The Battle of Flodden Field

’TWAS on the 9th of September, a very beautiful day,
That a numerous English army came in grand array,
And pitched their tents on Flodden field so green
In the year of our Lord fifteen hundred and thirteen.

And on the ridge of Braxton hill the Scottish army lay,
All beautifully arrayed, and eager for the fray,
And near by stood their noble king on that eventful day,
With a sad and heavy heart, but in it no dismay.

And around him were his nobles, both in church and state,
And they felt a little dispirited regarding the king’s fate;
For the independence of bonnie Scotland was at stake,
And if they lost the battle, many a heart would break.

And as King James viewed the enemy he really wondered,
Because he saw by them he was greatly outnumbered,
And he knew that the struggle would be desperate to the last,
And for Scotland’s weal or woe the die was cast.

The silence of the gathered armies was very still
Until some horsemen began to gallop about the brow of the hill,
Then from rank to rank the signal for attack quickly flew,
And each man in haste to his comrade closely drew.

Then the Scottish artillery opened with a fearful cannonade;
But the English army seemed to be not the least afraid,
And they quickly answered them by their cannon on the plain;
While innocent blood did flow, just like a flood of rain.

But the artillery practice very soon did cease,
Then foe met foe foot to foot, and the havoc did increase,
And, with a wild slogan cry, the Highlanders bounded down the hill,
And many of the English vanguard, with their claymores, they did kill.

Then, taken by surprise and the suddenness of the attack,
The vanguard of the English army instantly fell back,
But rallied again immediately– to be beaten back once more,
Whilst beneath the Highlanders’ claymores they fell by the score.

But a large body of horsemen came to the rescue,
And the wing of the Scottish army they soon did subdue;
Then swords and spears clashed on every side around,
While the still air was filled with a death-wailing sound.

Then King James thought he’d strike an effective blow-
So he ordered his bodyguard to the plain below,
And all the nobles that were in his train,
To engage the foe hand to hand on that bloody plain.

And to them the din of battle was only a shout of glory:
But for their noble king they felt a little sorry,
Because they knew he was sacrificing a strong position,
Which was to his army a very great acquisition.

But King James was resolved to have his own will,
And he wouldn’t allow the English to come up the hill,
Because he thought he wasn’t matching himself equally against the foe;
So the nobles agreed to follow their leader for weal or woe.

’Twas then they plunged down into the thick of the fight,
And the king fought like a lion with all his might;
And in his cause he saw his nobles falling on every side around,
While he himself had received a very severe wound.

And the English archers were pouring in their shafts like hail
And swords and spears were shivered against coats of mail,
And the king was manfully engaged contesting every inch of ground,
While the cries of the dying ascended up to heaven with a pitiful sound.

And still around the king the battle fiercely raged,
While his devoted followers were hotly engaged,
And the dead and the dying were piled high all around,
And alas! the brave king had received the second wound.

The Scottish army was composed of men from various northern isles,
Who had travelled, no doubt, hundreds of miles;
And with hunger and fatigue many were like to faint,
But the brave heroes uttered no complaint.

And heroically they fought that day on behalf of their king,
Whilst around him they formed a solid ring;
And the king was the hero of the fight,
Cutting, hacking, and slashing left and right.

But alas! they were not proof against the weapons of the foe,
Which filled their hearts with despair and woe;
And, not able to maintain their close form, they were beaten back,
And Lennox and Argyle, their leaders, were slain, alack!

And the field became so slippery with blood they could scarcely stand,
But in their stocking-feet they fought hand to hand,
And on both sides men fell like wheat before the mower,
While the cheers from both armies made a hideous roar.

Then King James he waved his sword on high,
And cried, “Scotsmen, forward! and make the Saxons fly;
And remember Scotland’s independence is at stake,
So charge them boldly for Scotland’s sake.”

So grooms, lords, and knights fought all alike,
And hard blows for bonnie Scotland they did strike,
And swords and spears loudly did clatter,
And innocent blood did flow like water.

But alas! the king and his nobles fought in vain,
And by an English billman the king was slain;
Then a mighty cheer from the English told Scotland’s power had fled,
And King James the Fourth of Scotland, alas! was dead!

Further Reading


Wikipedia Article

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Comments (5) »

  1. Norman Kendrick
    In the year 2013, on the 23rd day of June at 3:05 pm

    Hello from Canada, I am a poet too and I have visited Flodden and I was moved to write a poem. It will appear soon.

    I enjoyed this poem with its underlying sadness and despair. I picked up on the details of the conflict and could smell the stench of spilled organs trampled beneath the horse’s hooves, the horse excretions, burnt gunpowder and the screaming. The smell of blood would be minimised beneath this greater stench. The mind pulls back from this horror but is dragged along until the King’s death. Silence… for a while. Until the crows take notice. And carnivores, downwind, smell the glorious aroma…

    Fanciful??? Visit Flodden. Read the poem again…and scream… at man’s…

  2. Roz
    In the year 2014, on the 10th day of January at 3:33 pm

    I was under the impression that the following was in this poem:
    Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

  3. Chris Hunt
    In the year 2014, on the 13th day of January at 8:41 am

    Right battle, wrong poem. That line comes from “Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field” by Sir Walter Scott. At rather the opposite end of the quality scale to poor William’s effort, but I suspect more people read McGonagall today than read Scott, so go figure.

  4. phil woods
    In the year 2014, on the 17th day of March at 7:07 pm

    We know what to expect from his poems, but I didn’t realize his knowledge of history was so poor the Scottish invaded England after making a pact not to while the army was out the country, they had the latest weapons imported from France and men in greater numbers, the English just fought better and many of the Scottish deserted the field.

  5. Dan E
    In the year 2018, on the 15th day of April at 11:59 am

    Yes if there is one thing that William can be credited with it is being informative, however he seems to be overstretching the point here when he says the Scottish were out numbered. They started off with 60,000 strong but after desertions were down to 35-40,000, the English were 26,000.The losses were 4000 English and 10,000 Scottish. Well as Captain Mainwaring of Dad’s Army would say “We left Gerry licking their wounds after Dunkirk”!

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