William Chambers.

Chambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) online

. (page 57 of 58)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 57 of 58)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

did not know what to say. That child was awake wide awake
looking up at my face with eyes as bright, as blue, as deep as Burnt
Eagle's own. He wished me good-bye, and jogged on. I watched
him a long way, and then returned, full of all the importance which
the first knowledge of a singular event bestows. The circumstance
created a great sensation in the country. The gentry came from far
to visit Burnt Eagle's cottage. Civil he always was, but nothing
could be extracted from him relative to the history of his little pro-
tegees : the priest knew, of course, but that availed nothing to the
curious ; and at last, even in our quiet nook, where an event was
worn threadbare before it was done with, the excitement passed
away, and my mother and myself were the only two who remembered
the coincidence of the old man's emotion, the torn newspaper, and
Burnt Eagle's sudden disappearance.

Bess and Bell grew in beauty and in favour with the country.
They were called by various names 'Bess and Bell of Crab
Hall,' or ' Bess and Bell Burnt Aigle,' or ' Bess and Bell of the

For a long time after the old man's return, he was more retired
than he had been. He was melancholy, too, at times, and his prime
favourite Ailey declared ' there was no plasing him.' By degrees,
however, that moroseness softened down into his old, gentle, and
kindly habits. He would not accept gifts of money or food from


any of us, thanking us, but declining such favours firmly. ' I can-
work for the girleens still,' he would say ; ' and by the time I can't,,
plase God they '11 be able to work for themselves ; there 's many
wants help worse than me.' It was a beautiful example to the
country to see how those children were brought up ; they would net,
and spin, and weave baskets, and peel osiers, and sing like larks,
and weed flowers, and tie up nosegays, and milk the goats, and
gather shell-fish, and knit gloves and stockings, emulating the very
bees (of which their protector had grown a large proprietor) in
industry ; and in the evenings the old man would teach them to
read, and the nearest schoolmaster would come in and set them a
copy, for which Burnt Eagle, scrupulously exact, would pay night by
night, although the teacher always said ' it would be " time enough"
another time ;' and the old man would reply, while taking the pence
out of his stocking-purse, ' that there was no time like the present ;
and that if folks could not pay a halfpenny to-day, they would not
be likely to be able to pay a penny to-morrow.' The neighbours
laughed at his oddity. But prosperity excites" curiosity and imi-
tation ; and his simple road to distinction was frequently traversed.
Solitary as were his habits, his advice and humble assistance were
often asked, and always given.

When we left our old home, we went to bid him farewell. He was
full of a project for establishing a fishery, and said : ' Some one had
told him that the Irish seas were as productive as the Irish soil ;
that there was a new harvest every season, free of rent, tithe, or
taxes, and needing only boats, nets, and hardy hands to reap the
ocean-crop which Providence had sown. I 've spoke to the gentry
about it,' he said, 'but they say "they'll see about it," and it'll be
" time enough." If my grave could overlook a little set of boats'
he added, 'going out from our own place, I'd rest as comfortable
in it as on a bed of down ; but if they stick to " time enough," the
time will never come !'

I saw the old man no more ; but the last time I visited Kilbaggin
I stood by his grave. It was a fine moonlight evening in July, and
Bess and Bell the former being not only a wife, but a mother had
come to shew me his last resting-place : they had profited well by
his example, and Bess made her little boy kneel upon the green-
sward that covered his remains. ' He died beloved and respected
by rich and poor,' said Bell (Bess could not speak for weeping), ' and
had as grand a funeral as if he was a born gentleman, and the priest
and minister both at it ; and the Killbarries and Mulvaneys met it
without wheeling one shillala, and they sworn foes, only out of regard
to his memory, for the fine example he set the counthry, and the
love he bore it.'


OD prosper long our noble king,
Our lives and safeties all ;

A woful 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 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

When daylight did appear ;

And long before high noon they had

A hundred fat bucks slain ;
Then having dined, the drovers went

To rouse the deer again.

The bowmen mustered on the hills,

Well able to endure ;
And all their rear, with special care,

That day was guarded sure.

The hounds ran swiftly through the woods,

The nimble deer to take ;
That with their cries the hills and dales

An echo shrill did make.

Lord Percy to the quarry went,

To view the slaughtered 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 ;

All men of pleasant Teviotdale,

Fast by the river Tweed.'
' Then cease your sports,' Earl Percy said,

' And take your bows with speed :

And now with me, my countrymen,

Your courage forth advance ;
For never was there champion yet,

In Scotland or in France,



That ever did on horseback come,

But if my hap it were,
I durst encounter man for man,

With him to break a spear.'

Earl Douglas on his milk-white steed,

Most like a baron bold,
Rode foremost of his company,

Whose armour shone like gold.

' Shew 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 shew whose men we be :

Yet will we 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 outbraved be,

One of us two shall die :
I know thee well, an earl thou art,

Lord Percy, so am I.

But trust me, Percy, pity it were,

And great offence to kill
Any of these our guiltless men,

For they have done no ill.

Let you and me the battle try,

And set our men aside.'
* Accursed be he,' Earl Percy said,

' By whom this is denied.'

Then stepped a gallant squire forth,
Witherington was his name,

Who said : ' I would not have it told
To Henry, our king, for shame,

That e'er my captain fought on foot,

And I stood looking on.
You two be earls,' said Witherington,

' And I a squire alone :



I '11 do the best that do I may,

While I have power to stand :
While I have power to wield my sword,

I '11 fight with heart and hand.'

Our English archers bent their bows,

Their hearts were good and true ;
At the first flight of arrows sent,

Full fourscore Scots they slew.

Yet stays Earl Douglas on the bent,*

As chieftain stout and good ;
As valiant captain, all unmoved,

The shock he firmly stood.

His host he parted had in three,

As leader ware and tried ;
And soon his spearmen on their foes

Bore down on every side.

Throughout the English archery

They dealt full many a wound ;
But still our valiant Englishmen

All firmly kept their ground.

And throwing straight their bows away,
They grasped their swords so bright :

And now sharp blows, a heavy shower,
On shields and helmets light.

They closed full fast on every side,

No slackness there was found ;
And many a gallant gentleman

Lay gasping on the ground.

In truth ! it was a grief to see

How each one chose his spear,
And how the blood out of their breasts

Did gush like water clear.

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 :

This and the three ensuing stanzas were substituted by Dr Percy for one which he
considered obscure, as follows :

' To drive the deer with hound and horn,

Douglas bade on the bent ;
Two captains moved with mickle might,
Their spears to shivers went.'



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, Lord 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,' saith Earl Percy then,

1 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.

In truth ! my very heart doth bleed

With sorrow for thy sake ;
For sure a more redoubted knight

Mischance did never take.'

A knight amongst the Scots there was,

Who saw Earl Douglas die,
Who straight in wrath did vow revenge

Upon the Earl Percy :

Sir Hugh Mountgomery 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 a dread or fear ;
And through Earl Percy's body then

He thrust his hateful spear ;

With such vehement force and might

He did his body gore,
The staff ran through the other side

A large cloth yard and more.

So thus did both these nobles die,

Whose courage none could stain :
An English archer then perceived

The noble Earl was slain :

He had a bow bent in his hand,

Made of a trusty tree ;
An arrow of a cloth yard long

To the hard head haled he :

Against Sir Hugh Mountgomery

So right the shaft he set,
The gray goose wing that was thereon

In his heart's blood was wet.

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.

With stout Earl Percy there were slain

Sir John of Egerton,
Sir Robert Ratcliff, and Sir John,

Sir James, that bold baron.

And with Sir George and stout Sir James,

Both knights of good account,
Good Sir Ralph Raby there was slain,

Whose prowess did surmount.

For Witherington my heart is woe

That ever he slain should be,
For when his legs were hewn in two,

He knelt and fought on his knee.*

* This stanza is from the old ballad, as being preferable in all lespects to the correspond-
ing one in the new :

' For Witherington I needs must wail,

As one in doleful dumps,
For when his legs were smitten off,
He fought upon his stumps."



And with Earl Douglas there were slain

Sir Hugh Mountgomery,
Sir Charles Murray, that from the field

One foot would never flee.

Sir Charles Murray of Ratcliff, too,

His sister's son was he ;
Sir David Lamb, so well esteemed,

But saved he could not be.

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 in Chevy-Chase were slain,

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 blood,

They bore with them away ;
They kissed them dead a thousand times,

Ere they were clad in clay.

The news was brought to Edinburgh,
Where Scotland's king did reign,

That brave Earl Douglas suddenly
Was with an arrow slain :

' O heavy news,' King James did say,

' Scotland can witness be
I have not any captain more

Of such account as he.'

Like tidings to King Henry came

Within as short a space,
That Percy of Northumberland

Was slain in Chevy- Chase :


' Now God be with him,' said our king,

' Since 'twill no better be ;
I trust I have within my realm

Five hundred as good as he :

Yet shall not Scots or Scotland say

But I will vengeance take :
I '11 be revenged on them all,

For brave Earl Percy's sake.'

This vow full well the king performed

After at Humbledown ;
In one day fifty knights were slain,

With lords of high renown :

And of the rest, of small account,

Did many hundreds die ;
Thus endeth the hunting of Chevy- Chase,

Made by the Earl Percy.

God save the king, and bless this land,

With plenty, joy, and peace ;
And grant, henceforth, that foul debate

'Twixt noblemen may cease.*

* The popular balkd of Chevy-Chase, here reprinted, is believed to have been written
about the year 1600 ; but it was not an original composition. There was an older ballad of
.omewhat greater length, and more rudely constructed, as might be expected in a composi-
tion of earlier age. They are both printed in Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.
It is now believed that these ballads have no more than a foundation in fact. There
certainly existed in the fourteenth century a strong feeling of rivalry between the English
Earl of Northumberland and the Scottish Earl of Douglas, and this had in general ample
occasion for display in the wars then carried on between the two countries. In 1388, during
the reigns of Richard II. of England and Robert III. of Scotland, the Scots under
Douglas invaded and ravaged the English border. They were met at Otterbourne by an
English party under Henry Percy (surnamed Hotspur), son of the Earl of Northumber-
land, when a keen contest took place, which resulted in the captivity of Percy by the Scots,
who, however, had their triumph saddened by the death of their brave commander. The
known incidents of this fight furnish the chief materials of the ballad, both in its ancient
and comparatively modern form : but here a difficulty meets us. There is no historical record
of such an occasion for a battle as the hunting of Cheviot holds forth. It is nevertheless
not improbable that, amidst the mutual jealousies of these great lords, a Percy might
indulge in such a freak as hunting upon the grounds of his enemy, the Douglas, and that a
battle might be the consequence ; and indeed a fight did take place between these lords at
Pepperden, not far from the Cheviot Hills, in 1436. This might be the battle which the
poet meant to describe ; but, writing perhaps a hundred years after even that later incident,
he might easily confound the two conflicts, and give the transactions of the one in connec-
tion with the occasion of the other.

The modern version of Chevy-Chase is mainly an improvement upon the original ; but
it is scarcely so good in a few particular passages, and in one the meaning of the old
writer has been mistaken. This ballad has for ages been admired by the learned and
refined, as well as by the common people.

Chevy-Chase, the scene of the ballad, was the extensive hunting-ground afforded by
the Cheviot Hills between Scotland and England then partially covered with wood, and
stocked with deer and roe, though now bare, and devoted to sheep-pasture alone.




IT was a blind beggar had long lost his sight,
He had a fair daughter of beauty most bright :
And many a gallant brave suitor had she,
For none was so comely as pretty Bessie.

And though she was of favour most fair,
Yet seeing she was but a poor beggar's heir,
Of ancient housekeepers despised was she,
Whose sons came as suitors to pretty Bessie.

Wherefore in great sorrow fair Bessie did say :
* Good father and mother, let me go away
To seek out my fortune, whatever it be.*'
This suit then they granted to pretty Bessie.

Then Bessie that was of beauty so bright,
All clad in gray russet, and late in the night,
From father and mother alone parted she,
Who sighed and sobbed for pretty Bessie.

*This popular English ballad is believed to have been written in the reign of Elizabeth.
Like almost every other ballad which has been preserved principally by tradition, there
are various versions of it, all less or more differing from each other. The version we
have adopted is that which has appeared in The Book of British Ballads, a work of great
elegance and taste, edited by Mr S. C. Hall, having been revised by him from the version
in Dr Percys Reliques of English Poetry and a black-letter copy preserved in the British
Museum. The ballad in the British Museum is entitled The Rarest Ballad that ever was
seen of the Blind Beggar's Daughter of Bednal-Green. Printed by and for IV. Ouley ;
and are to be sold by C. Bates at the sign of the Sun and Bible in Pye Corner. With
reference to one of the main events in the ballad, history mentions that at the decisive
battle of Evesham, fought August 4, 1265, when Simon de Montfort, the great Earl of
Leicester, was slain at the head of the barons, his eldest son, Henry, fell by his side ; and
in consequence of that defeat his whole family sunk for ever, the king bestowing their
great honours and possessions on his second son, Edmund Earl of Lancaster. The
'angel,' a coin alluded to in the ballad, was of gold, and of the value of about ten shillings.
It received its name from having on one side a representation of archangel Michael killing
the dragon.


She went till she came to Stratford-le-Bow ;
Then knew she not whither, nor which way to go :
With tears she lamented her hard destiny,
So sad and so heavy was pretty Bessie.

She kept on her journey until it was day,
And went unto Rumford along the highway ;
Where at the Queen's Arms entertained was she,
So fair and well favoured was pretty Bessie.

She had not been there a month to an end,
But master and mistress and all was her friend ;
And every brave gallant that once did her see,
Was straightway in love with pretty Bessie.

Four suitors at once unto her did go ;
They craved her favour, but still she said ' No ;
I would not wish gentles to marry with me : '
Yet ever they honoured pretty Bessie.

The first of them was a gallant young knight,
And he came unto her disguised in the night :
The second a gentleman of good degree,
Who wooed and sued for pretty Bessie.

A merchant of London, whose wealth was not small,
He was the third suitor, and proper withal :
Her master's own son the fourth man must be,
Who swore he would die for pretty Bessie.

Then Bessie she sighed, and thus she did say :
' My father and mother I mean to obey ;
First get their good-will, and be faithful to me,
And you shall enjoy your pretty Bessie.'

To every one this answer she made ;

Wherefore unto her they joyfully said :

' This thing to fulfil we all do agree ;

But where dwells thy father, my pretty Bessie?'

' My father,' she said, ' is soon to be seen ;
The silly blind beggar of Bethnal-Green,
That daily sits begging for charity,
He is the good father of pretty Bessie.'


' Nay, then,' said the merchant, ' thou art not for me :'
' Nor,' said the innholder, ' my wife thou shalt be :'
' I loathe,' said the gentle, ' a beggar's degree,
And therefore adieu, my pretty Bessie ! '

'Why, then,' quoth the knight, ' hap better or worse,
I weigh not true love by the weight of the purse,
And beauty is beauty in every degree ;
Then welcome to me, my pretty Bessie.

With thee to thy father forthwith I will go.'
' Nay, soft,' said his kinsmen, ' it must not be so ;
A poor beggar's daughter no lady shall be,
Then take thy adieu of pretty Bessie.'

But soon after this, by break of the day,
The knight had from Rumford stole Bessie away.
The young men of Rumford, as sick as may be,
Rode after to fetch again pretty Bessie.

But rescue came speedily over the plain,
Or else the young knight for his love had been slain.
This fray being ended, then straightway he see
His kinsmen come railing at pretty Bessie.

Then spake the blind beggar : ' Although I be poor,
Yet rail not against my child at my own door ;
Though she be not decked in velvet and pearl,
Yet I will drop angels .with you for my girl.'

With that an angel he cast on the ground,

And dropped in angels full three thousand pound :

And oftentimes it was proved most plain,

For the gentleman's one the beggar dropped twain

So that the place wherein they did sit,

With gold it was covered every whit ;

The gentlemen then having dropt all their store,

Said : ' Now, beggar, hold, for we have no more.

Thou hast fulfilled thy promise aright.'
' Then marry,' said he, ' my girl to this knight ;
And here,' added he, ' I will now throw you down
A hundred pounds more to buy har a gown.' .


The gentlemen all, that this treasure had seen,
Admired the beggar of Bethnal- Green ;
And all those that were her suitors before,
Their flesh for very anger they tore.

Thus was fair Bessie matched to the knight,

And then made a lady in others' despite :

A fairer lady there never was seen,

Than the blind beggar's daughter of Bethnal-Green.

But of their sumptuous marriage and feast,
What brave lords and knights thither were prest,
The second fit shall set forth to your sight,
With marvellous pleasure and wished delight.


Of a blind beggar's daughter most fair and bright,
That late was betrothed unto a young knight,
All the discourse thereof you did see,
But now comes the wedding of pretty Bessie.

Within a gorgeous palace most brave,
Adorned with all the cost they could have,
This wedding was kept most sumptuously,
And all for the credit of pretty Bessie.

All kinds of dainties and delicates sweet
Were bought to the banquet, as it was most meet ;
Partridge, and plover, and venison most free,
Against the brave wedding of pretty Bessie.

This wedding through England was spread by report,
So that a great number thereto did resort
Of nobles and gentles in every degree,
And all for the fame of pretty Bessie.

To church then went this gallant young knight ;
His bride followed after, a lady most bright,
With troops of ladies, the like ne'er was seen,
As went with sweet Bessie of Bethnal-Green.

This marriage being solemnised then,
With music performed by the skilfulest men,
The nobles and gentles sat down at that tide,
Each one admiring the beautiful bride.



Now, after the sumptuous dinner was done,

To talk and to reason a number begun ;

They talked of the blind beggar's daughter most bright,

And what with his daughter he gave to the knight.

Then spake the nobles : ' Much marvel have we

This jolly blind beggar we cannot here see.'

' My lords,' said the bride, ' my father 's so base,

He is loath with his presence these states to disgrace.'

'The praise of a woman in question to bring
Before her own face were a flattering thing ;
But we think thy father's baseness,' said they,
' Might by thy beauty be clean put away.'

They had no sooner these pleasant words spoke,
But in comes the beggar clad in a silk cloak ;
A fair velvet cap, and a feather had he ;
And now a musician forsooth he would be.

He had a dainty lute under his arm,

He touched the strings, which made such a charm,

Said : ' Please you to hear any music of me,

I '11 sing you a song of pretty Bessie.'

With that his lute he twanged straightway,
And thereon began most sweetly to play ;
And after that lessons were played two or three,
He strained out this song most delicately.

'A poor beggar's daughter did dwell on a green,

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersChambers's miscellany of instructive & entertaining tracts (Volume 4) → online text (page 57 of 58)