Harold: A Drama

Act V

Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

A Tent on a Mound, From Which Can Be Seen the Field of Senlac.

HAROLD, sitting; by him standing HUGH MARGOT the Monk, GURTH, LEOFWIN.

Refer my cause, my crown to Rome! . . . The wolf
Mudded the brook and predetermined all.
Thou hast said thy say, and had my constant ‘No’
For all but instant battle. I hear no more.

Hear me again—for the last time. Arise,
Scatter thy people home, descend the hill,
Lay hands of full allegiance in thy Lord’s
And crave his mercy, for the Holy Father
Hath given this realm of England to the Norman.

Then for the last time, monk, I ask again
When had the Lateran and the Holy Father
To do with England’s choice of her own king?

Earl, the first Christian Cæsar drew to the East
To leave the Pope dominion in the West
He gave him all the kingdoms of the West.

So!—did he?—Earl—I have a mind to play
The William with thine eyesight and thy tongue.
Earl—ay—thou art but a messenger of William.
I am weary—go: make me not wroth with thee!

Mock-king, I am the messenger of God,
His Norman Daniel! Mene, Mene, Tekel!
Is thy wrath Hell, that I should spare to cry,
Yon heaven is wroth with thee? Hear me again!
Our Saints have moved the Church that moves the world,
And all the Heavens and very God: they heard—
They know King Edward’s promise and thine—thine.

Should they not know free England crowns herself?
Not know that he nor I had power to promise?
Not know that Edward cancell’d his own promise?
And for my part therein—Back to that juggler,        [Rising.
Tell him the saints are nobler than he dreams,
Tell him that God is nobler than the Saints,
And tell him we stand arm’d on Senlac Hill,
And bide the doom of God.

                        Hear it thro’ me.
The realm for which thou art forsworn is cursed,
The babe enwomb’d and at the breast is cursed,
The corpse thou whelmest with thine earth is cursed,
The soul who fighteth on thy side is cursed,
The seed thou sowest in thy field is cursed,
The steer wherewith thou plowest thy field is cursed,
The fowl that fleeth o’er thy field is cursed,
And thou, usurper, liar—

                        Out, beast monk!

[Lifting his hand to strike him. GURTH stops the blow.
I ever hated monks.

                I am but a voice
Among you: murder, martyr me if ye will—

Thanks, Gurth! The simple, silent, selfless man
Is worth a world of tonguesters. (To MARGOT.) Get thee gone!
He means the thing he says. See him out safe!

He hath blown himself as red as fire with curses.
An honest fool! Follow me, honest fool,
But if thou blurt thy curse among our folk,
I know not—I may give that egg-bald head
The tap that silences.

                        See him out safe.


Thou hast lost thine even temper, brother Harold!

Gurth, when I past by Waltham, my foundation
For men who serve the neighbour, not themselves,
I cast me down prone, praying; and, when I rose,
They told me that the Holy Rood had lean’d
And bow’d above me; whether that which held it
Had weaken’d, and the Rood itself were bound
To that necessity which binds us down;
Whether it bow’d at all but in their fancy;
Or if it bow’d, whether it symbol’d ruin
Or glory, who shall tell? but they were sad,
And somewhat sadden’d me.

                        Yet if a fear,
Or shadow of a fear, lest the strange Saints
By whom thou swarest, should have power to balk
Thy puissance in this fight with him, who made
And heard thee swear—brother—I have not sworn—
If the king fall, may not the kingdom fall?
But if I fall, I fall, and thou art king;
And, if I win, I win, and thou art king;
Draw thou to London, there make strength to breast
Whatever chance, but leave this day to me.

    LEOFWIN (entering).
And waste the land about thee as thou goest,
And be thy hand as winter on the field,
To leave the foe no forage.

                        Noble Gurth!
Best son of Godwin! If I fall, I fall—
The doom of God! How should the people fight
When the king flies? And, Leofwin, art thou mad?
How should the King of England waste the fields
Of England, his own people?—No glance yet
Of the Northumbrian helmet on the heath?

No, but a shoal of wives upon the heath,
And someone saw thy willy-nilly nun
Vying a tress against our golden fern.

Vying a tear with our cold dews, a sigh
With these low-moaning heavens. Let her be fetch’d.
We have parted from our wife without reproach,
Tho’ we have dived thro’ all her practices;
And that is well.

                I saw her even now:
She hath not left us.

                        Nought of Morcar then?

Nor seen, nor heard; thine, William’s or his own
As wind blows, or tide flows: belike he watches,
If this war-storm in one of its rough rolls
Wash up that old crown of Northumberland.

I married her for Morcar—a sin against
The truth of love. Evil for good, it seems,
Is oft as childless of the good as evil
For evil.

Good for good hath borne at times
A bastard false as William.

                        Ay, if Wisdom
Pair’d not with Good. But I am somewhat worn,
A snatch of sleep were like the peace of God.
Gurth, Leofwin, go once more about the hill—
What did the dead man call it—Sanguelac,
The lake of blood?

                A lake that dips in William
As well as Harold.

                Like enough. I have seen
The trenches dug, the palisades uprear’d
And wattled thick with ash and willow-wands;
Yea, wrought at them myself. Go round once more;
See all be sound and whole. No Norman horse
Can shatter England, standing shield by shield;
Tell that again to all.

                        I will, good brother.

Our guardsman hath but toil’d his hand and foot,
I hand, foot, heart and head. Some wine!

(One pours wine into a goblet which he hands to HAROLD.)
                                        Too much!
What? we must use our battle-axe to-day.
Our guardsmen have slept well, since we came in?

Ay, slept and snored. Your second-sighted man
That scared the dying conscience of the king,
Misheard their snores for groans. They are up again
And chanting that old song of Brunanburg
Where England conquer’d.

                        That is well. The Norman,
What is he doing?

                Praying for Normandy;
Our scouts have heard the tinkle of their bells.

And our old songs are prayers for England too!
But by all Saints—

                Barring the Norman!

Were the great trumpet blowing doomsday dawn,
I needs must rest. Call when the Norman moves—

[Exeunt all, but HAROLD.
No horse—thousands of horses—our shield wall—
Wall—break it not—break not—break—        [Sleeps.

Son Harold, I thy king, who came before
To tell thee thou shouldst win at Stamford-bridge,
Come yet once more, from where I am at peace,
Because I loved thee in my mortal day,
To tell thee them shalt die on Senlac hill—

O brother, from my ghastly oubliette
I send my voice across the narrow seas—
No more, no more, dear brother, nevermore—

O brother, most unbrotherlike to me,
Thou gavest thy voice against me in my life,
I give my voice against thee from the grave—

O hapless Harold!
King but for an hour!
Thou swarest falsely by our blessed bones,
We give our voice against thee out of heaven!
Sanguelac! Sanguelac! The arrow! the arrow!

    HAROLD (starting up, battle-axe in hand.)
My battle-axe against your voices. Peace!
The king’s last word—‘the arrow!’ I shall die—
I die for England then, who lived for England—
What nobler? men must die.
I cannot fall into a falser world—
I have done no man wrong. Tostig, poor brother,
Art thou so anger’d?
Fain had I kept thine earldom in thy hands
Save for thy wild and violent will that wrench’d
All hearts of freemen from thee. I could do
No other than this way advise the king
Against the race of Godwin. Is it possible
That mortal men should bear their earthly heats
Into yon bloodless world, and threaten us thence
Unschool’d of Death? Thus then thou art revenged—
I left our England naked to the South
To meet thee in the North. The Norseman’s raid
Hath helpt the Norman, and the race of Godwin
Hath ruin’d Godwin. No—our waking thoughts
Suffer a stormless shipwreck in the pools
Of sullen slumber, and arise again
Disjointed: only dreams—where mine own self
Takes part against myself! Why? for a spark
Of self-disdain born in me when I sware
Falsely to him, the falser Norman, over
His gilded ark of mummy-saints, by whom
I knew not that I sware,—not for myself—
For England—yet not wholly—

Enter EDITH.
                                Edith, Edith,
Get thou into thy cloister as the king
Will’d it: be safe: the perjury-mongering Count
Hath made too good an use of Holy Church
To break her close! There the great God of truth
Fill all thine hours with peace!—A lying devil
Hath haunted me—mine oath—my wife—I fain
Had made my marriage not a lie; I could not:
Thou art my bride! and thou in after years
Praying perchance for this poor soul of mine
In cold, white cells beneath an icy moon—
This memory to thee!—and this to England,
My legacy of war against the Pope
From child to child, from Pope to Pope, from age to age,
Till the sea wash her level with her shores,
Or till the Pope be Christ’s.


                Away from him!

I will. . . . I have not spoken to the king
One word; and one I must. Farewell!        [Going.

                                Not yet.

To what use?

                The king commands thee, woman!

Have thy two brethren sent their forces in?

Nay, I fear not.

                        Then there’s no force in thee!
Thou didst possess thyself of Edward’s ear
To part me from the woman that I loved!
Thou didst arouse the fierce Northumbrians!
Thou hast been false to England and to me!—
As . . . in some sort . . . I have been false to thee.
Leave me. No more—Pardon on both sides—Go!

Alas, my lord, I loved thee.

    HAROLD (bitterly).
                        With a love
Passing thy love for Griffyth! wherefore now
Obey my first and last commandment. Go!

O Harold! husband! Shall we meet again?

After the battle—after the battle. Go.

I go. (Aside.) That I could stab her standing there!

[Exit Aldwyth.

Alas, my lord, she loved thee.

                                Never! never!

I saw it in her eyes!

                        I see it in thine.
And not on thee—nor England—fall God’s doom!

On thee? on me. And thou art England! Alfred
Was England. Ethelred was nothing. England
Is but her king, and thou art Harold!

The sign in heaven—the sudden blast at sea—
My fatal oath—the dead Saints—the dark dreams—
The Pope’s Anathema—the Holy Rood
That bow’d to me at Waltham—Edith, if
I, the last English King of England—

First of a line that coming from the people,
And chosen by the people—

                        And fighting for
And dying for the people—

                        Living! living!

Yea so, good cheer! thou art Harold, I am Edith!
Look not thus wan!

                What matters how I look?
Have we not broken Wales and Norseland? slain,
Whose life was all one battle, incarnate war,
Their giant-king, a mightier man-in-arms
Than William.

        Ay, my girl, no tricks in him—
No bastard he! when all was lost, he yell’d,
And bit his shield, and dash’d it on the ground,
And swaying his two-handed sword about him,
Two deaths at every swing, ran in upon us
And died so, and I loved him as I hate
This liar who made me liar. If Hate can kill,
And Loathing wield a Saxon battle-axe—

Waste not thy might before the battle!

And thou must hence. Stigand will see thee safe,
And so—Farewell.        [He is going, but turns back.
The ring thou darest not wear.
I have had it fashion’d, see, to meet my hand.

[HAROLD shows the ring which is on his finger.
Farewell!        [He is going, but turns back again.
I am dead as Death this day to ought of earth’s
Save William’s death or mine.

                        Thy death!—to-day!
Is it not thy birthday?

                        Ay, that happy day!
A birthday welcome! happy days and many!
One—this!        [They embrace.
Look, I will bear thy blessing into the battle
And front the doom of God.

    NORMAN CRIES (heard in the distance).
                                Ha Rou! Ha Rou!

Enter GURTH.

The Norman moves!

                        Harold and Holy Cross!

[Exeunt Harold and Gurth.


Our Church in arms—the lamb the lion—not
Spear into pruning-hook—the counter way—
Cowl, helm; and crozier, battle-axe. Abbot Alfwig,
Leofric, and all the monks of Peterboro’
Strike for the king; but I, old wretch, old Stigand,
With hands too limp to brandish iron—and yet
I have a power—would Harold ask me for it—
I have a power.

                What power, holy father?

Power now from Harold to command thee hence
And see thee safe from Senlac.

                        I remain!

Yea, so will I, daughter, until I find
Which way the battle balance. I can see it
From where we stand: and, live or die, I would
I were among them!

    CANONS from Waltham (singing without).

Salva patriam
Sancte Pater,
Salva Fili,
Salva Spiritus,
Salva patriam,
    Sancta Mater.1

Are those the blessed angels quiring, father?

No, daughter, but the canons out of Waltham,
The king’s foundation, that have follow’d him.

O God of battles, make their wall of shields
Firm as thy cliffs, strengthen their palisades!
What is that whirring sound?

                        The Norman arrow!

Look out upon the battle—is he safe?

The king of England stands between his banners.
He glitters on the crowning of the hill.
God save King Harold!

                —chosen by his people
And fighting for his people!

                        There is one
Come as Goliath came of yore—he flings
His brand in air and catches it again,
He is chanting some old warsong.

                                And no David
To meet him?

                Ay, there springs a Saxon on him,
Falls—and another falls.

                        Have mercy on us!

Lo! our good Gurth hath smitten him to the death.

So perish all the enemies of Harold!

    CANONS (singing).

Hostis in Angliam
    Ruit prædator,
Illorum, Domine,
    Scutum scindatur!
Hostis per Angliae
    Plagas bacchatur;
    Casa crematur,
    Pastor fugatur
    Grex trucidatur—

Illos trucida, Domine.

                                Ay, good father.

    CANONS (singing).

Illorum scelera
    Pœna sequatur!

Harold and Holy Cross! Out! out!

                                Our javelins
Answer their arrows. All the Norman foot
Are storming up the hill. The range of knights
Sit, each a statue on his horse, and wait.

Harold and God Almighty!

                                Ha Rou! Ha Rou!

    CANONS (singing).

Eques cum pedite
Illorum in lacrymas
    Cruor fundatur!
Pereant, pereant,
    Anglia precatur.

Look, daughter, look.

                        Nay, father, look for me!

Our axes lighten with a single flash
About the summit of the hill, and heads
And arms are sliver’d off and splinter’d by
Their lightning—and they fly—the Norman flies.

Stigand, O father, have we won the day?

No, daughter, no—they fall behind the horse—
Their horse are thronging to the barricades;
I see the gonfanon of Holy Peter
Floating above their helmets—ha! he is down!

He down! Who down?

                        The Norman Count is down.

So perish all the enemies of England!

No, no, he hath risen again—he bares his face—
Shouts something—he points onward—all their horse
Swallow the hill locust-like, swarming up.

O God of battles, make his battle-axe keen
As thine own sharp-dividing justice, heavy
As thine own bolts that fall on crimeful heads
Charged with the weight of heaven wherefrom they fall!

    CANONS (singing).

Jacta tonitrua
    Deus bellator!
Surgas e tenebris,
    Sis vindicator!
Fulmina, fulmina
    Deus vastator!

O God of battles, they are three to one,
Make thou one man as three to roll them down!

    CANONS (singing).

Equus cum equite
Acies, Acies
    Prona sternatur!
Illorum lanceas
    Frange Creator!

Yea, yea, for how their lances snap and shiver
Against the shifting blaze of Harold’s axe!
War-woodman of old Woden, how he fells
The mortal copse of faces! There! And there!
The horse and horseman cannot meet the shield,
The blow that brains the horseman cleaves the horse,
The horse and horseman roll along the hill,
They fly once more, they fly, the Norman flies!

Equus cum equite

O God, the God of truth hath heard my cry.
Follow them, follow them, drive them to the sea!

Illorum scelera
    Pœna sequatur!

Truth! no; a lie; a trick, a Norman trick!
They turn on the pursuer, horse against foot,
They murder all that follow.

                        Have mercy on us!

Hot-headed fools—to burst the wall of shields!
They have broken the commandment of the king!

His oath was broken—O holy Norman Saints,
Ye that are now of heaven, and see beyond
Your Norman shrines, pardon it, pardon it,
That he forsware himself for all he loved,
Me, me and all! Look out upon the battle!

They thunder again upon the barricades.
My sight is eagle, but the strife so thick—
This is the hottest of it: hold, ash! hold, willow!

Out, out!

                Ha Rou!

Ha! Gurth hath leapt upon him
And slain him: he hath fallen.

                        And I am heard.
Glory to God in the Highest! fallen, fallen!

No, no, his horse—he mounts another—wields
His war-club, dashes it on Gurth, and Gurth,
Our noble Gurth, is down!

                        Have mercy on us!

And Leofwin is down!

                        Have mercy on us!
O Thou that knowest, let not my strong prayer
Be weaken’d in thy sight, because I love
The husband of another!

                Ha Rou! Ha Rou!

I do not hear our English war-cry.


Look out upon the battle—is he safe?

He stands between the banners with the dead
So piled about him he can hardly move.

    EDITH (takes up the war-cry).
Out! out!

Ha Rou!

    EDITH (cries out).
Harold and Holy Cross!

Ha Rou! Ha Rou!

                        What is that whirring sound?

The Norman sends his arrows up to Heaven,
They fall on those within the palisade!

Look out upon the hill—is Harold there?

Sanguelac—Sanguelac—the arrow—the arrow!—away!

1.    The a throughout these Latin hymns should be sounded broad, as in ‘father.’]    [back]

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

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