Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

particularly distinguished themselves on the English side was the lord James Audley, who, “with the aid of his four squires, fought always in the chief of the battle: he was sore hurt in the body and in the visage; as long as his breath served him he fought: at last, at the end of the battle, his four squires took him and brought him out of the field, and laid him under a hedge-side for to refresh him, and they unarmed him, and bound up his wounds as well as they could.” Scarcely was the fight over, before the prince, remembering him of his faithful servant, sent to him, saying, “Go and know if he may be brought hither, or else I will go and see him there as he is.” Feeble as he was, this message infused new strength into the brave knight's body, and he caused himself to be borne in a litter before the prince, who took him in his arms, and kissed him, and made him “great cheer.” “Sir James,” said he, “I and all ours take you in this journey for the best doer in arms: and to the intent to furnish you the better to pursue the wars, I retain you for ever to be my knight, with five hundred marks of yearly revenues, the which I shall assign you on mine heritage in England.” With one more little story, we conclude these episodes of the great field of Poitiers. Also it fortuned that another squire of Picardy, called John de Helenes, was fled from the battle, and met with his page, who delivered him a new fresh horse, whereon he rode away alone. The same season there was in the field the lord Berkley of England, a young lusty knight, who the same day had reared his banner, and he all alone pursued the said John of Helenes; and when he had followed the space of a league, the said John turned again and laid his sword in the rest instead of a spear, and came running toward the lord Berkley, who lifted up his sword to have stricken the squire, but when he saw the stroke come, he turned from it, so that the Englishman lost his stroke, and John struck him as he passed on the arm that the lord Berkley's sword fell into the field: when he saw his sword down, he lighted suddenly off his horse, and came to the place where his sword lay; and as he stooped down to take up his sword, the French squire did prick his sword at him, and by hap struck him through both the thighs, so that the knight fell to the earth and could not help himself: and John alighted off his horse and took the knight's sword that lay on the ground, and came to him, and demanded if he would yield him or not: the knight then demanded his name. “Sir," said he, “I hight John of Helenes, but what is your name o’ “Certainly,” said the knight, ‘my name is Thomas, and I am lord of Berkley, a fair castle on the river of Severn, in the marches of Wales.” “Well, Sir, quoth the squire, ‘then ye shall be my prisoner, and I shall bring you in safeguard, and I shall see that you shall be healed of your hurt.” “Well,” said the knight, ‘I am content to be your prisoner, for ye have bylaw of arms won me." There he sware to be his prisoner, rescue or no rescue. Then the squire drew forth the sword out of the knight's thighs, and the wound was open; then he wrapped and bound the wound, and set him on his horse, and so brought him fair and easily to Châtel-Herault, and there tarried more than fifteen days for his sake, and did get him remedy for his hurt; and when he was somewhat amended, then he got him a litter, and so brought him at his ease to his house in Picardy: there he was more than a year, till he was perfectly whole. And when he departed he paid for his ransom six thousand nobles, and so this squire was made a knight by reason of the profit that he had of the lord Berkley.” The supper that night on the field will, no doubt, live in the memory of most readers. Certainly never did chivalry show itself more vividly in the contrasted light which it so loved—of its terrible power and recklessness in the field, and its almost feminine grace and gentleness out of it—than at Poitiers. We have seen what the battle was: here is Froissart's notice of the supper. “The prince made the king and his son, the lord James of Bourbon, the lord John d'Artois, the earl

of Tancarville, the earl d'Estampcs, the earl Dammartyn, the earl of Greville, and the lord of Pertney, to sit all at one board, and other lords, knights, and squires at other tables; and always the prince served before the king, as humbly as he could, and would not sit at the king's board, for any desire that the king could make : but he said ne was not sufficient to sit at the table with so great a prince as the king was : but then he said to the king, “Sir, for God's sake make none evil nor heavy cheer, though God did not this day consent to follow your will: for, sir, surely the king my father shall bear you as much honour and amity as he may do, and shall accord with you so reasonably, that ye shall ever be friends together after : and, sir, methink you ought to rejoice, though the journey be not as you would have had it: for this day ye have won the high renown of prowess, and have past this day in valiantness all other of your party. Sir, I say not this to mock you : for all that be on our party, that saw every man's deeds, are plainly wecorded by true sentence to give you the prize and chaplet.”

111.-EDWARD III. AND THE COUNTESS OF SALISBURY.
OLD PLAY.

[There is something more than pageantry and fighting in Froissart's story of Edward III. and the Countess of Salisbury, viewed in connection with the Order of the Garter. How well the old chronicler tells of the unhallowed love of the king, and the constancy of the noble lady, when she welcomed him in the castle that she had been bravely defending against her enemies : “As soon as the lady knew of the king's coming, she set open the gates, and came out so richly beseen, that every man marvelled of her beauty, and could not cease to regard her nobleness with her great beauty, and the gracious words and countenance she made. When she came to the king, she kneeled down to the earth, thanking him of his succours, and so led him into the castle, to make him cheer and honour, as she that could right do it. Every man regarded her marvellously; the king himself could not withhold his regarding of her, for he thought that he never saw before so noble nor so fair a lady: he was stricken therewith to the heart, with a sparkle of fine love that endured long after; he thought no lady in the world so worthy to be loved as she. Thus they entered into the castle hand-in-hand; the lady led him first into the hall, and after into the chamber, nobly apparelled. The king regarded so the lady, that she was abashed. At last he went to a window to rest, and so fell into a great study. The lady went about to make cheer to the lords and knights that were there, and commanded to dress the hall for dinner. When she had all devised and commanded, then she came to the king with a merry cheer, who was then in a great study, and she said, ‘Dear sir, why do ye study so for 7 Your grace not displeased, it appertaineth not to you so to do; rather ye should make good cheer and be joyful, seeing you have chased away your enemies, who durst not abide you: let other men study for the remnant.' Then the king said, “Ah, dear lady, know for truth that since I entered into the castle there is a study come into my mind, so that I cannot choose but to muse, nor I cannot tell what shall fall thereof: put it out of my heart I cannot.’ “Ah, sir, quoth the lady, “ye ought always to make good cheer to comfort therewith your people. God hath aided you so in your business, and hath given you so great graces, that ye be the most doubted (feared) and honoured prince in all Christendom; and if the King of Scots have done you any despite or damage, ye may well amend it when it shall please you, as ye have done divers times er (ere) this. Sir, leave your musing, and come into the hall, if it please you; your dinner is all ready.” “Ah, fair lady, quoth the king, ‘other thingslieth at my heart that ye know not of: but surely the sweet behaving, the perfect wisdom, the good grace, nobleness, and excellent beauty that I see in you hath so surprised my heart, that I cannot but love you, and without your love I am but dead. Then the lady said, ‘Ah! right noble prince, for God's sake mock nor tempt me not. I cannot believe that is true that ye say, or that so noble a prince as ye be would think to dishonour me, and my lord my husband, who is so valiant a knight, and hath done your grace so good service, and as yet lieth in prison for your quarrel. Certainly, sir; ye should in this case have but a small praise, and nothing the better thereby. I had never, as yet, such a thought in my heart, nor, I trust in God, never shall have for no man living. If I had any such intention, your grace ought not only to blame me, but also to punish my body, yea, and by true justice to be dismembered.’ Herewith the lady departed from the king, and went into the hall to haste the dinner. When she returned again to the king, and brought some of his knights with her, and said, “Sir, if it please you to come into the hall, your knights abideth for you to wash; ye have been too long fasting.” Then the king went into the hall, and washed, and sat down among his lords, and the lady also. The king ate little ; he sat still musing, and, as he durst, he cast his eyes upon the lady. Of his sadness his knights had marvel, for he was not accustomed so to be ; some thought it was because the Scots were escaped from him. All that day the king tarried there, and wist not what to do: sometime he imagined that truth and honour defended him to set his heart in such a case, to dishonour such a lady and such a knight as her husband was, who had always well and truly served him ; on the other part, love so constrained him, that the power thereof surmounted honour and truth. Thus the king debated to himself all that day and all that night: in the morning he arose, and dislodged all his host, and drew after the Scots to chase them out of his realm. Then he took leave of the lady, saying, “My dear lady, to God I commend you till I return again, requiring you to advise you otherwise than ye hare said to me.’ ‘Noble prince,' quoth the lady, “God, the Father glorious, be your conduct, and put you out of all villain thoughts. Sir, I am, and ever shall be, ready to do you pure service, to your honour and to mine.' Therewith the king departed all abashed.” If we carry on the legend to the belief that the king subdued his passions, and afterwards met the noble woman in all honour and courtesy, we may understand the motto of the garter—“Evil be to him that evil thinks.”]

This story has been dramatised, with considerable power, in an anonymous play “Edward III.” which by some has been attributed to Shakspere. The Countess of Salisbury is besieged in the castle of Roxburgh, but is speedily relieved from her besiegers by the arrival of Edward with his army. The king and the countess meet, and Edward becomes her guest. His position is a dangerous one, and he rushes into the danger. Cou. Sorry I am to see my liege so sad: What may thy subject do, to drive from thee This gloomy consort, sullen melancholy? Edw. Ah, lady, I am blunt, and cannot straw The flowers of solace in a ground of shame:— Since I came hither, countess, I am wrong’d. Cou. Now, God forbid, that any in my house Should think my sovereign wrong Thrice gentle king, Acquaint me with your cause of discontent. Edw. How near then shall I be to remedy ?

Cou. As near, my liege, as all my woman's power
Can pawn itself to buy thy remedy.
Edw. If thou speak'st true, then have I my redress:
Engage thy power to redeem my joys,
And I am joyful, countess; else, I die.
Cou. I will, my liege.
Edw. Swear, countess, that thou wilt,
Cou. By heaven, I will.
Edw. Then take thyself a little way aside;
And tell thyself a king doth dote on thee;
Say, that within thy power it doth lie
To make him happy; and that thou hast sworn
To give me all the joy within thy power:
Do this, and tell me when I shall be happy.
Cou. All this is done, my thrice dread sovereign:
That power of love, that I have power to give,
Thou hast with all devout obedience;
Employ me how thou wilt in proof thereof.
Edw. Thou hear'st me say that I do dote on thee.
Cou. If on my beauty, take it if thou canst;
Though little, I do prize it ten times less:
If on my virtue, take it if thou canst
For virtue's store by giving doth augment
Be it on what it will, that I can give,
And thou canst take away, inherit it.
Edw. It is thy beauty that I would enjoy.
Cou. O, were it painted, I would wipe it off,
And dispossess myself, to give it thee:
But, sovereign, it is solder'd to my life;
Take one, and both; for, like an humble shadow,
It haunts the sunshine of my summer's life.
Edw. But thou mayst lend it me to sport withal.
Cou. As easy may my intellectual soul
Be lent away, and yet my body live,
As lend my body, palace to my soul,
Away from her, and yet retain my soul.
My body is her bower, her court, her abbey,
And she an angel, pure, divine, unspotted;
If I should lend her house, my lord, to thee,
I kill my poor soul, and my poor soul me.”

The Earl of Warwick, father to the Countess of Salisbury, is required by Edward, upon his oath of duty, to go to his daughter, and command her to agree with his dishonourable proposals. The skill with which the father is made to deliver the message of the king, and to appear to recommend a compliance with his demands, but so at the same time as to make the guilty purpose doubly abhorrent, indicates no common power:

“War. How shall I enter in this graceless errand 1
I must not call her child; for where's the father
That will, in such a suit, seduce his child 7
Then, Wife of Salisbury, shall Iso begin
No, he's my friend; and where is found the friend

That will do friendship such endamagement 7 Neither my daughter, nor my dear friend's wife, I am not Warwick, as thou think'st I am, But an attorney from the court of hell; That thus have hous'd my spirit in his form, To do a message to thee from the king. The mighty king of England dotes on thee: He, that hath power to take away thy life, Hath power to take thine honour; then consent To pawn thine honour, rather than thy life: Honour is often lost, and got again ; But life, once gone, hath no recovery. The sun, that withers hay, doth nourish grass; The king, that would distain thee, will advance thee. The poets write, that great Achilles' spear Could heal the wound it made: the moral is, What mighty men misdo, they can amend. The lion doth become his bloody jaws, And grace his foragement, by being mild When vassal fear lies trembling at his feet. The king will in his glory hide thy shame; And those, that gaze on him to find out thee, Will lose their eyesight, looking in the sun. What can one drop of poison harm the sea, Whose hugy vastness can digest the ill, And make it lose his operation ? The king's great name will temper thy misdeeds And give the bitter potion of reproach A sugar'd sweet and most delicious taste: Besides, it is no harm to do the thing, Which without shame could not be left undone. Thus have I, in his majesty's behalf, Apparel'd sin in virtuous sentences, And dwell upon thy answer in his suit. Cou. Unnatural besiege Woe me, unhappy, To have escap'd the danger of my foes, And to be ten times worse invir’d by friends! Hath he no means to stain my honest blood, But to corrupt the author of my blood, To be his scandalous and vile solicitor? No marvel, though the branches be infected, When poison hath encompassed the root: No marvel, though the leprous infant die, When the stern dam envenometh the dug. Why, then, give sin a passport to offend, And youth the dangerous rein of liberty: Blot out the strict forbidding of the law; And cancel every canon that prescribes A shame for shame, or penance for offence, No, let me die, if his too boist'rous will Will have it so, before I will consent To be an actor in his graceless lust,

« ForrigeFortsett »