Exploring the Middle Ages   | Travels in the UK   | The Merkat Cross
Online since 1998
About   | Site Map   | Accessibility   | Legal Matters   | Privacy   |

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 X, Chapter II
The battle of Black-Iron-Side, and how WALLACE took in Lochleven and Airth

Read a synopsis of this chapter in modern American English.

To Fife he march'd, that Country's State to view,
With his good Men that trusty were and true.
But Sir John Psewart from the Ochel high,
Espying Wallace as he passed by:
All on a sudden 'gainst him marched then,
To Black-Iron-Side with Fifteen Hundred Men.
This sudden March good Wallace so alarms,
He and his Men stand quickly to their Arms.
With Bisset and good Guthrie does advise,
What Course to take against this sad Surprize.
"We with the South'ron, now are so beset,
To our good Friends at Perth no Word we'll get.
It grieves me more that Vallange is the Guide,
Than all the rest upon the South'ron Side."

Guthrie reply'd, "Could we get over Tay,
It were I think the sure and safest Way,
And warn good Ramsay, who commands the Town,
He'd send a Reinforcement to us soon."
"It's safer," Wallace says, "in my Esteem,
To fight the Foe, than dangerously to swim.
In Elchock Park but Fourty Men were we,
Against Seven Hundred, and made South'ron flee.
So may we now, thro' help of divine Grace,
Take Courage Lads, and bravely show your Face.
This Wood we'll hold as long as we can stand,
To the last Man we'll fight it Sword in Hand.
The Right is ours let's to it manfully,
I'll free this Land once more before I die."

Which Speech did so their Hearts to him engage,
And put their Spirits upon such an Edge,
That some call out to take the Field in plain.
Wallace said, "No, those Words are all in Vain.
My Thoughts and Sentiments are no way such,
This Wood may prove to our Advantage much.
For tho' our Courage be not wanting now,
Yet pray believe good Conduct's needful too."
Then hewen Wood and Planks of Oak did take,
A strong Barrier then quickly did he make.
And by the Time that all was finish'd Right.
The English Army came within their Sight.

Psewart attacks the Wood with a Bravade,
But finds a Strong and Dev'lish Barricade.
There with a Thousand Men does wait and watch,
And with Five Hundred Vallange does detach,
To guard the Wood, that not one single Skin,
Might 'scape the Sword of all that were within.
Fourty good Archers Wallace had that Tide,
Which gall'd the English Horse on every Side.
The Rest were Spear-Men, long in War expert,
Honour was all the Thing they had at Heart.
As evidently over all was seen
By their Defence at the Encounter keen.
A Void was left, where South'ron enter might,
Fourty at first were put to death on Sight.
Numbers of Horse were killed with the Shot,
The wounded reel'd, and to a Plain they got.

Psewart rampag'd to see both Man and Horse,
So sore rebuted, and put to the worse.
Vallange advis'd he would forbear to fight
And rest his Men, closs by the Wood that Night,
For Hunger soon would drive them from their Strength,
Then might he charge them in the Field at length
Psewart reply'd, "'Tis dangerous to delay,
If Succour come to them what will you say?
Along with me Eight Hundred Men shall fare
All in a Range to round the Wood with care.
The Rest they shall with thee continue still,
To fight or be commanded at thy will."
"Be brisk," said Vallange, "quickly him beset,
For now I think he's fairly in the Net.
Could you but slay, or take him upon Life,
King Edward sure, would make you Lord of Fife.

When Wallace he their Disposition saw,
And Psewart charge with so much Rage and Aw,
"Brave Lads," he said, "yon Psewart is a Knight,
Foreward in Wars, both Hardy, Wise, and Wight.
Such an Attack against us and a Sore
He does intend, as you ne'er saw before.
Since we're beset with Foes on ev'ry Side,
And must perforce here in this Forrest bide,
Take Notice all, and mark well what I say,
His first Assault boldly resist I Pray."

Crawford he left, and Longoviel the Knight,
At the Barrier to keep it safe and tight.
Wallace himself briskly encounters then
Psewart, with Sixty, 'gainst Eight Hundred Men.
Who fought so fierce and show'd their Valour so,
No English-Man durst from his Fellow go,
To break his Rank or foremost enter in,
So Bloodily the Dispute did begin.
On either Side, the Spears in Flinders flew,
Numbers of English there the Scotsmen slew.

Next page: Book X, 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.