The Brus by John Barbour


[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;
his appearance]

	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.

Book 2

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