The Text is from Thomas Deloney's Pleasant History of John Winchcomb, the eighth edition of which, in 1619, is the earliest known. 'In disgrace of the Soots,' says Deloney, 'and in remembrance of the famous atchieved historie, the commons of England made this song, which to this day is not forgotten of many.' I suspect it was Deloney himself rather than the commons of England who made this song. A variant is found in Additional MS. 32,380 in the British Museum--a statement which might be of interest if it were not qualified by the addition 'formerly in the possession of J. Payne Collier.' That egregious antiquary took the pains to fill the blank leaves of a sixteenth-century manuscript with ballads either copied from their original sources, as this from Deloney, or forged by Collier himself; he then made a transcript in his own handwriting (Add. MS. 32,381), and finally printed selections. In the present ballad he has inserted two or three verses of his own; otherwise the changes from Deloney's ballad are slight.
[Footnote 1: Reprinted from the ninth edition of 1633 by J. O. Halliwell [-Phillipps], 1859, where the ballad appears on pp. 48-9. Deloney's book was licensed in 1597.]
A very long ballad on the same subject is in the Percy Folio, and similar copies in Harleian MSS. 293 and 367. Another is 'Scotish Field,' also in the Percy Folio.
The Story.--Lesley says in his History, 'This battle was called the Field of Flodden by the Scotsmen and Brankston [Bramstone, 8.3] by the Englishmen, because it was stricken on the hills of Flodden beside a town called Brankston; and was stricken the ninth day of September, 1513.'
The ballad follows history closely. 'Lord Thomas Howard' (6.1), uncle to the queen, escorted her to Scotland in 1503: 'This is ground enough,' says Child, 'for the ballad's making him her chamberlain ten years later.'
'Jack with a feather' (12.1) is a contemptuous phrase directed at King James's rashness.
King Jamie hath made a vow,
Keep it well if he may!
That he will be at lovely London
Upon Saint James his day.
'Upon Saint James his day at noon,
At fair London will I be,
And all the lords in merry Scotland,
They shall dine there with me.'
Then bespake good Queen Margaret,
The tears fell from her eye:
'Leave off these wars, most noble king,
Keep your fidelity.
'The water runs swift and wondrous deep,
From bottom unto the brim;
My brother Henry hath men good enough;
England is hard to win.'
'Away,' quoth he, 'with this silly fool!
In prison fast let her lie:
For she is come of the English blood,
And for those words she shall die.'
With that bespake Lord Thomas Howard,
The queen's chamberlain that day:
'If that you put Queen Margaret to death,
Scotland shall rue it alway.'
Then in a rage King James did say,
'Away with this foolish mome!
He shall be hanged, and the other be burned,
So soon as I come home.'
At Flodden Field the Scots came in,
Which made our English men fain;
At Bramstone Green this battle was seen,
There was King Jamie slain.
Then presently the Scots did fly,
Their cannons they left behind;
Their ensigns gay were won all away,
Our soldiers did beat them blind.
To tell you plain, twelve thousand were slain
That to the fight did stand,
And many prisoners took that day,
The best in all Scotland.
That day made many [a] fatherless child,
And many a widow poor,
And many a Scottish gay lady
Sat weeping in her bower.
Jack with a feather was lapt all in leather,
His boastings were all in vain;
He had such a chance, with a new morrice dance,
He never went home again.
Flodden Field by Frank Sidgwick