John Barbour (c.1320 – 13 March 1395 / Aberdeenshire or Galloway, Scotland)
The Brus Book I
This book the true story of King Robert and Sir James Douglas
Storys to rede ar delatibill
Suppos that thai be nocht bot fabill,
Than suld storys that suthfast wer
And thai war said on gud maner
5 Have doubill plesance in heryng.
The first plesance is the carpyng,
And the tother the suthfastnes
That schawys the thing rycht as it wes,
And suth thyngis that ar likand
10 Till mannys heryng ar plesand.
Tharfor I wald fayne set my will
Giff my wyt mycht suffice thartill
To put in wryt a suthfast story
That it lest ay furth in memory
15 Swa that na tyme of lenth it let
Na ger it haly be foryet.
For auld storys that men redys
Representis to thaim the dedys
Of stalwart folk that lyvyt ar
20 Rycht as thai than in presence war.
And certis thai suld weill have prys
That in thar tyme war wycht and wys
And led thar lyff in gret travaill,
And oft in hard stour off bataill
25 Wan gret price off chevalry
And war voydyt off cowardy,
As wes King Robert off Scotland
That hardy wes off hart and hand,
And gud Schir James off Douglas
30 That in his tyme sa worthy was
That off hys price and hys bounte
In ser landis renownyt wes he.
Off thaim I thynk this buk to ma,
Now God gyff grace that I may swa
35 Tret it and bryng till endyng
That I say nocht bot suthfast thing.
[Alexander III's death; the dispute over the succession
submitted to Edward I's arbitration]
Quhen Alexander the king wes deid
That Scotland haid to steyr and leid,
The land sex yer and mayr perfay
40 Lay desolat eftyr hys day
Till that the barnage at the last
Assemblyt thaim and fayndyt fast
To cheys a king thar land to ster
That off auncestry cummyn wer
45 Off kingis that aucht that reawté
And mayst had rycht thair king to be.
Bot envy that is sa feloune
Maid amang thaim gret discencioun,
For sum wald haiff the Balleoll king
50 For he wes cummyn off the offspryng
Off hyr that eldest syster was,
And other sum nyt all that cas
And said that he thair king suld be
That war in als ner degre
55 And cummyn war of the neyst male
And in branch collaterale.
Thai said successioun of kyngrik
Was nocht to lawer feys lik,
For thar mycht succed na female
60 Quhill foundyn mycht be ony male
How that in lyne evyn descendand.
Thai bar all otherwayis on hand,
For than the neyst cummyn off the seid
Man or woman suld succeid.
65 Be this resoun that part thocht hale
That the lord off Anandyrdale
Robert the Bruys erle off Carryk
Aucht to succeid to the kynryk.
The barounys thus war at discord
70 That on na maner mycht accord
Till at the last thai all concordyt
That thar spek suld be recordyt
Till Edward off Yngland king
And he suld swer that but fenyeyng
75 He suld that arbytre disclar
Off thir twa that I tauld off ar
Quhilk succeid to sic a hycht,
And lat him ryng that had the rycht.
This ordynance thaim thocht the best,
80 For that tyme wes pes and rest
Betwyx Scotland and Ingland bath,
And thai couth nocht persave the skaith
That towart thaim wes apperand.
For that at the king off Ingland
85 Held swylk freyndschip and cumpany
To thar king that wes swa worthy,
Thai trowyt that he as gud nychtbur
And as freyndsome compositur
Wald have jugyt in lawté
90 But othir-wayis all yheid the gle.
[Edward I's ambitions]
A! Blind folk full off all foly,
Haid ye umbethocht you enkrely
Quhat perell to you mycht apper
Ye had nocht wrocht on that maner.
95 Haid ye tane keip how at that king
Alwayis foroutyn sojournyng
Travayllyt for to wyn senyhory
And throu his mycht till occupy
Landis that war till him marcheand
100 As Walis was and als Ireland,
That he put to swylk thrillage
That thai that war of hey parage
Suld ryn on fute as rebaldaill
Quhen he wald our folk assaill.
105 Durst nane of Walis in bataill ride
Na yhet fra evyn fell abyd
Castell or wallyt toune within
That he ne suld lyff and lymmys tyne,
Into swilk thrillage thaim held he
110 That he ourcome throu his powste.
Ye mycht se he suld occupy
Throu slycht that he ne mycht throu maistri.
Had ye tane kep quhat was thrillag
And had consideryt his usage
115 That gryppyt ay but gayne-gevyng,
Ye suld foroutyn his demyng
Haiff chosyn you a king that mycht
Have haldyn weyle the land in rycht.
Walys ensample mycht have bene
120 To you had ye it forow sene,
And wys men sayis he is happy
That be other will him chasty,
For unfayr thingis may fall perfay
Als weill to-morn as yhisterday.
125 Bot ye traistyt in lawté
As sympile folk but mavyté,
And wyst nocht quhat suld efter tyd.
For in this warld that is sa wyde
Is nane determynat that sall
130 Knaw thingis that ar to fall,
But God that is off maist powesté
Reservyt till his majesté
For to knaw in his prescience
Off alkyn tyme the movence.
[Edward I offers Scotland to Robert Bruce; and to John Balliol]
135 On this maner assentyt war
The barounis as I said you ar,
And throuch thar aller hale assent
Messengeris till hym thai sent,
That was than in the Haly Land
140 On Saracenys warrayand.
And fra he wyst quhat charge thai had
He buskyt hym but mar abad
And left purpos that he had tane
And till Ingland agayne is gane,
145 And syne till Scotland word send he
That thai suld mak ane assemble,
And he in hy suld cum to do
In all thing as thai wrayt him to.
Bot he thocht weile throuch thar debat
150 That he suld slely fynd the gate
How that he all the senyhoury
Throu his gret mycht suld occupy.
And to Robert the Bruys said he,
'Gyff thou will hald in cheyff off me
155 For evermar, and thine ofspryng,
I sall do swa thou sall be king.'
'Schyr,' said he, 'sa God me save
The kynryk yharn I nocht to have
Bot gyff it fall off rycht to me,
160 And gyff God will that it sa be
I sall als frely in all thing
Hald it as it afferis to king,
Or as myn eldris forouth me
Held it in freyast reawté.'
165 The tother wreyth him and swar
That he suld have it never mar
And turnyt him in wreth away.
Bot Schyr Jhon the Balleoll perfay
Assentyt till him in all his will,
170 Quharthrouch fell efter mekill ill.
He was king bot a litill quhile
And throuch gret sutelte and ghyle
For litill enchesone or nane
He was arestyt syne and tane,
175 And degradyt syne wes he
Off honour and off dignite,
Quhether it wes throuch wrang or rycht
God wat it that is maist off mycht.
[The miseries of English occupation]
Quhen Schyr Edward the mychty king
180 Had on this wys done his likyng
Off Jhone the Balleoll, that swa sone
Was all defawtyt and undone,
To Scotland went he than in hy,
And all the land gan occupy
185 Sa hale that bath castell and toune
War intill his possessioune
Fra Weik anent Orknay
To Mullyr Snuk in Gallaway,
And stuffyt all with Inglismen.
190 Schyrreffys and bailyheys maid he then,
And alkyn other officeris
That for to govern land afferis
He maid off Inglis nation,
That worthyt than sa rycht fellone
195 And sa wykkyt and covatous
And swa hawtane and dispitous
That Scottismen mycht do na thing
That ever mycht pleys to thar liking.
Thar wyffis wald thai oft forly
200 And thar dochtrys dispitusly
And gyff ony of thaim tharat war wrath
Thai watyt hym wele with gret scaith,
For thai suld fynd sone enchesone
To put hym to destruccione.
205 And gyff that ony man thaim by
Had ony thing that wes worthy,
As hors or hund or other thing
That war plesand to thar liking,
With rycht or wrang it have wald thai,
210 And gyf ony wald thaim withsay
Thai suld swa do that thai suld tyne
Othir land or lyff or leyff in pyne,
For thai dempt thaim efter thar will,
Takand na kep to rycht na skill.
215 A! Quhat thai dempt thaim felonly,
For gud knychtis that war worthy
For litill enchesoune or than nane
Thai hangyt be the nekbane.
Alas that folk that ever wes fre,
220 And in fredome wount for to be,
Throu thar gret myschance and foly
War tretyt than sa wykkytly
That thar fays thar jugis war,
Quhat wrechitnes may man have mar.
[In praise of freedom; on the pains of thralldom]
225 A! Fredome is a noble thing
Fredome mays man to haiff liking.
Fredome all solace to man giffis,
He levys at es that frely levys.
A noble hart may haiff nane es
230 Na ellys nocht that may him ples
Gyff fredome failyhe, for fre liking
Is yharnyt our all other thing.
Na he that ay has levyt fre
May nocht knaw weill the propyrte
235 The angyr na the wrechyt dome
That is couplyt to foule thyrldome,
Bot gyff he had assayit it.
Than all perquer he suld it wyt,
And suld think fredome mar to prys
240 Than all the gold in warld that is.
Thus contrar thingis evermar
Discoveryngis off the tother ar,
And he that thryll is has nocht his.
All that he has enbandounyt is
245 Till hys lord quhatever he be.
Yheyt has he nocht sa mekill fre
As fre wyll to leyve or do
That at his hart hym drawis to.
Than may clerkis questioun
250 Quhen thai fall in disputacioun
That gyff man bad his thryll owcht do,
And in the samyn tym come him to
His wyff and askyt him hyr det,
Quhether he his lordis neid suld let,
255 And pay fryst that he awcht, and syne
Do furth his lordis commandyne,
Or leve onpayit his wyff and do
Thai thingis that commaundyt is him to.
I leve all the solucioun
260 Till thaim that ar off mar renoun
Bot sen thai mak sic comperyng
Betwix the dettis off wedding
And lordis bidding till his threll,
Ye may weile se thoucht nane you tell
265 How hard a thing that threldome is.
For men may weile se that ar wys
That wedding is the hardest band
That ony man may tak on hand,
And thryldome is weill wer than deid,
270 For quhill a thryll his lyff may leid
It merrys him body and banys,
And dede anoyis him bot anys.
Schortly to say, is nane can tell
The halle condicioun off a threll.
[The fate of Sir William Douglas; his son James goes
as a boy to Paris]
275 Thusgat levyt thai and in sic thrillage
Bath pur and thai off hey parag,
For off the lordis sum thai slew
And sum thai hangyt and sum thai drew,
And sum thai put in hard presoune
280 Foroutyn caus or enchesoun,
And amang other off Douglas
Put in presoun Schyr Wilyam was
That off Douglas was lord and syr,
Off him thai makyt a martyr.
285 Fra thai in presoune him sleuch
His land that is fayr inewch
Thai the lord off Clyffurd gave.
He had a sone, a litill knave,
That was than bot a litill page,
290 Bot syne he wes off gret vaslage.
Hys fadyr dede he vengyt sua
That in Ingland I underta
Wes nane off lyve that hym ne dred,
For he sa fele off harnys sched
295 That nane that lyvys thaim can tell.
Bot wonderly hard thing fell
Till him or he till state wes brocht.
Thair wes nane aventur that mocht
Stunay hys hart na ger him let
300 To do the thing that he wes on set,
For he thocht ay encrely
To do his deid avysily.
He thocht weill he was worth na seyle
That mycht of nane anoyis feyle,
305 And als for till escheve gret thingis
And hard travalys and barganyngis,
That suld ger his price doublyt be.
Quharfor in all hys lyvetyme he
Wes in gret payn and gret travaill,
310 And never wald for myscheiff faill
Bot dryve the thing rycht to the end
And tak the ure that God wald send.
His name wes James of Douglas,
And quhen he herd his fader was
315 Put in presoune so fellounly,
And at his landis halyly
War gevyn to the Clyffurd perfay
He wyst nocht quhat to do na say,
For he had na thing for to dispend
320 Na thar wes nane that ever him kend
Wald do sa mekill for him that he
Mycht sufficiantly fundyn be.
Than wes he wonder will off wane,
And sodanly in hart has tane
325 That he wald travaile our the se
And a quhile in Parys be,
And dre myscheiff quhar nane hym kend
Til God sum succouris till hym send.
And as he thocht he did rycht sua,
330 And sone to Parys can he ga
And levyt thar full sympylly,
The-quhether he glaid was and joly,
And till swylk thowlesnes he yeid
As the cours askis off youtheid,
335 And umquhill into rybbaldaill.
And that may mony tyme availl,
For knawlage off mony statis
May quhile availye full mony gatis
As to the gud erle off Artayis
340 Robert befell in his dayis
For oft fenyeyng off rybbaldy
Availyeit himand that gretly.
And Catone sayis us in his wryt
That to fenyhe foly quhile is wyt.
345 In Parys ner thre yer dwellyt he,
And then come tythandis our the se
That his fadyr wes done to ded.
Then wes he wa and will of red,
And thocht that he wald hame agayne
350 To luk gyff he throu ony payn
Mycht wyn agayn his heritage
And his men out off all thryllage.
[Douglas returns to Scotland, to serve the bishop of St Andrews;
To Sanct Androws he come in hy,
Quhar the byschop full curtasly
355 Resavyt him and gert him wer
His knyvys forouth him to scher,
And cled him rycht honorabilly
And gert ordayn quhar he suld ly.
A weile gret quhile thar dwellyt he.
360 All men lufyt him, for his bounte,
For he wes off full fayr effer
Wys curtais and deboner.
Larg and luffand als wes he,
And our all thing luffyt lawté.
365 Leawté to luff is gretumly,
Throuch leawté liffis men rychtwisly.
With a vertu and leawté
A man may yeit sufficyand be,
And but leawté may nane haiff price
370 Quether he be wycht or he be wys,
For quhar it failyeys na vertu
May be off price na off valu
To mak a man sa gud that he
May symply callyt gud man be.
375 He wes in all his dedis lele,
For him dedeynyeit nocht to dele
With trechery na with falset.
His hart on hey honour wes set,
And hym contenyt on sic maner
380 That all him luffyt that war him ner.
Bot he wes nocht sa fayr that we
Suld spek gretly off his beauté.
In vysage wes he sumdeill gray
And had blak har as Ic hard say,
385 Bot off lymmys he wes weill maid
With banys gret and schuldrys braid,
His body wes weyll maid and lenye
As thai that saw hym said to me.
Quhen he wes blyth he wes lufly
390 And meyk and sweyt in cumpany,
Bot quha in battaill mycht him se
All othir contenance had he.
And in spek wlispyt he sumdeill,
Bot that sat him rycht wonfre weill.
395 Till gud Ector of Troy mycht he
In mony thingis liknyt be.
Ector had blak har as he had
And stark lymmys and rycht weill maid,
And wlispyt alsua as did he,
400 And wes fullfillyt of leawté
And wes curtais and wys and wycht
Bot off manheid and mekill mycht
Till Ector dar I nane comper
Off all that ever in warldys wer.
405 The-quhethyr in his tyme sa wrocht he
That he suld gretly lovyt be.
[Douglas asks Edward I for his lands]
He dwellyt thar quhill on a tid
The King Edward with mekill prid
Come to Strevillyne with gret mengye
410 For till hald thar ane assemble.
Thidderwart went mony baroune,
Byschop Wilyame off Lambyrtoun
Raid thiddyr als and with him was
This squyer James of Douglas.
415 The byschop led him to the king
And said, 'Schyr, heyr I to you bryng
This child that clemys your man to be,
And prays you par cheryté
That ye resave her his homage
420 And grantis him his heritage.'
'Quhat landis clemys he?' said the king.
'Schyr, giff that it be your liking
He clemys the lordschip off Douglas,
For lord tharoff hys fader was.'
425 The king then wrethyt him encrely
And said, 'Schyr byschop, sekyrly
Gyff thou wald kep thi fewté
Thoue maid nane sis speking to me.
His fadyr ay wes my fay feloune
430 And deyt tharfor in my presoun
And wes agayne my majesté
Tharfor hys ayr I aucht to be.
Ga purches land quharever he may
For tharoff haffys he nane, perfay.
435 The Clyffurd sall thaim haiff for he
Ay lely has servyt to me.'
The bischop hard him swa answer
And durst than spek till him na mar,
Bot fra his presence went in hy
440 For he dred sayr his felouny
Swa that he na mar spak tharto.
The king did that he com to do
And went till Ingland syn agayn
With mony man off mekill mayn.
[The romance begins; the Scots and the Macabees]
445 Lordingis, quha likis for till her,
The romanys now begynnys her
Off men that war in gret distres
And assayit full gret hardynes
Or thai mycht cum till thar entent.
450 Bot syne our Lord sic grace thaim sent
That thai syne throu thar gret valour
Come till gret hycht and till honour,
Magré thar fayis everilkane
That war sa fele that ay till ane
455 Off thaim thai war weill a thousand,
Bot quhar God helpys quhat may withstand.
Bot and we say the suthfastnes
Thai war sum tyme erar may then les,
Bot God that maist is off all mycht
460 Preservyt thaim in his forsycht
To veng the harme and the contrer
At that fele folk and pautener
Dyd till sympill folk and worthy
That couth nocht help thaim self. For-thi
465 Thai war lik to the Machabeys
That as men in the bibill seys
Throw thar gret worschip and valour
Faucht into mony stalwart stour
For to delyver thar countre
470 Fra folk that throu iniquite
Held thaim and thairis in thrillage.
Thai wrocht sua throu thar vasselage
That with few folk thai had victory
Off mychty kingis as sayis the story,
475 And delyveryt thar land all fre,
Quharfor thar name suld lovyt be.
[Comyn's proposal to Bruce]
Thys lord the Bruys I spak of ayr
Saw all the kynryk swa forfayr,
And swa troublyt the folk saw he
480 That he tharoff had gret pitte.
Bot quhat pite that ever he had
Na contenance tharoff he maid,
Till on a tym Schyr Jhone Cumyn
As thai come ridand fra Strevillyn
485 Said till him,'Schyr, will ye nocht se
How that governyt is this countre.
Thai sla our folk but enchesoune
And haldis this land agayne resoune,
And ye tharoff suld lord be.
490 And gyff that ye will trow to me
Ye sall ger mak you tharoff king,
And I sall be in your helping
With-thi ye giff me all the land
That ye haiff now intill your hand.
495 And gyff that ye will nocht do sua
Ne swylk a state upon you ta,
All hale my land sall youris be
And lat me ta the state on me
And bring this land out off thyrllage,
500 For thar is nother man na page
In all this land than thai sall be
Fayn to mak thaim selvyn fre.'
The lord the Bruis hard his carping
And wend he spak bot suthfast thing,
505 And for it likit till his will
He gave his assent sone thartill
And said, 'Sen ye will it be swa
I will blythly apon me ta
The state, for I wate that I have rycht,
510 And rycht mays oft the feble wycht.'
[The dangers of treason]
The barounys thus accordyt ar,
And that ilk nycht writyn war
Thair endenturis, and aythis maid
To hald that thai forspokyn haid.
515 Bot of all thing wa worth tresoun,
For thar is nother duk ne baroun
Na erle na prynce na king off mycht
Thocht he be never sa wys na wycht
For wyt worschip price na renoun,
520 That ever may wauch hym with tresoune.
Was nocht all Troy with tresoune tane
Quhen ten yeris off the wer wes gane?
Then slayn wes mony thousand
Off thaim without throu strenth of hand,
525 As Dares in his buke he wrate,
And Dytis that knew all thar state.
Thai mycht nocht haiff beyn tane throu mycht,
Bot tresoun tuk thaim throu hyr slycht.
And Alexander the conqueroure
530 That conqueryt Babilonys tour
And all this warld off lenth and breid
In twelf yher throu his douchty deid
Wes syne destroyit throu pusoune
In his awyne hous throu gret tresoun,
535 Bot or he deit his land delt he;
To se his dede wes gret pite.
Julius Cesar als, that wan
Bretane and Fraunce as douchty man,
Affryk, Arrabe, Egipt, Surry
540 And all Europe halyly,
And for his worschip and valour
Off Rome wes fryst made emperour,
Syne in his capitole wes he
Throu thaim of his consaill preve
545 Slayne with punsoune rycht to the ded,
And quhen he saw thar wes na rede
Hys eyn with his hand closit he
For to dey with mar honeste.
Als Arthur that throu chevalry
550 Maid Bretane maistres and lady
Off twelf kinrikis that he wan,
And alsua as a noble man
He wan throu bataill Fraunce all fre,
And Lucius Yber vencusyt he
555 That then of Rome wes emperour,
Bot yeit for all his gret valour
Modreyt his syster son him slew,
And gud men als ma then inew
Throu tresoune and throu wikkitnes,
560 The Broite beris tharoff wytnes.
Sa fell of this conand-making,
For the Cumyn raid to the king
Off Ingland and tald all this cas
Bot I trow nocht all as it was
565 Bot the endentur till him gaf he
That soune schawyt the iniquite.
Quharfor syne he tholyt ded,
Than he couth set tharfor na rede.
[Edward I confronts Bruce with the indenture in parliament]
Quhen the king saw the endentur
570 He wes angry out of mesur,
And swour that he suld vengeance ta
Off that Bruys that presumyt swa
Aganys him to brawle or rys
Or to conspyr on sic a wys.
575 And to Schyr Jhon Cumyn said he
That he suld for his leawté
Be rewardyt and that hely,
And he him thankit humyly.
Than thocht he to have the leding
580 Off all Scotland but gane-saying
Fra at the Bruce to dede war brocht.
Bot oft failyeis the fulis thocht,
And wys mennys etling
Cummys nocht ay to that ending
585 That thai think it sall cum to,
For God wate weill quhat is to do.
Off hys etlyng rycht swa it fell
As I sall efterwartis tell.
He tuk his leve and hame is went,
590 And the king a parlyament
Gert set tharefter hastely
And thidder somounys he in hy
The barounys of his reawté,
And to the lord the Bruce send he
595 Bydding to cum to that gadryng.
And he that had na persavyng
Off the tresoun na the falset
Raid to the king but langer let,
And in Lundon hym herberyd he
600 The fyrst day off thar assemble,
Syne on the morn to court he went.
The king sat into parleament
And forouth hys consaile preve
The lord the Bruce thar callyt he
605 And schawyt hym the endentur.
He wes in full gret aventur
To tyne his lyff, bot God of mycht
Preservyt him till hyer hycht,
That wald nocht that he swa war dede.
610 The king betaucht hym in that steid
The endentur the seile to se,
And askyt gyff it enselyt he?
He lukyt the seyle ententily
And answeryt till him humyly
615 And sayd, 'How that I sympill be
My seyle is nocht all tyme with me.
Ik have ane other it to ber.
Tharfor giff that your willis wer
Ic ask you respyt for to se
620 This letter and tharwith avysit be
Till tomorn that ye be set,
And then foroutyn langer let
This letter sall I entyr heyr
Befor all your consaill planer,
625 And thartill into borwch draw I
Myn herytage all halily.'
The king thocht he wes traist inewch
Sen he in bowrch hys landis drewch,
And let hym with the letter passe
630 Till entyr it as forspokin was.
Comments about this poem (The Brus Book I by John Barbour )
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