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as well as the ballad of Auld Maitland, preserve, in its freshness, the thoroughly military spirit of the timethe exhilaration at the prospect of battle,
"That stern joy which warriors feel At foemen worthy of their steel."
These can be but meagre representatives, so far as number is concerned, of the lyrical poetry in which the struggle to maintain national independence was celebrated; but, when examined with care, they reveal the influence which must have been exerted by the literature they represent. There is in these ballads, as there was undoubtedly in all of the same group, an admiring love of the heroes who assumed the championship of the popular cause; while there is also the fierce hatred of the foe which characterises a warlike age.
"It's ne'er be said in France, nor e'er
In the ballads and songs of this period, therefore, we may see one of the influences which served to perpetuate the dread of any interference with Scottish independence, and the jealous dislike of England lest she might seize some opportunity to crush that independence. This dread and jealousy are visible, not only throughout the particular struggle in which they
1 From Auld Maitland. Another reading of the third line in this verse gives
"That Edward once lay under me;" but either reading illustrates the point of the quotation.
originated they weakened the hands of Knox and Murray, who were among the first Scotchmen to see clearly the identity of Scottish interests with those of England, while they strengthened the conservative French party at the court of Holyrood; they gave an additional bitterness to the long contest of the seventeenth century; they formed a principal obstacle to the Union of the century following; they put a fresh vigour into the dying struggle of the Stuart cause; they are still discernible in the strongly marked character which makes the Scotchman retain so many distinctive peculiarities of his country, even in the midst of powerful foreign influences; and they are now only beginning to give way before that wiser legislation and more frequent intercourse which are at last welding the two nations into one.
§ 2.-The Border Feuds.
The influence pointed out at the close of the previous section may be attributed to another group of ballads, but these possess some characteristics so distinctive that they are more appropriately gathered into a class by themselves. The general hostility between England and Scotland was, of course, hottest in the Border counties of each kingdom; and the special feuds between the clans on opposite sides of the Border paid little or no regard to the general relations of the two countries were, in fact, as likely to break out in peace as in war. This was owing mainly to two circumstances -the general system of warfare in feudal times, and the
special kind of warfare adopted by the Scots. Under the feudal system the defence of the Border was necessarily entrusted to the great families on either side; while the Scots, unable generally to cope in the open field with the armies of a comparatively populous and wealthy kingdom, carried on the war by retiring before the superior invading forces of the enemy, and retaliating in predatory raids. A state of society was thus created which aroused in intensity various human passions, such as form fit materials for the fierce minstrelsy of warlike tribes, and the habits of the people encouraged the minstrel to celebrate in song the exploits of favourite heroes.
The earliest Scottish ballad of this group is The Battle of Otterbourne, which is, without doubt, the finest of the historical ballads that have been preserved. The ballad refers to a chivalrous combat which took place in connection with one of the most formidable invasions of England ever made by the Scots. Their forces amounted to about 50,000, the main body entering by the west, while a small body of 2,000 or 3,000, under the Earl of Douglas, made a diversion in the east. The smaller division penetrated as far as Newcastle, where they were met by a force under Sir Henry Percy-the familiar Harry Hotspur, son of the Earl of Northumberland. In one of several passages at arms, Hotspur's pennon was carried off by Douglas. Incited by a chivalrous challenge from Douglas, Hotspur followed the little Scotch army with a force of above 8,000 men, and came upon it at Otterburn by moonlight on the 19th of August, 1388. The Scots were strongly en
camped; and after a bloody contest, in which Douglas was slain and Percy taken prisoner, the English were obliged to retire. This is one of the actions which fascinated most strongly the imagination of Froissart, and makes his narrative glow with his finest enthusiasm.1 But the features of the battle which attracted the chronicler of chivalry made the minstrels, on both sides of the Border, seize upon it as a splendid theme for their ballads. In the course of tradition the story assumed various forms; and the celebrated ballads of the Chevy Chase,2 though an attempt has been made to connect them with a different event, are undoubtedly to be ascribed to the treatment which the great tournament at Otterburn received among the popular poets: at least it would be gratifying if the license of the ballad-mongers always allowed us to trace their narratives so easily to the events in which these originated. It is now uncertain what form of these old songs about Percy and Douglas moved Sir Philip Sidney "more than with a trumpet ;" but few who retain any taste for our popular poetry can read the ballad of The Battle of Otterbourne without catching some of the enthusiasm which it must have kindled among the ruder audiences of the old times.
This ballad might, with sufficient propriety, be em
1 The reader will find some of the best episodes of Froissart selected by Scott in his notes to the ballad.
2 "In the changes to which traditional poetry is subjected, Chevy Chase connects itself with the Cheviot Hills; but the term is evidently a variation or corruption of chevauchée, which in the Norman-French of England meant the sort of plundering expedition now better known by its Scots name of raid."-BURTON'S History of Scotland, vol. iii. p. 67, note.
braced among the ballads described in the previous section, and it forms a fit transition to the Border ballads proper. For our purposes it is unnecessary to enter into a detailed narrative of the events celebrated in these ballads; but I shall endeavour to sketch some of the main characteristics by which the ballads are distinguished, that we may appreciate the influence which they have exerted on those by whom they have been sung.
It is exceedingly difficult, if precision is desired, to find one's way through a state of society so disorganized as that which appears in the Border ballads, so as to arrive at very definite conclusions as to the principles by which it was governed. The following statements must therefore be taken as true only in general, while admitting of occasional exceptions. The moral code, for example, of the Border ballads is, as a rule, plain even to naïveté. It is merely
"the good old rule,
That they should take who have the power,
For the most part, therefore, in these ballads there is implied, while in many there bursts out in exceedingly natural, straightforward language, an admiration, a worship of physical force-of sheer power to take, to hold what is taken, to retake what is lost, and, if retaking is impossible, to revenge at least. Let us see how this rude morality shows in some of the Border ballads.
The raiders who march to rescue Kinmont Willie