Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c./Part 1/Sir Bertine Entwisel

Part I: Legends and Traditions; Sir Bertine Entwisel.


In Roby's "Traditions of Lancashire" is given "the ballad of Sir Bertine, the famous Lancashire knight, who was killed at St Alban's, fighting for the glorious Red Rose of Lancashire." A marble tablet to his memory, erected by a descendant in the parish church of St Chad, Rochdale, states that he was Viscount and Baron of Brybeke in Normandy, and sometime bailiff of Constantin; that he distinguished himself in arms in the service of his sovereigns Henry V. and Henry VI., more particularly at Agincourt; and that he was killed at the first battle of St Alban's, "fighting on King Henry VI. party, 28th May 1455. On whose sowl Jesu have mercy." The story goes, that being summoned by Henry VI., to aid him against his foes, he went at the head of a body of his retainers, men-at-arms, spears and lances, to join the King, notwithstanding the entreaties of his wife and daughter that he would stay at home. In his absence the ladies were startled by various evil omens; the great bell of the hall tolled without human hands; fingers tapped outside the casements; heavy footsteps, as of an armed man, were heard upon the stairs and in the chambers; and these evil auguries received their solution in an aged man appearing at the hall on the third day, bearing the bloody signet ring of Sir Bertine, and telling his wretched widow that he was slain in battle, and buried in the Priory of St Alban's.

"The brave Sir Bertine Entwisel
Hath donned his coat of steel,
And left his hall, his stately home,
To fight for England's weal.

"To fight for England's weal, I trow,
And good King Harry's right;
His loyal heart was warm and true,
His sword and buckler bright.
"That sword, once felt the craven foe,
Its hilt was black with gore;
And many a mother's son did rue
His might at Agincourt.

"And now he stately steps his hall—
'A summons from the King?
My armour bright, my casque and plume,
My sword and buckler bring.

"'Blow, warder, blow; thy horn is shrill;
My liegemen hither call;
For I must away to the south countrie,
And spears and lances all.'

"'Oh, go not to the south countrie!'
His lady weeping said;
'0h, go not to the battle-field,
For I dreamed of the waters red!'

"'Oh, go not to the south countrie,'
Cried out his daughter dear;
'Oh, go not to the bloody fight,
For I dreamed of the waters clear!'

"Sir Bertine raised his dark vizor,
And he kissed his fond lady;
'I must away to the wars and fight,
For our King in jeopardy!'

"The lady gat her to the tower,
She clomb the battlement;
She watched and greet, while thro' the woods
The glittering falchions went.

"The wind was high, the storm grew loud,
Fierce rose the billowy sea;
When from Sir Bertine's lordly tower
The bell boomed heavily.

"'O mother dear! what bodes that speech
From yonder iron tongue?'
Tis but the rude, rude blast, my love,
That idle bell hath swung.'

"Upon the rattling casement still
The beating rain fell fast,
"When creeping fingers, wandering thrice,
Across that window passed.

"'O mother dear! what means that sound
Upon the lattice nigh?'
Tis but the cold, cold arrowy sleet,
That hurtles in the sky.'

"The blast was still—a pause more dread
Ne'er terror felt—when, lo!
An armed footstep on the stair
Clanked heavily and slow.
"Up flew the latch and tirling pin;
Wide swung the grated door;
Then came a solemn, stately tread
Upon the quaking floor!

"A shudder through the building ran,
A chill and icy blast;
A moan, as tho' in agony
Some viewless spirit passed.
"'O mother dear, my heart is froze,
My limbs are stark and cold:'
Her mother spake not, for again
That turret-bell hath tolled.
"Three days passed by; at eventide
There came an aged man;
He bent him low before the dame,
His wrinkled cheek was wan,
"'Now speak, thou evil messenger,
Thy biddings show to me.'
That aged man nor look vouchsafed,
Nor ever a word spake he.

"'What bringest thou?' the lady said,
'I charge thee by the rood.'
He drew a signet from his hand;
'Twas speckled o'er with blood.

"'Thy husband's grave is wide and deep;
In St Alban's Priory
His body lies; but on his soul
Christ Jesu have mercy!