Picardy. The fields near Cressy.
(First Frenchman; Second Frenchman; Third Frenchman; Fourth Frenchman; Frenchwoman; Children; Citizens)
Worried French citizens remove themselves to safety, just in case the armies pass nearby. They discuss the validity of Edward’s claim to the French throne. A newcomer rushes in to encourage them all to flee, as the entire countryside is being ravaged by three separate armies — Edward’s, King John’s, and the Prince of Wales’s — all converging on the same place. (76 lines)
Enter three Frenchmen; a Frenchwoman and two little children meet them, and other Citizens.
Well met, my masters: how now? What’s the news?
And wherefore are ye laden thus with stuff?
What, is it quarter-day that you remove,
And carry bag and baggage too?
Quarter-day? Aye, and quartering day, I fear:
Have ye not heard the news that flies abroad?
How the French navy is destroy’d at sea,
And that the English army is arrived.
What then, quoth you? Why, ist not time to fly,
When envy and destruction is so nigh?
Content thee, man: they are far enough from hence,
And will be met, I warrant ye, to their cost,
Before they break so far into the realm.
Aye, so the grasshopper doth spend the time
In mirthful jollity, till winter come;
And then too late he would redeem his time,
When frozen cold hath nipped his careless head.
He, that no sooner will provide a cloak,
Then when he sees it doth begin to reign,
May, peradventure, for his negligence,
Be throughly washed, when he suspects it not.
We that have charge and such a train as this,
Must look in time to look for them and us,
Least, when we would, we cannot be relieved.
Belike, you then despair of all success,
And think your country will be subjugate.
We cannot tell; ’tis good to fear the worst.
Yet rather fight, then, like unnatural sons,
Forsake your loving parents in distress.
Tush, they that have already taken arms
Are many fearful millions in respect
Of that small handful of our enemies;
But ’tis a rightful quarrel must prevail;
Edward is son unto our late king’s sister,
When John Valois is three degrees removed.
Besides, there goes a prophecy abroad,
Published by one that was a friar once,
Whose oracles have many times proved true;
And now he says, the time will shortly come,
When as a lion, roused in the west,
Shall carry hence the fluerdeluce of France:
These, I can tell ye, and such like surmises
Strike many French men cold unto the heart.
Enter a Fourth Frenchman.
Fly, country men and citizens of France!
Sweet flowering peace, the root of happy life,
Is quite abandoned and expulst the land;
Instead of whom ransacked constraining war
Sits like to ravens upon your houses’ tops;
Slaughter and mischief walk within your streets,
And, unrestrained, make havoc as they pass;
The form whereof even now myself beheld
Upon this fair mountain whence I came.
For so far of as I directed mine eyes,
I might perceive five cities all on fire,
Corn fields and vineyards, burning like an oven;
And, as the reaking vapour in the wind
Turned but aside, I like wise might discern
The poor inhabitants, escaped the flame,
Fall numberless upon the soldiers’ pikes.
Three ways these dreadful ministers of wrath
Do tread the measures of their tragic march:
Upon the right hand comes the conquering King,
Upon the left his hot unbridled son,
And in the midst our nation’s glittering host,
All which, though distant yet, conspire in one,
To leave a desolation where they come.
Fly therefore, citizens, if you be wise,
Seek out some habitation further off:
Here if you stay, your wives will be abused,
Your treasure shared before your weeping eyes;
Shelter you yourselves, for now the storm doth rise.
Away, away; me thinks I hear their drums:—
Ah, wretched France, I greatly fear thy fall;
Thy glory shaketh like a tottering wall.