A Ballad, as you might be aware, is a narrative poem or a narrative song, in which the author narrates the story of a person or an event. If you are writing an essay on The Ballad of Chevy Chase, you will have to first understand the outline of the story narrated and the characters depicted, by the author.
Before you start writing the essay, you may also note that there were two versions of this ballad, both with the same name and narrating the same event. It has caused some confusion to have two versions of the same song discussed around. We can believe that both these songs narrate the event of the Battle of Otterburn, which is marked in the year of 1388, as it is mentioned so, but be warned that there is no historical evidence to support the facts about the battle. There seem to be other ballads written on the same battle, but under different names.
The first version is very crude and the language uncivilized. The exact or an even approximate year of origin cannot be figured out in this case nor the author, as is the case in many old ballads, the reason being that it was not written down before being sung around for quite some time. Just because the English was of a crude form, do not be mistaken that it was any bit inferior in its beauty of narration, than those which are of better language. It was as beautiful as the next one written under the same name.
The second one is assumed to have been written around 1620. This one is more discussed and liked due to the difference in the language. This second version is written in good English and has been considered one of the biggest favourites of the public. This also, clearly talks of the very same battle of Otterburn.
The battle seem to have taken place in Otterburn, a place ‘off the Cheviot Hills’, as is clearly mentioned in the first ballad. Percy, the English Earl of Northumberland, leads his hunting party into the Cheviot Hills, which explains the name of the ballad. This offends the Earl of Douglas, he had forbidden the same and he takes it as an invasion of Scotland. This becomes the cause of the battle which became famous through the ballads written on it. It can be assumed that the Scots were an army of around twenty hundred against a group of just fifteen hundred led by Percy.
The battle ends in a tragedy as both the Earls are killed, the Earl of Douglas by Percy and Percy by a revengeful soldier of the Earl of Douglas. It can also be stated, from the details given in the poem that, there were only around hundred survivors to the battle. It can be called a tragedy due to the cause which does not justify the deaths of so many people.
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