Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Sketches of Scottish History (7) their forces against England, with Duke William's
help won a fight, in which the English were
commanded by two nobles, and then besieged York.

Harold, who was waiting for the Normans on the
coast at Hastings, with his army, marched to Stamford
bridge, upon the river Derwent, to give his
brother and the Norwegians instant battle.
He found them drawn up in a hollow circle,
marked out by their shining spears. Riding round
this circle at a distance, to survey it, he saw a brave
figure on horseback, in a blue mantle and a bright
helmet, whose horse suddenly stumbled and threw
" Who is that man who has fallen ?" Harold asked
of one of his captains.
" The King of Norway," he replied. " He is a tall and stately king,"
said Harold," but his end is near."
He added, in a little while,
" Go yonder to my
brother, and tell him if he withdraw his troops he
shall be Earl of Northumberland, and rich and
powerful in England."
The captain rode away and gave the message.
" What will he give to my friend the King of
Norway ?" asked the brother.
" Seven feet of earth for a grave," replied the
" No more ?" returned the brother with a smile.
" The King of Norway being a tall man, perhaps
a little more," replied the captain.
" Ride back," said the brother,
" and tell King Harold to make ready for the fight !"
He did so very soon. And such a fight King
Harold led against that force, that his brother, the
Norwegian king, and every chief of note in all
their host, except the Norwegian king's son, Olave,
to whom he gave honourable dismissal, were left
dead upon the field. The victorious army marched
to York. As King Harold sat there at the feast, in
the midst of all his company, a stir was heard at
the doors, and messengers, all covered with mire
from riding far and fast through broken ground,
came hurrying in to report that the Normans had
landed in England.
The intelligence was true. They had been tossed
about by contrary winds, and some of their ships
had been wrecked. A part of their own shore, to
which they had been driven back, was strewn with
Norman bodies. But they had once more made sail,
led by the duke's own galley, a present from his
wife, upon the prow whereof the figure of a golden
boy stood pointing towards England. By day, the
banner of the three lions of Normandy, the diverse
coloured sails, the gilded vanes, the many decorations
of this gorgeous ship, had glittered in the sun
and sunny water ; by night, a light had sparkled
like a star at her mast head : and now, encamped
near Hastings, with their leader lying in the old
Roman castle of Pevensy, the English retiring in all
directions, the land for miles around scorched and
smoking, fired and pillaged, was the whole Norman
power, hopeful and strong, on English ground.

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