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[The Envious Man and the Miser.]
Of Jupiter thus I find y-writ,
To do justification;
And for that cause down he sent
That he the sooth know may.
So it befel upon a day,
That one of them was covetous,
And thus when he hath knowledging,
The Covetous was wonder glad;
This word was not so soon spoke, That his one ee anon was loke: And his fellow forthwith also Was blind on both his eyes two.
1Then. 2 Say. 8 What thing he was most disposed to crave.
Tho was that other glad enough:
The language at this time used in the lowland districts of Scotland was based, like that of England, in the Teutonic, and it had, like the contemporary English, a Norman admixture. To account for these circumstances, some have supposed that the language of England, in its various shades of improvement, reached the north through the settlers who are known to have flocked thither from England during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Others suggest that the great body of the Scottish people, apart from the Highlanders, must have been of Teutonic origin, and they point to the very probable theory as to the Picts having been a German race. They further suggest, that a Norman admixture might readily come to the national tongue, through the large intercourse between the two countries during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Thus, it is presumed, our common language was separately formed in the two countries, and owed its identity to its being constructed of similar materials, by similar gradations, and by nations in the same state of society." Whatever might be the cause, there can be no doubt that the language used by the first Scottish vernacular writers in the fourteenth century, greatly resembles that used contemporaneously in England.
The first of these writers was JOHN BARBOUR, archdeacon of Aberdeen. The date of his birth is unknown; but he is found exercising the duties of
Cathedral of Aberdeen.
that office in 1357. Little is known of his personal history: we may presume that he was a man of political talent, from his being chosen by the bishop of Aberdeen to act as his commissioner at Edinburgh when the ransom of David II. was debated; and of learning, from his having several times accompanied men of rank to study at Oxford. Barbour probably formed his taste upon the romance writers who flourished before him in England. A lost work of his, entitled The Brute, probably another in addition to the many versions of the story of Brutus of Troy, first made popular by Geoffrey of Monmouth, suggests the idea of an imitation of the romances; and
his sole remaining work, The Bruce, is altogether of that character. It is not unlikely that, in The Brute, Barbour adopted all the fables he could find: in writing The Bruce, he would, in like manner, adopt every tradition respecting his hero, besides searching for more authoritative materials. We must not be surprised that, while the first would be valueless as a history, the second is a most important document. There would be the same wish for truth, and the same inability to distinguish it, in both cases; but, in the latter, it chanced that the events were of recent occurrence, and therefore came to our metrical historian comparatively undistorted. The Bruce, in reality, is a complete history of the memorable transactions by which King Robert I. asserted the independency of Scotland, and obtained its crown fo. his family. At the same time, it is far from being destitute of poetical spirit or rhythmical sweetness and harmony. It contains many vividly descriptive passages, and abounds in dignified and even in pathetic sentiment. This poem, which was completed in 1375, is in octo-syllabic lines, forming rhymed couplets, of which there are seven thousand. Barbour died at an advanced age in 1396.
[Apostrophe to Freedom.]
[Barbour, contemplating the enslaved condition of his country, breaks out into the following animated lines on the blessings of liberty.-Ellis.]
A fredome is a nobill thing!
[Death of Sir Henry De Bohun.]
[This incident took place on the eve of the Battle of Bannockburn.]
And when the king wist that they were
And knew the king, for that he saw
Him sae range his men on raw,
1 Caused, ordered
* In this and the subsequent extract, the language is as far as possible reduced to modern spelling.
And by the crown that was set
And toward him he went in hy.1
Saw him come, forouth all his fears,
He thought that he should weel lichtly
Blamed him, as they durst, greatumly,
[The Battle of Bannockburn.]
When this was said
2 Openly, clearly.
3 They sprang forward at once, against each other, in a line. 4 Reached. 5 Earth. 6 Destruction. 7 Lamented 8 Sir Ingram D'Umphraville.
9 Fear of death.
Mony a wicht man and worthy, Ready to do chivalry.
Thus were they bound on either side; And Englishmen, with mickle pride, That were intill their avaward,1 To the battle that Sir Edward2
Governt and led, held straight their way.
The gude earl thither took the way, With his battle, in gude array, And assemblit sae hardily, That men micht hear had they been by, A great frush of the spears that brast. There micht men see a hard battle, And some defend and some assail; While through the harness burst the bleed, That till earth down steaming gaed. The Earl of Murray and his men, Sae stoutly them conteinit then, That they wan place ay mair and mair On their faes; where they were, Ay ten for ane, or mair, perfay; Sae that it seemit weel that they Were tint, amang sae great menyie,5 As they were plungit in the sea. And when the Englishmen has seen The earl and all his men, bedeen, Faucht sae stoutly, but effraying, Richt as they had nae abasing; Them pressit they with all their micht. And they, with spears and swerds bricht, And axes, that richt sharply share I'mids the visage, met them there. There men micht see a stalwart stour, And mony men of great valour, With spears, maces, and knives, And other wappins, wisslit their lives: Sae that mony fell doun all deid. The grass waxed with the blude all red.
The van of the English army.
Lost amidst so great a multitude.
The Stewart, Walter that then was, And the gude lord, als, of Douglas, In a battle when that they saw The earl, forouten dreid or awe, Assemble with his company, On all that folk, sae sturdily, For till help them they held their way. And their battle in gude array, They assembled sae hardily, Beside the earl, a little by, That their faes felt their coming weel. For, with wappins stalwart of steel, They dang upon, with all their micht. Their faes receivit weel, Ik hicht,7 With swerds, spears, and with mace. The battle there sae fellon8 was, And sae richt great spilling of blude, That on the earth the sluices stude.
That time thir three battles were All side by side, fechting weel near,
7 I promise you.
2 Edward Bruce.
There micht men hear mony a dint,
Sae hardy, worthy, and sae fine,
There micht men hear ensenzies cry:
'On them! On them! On them! They fail!'
With that sae hard they gan assail,
And slew all that they micht o'erta'.
Shot amang them sae deliverly, Engrieving them sae greatumly,
That what for them, that with them faucht,
That sae great routs to them raucht,
4 Shut up.
They were, to say sooth, sae aghast,
8 Also. 5 Rabble.
On ane side, they their faes had,
8 Failed, gave way.
6 Slime, mud.
About the year 1420, ANDREW WYNTOUN, or, as he describes himself, Androwe of Wyntoune, prior of St Serf's Monastery in Lochleven, completed, in
eight-syllabled metre, an Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, including much universal history, and extending down to his own time: it may be considered as a Scottish member of the class of rhymed chronicles. The genius of this author is inferior to that of Barbour; but at least his versification is easy, his lanHis guage pure, and his style often animated. chronicle is valuable as a picture of ancient manners, as a repository of historical anecdotes, and as a specimen of the literary attainments of our ancestors.* It contains a considerable number of fabulous legends, such as we may suppose to have been told beside the parlour fire of a monastery of those days, and which convey a curious idea of the credulity of the age. Some of these are included in the following specimens, the first of which alone is in the original spelling :
St Serf said, 'Gif I sae be,
Say where was God, wit ye oucht,
But gif creatures made had he.'
St Serf said. And til him Sathanas,
St Serf said, 'Where he was made.'
'Seven hours,' Serf said, 'bade he therein.'
[The Return of David II. from Captivity.]
[David II., taken prisoner by the English at the battle of Durham, in 1346, was at length redeemed by his country in 1357. The following passage from Wyntoun is curious, as illustrating the feelings of men in that age. The morning after his return, when the people who had given so much for their sovereign, were pressing to see or to greet him, he is guilty of a gross outrage against them-which the poet, strange to say, justifies.]
Yet in prison was King Davy.
All privily went hame their way;
The whether, upon the morn, when he
Radure3 in prince is a gude thing; For, but radure, all governing Shall all time but despised be: And where that men may radure see, They shall dread to trespass, and sae Peaceable a king his land may ma'. Thus radure dred that gart him be. Of Ingland but a page brought he, And by his sturdy 'ginning He gart them all have sic dreading, That there was nane, durst nigh him near, But wha by name that called were. He led with radure sae his land, In all time that he was regnand, That nane durst well withstand his will, All winning bowsome to be him till. Wyntoun has been included in this section of our literary history, because, although writing after 1400, his work is one of a class, all the rest of which belong to the preceding period. Some other Scottish writers who were probably or for certain of the fifteenth century, may, for similar reasons, be here introduced. Of one named HUTCHEON, and designed of the Awle Ryall-that is, of the Hall Royal or Palace-it is only known that he wrote a metrical romance entitled the Gest of Arthur. Another, called CLERK, of Tranent,' was the author of a romance entitled The Adventures of Sir Gawain, of which two cantos have been preserved. They are written in stanzas of thirteen lines, with alternate rhymes, and much alliteration; and in a language so very obsolete, as to be often quite unintelligible. There is, however, a sort of wildness in the narrative, which is very striking.* The Howlate, an allegorical satirical poem, by a poet named HOLLAND, of 3 Rigour. 4 Without rigour.
1 Left. 2 Reached. * Ellis.
whom nothing else is known, may be classed with the Prick of Conscience and Pierce Plowman's Vision, English compositions of the immediately preceding age. Thus, it appears as if literary tastes and modes travelled northward, as more frivolous fashions do at this da and were always predominant in Scotland about the time when they were declining or becoming extinct in England.
The last of the romantic or minstrel class of compositions in Scotland was The Adventures of Sir William Wallace, written about 1460, by a wander. ing poet usually called
Of the author nothing is known but that he was blind from his infancy; that he wrote this poem, and made a living by reciting it, or parts of it, before company. It is said by himself to be founded on a narrative of the life of Wallace, written in Latin by one Blair, chaplain to the Scottish hero, and which, if it ever existed, is now lost. The chief materials, however, have evidently been the traditionary stories told respecting Wallace in the minstrel's own time, which was a century and a half subsequent to that of the hero. In this respect, The Wallace resembles The Bruce; but the longer time which had elapsed, the unlettered character of the author, and the comparative humili or the class from whom he would chiefly derive his facts, made it inevitable that the work should be much less of a historical document than that of the learned archdeacon of Aberdeen. It is, in reality, such an account of Wallace as might be expected of Montrose or Dundee from some unlettered but ingenious poet of the present day, who should consult only Highland tradition for his authority. It abounds in marvellous stories respecting the prowess of its hero, and in one or two places grossly outrages real history; yet its value has on this account been perhaps understated. Within a very few years past, several of the transactions attributed by the blind minstrel to Wallace, and heretofore supposed to be fictitious-as, for example, his expedition to France -have been confirmed by the discovery of authentic evidence. That the author meant only to state real facts, must be concluded alike from the simple unaffectedness of the narration, and from the rarity of deliberate imposture, in comparison with credulity, as a fault of the literary men of the period. The poem is in ten-syllable lines, the epic verse of a later age, and it is not deficient in poetical effect or elevated sentiment. A paraphrase of it into modern Scotch, by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield, has long been a favourite volume amongst the Scottish peasantry: it was the study of this book which had so great an effect in kindling the genius of Robert Burns.*