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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 I, Chapter I
Read a synopsis of this chapter in modern American English.

Of our Ancestors brave true, Ancient Scots,
Whose glorious Scutcheons, knew no Bars, nor Blots:
But Blood untainted circled ev'ry Vein,
And ev'ry Thing ignoble did disdain;
Of such Illustrious Patriots, and bold,
Who stoutly did maintain our Rights of Old,
Who their malicious, and invet'rate Foes,
With Sword in Hand, did gallantly oppose;
And in their own, and Nations just Defence,
Did briskly check the frequent Insolence
Of haughty Neighbours, Enemies profest,
Picts, Danes, and Saxons, Scotland's very Pest:
Of such I say, I'll brag and vaunt so long
As I have Pow'r to use my Pen or Tongue;
And sound their Praises, in such modern Strain,
As suiteth best a Scots Poetick Vein.

First, Here I honour in Particular,
Sir William Wallace, much renown'd in War:
Who's bold Progenitors have long Time stood,
Of honourable, and true Scotish Blood;
And in first Rank of Ancient Barrons go,
Old Knights of Craigy, Barronets also;
Which gallant Race, to make my Story brief,
Sir Thomas Wallace represents as Chief.
So much for the brave Wallace Father-side,
Nor will I here his Mother's Kindred hide.
She was a Lady most compleat and bright,
The Daughter of that honourable Knight,
Sir Rannald Crawford, high Sheriff of Ayr,
Who fondly doted on this charming Fair.

Soon wedded was the lovely blooming she,
To Malcom Wallace, then of Ellerslie:
Which am'rous Pair transported with Delight,
Begot young Malcom that same joyful Night:
Then William; who by true Consent of all,
Was honour'd to be Scotish General:
And to the Nation's universal Joy,
At Forrest Church, made Baliol's Viceroy.
Who's martial Courage, with his Conduct wise,
From English Thraldom rescu'd Scotland thrice,
And did preserve the old Imperial Crown,
To his immortal Glory, and Renown.
'Twas then, that, to the Terror of his Foes,
Our Thistle, did drive Home th' insulting Rose.
But here I must beg leave to bid adieu
To good Sir William, for some Minutes few,
Till, like a just, impartial, honest Man,
As I have heard, tell how the Wars began.

King Alexander, at Kinghorn in Fife,
There, from his Horse did lose his Royal Life,
Thro' which arose a grievous sore Debate,
Some Years thereafter, who should Rule the State.
David our Prince, Earl of Huntingtoun
Three Daughters had; whom search all Britain round,
Thro' all its Corners, and its different Airts,
None more excell'd in bright, and princely Parts.
Bruce, Baliol, Hasting from those Ladies spring;
The Bruce and Baliol strive who shall be King.

Nor did the Dispute end, but grew so hot,
The Candidats in two strong Factions got.
Which at that Time appear'd to be so equal,
Few could foresee, or guess well at the Sequel;
Here lay the great Distress and Misery,
The Case at Home could not determin'd be;
Wherefore, to void a bloody Civil War,
The Scotish States esteem'd it better far,
The two Contendants should submit the Thing,
To the Decision of the English King.
Who greedily the Ref'rence did Embrace,
But play'd his Cards with a dissembling Face:
Yea, so politick was this crafty King,
For his Self-ends, Things so about to bring,
That, Agents he did secretly imploy,
The Scotish Lords with cunning to decoy
To his ow'n Measures; a pernicious Plot
Quite opposite unto the Trust he got;
Thinking to make, (so big his Hopes were grown)
The Scotish Crown pay Homage to his own.
Which with one Voice, flatly the States refuse,
In spite of all Politicks he could use.

The Bishop there of Glasgow, sitting by,
Said, "Sir excuse us, for we do deny,
Any ov'r Lord, but the great God above
To whom we'll Homage pay, or Subject prove."
Then to the Bruce, the Treason was propos'd
Which was by him most gen'rously oppos'd.
"Believe me, Sir," said he, "I'll hang as soon,
As I'll Resign our independent Crown.
Therefore leave off, your Words are all in vain,
Such Treachery, true Honour does disdain."
Unto the Baliol next he did apply,
Who did consent, Alas! too hastily,
To hold the Crown of Edward, contrair Right,
For which he was created King on sight:
O base Decision! Shall the Guise thus go!
Shall Ancient Scotland hold of England? No.
On such base Terms, both make a scurvy Step,
Edward to grant, and Baliol to accept,
A Thing, which is for certain known and sure,
Was never yet in either of their Pow'r:
Neither could be, without the firm Assent,
Of the Estates of Scottish Parliament.
Since the Scots Crown, our Kings so long had wore,
Was to be Independent as before.

An English Parliament within short Space
Is call'd, where Baliol suff'red great Disgrace,
At which Affront was so exceeding wroth,
He quickly broke his base unlawful Oath:
Repented sore, and curs'd the fatal Hour,
Wherein he swore, what was not in his Pow'r.
Which was much better, as Divines exhort,
Than to continue, and be Damned for't.
On which King Edward rais'd an Host with speed,
And came himself with them, to Wark on Tweed.
Unto Corspatrick of Dunbar he sent,
His Counsel asks, but on a bad intent,
Who, when he came in Presence of that King,
Advis'd him, and inform'd him ev'ry Thing.
Then like a Rogue, against the Light of Nature,
To his own Country, proves a bloody Traitor:
To Berwick goes the treach'rous hellish Knave,
To undermine, destroy, cheat and deceive:
Was welcom'd there, with more Respect than due,
And thought by Scots both faithful, leill and true.

King Edward follows on with all his Host;
By Treachery poor Berwick then was lost.
Corspatrick rose, when all were sleeping sound,
Drew the Portculzies, let the Bridges down.
Edward he enters, bloodily falls on,
Eight Thousand kills, and Fifty, spareth none.
Then to Dunbar he and Corspatrick rode,
Without Remorse, or any fear of God.
There did the stout and valiant Scots conveen,
With Resolution true, and Courage keen.
To fight King Edward then the common Foe,
Who, dy'd in Blood, did thro' the Nation go:
But by Deceit, and a prodigious Force,
The Scots are here again put to the worse.

The Earles Mar, Monteith, and Athol brave,
No Access to their gallant Men could have:
Who in the Castle closely were block'd up,
And scarcely had, whereof to bite, or sup;
So by no Means unto their Men could get,
Corspatrick had the Castle so beset.
At last the Armies march, and do inclose,
Where the brave Scots, ov'r powred by their Foes,
Rather than fly or cowardly to yield,
Do bravely fight, and die upon the Field.
Thus to Corspatrick's everlasting stain,
Without all Mercy, most of them were slain.
For when the Battle hottest was, he then,
Plague rot him; hew'd down all his Country-men.
Great Loss the Scots at Berwick and Dunbar,
Had in this most unjust and cruel War.

Next page: Book I, Chapter II

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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