Battle Of Otterbourne

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Ballad from: Child, vol. vi

It fell about the Lammas tide,
When the muir-men win their hay,
The doughty Douglas bound him to ride
Into England, to drive a prey.

2. He chose the Gordons and the Graemes,
With them the Lindesays, light and gay;
But the Jardines wald nor with him ride,
And they rue it to this day.

3. And he has burn'd the dales of Tyne,
And part of Bambrough shire:
And three good towers on Reidswire fells,
He left them all on fire.

4. And he march'd up to Newcastle,
And rode it round about:
"O wha's the lord of this castle?
Or wha's the lady o't ?"

5. But up spake proud Lord Percy then,
And O but he spake hie!
"I am the lord of this castle,
My wife's the lady gaye."

6. "If thou'rt the lord of this castle,
Sae weel it pleases me!
For, ere I cross the Border fells,
The tane of us sall die."

7. He took a lang spear in his hand,
Shod with the metal free,
And for to meet the Douglas there,
He rode right furiouslie.

8. But O how pale his lady look'd,
Frae aff the castle wa',
When down, before the Scottish spear,
She saw proud Percy fa'.

9. "Had we twa been upon the green,
And never an eye to see,
I wad hae had you, flesh and fell;
But your sword sall gae wi' mee."

10. "But gae ye up to Otterbourne,
And wait there dayis three;
And, if I come not ere three day is end,
A fause knight ca' ye me."

11. "The Otterbourne's a bonnie burn;
'Tis pleasant there to be;
But there is nought at Otterbourne,
To feed my men and me.

12. "The deer rins wild on hill and dale,
The birds fly wild from tree to tree;
But there is neither bread nor kale,
To feed my men and me.

13. "Yet I will stay it Otterbourne,
Where you shall welcome be;
And, if ye come not at three day is end,
A fause lord I'll ca' thee."

14. "Thither will I come," proud Percy said,
"By the might of Our Ladye!" -
"There will I bide thee," said the Douglas,
"My troth I plight to thee."

15. They lighted high on Otterbourne,
Upon the bent sae brown;
They lighted high on Otterbourne,
And threw their pallions down.

16. And he that had a bonnie boy,
Sent out his horse to grass,
And he that had not a bonnie boy,
His ain servant he was.

17. But up then spake a little page,
Before the peep of dawn:
"O waken ye, waken ye, my good lord,
For Percy's hard at hand."

18. "Ye lie, ye lie, ye liar loud!
Sae loud I hear ye lie;
For Percy had not men yestreen,
To fight my men and me.

19. "But I have dream'd a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Skye;
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I."

20. He belted on his guid braid sword,
And to the field he ran;
But he forgot the helmet good,
That should have kept his brain.

21. When Percy wi the Douglas met,
I wat he was fu fain!
They swakked their swords, till sair they swat,
And the blood ran down like rain.

22. But Percy with his good broad sword,
That could so sharply wound,
Has wounded Douglas on the brow,
Till he fell to the ground.

23. Then he calld on his little foot-page,
And said - "Run speedilie,
And fetch my ain dear sister's son,
Sir Hugh Montgomery.

24. "My nephew good," the Douglas said,
"What recks the death of ane!
Last night I dreamd a dreary dream,
And I ken the day's thy ain.

25. "My wound is deep; I fain would sleep;
Take thou the vanguard of the three,
And hide me by the braken bush,
That grows on yonder lilye lee.

26. "O bury me by the braken-bush,
Beneath the blooming brier;
Let never living mortal ken
That ere a kindly Scot lies here."

27. He lifted up that noble lord,
Wi the saut tear in his e'e;
He hid him in the braken bush,
That his merrie men might not see.

28. The moon was clear, the day drew near,
The spears in flinders flew,
But mony a gallant Englishman
Ere day the Scotsmen slew.

29. The Gordons good, in English blood,
They steepd their hose and shoon;
The Lindesays flew like fire about,
Till all the fray was done.

30. The Percy and Montgomery met,
That either of other were fain;
They swapped swords, and they twa swat,
And aye the blood ran down between.

31. "Yield thee, now yield thee, Percy," he said,
"Or else I vow I'll lay thee low!"
"To whom must I yield," quoth Earl Percy,
"Now that I see it must be so ?"

32. "Thou shalt not yield to lord nor loun,
Nor yet shalt thou yield to me;
But yield thee to the braken-bush,
That grows upon yon lilye lee!"

33. "I will not yield to a braken-bush,
Nor yet will I yield to a brier;
But I would yield to Earl Douglas,
Or Sir Hugh the Montgomery, if he were here."

34. As soon as he knew it was Montgomery,
He stuck his sword's point in the gronde;
The Montgomery was a courteous knight,
And quickly took him by the honde.

35. This deed was done at Otterbourne,
About the breaking of the day;
Earl Douglas was buried at the braken bush,
And the Percy led captive away.


THE BATTLE OF OTTERBURN From The Border Minstrelsy, Sir Walter Scott's latest edition of 1833: the copy in the edition of 1802 is less complete. The gentle and joyous passage of arms here recorded, took place in August 1388. We have an admirable account of Otterburn fight from Froissart, who revels in a gallant encounter, fairly fought out hand to hand, with no intervention of archery or artillery, and for no wretched practical purpose. In such a combat the Scots, never renowned for success at long bowls, and led by a Douglas, were likely to prove victorious, even against long odds, and when taken by surprise.

Choosing an advantage in the discordant days of Richard II., the Scots mustered a very large force near Jedburgh, merely to break lances on English ground, and take loot. Learning that, as they advanced by the Carlisle route, the English intended to invade Scotland by Berwick and the east coast, the Scots sent three or four hundred men-at-arms, with a few thousand mounted archers and pikemen, who should harry Northumberland to the walls of Newcastle.

These were led by James, Earl of Douglas, March, and Murray. In a fight at Newcastle, Douglas took Harry Percy's pennon, which Hotspur vowed to recover. The retreat began, but the Scots waited at Otterburn, partly to besiege the castle, partly to abide Hotspur's challenge. He made his attack at moonlight, with overwhelming odds, but was hampered by a marsh, and incommoded by a flank attack of the Scots.

Then it came to who would pound longest, with axe and sword. Douglas cut his way through the English, axe in hand, and was overthrown, but his men protected his body. The Sinclairs and Lindsay raised his banner, with his cry; March and Dunbar came up; Hotspur was taken by Montgomery, and the English were routed with heavy loss.

Douglas was buried in Melrose Abbey; very many years later the English defiled his grave, but were punished at Ancram Moor. There is an English poem on the fight of "about 1550"; it has many analogies with our Scottish version, and, doubtless, ours descends from a ballad almost contemporary. The ballad was a great favourite of Scott's.

The embroidered gauntlet of the Percy is in the possession of Douglas of Cavers to this day.

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