"Show 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 show 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 out-braved 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 none ill.
"Let thou and I the battle try,
And set our men aside."
"Accurst be he," Earl Percy said,
"By whom it is denied."
Then stept 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 be two earls," quoth Witherington,
"And I a squire alone;
"I'll do the best that do I may,
While I have power to stand;
While I have power to wield my sword,
I'll 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 four score Scots they slew.
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 closed full fast on every side,
No slackness there was found,
But many a gallant gentleman
Lay gasping on the ground.
O Christ! it was great grief to see
How each man 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;
They made a cruel fight.
They fought until they both did sweat,
With swords of tempered steel,
Till blood down their cheeks like rain
They trickling down did feel.
"O yield thee, Percy!" Douglas said,
"And 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," quoth Earl Percy then,
"Thy proffer I do scorn;
I will not yield to any Scot
That ever yet was born."