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Halamus Publishing - Archived Articles - #19, October, 2003



The Articles from the Monthly Newsletters

Written by

M. Lesley Halamek

October, 2002:–

SONG: "Chevy Chase", "Chevy Chace", "The Hunting of the Cheviot"
– England, Scotland

Q: What and where is Chevy Chase?

Q: What was "The Hunting of the Cheviot"? What was "The Cheviot"?

A: The Hunting of the Cheviot: "Two noblemen of opposite sides of the border region of England and Scotland, Percy of Northumberland, England, and Douglas of Scotland, square off in this lengthy ballad which takes place in the Cheviot Hills. In a departure from classic tales of border warfare, which usually involve cattle rustling, this ballad revolves around a deerhunt." Digital Tradition(second melody).

There are several versions of "Chevy Chase"/"The Hunting of the Cheviot".
The version I have chosen here is #162 from Henry Child's Ballad Index.

(    Click "Complete List of Child Ballads",
then scroll down to #162: "The Hunting of the Cheviot"

Another version, similar, though longer, and with more dialectic words, is at: ,
The Oxford Book of Ballads, 1910, edited by (Sir) Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944): Chevy Chase (128)

To read "Chevy Chase" in its original dialect, go to: and click "The Hunting of the Cheviot"

That page isn't there anymore; try this one:"

The Traditional English/Scottish Melody "Chevy Chase"
is on Page 28 of

"Folksongs for the Violin", Part 4:
A Brief Introduction to the Second, Half, Fourth, and Fifth Positions
(A Graded Selection of Melodies for Beginners of All Ages).

Details on the

A: "Chevy Chase" is a variant of Child Ballad #162, "The Hunting of the Cheviot", which dates from the middle of the 16th Century, more than 100 years after the events it describes, and may, but probably does not, refer to the Battle of Otterburn (1388) (see Child #161, "The Battle of Otterburn", also printed below), in which Harry Hotspur (Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland) was captured. He was later killed (at Shrewsbury) in the 1403 revolt against King Henry IV, who had himself, in 1399, usurped the English throne by deposing King Richard II (who was murdered in Pontefract Castle in 1400).

Henry IV died in 1413, and was succeeded by his son, Henry V, who died in 1422, and was succeeded by his nine month old son, Henry VI, so Henry VI would have been King Henry in "Chevy Chase" (1436? – 14 is a bit young by modern standards, but Richard III led an army when he was only 9), and this Earl Percy could not have been Harry Hotspur. (Although a balladist writing a century later may well have confused his data and his Henrys).

There was no King James ruling in Scotland until 1424, so his contemporary King Henry must have been Henry VI. (The Arthur Quiller-Couch edition refers to the "fourth Henry" as the English king, which is impossible). James I was murdered at Perth in 1437, so he fits the time-frame of the 1436 raid. The Scottish king at the time of Otterburn was Robert II.

Another Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, in 1436 led a force of 4000 men into Scotland and fought William Douglas, Earl of Angus (?). (He is called Earl of Douglas in the ballad). There were heavy losses on both sides, but the Scots defeated the English, near Berwick.

King James I of Scotland succeeded to the throne in 1406, though he was a prisoner of the English (having been captured by English sailors while travelling to France) until his release in 1424, when he returned to Scotland, and married Joan Beaufort, a daughter of John Beaufort, 1st Earl of Somerset, half brother to Henry IV, and son of John of Gaunt (Duke of Lancaster) and his third Duchess, Katherine.

For more info on Child #162: "The Hunting of the Cheviot" and Child #161: "The Battle of Otterburn", go to:
Click "Complete List of Child Ballads", then scroll down to
#162: "The Hunting of the Cheviot" and #161: "The Battle of Otterburn".

A: The Cheviot Hills lie between England and Scotland, that is, between Northumberland and the Scottish Border Region. This area was notorious for several centuries for cross-border raids and general murder, mayhem, and terrorism.

For some interesting info on the Border Rievers, go to:

"For over 350 years up to the end of the 16th century what are now Northumberland, Cumbria, the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway rang to the clash of steel and the thunder of hooves. Robbery and blackmail were everyday professions, raiding, arson, kidnapping, murder and extortion an accepted part of the social system...
...They gave blackmail and bereaved to the English language..."

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 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 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 greyhounds swiftly ran
To chase the fallow deer:
On Monday they began to hunt
Ere daylight did appear;

And long before high noon they had
An hundred fat bucks slain:
Then having dined, the drivers went
To rouse the deer again.

Lord Percy to the quarry went
To view the slaughter'd deer;
Quoth he, Earl Douglas promised
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.

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 we will 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.

Our English archers bent their bows,
Their hearts were good and true;
At the first flight of arrows sent
Full fourscore Scots they slew.

At last these two stout Earls did meet
Like captains of great might;
Like lions wud they laid on load
And made a cruel fight.

  They fought, until they both did sweat,
With swords of tempered steel,
Until the blood, like drops of rain,
They trickling down did feel.

O yield thee, Percy! 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 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 to the heart,
A deep and deadly blow;

Who never spake 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;
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 redoubted knight
Mischance could never take.

A knight among the Scots there was
Who saw Earl Douglas die;
Who straight in wrath 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.

This fight did last from break of day
Till setting of the sun;
For when they rung the evening bell
The battle scarce was done.

And the Lord Maxwell in like case
Did with Earl Douglas die;
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 Chase
Under the greenwood tree.

Next day did many widows come
Their husbands to bewail;
They washed their wounds in brinish tears,
But all would not prevail.

Their bodies bathed in purple gore
They bore with them away;
They kissed their dead a thousand times
When they were clad in clay.

God save our king, and bless this land
With plenty, joy and peace,
And grant henceforth that foule debate
'Twixt noblemen may cease!

The Battle of Otterburn

It fell about the Lammas tide,
When muir-men win their hay,
The doughty Earl of Douglas rode
To England for a prey:
He chose the Gordons and the Graemes,
The Lindsays licht and gay;
But the Jardines wad not with him ride,
And they rue it to this day.

The Otterbourne's a bonnie burn;
'Tis pleasant there to be;
But there is nocht at Otterbourne
To feed my men and me:
The deer rins wild on hill and dale,
Birds flee from tree to tree;
But there is neither bread nor kail
To feed my men and me.

Yet I will stay at Otterbourne,
Where you shall welcome be;
If ye come not at three days' end,
A fause lord I'll ca' thee.
Thither I'll come, proud Percy said,
By the might of Our Ladye!
There will I bide thee, said Douglas,
My troth I plicht to thee.

They lichted high on Otterbourne
Upon the bent sae broun;
They lichted high on Otterbourne,
And threw their palliouns doun.
And he that had a bonnie boy,
Sent out his horse to grass;
He that had not a bonnie boy,
His ain servant he was.

But up then spak a little page,
Before the peep o' dawn-
0 wauken, wauken, my guid lord,
For Percy's hard at han'.
Ye lee, ye lee, ye leear loud!
Sae loud I hear ye lee:
For Percy had not men yestreen
To dicht my men and me.

But I have dream'd a dreary dream,
Beyond the Isle of Skye,
I saw a dead man win a fecht.
And I think that man was I.
He belted on his guid braid sword,
And to the field he ran
But he forgot the helmet strong,
That should have kept his brain.

  When Percy wi' the Douglas met
I' wat lie was fu' fain!
They swak'd their swords, till sair they swat,
And the bluid ran doun like rain.
But Percy wi' his guid bricht sword,
That could sae sharply wound,
Has wounded Douglas on the brow,
Till he fell to the ground.

Then he call'd on his little page,
And said, Run speedilie,
And fetch my ain dear sister's son,
Sir Hugh Montgomery.
My nephew guid, the Douglas said,
What recks the death of ane
Last night I dream'd a dreary dream,
But I ken the day's thy ain.

My wound is deep; I fain would sleep;
Tak the vanguard o' the three,
And bide me by the bracken bush,
That grows on yonder lea.
0 bury me by the bracken bush,
Beneath the blooming breer;
Let never living mortal ken
That a kindly Scot lies here.

He lifted up that noble lord,
Wi' the saut tear in his e'e;
He hid him in the bracken bush,
That his ain men micht not see.
The moon was clear, the day drew near,
The spears in flinders flew;
And mony a gallant Englishman
Ere day the Scotsmen slew.

Nowr yield, Percy! Montgom'ry cried,
Or else I'll lay thee low!
Whom shall I yield to, said Percy,
Since I see it must be so?
Then shalt not yield to lord nor loin,
Nor shalt thou yield to me;
But yield thee to the bracken bush
That grows on yonder lea!

The Battle of Otterburn was described by the French chronicler Jean Froissart (c.1337-c.1410), who traveled extensively, gathering material for his Chroniques, in four books, later translated into English by Lord Berners between 1523 and 1525.

To read about the Battle of Otterburn in the Chronicles of Froissart, go to: .

Begin at the end of Page 82:

Chapter 4

The Battle of Otterburn


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