Deeds of Arms

A Collection of Accounts
of Formal Deeds of Arms of the Fourteenth Century

edited by Steven Muhlberger

A Verse Account of the Combat of the Thirty

This translation of the Combat of the Thirty was first published in 1859 in Bentley’s Miscellany, v. 45, pp. 5-10, 445-459.   It is a free translation based on an edition of the original 14th c. poem published in 1827:  Le Combat de trente Bretons contre trente Anglois, publié d’apres le manuscript de la Bibliothèque du Roi, ed. G. A. Crapelet (Paris).   Ainsworth’s translation has extensive notes, which I have omitted.  I have put a few of my own notes at the end.  — Steve Muhlberger

First posted July 2, 2001.  Revised January 16, 2003.

Deeds of Arms Index -- Historical Materials on Knighthood and Chivalry -- KCT Library

The Combat of the Thirty

From an Old Breton Lay of the Fourteenth Century

By William Harrison Ainsworth

Here begins the Battle of Thirty Englishmen against Thirty Bretons, which took place in Brittany in the Year of Grace One Thousand Three Hundred and Fifty, on Saturday, the Vigil of Sunday Laetare Jerusalem. [March 27, 1351, New Style.]

Fytte ye First


Siegneurs, knights, barons, bannerets, and bachelors I pray,
Bishops and abbots, holy clerks, heralds and minstrels gay,
Ye valiant men  of all degrees, give ear unto my lay.
Attend, I say and ye shall hear how Thirty Englishmen,
As lions brave, did battle give to Bretons three times ten.
And sith the story of this fight I shall tell faithfully,
A hundred years hereafter it shall remembered be,
And warriors hoar recount it then to children on the knee.


In stories where good precept with ensample ye unite,
All men of worth and wisdom take exceeding great delight;
Only envious knaves and faitours treat such ditties with despite.
Wherefore, without further prelude, I will now the tale recite
Of the Combat of the Thirty — that most memorable fight!
Beseeching Christ, our blessed Lord, in whom we place our trust,
Pity to have on those who fought, sith most of them are dust.


Before the Castle of Aurai stout Daggeworth had been slain,
Worsted in a rude encounter with the Barons of Bretaigne;
But his death, as ye shall hear anon, proved a loss and not a gain.
For while he ruled within Aurai no tiller of the soil,
Nor any peaceful citizen the English mote despoil.
But when he fell, Pembroke* arose, a chief with iron hand,
Who Daggeworth’s treat broke straightway, and ravaged all the land.
“Now by Saint Thomas!” Pembroke swore, “avenged shall Daggeworth be!
Such ingrate knaves as these to spare were sinful clemency.”
And well he kept his ruthless vow, for when he took Ploërmel,
Small mercy did he show to those within his power who fell.
Sore wasted he the country round, until that happy day
When Beaumanoir, the Baron good, to Ploërmel took his way;
From Josselin Castle did he come to aid the hapless folk
Who groaned, unpitied unrelieved, ‘neath Pembroke’s cruel yoke.
As Beaumanoir and his esquires the English camp drew nigh,
Full many a captive they beheld lamenting dolefully.
For some they saw chained hand and foot — some by the thumbs were tied, -
Together linked by twos and threes — torment on every side.


When Beaumanoir and his esquires in Pembroke’s presence stood,
Thus haughtily the mail-clad throng bespoke the Baron good.
“Ye knights of England, valiant sirs, I pray ye, list to me,
The helpless captive to maltreat is shame to chivalry.
And if the peaceful husbandman ye torture and ye kill,
Whom shall you find your vines to dress — who will your granaries fill?
Trust me, brave sirs, ye do great wrong, and there an end must be,
As ye do hope for grace yourselves, of this severity.”

“Baron de Beaumanoir,” quoth Pembroke, “hold your peace,
For till our conquest be assured, these things shall never cease.
Question thereon there must be none.  Now, mark well what I say.
A noble duchy in Bretaigne Montfort shall have alway —
From Pontorson to Nantes — from Nantes to Saint Mahé.
This shall we have.  But of all France crown’d king shall Edward be,
And so on every side extend our English mastery,
Maugre the boastful French, and their allies, perdy!”

Made answer then the Baron good, and stoutly thus did say—
Songez un autre songe, messire, cestui est mal songé.*
Not half a foot, Sir Robert, shall you advance that way.
A truce to idle taunts! — fanfaronades are naught —
And those who loudest prate do least, as I’ve been taught.
T’were best, methinks, adjust our difference in this way
By mortal combat in the field on some appointed day.
Thirty ‘gainst Thirty, an you list, together we will fight,
Armed on all points, and on our steeds, — and Heaven defend the right!”

“Now by my soul!” cried Pembroke, “I heartily agree
Unto your terms, and as you fix the combat, it shall be; —
Thirty ‘gainst Thirty of the best of either company,—
And for the day — all days alike for fighting are to me!”

Whereat he turned him to his Knights, laughing disdainfully.

Then was the battle ‘twixt them sworn, each plighting solemnly
His knightly word to use thereat no base superchery.
With one consent a day they named — it was the day before
Laetare Sunday — when good men with gifts the altar store.
The Vigil of Laetare  ‘twas, — and would ye know the year?
Fifty to Three Hundred add, and ye shall have it clear.
Now to the King of Glory let us offer earnest prayer,
That those who fight for truth and right, He have within His care!


With lightened heart to Josselin did Beaumanoir return,
Eager he was that all his knights the enterprise should learn;
And as the throng he thus bespoke, like fire their breasts did burn:

“Seigneurs and valiant knights, this day I have defied
Pembroke to meet me in the field — Thirty on either side —
And for companions in the fray we both may freely choose
Such as the lance and battle-axe, and dagger best can use.
Hence Thirty of the most expert amongst ye, sirs, I lack,
Proud Pembroke and his chosen men like bears and wolves to hack.
Trust me the fame of this emprise shall travel throughout France,
From Bourgoigne to the Switzer’s land, from Milan to Plaisance.
How say ye, knights and barons bold? — will ye no have it so?”

With one accord they made reply — “Thirty with you shall go.
And when we meet them in the field these Englishmen shall feel
What weighty blows, and well applied, a Breton arm can deal.
Then choose the best amongst us, sir — Heaven grant good choice you make!”

“Gramercy!” cried De Beaumanoir, “Tinteniac first I take,
Next Guy de Rochefort, Saint-Yvon, and good Yves Charruel.
Caron de Bosdegas be mine, with Robin Raguenel.
Jean Rousselot, Geoffrey Du Bois, and valorous Arrel,
My life upon each of ye ‘gainst Pembroke will fight well.

“Thus far my knights I’ve ta’en.  Esquires I next must choose —
Guillaume de Montauban, I wot, my quest will not refuse?
Alain de Tinteniac I claim, Alain de Kerranrais,
Olivier, uncle to the last, and you, De Fontenay?
Tristan de Pestivien, and Louis Goyon brave,
With Hughes Capus-le-Sage, sans question, I must have.
Young Geoffroy de la Roche full soon shall knighted be,
Whose valiant sire to fight the Turk hath sailed across the sea.
Poulard, Beaucorps, Pontblanc, ye twayne De Trisquidys,
Du Parc, Mellon, and De la Marche, — ye all must come with me.
Jean de Serent I call on you, and Guillaume de la Lande;
And with Pachard and Monteville I shall complete my band.”

Now all, whom Beaumanoir did choose, returned him thanks straightway;
And for success upon their arms right fervently did pray.
Heaven guard them well! — and to their foes the disadvantage send,
That for Bretaigne the coming fight triumphantly may end!


Now turn we to the other side, and let us see what way
Haughty Sir Robert Pembroke chose his comrades for the fray.
Sir Robert Knolles he first did take — next Sir Hugh Calverley
With Richard de la Lande — three better might not be.
Hervé de Lexualen came next, Walton and Bélifort.
The last-named giant knight an iron mallet bore,
Its weight was five and twenty pounds — yes, twenty-five and more!

His list of knights complete, proud Pembroke next assayed
Esquires the hardiest to find, and thus his choice he made.
John Plesington he fixed upon, Repefort, Le Maréschal,
Hérouart and Boutet d’Aspremont, the stoutest of them all.
Richard and Hughes, Le Gaillard named, Jennequin de Betonchamp,
All these he took, and lastly chose Hucheton de Clamaban.
De Clamaban a falchion had as sharp as any dart,
Wherewith he fought as legends tell of Royal Agapart,
Each blow lopped off a head or limb, or pierced right to the heart.

For men-at-arms of valour proved, Pembroke need not search far,
Within the English camp, I trow, a hundred such there are;
But he who holds the foremost place is resolute Croquart.
Next Gaultier Lallemant stands forth; and Guillemin-le-Gaillard;
Then Daggeworth, nephew to the chief, agile as a pard;
Helcoq and Isannay come next, and Jennequin Taillard,
Dardaine, Adès, Troussel, and Rango-le-Couart,
De Gannelon and Helichon, Vitart and Mélipart.

Such were the Thirty Combatants on Pembroke’s side enrolled;
‘Midst them were twenty Englishmen, as Libyan lions bold,
Brabanters four and Germans six; — and thus the list is told.
Furnished they were with habergeons, bacinets, and greaves, I ween,
And armed with falchion, lance and sword, war-axe and dagger keen.
To list their braggart talk would move the moodiest man to mirth,
Thirty to match them, it would seem, could not be found on earth.
By Christ, they sware, that Beaumanoir and his companions brave
To death were doomed, and all Bretaigne to Dinan they would have!
But Beaumanoir he boasted hot, but reverently he prayed
The mighty Ruler of Events a rightful cause to aid!

Fytte ye Second

Of the Combat and the great feats of arms done thereat.


Now when the day appointed for the combat had arrived,
De Beaumanoir and his knights and squires by holy priests were shrived;
At early dawn they mass did hear, then to the altar led,
They knelt them down, and took the cup, and ate the sacred bread.


“Good sirs,” quoth lordly Beaumanoir, while marshalling his band,
“Be of stout heart, and valiantly these Englishmen withstand.
And if Christ Jesus in his grace shall give us mastery,
Throughout the realm entire of France rejoicing there shall be;
And Charles de Blois of Brittany, — Duke Charles the Debonair, —
He and his gracious Duchess Jeanne, valiant and wise as fair, —
Mine own right-noble kinswoman — great love for us shall bear.
Then before God, the might God of Battles, let us swear,
That if proud Pembroke and his host we find in yonder plain,
Not one of all their lineage shall see their face again!”


That morn, betimes, proud Pembroke, with his gallant company
Of thirty fearless combatants, unto the field did hie.

Now would ye know the spot whereon this famous fight befel,
Midway it lies ‘twixt Josselin and the Castle of Ploërmel.
A solitary tree doth grow on the far-stretching plain,
Known as the Mid-Way Oak — long may that mark remain!
When to the place of rendezvous proud Pembroke had drawn nigh,
Unto his thirty men-at-arms he thus spake boastfully:

“My magic books I’ve caused be read, and Merlin unto me
Doth prophesy, upon this day, a signal victory.
Be confident, then, valiant sirs, as well, I wot, ye may,
For of the host of Beaumanoir few shall survive the day.
And such as shall surrender in the combat I ordain
In his name, shall to Edward good, our sovran lord, be ta’en.
An earnest shall they be to him, that not alone Bretaigne
But all the realm of fertile France shall to his crown pertain!”

Thus spake Sir Robert Pembroke, thus spake he as he thought;
But if it please the King supreme with whom all kings are nought,
Things to a different issue far shall surely yet be brought.


As Pembroke and his company by the Mid-Way Oak did halt,
“Where art thou, Beaumanoir?” he cried, “I have thee at default;
Hadst thou been here, full speedily discomfited thou’dst been.”

E’en as the words fell from his lips De Beaumanoir was seen.

“Ho! Beaumanoir!” cried Pembroke then, “good friends we yet may be,
If to adjourn this combat sworn we both of us agree;
License to fight from my liege lord, great Edward, I’ll obtain,
And from the King of Saint-Denis, like license thou shalt gain.
This done, our compact we’ll renew, and fix at once the day.”
“Counsel I’ll take,” quoth Beaumanoir, sternly, “on what you say.”


Without more words, the Baron good did to his men return,
And while he thus bespoke the throng, with wrath his cheeks did burn:
“How think ye, sirs?” he scornful laughed, “Pembroke would have us go
Back from this field, where we have come to fight, without a blow.
He would adjourn the combat, sirs.  Speak!  Will you have it so?
For mine own part I swear to you — and Heaven the truth doth know! —
For all the treasure upon earth, I’d not the fight forego!”

Then out and spake Yves Charruel, with choler raging hot —
Betwixt the sea and where they stood a bolder knight was not:
“Sir, here are thirty men-at-arms have come unto this spot,
Tough spear, martel, and battle-axe, dagger and sword we’ve got;
Ready prepared we are to fight, and by Saint-Honoré!
With Pembroke and his fellowship we mean to fight to-day.
We mean to fight and vanquish those base braggarts, since they dare
Dispute the title of the land with the Duke Debonair.
Perish the dastard vile I say, who tamely would go back,
And when his foes before him stand, would not those foes attack!”

“Thou sayest well, Yves Charruel, to go back were foul scorn;
The combat we will have with them, even as it hath been sworn.”


“Pembroke,” quoth lordly Beaumanoir, as toward him he did turn,
“Hear what my brave companions say — thy offer they do spurn.
Shameful they hold ‘twould be in us the combat to delay,
Which thou has proffered Charles de Blois, through me and mine to-day.
We all have sworn, that in the sight of the Barons of Bretaigne,
Thou and thy fellowship this day shalt shamefully be slain!”

“Tush, Beaumanoir,” Pembroke cried out, “mere folly thou wilt do,
And, when too late, thy rashness great full bitterly thou’lt rue.
For the flower of all thy duchy shall upon this plain be left,
And thy liege lord of his noblest and his bravest be bereft.:

“Sir Robert,” answered Beaumanoir, “I utterly deny,
That I unto this field have brought the flower of Brittany.
Rohan, Laval, and Lohéac, and Quentin are not here,
And many other noble knights of prowess without peer;
But I have with me thirty men, who nothing living fear —
Thirty clean men-of-arms, who practice not treason or perfidy —
And all have sworn, ere compline-time, thou and thy host shall die!”

Then to him Pembroke answer made, laughing disdainfully:
“Less than a clove of garlic rank, proud lord, I value thee;
Thy fellowship I hold as cheap, and will have mastery.
All Brittany shall soon be ours, and eke all Normandy.”

Then  turning to his company, he shouted lustily,
“Upon them! — strike these Bretons sown, and put them to the sword!
Spare none! — to work us deadly harm they all are of accord.”


Unto their leaders’ battle-cries loud shouts responsive rose,
Impatient were the sixty all from words to come to blows.
Like bolts into the fray they rush; the shock is fierce and dread;
Yves Charruel is prisoner ta’en, Mellon is stricken dead.
Tristan de Pestivien, that squire of stature high,
By blow from Bélifort’s rude mawle is wounded grievously.
Sore hurt is Rousselot, the brave.   And I may not deny
The Bretons have the worst. — Saints, to their succour fly!


Fierce does the conflict rage, loud do the blows resound;
Caron de Bosdegas, senseless, is on the ground.
And brave De Pestivien, who all-disabled lies,
On Beaumanoir  for aid thus dolorously cries:
“Help me, good Baron, help me straight! If I be captive ta’en
By these infuriate Englishmen, thou’lt see me ne’er again.”

Then Beaumanoir he sware by Christ, who on the tree was tied,
Ere that should be, full many a shield and hawberk should be tried!
Hereon he flung his spear aside, and out his good sword drew;
And all who came within its range he quickly overthrew.
But by his deeds the Englishmen were in no wise dismayed;
And lion hearts, on either side, the combatants displayed.
Wearied, at length, with such great toil, they on a truce agreed,
And for a while repose they took, whereof all stood in need.
With good wine of Anjou full soon their thirst they did allay,
And, thus refreshed, the deadly strife they recommenced straightway.


Again the conflict rages fierce -- again blows loud resound,
And splintered spear and battered helms bestrew the bloodstained ground.
The Bretons have the worst of it -- it may not be gainsaid --
For two of them are slain outright, and three are prisoners made;
Thus twenty-five alone are left.   Christ Jesus lend them aid!
Then Geoffroy de La Roche, an esquire of high degree,
Knighthood besought from Beaumanoir upon his bended knee.
Whereon the Baron dubbed him straight, and thus said heartily:
“My fair sweet son, spare not thyself, but emulate the knight --
Thy valiant sire, Budes de La Roche, -- who at Stamboul did fight.
Swear -- and may Mary Mother be gracious unto thee!
That, ere the hour of complines, our foes should worsted be!”

These words proud Pembroke overherad, and seeking how to flout
The noble Breton chivalry, he scornfully cried out:
“Render thyself quickly, Beaumanoir, and I will promise thee
Thy life, for I design thee as a present to my mie,
For I have vowed before her, and my vow I will not break,
That thee this night unto her bower I will as captive take.”

“Thus grimly answered Beaumanoir, “I’ll do as much by thee;
Thy gory head I’ll send this night as a bauble to my mie.
The die is cast, and thou must stand the hazard; if it be
Against thee, by Saint Yves thy soul shall from thy body flee!”


Now Pembroke’s taunts had roused the ire of rough De Kerenrais,
And thrusting toward the English chief he fiercely thus did say:
“Presumptuous traitor, dost thou deem that thou canst captive take
A noble knight like Beaumanoir  thy mistress sport to make.
Beshrew thee! -- never more thy tongue shall utter jape and jeer.”

On this he smote him ‘twixt the eyes with the sharp point of his spear --
Right to the brain the steel did pierce as after did appear.
Albeit wounded mortally, Sir Robert yet regained
His feet, and would with Kerenrais brief conflict have maintained;
But that Du Bois, discerning him, like lightning toward him sped,
And smote him with his spear so hard, that down he fell stark dead.

“Ho Beaumanoir!” Du Bois cried out, “behold thy haughty foe.
Upon the ground, like slaughtered hound, doth breathless lie and low!”
When this he heard, the Baron good made answer joyfully:
“The time is come when we must needs double our energy;
Return you to the fray at once, and let this dead man be.”


Meanwhile, the English men-of-arms, they all of them have seen
What sore mischance befallen hath their boastful chief, I ween.
When brave Croquart, the Almayn, thus to animate them strives.
“Too true it is -- alack! too true -- no longer Pembroke lives.
His magic books by Merlin writ, in which he put his faith,
Have played him false, since they could not forewarn him of his death.
But though our leader we have lost, yet be ye of good cheer,
Do as I counsel ye, brave sirs, and ye have nought to fear.
Keep close together, back to back -- keep close betide what may;
And all who venture on attack, ye so shall maim or slay.
Heavens! how ‘twill anger Beaumanoir if he shall lose the day.”


Hereon arose De Bosdegas, and brave Yves Charruel,
And Tristan, who was hurt full sore, -- as erstwhile I did tell.
To Pembroke, when he captured them, parole they gave all three,
But Pembroke being slain, ye wot, they from parole were free.
Their shields they dressed, their swords they gat, then to the fray did hie,
Burning for vengeance on their foes, vowing they all should die.


Now though the hardy English chief, proud Pembroke, he is gone,
Still furiously as heretofore, the conflict rages on.
Great smiting is there of their swords, great splintering of spears,
And their broad shields in cantels fly, while blood their harness smears.
Natheless, the English yet can count full many a stalwart knight,
Whose strength and prowess doubtful make the issue of the fight.
Croquart the dauntless, Bélifort that knight of giant mould, --
Who, like a toy, within his grasp, his ponderous mawle doth hold,
Both these are left; and left also is Hugh de Calverley,
With crafty Knolles, and many more. -- And thus they fiercely cry,
“Vengeance for Pembroke we will have -- spare none! but hew them down --
And victory shall crown our arms, ere yet the sun go down.”


But Beaumanoir, who never did at face of peril quail,
Seeing the English stand aloof, would closely them assail.
And then began a strife so dread, that one incessant clang
Of weighty blows on helm and shield for o’er the wide moor rang.
Already two brave Englishmen and an Almayne stout are slain;
Geoffrey Poulard in death doth sleep, and near him lies Dardaine.
E’en Beaumanoir himself is hurt. -- Be pity on them ta’en!
Or not a man on either side shall ere draw sword again.


But fiercely yet the fight doth rage -- loudly the blows resound --
With streams of blood from gaping wounds blusheth the trampled ground.
The day is passing hot, I ween -- for the sun in heaven doth blaze,
And the combatants are bathed in sweat beneath his burning rays.

Now pious Beaumanoir that day had fasted rigorously,
--’Twas Mid-Lent vigil, and such fasts he kept religiously --
And being faint and sore athirst, for water he did cry.
Hearing the cry, Geoffroy du Bois in accents stern did say,
“Drink thy own blood, De Beaumanoir, thy thirst ‘twill quench straightway.”
Roused by these words of rough rebuke, and full of wrath and pain,
The Baron good forgot his thirst, and joined the fray again.


Within a bowshot of the Oak, where grow the genists green,
Like iron wall, immovable, the English band is seen.
There Calverley ye may discern, the hardy jouvencel,
Gigantic Bélifort also, armed with his dire martel.
When Beaumanoir he found it vain to break their firm array,
Had not Saint Michael lent him aid he must have felt dismay.
But brave Du Bois, who near him stood, and saw his visage fall,
Essayed by cheerful look and speech his stout heart to recall.
“Look around you, gentle Baron,” quoth Du Bois, “and you will see
That the bravest and the best are left of all your company.
Tinteniac, Yves Charruel, and Robin Raguenel,
With De La Marche abide as yet, and Olivier Arrel.
De Rochefort he doth yonder stand -- you may note his pennoncel.
Weapons for service lack we not -- spear, sword, and dagger keen --
And hands to use them well we’ve got, as know our foes, I ween.”


Terrific is the conflict now -- ne’er hath been seen the like! --
Incessantly the welkin rings with the great blows they strike.
The Bretons hurl against their foes; but moveless as a rock,
The English phalanx firmly withstands the fury of the shock.

Guillaume de Montauban hereon, that brave and subtle squire,
Seeing how matters stand with them, doth from the press retire.
His breast swells high with secret hope, and loudly he cries out,
That if a charger he can get, he will the English rout.
Sharp-rowelled spurs he fastened on, and then horsed him quick, I wist,
And a great iron-headed spear he took within his fist.
Yet toward the English rode he not, but semblance made to fly.

Astonied mightily and wrath, De Beaumanoir  did cry,
“Whither so fast, De Montauban? -- what art thou, friend, about?
Is it by flying from the fold that thou thy foes wouldst rout?
Turn thee for very shame, false squire!”  The other loud laughed out,
“Mind thy own business, Beaumanoir, and certes thou shalt find,
As thou art frank and valiant knight, my business well I’ll mind.”

Then rowel-deep the spurs he plunged into his charger’s flanks,
And wheeling round with lightning speed dashed towards the English ranks.
With the first shock seven doughty foes -- yea, seven! -- were overturn’d;
And other three he trampled down, as quickly he returned.
By this great stroke De Montauban the English phalanx broke,
Into disorder threw them all, and their high courage shook.
Each Breton knight, as pleased him then, a captive straightway took.
And while the prisoners gave parole, De Montauban did cry,
“Now is the time! -- strike, Barons brave! Montjoie and victory!
Tinteniac, Yves Charruel, and Guy de Rochefort brave,
Strike all of ye with double force, and conquest ye shall have.
Christ Jesus in his clemency avert from you all ill!
And help you on these Englishmen to work your vengeful will.”


But still the conflict is not o’er, but rages fiercely on.
‘Midst those who fought with Beaumanoir Tinteniac best hath done,
And on this memorable day hath palm of valour won.

But few upon the English side the combat now sustain,
For some are captives on parole, and others have been slain.
Sir Robert Knolles and Calverley are in great jeopardy,
And so is giant Bélifort, despite his bravery.

Vainly they struggle on. -- Tis o’er with every squire and knight
Who came that day in company with Pembroke to the fight.
John Plesington, Helcoq, Repefort, and Richard de La Lande,
With more to Josselin now are ta’en by Beaumanoir’s command.


Oft shall they of this famous fight, in after times, hear tell,
For all its matchless feats of arms remembered are quite well,
Pictured they are in castle-hall on gorgeous tapestry,
and sung in ditties of our old Armoric chivalry.
Full many a squire and hardy knight shall the stirring tale elate,
Full many a dame of beauty bright shall it serve to recreate.
And all shall glow as when they read of Guillaume D’Aquitaine,
Of Arthur and Olivier, Roland and Charlemagne.
Three hundred years hereafter -- nay, a thousand! -- they shall hear
Of this Combat of the Thirty, which, I ween, was without peer.


Great was the Battle, doubt it not, and great the change it wrought.
Shame on those envious Englishmen -- shame and defeat it brought,
Who Brittany, before that day, to subjugate had thought.
Now to Jesu, born of Mary, let us reverently pray,
That by his intercession, all those valiant foeman may
Compassion find from pitying Heaven upon the Judgment Day!
May Saint Michael and St. Gabriel plead for them with the Lord,
That to their souls at that dread hour his grace He may accord!

Here endeth the Battle of the Thirty Englishmen and Thirty Bretons,
which took place in Brittany in the Year of Grace, One Thousand,
Three Hundred and Fifty, on the Saturday before Laetare Jerusalem.


Date of the combat:    The new year began in spring or on Easter in many medieval jurisdictions.

First Fytte, stanza III. Name of the English commander:   Ainsworth doesn’t explain where he got the name “Sir Robert Pembroke.”  The various manuscripts give a variety of names, including “Bembro” and “Brandebourc.”  One account says he was a German.

First Fytte, stanza IV:  “Songez un autre songe, messire, cestui est mal songé.” — “Dream another dream, messire, this one is badly dreamed.”

Second Fytte, stanza IX:    “Pembroke’s” [a]mié[e]  is his lady love. In the first version I said, "In the original, Beaumanoir does not make the corresponding threat to send Pembroke’s head to his lady."  I am now of the opinion that Ainsworth's translation may be right; the language is difficult and ambiguous.

Second Fytte, stanza XVI:   jouvencel = youth.

Second Fytte, stanza XVII:   I can’t see in the French any justification for the idea that the battle continued after Montauban's bloodthirsty words.

Second Fytte, stanza XIX:    “Armoric chivalry.”   Brittany was part of an old region called Armorica.
Three hundred, a thousand.    The original poet speaks of three hundred, Ainsworth added the thousand.   Ainsworth seems closer to being right.


For a brief modern commentary on this incident, see

Jonathon Sumption, The Hundred Years War II: Trial by Fire (Philadelphia, 1999), pp. 33-4.