Percy's Reliques - Brave Lord Willoughbey.

Brave Lord Willoughbey.

            Peregrine Bertie, Lord Willoughby of Eresby[ 1] had, in the year 1586, distinguished himself at the siege of Zutphen, in the Low Countries. He was the year after made general of the English forces in the United Provinces, in room of the Earl of Leicester, who was recalled. This gave him an opportunity of signalizing his courage and military skill in several actions against the Spaniards. One of these, greatly exaggerated by popular report, is probably the subject of this old ballad, which, on account of its flattering encomiums on English valour, hath always been a favourite with the people.

            "My Lord Willoughbie (says a contemporary writer) was one of the queenes best swordsmen . . . he was a great master of the art military . . . I have heard it spoken, that had he not slighted the court, but applied himself to the queene, he might have enjoyed a plentifull portion of her grace; and it was his saying, and it did him no good, that he was none of the reptilia; intimating, that he could not creepe on the ground, and that the court was not his element; for indeed, as he was a great souldier, so he was of suitable magnanimitie, and could not brooke the obsequiousnesse and assiduitie of the court."--(Naunton.)

            Lord Willoughbie died in 1601. Both Norris and Turner were famous among the military men of that age.

            The subject of this ballad (which is printed from an old black-letter copy, with some conjectural emendations), may possibly receive illustration from what Chapman says in the dedication to his version of Homer's Frogs and Mice, concerning the brave and memorable retreat of Sir John Norris, with only 1000 men, through the whole Spanish army, under the Duke of Parma, for three miles together.

THE fifteenth day of July,
With glistering spear and shield,
A famous fight in Flanders
Was foughten in the field:
The most couragious officers
Were English captains three;
But the bravest man in battel
Was brave Lord Willoughbèy.

The next was Captain Norris,
A valiant man was hee:
The other Captain Turner,
From field would never flee.
With fifteen hundred fighting men,
Alas! there were no more,
They fought with fourteen thousand then,
Upon the bloody shore.

"Stand to it, noble pikemen,
And look you round about:
And shoot you right, you bow-men,
And we will keep them out:
You musquet and calliver men,
Do you prove true to me,
I'le be the formost man in fight,"
Says brave Lord Willoughbèy.

And then the bloody enemy
They fiercely did assail,
And fought it out most furiously,
Not doubting to prevail:
The wounded men on both sides fell
Most pitious for to see,
Yet nothing could the courage quell
Of brave Lord Willoughbèy.

For seven hours to all mens view
This fight endured sore,
Until our men so feeble grew
That they could fight no more;
And then upon dead horses
Full savourly they eat,
And drank the puddle water,
They could no better get.

When they had fed so freely,
They kneeled on the ground,
And praised God devoutly
For the favour they had found;
And beating up their colours,
The fight they did renew,
And turning tow'rds the Spaniard,
A thousand more they slew.

The sharp steel-pointed arrows,
And bullets thick did fly,
Then did our valiant soldiers
Charge on most furiously;
Which made the Spaniards waver,
They thought it best to flee,
They fear'd the stout behaviour
Of brave Lord Willoughbèy.

Then quoth the Spanish general,
"Come let us march away,
I fear we shall be spoiled all
If here we longer stay;
For yonder comes Lord Willoughbey
With courage fierce and fell,
He will not give one inch of way
For all the devils in hell."

And then the fearful enemy
Was quickly put to flight,
Our men persued courageously,
And caught their forces quite;
But at last they gave a shout,
Which ecchoed through the sky,
"God, and St. George for England!"
The conquerors did cry.

This news was brought to England
With all the speed might be,
And soon our gracious queen was told
Of this same victory.
"O this is brave Lord Willoughbey,
My love that ever won,
Of all the lords of honour
'Tis he great deeds hath done."

To the souldiers that were maimed,
And wounded in the fray,
The queen allowed a pension
Of fifteen pence a day;
And from all costs and charges
She quit and set them free:
And this she did all for the sake
Of brave Lord Willoughbèy.

Then courage, noble Englishmen,
And never be dismaid;
If that we be but one to ten,
We will not be afraid
To fight with foraign enemies,
And set our nation free.
And thus I end the bloody bout
Of brave Lord Willoughbey.

NOTES

1. Lord Willoughby was the son of the noble lady who figures as the heroine of the well-known ballad The Duchess of Suffolk's Calamity.-- Editor.

 

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