Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

The Hunting of the Cheviot


[IN the times of disagreement between England and Scotland, there were continual border forays, about which stirring ballads were afterwards written. The best of these is "Chevy Chase," or "The Hunting of the Cheviot," which Sir Philip Sidney said moved his heart more than the sound of a trumpet. This contest was fought between the Douglas family who dwelt on the Scottish side, and the Percys whose home was on the English. One family would start out with all their retainers for a day's hunting on the other side of the border. Then, if they met the other family—a thing that both parties hoped would come to pass—there was a fight. The ballad is a spirited account of this foray and fight.
The Editor. ]


THE Percy out of Northumberland

And a vow to God made he,

That he would hunt in the mountains

Of Cheviot within days three,

In the maugre of doughty Douglas

And all that ever with him be.

The fattest harts in all Cheviot

He said he would kill and carry them away;

"By my faith," said the doughty Douglas again,

"I will let that hunting if I may."

Then the Percy out of Bamborough came,

With him a mighty meany,

With fifteen hundred archers bold of blood and bone,

They were chosen out of shires three.

This began on a Monday at morn

In Cheviot the hills so high;

The child may rue that is unborn,

It was the more pity.

The drivers through the woodes went,

For to raise the deer;

Bowmen bickered upon the bent

With their broad arrows clear.

Then the wild thorough the woodes went,

On every side sheer,

Greyhounds thorough the greves glent

For to kill their deer.

They began in Cheviot the hills above,

Early on Monanday;

By that it drew to the hour of noon,

A hundred fat harts dead there lay.

They blew a mort upon the bent,

They 'sembled on sides sheer;

To the quarry then the Percy went

To the brittling of the deer.

He said: "It was the Douglas's promise

This day to meet me here.

But I wist he would fail, verament,"—

A great oath the Percy sware.

At the last a squire of Northumberland

Looked at his hand full nigh;

He was ware of the doughty Douglas coming,

With him a mighty meany.

Both with spear, bill, and brand:

It was a mighty sight to see;

Hardier men, both of heart nor hand,

Were not in Christianity.

They were twenty hundred spearmen good,

Withouten any fail;

They were born along by the water of Tweed,

I' the bounds of Tivydale.

"Leave off the brittling the deer," he said,

"To your bows look ye take good heed;

For never since ye were on your mothers born

Had ye never so mickle need."

The doughty Douglas on a steed

He rode at his men beforne;

His armor glittered as a glede;

A bolder bairn was never born.

"Tell me who ye are," he says,

"Or whose men that ye be.

Who gave you leave to hunt in this Cheviot Chase,

In the spite of me?"

The first man that ever him an answer made,

It was the good Lord Percy;

"We will not tell thee whose men we are," he says,

"Nor whose men that we be;

But we will hunt here in this chase

In the spite of thine and of thee.

"The fattest harts in all Cheviot

We have killed and cast to carry them away:"

"By my troth," said the doughty Douglas again,

"Therefore the one of us shall die this day."

Then said the doughty Douglas

Unto the Lord Percy:

"To kill all these guiltless men,

Alas, it were great pity.

"But Percy, thou art a lord of land,

I am an earl called within my country,

Let all our men upon a party stand

And do the battle of thee and of me."

"Now a curse on his crown," said the Lord Percy,

"Whoever thereto says nay;

By my troth, doughty Douglas," he says,

"Thou shalt never see that day.

"Neither in England, Scotland, nor France

Nor for no man of a woman born,

But, an fortune be my chance,

I dare meet him, one man for one."

Then bespake a squire of Northumberland,

Richard Witherington was his name;

"It shall never be told in South England," he says,

"To King Henry the Fourth for shame.

"I wot ye bin great lordes two

I am a poor squire of land;

I will never see my captain fight on a field,

And stand myself and look on,

But while I may my weapon wield

I will not fail both heart and hand."

That day, that day, that dreadful day!

The first fytte here I find,

And you will hear any more o' the Hunting o' the Cheviot,

Yet is there more behind.


The Englishmen had their bows ybent;

Their hearts were good enow;

The first of arrows that they shot off,

Seven score spearmen they slew.

Yet bides the Earl Douglas upon the bent,

A captain good enow,

And that was seen, verament

For he wrought them both woo and woe.

The Douglas parted his host in three,

Like a chief chieftain of pride,

With sure spears of mighty tree,

They came in on every side;

Through our English archery

Gave many a wound full wide;

Many a doughty they gar'd to die

Which gained them no pride.

The Englishmen let their bows be

And pulled out brands that were bright;

It was a heavy sight to see

Bright swords on basnets light.

Thorough rich mail and maniple

Many stern they stroke down straight;

Many a freke that was full free

There under foot did light.

At last the Douglas and the Percy met,

Like to captains of might and of main;

They swapt together till they both sweat,

With swords that were of fine Milan.

These worthy frekes for to fight,

Thereto they were full fain,

Till the blood out of their basnets sprent,

As ever did hail or rain.

"Hold thee, Percy," said the Douglas,

"And i' faith I shall thee bring

Where thou shalt have an earl's wages

Of Jamie our Scottish king.

"Thou shalt have thy ransom free,

I bight thee here this thing,

For the manfullest man yet art thou

That ever I conquered in field-fighting."

"Nay," said the Lord Percy,

"I told it thee beforne

That I would never yielded be

To no man of a woman born."

With that there came an arrow hastily

Forth of a mighty wane;

It hath stricken the Earl Douglas

In at the breast bane.

Thorough liver and lungs baith

The sharp arrow is gone,

That never after in all his live days

He spake no words but one.

That was, "Fight ye, my merry men, while ye may,

For my life days be gone."

The Percy leaned on his brand

And saw the Douglas die.

He took the dead man by the hand

And said, "Woe is me for thee!

"To have saved thy life, I would have parted with

My lands for years three,

For a better man of heart nor of hand

Was not in all the north country."

Of all that saw a Scottish knight

Was called Sir Hugh Montgomery;

He saw the Douglas to the death was dight,

He spended a spear, a trusty tree:

He rode upon a courser

Thorough a hundred archery;

He never stinted, nor never blane,

Till he came to the good Lord Percy.

He set upon the Lord Percy

A dint that was full sore;

With a sure spear of a mighty tree

Clean through the body he the Percy bore,

At t' other side that a man might see

A large cloth-yard and mair;

Two better captains were not in Christianity,

Than that day slain were there.

An archer of Northumberland

Saw slain was the Lord Percy;

He bare a bend-bow in his hand

Was made of trusty tree.

An arrow that a cloth-yard was long

To the hard steel haled he;

A dint that was both sad and sore

He set on Sir Hugh Montgomery.

The dint it was both sad and sore

That he on Montgomery set;

The swan feathers that his arrow bore

With his heart blood they were wet.

There was never a freke one foot would flee

But still in stour did stand,

Hewing on each other, while they might dree

With many a baleful brand.

This battle began in Cheviot

An hour before the noon,

And when even-song bell was rung

The battle was not half done.

They took on either hand

By the light of the moon;

Many had no strength for to stand

In Cheviot the hills aboon.

Of fifteen hundred archers of England

Went away but fifty and three;

Of twenty hundred spearmen of Scotland

But even five and fiftie.

But all were slain Cheviot within;

They had no strength to stand on high;

The child may rue that is unborn

It was the more pitie.

There was slain with the Lord Percy,

Sir John of Agerstone,

Sir Roger, the hynd Hartley,

Sir William, the bold Heron.

Sir George, the worthy Lovel,

A knight of great renown,

Sir Ralph, the rich Rugby

With dints were beaten down.

For Witherington my heart was woe

That ever he slain should be;

For when both his legs were hewn in two,

Yet he kneeled and fought on his knee.

There was slain with the doughty Douglas,

Sir Hugh Montgomery;

Sir Davy Liddall, that worthy was,

His sister's son was he.

Sir Charles o' Murray in that place

That never a foot would flee;

Sir Hugh Maxwell, a lord he was,

With the Douglas did he dee.

So on the morrow they made them biers

Of birch and hazel so gray;

Many widows with weeping tears

Came to fetch their mates away.

Tivydale may carp of care

Northumberland may make great moan,

For two such captains as slain were there,

On the March-party shall never be none.

Word has come to Edinborough,

To Jamie the Scottish king,

That doughty Douglas, lieutenant of the Marches

He lay slain Cheviot within.

His handes did he weal and wring;

He said, "Alas! and wo is me!

Such an other captain Scotland within,"

He said, "i' faith should never be."

Word is come to lovely London

To the fourth Harry our king,

That Lord Percy, lieutenant of the Marches,

He lay slain, Cheviot within.

"God have mercy on his soul," said King Harry,

"Good Lord if thy will it be!

I have a hundred captains in England," he said,

"As good as ever was he.

But Percy, as I brook my life,

Thy death well quit shall be."

As our noble king made his avow,

Like a noble prince of renown,

For the death of the Lord Percy

He did the battle of Homildown;

Where six and thirty Scottish knights

On a day were beaten down;

Glendale glittered on their armor bright,

Over castle, tower, and town.

This was the Hunting of the Cheviot

That tear began this spurn:

Old men that know the ground weel enow

Call it the battle of Otterbourn.

At Otterbourn began this spurn

Upon a Monanday;

There was the doughty Douglas slain,

The Percy never went away.

There was never a time on the March parties

Since the Douglas and Percy met,

But it was marvel, and the red blood ran not

As the rain does in the street.

And now may Heaven amend us all

And to the bliss us bring.

Thus was the Hunting of the Cheviot.

God send us all good ending.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: The Revolt of the Peasants  |  Next: The Mystery Plays
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.