full military strength of the kingdom, could have defied his assault, and probably might have witnessed his rival's destruction by famine and disease, without having to strike a single blow. But Harold's bold blood was up, and his kindly heart could not endure to inflict on his South Saxon subjects even the temporary misery of wasting the country. "He would not burn houses and villages, neither would he take away the substance of his people."
Harold's brothers, Gurth and Leofwine, were with him in the camp, and Gurth endeavored to persuade him to absent himself from the battle. The incident shows how well devised had been William's scheme of binding Harold by the oath on the holy relics. "My brother," said the young Saxon prince, "thou canst not deny that either by force or free will thou hast made Duke William an oath on the bodies of saints. Why then risk thyself in the battle with a perjury upon thee? To us, who have sworn nothing, this is a holy and a just war, for, we are fighting for our country. Leave us then alone to fight this battle, and he who has the right will win." Harold replied that he would not look on while others risked their lives for him. Men would hold him a coward, and blame him for sending his best friends where he dared not go himself. He resolved, therefore, to fight, and to fight in person; but he was still too good a general to be the assailant in the action; and he posted his army with great skill along a ridge of rising ground which opened southward, and was covered on the back by an extensive wood. He strengthened his position by a palisade of stakes and osier hurdles, and there he said he would defend himself against whoever should seek him.
The ruins of Battle Abbey at this hour attest the place where Harold's army was posted; and the high altar of the abbey stood on the very spot where Harold's own standard was planted during the fight, and where the carnage was the thickest. Immediately after his victory, William vowed to build an abbey on the site; and a fair and stately pile soon rose there, where for many ages the monks prayed and said masses for the souls of those who were slain in the battle, whence the abbey took its name. Before that time the place was called Senlac. Little of the ancient edifice now remains; but it is easy to trace in the park and the neighborhood the scenes of the chief incidents in the action; and it is impossible to deny the generalship shown by Harold in stationing his men, especially when we bear in mind