Friday, July 2, 2010

Battle of Marston Moor

The Battle of Marston Moor pitted Scottish Covenanters and English Parliamentarians against the Royalist forces of Charles I of England.  Marston Moor is close (7 miles) to the town of York, which was more central to military efforts.  York had been besieged by Scots forces under David Leslie as part of the First English Civil War.  Royalist forces under Prince Rupert of the Rhine marched toward York to relieve the city.  As various outfits on both sides of the conflagration gathered, they jockeyed for position.  The Scots/Parliamentarians ended up outflanked by Rupert's forces, but the Royalists delayed attacking to regain strength, gathering on the Moor. 

The battle took place on July 2, 1644, lasting two hours.  Initially disadvantaged, the Parliamentarian forces under Oliver Cromwell carried the day.  As a result of this defeat, Charles I effectively abandoned the north of England.

Walter Scott makes the Battle of Marston Moor the subject of his poem "Rokeby".  From Canto One:


"Wouldst hear the tale?-On Marston heath
Met, front to front, the ranks of death;
Flourish'd the trumpets fierce, and now
Fired was each eye, and flush'd each brow;
On either side loud clamours ring,
God and the Cause!'-' God and the King!'
Right English all, they rush'd to blows,
With nought to win, and all to lose.
I could have laugh'd-but lack'd the time
To see, in phrenesy sublime,
How the fierce zealots fought and bled,
For king or state, as humour led;
Some for a dream of public good,
Some for church-tippet, gown and hood,
Draining their veins, in death to claim
A patriot's or a martyr's name.
Led Bertram Risingham the hearts,
That counter'd there on adverse parts,
No superstitious fool had I
Sought El Dorados in the sky!
Chili had heard me through her states,
And Lima oped her silver gates,
Rich Mexico I had march'd through,
And sack'd the splendours of Peru,
Till sunk Pizarro's daring name,
And, Cortez, thine, in Bertram's fame."
"Still from the purpose wilt thou stray!
Good gentle friend, how went the day? "

He starts-a step at this lone hour!
A voice!-his father seeks the tower,
With haggard look and troubled sense,
Fresh from his dreadful conference.
"Wilfrid!-what, not to sleep address'd?
Thou hast no cares to chase thy rest.
Mortham has fall'n on Marston-moor;
Bertram brings warrant to secure
His treasures, bought by spoil and blood,
For the state's use and public good.
The menials will thy voice obey;
Let his commission have its way,
In every point, in every word."
Then, in a whisper,- "Take thy sword!
Bertram is-what I must not tell.
I hear his hasty step-farewell!"

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