Harold: A Drama

Act IV

Scene III

Alfred Tennyson

After the Battle of Stamford-Bridge. Banquet.


Hail! Harold! Aldwyth! hail, bridegroom and bride!

    ALDWYTH (talking with HAROLD).
Answer them thou!
Is this our marriage-banquet? Would the wines
Of wedding had been dash’d into the cups
Of victory, and our marriage and thy glory
Been drunk together! these poor hands but sew,
Spin, broider—would that they were man’s to have held
The battle-axe by thee!

                There was a moment
When being forced aloof from all my guard,
And striking at Hardrada and his madmen
I had wish’d for any weapon.

                        Why art thou sad?

I have lost the boy who play’d at ball with me,
With whom I fought another fight than this
Of Stamford-bridge.

                Ay! ay! thy victories
Over our own poor Wales, when at thy side
He conquer’d with thee.

                        No—the childish fist
That cannot strike again.

                        Thou art too kindly.
Why didst thou let so many Norsemen hence?
Thy fierce forekings had clench’d their pirate hides
To the bleak church doors, like kites upon a barn.

Is there so great a need to tell thee why?

Yea, am I not thy wife?

                                Hail, Harold, Aldwyth!
Bridegroom and bride!

Answer them!        [To HAROLD.

    HAROLD (to all).
        Earls and Thanes!
Full thanks for your fair greeting of my bride!
Earls, Thanes, and all our countrymen! the day,
Our day beside the Derwent will not shine
Less than a star among the goldenest hours
Of Alfred, or of Edward his great son,
Or Athelstan, or English Ironside
Who fought with Knut, or Knut who coming Dane
Died English. Every man about his king
Fought like a king; the king like his own man,
No better; one for all, and all for one,
One soul! and therefore have we shatter’d back
The hugest wave from Norseland ever yet
Surged on us, and our battle-axes broken
The Raven’s wing, and dumb’d his carrion croak
From the gray sea for ever. Many are gone—
Drink to the dead who died for us, the living
Who fought and would have died, but happier lived,
If happier be to live; they both have life
In the large mouth of England, till her voice
Die with the world. Hail—hail!

May all invaders perish like Hardrada!
All traitors fail like Tostig.

[All drink but HAROLD.

                        Thy cup’s full!

I saw the hand of Tostig cover it.
Our dear, dead, traitor-brother, Tostig, him
Reverently we buried. Friends, had I been here,
Without too large self-lauding I must hold
The sequel had been other than his league
With Norway, and this battle. Peace be with him!
He was not of the worst. If there be those
At banquet in this hall, and hearing me—
For there be those I fear who prick’d the lion
To make him spring, that sight of Danish blood
Might serve an end not English—peace with them
Likewise, if they can be at peace with what
God gave us to divide us from the wolf!

    ALDWYTH (aside to HAROLD).
Make not our Morcar sullen: it is not wise.

Hail to the living who fought, the dead who fell!

Hail, hail!

How ran that answer which King Harold gave
To his dead namesake, when he ask’d for England?

‘Seven feet of English earth, or something more,
Seeing he is a giant!’

                Then for the bastard
Six feet and nothing more!

                Ay, but belike
Thou hast not learnt his measure.

                By St. Edmund
I over-measure him. Sound sleep to the man
Here by dead Norway without dream or dawn!

What is he bragging still that he will come
To thrust our Harold’s throne from under him?
My nurse would tell me of a molehill crying
To a mountain ‘Stand aside and room for me!’

Let him come! let him come.
Here’s to him, sink or swim!        [Drinks.

                God sink him!

Cannot hands which had the strength
To shove that stranded iceberg off our shores,
And send the shatter’d North again to sea,
Scuttle his cockle-shell? What’s Brunanburg
To Stamford-bridge? a war-crash, and so hard,
So loud, that, by St. Dunstan, old St. Thor—
By God, we thought him dead—but our old Thor
Heard his own thunder again, and woke and came
Among us again, and mark’d the sons of those
Who made this Britain England, break the North:

Mark’d how the war-axe swang,
Heard how the war-horn sang,
Mark’d how the spear-head sprang,
Heard how the shield-wall rang,
Iron on iron clang,
Anvil on hammer bang—

Hammer on anvil, hammer on anvil. Old dog,
Thou art drunk, old dog!

                Too drunk to fight with thee!

Fight thou with thine own double, not with me,
Keep that for Norman William!

                Down with William!

The washerwoman’s brat!

                        The tanner’s bastard!

The Falaise byblow!

[Enter a THANE, from Pevensey, spattered with mud.

                Ay, but what late guest,
As haggard as a fast of forty days,
And caked and plaster’d with a hundred mires,
Hath stumbled on our cups?

    THANE from Pevensey.
                My lord the King!
William the Norman, for the wind had changed—

I felt it in the middle of that fierce fight
At Stamford-bridge. William hath landed, ha?

    THANE from Pevensey.
Landed at Pevensey—I am from Pevensey—
Hath wasted all the land at Pevensey—
Hath harried mine own cattle—God confound him!
I have ridden night and day from Pevensey—
A thousand ships—a hundred thousand men—
Thousands of horses, like as many lions
Neighing and roaring as they leapt to land—

How oft in coming hast thou broken bread?

    THANE from Pevensey.
Some thrice, or so.

                Bring not thy hollowness
On our full feast. Famine is fear, were it but
Of being starved. Sit down, sit down, and eat,
And, when again red-blooded, speak again;
        (Aside.) The men that guarded England to the South
Were scatter’d to the harvest. . . . No power mine
To hold their force together. . . . Many are fallen
At Stamford-bridge . . . the people stupid-sure
Sleep like their swine . . . in South and North at once
I could not be.
        (Aloud.) Gurth, Leofwin, Morcar, Edwin!
(Pointing to the revellers.)
The curse of England! these are drown’d in wassail,
And cannot see the world but thro’ their wines!
Leave them! and thee too, Aldwyth, must I leave—
Harsh is the news! hard is our honeymoon!
Thy pardon. (Turning round to his ATTENDANTS.)
                Break the banquet up . . . Ye four!
And thou, my carrier-pigeon of black news,
Cram thy crop full, but come when thou art call’d.

[Exit Harold.

Harold: A Drama - Contents     |     Act V - Scene I

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