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English and Scottish Ballads.

Volume VII.

by Various.




In the twelfth year of Richard II. (1388,) the Scots assembled an extensive army, with the intention of invading England on a grand scale, in revenge for a previous incursion made by that sovereign. But information having been received that the Northumbrians were gathering in considerable force for a counter-invasion, it was thought prudent not to attempt to carry out the original enterprise. While, therefore, the main body of the army, commanded by the Earl of Fife, the Scottish king's second son, ravaged the western borders of England, a detachment of three or four thousand chosen men, under the Earl of Douglas, penetrated by a swift march into the Bishopric of Durham, and laid waste the country with fire and sword. Returning in triumph from this inroad, Douglas passed insultingly before the gates of Newcastle, where Sir Harry Percy lay in garrison. This fiery warrior, though he could not venture to cope with forces far superior to his own, sallied out to break a lance with his hereditary foe. In a skirmish before the town he lost his spear and pennon, which Douglas swore he would plant as a trophy on the highest tower of his castle, unless it should be that very night retaken by the owner. Hotspur was deterred from accepting this challenge immediately, by the apprehension that Douglas would be able to effect a union with the main body of the Scottish army before he could be overtaken, but when he learned, the second day, that the Earl was retreating with ostentatious slowness, he hastily got together a company of eight or ten thousand men, and set forth in pursuit.

The English forces, under the command of Hotspur and his brother, Sir Ralph Percy, came up with the Scots at Otterbourne, a small village about thirty miles from Newcastle, on the evening of the 15th of August. Their numbers were more than double the Scots, but they were fatigued with a long march. Percy fell at once on the camp of Douglas, and a desperate action ensued. The victory seemed to be inclining to the English, when the Scottish leader, as the last means of reanimating his followers, rushed on the advancing enemy with heroic daring, and cleared a way with his battle-axe into the middle of their ranks. All but alone and unsupported, Douglas was overpowered by numbers, and sunk beneath three mortal wounds. The Scots, encouraged by the furious charge of their chieftain, and ignorant of his fate, renewed the struggle with vigor. Ralph Percy was made prisoner by the Earl Mareschal, and soon after Hotspur himself by Lord Montgomery.

Many other Englishmen of rank had the same fate. After a long fight, maintained with extraordinary bravery on both sides, the English retired and left the Scots masters of the field. (See Sir W. Scott's _History of Scotland_, i. 225.)

The ballad which follows, printed from the fourth or revised edition of Percy's _Reliques_ (vol. i. p. 21), was derived from a manuscript in the Cotton library (Cleopatra, c. iv. fol. 64), thought to be written about the middle of the sixteenth century. In the earlier editions, a less perfect copy, from the Harleian collection, had been used. Hume of Godscroft, speaking of the songs made on the battle of Otterbourne, says, "the Scots song made of Otterbourne telleth the time--about Lammas; and also the occasion--to take preys out of England; also the dividing armies betwixt the Earls of Fife and Douglas, and their several journeys, almost as in the authentic history," and proceeds to quote the first stanza of the present ballad. Again, it is said that at Lammas, when the Scotch husbandmen are busy at getting in their hay, the season has been over for a month in most parts of England. From these circumstances, and the occurrence of certain Scottish words, the first part of _The Battle of Otterbourne_ has been regarded as a Scottish composition, retouched by an English hand.

A somewhat mutilated version of this ballad was published in Herd's _Scottish Songs_. This, though defective, well deserves a place in our Appendix. Sir Walter Scott inserted in the _Minstrelsy_ another edition made up by him from two copies obtained from the recitation of old persons residing in Ettrick Forest, and it is here subjoined to Percy's version.

Genealogical notices of the personages mentioned in this and the following ballad will be found in Percy's _Reliques_ and in Scott's _Minstrelsy_.

Yt felle abowght the Lamasse tyde, Whan husbonds wynn ther haye, The dowghtye Dowglasse bowynd hym to ryde, In Ynglond to take a praye.

The yerlle of Fyffe, withowghten stryffe, 5 He bowynd hym over Sulway:[L6]

The grete wolde ever together ryde; That race they may rue for aye.

Over Ottercap hyll they came in,[L9]

And so dowyn by Rodelyffe cragge, 10 Upon Grene Leyton they lyghted dowyn, Styrande many a stagge;[L12]

And boldely brent Northomberlonde, And haryed many a towyn; They dyd owr Ynglyssh men grete wrange, 15 To battell that were not bowyn.

Than spake a berne upon the bent, Of comforte that was not colde, And sayd, "We have brent Northomberlond, We have all welth in holde. 20

"Now we have haryed all Bamboroweshyre, All the welth in the worlde have wee; I rede we ryde to Newe Castell, So styll and stalwurthlye."

Uppon the morowe, when it was daye, 25 The standards schone fulle bryght; To the Newe Castelle the toke the waye, And thether they cam fulle ryght.

Sir Henry Percy laye at the Newe Castelle, I telle yow withowtten drede; 30 He had byn a march-man all hys dayes, And kepte Barwyke upon Twede.

To the Newe Castell when they cam, The Skottes they cryde on hyght, "Syr Harye Percy, and thow byste within, 35 Com to the fylde, and fyght:

"For we have brente Northomberlonde, Thy eritage good and ryght; And syne my logeyng I have take, With my brande dubbyd many a knyght." 40

Sir Harry Percy cam to the walles, The Skottyssh oste for to se; "And thow hast brente Northomberlond, Full sore it rewyth me.

"Yf thou hast haryed all Bambarowe shyre, 45 Thow hast done me grete envye; For the trespasse thow hast me done, The tone of us schall dye."

"Where schall I byde the?" sayd the Dowglas, "Or where wylte thow come to me?" 50 "At Otterborne in the hygh way, Ther maist thow well logeed be.

"The roo full rekeles ther sche rinnes, To make the game and glee; The fawkon and the fesaunt both, 55 Amonge the holtes on hye.

"Ther maist thow have thy welth at wyll, "Well looged ther maist be; Yt schall not be long or I com the tyll,"

Sayd Syr Harry Percye. 60

"Ther schall I byde the," sayd the Dowglas, "By the fayth of my bodye:"

"Thether schall I com," sayd Syr Harry Percy "My trowth I plyght to the."

A pype of wyne he gave them over the walles, 65 For soth, as I yow saye; Ther he mayd the Douglas drynke, And all hys oste that daye.

The Dowglas turnyd hym homewarde agayne, For soth withowghten naye; 70 He tooke his logeyng at Oterborne Uppon a Wedynsday.

And there he pyght hys standerd dowyn, Hys gettyng more and lesse, And syne he warned hys men to goo 75 To chose ther geldyngs gresse.

A Skottysshe knyght hoved upon the bent,[L77]

A wache I dare well saye; So was he ware on the noble Percy In the dawnynge of the daye. 80

He prycked to his pavyleon dore, As faste as he myght ronne; "Awaken, Dowglas," cryed the knyght, "For hys love, that syttes yn trone.

"Awaken, Dowglas," cryed the knyght, 85 "For thow maiste waken wyth wynne; Yender have I spyed the prowde Percy, And seven standardes wyth hym."

"Nay by my trowth," the Douglas sayed, "It ys but a fayned taylle; 90 He durste not loke on my bred banner, For all Ynglonde so haylle.

"Was I not yesterdaye at the Newe Castell, That stonds so fayre on Tyne?

For all the men the Percy hade, 95 He cowde not garre me ones to dyne."

He stepped owt at hys pavelyon dore, To loke and it were lesse; "Araye yow, lordyngs, one and all, For here bygynnes no peysse. 100

"The yerle of Mentayne, thow art my eme,[L101]

The forwarde I gyve to the: The yerlle of Huntlay cawte and kene,[L103]

He schall wyth the be.

"The lorde of Bowghan, in armure bryght,[L105] 105 On the other hand he schall be; Lord Jhonstone and Lorde Maxwell, They to schall be wyth me.

"Swynton, fayre fylde upon your pryde!

To batell make yow bowen, 110 Syr Davy Scotte, Syr Walter Stewarde, Syr Jhon of Agurstone!"

6. i. e. over Solway frith. This evidently refers to the other division of the Scottish army, which came in by way of Carlisle.--PERCY.

9-11. sc. the Earl of Douglas and his party.--The several stations here mentioned are well-known places in Northumberland. Ottercap-hill is in the parish of Kirk-Whelpington, in Tynedale-ward.

Rodeliffe--(or, as it is more usually pronounced, Rodeley--) Cragge is a noted cliff near Rodeley, a small village in the parish of Hartburn, in Morpeth-ward. Green Leyton is another small village in the same parish of Hartburn, and is southeast of Rodeley. Both the original MSS. read here, corruptly, Hoppertop and Lynton.--P.

12. Many a styrande stage, in both MSS. Motherwell would retain this reading, because stagge signifies in Scotland a young stallion, and by supplying "off" the line would make sense. It was one of the Border laws, he remarks, that the Scottish array of battle should be on foot (see v. 15 of the Second Part). Horses were used but for a retreat or pursuit.

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