The Battle of Otterburn

Traditional, pre-1600


This example of "The Battle of Otterburn" is performed by Katrina of Coventry.
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information

Child Ballad # 161

The Battle of Otterburn appears in a manuscript dated circa 1550.  It was printed on broadsides as both The Battle of Otterburn and The Battle of Otterbourne.  It was later printed in Percy's Reliques, collections by David Herd (1776) and Scott's Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border (1833).

It fell about the Lammas tide, when moor-men win their hay,
The doughty Earl of Douglas rode into England, to catch a prey.
He chose the Gordons and the Graemes, the Lindesays, light and gay;
But the Jardines would not with him ride, and they rue it to this day.

And he hath burned the dales of Tyne, and part of Bambrough shire,
And three good towers on Reidswire fells, he left them all on fire.
And he’s marched up to Newcastle, and rode it round about:
Crying where's the lord of this castle?  And where's the lady o't?'  

Then out and spake proud Lord Percy, and O but he spake hie!
I am the lord of this castle, my wife's the lady gay.
'If thou'rt the lord of this castle, then well it pleases me,
For, ere I cross the Border fells, the one of us shall die.'  

Then go you up to Otterburn and wait three days for me.
And, if I come not at three days hence, a false knight call you me.
'Thither will I go,' proud Percy said, by the might of Our Ladye';
'There will I bide thee' Douglas said, 'My troth I plight to thee.'  

When Percy with the Douglas met, I wat he was full fain;
They swakked their swords, till sair they swat, and the blood ran down like rain.
But Percy with his good broad sword, that could so sharply wound,
has wounded Douglas on the brow, till he fell to the ground.  

Then Douglas call'd his little foot-page, and said, Run speedilie,
Go fetch my own dear sister's son, Sir Hugh Montgomery.
'Montgomery,' the Douglas said, 'What matters the death of one!
Last night I dreamed a dreary dream, I know the day's thy own.  

So bury me by yon braken-bush, beneath yon blooming brier,
Let never a living mortal know that a kindly Scot lies here.'
He lifted up his noble lord, with the salt tear in his eye;
And he Buried him in the braken-bush, that his good men may not see.  

The moon was clear, the day drew near, the spears in flinders flew,
But many a gallant Englishman ere day the Scotsmen slew.
The Percy and Montgomery met, that either of other were fain;
They swapped their swords, and they twa swat, til the blood ran down between.  

'Now yield, now yield thee, Percy,' he said, 'Else I vow I'll lay thee low!'
'To whom shall I yield,' Earl Percy he said, 'Now that it must be so?'
'Thou shalt not yield to lord nor loun, nor shalt thou yield to me;
But yield thee to the braken-bush, that grows upon yon lee.'  

'I will not yield to a braken-bush, nor will I yield to a brier;
But I would yield to Earl Douglas, or Sir Hugh, if he were here.'
As soon as he knew it was Montgomery, he struck his sword's point down;
And Montgomery being the courteous knight, he took him by the hand.  

This deed was done at Otterbourne, about the break of the day.