Chapter 20

[ 20 ]

       When the army had been amassed by these words of baleful exhortation, stealthily going across the bed of the Seine, they pitched camp in a certain meadow hard by the town of Rouen. Then William, fearing the sudden assault of the corrupt multitude, sent to them an ambassador to speak in these most humble words, which you will now hear: "Our lord William, glittering in the flower of youth, wishes to be peace-making and benevolent towards you in all things. Truly, he sends word that you shall share with him the official dignity of the whole fatherland and be distinguished beyond all others, as the first and the greatest, in advising him. Moreover that land, which you are requesting to be given to you, he grants you with pleasure, not only up to the Risle, but even to the Seine. For he believes that he guards it with your help; however, do not doubt that you are cherished and strengthened by his patronage. Whatever you covet, you may have; whatever goods you wish, you may hold unhesitatingly. He humbly prays you to come to him peaceably and, amicably enjoying his encouragement, dwell with him."
       Then Riulf, that most vile exciter of this evil and a man enraged by the madness of diabolical fraud, said to the ambassador before all who were there: "Return swiftly, say to William and to all his followers, that he should withdraw from the walls of this city (note 1) and speedily make for his Frankish relatives. For he will no longer be the heir of this land nor will he dominate us, for he is unsuitable for and harmful to us. But the land, which he has once again promised to us, will not be given as his gift, because what is not possessed in the first place cannot be given. But if he prefers not to abandon the city, we will attack it at all times and, once it is taken, we will crush William and his followers by the sword."
       And when the go-between had hastily recounted to duke William what he had heard, astounded at the novel development, he organized the leaders whom he had summoned, and withdrew from the town with the collected army, and stealthily approached the slopes of a mountain overlooking the city. Desiring to contemplate the army of his foes, perhaps he might be able to contend with them? Seeing, however, that the army of his foes was greater, and better supplied, than his own, he said to Bernard, a Dacian-born warrior: "I will go to Bernard of Senlis, my maternal uncle, and I will reside with him awhile, until he furnishes us some aid. With his advice and help I will recover this land, and with an army of Franks I will crush all these men by force of arms. I will wipe them and their kindred off the face of the earth, and not one person from their lineages will be left in the whole world."
       Then the Dacian-born Bernard is said to have replied: "We will hasten with you to the river Epte but we will not enter Francia for, with your father Rollo, we at one time repeatedly fell upon her in war, and we overthrew many once the battling had begun. Indeed we have either slain or taken captive the grandfathers and maternal uncles, fathers and paternal uncles, maternal and paternal aunts, maternal first cousins and other relations of those who still survive. And how can we be there, before such foes? Would you rather, mean and useless, live from another's table than rule and protect a realm? I and my companions will not follow you, nor will we go where you wish. Therefore, we will return by ship to Dacia, the land of our birth, because we feel the want of a duke and advocate. You, womanish, do not have the strength to be set over us men, because you fear the death that menaces you at the hands of these enemies."
       William, incited by these most bitter disputations, said to the Dacian-born Bernard before the rest of the leaders: "In an unseemly manner have you torn me with rough and filthy words, since you have called me womanish, and feeble in arms, and even a nothing. Behold! hastily will I go before you to battle as the standard-bearer, and steadily crush that army of foes. My sword will devour the flesh of the oathbreakers, and I will smash and demolish their encampments. (note 2) Let us linger no longer, sluggish and timid, but hastily follow me, and let us attack them as wolves do lambs." Bernard, moreover, perceiving the ardor and virile constancy of duke William, said to him in these most humble words: "Very mighty lord duke, do not be angry at our rousing eloquence, for what you now bid us to do is both according to reason and beneficial. Only let us ascertain who will go with you now to the battle, and who will later come to your assistance." Moreover, through Bernard's inquiry, three hundred men were found who were ready to battle and to die with William. Of one mind they came before him and, making the sign of both alliance and trust in the manner of Dacian supporters, struck their weapons together as one, in a covenant of reciprocal will. But the rest of the nation, feeble in arms, fell back in swift flight to the protection of the town.


Patrician William, celebrated for your manners and your merits,
Do not dread, trembling, do not fear, ashamed,
The spoken contentions, the menaces, the disputes, the divisions, the quarrels,
The wars, the haughtiness and frauds, the duels, the spear
Of this people of treachery, filled with filth.
For abominably and without cause does this nation,
Savage, untamable, conceited, brash, reckless, rebellious,
Perverse, arrogant, malign, impious, infamous,
Lavish with words, but not lavish with deeds,
A death-dealing culprit, destructive and accursed and wicked,
Pouring forth the many poisons of a viper-like man,
Inconstant and unlike itself through love of novelty,
Disgusted at the steady course of tranquil peace, fight against you.
Under your leadership, it will be effaced by those few warriors,
Just as Gideon (note 3) Jerubba'al, admonished by a divine order
And a supernal command, once crushed,
By terrorizing with three hundred excellent armed men,
The arrogant nations of the Midianites and the Amalekites,
Who, having called together many of the people,
Had wished to pillage Israel, which kept the commands of the ethereal law,
So likewise, while you celebrate, [this nation] will be,
With God's aid, worthily annihilated by those three hundred
Deserving ones, approved to be chosen by order of the ethereal judge.


1. Preferring the "civitatis" of Rouen 1173 and others.

2. Castra.

3. Judges 6 - 8.

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