صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

further, come after what may, thou and I shall come to blows." "It is like enough," said Sir Rolland, laughing, “that thou would strike stoutly;” but not wishing to bring matters to that pass, he said, "Let me see if we may not manage the matter in a more quiet way. Where does that Wymond, whom you promised to meet to-day, live?" "With the queen, he told me; and I undertook to be at the court to-day without fail." "Then," said Sir Rolland, "see thou keep thy promise; if thou art there by noon it will be soon enough for my errand." "Trust me," said the collier; as I am a true man, I shall not haste a foot faster to serve your purpose; and if you do not move quickly out of my path, by the rood! you shall rue it." Seeing he could make no better of it, and trusting the collier's word, Sir Rolland was about to leave, when Ralph challenged him to be at the same place at the same time to-morrow on horseback, and he should be ready to meet him on equal terms; and thus they parted.

On Sir Rolland's return to court, he is observed by the king. "Come hither, Sir Knight," said his majesty; "hast thou done my bidding?" "As you bade, my liege," said the knight, "I watched all the ways, and found nobody abroad save one rustic, on his way to Paris with a load of charcoal." "And why hast thou not brought him before me as I bade you?" said the king; "I fear he has outwitted you." Seeing the king was displeased, Sir Rolland went out to learn if the collier had kept his word, when he met a porter, who said"There is a fellow at the gate, with a horse and two creels, who will not be

persuaded to go away without being let in." "Admit him instantly," said the knight; "but tell me, does he ask particularly after any one ?” "After one Wymond," said the porter. "Then tell him thou art not worthy to see Wymond, but let him seek him himself, if there be such a one." So saying, he returned to the royal hall. The porter undid the gate, and told the collier to search for Wymond himself. He inquired at several ushers if they could tell him where Wymond might be found, but none of them knew any one of that name. The collier, distrusting them, pushed his way into the royal hall, in which all the nobility were assembled, keeping the Christmas festivals, with the king and the queen in their midst. He is dumfoundered with the splendour that suddenly bursts on his sight-the roof gleaming with all kinds of devices and carvings, and studded with gold and silver and precious stones; the wall covered with banners and mirrors, and the floors with the richest carpets; and he thought to himself, "I have enough of royalty for once; if I had but one word of Wymond, I should soon be on my way back again, but having come thus far, I am loath to be beat." Then pushing forward, he suddenly found himself in sight of the noble king, and could hardly help calling aloud, "Yon's Wymond. I ken him right well, though he be more splendidly clad than when he lived with me. He is of more state than he told me. Alas! I fear I have been misled." But the king observing him, smiled unseen. The collier next cast his eye on the queen, and was so dazzled by the splendour of her royal

robes, glittering with jewels, that he said to himself, "Deil take me, if I manage to get safe out of here, if the wisest man in Paris will persuade me to come back again these seven years to come." While the collier was thus perplexed, the king began to relate to his nobles the story of his adventure in the forest, how he met the collier on the moor, and how he was treated by him. While this was being told, the collier quaked at the prospect of certain destruction, which seemed to await him, and wished to God he were suddenly transported to that same moor with the best knight in the hall. When the king had ended his relation, he put it to the knights present, What should be done to the man who thus guided, and lodged, and used him so lightly? "Hang him!" they all cried out at once; "he deserves nothing better." "God forbid," said the king, "I should in that way thank the man who saved my life on that dreadful night; he seems a stalwart man and a hard hitter; I think, for his courtesy, we shall make him a knight. I hold it a wiser plan than to slay such good Christians, to send them to fight | God's enemies." So saying, he advanced to the collier, and dubbed him a knight, and assigned him a pension of three hundred pounds a-year, with a promise of the next free ward that should fall to the crown. "Sir Ralph," said the king, addressing the new-made knight, "thou has worthily won thy spurs, and though of humble descent, art meet to mix with the noblest knights of France; and I pray God of His grace may make thee as good as thou art brave." With that he ordered a squire to bring him a

suit of rich armour, and appointed him a retinue of sixty squires for his company.

Early next morning, Sir Ralph made ready to keep his tryst with Sir Rolland, and was on the ground at the time appointed. After waiting a little while, he saw coming toward him, riding on a camel, the most gigantic knight he had ever seen. Sir Ralph, supposing him his opponent, attacks him at full speed, and in the first encounter both their horses are killed, and their spears splintered over their heads. They then fight for an hour on foot, when Sir Rolland makes his appearance, and rushing in between the combatants, separates them. Sir Ralph's opponent turns out to be Magog, a Saracen knight, sent by the Cham of Tartary to declare war against the King of France. He has fought so bravely, that Sir Rolland is anxious he should turn Christian, and converts him by the following speech :-"If thou remain in thine own land thou shalt go to hell at the last; but if thou change thee in haste, and confess thy sin, thou shalt have pardon and profit. Thou shalt have to wife the gentle Duchess, Dame Jane of Anjou, heir-apparent to two duchies, with many rich towns, and than whom there is none fairer in all France." "I reck not of thy riches, Sir Rolland," replied the Saracen; "thy God and thy grassum I hold but light; but if thy God be so good as thou sayest, I shall leave Mahomet, and shall cast myself on thy God, and beseech Him for His mercy to give me grace, and to Christ His Son, for I have often seen Christians cry on Him in their distresses."

"I thank God for that," said

News having reached the king of the death of the Marshal of France, Sir Ralph is appointed his successor; and to mark the spot where he found the king, a hostelry is erected, in the name of Saint July, for sheltering those who lose their way, or need its protec

Sir Rolland, "and Christ His sweet Son
that gave thee grace." Then they all
three swore on their swords to be fast
friends to the end of their lives. Magog
is after this brought to the king, and,
having taken the sacrament, is dubbed
a knight, by the name of Sir Gawtier,
after which he is married to the duchess. tion.



attained this honour by the time that he was forty." This would place his birth in 1317, a year later than Lord Hailes places it.

UNLIKE Thomas the Rhymer's, there | remarks, that, "he was fortunate if he is no uncertainty about the work which is John Barbour's passport to fame; but about his personal history there is very little to record. The date of his birth is matter of conjecture-1316, 1320, and 1326 being severally assumed for it. The place of his nativity is likewise unknown, the only place having any probability in its favour being Aberdeen. Arbroath is suggested as the place of his early education. Warton, in his History of English Poetry, says that he was educated at Oxford, but gives no authority for the statement. There is much variation even in the spelling of his name; but Dr Jamieson adopts Barbour on account of its having been so spelled in a charter in the vernacular tongue. In all his passports to England it is spelled Barber. The confirmation of a charter by David II. to the Carmelite friars of Aberdeen, dated May 7, 1360, contains the name of quondam Andreae Barbitonsir, who is supposed to be Barbour's father. The first authentic link in his history is his promotion, in 1357, to the Archdeaconship of Aberdeen, on which Dr Jamieson

In the same year, at the request of David II., Edward III. grants him a safe-conduct to repair to Oxford, with three students, in order to study. Some discussion has been raised as to whether Barbour himself went there to study, or only in charge of the three scholars. Dr Irving suggests, with much probability, that Barbour's purpose was to consult such books as were not accessible at home, and to confer with the learned clerks of that celebrated university. His safe-conduct for Oxford is signed by the king at Westminster, 13th August 1357; and on 13th September, he is appointed one of the commissioners who were to meet at Edinburgh about the ransom of David II. That he attended the meeting of commissioners is thought unlikely, as there were two appointed from Aberdeen, with a proviso, that the absence of one of them should not obstruct the progress of business.

Another safe-conduct, dated 6th November 1364, is granted him, with four horsemen, to repair to Oxford, or elsewhere in England, to study; a third, on 16th October 1365, to travel through England, with six companions, on horseback, to St Denis, and other sacred places in France; and a fourth, dated November 30, 1368, to pass through | England to France, and back, with two valets and two horses, for the purpose of study. It has been supposed, and with great probability, that the chief object of his various journeys was the collecting of materials for his books.

by Hume of Godscroft, in his History of the House of Douglas (1644), to have been made in favour of an hospital in Aberdeen, which was in receipt of it till the time of the Reformation; but this, too, has been a misstatement, for the settlement was made to the chapter of the Cathedral Church of Aberdeen, for the purpose of celebrating an annual mass for his soul after his death. When that event took place has only been approximately ascertained, from the fact that the last half-year's instalment of his pension paid him, was that for the first half of 1395.

Of The Bruce, two MSS. are preserved. The one in the Advocates' Library was written in 1489 by John Ramsay, who is supposed to be the same that was afterwards prior of the Carthusian Monastery at Perth. The other, written in 1487, is in St John's College Library, Cambridge. Dr Jamieson's well-known edition of The Bruce, 1820, is from the text of the former, and that of the latter is now being edited for the Early English Text Society by the Rev. W. W. Skeat.

The statements of former writers in reference to the writing of The Bruce, and the pensions granted to Barbour, being inaccurate on several points, Dr Jamieson investigated the matter thoroughly, and concludes that there is no evidence to show that it was written at the request of David II. That Barbour was held in much esteem in David's reign is manifest; but it appears from a passage in Book IX. of The Bruce, that Robert II., David's successor, was in the fifth year of his reign when the poem was about half Besides The Bruce, he wrote other two written; and there is no evidence of his metrical works, one called The Brute, of having received any pension till the year which no manuscript is now known to before Robert's death (1390). He was exist, unless about 2000 lines of two granted two pensions, one of 10 Scots, MS. Troy-books by Lydgate, discovered from the customs of Aberdeen; and an- by Mr Bradshaw, librarian to the Uniother of 20s. from the rents of burrow-versity of Cambridge, be, as Mr Bradmails of that city. The first was during shaw supposes, part of it. It seems to life, but the second was to his assignees have been a genealogical history of the whomsoever; and both appear to have kings of Scotland, from the mythical been granted in consideration of his Brutus, first king of Britain, who is having written the Life and Acts of said to have been a son of Ascanius, son King Robert the First. The settlement of Æneas, the Trojan prince. The fact of his perpetual pension has been stated | of its having existed, is placed beyond

doubt by Wyntoun, in the following and self-restraint, and that instinctive shrewdvarious other references :

"Of Brutus' lineage wha will hear,
He look the treatise of Barbere,
Made intil a genealogy,

Right weel, and mare perfectly,
Than I can on ony wise,

With all my wit, to you devise."

Drs Jamieson and Irving both agree in thinking that Barbour himself is quoting The Brute in the following passage from the first book of The Bruce:

"Als Arthur, that through chivalry
Made Britain mistress and lady
Of twelve kinrykis that he wan:
And alsua,' as a noble man,

He wan through battle France all free;
And Lucius Yber vanquished he,
That then of Rome was emperour;
Bot yet for all his great valour,
Modred, his sister's son him slew
And good men als may then anew,
Through treason and through wickedness;
The Broite 3 bears thereof witness."

The other work is his Book of Legends of the Saints, recently discovered by Mr Bradshaw in the library of Cambridge University, in a MS. of many thousand lines. It contains so many incidental allusions to himself, as-with the unmistakably Scotch origin of the MS.to leave no doubt about its author, who thus describes it :

[blocks in formation]

ness which is so much valued amongst his countrymen. His writings are also characterized by so much moderation, lignity, and good taste, that we naturally consider these qualities characteristic of his disposition.

He has been regarded by every writer on the subject of our literature, as our first great writer. Warton says of him, that "he has adorned the English language by a strain of versification, expression, and poetical images, far superior to his age." Mr Ellis, in his Specimens of Early English Poetry, in more full and discriminating language, says-“ Barbour is to be considered in the double character of historian and poet. In the first, his authority is quoted by writers who immediately succeeded him, as the most authentic that can be adduced." Of the life of his hero, he observes, that "he gives a circumstantial detail of his daily difficulties, of his paternal solicitude for his little army, of his personal exploits, and of the patience with which he submitted to more than a soldier's

share of the common hardships. In describing the campaign in Ireland, in which the king has marched an army to the assistance of his brother, Barbour suddenly stops to relate an anecdote which a monkish historian would probably have thought beneath the dignity of history; but the simple and affectionate heart of our poet would have prompted him to risk a much greater indecorum, for the purpose of illustrating the humane character of his hero." This refers to the incident of the woman and child. Mr Craik, in his History of English Literature, also judiciously

« السابقةمتابعة »