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Blind Harry's Wallace

The Life and Heroick Actions of the Renoun'd Sir William Wallace,
General and Governour of Scotland
by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield

Book VI, Chapter I (Continued)
Read a synopsis of this chapter in modern American English.

"But various Cares solicitat my Breast,
Invade my Heart, and rob my Soul of Rest;
While to my drooping Minds prophetick Eyes,
A Thousand Griefs in fatal Prospect rise:
Methinks I view the cruel raging Foes,
End that dear Life to finish all my Woes.
Methinks I see that sacred Blood now spilt,
To fill up Hesilrig's black Scene of Guilt:
And now to save thee from the coming Blow,
And shield thee from the Malice of the Foe:
I have prepar'd of Youth a chosen Band,
Ready to march where e'er thou shalt command;
Some well built Tow'r a hospitable Seat,
Shall prove from Wars alarms a safe Retreat;
There nor the Battles voice shall wound thy Ear,
Nor the fierce Spoiler black with Guilt appear.
There may thy constant Prayers bless my Sword,
And waft thy kindest Wishes to thy Lord;
Till circling Time bring back the happy Day,
When Scotland shall be free from English Sway;
Till her extended Plains be call'd her own,
And yet a Scotish King ascend a Scotish Throne."

He said and ceas'd, nor groan'd, but deep supprest,
Each rising Passion in his manly Breast:
But fiercer Grief her tender Heart assail'd,
She wept, and the frail Woman all at once prevail'd.
"And will thou then" she said, "and wilt thou go,
Where Thunders call thee, and where Battles glow,
And leave me here expos'd to every Foe:
See Hesilrig with lustful Rage appears,
Derides my Passion, and insults my Fears.
With hasty Steps he comes to be possess'd,
Or stab his Poynar'd in my hated Breast;
In vain with piteous Shrieks I fill the Air,
And stung with Sorrow my bare Bosom tear,
When he that shou'd Revenge me is not near.
Hast thou forgotten how his ruthless Sword,
In my dear Brother's Blood has deep been gor'd;
Fir'd with bright Glory's Charms both met the Foe,
And sunk beneath the mighty Warriors Blow.
'Tis true that fighting for their Country's Right,
They glorious dy'd nor recreant left the Fight;
That Thought indeed shou'd flowing Grief restrain,
But Nature bids me, and I must complain."

"But say in vain is all this flow of Tears,
Fantastick Passion, a weak Woman's Fears;
No Hesilrig red with my Kindreds stain,
No Friends destroyed, and no Brothers slain,
Yet with her Wallace let his Consort go,
Join with his Ills sad Partnership of Woe!
Or if propitious Heaven shall dain to smile,
With faithful Love reward my Heroe's Toil;
What tho' my tender Nerves refuse to bend,
The twanging Yew, and the fleet Dart to send;
Round thy distinguish'd Tent, yet will I stay,
And wait impatient the decisive Day:
When Freedom on thy Helm shall crested stand,
Nor Fortune linger with her doubtful Hand."

"'But canst thou,' thou wilt say, 'endure Alarms,
Hear Wars rough Voice, and the hoarse sound of Arms;
When the big Drum, and sprightly Pipe prepare,
In dreadful Harmony to speak the War.
Then shall thy Breast with trembling heaving rise,
And female Sorrow gather in thy Eyes.'
But let the Wars rude shock assault my Ears,
The Woman Wallace shall throw off her Fears,
On this weak Breast shall Love new Force impress,
Nor let that Doubt repel my Happiness.
But whether can I go, or where Retreat,
From following Vengeance and impending Fate;
Even shou'd I go, where dreary Caves forlorn,
Horrid with Night, exclude the joyous Morn:
And lonely Hermits never cease to mourn.
Yet wou'd keen Hesilrig find out the Place,
And in my Ruin finish all my Race."

What tho' the bounding Vessel waft me o're,
To Lands remote, and some far distant Shoar;
What tho' extended Tracts of Lands and Sea,
Divide the War, and my dear Lord from me.
The Wife of Wallace can't be long conceal'd,
But soon by babling Fame shall stand reveal'd;
Then take me with thee, what e're Chance betide,
Firm to thy Cause, and honest I'll abide:
Nor let me mourn, alone when I am left
Of thee, and ev'ry Joy with thee bereft."

"Now if kind heaven should bless my enterprize,
Nor fate look on me with her envious eyes,
In flowing ease shall end our hated strife,
And joy conduct us to the verge of life.
But if just heaven shall otherwise ordain,
'Tis heaven that wills it - why should we complain?"

She said and wept, nor yet his Sorrows rise,
But awful Grief sits decent in his Eyes:
"Cease, cease!" he cry'd, "Nor urge a vain Relief,
Nor by thy lingring Doubts increase my Grief.
Now if kind Heav'n shall bless my Enterprize,
Nor Fate look on me with her envious Eyes:
In flowing Ease, shall end our hated Strife,
And Joy conduct us to the Verge of Life.
But if just Heav'n shall otherwise ordain,
'Tis Heav'n that wills it – why shou'd we complain."

Thus while the faithful Pair their Grief exprest,
And sooth'd the Passions in each others Breast;
The beauteous Morn disclos'd its early Ray,
And the gray East shone with the future Day.
The Heroe rose, and with becoming Art,
Feigns a false Joy, at the same Time his Heart,
Was fill'd with Grief, which touch'd each tender Part.
Then to the Fields he went with Sorrow fraught,
While Thousand Woes surcharg'd each rising Thought.
With Patriot groans he fills the Morning Air,
And spreading both his Hands to Heav'n this was his Pray'r:

"Hear me kind Heav'n if still my Feet have trod,
In Virtues Paths, nor devious from my God;
Since first with Floods of Fears and constant Pray'r,
My weeping Parents gave me to thy Care.
When round my Head the Guardian Angels flew,
And conscious Heav'n approv'd my little Vow:
That if propitious Fate, increas'd my Span,
And lengthned tender Childhood out to Man.
My Country's Foes, shou'd always feel my Might,
Nor my Sword sparkle in another Fight;
Thence soon commenc'd my Woes, and hateful Strife.
With War embroil'd my tender Years of Life.
Oft has the Soldier, under my Command,
From Slav'ry base, redeem'd his Native Land;
But now opprest with Foes, we droop again,
And panting Liberty forsakes the Reign
Yet bold in Virtue's Cause, we nobly dare,
To raise the sleeping Embers of the War."

"No impious Itch of Empire fires our Mind,
Nor are our Hearts to those base Thoughts inclin'd:
But our fierce Breasts glow with a holy Rage,
Thine are the Fields we fight, and thine the War we wage
But if Alas! Some unforseen Offence,
Lies latent in the Book of Providence;
For which the trembling Scot shall shameful fly,
And leave the Field to his fierce Enemy;
Then let me dye preventing all my Foes,
And close these Eyes, nor see my Country's Woes."

He ceas'd when he observed thro' the Sky,
A strange prodigious Meteor to fly;
The Chief beheld it kindling as it flew,
And from the Sight a happy Omen drew:
"And does consenting Heaven yield," he crys,
"And better Hours from better Omens rise?
Now, now, the English shall the Danger fear,
And trembling fly before the Scottish Spear.
And now a growing Hope springs in my Mind,
And leaves vain Jealousy and Fears behind."
Then blew his Horn, well known in Wars alarms,
To call the hardy Soldier to his Arms.

Next page: Book VI, Chapter I, Continued

The ballad, The Life and Heroick Actions of the Renoun'd Sir William Wallace, General and Governour of Scotland, by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield, 1722, is in the public domain.