The Battle of Otterburn was fought on the 19th of August 1388. The Scots were to muster at Jedburgh for a raid into England. The Earl of Northumberland and his sons, learning the strength of the Scottish gathering, resolved not to oppose it, but to make a counter raid into Scotland. The Scots heard of this and divided their force. The main body, under Archibald Douglas and others, rode for Carlisle. A detachment of three or four hundred men-at-arms and two thousand combatants, partly archers, rode for Newcastle and Durham, with James Earl of Douglas for one of their leaders. These were already pillaging and burning in Durham when the Earl of Northumberland first heard of them, and sent against them his sons Henry and Ralph Percy. In a hand-to-hand fight between Douglas and Henry Percy, Douglas took Percy's pennon. At Otterburn the Scots overcame the English but Douglas fell, struck by three spears at once, and Henry was captured in fight by Lord Montgomery. There was a Scots ballad on the Battle of Otterburn quoted in 1549 in a book--"The Complaynt of Scotland"-- that also referred to the Hunttis of Chevet. The older version of "Chevy Chase" is in an Ashmole MS. in the Bodleian, from which it was first printed in 1719 by Thomas Hearne in his edition of William of Newbury's History. Its author turns the tables on the Scots with the suggestion of the comparative wealth of England and Scotland in men of the stamp of Douglas and Percy. The later version, which was once known more widely, is probably not older than the time of James I., and is the version praised by Addison in Nos. 70 and 74 of "The Spectator."
"The Nut-Brown Maid," in which we can hardly doubt that a woman pleads for women, was first printed in 1502 in Richard Arnold's Chronicle. Nut-brown was the old word for brunette. There was an old saying that "a nut-brown girl is neat and blithe by nature."
"Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudeslie" was first printed by Copland about 1550. A fragment has been found of an earlier impression. Laneham, in 1575, in his Kenilworth Letter, included "Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudeslie" among the light reading of Captain Cox. In the books of the Stationers' Company (for the printing and editing of which we are deeply indebted to Professor Arber), there is an entry between July 1557 and July 1558, "To John kynge to prynte this boke Called Adam Bell etc. and for his lycense he giveth to the howse." On the 15th of January 1581-2 "Adam Bell" is included in a list of forty or more copyrights transferred from Sampson Awdeley to John Charlewood; "A Hundred Merry Tales" and Gower's "Confessio Amantis" being among the other transfers. On the 16th of August 1586 the Company of Stationers "Alowed vnto Edward white for his copies these fyve ballades so that they be tollerable:" four only are named, one being "A ballad of William Clowdisley, never printed before." Drayton wrote in the "Shepheard's Garland" in 1593:--
"Come sit we down under this hawthorn tree, The morrow's light shall lend us day enough-- And tell a tale of Gawain or Sir Guy, Of Robin Hood, or of good Clem of the Clough."
Ben Jonson, in his "Alchemist," acted in 1610, also indicates the current popularity of this tale, when Face, the housekeeper, brings Dapper, the lawyer's clerk, to Subtle, and recommends him with--
"'slight, I bring you No cheating Clim o' the Clough or Claribel."
"Binnorie," or "The Two Sisters," is a ballad on an old theme popular in Scandinavia as well as in this country. There have been many versions of it. Dr. Rimbault published it from a broadside dated 1656. The version here given is Sir Walter Scott's, from his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border," with a few touches from other versions given in Professor Francis James Child's noble edition of "The English and Scottish Popular Ballads," which, when complete, will be the chief storehouse of our ballad lore.
"King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid" is referred to by Shakespeare in "Love's Labour's Lost," Act iv. sc I; in "Romeo and Juliet," Act ii. sc. I; and in "II. Henry IV.," Act iii. sc. 4. It was first printed in 1612 in Richard Johnson's "Crown Garland of Goulden Roses gathered out of England's Royall Garden. Being the Lives and Strange Fortunes of many Great Personages of this Land, set forth in many pleasant new Songs and Sonnets never before imprinted."