Colin F. Jones

THE BATTLE OF AGINCOURT: 1415

~ 1 ~

They both rose before dawn in the twilight mist,
It had rained heavily the night before,
The French argued and yelled; they couldn’t resist,
Showering the Englishmen with their scorn.
Between the two armies was a recently ploughed field,
And there was forest on either side
The mud of the field would restrict the French force,
Where their cavalry might be given to ride.
Five thousand Archers and nine hundred men,
Was the extent of the English force,
With twenty five thousand in the French total ranks,
Counting the man astride on his horse.
Four hours they waited for the English to march,
For without food they had no other recourse.

The French

~ 2 ~

Two lines they formed of strong men-at-arms,
And the third was a mounted line,
With the Armoured Cavalry on either flank,
On their horses looking fiery and fine.
The Count of Vendome led the group to the left,
And Clignet de Brebant led the one to the right,
At the flanks but behind the ranks to the rear,
The cannon were well out of sight.
Between the first and second foot-soldier lines,
Were placed the archers in a long row,
With the crossbowmen somewhat confined,
For room was needed to fire a bow.
And the lines ill-formed were a merging mass,
That they did not know where to go.

~ 3 ~

It was a jealous lot of noblemen,
In the French lines that formed their groups,
As they jostled for position where,
Their banners might display their troops,
Crowding out the crossbowmen,
And pushing the Archers to the flanks,
There was confusion rife among them,
Caused by the aristocracy of the swanks.
This army the leaders thought the best,
Was more like an unruly throng,
But this day would put them to the test,
That would prove them right or wrong.
And as they lined up east and west,
They sang their battle song.

The English

~ 4 ~

The English formed up in a single line,
In three groups of men-at-arms,
With Bowmen standing on either flank,
With a confidence that calms.
The Duke of York would lead the right,
Lord Camoys would lead the left,
And in the centre, King Henry would fight,
Where as King he would bare his crest.
The Englishmen were calm and set,
And their battle lines were straight,
But time could lead to their regret
For without food they could not wait,
For they would starve if they did let,
The French men decide their fate.

The Battle

~ 5 ~

On sound advice the decision was made,
Henry ordered his armies to advance,
With the rattle of spears all on parade,
The horses whinnying and starting to prance.
In steady lines the troops advanced,
Towards the French across the field,
To a point where the longbow men had range,
To rain arrows upon their shields.
Each Archer carried an eight foot stake,
Which he drove obliquely into the ground,
To impale French horses if they charged,
Which would maim and tend to confound.
The stakes were sharpened at both ends,
Were strong and smoothly round.

~ 6 ~

The Archers let loose the first arrow wave,
That hummed up to blacken the sky,
Then falling like lethal drops of rain,
The first Frenchmen began to die.
The shafts thundered down upon armour plate
Soldiers fell and horses were maimed,
And angered the Frenchmen declared their hate,
As upon them more arrows were rained.
In confusion and anger the French cavalry charged,
Followed by a surge from the men at arms,
They charged forward from the arrow shot flanks,
With spears and swords in their palms.
The Bodkin Points of the Bowmen’s shafts,
Penetrating their armour and heads and arms.

~ 7 ~

Caught by surprise by the English attack,
The charge was seriously undermanned;
Some desperately struggled to turn right back
For the charge had never been planned.
Hemmed in by the forest on either flank,
The running horses had no where to go,
As crazed by injury and fright they sank,
Driven back by the Archers’ bow.
Those who survived by turning away,
Ran into the men-at-arms advance,
Disrupting their orderly measured array,
Reeking havoc under the airborne dance
And they flayed on the ground in the sun of the day,
In sheer chaos where they had little chance

~ 8 ~

Their hooves slid on the mud and clay,
And bogged down in the fresh ploughed field,
So the Cavalry charge was held at bay,
And the English lines did not yield.
In three columns the French compressed between,
The lush forests on either side,
Lacked room to freely use their skills,
So more of them from the arrows died.
Using shortened lances for fighting on foot,
The French rushed forward the last few feet,
But the English stepped back to put them off balance,
Causing them to lunge into a state of defeat,
Exhausted by the charge over rough broken ground,
Their lost momentum caused them to retreat.

~ 9 ~

The French Archers inferior against the English long Bow,
Could not get close enough to lend them support,
And the cannons were useless to render a blow,
For by such fire their own men would be caught.
The English line bent but were giving no way,
For one on one they were more skilled in the fight,
For despite the great numbers of the French armies array,
They could not use the whole of their might.
As the bodies fell down causing obstacles for those,
Who were advancing at the front of the force,
It was difficult for the Spearmen and Pikemen to close,
And impossible for a knight on a horse.
French blood ran freely as the second line rose,
To suffer the same fate dealt out to the first.

~ 10 ~

The first line of the French were all but destroyed,
And the second line were not eager to fight,
But many attacked and received the same fate,
Though many took fearful disorderly flight.
The Duke of Barabant was killed in a charge,
And in thirty minutes the two lines were crushed,
The unbeatable French army was no longer so large,
And briefly the battle was hushed.
French bodies lay piled in blood covered mounds,
Lying where they were slaughtered and fell,
The stomping of horses were the only real sounds,
In this place that could only be Hell.
And along the long lines of the French Cavalry,
On each face there was a story to tell

~ 11 ~

Prisoners moved to the rear were thousands indeed,
Being more than the whole English force arrayed,
But the French third line still hoped to succeed,
And were menacingly and fearfully displayed.
The Lord of Agincourt and a mob of peasants,
With three French Knights to lead the fray,
Attacked the English baggage train at the rear,
And with their plunder stole away.
The Count of Fauquemberghes and the Count of Marle,
With six hundred men attacked,
But this counter was wiped out like the rest,
Though they were strong and firmly packed.
It was an ill timed un-chivalrous quest,
Which failed by what it lacked.

~ 12 ~

Revenge was quick for King Henry’s wrath,
Was to order his men to kill,
All the prisoners… “that we hath”,
And to do it with a will.
But the Men-At-Arms would not obey,
So twenty Archers received the task:
And they at once began to slay,
The French prisoners to the last.
‘Twas soon though that the killing ceased,
For the French third line had gone,
Although many Frenchmen were deceased,
Before the English Archers’ job was done.
So the historic Battle of Agincourt
Was by the English army won.