Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
III. War
Chevy-Chace
Anonymous
 
   [A modernized form of the old ballad of the “Hunting o’ the Cheviot.” Some circumstances of the battle of Otterbourne (A.D. 1388) are woven into the ballad, and the affairs of the two events are confounded. The ballad preserved in the “Percy Reliques” is probably as old as 1574. The one following is not later than the time of Charles II.]

GOD prosper long our noble king,
  Our lives and safeties all;
A woful hunting once there did
  In Chevy-Chace befall.
 
To drive the deer with hound and horn        5
  Earl Piercy took his way;
The child may rue that is unborn
  The hunting of that day.
 
The stout Earl of Northumberland
  A vow to God did make,        10
His pleasure in the Scottish woods
  Three summer days to take,—
 
The chiefest harts in Chevy-Chace
  To kill and bear away.
These tidings to Earl Douglas came,        15
  In Scotland where he lay;
 
Who sent Earl Piercy present word
  He would prevent his sport.
The English earl, not fearing that,
  Did to the woods resort,        20
 
With fifteen hundred bowmen bold,
  All chosen men of might,
Who knew full well in time of need
  To aim their shafts aright.
 
The gallant greyhounds swiftly ran        25
  To chase the fallow deer;
On Monday they began to hunt,
  When daylight did appear;
 
And long before high noon they had
  A hundred fat bucks slain;        30
Then, having dined, the drovers went
  To rouse the deer again.
 
The bowmen mustered on the hills,
  Well able to endure;
And all their rear, with special care,        35
  That day was guarded sure.
 
The hounds ran swiftly through the woods
  The nimble deer to take,
That with their cries the hills and dales
  An echo shrill did make.        40
 
Lord Piercy to the quarry went,
  To view the slaughtered deer;
Quoth he, “Earl Douglas promised
  This day to meet me here;
 
“But if I thought he would not come,        45
  No longer would I stay;”
With that a brave young gentleman
  Thus to the earl did say:—
 
“Lo, yonder doth Earl Douglas come,—
  His men in armor bright;        50
Full twenty hundred Scottish spears
  All marching in our sight;
 
“All men of pleasant Tividale,
  Fast by the river Tweed;”
“Then cease your sports,” Earl Piercy said,        55
  “And take your bows with speed;
 
“And now with me, my countrymen,
  Your courage forth advance;
For never was there champion yet,
  In Scotland or in France,        60
 
“That ever did on horseback come,
  But if my hap it were,
I durst encounter man for man,
  With him to break a spear.”
 
Earl Douglas on his milk-white steed,        65
  Most like a baron bold,
Rode foremost of his company,
  Whose armor shone like gold.
 
“Show me,” said he, “whose men you be,
  That hunt so boldly here,        70
That, without my consent, do chase
  And kill my fallow-deer.”
 
The first man that did answer make,
  Was noble Piercy, he—
Who said, “We list not to declare,        75
  Nor show whose men we be:
 
“Yet will we spend our dearest blood
  Thy chiefest harts to slay.”
Then Douglas swore a solemn oath,
  And thus in rage did say:—        80
 
“Ere thus I will out-bravèd be,
  One of us two shall die;
I know thee well, an earl thou art,—
  Lord Piercy, so am I.
 
“But trust me, Piercy, pity it were,        85
  And great offence, to kill
Any of these our guiltless men,
  For they have done no ill.
 
“Let you and me the battle try,
  And set our men aside.”        90
“Accursed be he,” Earl Piercy said,
  “By whom this is denied.”
 
Then stepped a gallant squire forth,
  Witherington was his name,
Who said, “I would not have it told        95
  To Henry, our king, for shame,
 
“That e’er my captain fought on foot,
  And I stood looking on.
You two be earls,” said Witherington,
  “And I a squire alone;        100
 
“I ’ll do the best that do I may,
  While I have power to stand;
While I have power to wield my sword
  I ’ll fight with heart and hand.”
 
Our English archers bent their bows,—        105
  Their hearts were good and true;
At the first flight of arrows sent,
  Full fourscore Scots they slew.
 
Yet stays Earl Douglas on the bent,
  As chieftain stout and good;        110
As valiant captain, all unmoved,
  The shock he firmly stood.
 
His host he parted had in three,
  As leader ware and tried;
And soon his spearmen on their foes        115
  Bore down on every side.
 
Throughout the English archery
  They dealt full many a wound;
But still our valiant Englishmen
  All firmly kept their ground.        120
 
And throwing straight their bows away,
  They grasped their swords so bright;
And now sharp blows, a heavy shower,
  On shields and helmets light.
 
They closed full fast on every side,—        125
  No slackness there was found;
And many a gallant gentleman
  Lay gasping on the ground.
 
In truth, it was a grief to see
  How each one chose his spear,        130
And how the blood out of their breasts
  Did gush like water clear.
 
At last these two stout earls did meet;
  Like captains of great might,
Like lions wode, they laid on lode,        135
  And made a cruel fight.
 
They fought until they both did sweat,
  With swords of tempered steel,
Until the blood, like drops of rain,
  They trickling down did feel.        140
 
“Yield thee, Lord Piercy,” Douglas said,
  “In faith I will thee bring
Where thou shalt high advancèd be
  By James, our Scottish king.
 
“Thy ransom I will freely give,        145
  And this report of thee,—
Thou art the most courageous knight
  That ever I did see.”
 
“No, Douglas,” saith Earl Piercy then,
  “Thy proffer I do scorn;        150
I will not yield to any Scot
  That ever yet was born.”
 
With that there came an arrow keen
  Out of an English bow,
Which struck Earl Douglas to the heart,—        155
  A deep and deadly blow;
 
Who never spake more words than these:
  “Fight on, my merry men all;
For why, my life is at an end;
  Lord Piercy sees my fall.”        160
 
Then leaving life, Earl Piercy took
  The dead man by the hand;
And said, “Earl Douglas, for thy life
  Would I had lost my land.
 
“In truth, my very heart doth bleed        165
  With sorrow for thy sake;
For sure a more redoubted knight
  Mischance did never take.”
 
A knight amongst the Scots there was
  Who saw Earl Douglas die,        170
Who straight in wrath did vow avenge
  Upon the Earl Piercy.
 
Sir Hugh Mountgomery was he called,
  Who, with a spear full bright,
Well mounted on a gallant steed,        175
  Ran fiercely through the fight;
 
And past the English archers all,
  Without a dread or fear;
And through Earl Piercy’s body then
  He thrust his hateful spear.        180
 
With such vehement force and might
  He did his body gore,
The staff ran through the other side
  A large cloth-yard and more.
 
So thus did both these nobles die,        185
  Whose courage none could stain.
An English archer then perceived
  The noble earl was slain.
 
He had a bow bent in his hand,
  Made of a trusty tree;        190
An arrow of a cloth-yard long
  To the hard head haled he.
 
Against Sir Hugh Mountgomery
  So right the shaft he set,
The gray goose wing that was thereon        195
  In his heart’s blood was wet.
 
This fight did last from break of day
  Till setting of the sun;
For when they rung the evening-bell
  The battle scarce was done.        200
 
With stout Earl Piercy there were slain
  Sir John of Egerton,
Sir Robert Ratcliff, and Sir John,
  Sir James, that bold baron.
 
And with Sir George and stout Sir James,        205
  Both knights of good account,
Good Sir Ralph Raby there was slain,
  Whose prowess did surmount.
 
For Witherington my heart is woe
  That ever he slain should be,        210
For when his legs were hewn in two,
  He knelt and fought on his knee.
 
And with Earl Douglas there was slain
  Sir Hugh Mountgomery,
Sir Charles Murray, that from the field        215
  One foot would never flee;
 
Sir Charles Murray of Ratcliff, too,—
  His sister’s son was he;
Sir David Lamb, so well esteemed,
  But saved he could not be.        220
 
And the Lord Maxwell in like case
  Did with Earl Douglas die:
Of twenty hundred Scottish spears,
  Scarce fifty-five did fly.
 
Of fifteen hundred Englishmen,        225
  Went home but fifty-three;
The rest in Chevy-Chace were slain,
  Under the greenwood tree.
 
Next day did many widows come,
  Their husbands to bewail;        230
They washed their wounds in brinish tears,
  But all would not prevail.
 
Their bodies, bathed in purple blood,
  They bore with them away;
They kissed them dead a thousand times,        235
  Ere they were clad in clay.
 
The news was brought to Edinburgh,
  Where Scotland’s king did reign,
That brave Earl Douglas suddenly
  Was with an arrow slain:        240
 
“O heavy news,” King James did say;
  “Scotland can witness be
I have not any captain more
  Of such account as he.”
 
Like tidings to King Henry came        245
  Within as short a space,
That Piercy of Northumberland
  Was slain in Chevy-Chace:
 
“Now God be with him,” said our King,
  “Since ’t will no better be;        250
I trust I have within my realm
  Five hundred as good as he:
 
“Yet shall not Scots or Scotland say
  But I will vengeance take;
I ’ll be revengèd on them all        255
  For brave Earl Piercy’s sake.”
 
This vow full well the king performed
  After at Humbledown;
In one day fifty knights were slain
  With lords of high renown;        260
 
And of the rest, of small account,
  Did many hundreds die:
Thus endeth the hunting of Chevy-Chace,
  Made by the Earl Piercy.
 
God save the king, and bless this land,        265
  With plenty, joy, and peace;
And grant, henceforth, that foul debate
  ’Twixt noblemen may cease.
 
 
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