'The Battle Of Agincourt' by Michael Drayton

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Fair stood the wind for France
When we our sails advance,
Nor now to prove our chance
Longer will tarry;
But putting to the main,
At Caux, the mouth of Seine,
With all his martial train,
Landed King Harry.

And taking many a fort,
Furnished in warlike sort,
Marcheth towards Agincourt
In happy hour;
Skirmishing day by day
With those that stopped his way,
Where the French gen'ral lay
With all his power;

Which, in his height of pride,
King Henry to deride,
His ransom to provide
Unto him sending;
Which he neglects the while,
As from a nation vile,
Yet with an angry smile
Their fall portending.

And turning to his men,
Quoth our brave Henry then,
"Though they to one be ten,
Be not amazed.
Yet have we well begun,
Battles so bravely won
Have ever to the sun
By fame been raised.

"And for myself (quoth he),
This my full rest shall be;
England ne'er mourn for me,
Nor more esteem me.
Victor I will remain,
Or on this earth lie slain;
Never shall she sustain
Loss to redeem me.

"Poitiers and Cressy tell,
When most their pride did swell,
Under our swords they fell;
No less our skill is
Than when our grandsire great,
Claiming the regal seat,
By many a warlike feat
Lopped the French lilies."

The Duke of York so dread
The eager vaward led;
With the main Henry sped
Amongst his henchmen.
Exeter had the rear,
A braver man not there;—
O Lord, how hot they were
On the false Frenchmen!

They now to fight are gone,
Armour on armour shone,
Drum now to drum did groan,
To hear was wonder;
That with the cries they make
The very earth did shake;
Trumpet to trumpet spake,
Thunder to thunder.

Well it thine age became,
O noble Erpingham,
Which didst the signal aim
To our hid forces!
When from a meadow by,
Like a storm suddenly,
The English archery
Stuck the French horses.

With Spanish yew so strong,
Arrows a cloth-yard long,
That like to serpents stung,
Piercing the weather;
None from his fellow starts,
But, playing manly parts,
And like true English hearts,
Stuck close together.

When down their bows they threw,
And forth their bilbos drew,
And on the French they flew,
Not one was tardy;
Arms were from shoulders sent,
Scalps to the teeth were rent,
Down the French peasants went—
Our men were hardy!

This while our noble king,
His broadsword brandishing,
Down the French host did ding,
As to o'erwhelm it;
And many a deep wound lent,
His arms with blood besprent,
And many a cruel dent
Bruised his helmet.

Gloucester, that duke so good,
Next of the royal blood,
For famous England stood
With his brave brother;
Clarence, in steel so bright,
Though but a maiden knight,
Yet in that furious fight
Scarce such another.

Warwick in blood did wade,
Oxford the foe invade,
And cruel slaughter made
Still as they ran up;
Suffolk his axe did ply,
Beaumont and Willoughby
Bare them right doughtily,
Ferrers and Fanhope.

Upon Saint Crispin's Day
Fought was this noble fray,
Which fame did not delay
To England to carry.
O, when shall English men
With such acts fill a pen;
Or England breed again
Such a King Harry?

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Battle Of Agincourt: An Epic Poem that Tells the Tale of a Glorious Victory

When it comes to epic poems, The Battle of Agincourt by Michael Drayton certainly stands out. This masterpiece tells the tale of the famous battle that took place on October 25, 1415, between the forces of King Henry V of England and the French army. Drayton's poem is a vivid account of the events that led up to the battle, the fierce fighting that took place, and the ultimate triumph of the English forces. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the themes, structure, and language of this epic poem and explore what makes it a classic work of literature.

Historical Context and Significance

Before we dive into the poem itself, it's important to understand the historical context and significance of the Battle of Agincourt. This was a pivotal moment in the Hundred Years' War between England and France, and it marked a decisive victory for the English forces. King Henry V, who was only 27 years old at the time, led his army of around 6,000 men against a French force that numbered around 30,000. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the English managed to win the battle, largely thanks to their use of longbows and the muddy terrain which slowed down the French cavalry.

The Battle of Agincourt has been immortalized in literature and popular culture, and it remains a symbol of English military prowess to this day. Michael Drayton's poem is just one example of the many works of art that have been inspired by this historic event.

Themes and Motifs

One of the most prominent themes in The Battle of Agincourt is the idea of heroism and bravery. Drayton portrays King Henry V as a heroic figure who inspires his troops to fight with courage and determination. The poem is full of descriptions of the feats of valor performed by individual soldiers, such as the famous scene where the English archers fire volley after volley of arrows into the French ranks. This theme of heroism is also reflected in the language of the poem, which is often grandiose and elevated, with frequent use of metaphor and allusion.

Another important motif in the poem is the idea of divine intervention. Drayton frequently refers to God and suggests that the English victory was due in part to divine favor. This is exemplified in lines such as "The Lord of Hosts in mercy would bestow / This happy field" (lines 257-258) and "He gave the glory to his name alone, / That thus from ruin raised the English throne" (lines 787-788). This motif of divine intervention is common in epic poetry, and it is used here to emphasize the significance of the battle and the greatness of the English victory.

Structure and Form

The Battle of Agincourt is written in heroic couplets, which are pairs of rhyming lines in iambic pentameter. This form was popular in epic poetry during the Renaissance period, and it suits Drayton's subject matter well. The use of couplets gives the poem a sense of formal elegance, while the iambic pentameter provides a steady, rhythmic beat that gives the poem momentum and energy.

The poem is divided into 25 sections, or "sights," each of which describes a different aspect of the battle. This structure allows Drayton to provide a detailed, blow-by-blow account of the action while also giving the reader a sense of the scale and complexity of the battle. Each "sight" has its own internal structure, with some consisting of a single couplet and others spanning several pages. This variety of structure helps to keep the poem fresh and engaging, even as it covers a lot of ground.

Language and Style

One of the most striking aspects of The Battle of Agincourt is its language and style. Drayton's use of grandiose, elevated language gives the poem a sense of majesty and grandeur that befits its subject matter. The poem is filled with metaphor and allusion, with references to classical mythology, biblical stories, and other works of literature. For example, in describing the French forces, Drayton writes:

Their lofty crests, that with such glory shone,

Were now their graves; for on their heads alone

The fatal ruin fell; the rest fought on,

And by their fall their fellow's fame had won.

Here, Drayton uses the metaphor of a crest to describe the helmets worn by the French soldiers, turning their symbol of pride and honor into a symbol of death and defeat. This kind of language is typical of epic poetry, and it creates a sense of epic grandeur and importance.


In conclusion, The Battle of Agincourt is a classic work of literature that tells the story of one of the most famous battles in English history. Michael Drayton's use of heroic couplets, grandiose language, and vivid imagery create a sense of epic grandeur and majesty that makes the poem a joy to read. The themes of heroism, bravery, and divine intervention make the poem both inspiring and thought-provoking, while the detailed structure and variety of form keep the reader engaged from start to finish. Overall, The Battle of Agincourt is a masterpiece of epic poetry that deserves to be read and appreciated by anyone who loves great literature.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Battle of Agincourt: A Triumph of English Valor

The Battle of Agincourt, fought on October 25, 1415, is one of the most famous battles in English history. It was a decisive victory for the English army, led by King Henry V, against the French army, which was much larger in number. The battle has been immortalized in literature, art, and film, and one of the most celebrated works on the subject is the poem "The Battle of Agincourt" by Michael Drayton.

Drayton's poem, published in 1627, is a stirring account of the battle, which captures the bravery and heroism of the English soldiers. The poem is written in rhyming couplets, and its language is rich and vivid, evoking the sights and sounds of the battlefield. In this analysis, we will examine the themes and imagery of the poem, and explore how Drayton's work has contributed to the enduring legacy of the Battle of Agincourt.

The poem begins with a description of the English army, which is depicted as a force of "warlike men" who are "full of spirit and zeal." Drayton emphasizes the discipline and training of the English soldiers, who are "well-armed and well-prepared" for battle. He also notes the presence of archers in the English army, who are described as "the glory of our nation." The archers are portrayed as skilled and deadly, able to rain down arrows on the French army from a distance.

The French army, by contrast, is depicted as a disorganized and chaotic force. Drayton describes the French soldiers as "a rabble rout" who are "confused and ill-prepared." He notes that the French army is much larger than the English army, but suggests that this is a disadvantage, as it makes them harder to control and coordinate.

The battle itself is described in vivid detail. Drayton portrays the English soldiers as brave and determined, fighting with "courage and might." He notes the role of the archers in the battle, who are able to "shoot so fast and true" that they "made the Frenchmen fly." The French soldiers are depicted as overwhelmed and panicked, unable to withstand the onslaught of the English army.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of imagery. Drayton employs a range of metaphors and similes to convey the intensity and violence of the battle. For example, he describes the English soldiers as "lions in their rage," and the French soldiers as "sheep before the knife." He also uses vivid descriptions of the weapons and tactics used in the battle, such as the "swords that flashed like lightning" and the "arrows that flew like hail."

Another important theme of the poem is the idea of divine intervention. Drayton suggests that the English victory was not simply the result of superior tactics and skill, but was also due to the favor of God. He notes that the English soldiers prayed before the battle, and that their victory was a sign of God's approval. This theme is reinforced by the poem's final lines, which describe the English soldiers as "God's own soldiers."

The Battle of Agincourt has been the subject of many works of literature and art, but Drayton's poem stands out for its vivid imagery and stirring language. The poem captures the spirit of the English soldiers, who fought with courage and determination against overwhelming odds. It also highlights the importance of discipline and training in warfare, as well as the role of divine intervention in determining the outcome of battles.

In conclusion, "The Battle of Agincourt" is a classic work of English literature that has contributed to the enduring legacy of one of the most famous battles in history. Drayton's poem is a testament to the bravery and heroism of the English soldiers, and a reminder of the power of language to capture the spirit of historical events.

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