IN Rathlin we now leave
the king, at rest from strife, and for a time speak of his foes. They,
by their strength and power, made such persecution, severe, strict, and
cruel, of those that loved him, kin or friends, as is piteous to hear.
For they spared none of any degree, churchman or layman, whom they
believed his friend. Bishop Robert of Glasgow, and Marcus of Man [Man
then belonged to Scotland and was included in the Bishopric of the
Isles. Its bishopric is still known as that of Sodor (the Southern
Isles) and Man.] both they loaded with strong fetters and shut in
prison. And valiant Christopher of Seton was betrayed in Loch Doon, by
MacNab, a false traitor and disciple of Judas, who was ever, night and
day, in his house, and well entertained. It was far worse than treachery
to betray a man so noble and of such renown, but the traitor had no ruth
of that. For his deed may he be doomed in hell! When Seton was betrayed
the English rode straight with him at once to England, to King Edward,
and he, without pity or mercy, had him drawn, headed, and hanged. [He
was really executed at a spot long known as Kirsty's Mount, near
Dumfries. Bruce erected a chapel at the place.] It was a great sorrow
indeed that so valiant a person as he should in such fashion be hanged.
Thus ended his valour.
Sir Ranald of Crauford also, and Sir Bryce the Blair, were hanged in a barn at Ayr.
The Queen and also Dame Marjory, her daughter, [The Queen was Bruce's second wife Elizabeth, daughter of the
Earl of Ulster. Marjory was the daughter of his former wife, Isabella.]
afterwards happily wedded with Walter, Steward of Scotland, would in no
wise lie longer in Kildrummy Castle to abide a siege, but rode rapidly,
with knights and squires, through Ross to the Girth of Tain. [The
sanctuary of St. Duthac.] But they made the journey in vain, for the
people of Ross, not desiring to bear the blame and danger of harbouring
them, took them out of the Girth, and sent them every one to England, to
King Edward. He caused all the men to be drawn and hanged, and put the
ladies in prison, some in castles and some in dungeons. It was pitiful
to hear of folk so afflicted.
There were at that time in Kildrummy warlike
and bold men, Sir Neil the Bruce and the Earl of Atholl. They victualled
the castle well with meat, and laid in fuel, and so strengthened the
place that it seemed to them no force could take it. And when it was
told the King of England how they prepared to hold that castle he was
much enraged. He forthwith called to him his eldest son and
heir-apparent, a young bachelor strong and fair, called Sir Edward of
Carnarvon, the starkest man of his time, then Prince of Wales. He also
called two earls, Gloucester and Hereford, and bade them march to
Scotland, and set strong siege to the castle of Kildrummy; and he
ordered them to destroy altogether, without ransom, all the holders of
it, or bring them prisoners to him.
When they had taken all his commands they
immediately gathered a host, and hastened to the castle, and besieged it
rigorously. They made many bold assaults upon it, yet failed to take it,
for those within were right valiant, and defended themselves doughtily,
driving off their enemies many times, with wounds and slaughter. Often,
too, they sallied forth, and fought at the outworks, and wounded and
slew their foes. Indeed, they so bore themselves that the besiegers
despaired, and thought of returning to England. For they saw the castle
stand so strong, and knew it was provisioned well, and found the
garrison so defend themselves, that they had no hope of taking the
place. Neither had they done this all that season if false treason had
not been there. But a traitor was within, a false rascal and lying
fellow, Osborne by name, who did the treachery. I know not for what
reason, nor with whom he made the plot, but they that were within the
castle have said that he took a hot coulter glowing and burning from a
fire, and went into the great hall that was filled full with corn, and
threw it high upon a heap.
The deed was not long hidden. Neither fire
nor pride, they say, can go long without discovery. The pomp of pride
shows ever forth, or the great boast that it blows abroad, and no man
can so cover fire but that flame or smoke shall discover it. So it fell
here, for clear flame soon showed through the thick wood floor, first
like a star, then like a moon, and soon afterwards a broader gleam. Then
the fire burst out in blazes, and the smoke rose right wondrous fast.
The flame spread over all the castle so that no power of man could
master it. Then those within drew to the wall, which at that time was
battlemented within as it was without. Without doubt that battlement
saved their lives, for it broke flames that would have overtaken them.
When their foes saw the mischance they in a
little while got to arms, and made diligent attack on the castle at the
places where the fire blasts would let them. But the garrison, as they
had need to do, made such great and stout defence, shunning no perils,
that they full often drove back their enemies. They toiled to save their
lives, but fate, that ever drives the world's business to an end, so
harassed them, assailing them on two sides, within with fire that
broiled them, without with folk that attacked them, that in spite of
them their enemies burned the gate. Yet because of the heat of the fire
the assailants durst not enter hastily. Therefore they rallied their
men, and, since it was night, went to rest till daylight on the morrow.
The garrison were indeed in evil case.
Nevertheless they still valiantly defended themselves, and wrought so
manfully that before day, with great labour, they had again walled up
the gate. At daylight on the morrow, when the sun was risen and shining
bright, the enemy came arrayed in full order of battle, prepared to make
assault. But the garrison, being so placed that they had neither victual
nor fuel wherewith to hold the castle, made parley first, and then
yielded themselves to the king's will, at that time most bitter against
the Scots. This was soon afterwards well known, for they were all hanged
this covenant had been made and surely confirmed, the besiegers took the
garrison, and shortly wrought so that a quarter of Snowdoun [Snowdoun
was an old name for Stirling, but here it means Kildrummy.] was thrown
to the ground. Then they made their way towards England.
Now when King Edward heard how Neil the Bruce held Kildrummy so stoutly against his son, he gathered a great
armed force, and marched hastily towards Scotland. And as he was riding
with a great rout towards Northumberland, he was seized with a sickness
which beset him so sore that he could neither walk nor ride. He was
forced, despite himself, to tarry at a hamlet near by, a little mean
trouble they brought him there. He was so bested that he could not draw
his breath except with great difficulty, nor speak unless it were very
low. Nevertheless he bade them tell him what place it was where he lay.
"Sir," they said, "the men of the country
call this place Burgh-in-the-Sand."
"Call they it Burgh? alas!" said he, "my
hope is now at an end. For I thought never to suffer the pains of death
till I, by much might, had taken the burgh of Jerusalem. There I thought
to end my life. In Burgh I knew well I should die, but I was neither
wise nor cunning enough to take heed of other 'burghs.' Now may I nowise
Thus complained he of his folly, as he had reason to do, surely enough, when
he had thought to know certainly that which can be known assuredly by
none. Men said he kept a spirit that made answer to his questions; but
he was foolish, if not worse, to give trust to that creature. For fiends
are of such nature that they bear envy to mankind. They know well and
certainly that men shall win the seats from which they were thrown down
for their pride. Ofttimes therefore will it happen that when fiends are
forced, by dint of conjury, to appear and make answer they are so false
and cruel that they give answer with double meaning, to deceive those
that trust them.
I will give example in the case of a war that fell out between France and the Flemings. The Earl Ferrand's [Ferraxid, Prince of Portugal, who became Earl of Flanders in right of his wife Jane, daughter of Baldwin IX. Along with Otho IV of Germany he was defeated by Philip Augustus of France, at Bouvines, between Lille and Tournay, July 27, 1214.] mother
was a necromancer, and she raised Satan, and asked him what should be
the issue of the fighting between the French king and her son. And he,
as he was ever wont, made deceitful answer in these verses:
"Rex ruet in hello tumulique carebit honore;
Ferrandus, comitissa, tuus, mea cara Minerva,
Parisios veniet, magna comitante caterva."
This, in English, is the speech he made: "The king shall fall in the battle, and shall lack the honour of burial;
and thy Ferrand, my dear Minerva, shall, without doubt, march to Paris,
followed by a great company of noble and valiant men."
This is the sense of the saying he showed
her in Latin. He called her his dear Minerva, for Minerva was ever wont
to serve him fully in every way; and since Earl Ferrand's mother made
him the same service, he called her his Minerva. In his subtlety also he
called her dear, to deceive her, that she should the more quickly take
out of his speech the meaning which pleased her most.
His double speech so deceived her that
through her many came by their death. For she was blithe of his answer,
and quickly told it to her son, and bade him speed to the battle, for he
should without doubt gain the victory. And he, hearing her counsel, sped
fast to the fighting, where he was discomfited, disgraced, taken
captive, and sent to Paris. At the same time, in the fighting the king
was both unhorsed and lamed by Ferrand's knights; but his men quickly
horsed him again.
And when Ferrand's mother heard how her son fared in the battle, and
that he was discomfited, she called up the evil spirit, and asked why he
had lied in the answer he made her. But he said that he had wholly
spoken truth: "I told thee the king should fall in the battle, and so he
did; and should lack burial, as men may see. And I said thy son should
go to Paris, and he did so, assuredly, followed by such a company as he
never had in his life before. Now seest thou I spake no falsehood?"
The lady was confounded, and durst say no
more to him. Thus, through double meaning, and the deceiving of one
side, that strife came to the end it did.
Just so it fell in King Edward's case. He
expected to be buried in the burgh at Jerusalem, yet he died at
Burgh-in-the-Sand in his own country.
And when he was near death the folk that had
been at Kildrummy came, with the prisoners they had taken, and were
admitted to the king. And to comfort him they told how the castle was
yielded to them, and how the defenders were brought to his will, to do
with them whatever he thought good; and they asked what they should do
looked he awfully at them, and said grinning, "Hang and draw!"
It was a great marvel, among those who saw,
that he, who was near death, should answer in such fashion, without
remembrance of mercy. How could he trustfully cry on Him who truly
judges all things, to have mercy on himself, who thus cruelly, at such a
pass, had no mercy? His men did his command, and he died soon afterward,
and was buried, and his son became king. [Barbour makes Edward die in
the winter of 1300. As a matter of fact his death did not take place
till July 7, 1307, after the battle of Loudoun Hill, described in Book VIII.]
Robert again we go, who lay in Rathlin with his company till the winter
was near gone, and took his provision from that island.
James of Douglas was vexed that they should
lie idle so long, and he said to Sir Robert Boyd, "The poor folk of this
country are at great charge for us, who lie idle here. And I hear say
that in Arran, in a strong castle of stone, are Englishmen who by force
hold the lordship of the island. Go we thither, and it may well befall
that we shall trouble them in some way."
Sir Robert said, "To that I agree. There
were little reason in lying longer here. Therefore will we pass to
Arran, for I know that country right well, and the castle also. We shall
come there so privily, that they shall have no sight or news of our
coming. And we shall lie ambushed near, where we may see their coming
out. So it shall nowise fail but we shall do them damage of some sort."
With that they made ready anon, and took
their leave of the king, and went forth on their way.
They came soon to Cantyre, then rowed always
by the land till near night, when they made their way to Arran. There
they arrived safely, and drew their galley under a hillside, and there
covered it up. Their tackle, oars, and rudder they hid in the same
fashion, and held their way in the dead of night, so that, ere daylight
dawned, they were in skilful ambush near the castle. There, though they
were wet and weary, and hungry with long fasting, they planned to hold
themselves all privy till they could see their proper chance.
Sir John the Hastings was at that time in
the castle of Brodick, with knights of high pride, and squires, and good
yeomanry, a very great company. And often at his pleasure he went
hunting with his followers, and held the land in such subjection that
none durst refuse to do his will. He was still in the castle when James
of Douglas laid his ambush, as I have said.
By chance it so happened at that time that
close to the place of the ambush the under- warden had arrived the
evening before with three boats loaded with victual and provision,
clothing and arms. Douglas soon saw thirty and more Englishmen go from
the boats loaded with sundry stuff. Some carried wine and some arms. A
number were loaded with stores of different sort, and various others
marched idly by them, like masters.
The men in ambush saw them, and without fear
or awe, broke from hiding, and slew all they could overtake. Then rose
an outcry loud and terrible, for the men of the boats, in fear of death,
roared aloud like beasts. Douglas's followers slew without pause or
mercy, so that very nigh forty English lay dead.
When those in the castle heard the outcry
and uproar they sallied forth to the fight. But Douglas, seeing them,
rallied his men, and went hastily to meet them. And when the garrison
saw him come fearlessly at them, they fled without more fighting, their
assailants following them to the gate, and slaying them as they passed
in. But those in flight barred the gate so quickly that the pursuers
could not get at them further. Therefore they left them and turned again
to the sea, where the men were slain before. And when the English in the
boats saw them coming, and knew in what fashion they had discomfited
their fellows, they put hastily to sea, and rowed diligently with all
their might. But the wind was against them, and it raised such breakers
that they could in no wise get out to sea. Neither durst they come to
land, but held themselves plunging there so long that two of the three
boats were swamped. When Douglas saw this, he took the arms and
clothing, victual, wine, and other stores which he found at the place,
and went his way, right joyful and pleased with the plunder.
Thus James of Douglas and his company, by
God's grace, were fully furnished with stores of arms, clothing, and
provisions. Then they held their way to a narrow place, [At the head of
Glen Cloy the earthworks of Douglas's camp are still pointed out.] and
stoutly maintained themselves, till on the tenth day the king with all
his following arrived in that region.
Bruce reached Arran with thirty-three small
galleys, and landed and took up his quarters in a steading. [According
to tradition he lodged first in the King's Caves under the headland of
Drumadoon, on the west side of the island. Rude carvings on the cavern
walls are still shown as the work of his men.] There he enquired
particularly if any had tidings of strangers in the island.
"Yes, sir," said a woman, "I can indeed tell
you of strangers arrived in this country. A short while since, by their
valour, they discomfited our warden and slew many of his men. In a
strong place at hand the whole, company has its resort."
"Dame," said the king, "do thou make known
to me the place of their retreat, and I shall reward thee indeed; for
they are all of my house, and most glad would I be to set eyes on them,
as, certainly I know, would they be to set eyes on me."
"Sir," said she, "I will blithely go with
you and your company till I show you their quarters."
"That is enough, my fair sister," said the
king. "Now let us go forward."
Without more delay then they marched after
her, till at last she showed the king the place in a woody glen. "Sir,"
she said, "here I saw the men ye ask after make their lodging; here I
trow, is their retreat."
The king then blew his horn, and made the
men beside him keep still and hidden. Then again he blew his horn.
James of Douglas heard him blow, and at once
knew the blast, and said, "Assuredly yonder is the king; many a day have
I known his blowing."
Therewith the Bruce blew a third time. Then
Sir Robert Boyd knew it, and said, "Yonder, for certain, is the king. Go
we forth to him with all speed."
They hastened then to the king, and saluted
him most courteously. And Bruce welcomed them gladly, and was joyful of
their meeting, and kissed them, and enquired how they had fared in their
hunting. And they told him everything truly, and praised God that they
had met. Then, gay and glad at heart, they went with the king to his
the Bruce said to his privy company, "Ye know right well how we are
banished out of our country by English force, and that the land which is
ours by right the English seize by violence; also that they would, if
they could, destroy us all without mercy. But God forbid that it should
befall us as they menace, for then were there no recovery. Human nature
bids us bestir ourselves to procure vengeance, and there are three
things that urge us to be valiant, active, and wise. One is the safety
of our lives, which should in no wise be spared if our foes had us at
their will. The second is that these foes hold our possessions by might
against right. The third is the pleasure that awaits us if it happen, as
well may, that we gain the victory and have strength to overcome their
cruelty. Therefore we should uplift our hearts, and let no mischance
downcast us, and press always towards a goal so full of honour and
renown. So, lords, if ye agree that it is expedient, I shall send a man
to Carrick, [The mother of Bruce was Countess of Carrick in her own
right, but the lordship, with the castle of Turnberry had been given by
Edward to Henry Percy.] to spy and enquire how the kingdom is inclined,
and who is friend or foe. And if he sees we may go ashore, he shall make
a fire on a certain day on Turnberry Point, for a signal that we may
land safely. And if he sees we may not do this he shall on no account
make the fire. Thus we shall have sure knowledge whether to pass over or
proposal all were agreed. Then forthwith the king called to him one in
his confidence, a native of his own country of Carrick, and charged him
in every way as ye have heard me set forth, appointing him a certain day
to make the fire if he saw it possible for them to carry on war in that
region. And the man, right eager to fulfil his lord's desire, for he was
valiant. and true, and could keep secrets well, declared he was ready in
everything to fulfil the king's command, and said he should act so
wisely that no reproof should touch him afterwards. Then he took leave
of the king, and went forth upon his way.
This messenger, Cuthbert by name, soon
arrived in Carrick, and passed through all the countryside, but he found
few therein who would speak well of his master. Many of them durst not
for fear, and others were enemies of the noble king to the very death.
These afterwards rued their hostility. The whole land, both high and
low, was then in possession of Englishmen who hated above everything the
doughty king, Robert the Bruce. All Carrick was then given to Sir Henry
Percy, who lay in Turnberry Castle with nigh three hundred men, and so
daunted the whole land that all obeyed him.
Cuthbert beheld their cruelty, and perceived
the people, rich and poor, so wholly become English, that he durst
discover himself to none. He determined to leave the fire unmade, and to
hasten to his master, and tell him the whole dire and piteous state of
the king, when the day was come that he had set his messenger, looked
diligently for the fire. And as soon as the moon was past he bethought
him surely that he saw a fire burning brightly by Turnberry. He showed
it to his company, and each man felt sure that he saw it. Then the
people cried with blithe heart, "Good king, speed you quickly that we
arrive early in the night without being discovered!"
"I agree," said he. "Now make you ready. God
further us in our journey!"
Then very shortly the men might be seen
launching all their galleys to the sea, and bearing to the water's edge
oar and rudder and other needed things.
And as the king was passing up and down on
the land, waiting till his men were ready, his hostess came to him. And
when she had greeted him, she spoke privately to him, and said, "Take
good heed to my words, for, ere ye go, I shall show you a great part of
your fortune, and above everything I shall especially make known to you
the issue of your enterprise; for in this world there is indeed none who
knows the future so well as I.
"Ye pass now forth on your voyage to avenge
the harm and outrage that Englishmen have done you; and ye know not what
fortune ye must encounter in your campaign. But be assured, without
falsehood, that after ye have now landed, no force or strength of hand
shall cause you to pass out of this country till all is yielded to you.
Within a short time ye shall be king, and have the land at your
pleasure, and overcome all your enemies. Ye shall endure many sufferings
before your enterprise is at an end, but ye shall overcome them each
one. And, that ye may surely believe this, I shall send with you my two
sons to share your toils; for I know well they shall not fail to be
right well rewarded when you are exalted to your high place."
The king, who had listened to all her tale,
thanked her greatly, for she encouraged him in some sort. Nevertheless
he did not altogether put faith in her words, for he marvelled greatly
how she should know so much for certain. And, indeed, it is wonderful
how any man may, by means of the stars, know determinately all or part
of things to come, unless he be inspired by Him who in His foreknowledge
evermore sees all things as if in His presence. David was thus inspired,
and Jeremiah, Samuel, Joel, and Isaiah, who, through His holy grace told
many things that afterwards befell. But these prophets are so thinly
sown that none is now known on earth. Yet many folk are so curious and
so desirous after knowledge that, in order to learn the future, by their
great learning, or by their devilry, they make search in two ways.
One is astrology, whereby learned clerks know conjunction of planets, and whether their courses lie through
mansions blest or sorrowful, and how the disposition of the whole
heavens should act on things here below, in different regions or climes,
according as the beams strike evenly or awry. But methinks it were a
mighty feat for any astrologer to say "this shall befall here and on
this day." For though a man during his whole life studied astrology, so
that he broke his head on the stars, wise men say he should not in all
his lifetime make three certain predictions, but should ever be in doubt
till he saw how the matter fell out. There is, therefore, no certain
foreknowledge Even if these students of astrology knew all men's
nativities, and also the constellations that gave them natures
preordained to good or ill, and if they, by craft of learning, or
sleight of astrology, could tell the peril that threatens them, I trow
they should fail to tell the issue of events. For howsoever a man be
inclined to virtue or wickedness, he may full well, either by training
or reason, restrain his desire, and turn himself all to the opposite. It
has often been seen that men, naturally given to evil, have by their
great wisdom driven away their evil, and become of great renown, despite
the constellations. Thus we read that if Aristotle had followed his
preordained character he should have been covetous and false, but his
wisdom made him virtuous. And since men may in this way work against the
course of stars which has chief control of their fate, methinks their
fate no certain matter.
Another method of divining the future is by
necromancy. This in sundry ways teaches men by strong conjurations and
exorcisings to cause spirits to appear to them and give answer in
various fashion. Thus aforetime the Pythoness did, who, when Saul was
cast down by the might of the Philistines, raised very soon by her great
sleight, the spirit of Samuel, or the Evil Spirit in his stead, who gave
her right ready answer, though she knew nothing herself.
Man is ever in fear of things he has heard
told, and especially of the future, till he has certain knowledge of the
end. And since he is in such uncertainty, without sure knowledge,
methinks that man lies greatly who says he knows things to come. But
whether she who told the king how his enterprise should end guessed or
knew it for certain, it fell out afterwards wholly as she said; for
presently he was king, and of full great renown.
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