Agincourt 600

The Poetry Society’s Young Poets Network partnered with Agincourt 600 in a competition to get young poets grappling with the history of a ferocious battle. The winning and commended poets have now been announced.

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 fervor about the justice of battle while others lamented the tragic loss of lives.”

You can read the poems, and find out more about the winners, on our website.

Competition resources

For teachers – we produced four separate teaching resources to allow you to explore this extraordinary conflict with your class, and help inspire your pupils’ own poetry. 

If you’re into battle fields and screaming armies, if you’re into bloodcurdling action and adventure, with no end of horrid tales and devious villains and dashing heroes then this competition is for you! Sharpen up your sword-like pen and enter the poetic battle of this exciting competition!
Daljit Nagra, competition judge

The Battle of Agincourt is one of the most famous and controversial battles in European history, forever associated in our minds with the clash of two nations, the might of medieval kings, and the fierce figure of the longbowman. To commemorate its 600th anniversary, the Agincourt 600 Poetry Competition is asking young poets aged 5-18 to delve into Agincourt’s history and legacy, and create a poem that explores this  battle afresh.

Agincourt and its legacy

Longbowman
Illustration by Alex Foster

Fought on 25th October 1415 in northern France, the Battle of Agincourt was a turning point in the Hundred Years’ War that had been raging between England and France since 1337 over possession of the French throne. In 1415, Henry V King of England, led his army on to win a decisive victory against the French, who were fighting under Charles D’Abret, Constable of France. The French suffered a devastating defeat; although sources vary widely, it is estimated that between 7,000 and 10,000 French soldiers were killed in battle, compared with less than 200 on the English side, and this victory paved the way for Henry V to assert his power and ‘right’ to rule.

The Battle of Agincourt looms large in our imaginations for lots of reasons, including the scale of the French loss and the acclaim that was lavished on the victorious Henry V. All sorts of writers have commemorated the battle, and perhaps the most famous of these is William Shakespeare in his play Henry V. Published in 1600, the play contains the famous St. Crispin’s Day speech in which Henry rouses his troops with the memorable lines:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother”
(Henry V, Act IV, Scene III)

For more writing inspired by the battle, take a look at Michael Drayton’s celebratory ‘Ballad of Agincourt’, or listen to the haunting Latin chorus of the ‘Agincourt Carol’.

“Deo gratias Anglia redde pro victoria!”
(“England, give thanks to God for victory!”)
Agincourt Carol

The Agincourt 600 website is also a great place to find out about the history of Agincourt in more detail, and tells you how you can get involved in various commemorative events across the country.

The competition will be judged by critically acclaimed and multi prize-winning poet Daljit Nagra, whose recent re-telling of the Hindu epic, The Ramayana, grapples with a sprawling narrative of ancient warfare.

Illustration by Alex Foster
Illustration by Alex Foster

Young poets

Find more information and inspiration on Young Poets Network, which features special Agincourt poetry challenges set by poets and historians. The information there will give you the opportunity to explore Agincourt from various different angles, and challenge you to think about the battle’s history and its impact – from 1415 to 2015 – in unique and exciting ways. 

Check out poet John Lindley’s first writing challenge on the Young Poets Network – this is particularly aimed at young writers up to the age of 11. 

Poet Steve Ely’s second Agincourt challenge asks young poets to explore how and why we remember conflict, and the more complex aspects of commemoration.

Historian Alf Wilkinson’s third challenge follows the journey of one ordinary soldier and asks poets to create a poem that takes us back to the fifteenth century battlefield.

Poet Richard O’Brien’s fourth and final challenge explores Shakespeare’s Henry V and asks young poets to re-examine this famous literary interpretation of a landmark battle from the perspective of some of the most marginalised voices.

To keep updated, sign up to our fortnightly Young Poets Network bulletin.

Schools

We’ve produced four separate teaching resources for both primary and secondary level to allow you to explore the conflict with your class. 

Download John Lindley’s resource to explore the battle and create Agincourt-inspired poems with your primary class.

Download Steve Ely’s resource and explore the ways in which we commemorate war with your secondary class. 

Download Alf Wilkinson’s resource to find out more about saints, chivalry, and late medieval beliefs.

Download Richard O’Brien’s resource to re-examine Shakespeare’s classic interpretation of the battle in Henry V.

If you’d like to enter a set of poems from your students then simply download an entry form and you can send them all to us by post. We will then sort all of the admin for you.

Find our more about competition prizes and how to enter

If you want to keep updated and receive our Agincourt 600 teaching resources then please sign up to out monthly Schools bulletin

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