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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 II
The Battle of Biggar

Read a synopsis of this chapter in modern American English.

Now Biggar's Plains with armed Men are crown'd,
And shining Lances glitter all around,
The sounding Horn, and Clarions all conspire,
To raise the Soldiers Breast and kindle up his Fire.
The Hero tir'd of Lanerk's luckless Land,
Swift now to Biggar leads his conq'ring Band;
Each heaving Breast with Thirst of Vengeance glows,
And in their tow'ring Hopes already slay their Foes.
The careful Wariour on a rising Ground,
Encamp'd and saw the dreadful Foes around,
Stretch'd out in wide Array along the Plain,
And his Heart biggens with the glorious Scene.

But now the Morning in fair Beams array'd
Rose on the Dark and chas'd the nightly Shade,
Each eager Soldier seiz'd his ready Shield,
Draws the fierce Blade, and strides along the Field;
In black'ning Wings extend from Left to Right.
Condense in War, and gather to the Fight;
Thick beats each Heart waiting the last Command,
And Death stands ling'ring in the lifted Hand.
Wallace then threw around his skilful Eyes,
And saw with Joy their eager Passions rise

"To day my Friends, to day lets boldly dare
Each doubtfull Hazard of th'uncertain War;
Let our fierce Swords be deeply drench'd in Gore,
And then our Toils and Labour shall be o'er.
See round our Heads the Guardian Angels stand
And Guide the Javelin in each eager Hand;
To Edward shall they bear the flying Dart
And with the pointed Javelin pierce his Heart,
Let Glorious Liberty your Soul inspire
Raise ev'ry Heart and rouze the Warriours Fire."

He said – And kindling into Fury rose each Breast,
With Love of Virtue all at once possest.
Eager they thicken on the Mountains Brow,
And hang impendent on the Plain below.

The Foe surpriz'd look up and see from far
The Progress of the swift descending War.
They run, they fly, in Ranks together close,
And in a steely Circle meet their coming Foes;
But now the Scottish Heroes bend their Way
Where in his Tent the Royal Monarch lay,
There rose the Battle, there the Warriors tend,
And Thousand Deaths on Thousand Wings ascend:
Swords, Shields and Spears, in mix'd Confusion glow
The Field is swept and lessens at each Blow;
Wallace's Helm distinguish'd from afar
Tempests the Field and floats amid'st the War,
Imperious Death attends upon his Sword,
And certain Conquest waits her destin'd Lord.

Fierce in another Quarter, Kent employs
The wrathfull Spear nor fewer Foes destroys,
Where e'er he conq'ring turns recedes the Foe,
And thickned Troops fly open to his Blow.
His bounding Courser thundering o'er the Plain,
Bears his fierce rapid Lord o'er Hills of slain;
Scarce can the Weak retreating Scots withstand,
The mighty Sweep of the Invader's Hand.
Wallace beheld his fainting Squadron yield,
And various Slaughter spread along the Field,
Furious he hasts, and heaves his orbed Shield:
Resolv'd in Arms to meet his Enemy,
Before his Spear they Rush, they run, they fly.

And now in equal Battle meet the Foes.
Long lasts the Combat and resound their Blows:
Their dreadfull Fauchions brandishing on high,
In wavy Circles highten to the Sky.
With furious Ire they run the Field around,
And keen on Death explore each secret Wound.
They heave, they pant, they beat in ev'ry Vein
While Death sits Idle on the crimson Plain.
Long in Suspense th' uncertain Battle hung,
And Fortune fickle Goddess doubted long,
On whom she should the Laurel Wreath bestow.
Whom raise as Conq'ror, whom depress as Foe.

At last the Heroe tyr'd with forc'd Delay,
At his full Stretch rose and with mighty Sway,
Bore from the Foe his Shield's defence away.
Now high in Air the shiny Sword he rear'd
Pondrous with Fate the shiny Sword appear'd
Descending full it stop't his stiffled Breath
Giddy he turns around, and reels in Death.
The Stringy Nerves are wrapt around in Gore
And rushing Blood distain'd his Armour o'er
Now all is Death and Wounds, the crimson Plain
Floats round in Blood and groans beneath its slain.
Promiscuous Crouds one common Ruin share
And Death alone employs the wastful War.
They trembling fly, by conquering Scots opprest
And the broad Ranks of Battle lye defac'd;
A false Usurper sinks in every Foe,
And Liberty returns with ev'ry Blow.

Before their Prince the mangled Subjects Dye
The Slaughter swells, and groans ascend the Sky:
The King beheld with sad astonish'd Eyes
The havock of the various Battle rise;
Unable to sustain fain wou'd he stay,
And yet again retrieve the vanquish'd Day,
At last behind his Back he threw the Shield,
Spurs on his rapid Steed, forsakes the Field.
The Scots pursue and follow fast behind,
The rattling Noise swells dreadful in the Wind.
With Grief Long-Castle saw the foul Retreat,
Restrain their Flight, and durst prolong their Fate
"Whence does our Hearts this coward Terror know
Defeat ne'er stain'd our conquering Arms till now:
Stay Recreant, stay nor thus Ignoble fly
But bravely conquer or yet bravely Dye."

Scarce had he spoke when quivering all with Fear,
Scap'd from the Foe Two Fugi-Friends appear;
"Stop, stop," they cry'd "your hasty Flight restrain,
And with swift Vengeance meet your Foes again:
Opprest with Wine the Scotish Heroes ly,
And feel the soft Effect of Luxury:
With Ease we may return again, and spread
The crimson Plain around with heaps of Dead."
Long-Castle took the Word and led them on
Resolv'd to fight with ardent Hast they run.
The Scottish Watch-Men from afar descry'd
The rallying Foe, and swift to Wallace cry'd.
He seiz'd his Horn and gave the signal Sound,
The summon'd Soldiers gather fast around;
A fiercer Fury kindles in their Eyes
And once again their madding Passions rise.

So Triton when at Neptun's high Command
He heaves the swelly Surge above the Land,
When with full Breath he bids the Tempest roar,
And dash its sounding Billows to the Shoar,
His Angry Waves the wrinkled Seas deform,
They rise, they roar, and blacken to a Storm.

A Marsh now does either Host divide,
Eager they view and frown from either Side,
But the fierce Duke unable to restrain
This rising Passion gave it the full Rein,
And first encouraging his Troops around
He spurs his thundring Steed and dares the faithless Ground.
All plunge at once; resound th' assaulted Skys
And Thousands sink, doom'd ne'er again to rise:
The thund'ring Coursers roar and Neigh aloud
And then with foamy rage o'erlay the Crowd,
While those who Strugling with the miry Tide
And with strong Sinews gain the further Side,
Tho' landed, only meet a Change of Death,
By the fierce Scots depriv'd of fleeting Breath.

But now Long-castle gained the dryer Land,
And plunging, stood upon the shoaly Strand;
Graham soon perceived and hast'ning rais'd a Blow
And with his Sword received the rising Foe,
Back sinks the found'ring Courser down again,
O'erlays his Lord he tumbles midst the slain.
Thus Edward the important Day has lost,
And to his Kingdom leads his remnant Host:
While the glad Nation smiles in Liberty,
And send their humble Thanks to Heaven with Joy.

Now where the Cree rolls down its rapid Tide,
And sees the Herds adorn his wealthy Side,
A tow'ring Rock uprears its bending Brow
And throws its frowning Terror down below.
Deep in the Earth is fix'd its ample Bed
And murky Night involves its airy Head,
There Alder and tough Oaks conspire with Art
To raise on high the Rock, a steepy Fort.
Where a great Gate its Brazen Arms oppos'd
And from the Victors rage defends th' inclos'd
Safe in their Planky Tower they shelter'd lye,
And from the Oaky Wall the Scotish Power defy.

Wallace beheld and eager to obtain
The airy Fort, he swell'd in ev'ry Vein.
And when the Night o'erspread the silent Ground
And on black Wings dark Vapours swim around,
Eager he bids the weary Soldiers rise,
And with slow Heavings Labour up the Skys.
Himself and Kierly led the airy Fight
Strain up the Steep and toil with all their Might.
The Centinel lay sleeping at the Gate
Doom'd ne'er to wake unconscious of his Fate,
Deep in his Breast was plung'd a shining Sword
The ruthless Steel his bleeding Bosom gor'd;
Then ent'ring in they slay each Foe they meet,
The trembling Wretches groan'd beneath their Feet;
They all give Way, and thund'ring down the Steep,
Shoot in the Waves, Resounds the parted Deep.

But O how quickly alter'd is the Case!
The English now, most humbly sue for Peace.
Worn with Defeats, their stubborn Passions yield,
Nor dare appear within the bloody Field.
Their hoary Senators whose early Care,
Wou'd stay the fatal Progress of the War,
In suppliant Words the Scottish Hero greet,
And lay their Lawrels low beneath his Feet.

At Ruglen Church it was where they did meet,
The Hero to the Terms of Peace agreed,
And with an Oath the Truth is ratify'd:
That either Nation shall from Battle cease,
And Death should hang his weary Wings in Peace.
But soon these Vows shall all dissolve in Air,
And the returning Year bring back the War;
The thund'ring Battle spread along the Plain.
And the brave Heroe Shine in Arms again.

Next page: Book VII, Chapter I

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.

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