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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 IX, Chapter II
How WALLACE went to France, fought the Red-Reiver, and took him Prisoner

Read a synopsis of this chapter in modern American English.

Toward his Voyage, Wallace does advance
And at Kirkcudbright shipping takes for France.
With Fifty brave, stout Scottish Gentlemen,
Above what I describe can with my Pen.
'Mongst whom, were Four of his own Kinsmen near,
Two Wallaces, Crawford and Cleland dear.
Drank their Bonalies, in good Wine and Ale,
Then cheerfully for Sea hois'd up their Sail.
Sail'd that whole Day, and all the following Night,
Then on the Morn, when the Sun shined bright
The Ship Master, sprang quickly up a Rope,
Where suddenly he spy'd, from the main Top
Sixteen great Ships, that boldly up did bear,
And towards him a steady Course did steer.
In colour Red, which with the Sun-shine bright,
The Sea all o'er illuminat with Light,
At which the Master almost fell a Swoon,
Affrighted sore, he quickly then came down.

"Alas!" said he, "that ever I was born!
Without remead, our Lives are all forlorn.
Curse on the Time that I did take in Hand,
This Voyage, O! that I were back at Land,
And buried were into some lonely Grave,
So Wallace Life with Honour I might save."
"Master," said Wallace "what needs all this Moan?"
"Oh, Sir, here's Sixteen Sail against our one.
Him that Commands, nought but our Blood will please,
He Sixteen Years has been King of the Seas."
Then Wallace ask'd, "Wot's thou what he may be?"
"The Red-Reiver, a Tyrant strong is he.
He saveth none, for Gold or other good,
But kills, and drowns all, in the brynie Flood."
"Since better may not be I pray thee Show,
Some Mark," said Wallace, "how I shall him know."

The Master said, "At first Sight you will ken,
And soon may him distinguish from his Men.
A handsome, proper Man, as is in France,
And of a Manly Scottish Countenance.
Taller than any of his Men a deal
And cloath'd in Scarlet, 'bove a Coat of Mail.
The foremost Ship that does pursue us so,
Himself is in, and that you'll quickly know.
When he comes near, he boldly will you hail,
Then speedily be sure to strike your Sail.
He'll enter first himself most hardily.
These are the Signs that you shall know him by:
A Bar of Blew, into his shining Shield,
A Bend of White desiring ay the Field.
The Red betokens Blood and Hardiness,
The White his Courage strongly doth increase.
The Blew he wears 'cause he's a Christian."
Then Wallace said, "He must be no good Man.
For sure I am, this is no Christian Deed;
Get you below, may the great GOD us speed."

The Shipmaster, and the Steer Men also,
He made go down into the Hould below.
His Fifty Men who were the very best,
That he could choose, soon were in Armour drest.
Fourty and Eight closs on the Deck caus'd lye,
On William Crawford, then in haste did Cry:
"When the Red Reiver hails us, strike amain,
At my command hale up the Sail again.
Dear Cousin Cleland, take the Helm in Hand,
Here on the Deck closs by thee I will stand.
May the great GOD us and our Ship both Guide!"
The Reiver's Barge came then closs by their Side.

Himself he stood aloft with a drawn Sword,
And bade the Steers-Man, lay enlong the Board.
Aloud he cry'd, "Strike Dogs, or you shall dye!"
Crawford let down the Sail then speedily.
The Captain ent'red first no way's aghast,
Then Wallace gripp'd him by the Gorget fast:
And threw him down on the Deck where he stood,
While Mouth and Nose all gushed out of Blood.
A dagger Knife, Wallace in hast drew out,
Then with pale Face, the Reiver look'd about;
"Mercy!" he cry'd, "For him that dy'd on Rood,
To Mend my Life, That have spilt so much Blood."
In Latin Tongue, to Wallace then said he,
"For GOD's sake, Sir, pray grant my Life to me."

His Weapons all, Wallace did quickly take;
Him by the Hand did lift, and Pris'ner make.
Then made him swear, on his sharp Sword and Long,
From that Day forth, he never should him wrong.
"Command thy Men," said Wallace, "to the Peace,
And quickly cause their shot of Guns to cease."
A Glove, the Reiver held up on the Spot,
Seeing the Sign, his Men forbore their Shot.
His largest Barge, to him he then did call,
"Give over War, our true Friends these are all!"
Then asked at what Port Wallace would be,
"Unto the Rochel," quickly answer'd he.
The Reiver bids his Men to Rochel steer,
They tack about, when his Command they hear.

Wallace said, "Pray what Country Man art thou?"
"A French-Man, Sir, and my Fore-fathers too."
Wallace then ask'd, "How came thou to this Life?"
"By the Mischance, Sir, of a sudden Strife.
At Court, I kill'd a Man dead at one Stroak,
Which did the King most hainously provoke.
Thro' Friends in Court, I 'scaped off that Place,
And since could ne'er obtain his Royal Grace.
To Burdeous, thereafter made a Trip,
And on a Night did sieze an English Ship.
Ill-Doers to my self I soon got moe,
And in a little multiplied so.
That I, these Sixteen Years have run at Sea,
And shed much Blood, for which, Oh! Wo is me!"

"And now, for the great Mischiefs I have done,
In spite of Fate, I'm vanquished by one.
Thus I confess, to my Eternal Shame,
My Bloody Life: But pray Sir what's your Name,
That with your own single but valiant Hand,
Does me and all my Sixteen Sail Command?
None but brave Wallace the Scots Champion,
Could thus have baffled me, and all my Men;
None else I know, encounter me should dare
It were great Honour to Serve in his War."

Next page: Book IX, Chapter II (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.