Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Scotland: Vols. VI–VIII. 1876–79.

Ballads: Cheviot


By Anonymous

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,

Erle 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,

His pleasure in the Scottish woods

Three summer’s days to take;

The chiefest harts in Chevy-Chace

To kill and bear away:

The tidings to Earl Douglas came,

In Scotland where he lay.

Who sent Earl Piercy present word,

He would prevent his sport;

The English earl, not fearing this,

Did to the woods resort,

With fifteen hundred bow-men bold,

All chosen men of might,

Who knew full well in time of need

To aim their shafts aright.

The gallant greyhounds swiftly ran,

To chase the fallow deer;

On Monday they began to hunt,

When day-light did appear.

And long before high noon they had

An hundred fat bucks slain;

Then having din’d, the drovers went

To rouze them up again.

The bow-men muster’d on the hills,

Well able to endure;

Their backsides all, with special care,

That day were guarded sure.

The hounds ran swiftly thro’ the woods,

The nimble deer to take,

And with their cries the hills and dales

An echo shrill did make.

Lord Piercy to the quarry went,

To view the tender deere;

Quoth he, “Earl Douglas promised

This day to meet me heer.

“If that I thought he would not come,

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 armour bright;

Full twenty hundred Scottish spears,

All marching in our sight.

“All men of pleasant Tividale,

Fast by the river Tweed.”

“Then cease your sport,” Erle Piercy said,

“And take your bows with speed.

“And now with me, my countrymen,

Your courage forth advance;

For there was never champion yet

In Scotland or in France,

“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,

Most like a baron bold,

Rode foremost of the company,

Whose armour shone like gold.

“Show me,” he said, “whose men you be,

That hunt so boldly here,

That, without my consent, do chase

And kill my fallow-deer.”

The man that first did answer make

Was noble Piercy he;

Who said, “We list not to declare,

Nor show whose men we be.

“Yet we will spend our dearest blood,

Thy chiefest hart to slay.”

Then Douglas swore a solemn oath,

And thus in rage did say:

“Ere thus I will out-braved be,

One of us two shall dye:

I know thee well, an earl thou art;

Lord Piercy, so am I.

“But trust me, Piercy, pity it were,

And great offence, to kill

Any of these our harmless men,

For they have done no ill.

“Let thou and I the battel try,

And set our men aside:

“Accurs’d be he,” Lord Piercy said,

“By whom this is deny’d.”

Then stept a gallant squire forth

(Witherington was his name),

Who said, “I would not have it told

To Henry our king for shame,

“That ere my captaine fought on foot,

And I stood looking on:

“You be two earls,” said Witherington,

“And I a squire alone.

“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,

Their hearts were good and true;

At the first flight of arrows sent,

Full threescore Scots they slew.

To drive the deer with hound and horn,

Earl Douglas had the bent;

A captain mov’d with mickle pride

The spears to shivers sent.

They clos’d full fast on every side,

No slacknes there was found;

And many a gallant gentleman

Lay gasping on the ground.

O Christ! it was a grief to see,

And likewise for to hear,

The cries of men lying in their gore,

And scatter’d here and there.

At last these two stout earls did meet,

Like captains of great might;

Like lions wood they laid on load,

And made a cruel fight.

They fought until they both did sweat,

With swords of temper’d steel;

Until the blood, like drops of ruin,

They trickling down did feel.

“Yield thee, Lord Piercy,” Douglas said;

“In faith I will thee bring,

Where thou shalt high advanced be

By James, our Scottish king.

“Thy ransom I will freely give,

And thus report of thee,

Thou art the most couragious knight

That ever I did see.”

“No, Douglas,” quoth Earl Piercy then,

“Thy proffer I do scorn;

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,

A deep and deadly blow:

Who never spoke more words than these,

“Fight on, my merry men all;

For why, my life is at an end,

Lord Piercy sees my fall.”

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!

“O Christ! my very heart doth bleed

With sorrow for thy sake;

For sure, a more renowned knight

Mischance did never take.”

A knight amongst the Scots there was,

Which saw Earl Douglas dye,

Who straight in wrath did vow revenge

Upon the Earl Piercy.

Sir Hugh Montgomery was he call’d,

Who, with a spear most bright,

Well-mounted on a gallant steed,

Ran fiercely thro’ the fight;

And pass’d the English archers all,

Without all dread or fear,

And through Earl Piercy’s body then

He thrust his hateful spear.

With such a veh’ment force and might

He did his body gore,

The spear ran through the other side

A large cloth-yard, and more.

So thus did both these nobles dye,

Whose courage none could stain;

An English archer then perceiv’d

The noble earl was slain.

He had a bow bent in his hand,

Made of a trusty tree;

An arrow of a cloth-yard long

Up to the head drew he.

Against Sir Hugh Montgomery

So right his shaft he set,

The gray goose-wing that was thereon

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 battel scarce was done.

With the Earl Piercy, there was slain

Sir John of Ogerton,

Sir Robert Ratcliff, and Sir John,

Sir James, that bold baron.

And with Sir George and good Sir James,

Both knights of good account,

Good Sir Ralph Rabby there was slain,

Whose prowess did surmount.

For Witherington needs must I wail,

As one in doleful dumps;

For when his legs were smitten off,

He fought upon his stumps.

And with Earl Douglas, there was slain

Sir Hugh Montgomery,

Sir Charles Currel, that from the field

One foot would never fly.

Sir Charles Murrel, of Ratcliff, too,

His sister’s son was he;

Sir David Lamb, so well esteem’d,

Yet saved could not bee.

And the Lord Maxwell in like wise

Did with Earl Douglas dye;

Of twenty hundred Scottish spears

Scarce fifty-five did fly.

Of fifteen hundred Englishmen,

Went home but fifty-three;

The rest were slain in Chevy-Chace,

Under the green-wood tree.

Next day did many widows come,

Their husbands to bewail;

They wash’d their wounds in brinish tears,

But all would not prevail.

Their bodies, bath’d in purple blood,

They bore with them away:

They kiss’d them dead a thousand times,

When they were clad in clay.

This news was brought to Edinburgh,

Where Scotland’s king did reign,

That brave Earl Douglas suddenly

Was with an arrow slain.

“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,

Within as short a space,

That Piercy of Northumberland

Was slaine in Chevy-Chace.

“Now God be with him,” said our king,

“Sith ’t will no better be;

I trust I have within my realm

Five hundred as good as he.

“Yet shall not Scot nor Scotland say,

But I will vengeance take,

And be revenged on them all,

For brave Earl Piercy’s sake.”

This vow full well the king perform’d

After, on Humbledown;

In one day, fifty knights were slain,

With lords of great renown.

And of the rest, of small account,

Did many thousands dye:

Thus endeth the hunting of Chevy-Chace,

Made by the Earl Piercy.

God save the king, and bless the land

In plenty, joy, and peace;

And grant henceforth, that foul debate

’Twixt noblemen may cease!