[The following paragraphs conclude an essay on Henry V, written by that master of English prose, Hilaire Belloc.]
They [the English army of Henry V] turned northward, not challenging the walled towns: they heard of the great host gathered against them beyond the crossing of the Ternoise. They went up on the October evening, through the drenched fields, to the huts and tall trees of Maisoncelles. They slept in what barns they could or bivouacked in the rain. The next dull autumn dawn was Agincourt.
Agincourt did not give him that Anglo-French realm which had been the dream of the Plantagenets, inherited from the House of Normandy for now more than three hundred years. If he came at last to plucking the fruit (which rotted after his death) it was not directly through that Picard victory, but by a masterly diplomatic play between warring factions of the Capetian House. Here again fate helped him; but how admirably he seized opportunity!
And all this done, he died. And the folly of others and the turn of fate, and the intervention of revelation, of vision and of whatever accompanies the Higher Powers undid it all.
The Maid rode over it: against that riding no mere mortal could make calculation.
Yet even as he died, murmuring of the Holy City, Henry must have known what a tangle he left, though he could not have known how the undoing of his effort would come. It is very often so with those who achieve much. They cannot but foresee that their achievement will fail at last, but they cannot conceive by what unexpected agency it will fail; they only know that nothing men plan is fully and finally performed.
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