Popular Ballads of the Olden Time

The following is from Popular Ballads of the Olden Time: Third Series - Ballads of Scottish Tradition and Romance Selected and Edited by Frank Sidgwick:

The Hunting of the Cheviot

The Text here given is that of a MS. in the Bodleian Library (Ashmole 48) of about the latter half of the sixteenth century. It was printed by Hearne, and by Percy in the Reliques, and the whole MS. was edited by Thomas Wright for the Roxburghe Club in 1860. In this MS. The Hunting of the Cheviot is No. viii., and is subscribed 'Expliceth, quod Rychard Sheale.' Sheale is known to have been a minstrel of Tamworth, and it would appear that much of this MS. (including certain poems, no doubt his own) is in his handwriting--probably the book belonged to him. But the supposition that he was author of the Hunting of the Cheviot, Child dismisses as 'preposterous in the extreme.'

The other version, far better known as Chevy Chase, is that of the Percy Folio, published in the Reliques, and among the Pepys, Douce, Roxburghe, and Bagford collections of ballads. For the sake of differentiation this may be called the broadside form of the ballad, as it forms a striking example of the impairment of a traditional ballad when re-written for the broadside press. Doubtless it is the one known and commented on by Addison in his famous papers (Nos. 70 and 74) in the Spectator (1711), but it is not the one referred to by Sir Philip Sidney in his Apologie. Professor Child doubts if Sidney's ballad, 'being so evill apparelled in the dust and cobwebbes of that uncivill age,' is the traditional one here printed, which is scarcely the product of an uncivil age; more probably Sidney had heard it in a rough and ancient form, 'sung,' as he says, 'but by some blind crouder, with no rougher voyce than rude stile.' 'The Hunttis of the Chevet' is mentioned as one of the 'sangis of natural music of the antiquite' sung by the shepherds in The Complaynt of Scotland, a book assigned to 1549.

The Story--The Hunting of the Cheviot is a later version of the Battle of Otterburn, and a less conscientious account thereof. Attempts have been made to identify the Hunting with the Battle of Piperden (or Pepperden) fought in 1436 between a Percy and a Douglas. But the present ballad is rather an unauthenticated account of an historical event, which made a great impression on the public mind. Of that, its unfailing popularity on both sides of the Border, its constant appearance in broadside form, and its inclusion in every ballad-book, give the best witness.

The notable deed of Witherington (stanza 54) has many parallels. All will remember the warrior who

'... when his legs were smitten off
He fought upon his stumps.'

Tradition tells an identical story of 'fair maiden Lilliard' at the Battle of Ancrum Muir in 1545. Seneca mentions the feat. It occurs in the Percy Folio, Sir Graysteel (in Eger and Grine) fighting on one leg. Johnie Armstrong and Sir Andrew Barton both retire to 'bleed awhile' after being transfixed through the body. Finally, in an early saga, King Starkathr (Starkad) fights on after his head is cut off.

The Persė owt off Northombarlonde,
  and avowe to God mayd he
That he wold hunte in the mowntayns
  off Chyviat within days thre,
In the magger of doughtė Dogles,                  ['magger' = maugre; i.e. in spite of]
  and all that ever with him be.

The fattiste hartes in all Cheviat
  he sayd he wold kyll, and cary them away:
'Be my feth,' sayd the dougheti Doglas agayn,
  'I wyll let that hontyng yf that I may.'                      ['let,' hinder]

Then the Persė owt off Banborowe cam,
  with him a myghtee meany,                          ['meany,' band, company]
With fifteen hondrith archares bold off blood and bone;
  the* wear chosen owt of shyars thre.

[* 'the' = they; so constantly, 'shyars thre'; the districts (still called shires) of Holy Island, Norham, and Bamborough]

This begane on a Monday at morn,
  in Cheviat the hillys so he;
The chylde may rue that ys vn-born,
  it wos the mor pittė.

The dryvars thorowe the woodės went,
  for to reas the dear;
Bomen byckarte vppone the bent       ['byckarte,' i.e. bickered, attacked the deer]
  with ther browd aros cleare.

Then the wyld thorowe the woodės went,                 ['wyld,' deer]
  on every sydė shear;
Greahondės thorowe the grevis glent,            [i.e. through the groves darted]
  for to kyll thear dear.

This begane in Chyviat the hyls abone,
  yerly on a Monnyn-day;
Be that it drewe to the oware off none,         ['oware,' hour]
  a hondrith fat hartės ded ther lay.

The blewe a mort vppone the bent,                 ['mort,' note of the bugle]
  the semblyde on sydis shear;
To the quyrry then the Persė went,
  to se the bryttlynge off the deare.                ['bryttlynge,' cutting up]

He sayd, 'It was the Duglas promys
  this day to met me hear;
But I wyste he wolde faylle, verament;'
  a great oth the Persė swear.

At the laste a squyar off Northomberlonde
  lokyde at his hand full ny;                            [shaded his eyes with his hand]
He was war a the doughetie Doglas commynge,
  with him a myghttė meany.

Both with spear, bylle, and brande,
  yt was a myghtti sight to se;
Hardyar men, both off hart nor hande,
  wear not in Cristiantė.

The wear twenti hondrith spear-men good,
  withoute any feale;                                       ['feale,' fail]
The wear borne along be the watter a Twyde,
  yth bowndės of Tividale.                              ['yth,' in the]

'Leave of the brytlyng of the dear,' he sayd,
  'and to your bo’s lock ye tayk good hede;               ['bo’s,' bows]
For never sithe ye wear on your mothars borne
  had ye never so mickle nede.'

The dougheti Dogglas on a stede,
  he rode alle his men beforne;
His armor glytteryde as dyd a glede;              ['glede,' glowing coal]
  a boldar barne was never born.

'Tell me whos men ye ar,' he says,
  'or whos men that ye be:
Who gave youe leave to hunte in this Chyviat chays,
  in the spyt of myn and of me.'

The first mane that ever him an answear mayd,
  yt was the good lord Persė:
'We wyll not tell the whoys men we ar,' he says,
  'nor whos men that we be;
But we wyll hounte hear in this chays,
  in the spyt of thyne and of the.

'The fattiste hartės in all Chyviat
  we have kyld, and cast to carry them away:'
'Be my troth,' sayd the doughetė Dogglas agayn,
  'therfor the ton of us shall de this day.'                    ['the ton,' one or other]

Then sayd the doughtė Doglas
  unto the lord Persė:
'To kyll alle thes giltles men,
  alas, it wear great pittė!

'But, Persė, thowe art a lord of lande,
  I am a yerle callyd within my contrė;
Let all our men vppone a parti stande,
  and do the battell off the and of me.'

'Nowe Cristes cors on his crowne,' sayd the lord Persė,                     ['cors,' curse]
  'who-so-ever ther-to says nay!
Be my troth, doughttė Doglas,' he says,
  'thow shalt never se that day.

'Nethar in Ynglonde, Skottlonde, nar France,
  nor for no man of a woman born,
But, and fortune be my chance,
  I dar met him, on man for on.'                      ['on,' one]

Then bespayke a squyar off Northombarlonde,
  Richard Wytharyngton was his nam:
'It shall never be told in Sothe-Ynglonde,' he says,
  'to Kyng Herry the Fourth for sham.

'I wat youe byn great lordės twaw,
  I am a poor squyar of lande:
I wylle never se my captayne fyght on a fylde,
  and stande my selffe and loocke on,
But whylle I may my weppone welde,
  I wylle not fayle both hart and hande.'

That day, that day, that dredfull day!
  the first fit here I fynde;
And youe wyll here any mor a the hountyng a the Chyviat,              ['And,' If]
  yet ys ther mor behynde.

  ... ... ...

The Yngglyshe men hade ther bowys yebent,
  ther hartes wer good yenoughe;
The first off arros that the shote off,
  seven skore spear-men the sloughe.              ['sloughe,' slew]

Yet byddys the yerle Doglas vppon the bent,
  a captayne good yenoughe,
And that was sene verament,
  for he wrought hom both woo and wouche.            ['wouche,' evil]

The Dogglas partyd his ost in thre,
  lyk a cheffe cheften off pryde;
With suar spears off myghttė tre,
  the cum in on every syde:

Thrughe our Yngglyshe archery
  gave many a wounde fulle wyde;
Many a doughetė the garde to dy,
  which ganyde them no pryde.

The Ynglyshe men let ther bo’s be,
  and pulde owt brandes that wer brighte;
It was a hevy syght to se
  bryght swordes on basnites lyght.                ['basnites,' light helmets or skull-caps]

Thorowe ryche male and myneyeple*,
  many sterne the strocke done streght;
Many a freyke that was fulle fre,                    ['freyke,' man. So 32.1, 47.1, etc]
  ther undar foot dyd lyght.

[* 'myneyeple,' = manople, a kind of long gauntlet]

At last the Duglas and the Persė met,
  lyk to captayns of myght and of mayne;
The swapte togethar tylle the both swat
  with swordes that wear of fyn myllan*.

[* 'myllan,' Milan steel. Cp. 'collayne,' Battle of Otterburn, 54.4]

Thes worthė freckys for to fyght,
  ther-to the wear fulle fayne,
Tylle the bloode owte off thear basnetes sprente,
  as ever dyd heal or rayn.

'Yelde the, Persė,' sayde the Doglas,
  'and i feth I shalle the brynge
Wher thowe shalte have a yerls wagis
  of Jamy our Skottish kynge.

'Thou shalte have thy ransom fre,
  I hight the hear this thinge;
For the manfullyste man yet art thowe
  that ever I conqueryd in filde fighttynge.'

'Nay,' sayd the lord Persė,
  'I tolde it the beforne,
That I wolde never yeldyde be
  to no man of a woman born.'

With that ther cam an arrowe hastely,
  forthe off a myghttė wane*;            
Hit hathe strekene the yerle Duglas
  in at the brest-bane.

[* 'wane.' One arrow out of a large number.--Skeat]

Thorowe lyvar and longės bathe
  the sharpe arrowe ys gane,
That never after in all his lyffe-days
  he spayke mo wordės but ane:
That was, 'Fyghte ye, my myrry men, whyllys ye may,
  for my lyff-days ben gan.'

The Persė leanyde on his brande,
  and sawe the Duglas de;
He tooke the dede mane by the hande,*
  and sayd, 'Wo ys me for the!

[* Addison compared (Vergil, Aen. x. 823):--'Ingemuit miserans graviter dextramque tetendit,' etc.]

'To have savyde thy lyffe, I wolde have partyde with
  my landes for years thre,
For a better man, of hart nare of hande,
  was nat in all the north contrė.'

Off all that se a Skottishe knyght,
  was callyd Ser Hewe the Monggombyrry;
He sawe the Duglas to the deth was dyght,
  he spendyd a spear, a trusti tre.

He rod uppone a corsiare
  throughe a hondrith archery:
He never stynttyde, nar never blane,              ['blane,' lingered]
  tylle he cam to the good lord Persė.

He set uppone the lorde Persė
  a dynte that was full soare;
With a suar spear of a myghttė tre
  clean thorow the body he the Persė ber,

A the tothar syde that a man myght se
  a large cloth-yard and mare:
Towe bettar captayns wear nat in Cristiantė
  then that day slan wear ther.

An archar off Northomberlonde
  say slean was the lord Persė;             ['say,' saw]
He bar a bende bowe in his hand,
  was made off trusti tre.

An arow, that a cloth-yarde was lang,
  to the harde stele halyde he;*
A dynt that was both sad and soar
  he sat on Ser Hewe the Monggombyrry.

[* i.e. till the point reached the wood of the bow]

The dynt yt was both sad and sar,
  that he of Monggomberry sete;
The swane-fethars that his arrowe bar
  with his hart-blood the wear wete.

Ther was never a freake wone foot wolde fle,
  but still in stour dyd stand,
Heawyng on yche othar, whylle the myghte dre*,
  with many a balfull brande.

[* 'whylle the myghte dre' = while they might dree, as long as they could hold]

This battell begane in Chyviat
  an owar befor the none.
And when even-songe bell was rang,
  the battell was nat half done.

The tocke ... on ethar hande
  be the lyght off the mone;
Many hade no strenght for to stande,
  in Chyviat the hillys abon.

Of fifteen hondrith archars of Ynglonde
  went away but seventi and thre;
Of twenti hondrith spear-men of Skotlonde,
  but even five and fifti.

But all wear slayne Cheviat within;
  the hade no strengthe to stand on hy;
The chylde may rue that ys unborne,
  it was the mor pittė.

Thear was slayne, withe the lord Persė,
  Sir Johan of Agerstone,
Ser Rogar, the hinde Hartly,
  Ser Wyllyam, the bolde Hearone.

Ser Jorg, the worthė Loumle*,
  a knyghte of great renowen,
Ser Raff, the ryche Rugbe,
  with dyntes wear beaten dowene.

[* 'Loumle,' Lumley; previously printed Louele (= Lovel)]

For Wetharryngton my harte was wo,
  that ever he slayne shulde be;
For when both his leggis wear hewyne in to,
  yet he knyled and fought on hys kny.

Ther was slayne, with the dougheti Duglas,
  Ser Hewe the Monggombyrry,
Ser Davy Lwdale, that worthė was,
  his sistar's son was he.

Ser Charls a Murrė in that place,
  that never a foot wolde fle;
Ser Hewe Maxwelle, a lorde he was,
  with the Doglas dyd he dey.

So on the morrowe the mayde them byears
  off birch and hasell so gray;
Many wedous, with wepyng tears,
  cam to fache ther makys away.                     ['makys,' mates, husbands]

Tivydale may carpe off care,
  Northombarlond may mayk great mon,
For towe such captayns as slayne wear thear
  on the March-parti* shall never be non.

[* 'March-parti,' the Border; so 'the Marches,' 59.3]

Word ys commen to Eddenburrowe,
  to Jamy the Skottishe kynge,
That dougheti Duglas, lyff-tenant of the Marches,
  he lay slean Chyviot within.

His handdės dyd he weal and wryng,                        ['weal,' clench(?)]
  he sayd, 'Alas, and woe ys me!
Such an othar captayn Skotland within,'
  he seyd, 'ye-feth shuld never be.'

Worde ys commyn to lovly Londone,
  till the fourth Harry our kynge,
That lord Persė, leyff-tenante of the Marchis,
  he lay slayne Chyviat within.

'God have merci on his solle,' sayde Kyng Harry,
  'good lord, yf thy will it be!
I have a hondrith captayns in Ynglonde,' he sayd,
  'as good as ever was he:
But, Persė, and I brook my lyffe,
  thy deth well quyte shall be.'

As our noble kynge mayd his avowe,
  lyke a noble prince of renowen,
For the deth of the lord Persė
  he dyde the battell of Hombyll-down;

[* The battle of Homildon Hill, near Wooler, Northumberland, was fought in 1402. See 1 King Henry IV., Act I. sc. i.]

Wher syx and thrittė Skottishe knyghtes
  on a day wear beaten down:
Glendale glytteryde on ther armor bryght,
  over castille, towar, and town.

This was the hontynge off the Cheviat,
  that tear begane this spurn;
Old men that knowen the grownde well yenoughe
  call it the battell of Otterburn.

[* 'spurn' = kick(?): Child suggests the reading:--'That ear [= e'er] began this spurn!' as a lament. But the whole meaning is doubtful]

At Otterburn begane this spurne
  uppone a Monnynday;
Ther was the doughtė Doglas slean,
  the Persė never went away.

Ther was never a tym on the Marche-partės
  sen the Doglas and the Persė met,
But yt ys mervele and the rede blude ronne not,
  as the reane doys in the stret.                        [as the rain does]

Ihesue Crist our balys bete,                             ['our balys bete,' our misfortunes relieve]
  and to the blys vs brynge!
Thus was the hountynge of the Chivyat:
  God send vs alle good endyng!

The Battle of Otterburn

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