William Morris. Commonweal 1888

The Revolt of Ghent (Part 6)

Title:The Revolt of Ghent”, Part 6
Author: William Morris
Source: Commonweal, Volume 4, Number 135, pp. 250 11 August 1888 (The sixth of seven parts.)
Transcribed by: Ted Crawford
Proofing and HTML:Graham Seaman

Froissart goes on to say:&mdas;

“This Saturday in the morning Philip van Artevelde ordained and commanded that every man should make him ready to God, and caused masses to be sung in divers places by certain friars that were with him ; and so every man confessed him, and prayed to God for grace and mercy. And there were certain sermons made, enduring an hour and a half ; there it was shewed to people by these friars, figuring them to the people of Israel, whom King Pharoah kept long in servitude : and how after by the grace of God they were delivered, and led into the Land of Behest by Moses and Aaron, and King Pharoah and the Egyptians slain and taken. ‘In likewise’ quoth these friars, ‘ye good people, ye be kept in servitude by your lord the Earl of Flanders, and by your neighbours of Bruges, before whom now ye be come and shall be fought with by all likelihood, for your enemies have great will to fight with you, for they fear little your puissance. But sirs, take no heed to that, for God who knoweth and seeth all things, shall have mercy on you. Nor think nothing of that ye have left behind you, for ye may well know it is without recoverance if ye be discomfited, therefore sell your lives valiantly, and die if there be none other remedy honourably. And be not dismayed if great puissance of people issue out of Bruges against you, for victory lieth not in puissance of people, but it is all only God ; and by his grace it hath been often times seen, as well by the Macabeus as by the Romans, that a small people of good will, trusting in the grace of God, hath discomfited a great number of people ; and sirs, in this quarrel ye have good right and a just cause, and therefore by many reasons ye ought to be hardy and of good comfort.’

“Thus with such words and other these friars preached to the people that morning, wherewith they were well content. And three parts of the host were houselled, showing themselves to have great trust in God. And after these masses sung, then they assembled together on a little hill, and there Philip van Artevelde, by great sentence, showed them from point to point, the right that they thought they had in their quarrel ; and how that often times the town of Ghent had required their lord the Earl to have mercy on them, but they could never come to no point with him, but to the great confusion and damage of the town of Ghent, and to the inhabitants thereof ; also saying, how they were then come so far forth, that to recoil again they could not : and also then to return (all things considered) they could win nothing thereby, for they had left nothing behind them but poverty and heaviness ; and moreover, he said, ‘sirs, think neither of your wives nor children, but think of your honour.’ Thus such fair words Philip van Artevelde showed among them, for he was well languaged, and could speak right well, and well it became him ; and finally he said, ‘Now, fair lords, let us truly and equally depart our victual each to other like brethren without any manner of outrage : for when this is spent, it must behove us to seek for new, if we think to live.’

“And so then right humbly the carts were discharged, and the bread was divided by the constables, and the two tuns of wine, the bottoms were set upward ; and so there they dined with the bread and with the wine, and were content with their small repast for that time, and felt themselves better disposed, both in courage and in their members, than and they had eaten more meat.

“And when this dinner was past, then they set themselves in order and drew themselves within their ribaudeaux, the which were high stakes, bound with iron and sharp pointed, which they ever used to bear with them in their war ; and so they set them before their battle, and closed themselves within them : and in this estate the three squires that were sent from the Earl to see their demeaning found them : for they approached so near that they might well aview them, for they came just to their stakes ; but the Ghentois never stirred but let them alone, and made semblant that they were right joyful of their coming.

“Then these courriers rode to Bruges to the Earl, and found him in his lodging, with a great number of knights and squires with him : so they came through the press to the Earl, and they spake out aloud, because the Earl would they should be heard : and so there they showed how they had ridden so near to the Ghentois, that they might have shot at them if they had list, but they suffered them to pass peaceably ; and also they showed how they had seen their banners. Then the Earl demanded what number of people they were by estimation : they answered, that surely as they could descry, they passed not a five or six thousand. Then the Earl said, ‘Well, let every man apparel himself, I will go fight with them : they shall not depart without battle.’ And therewith the trumpets did sound through Bruges, and then every man armed him, and assembled in the market place, and set themselves in order with their banners, as was the usage. And before the Earl’s lodging assembled lords, knights and squires.

“When everything was ready, then the Earl went to the market place, and saw there great number of people well ordered and arranged, whereof he rejoiced ; and so at his commandment every man drew in good order into the fields. It was great pleasure to behold them : they were a forty thousand armed men, and so, what a horseback and afoot. They came near to the place where the Ghentois were, and there they rested : and by that time that the Earl was come thither, it was past noon and the sun began to decline. Then some said to the Earl ‘Sir, ye see yonder your enemies, they be but a handful of men, as to the regard of your company, and sir, they cannot fly away ; we would counsel you not to fight with them this night, let them alone till to-morrow, and sir, thereby ye shall see what they will do ; they shall be feebler than they be now, for they have nothing to eat.’ The Earl accorded well to that counsel, and would that it should be so have been done ; but they of Bruges were so hot and hasty to fight that they would not abide, but said set on them, they shall not long endure ; and so then they of Bruges began to shoot guns at them : and then they of Ghent discharged at once three hundred guns at one shot, and so turned about the plash of water, and caused the sun to be in the eyes of them of Bruges, the which grieved them sore, and so entered in among them and cried ‘Ghent’ and as soon as them of Bruges heard them cry ‘Ghent’ and heard so many guns come in among them, and saw how they set full front on them, like falsehearted people and of evil courage, they gave way to the Ghentois to enter in among them ; and so without any defence they cast down their weapons and turned their backs : then the Ghentois, seeing how well their enemies were discomfited, kept themselves still close together, and beat down on both sides and before them, and ever went forth crying ‘Ghent’ ; saying also, ‘Follow, follow, our enemies are discomfited, and let us enter into Bruges with them ; God hath regarded us this evening by his pity.’ And as they said, so they did, for they pursued them of Bruges sharply ; and as they overtook them they slew them, and tarried not, but kept on still their way, and ever they of Bruges fled on before : there were many slain and beaten down, for among them of Bruges them was no defence.

“I trow there was never so unhappy people, nor more recreantly maintained themselves, for all the great pride and bobance that they were of before. Some would think and suppose by imagination that there had been some treason, the which was not so ; it was none other but their simple defence and evil fortune that fell on them.

“When the Earl of Flanders, and the company that was about him saw the evil order and rule of them of Bruges, and saw how they were discomfited by their own folly, and could see no recoverance, for they fled away before the Ghentois, the Earl then was abashed, and all they that were about him, and so discomfited, that they fled away, every man to save himself. Of a truth, if they of Bruges would have returned again, and assailed the Ghentois with their help, they had been likely to have recovered all again ; but they saw no remedy, for they fled toward Bruges as fast as they might ; the father tarried not for the son, nor the son for the father.

“So then the men of arms and all brake their array, but they had no list to take the way to Bruges : the press was so great in the way toward Bruges, that it was marvel to see and to hear the clamour and cry of them that were slain and hurt ; and the Ghentois following them of Bruges, crying ‘Ghent, Ghent,’ still going forward, and beating down of people. The most part of the men of arms would not put themselves in that peril ; howbeit, the Earl was counselled to draw to Bruges, and to be one of the first that should enter, and then to close the gates, to the intent that the Ghentois not be lords of Bruges. The Earl seeing none other remedy, nor no recoverance by abiding in the field, for he saw well every man fled and also it was dark night, wherefore he believed the counsel that was given him, and so took the way toward Bruges, with his banner before him, and so came to the gate, and entered with the first and a forty with him. Then he set men to keep the gate, and to close it if the Ghentois did follow : then the Earl rode to his own lodging, and sent all about the town, commanding every man, on pain of death, to draw to the market place. The intention of the Earl was to recover the town by that means ; but he did not, as ye shall hear after.”


(To be concluded.)