On Senlac Hill, the grasses blow,
The forest hums with song;
Old Senlac Hill, by Hastings town
Gleams cold and all alone.
Here, the tramp and clink of maille rings,
Echoes 'cross the open meadow;
The clash and bite of iron sword,
And the spears are all a-splintering.
Here, the cloven helm, the whistling arrow,
Proud banners catch the breeze;
The baying horns still fill the dales
From a thousand years ago.
The gold-red drake of Wessex
Burns swathes of blood and fire,
His fiery tongue lays waste the ships
of the northern king, Hardrada.
The dark cold waters of Umber
Are blackened with smoldering reek
Stamford Bridge, soaks her feet in the scarlet
Of forsworn blood-brother's bones.
The battle won, the Norsemen defeated,
The Wessex dragon flies south on thund'ring wings.
As the proud crests of Normandy
Break upon its shores.
The stormy winds of autumn's breath
Abate before the towering spray
Slicing through the murm'ring Channel
Bow before the fleet invader's prows.
The whirlwind son of Godwin,
Rides south through English lands,
Throws down his crown for battle
And shakes his spear instead.
On the ridge of Senlac Hill,
Between the hills of trees,
His troops arranged for battle,
Make a wall of buckler'd shields.
The morning mist clings slithering,
Among the leafy crowns of autumned trees,
As troops prepare for battle,
The quiet talk of death's predestined.
The gloom-grim whiskered jaws of men are set,
The spear-haft and the lance in rest
Snorting mounts and clinking maille
The last shifting movements of a dooméd race.
Hark! But suddenly, a brazen jester with a sword
Comes riding forth out to the fore
The Songs of Roland on his lips
Of deeds both brave and fell.
Norman bowslike the harps of bards
are strung and strumand ring with skillful touch.
The fleet feathered shafts from Flanders' hills are singing,
Whist'ling as they hum across an emerald field.
Rebounding, bouncing, useless arrows fly,
The Saxon wallboth tall and proud
Shakes a disdainful shaggy mane;
At the heap of crushed feathers, fallen like flies.
Normandy trusts the volleyed shafts,
The sons of northern Franceeager for the kill
Rush up the rolling hill, as stones, as rocks,
As hurling missiles crush their broken lines.
Brutal slaughter, iron hamm'ring cruelty,
Salacious, cleaving blood-faced butchery,
As blood-red death lifts up her hooded cowl,
To lap her share, with a rushing beat of raven's wings.
The Normans break, and fly fleeing down the hill,
The Saxons break, reveling in pursuit
Cutting down the broken ranks of Normandy
Are glaived in turn by a pounding line of iron hooves.
Discord and her raving minions reign upon the field
Ravaging, dark maw snarling in wolfish delight,
She sows the Saxon-Norman lines with doubt and terror,
As armies rout and men in heaped-up hills are slain.
The Duke of Normandy falls beneath his mount,
Crushed in a press of warring-fevered madness.
A cry is raised and taken up amongst the wav'ring banners,
"He's dead! He's dead!" shout friend and foe alike.
He raises a shaggy, battered head on high,
Matted with blood and battle's grime,
"Not dead yetso please God
Now charge nighfor God and Normandy!"
The routing turn on heel, their pursuers shrink,
As the hunters become the hunter's prey,
Scrambling back oe'r the wet-slick flattened grass,
As Norman archers bend back their crescent bows.
The deadly rain of feathered Norman shafts
Flies over the crumbling wall of iron.
Cries and screams of fletched-struck men
Softens the line of Saxon pride.
It falls, it breaks, it crumbles down
With each last staggered gasp of Saxon man,
With one great cry, the Duke rides bellowing,
His knights in gleaming maille shimmer
Shimmer like the eager eyes of death,
The horses snorting, rearing, pawing, iron-shod hooves thundering,
Thundering though the moor, disdaining the earth
As they trample the dead into murky shallow graves.
Lance in rest, spear-points twinkling,
The sun-bright helms all a-gleaming,
They shatter against the splintering wall of Saxon shield
Skull-split, bone breaks against iron's flaming sheen.
Harold, the Godwinson, the king of English lands,
The gold-royal drake of Wessex,
Falls prone upon the ground, with the crash of a falling hill
And with an arrow in his eye.
To the death, his oath-sword brothers stand,
Their axes clutched in steely hands,
The housecarls ring their fallen lord,
In Saxon stylethey are cut down to the man.
A lull of quiet falls, as the dead are stripped,
The routing Saxons chased into the trees,
One man spits upon the corpse of England's king.
Duke William, incensed, rebukes him.
"Here lies a noble foe. Let him rest in honor,
Such treatment does not become the noble lord of Wessex."
Before him lies the flattened field, wrapped in the reek of bloody death,
Shields fallen, spear hafts broken, the wounded groaning.
The English throne lies clear.
But first they clear the field, the nightfires burn,
Autumn fades to winter.
And the hush of death lies fresh upon the snow.
And Duke William of lordly Normandy, marches on the way,
In London town, the seat of royal England,
The ancient crown is placed atop his head,
In the swirling snow on the birthday of the Prince of Peace.