,

Like the loud slogan yell.
On active steed, with lance and blade,
The light-arm'd pricker plied his trade,

Let nobles fight for fame ; each man was obliged to appear with forty days' provision. When this was expended, which took place before the battle of Flodden, the army melted away of course. Almost all the Scottish forces, except a few knights, men-at-arms, and the Border prickers, who formed excellent light cavalry, acted upon foot.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »