The Valiant Courage and Policy of the Kentishmen with Long Tails, whereby they kept their Ancient Laws and Customs, which William the Conqueror sought to take from them.

When as the Duke of Normandy,

With glistering spear and shield,

Had enter’d into fair England,

And foil’d his foes in field,

On Christmas Day in solemn sort,

Then was he crowned here

By Albeit, Archbishop of York,

With many a noble Peer.

Which being done, he changed quite

The custom of this land,

And punish’d such as daily sought

His statutes to withstand:

And many cities he subdued,

Fair London with the rest;

But Kent did still withstand his foce,

Which did his laws detest.


To Dover then he took his way

The Castle down to fling,

Which Arviragus builded there,

The noble Briton King.

Which when the brave Archbishop bold

Of Canterbury knew,

The Abbot of St. Austin’s eke,

With all their gallant crew,


They set themselves in armour bright

These mischiefs to prevent,

With all the yeomen brave and bold

That were in fruitful Kent.

At Canterbury they did meet

Upon a certain day,

With sword and spear, with bill and bow,

And stopp’d the Conqueror’s way.


“Let us not live like bondmen poor

To Frenchmen in their pride,

But keep our ancient liberty,

What chance soe’er betide;

And rather die in bloody field,

In manlike courage press’d,

Than to endure the servile yoke

Which we so much detest.”


Thus did the Kentish commons cry

Unto their leaders still,

And so march’d forth in warlike sort,

And stand on Swanscombe Hill;

Where in the woods they hid themselves

Under the shady green,

Thereby to get them vantage good

Of all their foes unseen.


And for the Conqueror’s coming there

They privily laid wait,

And thereby suddenly appall’d

His lofty high conceit:

For when they spied his approach,

In place as they did stand,

Then marched they to hem him in,

Each one a bough in hand.


So that unto the Conqueror’s sight,

Amazed as he stood,

They seem’d to be a walking grove,

Or else a moving wood.

The shape of men he could not see,

The boughs did hide them so;

And now his heart for fear did quake

To see a forest go.


Before, behind, and on each side,

As he did cast his eye,

He spied these woods with sober pace

Approach to him full nigh.

But when the Kentishmen had thus

Enclos’d the Conqueror round,

Most suddenly they drew their swords,

And threw the boughs to ground.


Their banners they display’d in sight,

Their trumpets sound a charge;

Their rattling drums strike up alarm,

Their troops stretch out at large.

The Conqueror with all his train

Were hereat sore aghast,

And most in peril when he thought

All peril had been past.


Unto the Kentishmen he sent

The cause to understand,

For what intent and for what cause

They took this war in hand?

To whom they made this short reply:

“For liberty we fight,

And to enjoy King Edward’s laws,

The which we hold our right.”

Then,” said the dreadful Conqueror,

“ You shall have what you will,

Your ancient customs and your laws,

So that you will be still;

And each thing else that you will crave

With reason at my hand,

So you will but acknowledge me

Chief king of fair England.”


The Kentishmen agreed hereon,

And laid their arms aside,

And by this means King Edward’s laws

In Kent doth still abide:

And in no place in England else

Those customs do remain,

Which they by manly policy

Did of Duke William gain.