Chapter 40

[ 40 ]


       Meanwhile, king Louis, tarrying within the walls of the town of Rouen and setting Norman affairs in order as though he were lord, would spend his fleeting time there in a leisured manner, imagining (because of the false rumor of the [Normans'] intended fraud) that he was indeed the king and advocate of the Normans. And one day, a certain Frankish new recruit asked the king to grant to him the affluent wealth of Bernard the Dacian, yea indeed even his wife, who was extremely beautiful. And, having heard (in secret) a report concerning this request, the rest of the new recruits then came to the king, saying: "Lord king, we have always served you incessantly, and yet we are endowed with a sufficiency of nothing, except of food and drink! We pray, drive out and banish these Norman foreigners from here and, after granting us their wives, bountifully give us their beneficia. Truly, we will rule this town in faithful service to you, nor will you be able to doubt the fidelity of any of our followers."
       The abominable meeting concerning this matter becomes known to Bernard and the Dacians but, having taken counsel among themselves, they have kept silent. But once king Louis had retreated to Laon, having made himself disgusting to the Normans by the zeal of his stepmotherlike hatred, they reconsidered the matter, of one mind, musing over the king's ruin, still saddened by the desire for power of those new recruits who had made the unseemly request. Moreover, in order to ensnare the king by some sly effort, the Norman magnates had already sent warriors of rather influential nobility and wealth to Aigrold king of Dacia so that he would hasten to assist his relative Richard, son of the great duke William, because the king of the Frankish nation was claiming for himself the monarchy of all Normandy, taking away by force every honor from the boy Richard, even though the boy had been plucked from Louis' chains.
       Truly Aigrold, the magnanimous king of Dacia, honorably received the Norman ambassadors, for love of his close relative Richard and, having constructed ships and filled them with victuals and warriors, came as quickly as he could with an incredible multitude of young recruits to the shores near the salt-works of Corbon, (note 1) where the Dives with a rapid motion casts itself into the tempestuous sea. Moreover, the men of Coutances and Bayeux, hearing of the arrival of king Aigrold, came to serve him for love of the boy Richard. Immediately did the report swiftly penetrate the regions of Francia, announcing that an inestimable multitude of pagans was come to the Norman shores. Therefore Bernard and the rest of the people of Rouen, pretending fidelity to king Louis, sent to him in deceit, saying: "Because an innumerable and well-supplied multitude of pagans, glittering in the first flower of youth, has come to our territory, we pray you (note 2) to come swiftly to our assistance, with a gathered military band, if you wish to continue to enjoy dominion over the Norman region." Moreover king Louis replied to the ambassador: "I have already learned from common report that what you say is true." Wherefore king Louis, incited to action by the narration of this baleful embassy, came speedily to Rouen with the assembled army of the Frankish nation, bringing with him count Herluin and Herluin's brother Lantbert.
       However on the fraudulent advice of the Normans, king Aigrold, hearing of the arrival of the king of Francia, sent word for Louis to come to meet him at a conference. Moreover Bernard of Rouen, pretending to be a fidelis of the Franks, said to king Louis (who was trusting confidently in the multitude of his armies and preparing to go to the conference that would condemn him): "You are about to attempt to procure the favor of a nation which loved our count William, venerating him with deep love, and one which hates, with a deeply heartfelt emotion, the person for whose sake he was martyred. For the Normans, deprived of such a great duke as a result of count Herluin's dispute, will accost him with the intention of killing him should they, peradventure, see him. For that reason, do not take him with you, lest perhaps strife be born between the two armies when he is recognized." Then one of the young recruits is said to have replied to Bernard: "Should a count such as Herluin be carefully concealed, laid aside in some hidden recesses, because of you and the rest of the foreigners?~" Bernard, however, would contemplate in silence the actions of the Franks and kept concealing in his heart his resentment at the scolding. Moreover king Louis, setting the Frankish army in motion, did lead count Herluin forth with him, and pitched camp on this side of the river Dives.
       The men of Coutances and Bayeux, with king Aigrold, fixed their tents on the other side of the flowing Dives. Arising first thing in the morning, Bernard came to king Louis, saying: "Lord king, arise swiftly and explore secretly with your followers what ought to be done. This nation, very full of proven cunning, has customs different from the Frankish ones." Then, with the king's assent, someone lying inside the tent replied to Bernard, who was standing outside it: "Go back to sleep, for we are not concerned about such things." And Bernard, irritated by this type of talk, returned swiftly to the rouennais encampment. But when the sun was blazing at the third hour of the day, the hosts of men from Coutances and Bayeux began to cross the bed of the Dives. However Bernard, observing this, sought out the king a second time, saying: "Be diligent now, king, you have all been dreaming long enough, for the Dacian nation, having crossed the river Dives, is standing mounted on the bank, with what wrathful intention I do not know."
       Truly the king, awakened by these threatening words, arose on the spot and, surrounded by a crowd of counts and warriors, was making haste to get to the conference that would be his ruin. And calling Bernard, Louis said to him: "I do not know why my anxious soul, not refreshed by my placid repose, is now giving me a presentiment; it is warning me to prepare either for battle or for something else unexpected." To these things Bernard: "Did I not, pursuing the matter repeatedly, urge that count Herluin not be brought here?" These things said, Louis came to the place which had been arranged for the conference. However, king Aigrold was standing there with the men of Coutances and Bayeux, while on the other side king Louis stood with the Franks. Moreover, the beloved youth of the Dacians was also standing there, leaning on javelins, and holding oblong shields in their hands; they were searching for an opportunity to kill the Franks and the king.
       Therefore while king Louis and king Aigrold of Dacia and their armed Frankish and Dacian and Bessin associates were standing around, all intermingled, at this mutually-desired conference, count Herluin said to a certain soldier who had been at one time known to him: "How is the health and success and wealth of you and your family?" He replied: "I am of sound health, and of opulent happiness and of affluent richness." But the men of Coutances and Bayeux began to ask the one who had been inquired after who that was, who was asking so familiarly about the condition of his fortunes. He replied to those who were asking: "Herluin, the extraordinary count of the fortress of Montreuil." Moreover the men of Coutances said to the men of Bayeux: "Is this not the one in whose quarrel and for whose sake our lord William (that most respectable duke and marquis) was ensnared and martyred? Shall this troublesome man slip through our fingers?" That said, all the Dacians with a disordered, unrestrainable roaring, vexed with madness and enraged with blazing bile at the death of so great a lord, brandish their arms, attack count Herluin (the opportunity taken) and, undaunted, slay him.
       The Franks, however, desiring to avenge count Herluin and to uphold themselves in arms, rise up, unshaken, against their foe. Now that the battle has been violently initiated through the [Normans'] deceit, the Franks, their spears and lances broken by the fighting, would at first valiantly struggle against drawn swords. Yet, at length, surrounded by the copiously flowing and destructive company of the men of Coutances and Bayeux, and also of the pagans, they would be slaughtered, torn to pieces, as sacrificial animals are by wolves. Thus, accosted in battle by a deadly shock, twice nine most noble counts from king Louis' side fall prey to death, perishing as Mars vents his rage, nor would there be any hope either of life or flight for those left behind. But king Louis, perceiving himself to be foresaken by the protection of the Franks and knowing the risk of battle, to avoid having to fight, would seek refuge in flight.
       Indeed king Aigrold, seeing king Louis from a distance, would pursue him with a speedy course, flying straight through the center of the host on a winged steed. King Louis, on the other hand, would flee this way and that, for in his hands he merely held the reins of the bridle, which had itself slipped from his horse's head. Moreover king Aigrold has soon made for Louis, who is hampered as described, and, grasping Louis' sword by the shining hilt, has ripped it from the king's side and out of its hollow sheath, and has committed Louis to his own Dacian warriors, with the provision that he neither escape nor be killed. But he himself, rejoicing in the king's capture, has returned quickly to the battle field, and has thrown down to destruction whatever Franks have been still upholding themselves by their arms, and has thrust the men of the Frankish nation, mangled by blows, down to the Lower World. But having obtained victory and arms and spoils, the Normans, able to survey the battlefield untroubled, have bourne away the lifeless men of their nation for burial.

                            Apostrophe

Oh Norman chiefs, mighty enough
In the combat of battle and in triumph,
And circumspect and upright in all deliberation,
Worthily do you now, by warring, hold that homeland
With a steadfast uninterrupted course, preserving the peace
And a rightful claim on a sacred promise,
Both for the sake of your own fidelity
And for that meritorious future duke
Richard, celebrated and good, equitable,
A flashing boy and a sacred genius.
Now be well, be strong, God bless you always,
You who hold the realm of this homeland,
By virtue of your potent and tenacious force,
In fidelity to the boy Richard,
And may you and your offspring and your sacred nephews,
The entire lineage of that consecrated race,
Draw the twice-dual and twice-octave lot of good fortune,
Both being reckoned among the saints
And being renewed in the highest good,
In that place fit for the sevenfold repose,
After the mournful dissolution of your limbs.


Notes:


1. Perhaps Corbon-en-Auge, nowadays 15 km. from the sea.

2. Preferring the "subvenias" of Bongars 390.


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