The Agincourt 600 Poetry Competition – the winners

As part of the Agincourt 600 commemorations a competition for young poets was organised by the Poetry Society and supported by Agincourt 600.
“In the medieval period verse was frequently used as a means to keep memory and stories alive. To see this approach taken for Agincourt centuries later has been wonderful, creating a fitting legacy to the commemoration.” said Professor Anne Curry Chair of the Agincourt 600 Trust and judge on the poetry competition.
The competition generated over six hundred entries from young poets across the UK, and it was an extraordinary challenge to narrow down the many brilliant poems received to the final two winners and twelve commended poets.
Chair of judges Daljit Nagra said judging the competition was a “heartening and uplifting experience”:
“the entries were so interesting. Many poets had managed to incorporate details about the actual events which included arrows flying and bodkins at the ready. Many wrote with nationalistic fervour about the justice of battle while others lamented the tragic loss of lives caused by the battle.”

Also representing the Agincourt 600 committee as a judge on the competition was Richard Randolph who stated:
“I have been so impressed with the range of voices and approaches in the poems entered into the competition. It is apparent that Agincourt still has the power to inspire the current generations.”

Primary Category
‘Bodkin Arrow’ by Jake Talbot
‘The Splendid Longbow’ by Monica Selzer
‘Outcast’ by Gilda Hanson
‘The Difference’ by Charlie Lambert
‘The Arrow’ by George Evans
‘The Helmet’ by Roahn Mohindru
‘Battle Tears’ by Margaret Black

Secondary Category
‘From Alice’s Perspective’ by April Egan
‘Agincourt’ by Sam Williams
‘Agincourt through a Crow’s Eyes’ by Freya Upton
‘Sigh’ by Barirah Ashfak
‘Land speaks at Agincourt’ by Matilda Houston-Brown
‘The Eve of St Crispin’s Day’ by Colette Spaul
‘The Troubadour’s Song’ by Nirvana Yarger

Thank you again to all who entered, and huge congratulations to the winners.

Winner – ‘Bodkin Arrow’ by Jake Talbot

Bodkin arrow
Born in the fires of England.
From humble birth I come,
Bound to poplar by pitch and sinew
Together we become one.
Across the treacherous sea I travelled,
This land seems so far away
To fields of Agincourt
To face to face the judgement day.
Banded together our fellow archers stood
Humble at sight of the crown.
Let me fly with my band of brothers
To rain our terror down.
The battle was short and deadly
Won by humble men with bow.
The bloody ground so thick with feathers
Looked like a covering of snow.

Commended (no order):

The Splendid Longbow by Monica Selzer

You should have seen us at Agincourt
Outnumbered but not defeated
We dealt a deadly deluge
Before our mission was completed.

Time and time again my strong archer
Drew my smooth string back
Endless flurry of arrows cavorted through the air
I am proud, I am strong in attack.

Strong and sleek, I can fire in a minute
Arrows, up to a dozen!
Clumsy and slow, an ugly crossbow
I am ashamed to call him my cousin.

We helped shed French blood for England
As red as a rambling rose
Squelching, slogging in the mud
The French were bound to lose.

The battle was rightfully won by us
I was pleased to help King Henry
And of that day so glorious, may I say?
I have such grand and splendid memories.

Outcast by Gilda Hanson
Thank you
I have been waiting for this moment
For 600 years

For me it started
With sunshine fingers
And soldiers getting ready
Like children
On their first day at school
Morning minds aching with worry
About the day ahead

The French army stood
Like bulls ready to charge
Blocking our way

We were silent
Full of fatigue and fear

I heard my heart
Cast out of steel

An unsteady hand
Grabbed my body
Placed me in the arms
Of a long yew bow
Drew me back
And let me go

As high as the heavens

Beside me
My brothers and sisters
Bodkins, swallowheads
An army of arrows in flight

Below me
Swords danced
A chaos of screams
Shouts, yells
Of mud, blood and guts

And down my fellow arrows arched
A waterfall of death

But I flew on
And on
Until I fell
To pierce the heart
Of a destitute ditch

And there I lay
An outcast arrow
Save for time
Marching on
Like soldiers to battle

So thank you
For finding me
For taking me home
For listening to my story
And for giving me hope

The Difference by Charlie Lambert
Henry’s arm rises,
Henry’s arm rises,
My hand is shaking as I touch the quiver,
I am standing in the middle of my fear,
The thunder of hooves down the hill,
The sword sliding in my mind
The wave of horses move like the raging sea,
The wave of blue upon the hill,
Henry’s arm lowers,
Henry’s arm lowers,
We fire as they charge,
They charge as we fire,
The slitting of my throat,
The arrows in their bodies,
Now I feel it for the first time, death.
Now I feel it for the first time, freedom.

The Arrow by George Evans

I have a story I would like to tell,
About the battle of Agincourt so listen well.
I have rusted in the mud for 600 years,
Buried alone with my memories and tears.

The day started brightly and the troops were all ready,
My brave English archer was holding me steady.
As we were waiting I saw the French advancing,
I felt frightened and nervous, my insides were dancing.

My archer fired and through the air I was flying,
A French soldier saw him and soon he was dying.
My journey then ended in the vile stinking mud,
All around was destruction, bodies and blood.

The years passed by as I lay on the ground,
The grass and the flowers grew up all around.
I have lay here forgotten growing rusty and old,
Now you have found me and my story is told.

The Helmet by Roahn Mohindru
I was among the flags, soldiers and armour, but
I could not stop that arrow.
I stopped the rain, wind and snow, but
I could not stop that arrow.
I felt the blood, the sweat and mud, but
I could not stop that arrow.
I felt the scares, cuts and bruises, but I
could not stop that arrow.
I stopped the glaring sun and the clouds of
arrows, but I could not stop that arrow.
As I hit the ground, as it pierced his neck,
I was buried away, but I still could not
stop that arrow!

Battle tears by Margaret Black

Clanking armours, whizzing arrows
Fallen fighters, broken bows,
How we remember those
Buried where green grass grows?

Days and years have swiftly flown,
Crispin’s tears turned to stone,
Where French and English brave
Lost their lives in muddy grave.

Horses, people, swords and daggers,
Hutchets, longbows, arrows, hammers,
Drowned heavy-armoured knight,
Henry Monmoth won the fight.

“God, please show us all your Mercy!”,
Welsh and English army plea,
Outnumbered, yet determined,
Piercing French and watch them flee.

Agincourt will keep reminding,
Hatred only death can bring,
France and England, proud nations,
Cain and Abel, like your sons.

Spare mothers’ cries and prayers,
Spare future children’s heirs!
Hundred Years of war should end,
Neighbour will become your friend!

Peace is what we all desire,
Set my eyes on home shire,
Touch the water in the lake,
Taste again the bread I bake.

Clanking armours, whizzing arrows,
Fallen fighters, broken bows,
Let us all remember those,
Who gave lives, old friends and foes!

Winner – ‘From Alice’s perspective’ by April Egan

From Alice’s Perspective

I have seen it, seen it
The blood stains on the dandelions
The death, hiding among the daisies
Staining the innocence forever
Yet, here comes the king!
Singing of how pure his brethren are
Hand on his breast of gold.

We have heard it, heard it
From the hilltops over the moor
where the sun was expelled in the morning
The rise and crash and scream and fall,
Not of men but also of memories,
Not sons but also of mothers

France is dead, silent, buried.
England is distilled in the wine cellars
To be savoured and cherished; along with
the queen’s words of hand and elbow
the king’s of death and sword

Here I am and I cannot believe myself
Yesterday we spoke of pleasure
and Katharine’s new dress and jewels
Now all I know is arrows,
and a massacre from far away.

They cannot cry, and will not
they are not petty women like us
they are men, creatures of the mud
Fighting themselves to heaven and
drinking themselves to hell.

When will my voice matter?
There will never be a queen without a king
Or women at the heights of men
Yet, as I watch the bestial, quiet skeleton
Of bestial, quiet, Agincourt
I can hope for the buds of spring to bloom
and France to fight once more.

Commended (no order):

Agincourt by Sam Williams
Gargantuan armies smash and splatter the heaving mud,
Each insignificant warrior’s knowledge of battle shattered on broken shields,
As the drench of barbed droplets strikes each man, their minds turn to their now broken dreams,
Of feats of heroism and shining armour and the parties and feasts that were to follow after.

Arrows falling from the sky like leaves in autumn,
Soldiers armour as strong as paper before the explosions of arrows and steel.

The empty road was covered by a velvet carpet, silky as a stream,
as if a king or lord was about to process onto the hellish field,
strands of sodden leather feebly drape over the empty shells of men,
hacked and stabbed until they resemble nothing but half finished sculptures.

Agincourt through a crow’s eyes by Freya Upton
High in the sky as a murder of crows,
We turn our eyes down to the depressed fields.
Many shocked soldiers lie in blood-stained clothes,
We scratch and waddle over rusty shields.
Not long ago in glaring, broad daylight,
Horses squelched as they plodded through thick mud.
Broadswords now useless, arrows let out blood,
Men frantic in the hot Agincourt fight.
Now it’s all quiet, scattered flesh and bone,
The clothes of the dead flap like our black wings,
The Constable of France lies not alone,
His men lie around him like gruesome things.
We are a black cloud in doom-laden skies,
Over piles of men and their packs of lies.

Sigh by Barirah Ashfak
War tastes like death with a fever
Sick and unwell, a raging
Heat dancing across my skin
Swords will not hurt the land?
But my left hand is the west,
My right is the east
And you are hurting everything in between
If I listen closely I can hear men
Who are roaring with lion mouths and
Trembling human hearts
Blood is spilling deep into the mud
My flesh and theirs mixing
As it should
If I was peckish
I would swallow them whole
But they have to learn
Swords are big and shiny but
they’re less than the worth of
a boy who’ll never see his father come home
a bride walking up the aisle with no hand to hold
the ghost of a kiss that should’ve landed
On those cheeks years ago
Tell me, Mr Englishman
Does victory sound like
Missing the birth fo your first born child
Or does it sound like
Which follow you into old age
I’ll tell you, Mr Englishman
your name means nothing to me
But you never learn
and it never ends.

Land speaks at Agincourt by Matilda Houston-Brown

I am drunk on blood and bones.
Northern France, the honest mud
Printed with confusion in
fields of cold October. My
quagmire only sees conflict.

For earth, it is laughable
To consider being owned.
My age understands the tears-
Warfare is my language, but
Allegiances bore me now.

Arrows are always sweetest
Cracking through scarred, soldiered flesh
With the smooth skill of frostbite.
Remembered wounds. Outnumbered
Armies are the best to watch.

This one I like the most now.
Out of it all- so far. Though
It is never honourable:
Fought with cracked hands, battered boots
Dirt never expects manners.

They will all remember this.
If I could reach out beyond
The dark trappings of your feet,
I would speak- to tell you that:
“Agincourt will be sewn in

songs, wrapped in words, and recalled
As a bowman’s victory.”

The Eve of Crispin’s Day by Colette Spaul

Fear not.

She returns on the Eve; Doubt, the deceiver,
clement and wild and lasting. Behold, the Angel of Agincourt!
She comes in capricious and kind ruination, as sunlight
filters through trees in fine hanging rain,
painting shadows gold and black.

For rebels and kingmakers alike, she comes
danger-bright and roaring. And now, the light-fingered King,
his eyes as the confessional echo, low and cruel
and endlessly blue, under rhythms and glorious arcs
all dark and kind in the lack-light.

There he sits, and thinks anon
of doves and dragons
and other men’s sons.
Her wings numbering three by two –
his stern and stable raggedness.

They walk the stations
and sing, “Praise to this! By us
all things unmade,
in trinity and majesty.” Distant and soft
and lamenting, on the Eve of Crispin’s Day.

The men carve a thousand scars on vasty fields,
praying and seeking and dear and hurt
and strange as the flame, with terrible
and holy compromise. Behold the morn,
the tribulation and gainsaying.

The Troubadour’s Song by Nirvana Yarger

Gather ‘round me, gather ‘round me,
I’ll tell you of great victory!
I’ve walked the field of Agincourt,
seen polished mail and glinting blade,
the bows in hands of men who end,
this war that’s raged one hundred years!
O France!
The mangy lion – sallow, grey,
bedraggled mane and rotting gums,
and bulging eyes, a true mad king,
and arrows stuck in black paw pads!
O England!
The sparrow with silver sword beak,
and feathers loose from flood and plague,
small in number but strong in force,
wings beating strong with fiercest pride!
King Henry, golden, sitting proud,
atop his steed, raised one great hand;
great silence fell across our field,
sunset blazing, each breath bated –
And it began!
The lion may be thrice the size,
but sparrows know just where to strike –
France fell! As to a farmer’s scythe,
and England sang its song of pride!
Remember, here, this victory,
sing your freedom, dance, rejoice,
your mother’s mother could not see
that this day would e’er come to pass!
But remember, too –
I’ve told you now, I’ve brought this news,
I too walked through the hero’s field,
so be sure not to cast aside,
your one and only Troubadour.