Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion, 1612

Poly-Olbion is a topographical poem written by Michael Drayton at the turn of the 16th/17th Century. It includes the following section about the Battle of Northampton in 1460.

Then fair Northampton next, thy Battle place shall take
Which of th’ emperial war, the third fought Field doth make,
Twixt Henry call’d our sixt, upon whose party came
His near and dear allies, the Dukes of Buckingham,
And Somerset, the Earl of Shrewsbury of account,
Stout Viscount Beaumount, and the young Lord Egremount,
‘Gainst Edward Earl of March, son to the Duke of York,
With Warwicke, in that war, who set them all at work,
And Falkonbridge with him, not much unlike the other;
A Nevill nobly born, his puissant father’s brother,
Who to the Yorkists’ claim, had evermore been true,
And valiant brother Bourcher, Earl of Essex and of Eau.

The King from out the town, who drew his horse and foot,
As willingly to give full field-roomth to his force,
Doth pass the River Nen, near where it down doth run
From his first fountain’s head, is near to Harsington,
Advised of a place, by Nature strongly wrought,
Doth there encamp his power; the Earl of March who sought
To prove by dint of sword, who should obtain the day,
From Towcester train’d on his powers in good array,
The vaward Warwicke led (whom no attempt could fear);
The middle March himself and Falkonbridgc the rear.

Now July entered was, and ere the restless sun,
Three hours’ ascent had got the dreadful fight begun
By Warwicke, who a straight from Viscount Beaumont took,
Defeating him at first, by which he quickly broke
In, on th’ emperial host, which was a furious charge,
He forc’d upon the field, itself more to enlarge.
Now English bows, and bills, and battle-axes walk,
Death up and down the field in ghastly sort doth stalk.
March in the flower of youth, like Mars himself doth bear
But Warwicke as the man whom Fortune seem’d to fear,
Did for him what he would, that whereso’er he goes,
Down like a furious storm, before him all he throws;
So Shrewsbury again of Talbot’s valiant strain,
(That fatal scourge of France) as stoutly doth maintain,
The party of the King; so princely Somerset,
Whom th’ others’ knightly deeds, more eagerly doth whet,
Hears up with them again ; by Somerset opposed
At last King Henry’s host being on three parts enclos’d,
And aids still coming in upon the Yorkists’ side
The Summer being then at height in all her pride,
The husbandman, then hard upon his harvest was;
But yet the cocks of hay, nor swaths of new-shorn grass,
Strew’d not the meads so thick, as mangled bodies there,
So that upon the banks, and in the stream of Nen,
Ten thousand well resolv’d, stout native English men,
Left breathless, with the rest great Buckingham is slain,
And Shrewsbury whose loss those times did much complain,
Eagremont, and Beaumont, both found dead upon the field,
The miserable King, inforc’d again to yield.

Click this link if you’d like to see the whole Poly-Olbion poem.

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