The Two Armies Meet
"As soon as the
two armies were in full view of each other, great noise and
You might hear the sound of many trumpets, of bugles, and of
horns; and then you might see men ranging themselves in line,
lifting their shields, raising their lances, bending their
bows, handling their arrows, ready for assault and defence.
The English stood steady to their post, the Normans still
moved on; and when they drew near, the English were to be seen
stirring to and fro; were going and coming; troops ranging
themselves in order; some with their color rising, others
turning pale; some making ready their arms, others raising
their shields; the brave man rousing himself to fight, the
coward trembling at the approach of danger.
Then Taillefer, who sang right well, rode, mounted on a swift
horse, before the Duke, singing of Charlemagne and of Roland,
of Oliver, and the peers who died in Roncesvalles. And when
they drew nigh to the English,
'A boon, sire!' cried Taillefer; 'I have long served you, and
you owe me for all such service. To-day, so please you, you
shall repay it. I ask as my guerdon (reward), and beseech you
for it earnestly, that you will allow me to strike the first
blow in the battle!' And the Duke answered, 'I grant it.'
Then Taillefer put his horse to a gallop, charging before all
the rest, and struck an Englishman dead, driving his lance
below the breast into his body, and stretching him upon the
ground. Then he drew his sword, and struck another, crying
out, 'Come on, come on! What do ye, sirs? lay on, lay on!' At
the second blow he struck the English pushed forward, and
surrounded, and slew him. Forthwith arose the noise and cry of
war, and on either side the people put themselves in motion.
The Normans moved on to the assault, and the English defended
themselves well. Some were striking, others urging onward; all
were bold and cast aside fear. And now, behold, that battle
was gathered whereof the fame is yet mighty."