"Chevy Chase" is, most likely, a corruption of the French word chevauchee, which meant a dash over the border for destruction and plunder within the English pale. Chevauchee was the French equivalent to the Scottish border raid. Close relations between France and Scotland arose out of their common interest in checking movements towards their conquest by the kings of England, and many French words were used with a homely turn in Scottish common speech. Even that national source of joy, "great chieftain of the pudding-race," the haggis, has its name from the French hachis. At the end of the old ballad of "Chevy Chase," which reads the corrupted word into a new sense, as the Hunting on the Cheviot Hills, there is an identifying of the Hunting of the Cheviot with the Battle of Otterburn:--
"Old men that knowen the ground well enough call it the Battle of Otterburn. At Otterburn began this spurn upon a Monenday; There was the doughty Douglas slain, the Percy never went away."
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."