William Shakespeare: King Henry VI, Third Part

4. SCENE IV. The Same

[Alarum. Enter YORK.]

The army of the queen hath got the field.
My uncles both are slain in rescuing me;
And all my followers to the eager foe
Turn back and fly like ships before the wind,
Or lambs pursu'd by hunger-starved wolves.
My sons--God knows what hath bechanced them;
But this I know,--they have demean'd themselves
Like men born to renown by life or death.
Three times did Richard make a lane to me,
And thrice cried 'Courage, father! fight it out!'
And full as oft came Edward to my side
With purple falchion painted to the hilt
In blood of those that had encount'red him;
And when the hardiest warriors did retire
Richard cried 'Charge! and give no foot of ground!'
And cried 'A crown, or else a glorious tomb!
A sceptre, or an earthly sepulchre!'
With this, we charg'd again; but, out, alas!
We budg'd again, as I have seen a swan
With bootless labour swim against the tide
And spend her strength with overmatching waves.

[A short alarum within.]

Ah, hark! the fatal followers do pursue,
And I am faint and cannot fly their fury;
And were I strong, I would not shun their fury.
The sands are number'd that make up my life;
Here must I stay, and here my life must end.--


Come, bloody Clifford, rough Northumberland,
I dare your quenchless fury to more rage.
I am your butt, and I abide your shot.

Yield to our mercy, proud Plantagenet.

Ay, to such mercy as his ruthless arm
With downright payment show'd unto my father.
Now Phaethon hath tumbled from his car,
And made an evening at the noontide prick.

My ashes, as the phoenix, may bring forth
A bird that will revenge upon you all;
And in that hope I throw mine eyes to heaven
Scorning whate'er you can afflict me with.
Why come you not?--what! multitudes, and fear?

So cowards fight when they can fly no further;
So doves do peck the falcon's piercing talons;
So desperate thieves, all hopeless of their lives,
Breathe out invectives 'gainst the officers.

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