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Sir Walter Scott
The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border
The Battle of Otterbourne

The Scottish Edition

The particulars of that noted action are related by Froissart, with the highest encomiums upon the valour of the combatants on each side. James, Earl of Douglas, with his brother, the Earl of Murray, in 1387, invaded Northumberland at the head of 3000 men, while the Earls of Fife and Strathern, sons to the King of Scotland, ravaged the Western Borders of England, with a still more numerous army. Douglas penetrated as far as Newcastle where the renowned Hotspur lay in garrison, In a skirmish before the walls, Percy's lance, with the pennon, or guidon, attached to it, was taken by Douglas - as most authors affirm, in a personal encounter betwixt the two heroes. The Earl shook the pennon aloft, and swore he would carry it as his spoil into Scotland, and plant it upon his Castle of Dalkeith. "That," answered Percy, "shalt thou never!" Accordingly, having collected the forces of the Marches, to an number equal, or (according to Scottish historians) much superior, to the army of Douglas, Hotspur made a night attack upon the Scottish camp, at Otterbourne, about thirty-two miles from Newcastle. An action took place, fought by moonlight, with uncommon gallantry and desperation. At length Douglas, armed with an iron mace, which few but he could wield, rushed into the thickest of the English battalions, followed by his chaplain, and two squires of his body.* Before his followers could come up, their brave leader was stretched on the ground, with three mortal wounds; his squires lay dead by his side; the priest alone, armed with a lance, was protecting his master from farther injury. "I die like my forefathers," said the expiring hero, "in a field of battle and not on a bed of sickness. Conceal my death, defend my standard, and avenge my fall! It is an old prophecy, that a dead man shall gain a field, and I hope it will be accomplished this night." - GODSCROFT. With these words he expired; and the fight was renewed with double obstinacy around his body. When the morning appeared, however, victory began to incline to the Scottish side. Ralph Percy, brother to Hotspur, was made prisoner by the Earl Mareschal, and shortly after, Harry Percy himself was taken by Lord Montgomery. The number of captives, according to Wintoun, nearly equaled that of the victors. Upon this the English retired, and left the Scots masters of the dear-bought honours of the field. But the Bishop of Durham approaching at the head of a body of fresh forces, not only checked the pursuit of the victors, but made prisoners of some of the stragglers, who had urged the chase too far. The battle was not, however, renewed, as the Bishop of Durham did not venture to attempt the rescue of Percy. The field was fought 15th August, 1388. - FORDUN, FROISSART, HOLLINSHED, GODSCROFT.

*Their names were Robert Hart and Simon Glendinning. The chaplain was Richard Lundie, afterwards Archdeacon of Aberdeen. - GODSCROFT. Hart, according to Wintoun, was a knight. That historian says no one knew how Douglas fell.


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

He chose the Gordons and the Gaemes,
With them the Lindesays, light and gay;
But the Jardines wald not with him ride,
And they rue it to this day.*

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

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?

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 gay."

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

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

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

"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' me."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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."-

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

"But I have dreamed a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Sky;
I saw a dead man win a fight,
And I think that man was I."

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.

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

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

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

"My nephew good," the Douglas said,
"What recks the death of ane!
Last night I dream't a dreary dream,
And I ken the day's thy ain.

"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.

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

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

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

The Gordons good, in English blood,
They steep't their hose and shoon;
The Lindsays flew like fire about,
Till all the fray was done.

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,

"Now yield thee, 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?? -

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

"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."

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

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

*The Jardines were a clan of West-Border men. Their chief was Jardine of Applegirth. Their refusal to ride with Douglas was, probably, the result of one of those perpetual feuds, which usually rent to pieces a Scottish army.
** Braken - fern

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