« PreviousContinue »
All these he pronounced mere harbingers of great discoveries he had yet to make, which would add realms of incalculable wealth to the dominions of their majesties, and whole nations of proselytes to the true faith.
The words of Columbus were listened to with profound emotion by the sovereigns. When he had finished they sunk on their knees, and, raising their clasped hands to heaven, their eyes filled with tears of joy and gratitude, they poured forth thanks and praises to God for so great a providence, all present followed their example; a deep and solemn enthusiasm pervaded that splendid assembly, and prevented all common acclamations of triumph. The anthem of Te Deum Laudamus, chanted by the choir of the royal chapel, with the melodious accompaniments of the instruments, rose up from the midst in a full body of sacred harmony, bearing up as it were the feelings and thoughts of the auditors to heaven; “ so that,” says the venerable Las Casas, “ it seemed as if in that hour they communicated with celestial delights.” Such was the solemn and pious manner in which the brilliant court of Spain celebrated this sublime event, offering up a grateful tribute of melody and praise, and giving glory to God for the discovery of another world.
[The following analysis of the famous ballad of. Chevy Chase' is by the late Allan Cunningham, and originally appeared in The Penny Magazine.' We shall select from the same source some account of a few other relics of our ancient Minstrelsy.]
To Bishop Percy in the south, and Sir Walter Scott in the north, we owe the recovery, as well as restoration, of some of our finest historical ballads, strains alike welcome to the rude and the polished, and not dear alone, as Warton avers, to savage virtue, and tolerated only before civil policy had humanized our ancestors. They won the admiration of the chivalrous Sidney, and the praise of the classic Addison; they moved the gentlest hearts and the strongest minds, and, though rough and often unmelodious, shared the public love with
the polished compositions of our noblest poets; and their influence is still felt throughout our land, but more especially among the hills and glens and old towers of the northern border.
The battle of Chevy Chase had its origin in the rivalry of the Percies and Douglases for honour and arms: their castles and lands lay on the border; their pennons oft met on the marches; their war-cries were raised either in hostility or defiance when the border riders assembled; and though the chiefs of those haughty names had encountered on fields of battle, this seemed to stimulate rather than satisfy their desire of glory: in the spirit of those chivalrous times Percy made a vow that he would enter Scotland, take his pleasure in the Border woods for three summer-days, and slay at his will the deer on the domains of his rival. “Tell him,” said Douglas, when the vaunt was reported, “tell him he will find one day more than enough.” Into Scotland, with 1500 chosen archers and greyhounds for the chase, Percy marched accordingly, at the time “ when yeomen win their hay;" the dogs ran, the arrows flew, and great was the slaughter among the bucks of the Border. As Percy stood and gazed on “a hundred fallow deer” and “harts of grice," and tasted wine and venison hastily cooked under the greenwood tree, he said to his men, " Douglas vowed he would meet me here; but since he is not come, and we have fulfilled our promise, let us be gone." With that one of his squires exclaimed
Lo, yonder doth Earl Douglas come,
His men in armour bright,
All marching in our sight;
Fast by the river Tweed :
And take your bows with speed.
It was indeed high time to quit the chase of the deer, and feel that their bowstrings were unchafed and serviceable, for stern work was at hand. The coming of the Scots is announced with a proper minstrel flourish:
Earl Douglas on his milk-white steed,
Most like a baron bold,
Whose armour shone like gold.
Show me, said he, bose men you be,
That hunt so boldis here;
And kill my fallow deer.
To this haughty demand the first man that made answer was Perey himself: he replied, " We choose not to say whose men we are ; but We will risk our best blood to slay these fallow deer." "By St. Bride, then, one of us shall die!" exclaimed Douglas in anger. “I know thee; thou art an earl as well as myself, and a Perey too : so set thy men aside, for they have done me no offence; draw thy sword, and let us settle this feud ourselves." And he sprang to the ground as he spoke. "Be he accursed," replied Percy, “who says nay to this;" and he drew his sword also :
Then stepp'd a gallant squire forth,
Witherington was his name;
To Henry our King for shame,
And I stood looking on;
And I a squire alone.
While I have power to stand:
I 11 fight with heart and hand.
This resolution met with the instant support of the English bowmen. The Scottish writers allege that it was acceptable to the chiefs on the southern side, who could not but feel that their Percy was no match for the terrible Douglas. Be that as it may, the interposition of Witherington was seconded by a flight of arrows :
Our English archers bent their bows,
Their hearts were good and true:
Full fourscore Scots they slew.
This sudden discharge and severe execution did not dismay Douglas: his “men of pleasant Teviotdale” levelled their spears and rushed on
the English archers, who, throwing aside their bows, engaged in close contest with sword and axe :
The battle closed on every side,
No slackness there was found,
Lay gasping on the ground.
And likewise for to hear,
And scatter'd here and there.
In the midst of the strife the two leaders met, and that single combat ensued which Witherington had laboured to prevent: they were both clad in complete mail, and the encounter was fierce :
They fought until they both did sweat,
With swords of temper'd steel ; •
They trickling down did feel.
“Yield thee, Percy,” exclaimed Douglas, who seems to have thought that he had the best of it: “ Yield thee. I shall freely pay thy ransom, and thy advancement shall be high with our Scottish King," This was resented by the high-souled Englishman :
No, Douglas, quoth Earl Percy then,
Thy proffer I do scorn:
That ever yet was born.
During this brief parley the contest among their followers raged far and wide; nor had the peril of Percy been unobserved by one who had the power to avert it: as he uttered the heroic sentiments recorded in the last verse, an end-a not uncommon one in those days—was put to the combat between the two earls :
With that there came an arrow keen
Out of an English bow,
A deep and deadly blow.
“ Fight on, my merry men," exclaimed the espiring hero. Percy was deeply moved: he took the dead man by the hand, and said, “ Earl Douglas, I would give all my lands to save thee: a more redoubted knight never perished hy such a chance." The fall of Douglas was seen from a distant part of the strife by a gallant knight of Scotland, who vowed instant vengeance :
Sir Hugh Montgomery was he call’d,
Who with a spear most bright,
Rode fiercely through the fight.
Without or dread or fear,
He thrust his hateful spear.
He did his body gore,
A long cloth yard and more.
The career of the Scot and the fall of the Englishman were observed and avenged. The Scottish spear, the national weapon of the north, was employed against Percy; the cloth yard shaft, the national weapon of the south, was directed against Montgomery :
Thus did those two bold nobles die,
Whose courage none could stain.
His noble lord was slain.
Made of a trusty tree;
Unto the head drew he.
So right his shaft he set;
In his heart's blood was wet.