- The Brus
"The Brus" is a long
narrative poemby John Barbour with a purpose partly historical, partly patriotic. It celebrates the praises of Robert the Bruceand Sir James Douglas, the flowers of Scottish chivalry, opening with a description of the state of Scotlandat the death of Alexander III ( 1286) and concluding with the death of Douglas and the burial of the Bruce's heart( 1332). The central episode is the Battle of Bannockburn. Patrioticas the sentiment is, it is in more general terms than is found in later Scottish literature. The king is a hero of the chivalric type common in contemporary romance; freedom is a "noble thing" to be sought and won at all costs; the opponents of such freedom are shown in the dark colours which history and poetic propriety require; but there is none of the complacency of the merely provincial habit of mind. The lines do not lack vigour; and there are passages of high merit, notably the oft-quoted section beginning "A! fredome is a noble thing".
Despite a number of errors of fact, notably the confusion of the three Bruces in the person of the hero, the poem is historically trustworthy as compared with contemporary verse-chronicle, and especially with "
the Wallace" of the next century, but it is much more than a rhyming chronicle; it contains many fine descriptive passages, and sings the praises of freedom. Its style is somewhat bald and severe. No one has doubted Barbour's authorship of the Brus, but argument has been attempted to show that the text as we have it is an edited copy, perhaps by John Ramsay, a Perth scribe, who wrote out the two extant texts, preserved in the Advocates' Libraryin Edinburgh, and in the library of St John's College, Cambridge.
Text from "The Brus"
by Barbour (1375 Transcribed by Ramsay in 1489)
(a) THE POET’S PROEM.
Storyß to rede ar delitabill,
suppoß þat þai be nocht bot fabill,
þan suld storyß þat suthfast wer,
And þai war said on gud maner,
Hawe doubill plesance in heryng.
þe fyrst plesance is þe carpyng,
And þe toþir þe suthfastnes,
þat schawys þe thing rycht as it wes;
And suth thyngis þat ar likand
Tyll mannys heryng ar plesand.
þarfor I wald fayne set my will,
Giff my wyt mycht suffice þartill,
To put in wryt a suthfast story,
þat it lest ay furth in memory,
Swa þat na length of tyme it let,
na ger it haly be forȝet.
For auld storys þat men redys,
Representis to þaim þe dedys
Of stalwart folk þat lywyt ar,
Rycht as þai þan in presence war.
And, certis, þai suld weill hawe pryß
þat in þar tyme war wycht and wyß,
And led thar lyff in gret trawaill,
And oft in hard stour off bataill
Wan [richt] gret price off chewalry,
And war woydit off cowardy.
As wes king Robert off Scotland,
þat hardy wes off hart and hand;
And gud Schyr Iames off Douglas,
þat in his tyme sa worthy was,
þat off hys price & hys bounte
In fer landis renoenyt wes he.
Off þaim I thynk þis buk to ma;
Now god gyff grace þat I may swa
Tret it, and bryng it till endyng,
þat I say nocht bot suthfast thing!
author-link=John Barbour (poet)
contribution=The Story of The Brus
publisher=The Spalding Club
access-date=2008-08-17 - in Scots
author-link=John Barbour (poet)
title=The Bruce; or, The Book of the most excellent and noble prince, Robert de Broyss, King of Scots
publisher=Early English Text Society
access-date=2008-08-17 - in Scots with Modern English annotations
author-link=John Barbour (poet)
title=The Bruce, being the Metrical History of Robert The Bruce, King of Scots
publisher=Gowans & Gray Limited
access-date=2008-08-17 - a modern English translation
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