The Battle of Otterburn was fought on August 5, 1388. The fight was initiated by James, the 2nd Earl Douglas, against an English force under Henry “Hotspur” Percy. Douglas’ side won, but the battle cost him, and Scotland, his life.
Sir Walter Scott collected a ballad titled “Battle of Otterbourne” in his “Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border”:
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.
He chose the Gordons and the Graemes,
With them the Lindesays, light and gay;
But the Jardines wald not with him ride,
And they rue it to this day.
And he has burn'd the dales of Tyne,
And part of Bambrough shire;
And three good towers on Roxburgh fells,
He left them all on fire.
And he march'd up to Newcastle,
And rode it round about;
"O wha's the lord of this castle,
"Or wha's the lady o't?"
But up spake proud Lord Percy, then,
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,
"Sae weel it pleases me!
"For, ere I cross the border fells,
"The tane of us shall die."
He took a lang spear in his hand.
Shod with the metal free,
And for to meet the Douglas there,
He rode right furiouslie.
But O how pale his lady look'd,
Frae aff the castle wa',
When down, before the Scottish spear,
She saw proud Percy fa',
"Had we twa been upon the green,
"And never an eye to see,
I wad hae had you, flesh and fell;
"But your sword sall gae wi' me."
"But gae ye up to Otterbourne,
"And wait there dayis three;
And, if I come not ere three dayis end,
"A fause knight ca' ye me."
"The Otterbourne's a bonnie burn;
"'Tis pleasant there to be;
"But there is nought at Otterbourne,
"To feed my men and me.
"The deer rins wild on hill and dale,
"The birds fly wild from tree to tree;
"But there is neither bread nor kale,
"To fend my men and me.
"Yet I will stay at Otterbourne,
"Where you shall welcome be;
"And, if ye come not at three dayis end,
"A fause lord I'll ca' thee."
"Thither will I come," proud Percy said,
"By the might of Our Ladye!"--
"There will I bide thee," said the Douglas,
"My trowth I plight to thee."
They lighted high on Otterbourne,
Upon the bent sae brown;
They lighted high on Otterbourne,
And threw their pallions down.
And he that had a bonnie boy,
Sent out his horse to grass;
And he that had not a bonnie boy,
His ain servant he was.
But up then spake a little page,
Before the peep of dawn--
"O waken ye, waken ye, my good lord,
"For Percy's hard at hand."
"Ye lie, ye lie, ye liar loud!
"Sae loud I hear ye lie:
For Percy had not men yestreen,
"To dight my men and me."
"But I hae dream'd a dreary dream,
"Beyond the Isle of Sky;
"I saw a dead man win a fight,
"And I think that man was I."
He belted on his good braid sword,
And to the field he ran;
But he forgot the helmet good,
That should have kept his brain.
When Percy wi' the Douglas met,
I wat he was fu' 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 he call'd on his little foot-page.
And said--"Run speedilie,
"And fetch my ain dear sister's son,
"Sir Hugh Montgomery."
"My nephew good," the Douglas said,
"What recks the death of ane!
"Last night I dream'd a dreary dream,
"And I ken the day's thy ain,
"My wound is deep; I fain would sleep;
"Take thou the vanguard of the three,
"And hide me by the braken bush,
"That grows on yonder lilye lee,
"O bury me by the braken bush,
"Beneath the blooming briar;
"Let never living mortal ken,
"That ere a kindly Scot lies here."
He lifted up that noble lord,
Wi' the saut tear in his e'e;
He hid him in the braken bush,
That his merrie men might not see.
The moon was clear, the day drew near,
The spears in flinders flew,
But mony a gallant Englishman,
Ere day the Scotsmen slew.
The Gordons good, in English blood,
They steep'd their hose and shoon;
The Lindsays flew like fire about,
Till all the fray was done.
The Percy and Montgomery met,
That either of other were fain;
They swapped swords, and they twa swat,
And aye the blude ran down between.
"Yield thee, O yield thee, Percy!" he said,
"Or else I vow I'll lay thee low!"
"Whom to shall I yield," said Earl Percy,
"Now that I see it must be so?"
"Thou shalt not yield to lord nor loun,
"Nor yet shalt thou yield to me;
"But yield thee to the braken bush,
"That grows upon yon lilye lee!"
"I will not yield to a braken bush,
"Nor yet will I yield to a briar;
But I would yield to Earl Douglas,
"Or Sir Hugh the Montgomery, if he were here."
As soon as he knew it was Montgomery,
He stuck his sword's point in the gronde;
And the Montgomery was a courteous knight,
And quickly took him by the honde.
This deed was done at Otterbourne,
About the breaking of the day;
Earl Douglas was buried at the braken bush,
And the Percy led captive away.