« AnteriorContinuar »
And after that they up arise,
Thoe took this knight a ycrd on hond,'
The king, which wold his honour save,
The king then, in the same stede,1
Lo! saith the king, now may ye see
Thus was this wise king excused:
d Lose. e Then. f A yard, or rod, in hand.
t Saith to, telleth. b This. 1 In guerdon, or reward. i It were seen? k Once. 1 Place. m Undid. n Where they saw. c Therefore. 'Blame.
Our other extract we give in the old spelling, as it was contributed to the Pictorial History of England by Sir Henry Ellis from a very early MS. of the poem in the Harleian Collection, No. 3490 :—
In a Croniq I fynde thus,
How that Caius Fabricius
Wich whilome was consul of Rome,
By whome the lawes yede and come,*
Whan the Sampnitees to him brouht
A somme of golde, and hym by souht
To done hem fauoure in the lawe,
Towarde the golde he gan hym drawe:
Whereof, in alle mennes loke,
A part in to his honde he tooke,
Wich to his mouthe in alle haste
He put hit for to smelle and taste,
And to his ihe and to his ere,
Bot he ne fonde no comfort there:
And thanne he be gan it to despise,
And tolde vnto hem in this wise:
"I not what is with golde to thryve
Whan none of alle my wittes fyve
Fynt savour ne delite ther inne
So is it bot a nyce sinne
Of golde to ben to coveitous,
Bot he is ricbe an glorious
Wich hath in his subieccion
The men wich in possession
Ben riche of golde, and by this skille,b
For he may alday whan he wille,
Or be him leef or be him loth,
Justice don vppon hem bothe." -
Lo thus he seide and with that worde
He threwe to fore hem on the borde
The golde oute of his honde anon
And seide hem that he wolde none,
So that he kepte his liberte
To do justice and equite,
"Went and came. *> For this reason.
Without lucre of suche richesse.
There be nowe fewe of such I gesse,
For it was thilke tymes used
That every juge was refused,
Wich was not frende to commoun riht;
Hot thei that wolden stonde vpriht
For trouth only to do justice
Preferred were in thilke office,
To deme and juge comoun lawe
Wich nowe men seyn is alle withdrawe.
To set a lawe and kepe it nouht
Ther is no comoun profit souht,
But, above alle, natheles,
The lawe wich is made for pees
Is good to kepe for the beste,
For that set alle men in reste.
This latter part of the fourteenth century is also the age of the birth of Scotish poetry; and Chaucer had in that dialect a far more worthy contemporary and rival than his friend and fellow Englishman Gower, in John Harbour. Of Barbour's personal history but little is known. He was a churchman, and had attained to the dignity of Archdeacon of Aberdeen by the year 1357; so that his birth cannot well be supposed to have been later then 1320. He is styled Archdeacon of Aberdeen in a passport granted to him in that year by Edward III. at the request of David de Bruce, (that is, King David II. of Scotland,) to come into England with three scholars in his company, for the purpose, as it is expressed, of studying in the University of Oxford; and the protection is extended to him and his companions while performing their scholastic exercises, and generally while remaining there, and also while returning to their own country. It may seem strange that an Archdeacon
should go to cqllegc; but Oxford appears to have been not the only seat of learning to which Barbour resorted late in life with the same object. Three other passports, or safe-conducts, are extant which were granted to him by Edward at later dates;—the first in 1364, permitting him to come, with four horsemen, from Scotland, by land or sea, into England, to study at Oxford, or elsewhere, as he might think proper; the second, in 1305, by which he is authorized to come into England, and travel throughout that kingdom, with six horsemen as his companions, as far as to St. Denis in France; and the third, in 1368, securing him protection in coming, with two valets and two horses, into England, and travelling through the same to the king's other dominions, on his way to France (versus Franciam) for the purpose of studying there, and in returning thence. Yet lie had also been long before this employed, and in a high capacity, in civil affairs. In 1357 he was appointed by the Bishop of Aberdeen one of his two Commissioners deputed to attend a meeting at Edinburgh about the ransom of the king, David the Second. Nothing more is heard of him till 1373, in which year he appears as one of the auditors of Exchequer, being styled Archdeacon of Aberdeen, and clerk of probation (clerico pmbacionis) of the royal household. In his later days he appears to have been in the receipt of two royal pensions, both probably bestowed upon him by Robert II., who succeeded David II. in 1370; the first one of 10/. Scots from the customs of Aberdeen, the other one of 20s. from the borough mails, or city rents, of the same town. An entry in the records of Aberdeen for 1471 states on the authority of the original roll, now lost, that thc latter was expressly granted to him " for the compilation of the book of the Acts of King Robert the First." In a passage occurring in the latter part of this work, he himself tells us that he was then compiling it in the year 1375. All that is further known of him is, that his death took place towards the close of 1395. Besides his poem commonly called 'The Bruce,' another metrical work of his entitled ' Hie Broite' or ' The Brute,' being a deduction of the history of the Scotish kings from Brutus, is frequently referred to by the chronicler Wynton in the next age; but no copy of it is now believed to exist. Of the ' Bruce' only one MS. was till lately supposed to be extant, a transcript made in 1489 preserved in the Advocates' Library, and it was from this that the last and best edition of the poem was printed by Dr. Jamieson, in 4to. at Edinburgh, in 1820; but another MS. dated 1488, has since been discovered in the Library of St. John's College, Cambridge. Il appears to have been printed before the close of the sixteenth century. A "Patrick Gordon, gentleman," as he designates himself, the author of a metrical work, entitled 'The Famous History of the Renowned and Valiant Prince, Robert, surnamed the Bruce, King of Scotland,' which first appeared at Dort in 1615, alludes to Barbour's previous performance on the same subject as "the old printed book;" and Mr. David Laing, in a note to his edition of Dunbar (Edinburgh, 1834), p. 40, states that he is possessed of an edition of Barbour's poem, in small 4to., and black letter, which, although it has lost the title page, appears to have been printed at Edinburgh about the year 1570. The oldest edition known to Dr. Jamieson was an Edinburgh one of 1C1C.