Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
22. Chevy Chase
Traditional Ballads
GOD prosper long our noble king,
  our liffes 1 and saftyes all!
A woefull hunting once there did
  in Cheuy Chase befall.
To driue the deere with hound and horne        5
  Erle Pearcy took the way:
The child may rue that is vnborne
  the hunting of that day!
The stout Erle of Northumberland
  a vow to God did make        10
His pleasure in the Scottish woods
  three sommers days to take,
The cheefest harts in Cheuy C[h]ase
  to kill and beare away:
These tydings to Erle Douglas came        15
  in Scottland, where he lay.
Who sent Erle Pearcy present word
  he would prevent his sport;
The English erle, not fearing that,
  did to the woods resort,        20
With fifteen hundred bowmen bold,
  All chosen men of might,
Who knew ffull well in time of neede
  to ayme their shafts arright.
The gallant greyhound[s] swiftly ran        25
  to chase the fallow deere;
On Munday they began to hunt,
  ere daylight did appeare.
And long before high noone the had
  a hundred fat buckes slaine;        30
Then hauing dined, the drouyers went
  to rouze the deare againe.
The bowmen mustered on the hills,
  well able to endure;
Theire backsids all with speciall care        35
  that day were guarded sure.
The hounds ran swiftly through the woods
  the nimble deere to take,
That with their cryes the hills and dales
  an eccho shrill did make.        40
Lord Pearcy to the querry 2 went
  to view the tender deere;
Quoth he, “Erle Douglas promised once
  this day to meete me heere;
“But if I thought he wold not come,        45
  noe longer wold I stay.”
With that a braue younge gentlman
  thus to the erle did say:
“Loe, yonder doth Erle Douglas come,
  hys men in armour bright;        50
Full twenty hundred Scottish speres
  all marching in our sight.
“All men of pleasant Tiuydale,
  fast by the riuer Tweede:”
“O ceaze your sportts!” Erle Pearcy said,        55
  “and take your bowes with speede.
“And now with me, my countrymen,
  your courage forth advance!
For there was neuer champion yett,
  in Scottland nor in Ffrance,        60
“That euer did on horsbacke come,
  [but], and if my hap it were,
I durst encounter man for man,
  with him to break a spere.”
Erle Douglas on his milke-white steede,        65
  most like a baron bold,
Rode formost of his company,
  whose armor shone like gold.
“Shew me,” sayd hee, “whose men you bee
  that hunt soe boldly heere,        70
That without my consent doe chase
  and kill my fallow deere.”
The first man that did answer make
  was noble Pearcy hee,
Who sayd, “Wee list not to declare        75
  nor shew whose men wee bee;
“Yett wee will spend our deerest blood
  thy cheefest harts to slay.”
Then Douglas swore a solempne oathe,
  and thus in rage did say:        80
“Ere thus I will outbraued bee,
  one of vs tow shall dye;
I know thee well, an erle thou art;
  Lord Pearcy, soe am I.
“But trust me, Pearcye, pittye it were,        85
  and great offence, to kill
Then any of these our guiltlesse men,
  for they haue done none ill.
“Let thou and I the battell trye,
  and set our men aside:”        90
“Accurst bee [he!]” Erle Pearcye sayd,
  “by whome it is denyed.”
Then stept a gallant squire forth—
  Witherington was his name—
Who said, “I wold not haue it told        95
  To Henery our King, for shame,
“That ere my captaine fought on foote,
  and I stand looking on.
You bee two Erles,” quoth Witherington,
  “and I a squier alone;        100
“I’le doe the best that doe I may,
  while I haue power to stand;
While I haue power to weeld my sword,
  I’lt fight with hart and hand.”
Our English archers bent their bowes;        105
  their harts were good and trew;
Att the first flight of arrowes sent,
  full foure score Scotts the slew.
To driue the deere with hound and horne,
  Douglas bade 3 on the bent;        110
Two captaines moued with mickle 4 might,
  their speres to shiuers went.
They closed full fast on euerye side
  noe slackness there was found,
But many a gallant gentleman        115
  lay gasping on the ground.
O Christ! it was great greeue 5 to see
  how eche man chose his spere,
And how the blood out of their brests
  did gush like water cleare.        120
At last these two stout erles did meet,
  like captaines of great might;
Like lyons woode 6 they layd on lode;
  the made a cruell fight.
The fought vntil they both did sweat,        125
  with swords of tempered steele,
Till blood downe their cheekes like raine
  the trickling downe did feele.
“O yeeld thee, Pearcye!” Douglas sayd,
  “And in faith I will thee bringe        130
Where thou shall high advanced bee
  by Iames our Scottish king.
“Thy ransome I will freely giue,
  and this report of thee,
Thou art the most couragious knight        135
  [that ever I did see.]”
“Noe, Douglas!” quoth Erle Percy then,
  “thy profer I doe scorne;
I will not yeelde to any Scott
  that euer yett was borne!”        140
With that there came an arrow keene,
  out of an English bow,
Which stroke Erle Douglas on the brest
  a deepe and deadlye blow.
Who neuer sayd more words than these;        145
  “Fight on, my merry men all!
For why, my life is att [an] end,
  lord Pearcy sees my fall.”
Then leauing liffe, Erle Pearcy tooke
  the dead man by the hand;        150
Who said, “Erle Dowglas, for thy life,
  Wold I had lost my land!
“O Christ! my verry hart doth bleed
  for sorrow for thy sake,
For sure, a more redoubted knight        155
  mischance cold neuer take.”
A knight amongst the Scotts there was
  which saw Erle Douglas dye,
Who streight in hart did vow revenge
  vpon the Lord Pearcye.        160
Sir Hugh Mountgomerye was he called,
  who, with a spere full bright,
Well mounted on a gallant steed,
  ran feircly through the fight,
And past the English archers all,        165
  without all dread or feare,
And through Erle Percyes body then
  he thrust his hatfull spere.
With such a vehement force and might
  his body he did gore,        170
The staff ran through the other side
  a large cloth-yard and more.
Thus did both those nobles dye,
  whose courage none cold staine;
An English archer then perceiued        175
  the noble erle was slaine.
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 hee.        180
Against Sir Hugh Mountgomerye
  his shaft full right he sett;
The grey-goose-winge that was there-on
  in his harts bloode was wett.
This fight from breake of day did last        185
  till setting of the sun,
For when the rung the euening-bell
  the battele scarse was done.
With stout Erle Percy there was slaine
  Sir Iohn of Egerton,        190
Sir Robert Harcliffe and Sir William,
  Sir Iames, that bold barron.
And with Sir George and Sir Iames,
  both knights of good account,
Good Sir Raphe Rebbye there was slaine,        195
  whose prowesse did surmount.
For Witherington needs must I wayle
  as one in dolefull dumpes,
For when his leggs were smitten of,
  he fought vpon his stumpes.        200
And with Erle Dowglas there was slaine
  Sir Hugh Mountgomerye,
And Sir Charles Morrell, that from feelde
  one foote wold neuer flee;
Sir Roger Heuer of Harcliffe tow,        205
  his sisters sonne was hee;
Sir David Lambwell, well esteemed,
  but saved he cold not bee.
And the Lord Maxwell, in like case,
  with Douglas he did dye;        210
Of twenty hundred Scottish speeres,
  scarce fifty-fiue did flye.
Of fifteen hundred Englishmen
  went home but fifty-three;
The rest in Cheuy Chase were slaine,        215
  vnder the greenwoode tree.
Next day did many widdowes come
  their husbands to bewayle;
They washt their wounds in brinish teares,
  but all wold not prevayle.        220
Theyr bodyes, bathed in purple blood,
  the bore with them away;
They kist them dead a thousand times
  ere the were cladd in clay.
The newes was brought to Eddenborrow,        225
  where Scottlands king did rayne,
That braue Erle Douglas soddainlye
  was with an arrow slaine.
“O heauy newes!” King Iames can say;
  “Scotland may wittenesse bee        230
I haue not any captaine more
  of such account as hee.”
Like tydings to King Henery came,
  within as short a space,
That Pearcy of Northumberland        235
  was slaine in Cheuy Chase.
“Now God be with him!” said our king,
  “sith it will noe better bee;
I trust I haue within my realme
  fiue hundred as good as hee.        240
“Yett shall not Scotts nor Scottland say
  but I will vengeance take,
And be revenged on them all
  for braue Erle Percyes sake.”
This vow the king did well performe        245
  after on Humble-downe;
In one day fifty knights were slayne,
  with lords of great renowne.
And of the rest, of small account,
  did many hundreds dye:        250
Thus endeth the hunting in Cheuy Chase,
  made by the Erle Pearcye.
God saue our king, and blesse this land
  with plentye, ioy, and peace,
And grant hencforth that foule debate        255
  twixt noble men may ceaze!
Note 1. Slaughtered game. [back]
Note 2. Abode. [back]
Note 3. Meadow. [back]
Note 4. Fellow. [back]
Note 5. Lives. [back]
Note 6. Slaughtered game. [back]


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