Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of Ballads
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. (1863–1944).  The Oxford Book of Ballads.  1910.
126. Durham Field

LORDINGS, listen, and hold you still;
  Hearken to me a spell;
I shall you tell of the fairest battell
  That ever in England befell.

It befell in Edward the Third’s dayes,
  When in England he ware the crowne,
That all the chief chivalry of England
  They buskèd and made them bowne.

They have chosen all the best archers
  That in England might be found,        10
And all was to fight with the King of France,
  Within a litle stounde

And when our King was over the water,
  And on the salt sea gone,
Then tydings into Scotland came        15
  That all England was gone.

Bowes and arrowes they all were forth;
  At home was not left a man
But shepards and millers both,
  And preists with shaven crownes.        20

Then the King of Scotts in a study stood,
  As he was a man of great might;
He sware he would hold his parlament in leeve London,
  If he cold ryde there right.

Then bespake a Squire, of Scotland borne,
  And sayd, ‘My leege, ha’ peace,
Before you come to leeve London,
  Full sore you’le rue that race.

Ther beene bold yeomen in merry England,
  Husbandmen stiffe and strong;        30
Sharpè swords they done weare,
  Bearen bowes and arrowes longe.’

The King was angrye at that word;
  A long sword out he drew,
And there before his royall companye        35
  His ownè Squire hee slew.

Hard hansell had the Scottes that day,
  That wrought them woe enoughe,
For a Scott then durst not speake a word
  Ffor hanging att a boughe.        40

‘The Earle of Anguish, where art thou?
  In my coate-armour thou shalt bee,
And thou shalt lead the forward
  Thorow the English countrye.

‘Take thee Yorke,’ then sayd the King,
  ‘In stead wheras it doth stand;
I’le make thy eldest sonne after thee
  Heyre of all Northumberland.

‘The Earle of Buchan, where be yee?
  In my coate-armour thou shalt bee;        50
The high Peak and all Darbyshire
  I give it thee to thy fee.’

The famous Douglas then came in,
  Saies, ‘What shall my meede bee?
And I will lead the vanward, lord,        55
  Thorow the English countrye.’

‘Take thee Worster,’ sayd the King,
  ‘Tuxburye, Killingworth, Burton on Trent;
Doe thou not say another day
  But I gave thee lands and rent.        60

‘Sir Richard of Edenborrow, where are yee?
  A wise man in this warr!
I’le give thee Bristow and the shire
  The time that wee come there.

‘Thou, my lord Nevill, where art thou?
  Thou must in this warres bee;
I’le give thee Shrewsburye,’ saies the King,
  ‘And Coventrye faire and free.

‘My lord of Hambleton, where art thou?
  Thou art of my kin full nye;        70
I’le give thee Lincolne and Lincolneshire,
  And that’s enoughe for thee.’

By then came in William Douglas,
  As breeme as any bore;
He kneelèd him downe upon his knees,        75
  In his heart he sighèd sore.

‘I have servèd you, my lovelye liege,
  This thirty winters and four,
And in the Scottish Marches
  Have beene wounded and beaten sore.        80

‘For all the good service that I have done,
  What now shall my meed bee?
And I will lead the vanward
  Thorow the English countrye.’

‘Now aske on, Douglas,’ said the King,
  ‘And granted it shall bee.’—
‘Why then, I aske litle London,’ saies Douglas,
  ‘Gotten gif that it bee.’

The King was wroth, and rose away,
  Saies, ‘Nay, that cannot bee!        90
For that I will keepe for my cheefe chamber,
  Gotten gif that it bee.

‘But take thee North Wales and Weschester,
  The countrye all round about,
And rewarded thou shalt bee,        95
  Of that take thou noe doubt.’

Five score knights he made on a day,
  And dubb’d them with his hands;
Rewarded them right worthilye
  With the townes in merry England.        100

And when the fresh knights they were made,
  To battell they buske them bowne;
Jamès Douglas he went before,
  And he thought to have wonnen him shoone.

But they were mett in a morning of May
  With the comminaltye of litle England;
But there scapèd never a man away,
  Through the might of Christès hand.

But all onely Jamès Douglas;
  In Durham in the ffeild        110
An arrow stroke him in the thye;
  Fast flinges he towards the King.

The King looked toward litle Durham,
  Saies, ‘All things is not weel!
For James Douglas beares an arrow in his thye,        115
  The head of it is of steele.

How now, James?’ then said the King,
  ‘How now, how may this bee?
And where beene all thy merrymen
  That thou tooke hence with thee?’        120

‘But cease, my King,’ saies James Douglas,
  ‘Alive is not left a man!’
‘Now by my faith,’ saies the King of Scotts,
  ‘That gate was evil gone.

‘But I’le revenge thy quarrell well,
  And of that thou may be fain;
For one Scott will beate five Englishmen,
  If they meeten them on the plaine.’

‘Now hold your tongue,’ saies James Douglas,
  ‘For in faith that is not soe;        130
For one English man is worth five Scotts,
  When they meeten together thoe.

‘For they are as eager men to fight
  As a faulcon upon a prey;
Alas! if ever they winne the vanward,        135
  There scapes noe man away.’

‘O peace thy talking,’ said the King,
  ‘They bee but English knaves,
But shepards and millers both,
  And priestès with their staves.’        140

The King sent forth one of his heralds of armes
  To vew the Englishmen:
‘Be of good cheere,’ the herald said,
  ‘For against one we be ten.’

‘Who leads those lads?’ said the King of Scotts,
  ‘Thou herald, tell thou mee:’
The herald said, ‘The Bishop of Durham
  Is captaine of that companye.

‘For the Bishop hath spred the King’s banner,
  And to battell he buskes him bowne’;        150
‘I sweare by St Andrewes bones,’ saies the King,
  ‘I’le rapp that priest on the crowne!’

The King look’d towards litle Durham,
  And that hee well beheld,
That the Earle Percy was well arm’d,        155
  With his battell-axe entred the feild.

The King look’d again towards litle Durham,
  Four ancyents there saw he;
There were two standards, six in a valley,
  He cold not see them with his eye.        160

My Lord of Yorke was one of them,
  My Lord of Carlile was the other,
And my Lord Fitzwilliams,
  The Bishop came with the other.

The Bishop of Durham commanded his men,
  And shortlye he them bade,
That never a man shold goe to fight
  Till he had served his God.

Five hundred priests said mass that day
  In Durham in the field,        170
And afterwards, as I hard say,
  They bare both spear and shield.

The Bishop orders himselfe to fight,
  With his battell-axe in his hand;
He said, ‘This day now I will fight        175
  As long as I can stand!’

‘And soe will I,’ sayd my Lord of Carlile,
  ‘In this faire morning gay’;
‘And soe will I,’ said my Lord Fitzwilliams,
  ‘For Mary, that mild may.’        180

Our English archers bent their bowes
  Shortly and anon;
They shot over the Scottish oast
  And scantly toucht a man.

‘Hold downe your hands,’ sayd the Bishop of Durham,
  ‘My archers good and true’!
The second shootè that they shott,
  Full sore the Scots it rue.

The Bishop of Durham spoke on hie,
  That both partyes might heare:        190
‘Be of good cheere, my merrymen all,
  They flyen and changen their cheere!’

But as they saidden, see they didden,
  They fell on heapès hie;
Our Englishmen laid on with their bowes,        195
  As fast as they might drie.

The King of Scotts in a study stood
  Amongst his companye;
An arrow stoke him thoro’ the nose,
  And thoro’ his armorye.        200

The King went to a marsh-side
  And light beside his steede;
He leanèd him downe on his swordhilts,
  To let his nosè bleede.

There follow’d him a yeaman of merry England,
  His name was John of Coplande:
‘Yeeld thee, traytor!’ saies Coplande then,
  ‘Thy life lies in my hand.’

‘How shold I yeeld me,’ sayes the King,
  ‘And thou art noe gentleman?’—        210
‘Noe, by my troth,’ sayes Copland there,
  ‘I am but a poore yeaman.

‘What art thou better then I, Sir King?
  Tell me if that thou can!
What art thou better then I, Sir King,        215
  Now we be but man to man?’

The King smote angerly at Copland,
  Angerly in that stonde;
Then Copland was a bold yeaman,
  And bore the King to the ground.        220

He sett the King on a palfrey,
  Himselfe upon a steede;
He tooke him by the bridle-rayne,
  Towards London he can him lead.

And when to London that he came,
  The King from Ffrance was come home,
And there unto the King of Scotts
  He sayd these words anon.—

‘How like you my shepards and my millers?
  My priests with shaven crownes?’—        230
‘By my fayth, they are the sorest fighters
  That ever I mett on the ground.

‘There was never a yeaman in merry England
  But was worth a Scottish knight.’—
‘Ay, by my troth,’ said King Edward, and laughe,        235
  ‘For you fought all against the right.’

But now the prince of merry England,
  Worthilye under his sheelde,
Hath taken captive the King of France,
  At Poytiers in the field.        240

The prince did present his father
  With the lovely King of France,
And forward of his journey he is gone:
  God send us all good chance!

Sayd the King of Scots to the King of France,
  ‘Well met, brother, too soone!
Christ leeve that I had taken my way
  Unto the court of Roome!’

‘And soe wold I,’ said the King of France,
  ‘When I came over the streame,        250
That I had taken my journey
  Unto Jerusalem!’

Thus ends the battell of fair Durham.
  In one morning of May;
The battells of Cressey and of Poytiers,        255
  All within one monthes day.

Then was wealthe and welfare in merry England,
  Solaces, game, and glee,
And every man loved other well,
  And the King loved good yeomanrye.        260

But God that made the grasse to growe,
  And leaves on greenwoode tree,
Now save and keepe our noble King,
  And maintaine good yeomanrye!
GLOSS:  buskèd] dressed.  bowne] ready.  stounde] time.  leeve] dear, pleasant.  hansell] foretaste.  Anguish] Angus.  Hambleton] Hamilton.  breeme] fierce.  buske] addressed.  bowne] ready.  thoe] those.  ancyents] ensigns.  may] maiden.


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