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remarks, that "throughout his long work, he shows, for his time, a very remarkable feeling for the art of poetry, both by the variety which he studies in the treatment and disposition of his subject, and by the rare temperance and self-restraint which prevents him from ever overdoing what he is about, either by prosing or raving. Even his patriotism, warm and steady as it is, is wholly without any vulgar narrowness or ferocity."
But it is unnecessary to multiply testimonies to his various excellencies: these will be best seen in the specimens which follow:
PREFACE TO THE BRUCE.
[Modernised in spelling.]
Stories to read are delitable,
Suppose that they be nought but fable:
Then should stories that soothfast were,
And they were said on gude manner,
Have double pleasance in hearing.
The first pleasance is the carpyng ;1
And the tother the soothfastness,
That schawys the thing right as it wes:
And such things that are likand 2
Till mannes hearing are pleasand.
Therefore I wald fain set my will,
Giff my wit might suffice theretill,
To put in writ a soothfast story,
That it last aye forth in memory,
Swa3 that nae time of length it let,
Na ger4 it hally be forget.
For auld stories that men reads
Represents to them the deeds
Of stalwart folk, that livèd ere,5
Right as they then in presence were.
And certes, they should weill have prize
That in their time were wight
And led their life in great travail,1
And oft in hard stour 2 of bataill,
Wan right great price 3 of chivalry,
And were voided of cowardy.
As was King Robert of Scotland,
That hardy was of heart and hand;
And good Sir James of Douglas,
That in his time sae worthy was,
That of his price and his bounty,
In far lands renowned was he.
of them I think this book to ma ;5
Now God give grace that I may swa
Treat it, and bring it till ending,
That I say nought but soothfast thing!
THE VALUE OF FREEDOM.
Ah! freedom is a noble thing!
Freedom makes man to have liking!
Freedom all solace to man gives!
He lives at ease, that freely lives!
A noble heart may have none ease,
Na ellys nought that may him please,
If freedom fail: for free liking
Is yearned 7 o'er all other thing.
Na he that aye has lived free
May not know well the property,
The anger, na the wretched doom
That is coupled to foul thraldom.
But, if he had essayed it,
Then all perquer he should it wit,
And should think freedom more to prize
Than all the gold in world that is.
Thus contrary things evermare
Discoverings of the tother are.
He asked what that was in hy.' "It is the layndar,2 sir," said ane, "That her child-ill right now has tane; And mon leave now behind us here; Therefore she makes yon evil cheer." The king said, Certes, it were pity That she in that point left should be ; For certs, I trow there is no man That he ne will rue a woman than." His host all, there arrested he, And gert 3 a tent soon stented 4 be; And her gert gang in hastily, And other women to be her by. While she was delivered, he bade, And syne forth on his wayis rade, And, how she forth should carried be, Or ever he forth fur,5 ordained he, This was a full great courtesy ! That swilk a king and so mighty Gert his men dwell on this manner But for a poor lavender!
THE BATTLE OF BANNOCKBURN.
"Lordings, we ought to love and luff
Almighty God that sits abuff7
That sends us sa fair beginning.
It is a great discomforting
Till our faes that on this wise
Sa soon has been rebutted twice.
For when they of their host shall hear
And know soothly on what maner
Their vaward that was sa stout
And syne yon other jolly rout,
That I trow of the best men were,
That they might get amang them there,
Were rebutted so suddenly;
I trow and knows it all clearly
That many a heart shall wavering be
That seemed ere of great bounty.
I In haste. 2 Lavender, a laundress,
washer-woman. Lavendière, Fr.
And frae the heart be discomfit
The body is not worth a mite.
Therefore I trow that good ending
Shall follow till our beginning.
And whether I say not this you till,
For that ye should follow my will
To fight; but in you all shall be.
For if you think speedful that we
Fight, we shall, and if ye will
We leave, your liking to fulfill.
I shall consent on alkyn wise 2
To do right as ye will devise
Therefore say of your will plainly."
And with a voice then 'gan they cry
Good King for owtyn 3 mare delay
To morne as soon as ye see day
Ordain you hale for the battle
For doute of deed we shall nought fail:
Nor no pain shall refused be
Untill we've made our country free."
When the king had heard, so manfully
They spake of fighting, and so hardily,
In heart, great gladship 'gan he ta ;4
And said: "Lordings, since ye will sa,
Shape 5 we us therfore in the morning.
Sae that we, by the sun rising,
Have heard mass; and buskyt weill
Ilk7 man in till his own eschell, 8
Without the pavillions, arrayed
In battalions, with banners displayed.
And look ye no wise break array.
And, as ye love me, I you pray
That ilk man, for his own honour,
Purvey 9 him a good banner.
And when it comes to the fight,
Ilk man set heart, will, and might,
To stint 10 our foe's meikle" pride.
On horse they will arrayèd ride;
And come on you in full great hy. 12
Meet them with spears hardily;
And think then on the meikle ill
That they and theirs has done us till ;
And are in will yet for to do,
If they have might to come there to.
And certes, me thinks well that ye
Forowtabasing ought to be
Worthy, and of great wasselagis,"
For we have three great advantages.
The first is, that we have the right;
And for the right aye God will fight.
The tother is, that they coming are,
For lippening 3 of their great power
To seek us in our own land;
And has brought here, right to our hand,
Riches in so great quantity,
That the poorest of you shall be
Both rich, and mighty therewith all,
If that we win, as well may fall.
The third is, that we for our lives,
And for our children, and for our wives,
And for our freedom, and for our land,
Are strained into battle for to stand.
And they for their might anerly 4
And for 5 they let of us heychtly,
And for they would destroy us all,
Maiss7 them to fight: but yet may fall
That they shall rue their bargaining.
And certes I warn you of a thing;
That happened them, as God forbid
That died on rood8 for mankind heid!
That they win us openly,
They shall of us have no mercy.
And, since we know their felon will,
Me thinks it should accord to skill,
To set stoutness against felony;
And make so gat a jeopardy.
Wherefore I you require, and pray,
That with all your might, that ye may,
Ye press you at the beginning,
But cowardice or abasing,
To meet them at their first assemble
So stoutly, that the hindmost tremble.
And men of your great manhood,
Your worship1 and your doughty deed;
And of the joy that we abide,
If that us fall, as well may tide,
Hap to vanquish this great battle.
In your hands without fail
Ye bear honour, praise, and riches,
Freedom, wealth, and blythness;
If ye contene3 you manfully.
And the contrar all halily
Shall fall, if ye let cowardice
And wickedness you suppress.
Ye might have lived into thrawldom:
But, for4 ye yearn to have freedom,
Ye are assembled here with me;
Therefore is needful that ye be
Worthy and wight, but 5 abasing.
And I warn you well of a thing,
That more mischief may fall us, nane,
Than in their hands to be tane :
For they should slay us, I wate weel,
Right as they did my brother Neil.
But when I mene of your stoutness,
And of the many great prowess,
That ye have done so worthily:
I trust and trow sickerly 7
To have plain vic'try in this fight.
For though our foes have meikle might,
They have the wrong; and succudry, 8
And covetous of senyowry9
Amowys them for owtyn more. 10
Na us char dread them, but before :"1
For strength of this place as ye see
Shall let us environèd to be.
And I pray you als 12 specially,
Both more and less commonly,
That none of you for greediness
Have eye to take of their riches;
No prisoneris for to ta1
Untill ye see them contraried sa2
That the field anerly yours be.3
And then, at your likeing may ye
Take all the riches that there is.
If ye will work upon this wise,
Ye shall have victory sickerly.4
I wate nocht 5 what more say shall I.
But all wate ye what honour is :
Contene (you) then on sic awise 7
That your honour aye savèd be.
And I hycht here in leautè;9
If any dies in this battle,
His heir, but 10 ward, relief or taile,"
On the first day shall wield
All be he never so young of eild. 12
Now make you ready for to fight:
God help us that is maist of might!
I rede, 13 armed all night that we be,
Purwayed in battle so, that we
To meet our foes aye be boune. 14
Defeat of the English Archers. The English archers shot so fast, That, might their shot have ony last, It had been hard to Scottis men. But King Robert that well gan ken That their archers were perilous, And their shot right hard and grievous, Ordained forthwith the assemblé, His marshal with a great menye, Five hundred armèd into steel, That on light horse were horsed weel, For to prick among the archers; And so assail them with their spears, That they na layser 15 have to shoot. This marshal that I of mute, That Sir Robert of Keith was called,
2 Defeated so.
3 Be yours only. 4 Surely.
5 Know not.
As I before, here, have you tauld, When he saw the bataillis sae Assemble, and together gae, And saw the archers shot stoutly; With all them of his company, In hy2 upon them 'gan he ride; And overtook them at a side; And rushed among them so rudely, Sticking them so dispiteously, And in such fashion bearing them down, And slaying them for outyn ransoun;3 That they them scailèd everilkane.4 And from that time forth there was nane That assembled, shot to ma.5 When Scottis archers saw, that, they sae Were rebutted, they wax hardy And with all their might shot eagerly Among the horsemen, that there raid; And woundis wide to them they made; And slew of them a full great deal. They bare them hardily and weel. For frae their fae's archeris were Scailed, as I said till you ere,
That ma5 nae, they were be great thing, Sae that they dread nought their shooting, They wax sae hardy that them thought They should set all their faes at nought.
The thick of the Battle.
Where might men see (a) fell fight;
And men that worthy were and wight,7
Do many worthy to wasselage: 8
They fought as they were in a rage.
For when the Scottish archery
Saw their faes sae sturdily
Stand into battle them again;9
With all their might and all their main
They laid on as men out of wit.
And where they, with full stroke, might hit,
There might no armour stynt1 their strak.
They too fruchyt2 that they might o'ertak;
And with axes such duschys3 gave
That they helms and heads clave.
And their faes right hardily
Met them, and dang4 on them doughtely
With weapons that were styth 5 of steel:
There was the battle strekyt' weel.
So great din there was of dints,
As weapons upon armour stynts;7
And of spears sae great bresting3
And sic thrang and sic thursting,
Sic girning, groaning, and so great
A noise, as they 'gan other beat;
And ensigns on ilka side;
Giving and taking wounds wide,
That it was hideous for to hear:
All their four battillis9 with that were
Fighting in a front wholily.
A mighty God! how doughtely
Sir Edward the Bruce and his men,
Among their faes contened 10 them then!
Fighting in so good covine,
So hardy, worthy, and so fine,
That their vaward rushed 12 was;
And, maugre13 thair, left the place:
And till their great rout, to warand 14
They went; that tane had upon hand
So great annoy, that they were effrayit 15
For Scottis, that them hard assayit,
That then were in a schiltrum 16 all.
Wha happened in that fight to fall
I trow again he should not rise:
There might men see, on many wise
Hardiments eschewed 17 doughtely;
And many that wight were and hardy,
Soon lying under feet all dead;
Where all the field of blood was red.
Arms and quhytyss that they bear,
With blood was so defoulèd there
That they might not descroyit2 be.
A mighty God! who then might see
That Stewart, Walter, and his rout,
And the good Douglas that was so stout,
Fighting into that stalwart stour,3
We should say that till all honour
They were worthy, that, in that fight,
So fast pressed their foes might
That them rushed where they yeid.4
Their men might see many a steed
Fleeing astray, that lord had nane.
A Lord! who then good tent 5 had tane
Till the good Earl of Murray,
And his, that so great routs gae,
And fought so fast in that battle
Tholing 7 sic paines and travail
That they and theirs made sic debate,8
That where they come, they made them
Then might men here enseynyeis 10 cry:
And Scottis men cry hardily
"On them! On them! On them! they fail!"