The Field of Agincourt

from No Fortunes by Jon Patton

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about

I was pretty surprised to find that there are a dearth of battle ballads about this very famous king and battle in English. So I decided to write one.

I took some aspects of the basic form (at least initially) from the Scottish ballad "The Battle of Otterburn" and "The Battle of Harlaw" (the latter of which is one of my favorite songs to sing in Scots English). I also used some common tropes, such as the gathering of heroes, one of the main characters wading into battle, etc. I did have to make some concessions to modern song forms, such as what is, essentially, a chorus created from every third couplet/stanza, rather than omitting such entirely (as in Otterburn) or using a nonsense burden (as in Harlaw).

The text is "somewhat" historically accurate. It describes most of the actual events leading up to the battle. It's difficult to mythologize the battle, because it really was a spectacular rout accomplished by an outnumbered army that was beaten down by the weather, sickness, and a long campaign, and it had enormous consequences for many years after. I also chose to use (quite obviously) some of Shakespeare's Henry V.

Most of the descriptions should be obvious. The only slightly obscure one is referring to the Dauphin as the Duke of Aquitaine (his actual title), who did deny a challenge to personal combat issued by Henry at the siege of Halfleur. And for those who are only familiar with the play, the siege of Halfleur took over a month (I took some liberties with the precise timing for the sake of rhyming), while in the play the time is severely compressed.

I played the pennywhistle this time around ... which is something I was surprised I could do. My wife, Lexa, played some bodhran. We did the guitar and bodhran at the same time, and then I overdubbed the mandolin, vocals, and whistle.

lyrics

D G
King Henry was a righteous king in Monmouth he was born
D A
And demanded of the French they pay a price for all their scorn
D G
He asked the hand of Catherine and all their gold in store
D G D
But they refused him when asked the crown King Charlie wore
G D A Bm
King Henry was a righteous, but a proud and noble lord
D A/C# G/B A G/B A/C# D
So in fourteen hundred fifteen's spring, King Henry went to war

He lay in siege a month and day
at Halfleur by the sea
And to his men who feared to die
cried once more to the breach

And he delivered a challenge to
the Duke of Aquitaine
But to fight King Henry face to face
the Dauphin would not agree

And though the year and days grew short
he marched his armies north
To Calaise and then to ford the Somme
at last to Agincourt

In the dark before the battle joined
he walked among his men
And knew his brave though sickened band
all feared to face the dawn

But Henry said their cause was just
and said he would not yield
And if any man had no heart to fight
they were not upon that field

King Henry led himself the main,
Camoys the lefthand force
And the Duke of York the vanguard took
on the field of Agincourt

Then the men-at-arms came through the mud
in heavy morning rain
And the bowmen and the king's own sword
beat them back again

And the cowards attacking from the rear
they slew the baggage train
And Henry ordered in return
his prisoners should be slain

But when the day came to a close
the histories do record
King Henry won the victory
on the field of Agincourt

credits

from No Fortunes, released March 7, 2015
With Lexa Hartman on Bodhran

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baltimericana Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimericana is a place for me (Jon Patton) to stash my solo projects and collaborations with friends. I'm a writer, musician, and (unfortunately) day job schlub from Baltimore and the founder of Baltimore-based folk rock band Midway Fair (midwayfair.org). Be sure to also check out Joe Scala (joescala.wordpress.com), who produced the Baltimericana EP. ... more

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