« AnteriorContinuar »
A SHORT time ago, while I was looking' over some curious books in the Library of the British Museum I opened an old Poetical Chronicle of the “Life and Acts of Robert Bruce.” In its cramped old English characters, and quaint Scotch expressions and, style, I fear that to most British children, whether north or south of the Tweed, it would be unintelligible in the present day; but some of the adventures which it relates, are so pleasantly told, that I have gleaned a little from its pages for the amusement of youthful readers.
John Barbour, the author of this life of Bruce, was the greatest Scottish historian of his day, and was born at Aberdeen, about the year 1316; but according to some accounts, still later. He was a Poet, as well as Historian, and was made Archdeacon of Aberdeen, by David the Second, in 1356. With the help therefore of John Barbour, Buchanan, a celebrated author, who lived some years later, and others, I hope to have woven a pleasant tale, not the less pleasant, because it is so far as we can know at this distance of time strictly true. I cannot better begin the story of Bruce than with Barbour's own preface.
“ If stories to read be most delectable,
In the days of our English King Edward of warlike memory, Scotland was thrown into great distress and confusion by the sudden death of its monarch, Alexander the Third. A good and wise king for the half-civilised times in which he lived, and greatly beloved by his people.
As he was riding in the dark one night, along the sea coast of Fife, between Burntisland and Kinghorn, he approached too near the edge of the precipice, and his horse stumbling, he was thrown over the rocks and killed on the spot, on the 16th of March, 1286.
Although this sad event occurred more than 500 years ago, the country people will still point out to you the very spot, called in remembrance of the accident, King's Craig. And there is a kind of elegy still preserved to his memory,
* Sooth fast means quite true.
one of the oldest specimens known of the Scottish language, which translated runs thus :
“When Alexander, our king, was dead ;
Who Scotland kept in love and le,
Of wine and wax, of game and glee.
Can succour Scotland in her need,
The great cause of this perplexity was, that Alexander had left no children to inherit the crown, and the only direct heir was an infant grandchild, the daughter of his deceased child Margaret. This Margaret had some years before married Eric, King of Norway, and the little princess was known by the title of the Maid of Norway.
No dispute occurred relative to her right to the crown, and as she was so young, a regency was appointed; that is to say, certain persons were chosen to direct the affairs of the kingdom, until she should herself be of an age to reign. Edward the First of England, her great uncle, therefore looked anxiously on this little maiden, and thought how desirable a thing it would be, that the maid of Norway should be united in marriage to his eldest son Edward, Prince of Wales. And now at seven years old, the
poor child was taken from her nursery joys, and her little playfellows, to have her hand given to this unknown English cousin, and to leave her father's court for the rough and stormy seas. She was spared, however, that which might have been a still rougher passage through life—for the voyage in the month of October, proved too great a trial for her strength, and she became so ill that the vessel was obliged suddenly to land her on one of the Orkney isles,