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Specimens with Memoirs of the Less-known British Poets, Complete by George Gilfillan

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Hail, maiden; hail, mother; hail, martyr trew;
Hail, kindly yknow confessour;
Hail, evenere of old law and new;
Hail, builder bold of Christė's bower;
Hail, rose highest of hyde and hue;
Of all fruitė's fairest flower;
Hail, turtle trustiest and true,
Of all truth thou art treasour;
Hail, pured princess of paramour;
Hail, bloom of brere brightest of ble;
Hail, owner of earthly honour:
_You pray for us thy Sonė so free!_ AVE, &c.


Hail, hendy; hail, holy emperess;
Hail, queen courteous, comely, and kind;
Hail, destroyer of every strife;
Hail, mender of every man's mind;
Hail, body that we ought to bless,
So faithful friend may never man find;
Hail, lever and lover of largėness,
Sweet and sweetest that never may swynde;
Hail, botenere[1] of every body blind;
Hail, borgun brightest of all bounty,
Hail, trewore then the wode bynd:
_You pray for us thy Sonė so free!_ AVE.


Hail, mother; hail, maiden; hail, heaven queen;
Hail, gatus of paradise;
Hail, star of the sea that ever is seen;
Hail, rich, royal, and righteous;
Hail, burde yblessed may you bene;
Hail, pearl of all perrie the pris;
Hail, shadow in each a shower shene;
Hail, fairer than that fleur-de-lis,
Hail, chere chosen that never n'as chis;
Hail, chief chamber of charity;
Hail, in woe that ever was wis:
_You pray for us thy Sonė so free!_ AVE, &c. &c.

[1] 'Botenere:' helper.


It will be observed that, in the specimens given of the earlier poets, the
spelling has been modernised on the principle which has been so generally
approved in its application to the text of Chaucer and of Spenser.

On a further examination of the material for 'Specimens and Memoirs of the
less-known British Poets,' it has been deemed advisable to devote three
volumes to this _résumé_, and merely to give extracts from Cowley, instead
of following out the arrangement proposed when the issue for this year was
announced. In this space it has been found possible to present the reader
with specimens of almost all those authors whose writings were at any
period esteemed. The series will thus be rendered more perfect, and will
include the complete works of the authors whose entire writings are by
a general verdict regarded as worthy of preservation; together with
representations of the style, and brief notices of the poets who have,
during the progress of our literature, occupied a certain rank, but whose
popularity and importance have in a great measure passed.

It is confidently hoped that the arrangements now made will give a
completeness to the First Division of the Library Edition of the British
Poets--from Chaucer to Cowper--which will be acceptable and satisfactory
to the general reader.

Edinburgh, July 1860.


* * * * *


The Chariot of the Sun
The Tale of the Coffers or Caskets, &c.
Of the Gratification which the Lover's Passion receives from
the Sense of Hearing

Apostrophe to Freedom
Death of Sir Henry de Bohun


Battle of Black-Earnside
The Death of Wallace

Description of the King's Mistress


Canace, condemned to Death by her Father Aeolus, sends to her guilty
Brother Macareus the last Testimony of her unhappy Passion
The London Lyckpenny


Dinner given by the Town Mouse to the Country Mouse
The Garment of Good Ladies

The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins through Hell
The Merle and Nightingale

Morning in May


To Miss Margaret Hussey

Meldrum's Duel with the English Champion Talbart
Supplication in Contemption of Side Tails

Directions for Cultivating a Hop-garden
Housewifely Physic
Moral Reflections on the Wind



Allegorical Characters from 'The Mirror of Magistrates'
Henry Duke of Buckingham in the Infernal Regions

Sonnet on Isabella Markham
Verses on a most stony-hearted Maiden

To Sleep

Look Home
The Image of Death
Love's Servile Lot
Times go by Turns

The Nymphs to their May-Queen

In praise of the renowned Lady Aime, Countess of Warwick

Harpalus' Complaint of Phillida's Love bestowed on Corin, who loved
her not, and denied him that loved her
A Praise of his Lady
That all things sometime find Ease of their Pain, save only the Lover
From 'The Phoenix' Nest'
From the same
The Soul's Errand

* * * * *



To Ben Jonson
On the Tombs in Westminster
An Epitaph

The Country's Recreations
The Silent Lover
A Vision upon 'The Fairy Queen'
Love admits no Rival

To Religion
On Man's Resemblance to God
The Chariot of the Sun

Address to the Nightingale

Thanks for a Summer's Day


Richard II., the morning before his Murder in Pomfret Castle
Early Love
Selections from Sonnets

Introduction to the Poem on the Soul of Man
The Self-subsistence of the Soul
Spirituality of the Soul

The Nativity
Song of Sorceress seeking to tempt Christ
Close of 'Christ's Victory and Triumph'

Holy Sonnets
The Progress of the Soul

Description of Morning

Rinaldo at Mount Olivet

Farewell to the Vanities of the World
A Meditation

Dr Corbet's Journey into France

Epitaph on the Countess of Pembroke
The Picture of the Body
To Penshurst
To the Memory of my beloved Master, William Shakspeare, and what
he hath left us
On the Portrait of Shakspeare


The Praise of Woman
To my Picture
To a Lady admiring herself in a Looking-glass

On Melancholy

Persuasions to Love
To my Mistress sitting by a River's Side
A Pastoral Dialogue

A Ballad upon a Wedding

Love's Darts
On the Death of Sir Bevil Grenville
A Valediction

Power of Genius over Envy
From 'Britannia's Pastorals'
A Descriptive Sketch


The River of Forth Feasting
Spiritual Poems

Description of Parthenia
Instability of Human Greatness
Happiness of the Shepherd's Life
Marriage of Christ and the Church

* * * * *



Very little is told us (as usual in the beginnings of a literature) of
the life and private history of Gower, and that little is not specially
authentic or clearly consistent with itself. His life consists mainly of
a series of suppositions, with one or two firm facts between--like a few
stepping-stones insulated in wide spaces of water. He is said to have
been born about the year 1325, and if so must have been a few years
older than Chaucer; whom he, however, outlived. He was a friend as well
as contemporary of that great poet, who, in the fifth book of his
'Troilus and Cresseide,' thus addresses him:--

'O moral Gower, this bookė I direct,
To thee and the philosophical Strood,
To vouchsafe where need is to correct,
Of your benignities and zealės good.'

Gower, on the other hand, in his 'Confessio Amantis,' through the mouth
of Venus, speaks as follows of Chaucer:--

'And greet well Chaucer when ye meet,
As my disciple and my poėt;
For 'in the flower of his youth,
In sundry wise, as he well couth,
Of ditties and of songės glad,
The whichė for my sake he made,
The laud fulfill'd is over all,' &c.

The place of Gower's birth has been the subject of much controversy.
Caxton asserts that he was a native of Wales. Leland, Bales, Pits,
Hollingshed, and Edmondson contend, on the other hand, that he belonged
to the Statenham family, in Yorkshire. In proof of this, a deed is
appealed to, which is preserved among the ancient records of the Marquis
of Stafford. To this deed, of which the local date is Statenham, and the
chronological 1346, one of the subscribing witnesses is _John Gower_ who
on the back of the deed is stated, in the handwriting of at least a
century later, to be '_Sr John Gower the Poet_'. Whatever may be thought
of this piece of evidence, 'the proud tradition,' adds Todd, who had
produced it, 'in the Marquis of Stafford's family has been, and still
is, that the poet was of Statenham; and who would not consider the
dignity of his genealogy augmented by enrolling among its worthies the
moral Gower?'

From his will we know that he possessed the manor of Southwell, in the
county of Nottingham, and that of Multon, in the county of Suffolk. He
was thus a rich man, as well as probably a knight. The latter fact is
inferred from the circumstance of his effigies in the church of St Mary
Overies wearing a chaplet of roses, such as, says Francis Thynne, 'the
knyghtes in old time used, either of gold or other embroiderye, made
after the fashion of roses, one of the peculiar ornamentes of a knighte,
as well as his collar of S.S.S., his guilte sword and spurres. Which
chaplett or circle of roses was as well attributed to knyghtes, the
lowest degree of honor, as to the higher degrees of duke, erle, &c.,
being knyghtes, for so I have seen John of Gaunte pictured in his
chaplett of roses; and King, Edwarde the Thirde gave his chaplett to
Eustace Rybamonte; only the difference was, that as they were of lower
degree, so had they fewer roses placed on their chaplett or cyrcle of
golde, one ornament deduced from the dukes crowne, which had the roses
upon the top of the cyrcle, when the knights had them only upon the
cyrcle or garlande itself.'

It has been said that Gower as well as Chaucer studied in the Temple.
This, however, Thynne doubts, on the ground that 'it is most certeyn
to be gathered by cyrcumstances of recordes that the lawyers were not
in the Temple until towardes the latter parte of the reygne of Kinge
Edwarde the Thirde, at whiche tyme Chaucer was a grave manne, holden in
greate credyt and employed in embassye;' and when, of course, Gower,
being his senior, must have been 'graver' still.

There is scarcely anything more to relate of the personal career of our
poet. In his elder days he became attached to the House of Lancaster,
under Thomas of Woodstock, as Chaucer did under John of Gaunt. It is
said that the two poets, who had been warm friends, at last quarrelled,
but obscurity rests on the cause, the circumstances, the duration, and
the consequences of the dispute. Gower, like some far greater bards,
--Milton for instance, and those whom Milton has commemorated,

'Blind Thamyris and blind Moeonides,
And Tiresiaa and Phineus, prophets old,'--

was sometime ere his death deprived of his sight, as we know on his own
authority. It appears from his will that he was still living in 1408,
having outlived Chaucer eight years. This will is a curious document.
It is that of a very rich and very superstitious Catholic, who leaves
bequests to churches, hospitals, to priors, sub-priors, and priests,
with the significant request '_ut orent pro me_'--a request which, for
the sake of the poor soul of the 'moral Gower,' was we trust devoutly
obeyed, although we are irresistibly reminded of the old rhyme,

'Pray for the soul of Gabriel John,
Who died in the year one thousand and one;
You may if you please, or let it alone,
For it's all one
To Gabriel John,
Who died in the year one thousand and one.'

There is no mention of children in the will, and hence the assertion of
Edmondson, who, in his genealogical table of the Statenham family, says
that Thomas Gower, the governor of the castle of Mans in the times of
the Fifth and Sixth Henrys, was the only son of the poet, and that of
Glover, who, in his 'Visitation of Yorkshire,' describes Gower as
married to a lady named Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Sadbowrughe,
Baron of the Exchequer, by whom he had five sons and three daughters,
must both fall to the ground. According to the will, Gower's wife's name
was Agnes, and he leaves to her £100 in legacy, besides his valuable
goods and the rents accruing from his aforesaid manors of Multon, in
Suffolk, and Southwell, in Nottinghamshire. His body was, according
to his own direction, buried in the monastery of St Mary Overies, in
Southwark, (afterwards the church of St Saviour,) where a monument, and
an effigies, too, were erected, with the roses of a knight girdling the
brow of one who was unquestionably a true, if not a great poet.

In Warton's 'History of English Poetry,' and in the 'Illustrations of
the Lives and Writings of Gower and Chaucer' by Mr Todd, there will be
found ample and curious details about MS. poems by Gower, such as fifty
sonnets in French; a 'Panegyrick on Henry IV.,' half in Latin and half
in English, a short elegiac poem on the same subject, &c.; besides a
large work, entitled 'Speculum Meditantis,' a poem in French of a moral
cast; and 'Vox Clamantis,' consisting of seven books of Latin elegiacs,
and chiefly filled with a metrical account of the insurrections of the
Commons in the reign of Richard II. In the dedication of this latter
work to Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, Gower speaks of his blindness
and his age. He says, 'Hanc epistolam subscriptam corde devoto misit
_senex et cecus_ Johannes Gower reverendissimo in Christo patri ac
domino suo precipuo domino Thome de Arundell, Cantuar. Archiepö.' &c.
Warton proves that the 'Vox Clamantis' was written in the year 1397, by
a line in the Bodleian manuscript of the poem, 'Hos ego _bis deno_
Ricardo regis in anno.' Richard II. began, it is well known, to reign in
the year 1377, when ten years of age, and, of course, the year 1397 was
the twentieth of his reign. It follows from this, that for eleven years
at least before his death Gower had been _senex et cecus_, helpless
through old age and blindness.

The 'Confessio Amantis' is the only work of Gower's which is printed and
in English. The rest are still slumbering in MS.; and even although the
'Vox Clamantis' should put in a sleepy plea for the resurrection of
print, on the whole we are disposed to say, better for all parties that
it and the rest should slumber on. But the 'Confessio Amantis' is
altogether a remarkable production. It is said to have been written at
the command of Richard II., who, meeting our poet rowing on the Thames,
near London, took him on board the royal barge, and requested him to
_book some new thing_. It is an English poem, in eight books, and was
first printed by Caxton in the year 1483. The 'Speculum Meditantis,'
'Vox Clamantis,' and 'Confessio Amantis,' are, properly speaking, parts
of one great work, and are represented by three volumes upon Gower's
curious tomb in the old conventual church of St Mary Overies already
alluded to--a church, by the way, which the poet himself assisted in
rebuilding in the elegant shape which it retains to this day.

The 'Confessio' is a large unwieldy collection of poetry and prose,
superstition and science, love and religion, allegory and historical
facts. It is crammed with all varieties of learning, and a perverse but
infinite ingenuity is shewn in the arrangement of its heterogeneous
materials. In one book the whole mysteries of the Hermetic philosophy
are expounded, and the wonders of alchymy dazzle us in every page.
In another, the poet scales the heights and sounds the depths of
Aristotelianism. From this we have extracted in the 'Specimens' a
glowing account of 'The Chariot of the Sun.' Throughout the work, tales
and stories of every description and degree of merit are interspersed.
These are principally derived from an old book called 'Pantheon; or,
Memoriae Seculorum,'--a kind of universal history, more studious of
effect than accuracy, in which the author ranges over the whole history
of the world, from the creation down to the year 1186. This was a
specimen of a kind of writing in which the Middle Ages abounded--namely,
chronicles, which gradually superseded the monkish legends, and for
a time eclipsed the classics themselves; a kind of writing hovering
between history and fiction, embracing the widest sweep, written in a
barbarous style, and swarming with falsehoods; but exciting, interesting,
and often instructive, and tending to kindle curiosity, and
create in the minds of their readers a love for literature.

Besides chronicles, Gower had read many romances, and alludes to them
in various parts of his works. His 'Confessio Amantis' was apparently
written after Chaucer's 'Troilus and Cresseide,' and after 'The Flower
and the Leaf,' inasmuch as he speaks of the one and imitates the other
in that poem. That Chaucer had not, however, yet composed his 'Testament
of Love,' appears from the epilogue to the 'Confessio,' where Gower is
ordered by Venus, who expresses admiration of Chaucer for the early
devotion of his muse to her service, to say to him at the close--

'Forthy, now in his daies old,
Thou shalt him tell this message,
That he upon his later age
To set an end of all his work,
As he which is mine owen clerk,
Do make his Testament of Love,
As thou hast done thy shrift above,
So that my court it may record'--

the 'shrift' being of course the 'Confessio Amantis.' In 'The Canterbury
Tales' there are several indications that Chaucer was indebted to Gower
--'The Man of Law's Tale' being borrowed from Gower's 'Constantia,' and
'The Wife of Bath's Tale' being founded on Gower's 'Florent.'

After all, Gower cannot be classed with the greater bards. He sparkles
brightly chiefly from the depth of the darkness through which he shines.
He is more remarkable for extent than for depth, for solidity than for
splendour, for fuel than for fire, for learning than for genius.


Of goldė glist'ring spoke and wheel
The Sun his cart hath fair and wele,
In which he sitteth, and is croned[1]
With bright stonės environed:
Of which if that I speakė shall,
There be before in special
Set in the front of his corone
Three stones, whichė no person
Hath upon earth; and the first is
By name cleped Leucachatis.
That other two cleped thus
Astroites and Ceraunus;
In his corone, and also behind,
By oldė bookės as I find,
There be of worthy stonės three,
Set each of them in his degree.
Whereof a crystal is that one,
Which that corone is set upon:
The second is an adamant:
The third is noble and evenant,
Which cleped is Idriades.
And over this yet natheless,
Upon the sidės of the werk,
After the writing of the clerk,
There sitten fivė stones mo.[2]
The Smaragdine is one of tho,[3]
Jaspis, and Eltropius,
And Vendides, and Jacinctus.
Lo thus the corone is beset,
Whereof it shineth well the bet.[4]
And in such wise his light to spread,
Sits with his diadem on head,
The Sunnė shining in his cart:
And for to lead him swith[5] and smart,
After the bright dayė's law,
There be ordained for to draw,
Four horse his chare, and him withal,
Whereof the namės tell I shall.
Eritheus the first is hote,[6]
The which is red, and shineth hot;
The second Acteos the bright;
Lampes the thirdė courser hight;
And Philogens is the ferth,
That bringen light unto this earth,
And go so swift upon the heaven,
In four and twenty hourės even,
The cartė with the brightė sun
They drawen, so that over run
They have under the circles high,
All middė earth in such an hie.[7]

And thus the sun is over all
The chief planet imperial,
Above him and beneath him three.
And thus between them runneth he,
As he that hath the middle place
Among the seven: and of his face
Be glad all earthly creatures,
And taken after the natures
Their ease and recreation.
And in his constellation
Who that is born in special,
Of good-will and of liberal
He shall be found in allė place,
And also stand in muchel grace
Toward the lordės for to serve,
And great profit and thank deserve.

And over that it causeth yet
A man to be subtil of wit,
To work in gold, and to be wise
In everything, which is of prise.[8]
But for to speaken in what coast
Of all this earth he reigneth most,
As for wisdom it is in Greece,
Where is appropred thilk spece.[9]

[1] 'Croned:' crowned.
[2] 'Mo:' more.
[3] 'Tho:' those.
[4] 'Bet:' better.
[5] 'Swith:' swift.
[6] 'Hot:' named.
[7] 'Hie:' haste.
[8] 'Prise:' value.
[9] 'Thilk spece:' that kind.


In a chroniquė thus I read:
About a kingė, as must need,
There was of knightės and squiers
Great rout, and ekė officers:
Some of long timė him had served,
And thoughten that they have deserved
Advancėment, and gone without:
And some also been of the rout,
That comen but a while agon,
And they advanced were anon.

These oldė men upon this thing,
So as they durst, against the king
Among themselves complainen oft:
But there is nothing said so soft,
That it ne cometh out at last:
The king it wist, anon as fast,
As he which was of high prudence:
He shope[1] therefore an evidence
Of them that 'plainen in the case
To know in whose default it was:
And all within his own intent,
That none more wistė what it meant.
Anon he let two coffers make,
Of one sembląnce, and of one make,
So like, that no life thilkė throw,[2]
The one may from that other know:
They were into his chamber brought,
But no man wot why they be wrought,
And natheless the king hath bede
That they be set in privy stede,[3]
As he that was of wisdom sly;
When he thereto his timė sih,[4]
All privily that none it wist,
His ownė handės that one chest
Of fine gold, and of fine perrie,[5]
The which out of his treasury
Was take, anon he filled full;
That other coffer of straw and mull,[6]
With stonės meynd[7] he fill'd also:
Thus be they full bothė two.
So that erliche[8] upon a day
He bade within, where he lay,
There should be before his bed
A board up set and fairė spread:
And then he let the coffers fet[9]
Upon the board, and did them set,
He knew the namės well of tho,[10]
The which against him grutched[11] so,
Both of his chamber, and of his hall,
Anon and sent for them all;
And saidė to them in this wise:

'There shall no man his hap despise:
I wot well ye have longė served,
And God wot what ye have deserved;
But if it is along[12] on me
Of that ye unadvanced be,
Or else if it be long on yow,
The soothė shall be proved now:
To stoppė with your evil word,
Lo! here two coffers on the board;
Choose which you list of bothė two;
And witteth well that one of tho
Is with treasure so full begon,
That if he happė thereupon
Ye shall be richė men for ever:
Now choose and take which you is lever,[13]
But be well 'ware ere that ye take,
For of that one I undertake
There is no manner good therein,
Whereof ye mighten profit win.
Now go together of one assent,
And taketh your advisėment;
For but I you this day advance,
It stands upon your ownė chance,
All only in default of grace;
So shall be shewed in this place
Upon you all well afine,[14]
That no defaultė shall be mine.'

They kneelen all, and with one voice
The king they thanken of this choice:
And after that they up arise,
And go aside and them advise,
And at lastė they accord
(Whereof their talė to record
To what issue they be fall)
A knight shall speakė for them all:
He kneeleth down unto the king,
And saith that they upon this thing,
Or for to win, or for to lose,
Be all advised for to choose.

Then took this knight a yard[15] in hand,
And go'th there as the coffers stand,
And with assent of every one
He lay'th his yardė upon one,
And saith the king[16] how thilkė same
They chose in reguerdon[17] by name,
And pray'th him that they might it have.

The king, which would his honour save,
When he had heard the common voice,
Hath granted them their ownė choice,
And took them thereupon the key;
But for he wouldė it were see
What good they have as they suppose,
He bade anon the coffer unclose,
Which was fulfill'd with straw and stones:
Thus be they served all at ones.

This king then in the samė stede,
Anon that other coffer undede,
Where as they sawen great richés,
Well morė than they couthen [18] guess.

'Lo!' saith the king, 'now may ye see
That there is no default in me;
Forthy[19] myself I will acquite,
And beareth ye your ownė wite[20]
Of that fortune hath you refused.'

Thus was this wisė king excused:
And they left off their evil speech.
And mercy of their king beseech.

[1] 'Shope:' contrived.
[2] 'Thilkė throw:' at that time.
[3] 'Stede:' place.
[4] 'Sih:' saw.
[5] 'Perrie:' precious stones.
[6] 'Mull:' rubbish.
[7] 'Meynd:' mingled.
[8] 'Erlich:' early.
[9] 'Fet:' fetched.
[10] 'Tho:' those.
[11] 'Grutched:' murmured.
[12] 'Along:' because of.
[13] 'Lever:' preferable.
[14] 'Afine:' at last.
[15] 'Yard:' rod.
[16] 'Saith the king:' saith to the king.
[17] 'Reguerdon:' as their reward.
[18] 'Couthen:' could.
[19] 'Forthy:' therefore.
[20] 'Wite:' blame.


Right as mine eyė with his look
Is to mine heart a lusty cook
Of lovė's foodė delicate;
Right so mine ear in his estate,
Where as mine eyė may nought serve,
Can well mine heartė's thank deserve;
And feeden him, from day to day,
With such dainties as he may.

For thus it is that, over all
Where as I come in special,
I may hear of my lady price:[1]
I hear one say that she is wise;
Another saith that she is good;
And some men say of worthy blood
That she is come; and is also
So fair that nowhere is none so:
And some men praise her goodly chere.[2]
Thus everything that I may hear,
Which soundeth to my lady good,
Is to mine ear a lusty food.
And eke mine ear hath, over this,
A dainty feastė when so is
That I may hear herselvė speak;
For then anon my fast I break
On suchė wordės as she saith,
That full of truth and full of faith
They be, and of so good disport,
That to mine earė great comfórt
They do, as they that be delices
For all the meats, and all the spices,
That any Lombard couthė[3] make,
Nor be so lusty for to take,
Nor so far forth restoratif,
(I say as for mine ownė life,)
As be the wordės of her mouth
For as the windės of the south
Be most of allė debonaire;[4]
So, when her list to speakė fair,
The virtue of her goodly speech
Is verily mine heartė's leech.

And if it so befall among,
That she carol upon a song,
When I it hear, I am so fed,
That I am from myself so led
As though I were in Paradise;
For, certes, as to mine avģs,[5]
When I hear of her voice the steven,[6]
Methink'th it is a bliss of heaven.

And eke in other wise also,
Full oftė time it falleth so,
Mine carė with a good pitąnce[7]
Is fed of reading of romance
Of Ydoine and of Amadas,
That whilom weren in my case;
And eke of other many a score,
That loveden long ere I was bore.
For when I of their lovės read,
Mine eare with the tale I feed,
And with the lust of their histoire
Sometime I draw into memoire,
How sorrow may not ever last;
And so hope cometh in at last.

[1] 'Price:' praise.
[2] 'Chere:' mien.
[3] 'Couthė:' knows to.
[4] 'Debonaire:' gentle.
[5] 'Avis:' opinion.
[6] 'Steven:' sound.
[7] 'Pitance:' allowance.


The facts known about this Scottish poet are only the following. He
seems to have been born about the year 1316, in, probably, the city of
Aberdeen. This is stated by Hume of Godscroft, by Dr Mackenzie, and
others, but is not thoroughly authenticated. Some think he was the son
of one Andrew Barbour, who possessed a tenement in Castle Street,
Aberdeen; and others, that he was related to one Robert Barbour, who, in
1309, received a charter of the lands of Craigie, in Forfarshire, from
King Robert the Bruce. These, however, are mere conjectures, founded
upon a similarity of name. It is clear, from Barbour's after rank in
the Church, that he had received a learned education, but whether in
Arbroath or Aberdeen is uncertain. We know, however, that a school of
divinity and canon law had existed at Aberdeen since the reign of
Alexander II., and it is conjectured that Barbour first studied there,
and then at Oxford. In the year 1357, he was undoubtedly Archdeacon of
Aberdeen, since we find him, under this title, nominated by the Bishop
of that diocese, one of the Commissioners appointed to meet in Edinburgh
to take measures to liberate King David, who had been captured at the
battle of Nevil's Cross, and detained from that date in England. It
seems evident, from the customs of the Roman Catholic Church, that he
must have been at least forty when he was created Archdeacon, and this
is a good reason for fixing his birth in the year 1316.

In the same year, Barbour obtained permission from Edward III., at the
request of the Scottish King, to travel through England with three
scholars who were to study at Oxford, probably at Balliol College, which
had, a hundred years nearly before, been founded and endowed by the wife
of the famous John Balliol of Scotland. Some years afterwards, in
November 1364, he got permission to pass, accompanied by four horsemen,
through England, to pursue his studies at the same renowned university.
In the year 1365, we find another casual notice of our Scottish bard. A
passport has been found giving him permission from the King of England
to travel, in company with six horsemen, through that country on their
way to St Denis', and other sacred places. It is evident that this was
a religious pilgrimage on the part of Barbour and his companions.

A most peripatetic poet; verily, he must have been; for we find another
safe-conduct, dated November 1368, granted by Edward to Barbour,
permitting him, to pass through England, with two servants and their
horses, on his way to France, for the purpose of pursuing his studies
there. Dr Jamieson (see his 'Life of Barbour') discovers the poet's name
in the list of Auditors of the Exchequer.

Barbour has himself told us that he commenced his poem in the 'yer of
grace, a thousand thre hundyr sevynty and five,' when, of course, he
was in his sixtieth year, or, as he says, 'off hys eld sexty.' It is
supposed that David II.--who died in 1370--had urged Barbour to engage
in the work, which was not, however, completed till the fifth year of
his successor, Robert II., who gave our poet a pension on account of it.
This consisted of a sum of ten pounds Scots from the revenues of the
city of Aberdeen, and twenty shillings from the burgh mails. Mr James
Bruce, to whose interesting Life of Barbour, in his 'Eminent Men of
Aberdeen,' we are indebted for many of the facts in this narrative,
says, 'The latter of these sums was granted to him, not merely during
his own life, but to his assignees; and the Archdeacon bequeathed it to
the dean, canons, the chapter, and other ministers of the Cathedral of
Aberdeen, on condition that they should for ever celebrate a yearly mass
for his soul. At the Reformation, when it came to be discovered that
masses did no good to souls in the other world, it is probable that this
endowment reverted to the Crown.'

Barbour also wrote a poem under what seems now the strange title, 'The
Brute.' This was in reality a metrical history of Scotland, commencing
with the fables concerning Brutus, or 'Brute,' who, according to ancient
legends, was the great-grandson of Aeneas--came over from Italy, the
land of his birth--landed at Totness, in Devonshire--destroyed the
giants who then inhabited Albion--called the island 'Britain' from his
own name, and became its first monarch. From this original fable,
Barbour is supposed to have wandered on through a hundred succeeding
stories of similar value, till he came down to his own day. There can be
little regret felt, therefore, that the book is totally lost. Wynton, in
his 'Chronicle,' refers to it in commendatory terms; but it cannot be
ascertained from his notices whether it was composed in Scotch or in

Barbour died about the beginning of the year 1396, eighty years of age.
Lord Hailes ascertained the time of his death from the Chartulary of
Aberdeen, where, under the date of 10th August 1398, mention is made of
'quondam Joh. Barber, Archidiaconus, Aberd., and where it is said that
he had died two years and a half before, namely, in 1396.'

His great work, 'The Bruce,' or more fully, 'The History of Robert
Bruce, King of the Scots,' does not appear to have been printed till
1616 in Edinburgh. Between that date and the year 1790, when Pinkerton's
edition appeared, no less than twenty impressions were published, (the
principal being those of Edinburgh in 1620 and 1648; Glasgow, 1665; and
Edinburgh, 1670--all in black letter,) so popular immediately became the
poem. Pinkerton's edition is in three volumes, and has a preface, notes,
and a glossary, all of considerable value. The MS. was copied from a
volume in the Advocates' Library, of the date of 1489, which was in the
handwriting of one John Ramsay, believed to have been the prior of a
Carthusian monastery near Perth. Pinkerton first divided 'The Bruce'
into books. It had previously, like the long works of Naerius and
Ennius, the earliest Roman poets, consisted of one entire piece, woven
'from the top to the bottom without seam,' like the ancient simple
garments in Jewry. The late respectable and very learned Dr Jamieson, of
Nicolson Street United Secession Church, Edinburgh, well known as the
author of the 'Scottish Dictionary,' 'Hermes Scythicus,' &c., published,
in 1820, a more accurate edition of 'The Bruce,' along with Blind
Harry's 'Wallace,' in two quarto volumes.

In strict chronology Barbour belongs to an earlier date than Chaucer,
having been born and having died a few years before him. But as the
first Scotch poet who has written anything of length, with the exception
of the author of the 'Romance of Sir Tristrem,' he claims a conspicuous
place in our 'Specimens.' He was singularly fortunate in the choice of
a subject. With the exception of Wallace, there is no name in Scottish
history that even yet calls up prouder associations than that of Robert
Bruce. The incidents in his history,--the escape he made from English
bondage to rescue his country from the same yoke; his rise refulgent
from the stroke which, in the cloisters of the Gray Friars, Dumfries,
laid the Red Comyn low; his daring to be crowned at Scone; his frequent
defeats; his lion-like retreat to the Hebrides, accompanied by one or
two friends, his wife meanwhile having been carried captive, three of
his brothers hanged, and himself supposed to be dead; the romantic
perils he survived, and the victories he gained amidst the mountains
where the deep waters of the river Awe are still telling of his name,
and the echoes of Ben Cruachan repeating the immortal sound; his sudden
reappearance on the west coast of Scotland, where, as he 'shook his
Carrick spear,' his country rose, kindling around him like heather on
flame; the awful suspense of the hour when it was announced that Edward
I., the tyrant of the Ragman's Roll, the murderer of Wallace, was
approaching with a mighty army to crush the revolt; the electrifying
news that he had died at Sark, as if struck by the breath of the fatal
Border, which he had reached, but could not overpass; the bloody
summer's day of Bannockburn, in which Edward II. was repelled, and the
gallant army of his father annihilated; the energy and wisdom of the
Bruce's civil administration after the victory; the less famous, but
noble battle of Byland, nine years after Bannockburn, in which he again
smote the foes of his country; and the recognition which at last he
procured, on the accession of Edward III., of the independence of
Scotland in 1329, himself dying the same year, his work done and his
glory for ever secured,--not to speak of the beautiful legends which
have clustered round his history like ivy round an ancestral tower--of
the spider on the wall, teaching him the lesson of perseverance, as he
lay in the barn sad and desponding in heart--of the strange signal-light
upon the shore near his maternal castle of Turnberry, which led him to
land, while

'Dark red the heaven above it glow'd,
Dark red the sea beneath it flow'd,
Red rose the rocks on ocean's brim,
In blood-red light her islets swim,
Wild screams the dazzled sea-fowl gave,
Dropp'd from their crags a plashing wave,
The deer to distant covert drew,
The blackcock deem'd it day, and crew;'

and last, not least, the adventures of his gallant, unquenchable heart,
when, in the hand of Douglas,--meet casket for such a gem!--it marched
onwards, as it was wont to do, in conquering power, toward the Holy
Land;--all this has woven a garland round the brow of Bruce which every
civilised nation has delighted to honour, and given him besides a share
in the affections and the pride of his own land, with the joy of which
'no stranger can intermeddle.'

Bruce has been fortunate in his laureates, consisting of three of
Scotland's greatest poets,--Barbour, Scott, and Burns. The last of these
has given us a glimpse of the patriot-king, revealing him on the brow of
Bannockburn as by a single flash of lightning. The second has, in 'The
Lord of the Isles,' seized and sung a few of the more romantic passages
of his history. But Barbour has, with unwearied fidelity and no small
force, described the whole incidents of Bruce's career, and reared to
his memory, not an insulated column, but a broad and deep-set temple of

Barbour's poem has always been admired for its strict accuracy of
statement, to which Bower, Wynton, Hailes, Pinkerton, Jamieson, and Sir
Walter Scott all bear testimony; for the picturesque force of its
natural descriptions; for its insight into character, and the lifelike
spirit of its individual sketches; for the martial vigour of its battle-
pictures; for the enthusiasm which he feels, and makes his reader feel,
for the valiant and wise, the sagacious and persevering, the bold,
merciful, and religious character of its hero, and for the piety which
pervades it, and proves that the author was not merely a churchman in
profession, but a Christian at heart. Its defects of rude rhythm,
irregular constructions, and obsolete phraseology, are those of its age;
but its beauties, its unflagging interest, and its fine poetic spirit,
are characteristic of the writer's own genius.


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,
Nor nought else that may him please,
If freedom fail; for free liking
Is yearned o'er all other thing.
Nay, he that aye has lived free,
May not know well the property,
The anger, nor the wretched doom,
That is coupled to foul thirldom.
But if he had assayed it,
Then all perquier[1] he should it wit:
And should think freedom more to prize
Than all the gold in world that is.

[1] 'Perquier:' perfectly.


And when the king wist that they were
In hale[1] battle, coming so near,
His battle gart[2] he well array.
He rode upon a little palfrey,
Laughed and jolly, arrayand
His battle, with an axe in hand.
And on his bassinet he bare
A hat of tyre above aye where;
And, thereupon, into tok'ning,
An high crown, that he was king.
And when Gloster and Hereford were
With their battle approaching near,
Before them all there came ridand,
With helm on head and spear in hand,
Sir Henry the Bohun, the worthy,
That was a wight knight, and a hardy,
And to the Earl of Hereford cousin;
Armed in armis good and fine;
Came on a steed a bowshot near,
Before all other that there were:
And knew the king, for that he saw
Him so range his men on raw,[3]
And by the crown that was set
Also upon his bassinet.
And toward him he went in hy.[4]
And the king so apertly[5]
Saw him come, forouth[6] all his feres,[7]
In hy till him the horse he steers.
And when Sir Henry saw the king
Come on, forouten[8] abasing,
To him he rode in full great hy.
He thought that he should well lightly
Win him, and have him at his will,
Since he him horsed saw so ill.
Sprent they samen into a lyng;[9]
Sir Henry miss'd the noble king;
And he that in his stirrups stood,
With the axe, that was hard and good,
With so great main, raucht[10] him a dint,
That neither hat nor helm might stint
The heavy dush that he him gave,
The head near to the harns[11] he clave.
The hand-axe shaft frushit[12] in two;
And he down to the yird[13] 'gan go
All flatlings, for him failed might.
This was the first stroke of the fight,
That was performed doughtily.
And when the king's men so stoutly
Saw him, right at the first meeting,
Forouten doubt or abasing,
Have slain a knight so at a straik,
Such hardment thereat 'gan they take,
That they come on right hardily.
When Englishmen saw them so stoutly
Come on, they had great abasing;
And specially for that the king
So smartly that good knight has slain,
That they withdrew them everilk ane,
And durst not one abide to fight:
So dread they for the king his might.
When that the king repaired was,
That gart his men all leave the chase,
The lordis of his company
Blamed him, as they durst, greatumly,
That be him put in aventure,
To meet so stith[14] a knight, and stour,
In such point as he then was seen.
For they said, well it might have been
Cause of their tynsal[15] everilk ane.
The king answer has made them nane,
But mainit[16] his hand-axe shaft so
Was with the stroke broken in two.

[1] 'Hale:' whole.
[2] 'Gart:' caused.
[3] 'Haw:' row
[4] 'Hy:' haste
[5] 'Apertly:' openly, clearly.
[6] 'Forouth:' beyond.
[7] 'Feres:' companions.
[8] 'Forouten:' without.
[9] 'Sprent they samen into a lyng:' they sprang forward at once,
against each other, in a line.
[10] 'Raucht:' reached.
[11] 'Harns:' brains.
[12] 'Frushit:' broke.
[13] 'Yird:' earth.
[14] 'Stith:' strong.
[15] 'Tynsal:' destruction.
[16] 'Mainit:' lamented.


This author, who was prior of St Serf's monastery in Loch Leven, is the
author of what he calls 'An Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland.' It appeared
about the year 1420. It is much inferior to the work of Barbour in
poetry, but is full of historical information, anecdote, and legend. The
language is often sufficiently prosaic. Thus the poet begins to describe
the return of King David II. from his captivity, referred to above.

'Yet in prison was king Davy,
And when a lang time was gane bye,
Frae prison and perplexitie
To Berwick castle brought was he,
With the Earl of Northamptoun,
For to treat there of his ransoun;
Some lords of Scotland come there,
And als prelates that wisest were,' &c.

Contemporary, or nearly so, with Wyntoun were several other Scottish
writers, such as one Hutcheon, of whom we know only that he is
designated of the 'Awle Ryall,' or of the Royal Hall or Palace, and that
he wrote a metrical romance, of which two cantos remain, called 'The
Gest of Arthur;' and another, named Clerk of Tranent, the author of a
romance, entitled 'The Adventures of Sir Gawain.' Of this latter also
two cantos only are extant. Although not perhaps deserving to have even
portions of them extracted, they contain a good deal of poetry. A
person, too, of the name of Holland, about whose history we have no
information, produced a satirical poem, called 'The Howlate,' written in
the allegorical form, and bearing some resemblance to 'Pierce Plowman's


Although there are diversities of opinion as to the exact time when this
blind minstrel flourished, we prefer alluding to him at this point,
where he stands in close proximity to Barbour, the author of a poem on
a subject so cognate to 'Wallace' as 'Bruce.' Nothing is known of Harry
but that he was blind from infancy, that he composed this poem, and
gained a subsistence by reciting or singing portions of it through the
country. Another Wandering Willie, (see 'Redgauntlet,') he 'passed like
night from land to land,' led by his own instincts, and wherever he met
with a congenial audience, he proceeded to chant portions of the noble
knight's achievements, his eyes the while twinkling, through their sad
setting of darkness, with enthusiasm, and often suffused with tears.
In some minds the conception of this blind wandering bard may awaken
ludicrous emotions, but to us it suggests a certain sublimity. Blind
Harry has powerfully described Wallace standing in the light and
shrinking from the ghost of Fawdoun, (see the 'Battle of Black-
Earnside,' in the 'Specimens,') but Harry himself seems walking in the
light of the ghost of Wallace, and it ministers to him, not terror, but
inspiration. Entering a cot at night, and asked for a tale, he begins,
in low tones, to recite that frightful apparition at Gaskhall, and the
aged men and the crones vie with the children in drawing near the 'ingle
bleeze,' as if in fire alone lay the refuge from

'Fawdoun, that ugly sire,
That haill hall he had set into a fire,
As to his sight, his OWN HEAD IN HIS HAND.'

Arriving in a village at the hour of morning rest and refreshment, he
charms the swains by such words as

'The merry day sprang from the orient
With beams bright illuminate the Occident,
After Titan Phoebus upriseth fair,
High in the sphere the signs he made declare.
Zephyrus then began his morning course,
The sweet vapour thus from the ground resourse,' &c.--

and the simple villagers wonder at hearing these images from one who is
blind, not seeing the sun. As the leaves are rustling down from the
ruddy trees of late autumn, he sings to a little circle of wayside

'The dark region appearing wonder fast,
In November, when October was past,

* * * * *

Good Wallace saw the night's messenger,
Phoebus had lost his fiery beams so clear;
Out of that wood they durst not turn that side
For adversours that in their way would hide.'

And while on the verge of the December sky, the wintry sun is trembling
and about to set as if for ever, then is the Minstrel's voice heard
sobbing amidst the sobs of his hearers, as he tells how his hero's sun
went down while it was yet day.

'On Wednesday the false Southron furth brocht
To martyr him as they before had wrocht,
Of men in arms led him a full great rout,
With a bauld sprite guid Wallace blent about.'

There can be little doubt that Blind Harry, during his lifetime, became
a favourite, nay, a power in the realm. Wherever he circulated, there
circulated the fame of Wallace; there, his deeds were recounted; there,
hatred of a foreign foe, and love to their native land, were inculcated
as first principles; and long after the Homer of Scotland had breathed
his last, and been consigned perhaps to some little kirkyard among the
uplands, his lays continued to live; and we know that such a man as
Burns (who read them in the modern paraphrase of William Hamilton of
Gilbertfield, a book which was, till within a somewhat recent period,
a household god in the libraries of the Scotch) derived from the old
singer much of 'that national prejudice which boiled in his breast till
the floodgates of life shut in eternal rest.' If Barbour, as we said,
was fortunate in his subject, still more was Blind Harry in his. The
interest felt in Wallace is of a deeper and warmer kind than that which
we feel in Bruce. Bruce was of royal blood; Wallace was from an ancient
but not wealthy family. Bruce stained his career by one great crime
--great in itself, but greater from the peculiar notions of the age
--the murder of Comyn in the sanctuary of Dumfries; on the character of
Wallace no similar imputation rests. Wallace initiated that plan of
guerilla warfare,--that fighting now on foot and now on the wing, now
with beak and now with talons, now with horns and now with hoofs,--which
Bruce had only to perfect. Wallace was unsuccessful, and was besides
treated by the King of England with revolting barbarity; while Bruce
became victorious: and, as we saw in our remarks on Chaucer, it is the
unfortunate brave who stamp themselves most forcibly on a nation's
heart, and it is the red letters, which tell of suffering and death,
which are with most difficulty erased from a nation's tablets. On Bruce
we look somewhat as we regard Washington,--a great, serene man, who,
after long reverses, nobly sustained, gained a notable national triumph;
to Wallace we feel, as the Italians do to Garibaldi, as a demon of
warlike power,--blending courage and clemency, enthusiasm and skill,
daring and determination, in proportions almost superhuman,--and we cry
with the poet,

'The sword that seem'd fit for archangel to wield,
Was light in his terrible hand.'

We have often regretted that Sir Walter Scott, who, after all, has not
done full justice to Bruce in that very unequal and incondite poem 'The
Lord of the Isles,' had not bent his strength upon the Ulysses bow of
Wallace, and filled up that splendid sketch of a part of his history to
be found near the beginning of 'The Fair Maid of Perth.' As it is, after
all that a number of respectable writers, such as Miss Porter, Mrs
Hemans, Findlay, the late Mr Macpherson of Glasgow, and others, have
done--in prose or verse, in the novel, the poem, or the drama--to
illustrate the character and career of the Scottish hero, Blind Harry
remains his poet.

It is necessary to notice that Harry derived, by his own account, many
of the facts of his narrative from a work by John Blair, a Benedictine
monk from Dundee, who acted as Wallace's chaplain, and seems to have
composed a life of him in Latin, which is lost. Besides these, he
doubtless mingled in the story a number of traditions--some true, and
some false--which he found floating through the country. His authority
in reference to certain disputed matters, such as Wallace's journey to
France, and his capture of the Red Rover, Thomas de Longueville, who
became his fast friend and fellow-soldier, was not long ago entirely
established by certain important documents brought to light by the
Maitland Club. It is probable that some other of his supposed
misstatements--always excepting his ghost-stories--may yet receive from
future researches the confirmation they as yet want. Blind Harry, living
about a century and a half after the era of Wallace, and at a time when
tradition was the chief literature, was not likely to be able to test
the evidence of many of the circumstances which he narrated; but he
seems to speak in good faith: and, after all, what Paley says is
unquestionably true as a general principle--'Men tell lies about minute
circumstantials, but they rarely invent.'


Kerlie beheld unto the bold Heroun,
Upon Fawdoun as he was looking down,
A subtil stroke upward him took that tide,
Under the cheeks the grounden sword gart[1] glide,
By the mail good, both halse[2] and his craig-bane[3]
In sunder strake; thus ended that chieftain,
To ground he fell, feil[4] folk about him throng,
'Treason,' they cried, 'traitors are us among.'
Kerlie, with that, fled out soon at a side,
His fellow Steven then thought no time to bide.
The fray was great, and fast away they yeed,[5]
Both toward Earn; thus 'scaped they that dread.
Butler for woe of weeping might not stint.
Thus recklessly this good knight have they tint.[6]
They deemed all that it was Wallace' men,
Or else himself, though they could not him ken;
'He is right near, we shall him have but[7] fail,
This feeble wood may little him avail.'
Forty there pass'd again to Saint Johnstoun,
With this dead corpse, to burying made it boune.[8]
Parted their men, syne[9] divers ways they rode,
A great power at Dupplin still there 'bode.
To Dalwryeth the Butler pass'd but let,[10]
At sundry fords the gate[11] they unbeset,[12]
To keep the wood while it was day they thought.
As Wallace thus in the thick forest sought,
For his two men in mind he had great pain,
He wist not well if they were ta'en or slain,
Or 'scaped haill[13] by any jeopardy.
Thirteen were left with him, no more had he;
In the Gaskhall their lodging have they ta'en.
Fire got they soon, but meat then had they nane;
Two sheep they took beside them of a fold,
Ordain'd to sup into that seemly hold:
Graithed[14] in haste some food for them to dight:[15]
So heard they blow rude horns upon height.
Two sent he forth to look what it might be;
They 'bode right long, and no tidings heard he,
But bousteous[16] noise so bryvely blowing fast;
So other two into the wood forth pass'd.
None came again, but bousteously can blaw,
Into great ire he sent them forth on raw.[17]
When that alone Wallace was leaved there,
The awful blast abounded meikle mare;[18]
Then trow'd he well they had his lodging seen;
His sword he drew of noble metal keen,
Syne forth he went whereat he heard the horn.
Without the door Fawdoun was him beforn,
As to his sight, his own head in his hand;
A cross he made when he saw him so stand.
At Wallace in the head he swakked[19] there,
And he in haste soon hint[20] it by the hair,
Syne out again at him he could it cast,
Into his heart he greatly was aghast.
Right well he trow'd that was no sprite of man,
It was some devil, that sic[21] malice began.
He wist no wale[22] there longer for to bide.
Up through the hall thus wight Wallace can glide,
To a close stair, the boards they rave[23] in twin,[24]
Fifteen foot large he lap out of that inn.
Up the water he suddenly could fare,
Again he blink'd what 'pearance he saw there,
He thought he saw Fawdoun, that ugly sire,
That haill[25] hall he had set into a fire;
A great rafter he had into his hand.
Wallace as then no longer would he stand.
Of his good men full great marvel had he,
How they were tint through his feil[26] fantasy.
Trust right well that all this was sooth indeed,
Suppose that it no point be of the creed.
Power they had with Lucifer that fell,
The time when he parted from heaven to hell.
By sic mischief if his men might be lost,
Drowned or slain among the English host;
Or what it was in likeness of Fawdoun,
Which brought his men to sudden confusion;
Or if the man ended in ill intent,
Some wicked sprite again for him present.
I cannot speak of sic divinity,
To clerks I will let all sic matters be:
But of Wallace, now forth I will you tell.
When he was won out of that peril fell,
Right glad was he that he had 'scaped sa,[27]
But for his men great mourning can he ma.[28]
Flait[29] by himself to the Maker above
Why he suffer'd he should sic paining prove.
He wist not well if that it was God's will;
Right or wrong his fortune to fulfil,
Had he pleas'd God, he trow'd it might not bo
He should him thole[30] in sic perplexity.
But great courage in his mind ever drave,
Of Englishmen thinking amends to have.
As he was thus walking by him alone
Upon Earnside, making a piteous moan,
Sir John Butler, to watch the fords right,
Out from his men of Wallace had a sight;
The mist again to the mountains was gone,
To him he rode, where that he made his moan.
On loud he speir'd,[31] 'What art thou walks that gate?'
'A true man, Sir, though my voyage be late;
Errands I pass from Down unto my lord,
Sir John Stewart, the right for to record,
In Down is now, newly come from the King.'
Then Butler said, 'This is a selcouth[32] thing,
You lied all out, you have been with Wallace,
I shall thee know, ere you come off this place;'
To him he start the courser wonder wight,
Drew out a sword, so made him for to light.
Above the knee good Wallace has him ta'en,
Through thigh and brawn in sunder strake the bane.[33]
Derfly[34] to dead the knight fell on the land.
Wallace the horse soon seized in his hand,
An ackward stroke syne took him in that stead,
His craig in two; thus was the Butler dead.
An Englishman saw their chieftain was slain,
A spear in rest he cast with all his main,
On Wallace drave, from the horse him to bear;
Warily he wrought, as worthy man in weir.[35]
The spear ho wan withouten more abode,
On horse he lap,[36] and through a great rout rode;
To Dalwryeth he knew the ford full well:
Before him came feil[37] stuffed[38] in fine steel.
He strake the first, but bade,[39] on the blasoun,[40]
Till horse and man both fleet[41] the water down.
Another soon down from his horse he bare,
Stamped to ground, and drown'd withouten mair.[42]
The third he hit in his harness of steel,
Throughout the cost,[43] the spear it brake some deal.
The great power then after him can ride.
He saw no waill[44] there longer for to bide.
His burnish'd brand braithly[45] in hand he bare,
Whom he hit right they follow'd him na mair.[46]
To stuff the chase feil freiks[47] follow'd fast,
But Wallace made the gayest aye aghast.
The muir he took, and through their power yede,
The horse was good, but yet he had great dread
For failing ere he wan unto a strength,
The chase was great, skail'd[48] over breadth and length,
Through strong danger they had him aye in sight.
At the Blackford there Wallace down can light,
His horse stuffed,[49] for way was deep and lang,
A large great mile wightly on foot could gang.[50]
Ere he was hors'd riders about him cast,
He saw full well long so he might not last.
Sad[51] men indeed upon him can renew,
With returning that night twenty he slew,
The fiercest aye rudely rebutted he,
Keeped his horse, and right wisely can flee,
Till that he came the mirkest[52] muir amang.
His horse gave over, and would no further gang.

[1] 'Gart:' caused.
[2] 'Halse:' throat.
[3] 'Craig-bane:' neck-lone.
[4] 'Feil:' many.
[5] 'Yeed:' went.
[6] 'Tint:' lost.
[7] 'But:' without.
[8] 'Boune:' ready.
[9] 'Sync:' then.
[10] 'But let:' without impediment.
[11] 'Gate:' way.
[12] 'Unbeset:' surround.
[13] 'Haill:' wholly.
[14] 'Graithed:' prepared.
[15] 'Dight:' Make ready.
[16] 'Bousteous:' boisterous.
[17] 'On raw:' one after another.
[18] 'Meikle mare:' much more.
[19] 'Swakked:' pitched.
[20] 'Hint:' took.
[21] 'Sic:' such.
[22] 'Wale:' advantage.
[23] 'Rave:' split.
[24] 'Twin:' twain.
[25] 'Haill:'whole.
[26] 'Feil:' great.
[27] 'Sa:' so.
[28] 'Ma:' make.
[29] 'Flait:' chided.
[30] 'Thole:' suffer.
[31] 'Speir'd:' asked.
[32] 'Selcouth:' strange.
[33] 'Bane:' bone.
[34] 'Derfly:' Quickly.
[35] 'Weir:' war.
[36] 'Lap:' leaped.
[37] 'Feil:' many.
[38] 'Stuffed:' armed.
[39] 'But bade:' without delay.
[40] 'Blasoun:' dress over armour.
[41] 'Fleet:' float.
[42] 'Mair:' more.
[43] 'Cost:' side.
[44] 'Waill:' advantage.
[45] 'Braithly:' violently.
[46] 'Na mair:' no more.
[47] 'Feil freiks:' many fierce fellows.
[48] 'Skail'd:' spread.
[49] 'Stuffed:' blown.
[50] 'Gang:' go.
[51] 'Sad:' steady.
[52] 'Mirkest:' darkest.


On Wednesday the false Southron forth him brought
To martyr him, as they before had wrought.[1]
Of men in arms led him a full great rout.
With a bold sprite good Wallace blink'd about:
A priest he ask'd, for God that died on tree.
King Edward then commanded his clergy,
And said, 'I charge you, upon loss of life,
None be so bold yon tyrant for to shrive.
He has reign'd long in contrare my highness.'
A blithe bishop soon, present in that place;
Of Canterbury he then was righteous lord;
Against the king he made this right record,
And said, 'Myself shall hear his confessioun,
If I have might, in contrare of thy crown.
An[2] thou through force will stop me of this thing,
I vow to God, who is my righteous king,
That all England I shall her interdict,
And make it known thou art a heretic.
The sacrament of kirk I shall him give:
Syne[3] take thy choice, to starve[4] or let him live.
It were more 'vail, in worship of thy crown,
To keep such one in life in thy bandoun,[5]
Than all the land and good that thou hast reft,
But cowardice thee aye from honour dreft.[6]
Thou hast thy life rougin[7] in wrongous deed;
That shall be seen on thee, or on thy seed.'
The king gart[8] charge they should the bishop tae,[9]
But sad[10] lords counselled to let him gae.
All Englishmen said that his desire was right.
To Wallace then he raiked[11] in their sight,
And sadly heard his confession till an end:
Humbly to God his sprite he there commend,
Lowly him served with hearty devotion
Upon his knees, and said an orison.
A psalter-book Wallace had on him ever,
From his childhood from it would not dissever;
Better he trow'd in voyage[12] for to speed.
But then he was despoiled of his weed.[13]
This grace he ask'd at Lord Clifford, that knight,
To let him have his psalter-book in sight.
He gart a priest it open before him hold,
While they till him had done all that they would.
Steadfast he read for ought they did him there;
Foil[14] Southrons said that Wallace felt no sair.[15]
Good devotion so was his beginning,
Continued therewith, and fair was his ending;
Till speech and spirit at once all can fare
To lasting bliss, we trow, for eveermair.

[1] 'Wrought:' contrived.
[2] 'An:' if.
[3] 'Syne:' then.
[4] 'Starve:' perish.
[5] 'Bandoun:' disposal.
[6] 'Dreft:' drove.
[7] 'Rougin:' spent.
[8] 'Gart:' caused.
[9] 'Tae:' take.
[10] 'Sad:' grave.
[11] 'Raiked:' walked.
[12] 'Voyage:' journey to heaven.
[13] 'Weed:' clothes.
[14] 'Feil:' many.
[15] 'Sair:' sore.


Here we have a great ascent from our former subject of biography--from
Blind Harry to James I.--from a beggar to a king. But in the Palace of
Poetry there are 'many mansions,' and men of all ranks, climes,
characters, professions, and we had almost added _talents_, have been
welcome to inhabit there. For, even as in the House Beautiful, the weak
Ready-to-halt and the timid Much-afraid were as cheerfully received as
the strong Honest and the bold Valiant-for-truth; so Poetry has inspired
children, and seeming fools, and maniacs, and mendicants with the finest
breath of her spirit. The 'Fable-tree' Fontaine is as immortal as
Corneille; Christopher Smart's 'David' shall live as long as Milton's
'Paradise Lost;' and the rude epic of a blind wanderer, whose birth,
parentage, and period of death are all alike unknown, shall continue to
rank in interest with the productions of one who inherited that kingdom
of Scotland, the independence of which was bought by the successive
efforts and the blended blood of Wallace and Bruce.

Let us now look for a moment at the history and the writings of this
'Royal Poet.' The name will suggest to all intelligent readers the title
of one of the most pleasing papers in Washington Irving's 'Sketch-book.'
James I. was the son of Robert III. of Scotland,--a character familiar
to all from the admirable 'Fair Maid of Perth,'--and of Annabella
Stewart. He was created Earl of Carrick; and after the miserable death
of the Duke of Rothesay, his elder brother, his father, apprehensive of
the further designs of Albany, determined to send James to France, to
find an asylum and receive his education in that friendly Court. On his
way, the vessel was captured off Flamborough Head by an English cruiser,
(the 13th of March 1405,) and the young prince, with his attendants, was
conveyed to London, and committed to the Tower. As there was a truce
between the two nations at the time, this was a flagrant outrage on the
law of nations, and has indelibly disgraced the memory of Henry IV.,
who, when some one remonstrated with him on the injustice of the
detention, replied, with cool brutality, 'Had the Scots been grateful,
they ought to have sent the youth to me, for I understand French well.'
Here for nineteen years,--during the remainder of the life of Henry IV.,
and the whole of the reign of Henry V.,--James continued. He was
educated, however, highly, according to the fashion of these times,
--instructed in the languages, as well as in music, painting,
architecture, horticulture, dancing, fencing, poetry, and other
accomplishments. Still it must have fretted his high spirit to be
passing his young life in prison, while without horses were stamping,
plumes glistening, trumpets sounding, tournaments waging, and echoes
from the great victories of Henry V. in France ringing around. One
sweetener of his solitude, however, he at length enjoyed. Having been
transferred from the Tower to Windsor Castle, he beheld one day from its
windows that beautiful vision he has described in 'The King's Quhair,'
(see 'Specimens.') This was Lady Jane or Joanna Beaufort, daughter of
the Earl of Somerset, niece of Richard II., and grand-daughter of John
of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. She was a lady of great beauty and
accomplishments as well as of high rank, and James, even before he knew
her name, became deeply enamoured. The passion was returned, and their
mutual attachment had by and by an important bearing upon his prospects.

In 1423, the Duke of Bedford being now the English Regent, the friends
of James renewed negotiations--often attempted before in vain--for his
return to his native land, where his father had been long dead, and
which, torn by factions and steeped in blood, was sorely needing his
presence. Commissioners from the two kingdoms met at Pontefract on the
12th of May 1423, when, in presence of the young King, and with his
consent, matters were arranged. The English coolly demanded £40,000 to
defray the expense of James's nurture and education, (as though a _bill_
were handed in to a man who had been unjustly detained in prison on
a false charge, ere he left its walls,) insisted on the immediate
departure of the Scots from France, where a portion of them were
fighting in the French army, and procured the assent of the Scottish
Privy Council to the marriage of James with his beloved Jane Beaufort.
A truce, too, with Scotland was concluded for seven years. All this was
settled; and soon after, in the Church of St Mary Overies, Southwark,
so often alluded to in the 'Life of Gower,' the happy pair were wed.
It seemed a most auspicious event for both countries, and to augur
the substitution of permanent peace for casual and temporary truces.
To Lady Jane Beaufort it gave a crown, and a noble, gallant, and gifted
prince to share it withal. On James it bestowed a lady of great beauty,
who was regarded, too, with gratitude as having lightened the load of
his captivity, and been a sunshine in his shady place, and--least
consideration--who brought him a dowry of £10,000, which was, in fact,
a remission of the fourth part of his ransom.

Attended by a magnificent retinue, the royal pair set out for Scotland.
They were met at Durham by three hundred of the principal nobility and
gentry, twenty-eight of whom were retained by the English as hostages
for the national faith. Arrived on his native soil, James, at Melrose
Abbey, gave his solemn assent on the Holy Gospels to the treaty; and
seldom have the Eildon Hills returned a louder and more joyous shout
of acclamation than now welcomed back to the kingdom of his fathers
the 'Royal Poet.' He proceeded to Edinburgh, where he celebrated Easter
with great pomp, and a month later, he and his queen were solemnly
crowned inthe Abbey Church at Scone. This was in 1424. He lived after
this only thirteen years; but the period of his reign has always been
thought a glorious interlude in the dark early history of Scotland.
He set himself, with considerable success, to curb the exorbitant
power of the nobles, sacrificing some of them, such as Albany, to his
just indignation. He passed many useful regulations in reference to
the coinage, the constitution, and the commerce of the country. He
suppressed with a strong hand some of the gangs of robbers and 'sorners'
which abounded, founding instead the order of Bedesmen or King's
Beggars, immortalised since in the character of Edie Ochiltree. He
stretched a strong hand over the refractory Highland chieftains. While
keeping at first on good terms with the English Court, he turned with a
fonder eye to the French as the ancient allies of Scotland, and in 1436
gave his daughter Margaret in marriage to the Dauphin. This step roused
the jealousy of his southern neighbours, who tried even to intercept the
fleet that was conveying the bride across the Channel, whereupon James,
stung to fury, proclaimed war against England, and in August commenced
the siege of Roxburgh Castle. The castle, after being environed for
fifteen days, was about to fall into his hands, when the Queen suddenly
arrived in the camp, and communicated some information, probably
referring to a threatened conspiracy of the nobles, which induced him
to throw up the siege, disband his army, and return northward in haste.
This unexpected step probably retarded, but could not prevent the
dreadful purpose of death which had already been formed against the

In October 1436, he held his last Parliament in Edinburgh, in which,
amidst many other enactments, we find, curiously enough, a prefiguration
of the Forbes Mackenzie Act, in a decree that all taverns should be shut
at nine o'clock. In the end of the year he determined on retiring to
Perth, where (in the language of Gibbon, applied to Timour) 'he was
expected by the Angel of Death.' It is said that, when about to cross
the Frith of Forth, then called the Scottish Sea, a Highland woman, who
claimed the character of a prophetess, like Meg Merrilees in fiction,
met the cavalcade, and cried out, with a loud voice, 'My Lord the King,
if you pass this water you shall never return again alive;' but as she
was concluded to be mad or drunk, her warning was scorned. He betook
himself to the convent of the Black Friars, where Christmas was being
celebrated with great pomp and splendour. Meanwhile Robert Grahame, and
Walter, Earl of Athole, the King's own uncle, actuated, the former by
revenge on account of the resumption of some lands improperly granted
to his family, and the latter by a desire to succeed to the Crown, had
formed a plot against James's life. Several warnings, besides that of
the Highland seeress, the King received, but he heeded them not, and,
like most of the doomed, was in unnaturally high spirits, as if the
winding-sheet far up his breast had been a wedding-robe.

It is the evening of the 20th of February 1437. James and his nobles and
ladies are seated at table till deep into the night, engaged in chess,
music, and song. Athole, like another Judas, has supped with them, and
gone out at a late hour. A tremendous knocking is heard at the gate. It
is the Highland prophetess, who, having followed the monarch to Perth,
is seeking to force her way into the room. The King tells her, through
his usher, that he cannot receive her to-night, but will hear her
tidings to-morrow. She retires reluctantly, murmuring that they will for
ever rue their refusal to admit her into the royal presence. About an
hour after this, James calls for the _Voidee_, or parting-cup, and the
company disperse. Sir Robert Stewart, the chamberlain, who is in the
confidence of the conspirators, is the last to retire, having previously
destroyed the locks and removed the bars of the doors of the royal bed-
chamber and the outer room adjoining. The King is standing before the
fire, in his night-gown and slippers, and talking gaily with the Queen
and her ladies, when torches are seen flashing up from the garden, and
the clash of arms and the sound of angry voices is heard from below. A
sense of the dread reality bursts on them in an instant. The Queen and
the ladies run to secure the door of the chamber, while James, seizing
the tongs, wrenches up one of the boards of the floor and takes refuge
in a vault beneath. This was wont to have an opening to the outer court,
but it had unfortunately been built up of late by his own orders. There,
under the replaced boards, cowers the King, while the Queen and her
women seek to barricade the door. One brave young lady, Catherine
Douglas, thrusts her beautiful arm into the staple from which the bolt
had been removed. It is broken in a moment, and she sinks back, to bear,
with her descendants--a family well known in Scotland--the name of
_Barlass_ ever since. The murderers, who had previously killed in the
passage one Walter Straiton, a page, rush in, with naked swords,
wounding the ladies, striking, and well-nigh killing the Queen, and
crying, with frantic imprecations, 'This is but a woman! Where is
James?' Finding him not in the chamber, they leave it, and disperse
through the neighbouring apartments in search.

James, who had become wearied of his immurement, and thought the
assassins were gone, calls now on one of the ladies to aid him in coming
out of his place of concealment. But while this is being effected, one
of the murderers returns. The cry, 'Found, found,' rings through the
halls; and after a violent but unarmed resistance, the King is, with
circumstances of horrible barbarity, first mangled, then run through the
body, and then despatched with daggers. In vain he offers half his
kingdom for his life; and when he seeks a confessor from Grahame, the
ruffian replies, 'Thou shalt have no confessor but this sword.' It is
satisfactory to know that the Queen made her escape, and that the
criminals were punished, although the tortures they endured are such
as human nature shrinks from conceiving, and history with a shudder

* * * * *

We turn with pleasure from King James's life and death to his poetry,
although there is so little of it that a sentence or two will suffice.
'The King's Quhair' is a poem conceived very much in the spirit, and
written in the style of Chaucer, whose works were favourites with James.
There is the same sympathy with nature, and the same perception of _its_
relation to and unconscious sympathy with human feelings, and the same
luscious richness in the description, alike of the early beauties of
spring and of youthful feminine loveliness, although this seems more
natural in the young poet James than in the sexagenarian author of 'The
Canterbury Tales.' There is nothing even in Chaucer we think finer than
the picture of Lady Jane Beaufort in the garden, particularly in the

'Or are ye god Cupidis own princess,
And comen are ye to loose me out of band?
Or are ye very Nature the goddess,
That have depainted with your heavenly hand
This garden full of flowers as they stand?'

Or where, picturing his mistress, he cries--

'And above all this there was, well I wot,
Beauty enough to make a world to dote.'

Or where, describing a ruby on her bosom, he says--

'That as a spark of low[1] so wantonly
Seemed burning upon her white throat.'

[1] 'Low:' fire.

Besides this precious little poem, King James is believed by some to
have written several poems on Scottish subjects, such as 'Christis Kirk
on the Green,' 'Peblis to the Play,' &c., but his claim to these is
uncertain. The first describes the mingled merrymaking and contest
common in the old rude marriages of Scotland, and, whether by James or
not, is full of burly, picturesque force.

Take the Miller--

'The Miller was of manly make,
To meet him was no mowes.[1]
There durst not tensome there him take,
So cowed he their powes.[2]
The bushment whole about him brake,
And bicker'd him with bows.
Then traitorously behind his back
They hack'd him on the boughs
Behind that day.'

Or look at the following ill-paired pair--

'Of all these maidens mild as mead,
Was none so jimp as Gillie.
As any rose her rude[3] was red--
Her lire[4] like any lillie.
But yellow, yellow was her head,
And she of love so silly;
Though all her kin had sworn her dead,
She would have none but Willie,
Alone that day.

'She scorn'd Jock, and scripped at him,
And murgeon'd him with mocks--
He would have loved her--she would not let him,
For all his yellow locks.
He cherisht her--she bade go chat him--
She counted him not two clocks.
So shamefully his short jack[5] set him,
His legs were like two rocks,
Or rungs that day.'

[1] 'Mowes:' joke.
[2] 'Powes:' heads.
[3] 'Rude:' complexion.
[4] 'Lire:' flesh, skill.
[5] 'Jack:' jacket.

Our readers will perceive the resemblance, both in spirit and in form of
verse, between this old poem and the 'Holy Fair,' and other productions
of Burns.

James, cut off in the prime of life, may almost be called the abortive
Alfred of Scotland. Had he lived, he might have made important
contributions to her literature as well as laws, and given her a
standing among the nations of Europe, which it took long ages, and even
an incorporation with England, to secure. As it is, he stands high on
the list of royal authors, and of those kings who, whether authors or
not, have felt that nations cannot live on bread alone, and who have
sought their intellectual culture as an object not inferior to their
physical comfort. It is not, perhaps, too much to say, that no man or
woman of genius has sate either on the Scotch or English throne since,
except Cromwell, to whom, however, the term 'genius,' in its common
sense, seems ludicrously inadequate. James V. had some of the erratic
qualities of the poetic tribe, but his claim to the songs--such as the
'Gaberlunzie Man'--which go under his name, is exceedingly doubtful.
James VI. was a pedant, without being a scholar--a rhymester, not a
poet. Of the rest we need not speak. Seldom has the sceptre become an
Aaron's rod, and flourished with the buds and blossoms of song. In our
annals there has been one, and but one 'Royal Poet.'



The longė dayės and the nightės eke,
I would bewail my fortune in this wise,
For which, against distress comfórt to seek,
My custom was, on mornės, for to rise
Early as day: O happy exercise!
By thee came I to joy out of tormčnt;
But now to purpose of my first intent.


Bewailing in my chamber, thus alone,
Despaired of all joy and remedy,
For-tired of my thought, and woe begone;
And to the window 'gan I walk in hye,[1]
To see the world and folk that went forby;
As for the time (though I of mirthis food
Might have no more) to look it did me good.


Now was there made fast by the toweris wall
A garden fair; and in the corners set
An herbere[2] green; with wandis long and small
Railed about, and so with treės set
Was all the place, and hawthorn hedges knet,
That life was none [a] walking there forby
That might within scarce any wight espy.

* * * * *


And on the smallė greenė twistis [3] sat
The little sweetė nightingale, and sung,
So loud and clear the hymnis consecrate
Of lovė's use, now soft, now loud among,[4]
That all the gardens and the wallis rung
Right of their song; and on the couple next
Of their sweet harmony, and lo the text.


Worship, O ye that lovers be, this May!
For of your bliss the calends are begun;
And sing with us, 'Away! winter, away!
Come, summer, come, the sweet seasņn and sun;
Awake for shame that have your heavens won;
And amorously lift up your headės all,
Thank love that list you to his mercy call.

* * * * *


And therewith cast I down mine eye again,
Where as I saw walking under the tower,
Full secretly new comen to her pleyne,[5]
The fairest and the freshest youngė flower
That e'er I saw (methought) before that hour
For which sudden abate [6] anon astert [7]
The blood of all my body to my heart.

* * * * *


Of her array the form if I shall write,
Toward her golden hair, and rich attire,
In fret-wise couched with pearlis white,
And greatė balas[8] lemyng[9] as the fire;
With many an emerald and fair sapphģre,
And on her head a chaplet fresh of hue,
Of plumės parted red, and white, and blue.

* * * * *


About her neck, white as the fair amaille,[10]
A goodly chain of small orfeverie,[11]
Whereby there hang a ruby without fail
Like to a heart yshapen verily,
That as a spark of lowe[12] so wantonly
Seemed burning upon her whitė throat;
Now if there was good, perdie God it wrote.


And for to walk that freshė Mayė's morrow,
A hook she had upon her tissue white,
That goodlier had not been seen toforrow,[13]
As I suppose, and girt she, was a lite[14]
Thus halfling[15] loose for haste; to such delight
It was to see her youth in goodlihead,
That for rudeness to speak thereof I dread.


In her was youth, beauty with humble port,
Bounty, richess, and womanly featśre:
(God better wot than my pen can report)
Wisdom, largčss, estate, and cunning[16] sure,

* * * * *

In word, in deed, in shape and countenance,
That nature might no more her child advance.

[1] 'Hye:' haste.
[2] 'Herbere:' herbary, or garden of simples.
[3] 'Twistis:' twigs.
[4] 'Among:' promiscuously.
[5] 'Pleyne:' sport.
[6] 'Sudden abate:' unexpected accident.
[7] 'Astert:' started back.
[8] 'Balas:' rubies.
[9] 'Lemyng:' burning.
[10] 'Amaille:' enamel.
[11] 'Orfeverie:' goldsmith's work.
[12] 'Lowe:' fire.
[13] 'Toforrow:' heretofore.
[14] 'Lite:' a little.
[15] 'Halfling:' half.
[16] 'Cunning:' knowledge.

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