August 1 Anonymous

It fell about the Lammas tide,
When the muir men win their hay,
The doughty Earl of Douglas rode
Into England, to catch a prey.

Lammas tide is the 1st.August. So opens the Scottish version of a famous Border foray, also narrated in the fifteenth century English Ballad of Chevy Chase. Here the emotions are the spirit of defiance and battle; the joy of combat; and the grief of death. The clash was between Percy, Earl of Northumberland, and Douglas of Scotland; the music is the lilt of our old ballad metre.
Perhaps the finest moment is the fateful meeting of the two chieftains:

At last these two stout Earls did meet
Like captains of great might;
Like lions wode they laid on lode
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.“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 did never take.”


No wonder that the heroic Sir Philip Sidney, himself a soldier and a poet wrote: ‘Certainly I must confess my own barbarousness, I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet.’

Next: Horatius Lord Macaulay