From the gracious Minster-towers
Of York the priests behold afar
The field of Towton shimmer like a star
With light of lance and helm; while both the powers
Misnamed from the fair rose, with one fell blow,
—In snow-dazed, blinding air
Mass’d on the burnside bare,—
Each army, as one man, drove at the opposing foe.
Ne’er since then, and
On England’s fields with English hands
Have met for death such myriad myriad bands,
Such wolf-like fury, and such greed of gore:—
No natural kindly touch, no check of shame:
And no such bestial rage
Blots our long story’s page;
Such lewd remorseless swords, such selfishness of aim
of Peace! Yet Thou
May’st look and bless with lenient eyes
When trodden races ’gainst their tyrant rise,
And the bent back no more will deign to bow:
Or when they crush some old anarchic feud,
And found the throne anew
On Law to Freedom true,
Cleansing the land they love from guilt of blood by blood.
Nor did Heaven unmoved behold
When Hellas, for her birthright free
Dappling with gore the dark Saronian sea,
The Persian wave back, past Abydos, roll’d:—
But in this murderous match of chief ’gainst chief
No chivalry had part,
No impulse of the heart;
Nor any sigh for Right triumphant breathes relief.
and no release,
No carnage-pause to blow on blow!
While through the choir the palm-wreathed children go,
And gay hosannas hail the Prince of Peace:—
And evening falls, and from the Minster height
They see the wan Ouse stream
Blood-dark with slaughter gleam,
And hear the demon-struggle shrieking through the night.
Love, o’er palms in triumph strown
Passing, through the crowd alone,—
Silent ’mid the exulting cry,—
At Jerusalem to die:
Thou, foreknowing all, didst know
How Thy blood in vain would flow!
How our madness oft would prove
Recreant to the law of love:
Wrongs that men from men endure
Doing Thee to death once more!
’On the 29th of March 1461 the two armies encountered one another at Towton Field, near Tadcaster. In the numbers engaged, as well as in the terrible obstinacy of the struggle, no such battle had been seen in England since the field of Senlac. The two armies together numbered nearly 120,000 men’: (Green, B. IV: ch. vi).
Saronian sea; Scene of the battle of Salamis, B.C. 480.
They see the wan Ouse stream; Mr. R. Wilton, of Londesborough, has kindly pointed out to me that Wharfe, which from a brook received the bloodshed of Towton, does not discharge into Ouse until about ten miles south of York. The gleam is, therefore, visionary: (1889).
THE ENGLISH RENAISSANCE