The Battle of Otterburn
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This ballad is Child Ballad #161.

The Battle of Otterburn took place on August 5, 1388. James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, attacked Henry Percy in Northumberland. Douglas defeated Percy, but was killed in the battle.

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).*

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

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 fend 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 am dear sister's son,
Sir Hugh Montgomery.
My nephew guid, the Douglas said,
What recks the death of ane
Last night I drcani'd a dreary dream,
But I ken the day's thy ain.

My wonnd 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,
Benoath 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!

Related Links
From Genuine Scottish Melodies and
*The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.
**Also from Steve Roud's Broadside Ballad Index.