Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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join the fight. As the Duke was arming an incident occurred but for which Battle Abbey might never have been built. His suit of mail was offered him wrong side out. The super­stitious Normans standing by looked sideways at each other with sinking misgiving. They deemed it a bad omen. But William's face betrayed no fear. "If we win," he said, "and God send we may, I will found an Abbey here for the salva­tion of the souls of all who fall in the engagement." Before quitting his tent, he was careful that those relics on which Harold had sworn never to oppose his efforts against England's throne should be hung around his neck.
So the two armies were ready—the mounted Normans, with their conical helmets gleaming in the hazy sunlight, with kite-shaped shields, huge spears and swords; the English, all on foot, with heavy axes and clubs. But theirs was a defensive part; the Normans had to begin. It fell to the lot of a wild troubadour named Taillefer to open the fight. He galloped from the Norman lines at full speed, singing a song of heroes; then checked his steed and tossed his lance thrice in the air, thrice catching it by the point. The opposing lines silently wondered. Then he flung it at a luckless Saxon with all the energy of a madman, spitting him as a skewer spits a lark. Taillefer had now only his sword left. This also he threw thrice into the air, and then seizing it with the grip of death he rode straight at the Saxon troops, dealing blows from left to right, and so was lost to view.
Thus the Battle of Hastings began. " On them in God's name," cried William, " and chastise these English for their misdeeds." " Dieu aide," his men screamed, spurring to the attack. " Out, Out! " barked the English, " Holy Cross ! God Almighty !" The carnage was terrific. It seemed for long that the English were prevailing; and they would, in all likelihood, have prevailed in the end had they kept their posi­tion. But William feigned a retreat, and the English crossed their vallum in pursuit. The Normans at once turned their
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