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  • Title: The Civil Wars Between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York (Selection)
  • Editor: Rosemary Gaby

  • Copyright Rosemary Gaby. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Samuel Daniel
    Editor: Rosemary Gaby
    Peer Reviewed

    The Civil Wars Between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York (Selection)

    [Samuel Daniel (1562-1619), The Civil Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York 1595. Samuel Daniel's verse account of The Civil Wars Between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York, was first published in 1595 under the title The First Four Books of the Civil Wars. It is written in ottava rima stanzas and draws on classical models to present English history in epic form. Some details from the third book of Daniel's work seem to have influenced the shape of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part One, most notably in relation to the figure of Henry Percy (Hotspur). Daniel describes him as "young Hotspur" even though historically he was two years older than Henry IV, and he is characterised as rash, courageous and perverse. Although Daniel does not claim that the prince killed Hotspur, the narrator of the poem imagines them meeting on the field as equally fierce opponents. Holinshed reports that the prince helped his father on the battlefield and that he was hurt in the face with an arrow, but in Daniel the prince saves his father from a ferocious encounter with Douglas. Such small touches of colour in Daniel's account were expanded in Shakespeare's 1 Henry IV into vividly realised dramatic events, and the rivalry between Hal and Hotspur gave the story focus, suspense, and a satisfying dramatic shape. This modern spelling version is based on the facsimile of the 1595 edition provided by the Early English Books Online database.]

    [From Book 3, Verses 85-115, pages 59-63]



    And thus one king most near in blood allied

    Is made th'oblation for the other's peace:

    Now only one, both name and all beside

    Entirely hath, plurality doth cease:


    He that remains, remains unterrified

    With others' right; this day doth all release:

    And henceforth he is absolutely king,

    No crowns, but one, this deed confirms the thing.


    And yet new Hydras lo, new heads appear


    T'afflict that peace reputed then so sure,

    And gave him much to do, and much to fear,

    And long and dangerous tumults did procure,

    And those even of his chiefest followers were

    Of whom he might presume him most secure,


    Who whether not so grac'd or so prefer'd

    As they expected, these new factions stirr'd.


    The Percies were the men, men of great might,

    Strong in alliance, and in courage strong

    That thus conspire, under pretense to right


    The crooked courses they had suffered long:

    Whether their conscience urg'd them or despite,

    Or that they saw the part they took was wrong,

    Or that ambition hereto did them call,

    Or others envied grace, or rather all.



    What cause soever were, strong was their plot,

    Their parties great, means good, th'occasion fit:

    Their practice close, their faith suspected not,

    Their states far off and they of wary wit

    Who with large promises draw in the Scot


    To aid their cause, he likes, and yields to it,

    Not for the love of them or for their good,

    But glad hereby of means to shed our blood.


    Then join they with the Welsh, who fitly train'd

    And all in arms under a mighty head


    Great Glendower, who long warr'd, and much attain'd,

    Sharp conflicts made, and many vanquished:

    With whom was Edmund Earl of March retain'd

    Being first his prisoner, now confedered,

    A man the king much fear'd, and well he might


    Lest he should look whether his crown stood right.


    For Richard, for the quiet of the state,

    Before he took those Irish wars in hand

    About succession doth deliberate,

    And finding how the certain right did stand,


    With full consent this man did ordinate.

    The heir apparent in the Crown and land:

    Then judge if this the king might nearly touch,

    Although his might were small, his right being much.


    With these the Percies them confederate


    And as three heads they league in one intent,

    And instituting a Triumvirate

    Do part the land in triple government:

    Dividing thus among themselves the state,

    The Percies should rule all the North from Trent


    And Glendower Wales, the Earl of March should be

    Lord of the South from Trent; and thus they [a]gree.


    Then those two helps which still such actors find,

    Pretense of common good, the king's disgrace,

    Doth fit their course, and draw the vulgar mind


    To further them and aid them in this case:

    The king they accus'd for cruel, and unkind

    That did the state, and crown, and all deface;

    A perjured man that held all faith in scorn,

    Whose trusted oaths had others made forsworn.



    Besides the odious detestable act

    Of that late murdered king they aggravate,

    Making it his that so had will'd the fact

    That he the doers did remunerate:

    And then such taxes daily doth exact


    That were against the orders of the state,

    And with all these or worse they him assail'd

    Who late of others with the like prevail'd.


    Thus doth contentious proud mortality

    Afflict each other and itself torment:


    And thus, O thou mind-tort[u]ring misery

    Restless ambition, born in discontent,

    Turn'st and retossest with iniquity

    The unconstant courses frailty did invent:

    And foul'st fair order and defil'st the earth


    Fost[e]ring up war, father of blood and dearth.


    Great seem'd the cause, and greatly to, did add

    The people's love thereto, these crimes rehears'd,

    That many gathered to the troops they had

    And many more do flock from coasts dispers'd:


    But when the king had heard these news so bad,

    Th'unlooked-for dangerous toil more nearly pers'd;

    For bent t[o]wards Wales t'appease those tumults there,

    H[e] is forc'd divert his course, and them forbear.


    Not to give time unto th'increasing rage


    And gathering fury, forth he hastes with speed,

    Lest more delay or giving longer age

    To th'evil grown, it might the cure exceed:

    All his best men at arms, and leaders sage

    All he prepar'd he could, and all did need;


    For to a mighty work thou goest, O king,

    To such a field that power to power shall bring.


    There shall young Hotspur with a fury led

    Meet with thy forward son as fierce as he:

    There warlike Worcester, long experienced


    In foreign arms, shall come t'encounter thee:

    There Douglas to thy Stafford shall make head:

    There Vernon for thy valiant Blunt shall be:

    There shalt thou find a doubtful bloody day,

    Though sickness keep Northumberland away.



    Who yet reserv'd, though after quit for this,

    Another tempest on thy head to raise,

    As if still wrong revenging Nemesis

    Did mean t'afflict all thy continual days:

    And yet this field he happily might miss


    For thy great good, and therefore well he stays:

    What might his force have done being join'd thereto

    When that already gave so much to do?


    The swift approach and unexpected speed

    The king had made upon this new-raised force


    In th'unconfirmed troops much fear did breed,

    Untimely hindring their intendeded course;

    The joining with the Welsh they had decreed

    Was hereby stopp'd, which made their part the worse,

    Northumberland, with forces from the North


    Expected to be there, was not set forth.


    And yet undaunted Hotspur seeing the king

    So near approach'd, leaving the work in hand,

    With forward speed his forces marshaling,

    Sets forth his farther coming to withstand:


    And with a cheerful voice encouraging

    By his great spirit his well-emboldened band,

    Brings a strong host of firm-resolved might

    And plac'd his troops before the king in sight.


    "This day" (saith he), "O faithful valiant friends,


    Whatever it doth give, shall glory give:

    This day with honor frees our state, or ends

    Our misery with fame, that still shall live.

    And do but think how well this day he spends

    That spends his blood his country to relieve:


    Our holy cause, our freedom, and our right,

    Sufficient are to move good minds to fight.


    Besides th'assured hope of victory

    That we may even promise on our side

    Against this weak-constrained company,


    Whom force and fear, not will, and love, doth guide

    Against a prince whose foul impiety

    The heavens do hate, the earth cannot abide,

    Our number being no less, our courage more,

    What need we doubt if we but work therefore?"



    This said, and thus resolv'd, even bent to charge

    Upon the king, who well their order view'd

    And careful noted all the form at large

    Of their proceeding, and their multitude:

    And deeming better if he could discharge


    The day with safety, and some peace conclude,

    Great proffers sends of pardon, and of grace

    If they would yield, and quietness embrace.


    But this refus'd, the king, with wrath incens'd,

    Rage against fury doth with speed prepare:


    And "O," saith he, "though I could have dispens'd

    With this day's blood, which I have sought to spare

    That greater glory might have recompens'd

    The forward worth of these that so much dare,

    That we might honor had by th'overthrown


    That th'wounds we make, might not have been our own.


    "Yet since that other men's iniquity

    Calls on the sword of wrath against my will,

    And that themselves exact this cruelty,

    And I constrained am this blood to spill:


    Then on, my masters, on courageously,

    True-hearted subjects against traitors ill,

    And spare not them who seek to spoil us all,

    Whose foul confused end soon see you shall."


    Straight moves with equal motion equal rage


    The like incensed armies unto blood,

    One to defend, another side to wage

    Foul civil war. Both vows their quarrel good:

    Ah, too much heat to blood doth now enrage

    Both who the deed provokes and who withstood,


    That valor here is vice, here manhood sin,

    The forward'st hands doth, O, least honor win.


    But now begin these fury-moving sounds

    The notes of wrath that music brought from hell,

    The rattling drums which trumpets' voice confounds,


    The cries, th'encouragements, the shouting shrill;

    That all about the beaten air rebounds,

    Thundring confused, murmurs horrible,

    To rob all sense except the sense to fight,

    Well hands may work, the mind hath lost his sight.



    O war! begot in pride and luxury,

    The child of wrath and of dissension,

    Horrible good; mischief necessary,

    The foul reformer of confusion,

    Unjust-just scourge of our iniquity,


    Cruel recurer of corruption:

    O, that these sin-sick states in need should stand

    To be let blood with such a boisterous hand!


    And O, how well thou hadst been spar'd this day

    Had not wrong-counsel'd Percy been perverse,


    Whose young undanger'd hand now rash makes way

    Upon the sharpest fronts of the most fierce:

    Where now an equal fury thrusts to stay

    And rebeat-back that force and his disperse,

    Then these assail, then those chase back again,


    Till stayed with new-made hills of bodies slain.


    There lo that new-appearing glorious star

    Wonder of Arms, the terror of the field

    Young Henry, laboring where the stoutest are

    And even the stoutest forces back to yield,


    There in that hand, boldened to blood and war,

    That must the sword in wondrous actions wield:

    But better hadst thou learn'd with others' blood

    A less expense to us, to thee more good.


    Hadst thou not there lent present speedy aid


    To thy endanger'd father nearly tired,

    Whom fierce encountering Douglas overlaid,

    That day had there his troublous life expired:

    Heroical Courageous Blunt arrayed

    In habit like as was the king attir'd


    And deem'd for him, excus'd that fate with his,

    For he had what his Lord did hardly miss.


    For thought a king he would not now disgrace

    The person then suppos'd, but princelike shows

    Glorious effects of worth that fit his place,


    And fighting dies, and dying overthrows:

    Another of that forward name and race

    In that hot work his valiant life bestows,

    Who bare the standard of the King that day,

    Whose colors overthrown did much dismay.



    And dear it cost, and O, much blood is shed

    To purchase thee this losing victory

    O travail'd king: yet hast thou conquered

    A doubtful day, a mighty enemy:

    But O, what wounds, what famous worth lies dead!


    That makes the winner look with sorrowing eye,

    Magnanimous Stafford lost that much had wrought,

    And valiant Shirley who great glory got.


    Such wrack of others' blood thou didst behold

    O furious Hotspur, ere thou lost thine own!


    Which now, once lost, that heat in thine wax'd cold,

    And soon became thy Army overthrown;

    And O, that this great spirit, this courage bold,

    Had in some good cause been rightly shown!

    So had not we thus violently then


    Have term'd that rage, which valor should have been.


    But now the King retires him to his peace,

    A peace much like a feeble sickman's sleep,

    (Wherein his waking pains do never cease

    Though seeming rest his closed eyes doth keep)


    For O, no peace could ever so release

    His intricate turmoils, and sorrows deep,

    But that his cares kept waking all his life

    Continue on till death conclude the strife.