James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

March 29

Battle of Towton

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

  • From Henry VI, Part 3rd, Act II, Scene 6.
  • Fought near the Yorkshire village of Towton, March 29, 1461, between the Yorkists under Edward IV. and the Lancanstrians under Henry VI. and Margaret. This battle established Edward IV. on the throne of England.

  • Enter CLIFFORD, wounded.—(Speaks.)
    Here burns my candle out; ay, here it dies,

    Which, whiles it lasted, gave King Henry light.

    O Lancaster, I fear thy overthrow

    More than my body’s parting with my soul!

    My love and fear glued many friends to thee;

    And, now I fall, thy tough commixture melts.

    Impairing Henry, strengthening misproud York,

    The common people swarm like summer flies;

    And whither fly the gnats but to the sun?

    And who shines now but Henry’s enemies?

    O Phœbus, hadst thou never given consent

    That Phaëthon should check thy fiery steeds,

    Thy burning car never had scorch’d the earth!

    And, Henry, hadst thou sway’d as kings should do,

    Or as thy father and his father did,

    Giving no ground unto the house of York,

    They never then had sprung like summer flies;

    I and ten thousand in this luckless realm

    Had left no mourning widows for our death;

    And thou this day hadst kept thy chair in peace.

    For what doth cherish weeds but gentle air?

    And what makes robbers bold but too much lenity?

    Bootless are plaints, and cureless are my wounds;

    No way to fly, nor strength to hold out flight:

    The foe is merciless, and will not pity;

    For at their hands I have deserved no pity.

    The air hath got into my deadly wounds,

    And much effuse of blood doth make me faint.

    Come, York and Richard, Warwick and the rest;

    I stabb’d your father’s bosoms, split my breast.