Legends Every Child Should Know - H. W. Mabie

Chevy Chase

God prosper long our noble king,

Our lives and safeties all;

A woeful hunting once there did

In Chevy Chase befall.

To drive the deer with hound and horn

Earl Percy took the 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 days to take—

The chiefest harts in Chevy Chase

To kill and bear away.

These tidings to Earl Douglas came

In Scotland where he lay;

Who sent Earl Percy present word

He would prevent his sport.

The English earl not fearing that,

Did to the woods resort.

With fifteen hundred bowmen bold,

All chosen men of might,

Who knew full well in time of need

To aim their shafts aright.

The gallant greyhound swiftly ran

To chase the fallow deer;

On Monday they began to hunt

Ere daylight did appear;

And long before high noon they had

A hundred fat bucks slain;

Then having dined, the drovers went

To rouse the deer again.

The bowmen mustered on the hills,

Well able to endure;

Their backsides all with special care

That day were guarded sure.

The hounds ran swiftly through the woods,

The nimble deer to take,

That with their cries the hills and dales

An echo shrill did make.

Lord Percy to the quarry went

To view the tender deer;

Quoth he, "Earl Douglas promised once

This day to meet me here."

"But if 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 Teviotdale,

Fast by the River Tweed."

"O cease your sports," Earl Percy 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,

And 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 his company,

Whose armour shone like gold.

"Show me," said he, "whose men you be,

That hunt so boldly here,

That, without my consent, do chase

And kill my fallow deer."

The first man that did answer make,

Was noble Percy he,

Who said, "We list not to declare

Nor show whose men we be:

"Yet will we spend our dearest blood

Thy chiefest harts 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 die;

I know thee well, an earl thou art—

Lord Percy, so am I.

"But trust me, Percy, pity it were,

And great offence, to kill

Any of these our guiltless men,

For they have done none ill.

"Let thou and I the battle try,

And set our men aside."

"Accurst be he," Earl Percy said,

"By whom it is denied."

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 e'er my captain fought on foot,

And I stood looking on.

You be two earls," quoth 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 four score Scots they slew.

To drive the deer with hound and horn,

Douglas bade on the bent,

Two captains moved with mickle might,

Their spears to shivers went.

They closed full fast on every side,

No slackness there was found,

But many a gallant gentleman

Lay gasping on the ground.

O Christ! it was great grief to see

How each man chose his spear,

And how the blood out of their breasts

Did gush like water clear.

At last these two stout earls did meet

Like captains of great might;

Like lions wode, they laid on lode;

They made a cruel fight.

They fought until they both did sweat,

With swords of tempered steel,

Till blood down their cheeks like rain

They trickling down did feel.

"O yield thee, Percy!" Douglas said,

"And in faith I will thee bring

Where thou shalt high advanced be

By James, our Scottish king.

"Thy ransom I will freely give,

And this report of thee,

Thou art the most courageous knight

That ever I did see."

"No, Douglas," quoth Earl Percy 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 on the breast

A deep and deadly blow.

Who never said more words than these:

"Fight on, my merry men all!

For why, my life is at an end,

Lord Percy sees my fall."

Then leaving life, Earl Percy took

The dead man by the hand;

Who said, "Earl Douglas, for thy life

Would I had lost my land!

"O Christ! my very heart doth bleed

For sorrow for thy sake,

For sure a more redoubted knight

Mischance could never take."

A knight amongst the Scots there was

Which saw Earl Douglas die,

Who straight in heart did vow revenge

Upon the Lord Percy.

Sir Hugh Montgomery was he called,

Who, with a spear full bright,

Well mounted on a gallant steed,

Ran fiercely through the fight,

And past the English archers all,

Without all dread or fear,

And through Earl Percy's body then

He thrust his hateful spear.

With such a vehement force and might

His body he did gore,

The staff ran through the other side

A large cloth-yard, and more.

Thus did both those nobles die,

Whose courage none could stain;

An English archer then perceived

The noble earl was slain.

He had a good bow in his hand

Made of a trusty tree;

An arrow of a cloth-yard long

To the hard head haled he.

Against Sir Hugh Montgomery

His shaft full right he set;

The gray-goose-wing that was thereon

In his heart's blood was wet.

This fight from break of day did last

Till setting of the sun,

For when they rang the evening-bell

The battle scarce was done.

With stout Earl Percy there was slain

Sir John of Egerton,

Sir Robert Harcliff and Sir William,

Sir James, that bold baron.

And with Sir George and Sir James,

Both knights of good account,

Good Sir Ralph Raby 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,

And Sir Charles Morrell, that from field

One foot would never flee;

Sir Roger Heuer of Harcliff, too,

His sister's son was he;

Sir David Lambwell, well esteemed,

But saved he could not be.

And the Lord Maxwell, in like case,

With Douglas he did die;

Of twenty hundred Scottish spears,

Scarce fifty-five did fly.

Of fifteen hundred Englishmen

Went home but fifty-three;

The rest in Chevy Chase were slain,

Under the greenwood tree.

Next day did many widows come

Their husbands to bewail;

They washed their wounds in brinish sears.

But all would not prevail.

Their bodies, bathed in purple blood,

They bore with them away;

They kissed them dead a thousand times

Ere they were clad in clay.

The 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 can say,

"Scotland may 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 Percy of Northumberland

Was slain at Chevy Chase.

"Now God be with him!" said our king,

"Since it will no better be;

I trust I have within my realm

Five hundred as good as he."

"Yet shall not Scots nor Scotland say

But I will vengeance take,

And be revenged on them all

For brave Earl Percy's sake."

This vow the king did well perform

After on Humble-down;

In one day fifty knights were slain

With lords of great renown.

And of the rest, of small account,

Did many hundreds die:

Thus endeth the hunting in Chevy Chase

Made by the Earl Percy.

God save our king, and bless this land

With plenty, joy, and peace,

And grant henceforth that foul debate

Twixt noble men may cease!