Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
127. The Battle of Otterburn

IT fell about the Lammas tide
  When husbands win their hay,
The doughty Douglas bound him to ride
  In England to take a prey.

He has chosen the Graemes, and the Lindsays light,
  And the gallant Gordons gay;
And the Earl of Fyfe withouten strife,
  He’s bound him over Solwày.

They come in over Ottercap Hill,
  So down by Rodeley Cragge;        10
Upon Green Leyton they lighted down
  Styrande many a stagge.

And they have brent the dales of Tyne,
  And harryed Bamborowe shire,
And the Otter Dale they have brent it hale        15
  And left it a’ on fire.

Then spake a berne upon the bent,
  Of comfort that was not cold,
And said, ‘We have brent Northumberland,
  We have all wealth in hold.        20

‘Now we have harryed all Bamborowe shire,
  All the wealth in the world have we:
I rede we ryde to Newcastell
  So still and stalworthlye.’

Upon the morrow, when it was day,
  The standards shone full bright;
To Newcastell they took the way,
  And thither they came full right.

To Newcastell when that they came,
  The Douglas cry’d on hyght:        30
‘Harry Percy, an thou bidest within,
  Come to the field, and fight!—

‘For we have brent Northumberland,
  Thy herytage good and right;
And syne my lodging I have ta’en,        35
  With my brand dubb’d many a knight.’

Sir Harry Percy came to the walls
  The Scottish host for to see,
Sayd, ‘An thou hast brent Northumberland,
  Full sore it rueth me.        40

If thou hast haryed all Bamborowe shire,
  Thou hast done me great envye;
For this trespasse thou hast me done
  The tone of us shall die.’

‘Where shall I bide thee?’ sayd the Douglas,
  ‘Or where wilt thou come to me?’—
‘But gae ye up to Otterbourne,
  And wait there dayès three.

‘The roe full rekeles there she rins,
  To make the game and glee;        50
The falcon and the phesant both,
  To fend thy men and thee.

‘There may’st thou have thy wealth at will,
  Well lodg’d thou there may’st be:
It shall not be long ere I come thee till,’        55
  Sayd Sir Harry Percy.

‘There shall I bide thee,’ sayd the Douglas,
  ‘By the faith of my bodye.’—
‘There shall I come,’ said Sir Harry Percy,
  ‘My troth I plight to thee.’        60

A pipe of wine over the wall,
  He gave them [to their pay],
There he made the Douglas drinke,
  And all his host that day.

The Douglas turn’d him homeward again,
  [And rode withouten stay].
He pyght his standard at Otterbourne
  Upon a Wedensday.

And syne he warned his men to go
  To choose their geldings grass;        70
[And he that had no man to send]
  His own servant he was.

A Scottish knight hoved on the bent
  At watch, I dare well say,
So was he ware of the noble Percy        75
  In the dawning of the day.

He pryck’d to his pavilion door
  As fast as he might run:
‘Awaken, Douglas!’ cried the knight,
  ‘For his sake that sits in throne!        80

‘Awaken, Douglas!’ cried the knight,
  ‘For thou mayst wake with wynne!
Yonder have I spied the proud Percy,
  And seven standards with him.’

‘Now by my troth,’ the Douglas sayd,
  ‘It is but a faynèd tale!
He durst not look on my broad banner
  [Were all England in] hail!

‘Was I not yesterday at Newcastell
  That stands so fair on Tyne?        90
For all the men the Percy had
  He could not gar me to dine.’

He stepp’d out at his pavilion-door
  To look an it were lease:
Array you, lordings, one and all!        95
  For here begins no peace.

‘The Earl of Menteith, thou art my eme,
  The vaward I give to thee:
The Earl of Huntley, cante and keen,
  Take him to go with thee.        100

‘The Lord of Buchan, in armure bright,
  On the other side he shall be;
Lord Johnstone and Lord Maxwell
  They two shall go with me.

‘Swynton, fair fall upon your pride!
  To battle make you bowne.—
Sir Davy Scott, Sir Walter Steward,
  Sir John of Agerstone!’

The Percy came before his host,
  He was ever a gentil knight:        110
Upon the Douglas loud can he cry
  ‘I will hold that I have hyght.’

‘For thou hast brent Northumberland,
  And done me great envye,
For this trespasse thou hast me done        115
  The tone of us shall die.’

The Douglas answer’d him again
  With great words upon hie,
And sayd, ‘I have twenty against thy one:
  Behold, and thou mayst see!’        120

With that the Percy was grievèd sore,
  Forsooth as I you say:
He lighted down upon his foot
  And schoote his horse away.

Every man saw that he did so,
  That ryal was ever in rowghte:
Every man schoote his horse him fro
  And lighted him round about.

Sir Harry Percy took the field
  Even thus, as I you say;        130
Jesus Christe in hevyn on height
  Did help him well that day.

But nine thousand, there was no more—
  The chronicle will not layne—
Forty thousand of Scots and four        135
  That day fought them again.

But when the battel began to join,
  In haste there came a knight;
And letters fair forth hath he ta’en,
  And thus he sayd full right:        140

‘My lord your father greets you well,
  With many a noble knight;
He doth desire you now to bide,
  That he may see this fight.

‘The Baron of Graystoke is out of the west
  With a noble companye:
All they lodge at your father’s this night,
  And the battel fayn would they see.’

‘For Jesus’ love,’ sayd Sir Harry Percy,
  ‘That died for you and me,        150
Wend to my lord my father agayn,
  Say thou saw me not with thee.

‘My troth is plight to yon Scottish knight,
  —It nede’s me not to layne—
That I should bide him upon this bent,        155
  And I have his troth agayn.

‘And if that I wend off this growende,
  Forsooth, unfoughten away,
He would call me but a coward knight
  In his land another day.        160

‘Yet had I liefer be rynde and rent,
  —By Mary, that mickle may!—
Than ever my manhood be reproved
  With a Scot another day.

‘Wherefore shoot, archers, for my sake!
  And let sharp arrows flee.
Minstrels, play up for your waryson!
  And well quit it shall be.

‘Every man thynke on his true-love,
  And mark him to the Trinitye:        170
For unto God I make mine avowe
  This day will I not flee.’

The blodye herte in the Douglas arms
  His standard stood on hie,
That every man might full wel knowe;        175
  Bysyde stood starrès three.

The white lyon on the English part,
  Forsooth as I you sayn,
The lucettes and the cressants both
  The Scot fought them again.        180

Upon Seynt Andrewe loud can they crye,
  And thrice they showt on hyght,
Syne mark’d them on our English men,
  As I have told you right.

Seynt George the bryght, Our Ladye’s knyght,
  To name they were full fayne;
Our English men they cry’d on hyght,
  And thrice they shot agayne.

With that sharp arrows began to flee,
  I tell you in certayne:        190
Men of arms began to joyne,
  Many a doughty man was slayne.

The Percy and the Douglas met
  That either of other was fayne;
They swapp’d together while they swet        195
  With swords of fyne Collayne:

Until the blood from their bassonets ran
  As the roke doth in the rayne;
‘Yield thou to me,’ sayd the Douglas,
  ‘Or elles thou shalt be slayne.        200

‘For I see by thy bryght bassonet
  Thou art some man of myght:
And so I do by thy burnysh’d brand,
  Thou’rt an earl or elles a knyght.’

‘By my good faith,’ said the noble Percye,
  ‘Now hast thou rede full ryght;
Yet will I never yield me to thee,
  While I may stand and fyght.’

They swapp’d together, while that they swet,
  With swordès sharp and long;        210
Each on other so fast they bette,
  Their helms came in pieces down.

The Percy was a man of strength,
  I tell you in this stounde:
He smote the Douglas at the sword’s length        215
  That he fell to the grounde.

The Douglas call’d to his little foot-page,
  And sayd, ‘Run speedilye,
And fetch my ain dear sister’s son,
  Sir Hugh Montgomery.        220

‘My nephew good,’ the Douglas sayd,
  ‘What recks the death of ane?
‘Last night I dream’d a dreary dream,
  And I ken the day’s thy ain.

‘My wound is deep: I am fayn to sleep,
  Take thou the vaward of me,
And hide me by the bracken bush
  Grows on yon lilye-lee.’

He has lifted up that noble lord
  With the saut tears in his e’e;        230
He has hidden him in the bracken bush
  That his merry men might not see.

The standards stood still on eke side;
  With many a grievous groan
They fought that day, and all the night;        235
  Many a doughtye man was slone.

The morn was clear, the day drew nie,
  —Yet stiffly in stowre they stood;
Echone hewing another while they might drie,
  Till aye ran down the blood.        240

The Percy and Montgomery met
  That either of other was fayn:
They swappèd swords, and they two met
  Till the blood ran down between.

‘Now yield thee, yield thee, Percy,’ he said,
  ‘Or I vow I’le lay thee low!’
‘To whom shall I yield?’ said Earl Percy,
  ‘Now I see it maun be so.’—

‘Thou shalt not yield to lord nor loun,
  Nor yet shalt thou to me;        250
But yield thee to the bracken bush
  Grows on yon lilye-lee.’—

‘I winna yield to a bracken bush,
  Nor yet I will to a brere;
But I would yield to Earl Douglas,        255
  Or Montgomery if he was here.’

As soon as he knew Montgomery,
  He stuck his sword’s point in ground;
The Montgomery was a courteous knight,
  And quickly took him by the hand.        260

There was slayne upon the Scottès’ side,
  For sooth and certaynlye,
Sir James a Douglas there was slayne,
  That day that he cou’d dye.

The Earl of Menteith he was slayne,
  And gryselye groan’d on the groun’;
Sir Davy Scott, Sir Walter Steward,
  Sir John of Agerstone.

Sir Charlès Murray in that place
  That never a foot would flee;        270
Sir Hew Maxwell, a lord he was,
  With the Douglas did he dee.

There was slayne upon the Scottès’ side
  For sooth as I you say,
Of four and fifty thousand Scottes        275
  Went but eighteen away.

There was slayne upon the English side
  For sooth and certaynlye,
A gentle Knight, Sir John Fitzhughe,
  It was the more pitye.        280

Sir James Hardbotell there was slayne,
  For him their heartes were sore;
The gentle Lovell there was slayne,
  That the Percy’s standard bore.

There was slayne upon the English part
  For sooth as I you say,
Of ninè thousand English men
  Five hundred came away.

The others slayne were in the field;
  Christ keep their souls from woe!        290
Seeing there was so fewè friends
  Against so many a foe.

Then on the morn they made them bieres
  Of birch and hazell gray:
Many a widow with weeping teares        295
  Their makes they fette away.

This fray was fought at Otterbourne,
  Between the night and the day;
Earl Douglas was buried at the bracken bush,
  And the Percy led captive away.        300

Now let us all for the Percy pray
  To Jesu most of might,
To bring his soul to the bliss of heaven,
  For he was a gentle knight.
GLOSS:  husbands] husbandmen.  Styrande] stirring, rousing.  brent] burned.  hale] whole.  berne] fighting-man.  bent] coarse grass.  rede] counsel.  tone] one of two.  rekeles] reckless, wild.  fend] provide for.  till] to.  pay] satisfaction.  pyght] pitched.  hoved] abode.  bent] grass.  pavilion] tent.  wynne] joy.  faynèd] feigned.  gar me to dine] give me my fill, entertain me (at fighting).  lease] leasing, falsehood.  eme] uncle.  vaward] vanguard.  cante] spirited.  bowne] ready.  that I have hyght] what I have promised.  schoote] thrust, sent quickly.  ryal in rowghte] royal in rout, a king amongst men.  layne] conceal.  them again] against them.  growende] ground.  rynde] riven, or flayed.  mickle may] mighty maid.  waryson] reward.  lucettes] luces, pikes (heraldic).  swapp’d] smote.  swet] sweated.  Collayne] Cologne steel.  bassonets] steel skull-caps.  roke] reek, mist.  bette] beat.  stounde] time.  stowre] press of battle.  brere] briar.  gryselye] in a grisly manner, terribly.  makes] mates.  fette] fetched.


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