The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, by Walter Scott

Auld Maitland.

Never Before Published.

This ballad, notwithstanding its present appearance, has a claim to very high antiquity. It has been preserved by tradition; and is, perhaps, the most authentic instance of a long and very old poem, exclusively thus preserved. It is only known to a few old people, upon the sequestered banks of the Ettrick; and is published, as written down from the recitation of the mother of Mr. James Hogg83, who sings, or rather chaunts it, with great animation. She learned the ballad from a blind man, who died at the advanced age of ninety, and is said to have been possessed of much traditionary knowledge. Although the language of this poem is much modernised, yet many words, which the reciters have retained, without understanding them, still preserve traces of its antiquity. Such are the words Springals (corruptly pronounced Springwalls), sowies, portcullize, and many other appropriate terms of war and chivalry, which could never have been introduced by a modern ballad-maker. The incidents are striking and well-managed; and they are in strict conformity with the manners of the age, in which they are placed. The editor has, therefore, been induced to illustrate them, at considerable length, by parallel passages from Froissard, and other historians of the period to which the events refer.

83 This old woman is still alive, and at present resides at Craig of Douglas, in Selkirkshire.]

The date of the ballad cannot be ascertained with any degree of accuracy. Sir Richard Maitland, the hero of the poem, seems to have been in possession of his estate about 1250; so that, as he survived the commencement of the wars betwixt England and Scotland, in 1296, his prowess against the English, in defence of his castle of Lauder, or Thirlestane, must have been exerted during his extreme old age. He seems to have been distinguished for devotion, as well as valour; for, A.D. 1249, Dominus Ricardus de Mautlant gave to the abbey of Dryburgh, “Terras suas de Haubentside, in territorio suo de Thirlestane, pro salute animae suae, et sponsae suae, antecessorum suorum et successorum suorum, in perpetuum84.” He also gave, to the same convent, “Omnes terras, quas Walterus de Giling tenuit in feodo suo de Thirlestane, et pastura incommuni de Thirlestane, ad quadraginta oves, sexaginta vaccas, et ad viginti equos.”— Cartulary of Dryburgh Abbey, in the Advocates’ Library.

84 There exists also an indenture, or bond, entered into by Patrick, abbot of Kelsau, and his convent, referring to an engagement betwixt them and Sir Richard Maitland, and Sir William, his eldest son, concerning the lands of Hedderwicke, and the pasturages of Thirlestane and Blythe. This Patrick was abbot of Kelso, betwixt 1258 and 1260.]

From the following ballad, and from the family traditions referred to in the Maitland MSS., Auld Maitland appears to have had three sons; but we learn, from the latter authority, that only one survived him, who was thence surnamed Burd alane, which signifies either unequalled, or solitary. A Consolation, addressed to Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, a poet and scholar who flourished about the middle of the sixteenth century, and who gives name to the Maitland MSS., draws the following parallel betwixt his domestic misfortunes and those of the first Sir Richard, his great ancestor:

Sic destanie and derfe devoring deid

Oft his own hous in hazard put of auld;

Bot your forbeiris, frovard fortounes steid

And bitter blastes, ay buir with breistis bauld;

Luit wanweirdis work and walter ay they wald,

Thair hardie hairtis hawtie and heroik,

For fortounes feid or force wald never fauld;

Bot stormis withstand with stomak stoat and stoik.

Renowned Richert of your race record,

Quhais prais and prowis cannot be exprest;

Mair lustie lynyage nevir haid ane lord,

For he begat the bauldest bairnis and best,

Maist manful men, and madinis maist modest,

That ever wes syn Pyramus tym of Troy,

But piteouslie thai peirles perles apest.

Bereft him all hot Buird-allane, a boy.

Himselfe was aiget, his hous hang be a har,

Duill and distres almaist to deid him draife;

Yet Burd-allane, his only son and air,

As wretched, vyiss, and valient, as the laive,

His hous uphail’d, quhilk ye with honor haive.

So nature that the lyk invyand name,

85In kindlie cair dois kindly courage craif,

To follow him in fortoune and in fame.

Richerd he wes, Richerd ye are also,

And Maitland als, and magnanime as he;

In als great age, als wrappit are in wo,

Sewin sons86 ye haid might contravaill his thrie,

Bot Burd-allane ye haive behind as he:

The lord his linage so inlarge in lyne,

And mony hundreith nepotis grie and grie87

Sen Richert wes as hundreth yeiris are hyne.

An Consolator Ballad to the Richt Honorabill Sir Richert Maitland of Lethingtoune. — Maitland MSS. in Library of Edinburgh University.

85 i.e. Similar family distress demands the same family courage.]

86 Sewin sons— This must include sons-in-law; for the last Sir Richard, like his predecessor, had only three sons, namely, I. William, the famous secretary of Queen Mary; II. Sir John, who alone survived him, and is the Burd-allane of the consolation; III. Thomas, a youth of great hopes, who died in Italy. But he had four daughters, married to gentlemen of fortune. —Pinkerton’s List of Scottish Poets, p. 114.]

87 Grie and grie— In regular descent; from gre, French.]

Sir William Mautlant, or Maitland, the eldest and sole surviving son of Sir Richard, ratified and confirmed, to the monks of Dryburgh, “Omnes terras quas Dominus Ricardus de Mautlant pater suus fecit dictis monachis in territorio suo de Thirlestane,” Sir William is supposed to have died about 1315. — Crawford’s Peerage.

Such were the heroes of the ballad. The castle of Thirlestane is situated upon the Leader, near the town of Lauder. Whether the present building, which was erected by Chancellor Maitland, and improved by the Duke of Lauderdale, occupies the site of the ancient castle, I do not know; but it still merits the epithet of a “darksome house.” I find no notice of the siege in history; but there is nothing improbable in supposing, that the castle, during the stormy period of the Baliol wars, may have held out against the English. The creation of a nephew of Edward I., for the pleasure of slaying him by the hand of young Maitland, is a poetical licence88; and may induce us to place the date of the composition about the reign of David II., or of his successor, when the real exploits of Maitland, and his sons, were in some degree obscured, as well as magnified, by the lapse of time. The inveterate hatred against the English, founded upon the usurpation of Edward I., glows in every line of the ballad.

88 Such liberties with the genealogy of monarchs were common to romancers. Henry the Minstrel makes Wallace slay more than one of King Edward’s nephews; and Johnie Armstrong claims the merit of slaying a sister’s son of Henry VIII.]

Auld Maitland is placed, by Gawain Douglas, bishop of Dunkeld, among the popular heroes of romance, in his allegorical Palice of Honour89:

89 It is impossible to pass over this curious list of Scottish romances without a note; to do any justice to the subject would require an essay. —Raf Coilyear is said to have been printed by Lekprevik, in 1572; but no copy of the edition is known to exist, and the hero is forgotten, even by popular tradition.

John the Reif, as well as the former personage, is mentioned by Dunbar, in one of his poems, where he stiles mean persons,

Kyne of Rauf Colyard, and Johne the Reif.

They seem to have been robbers: Lord Hailes conjectured John the Reif to be the same with Johnie Armstrong; but, surely, not with his usual accuracy; for the Palice of Honour was printed twenty-eight years before Johnie’s execution. John the Reif is mentioned by Lindesay, in his tragedy of Cardinal Beatoun.

— disagysit, like John the Raif, he geid. —

Cowkilbeis Sow is a strange legend in the Bannatyne MSS. — See Complaynt of Scotland, p. 131.

How the wren came out of Ailsay. — The wren, I know not why, is often celebrated in Scottish song. The testament of the wren is still sung by the children, beginning,

The wren she lies in care’s nest,

Wi’ meikle dole and pyne.

This may be a modification of the ballad in the text.]

I Saw Raf Coilyear with his thrawin brow,

Crabit John the Reif, and auld Cowkilbeis Sow;

And how the wran cam out of Ailsay,

And Peirs Plowman90, that meid his workmen few;

Gret Gowmacmorne, and Fyn MacCowl, and how

They suld be goddis in Ireland, as they say.

Thair saw I Maitland upon auld beird gray,

Robine Hude, and Gilbert with the quhite hand,

How Hay of Nauchton flew in Madin land.

In this curious verse, the most noted romances, or popular histories, of the poet’s day, seem to be noticed. The preceding stanza describes the sports of the field; and that, which follows, refers to the tricks of “jugailrie;” so that the three verses comprehend the whole pastimes of the middle ages, which are aptly represented as the furniture of dame Venus’s chamber. The verse, referring to Maitland, is obviously corrupted; the true reading was, probably, “with his auld beird gray.” Indeed the whole verse is full of errors and corruptions; which is the greater pity, as it conveys information, to be found no where else.

90 Peirs Plowman is well known. Under the uncouth names of Gow Mac Morn, and of Fyn MacCowl, the admirers of Ossian are to recognise Gaul, the son of Morni, and Fingal himself; heu quantum mutatus ab illo!

To illustrate the familiar character of Robin Hood, would be an insult to my readers. But they may be less acquainted with Gilbert with the White Hand, one of his brave followers. He is mentioned in the oldest legend of that outlaw; Ritson’s Robin Hood, p. 52.

Thryes Robin shot about,

And alway he slist the wand,

And so dyde good Gylberte

With the White Hand.

Hay of Nachton I take to be the knight, mentioned by Wintown, whose feats of war and travel may have become the subject of a romance, or ballad. He fought, in Flanders, under Alexander, Earl of Mar, in 1408, and is thus described;

Lord of the Nachtane, schire William,

Ane honest knycht, and of gud fame,

A travalit knycht lang before than.

And again, before an engagement,

The lord of Nachtane, schire William

The Hay, a knycht than of gud fame,

Mad schire Gilberte the Hay, knycht.

Cronykil, B. IX. c. 27.

I apprehend we should read “How Hay of Nachton slew in Madin Land.” Perhaps Madin is a corruption for Maylin, or Milan Land.]

The descendant of Auld Maitland, Sir Richard of Lethington, seems to have been frequently complimented on the popular renown of his great ancestor. We have already seen one instance; and in an elegant copy of verses in the Maitland MSS., in praise of Sir Richard’s seat of Lethingtoun, which he had built, or greatly improved, this obvious topic of flattery does not escape the poet. From the terms of his panegyric we learn, that the exploits of auld Sir Richard with the gray beard, and of his three sons, were “sung in many far countrie, albeit in rural rhyme;” from which we may infer, that they were narrated rather in the shape of a popular ballad, than in a romance of price. If this be the case, the song, now published, may have undergone little variation since the date of the Maitland MSS.; for, divesting the poem, in praise of Lethington, of its antique spelling, it would run as smoothly, and appear as modern, as any verse in the following ballad. The lines alluded to, are addressed to the castle of Lethington:

And happie art thou sic a place,

That few thy mak ar sene:

But yit mair happie far that race

To quhome thou dois pertene.

Quha dais not knaw the Maitland bluid,

The best in all this land?

In quhilk sumtyme the honour stuid

And worship of Scotland.

Of auld Sir Richard, of that name,

We have hard sing and say;

Of his triumphant nobill fame,

And of his auld baird gray.

And of his nobill sonnis three,

Quhilk that tyme had no maik;

Quhilk maid Scotland renounit be,

And all England to quaik.

Quhais luifing praysis, maid trewlie,

Efter that simple tyme,

Ar sung in monie far countrie,

Albeit in rural rhyme.

And, gif I dar the treuth declair,

And nane me fleitschour call,

I can to him find a compair,

And till his barnis all.

It is a curious circumstance, that this interesting tale, so often referred to by ancient authors, should be now recovered in so perfect a state; and many readers may be pleased to see the following sensible observations, made by a person, born in Ettrick Forest, in the humble situation of a shepherd. “I am surprised to hear, that this song is suspected by some to be a modern forgery; the contrary will be best proved, by most of the old people, hereabouts, having a great part of it by heart. Many, indeed, are not aware of the manners of this country; till this present age, the poor illiterate people, in these glens, knew of no other entertainment, in the long winter nights, than repeating, and listening to, the feats of their ancestors, recorded in songs, which I believe to be handed down, from father to son, for many generations; although, no doubt, had a copy been taken, at the end of every fifty years, there must have been some difference, occasioned by the gradual change of language. I believe it is thus that many very ancient songs have been gradually modernised, to the common ear; while, to the connoisseur, they present marks of their genuine antiquity.”—Letter to the Editor from Mr. James Hogg. To the observations of my ingenious correspondent I have nothing to add, but that, in this, and a thousand other instances, they accurately coincide with my personal knowledge.

Auld Maitland.

There lived a king in southern land,

King Edward hight his name;

Unwordily he wore the crown,

Till fifty years were gane.

He had a sister’s son o’s ain,

Was large of blood and bane;

And afterward, when he came up,

Young Edward hight his name.

One day he came before the king,

And kneel’d low on his knee —

“A boon, a boon, my good uncle,

“I crave to ask of thee!

“At our lang wars, in fair Scotland,

“I fain hae wished to be;

“If fifteen hundred waled91 wight men

“You’ll grant to ride wi’ me.”

“Thou sail hae thae, thou sail hae mae;

“I say it sickerlie;

“And I mysell, an auld gray man,

“Array’d your host sall see.”

King Edward rade, King Edward ran —

I wish him dool and pyne!

Till he had fifteen hundred men

Assembled on the Tyne.

And thrice as many at Berwicke92

Were all for battle bound,

Who, marching forth with false Dunbar,

A ready welcome found.

They lighted on the banks of Tweed,

And blew their coals sae het,

And fired the Merse and Teviotdale,

All in an evening late.

As they fared up o’er Lammermore,

They burned baith up and down,

Until they came to a darksome house;

Some call it Leader–Town.

“Wha hauds this house?” young Edward cry’d,

“Or wha gies’t ower to me?”

A gray-hair’d knight set up his head,

And crackit right crousely:

“Of Scotland’s king I haud my house;

“He pays me meat and fee;

“And I will keep my gude auld house,

“While my house will keep me.”

They laid their sowies to the wall,

Wi’ mony a heavy peal;

But he threw ower to them agen

Baith pitch and tar barrel.

With springalds, stanes, and gads of airn,

Amang them fast he threw;

Till mony of the Englishmen

About the wall he slew.

Full fifteen days that braid host lay,

Sieging Auld Maitland keen,

Syne they hae left him, hail and fair,

Within his strength of stane.

Then fifteen barks, all gaily good,

Met them upon a day,

Which they did lade with as much spoil

As they could bear away.

“England’s our ain by heritage;

“And what can us withstand,

“Now we hae conquer’d fair Scotland,

“With buckler, bow, and brand?”

Then they are on to the land o’ France,

Where auld King Edward lay,

Burning baith castle, tower, and town,

That he met in his way,

Untill he came unto that town,

Which some call Billop–Grace;

There were Auld Maitland’s sons, a’ three,

Learning at school, alas!

The eldest to the youngest said,

“O see ye what I see?

“Gin a’ be trew yon standard says93,

“We’re fatherlesse a’ three.

“For Scotland’s conquer’d, up and down;

“Landmen we’ll never be:

“Now, will ye go, my brethren two,

“And try some jeopardy?”

Then they hae saddled twa black horse,

Twa black horse, and a grey;

And they are on to King Edward’s host,

Before the dawn of day.

When they arriv’d before the host,

They hover’d on the lay —

“Wilt thou lend me our king’s standard,

“To bear a little way?”

“Where was thou bred? where was thou born?

“Where, or in what countrie?”

“In north of England I was born:

(It needed him to lie.)

“A knight me gat, a lady bore,

“I’m a squire of high renowne;

I well may bear’t to any king,

“That ever yet wore crowne.”

“He ne’er came of an Englishman,

“Had sic an e’e or bree;

“But thou art the likest Auld Maitland,

“That ever I did see.

“But sick a gloom, on ae brow-head,

“Grant I ne’er see agane!

“For mony of our men he slew,

“And mony put to pain.”

When Maitland heard his father’s name,

An angry man was he!

Then, lifting up a gilt dagger,

Hung low down by his knee,

He stabb’d the knight, the standard bore,

He stabb’d him cruellie;

Then caught the standard by the neuk,

And fast away rode he.

“Now, is’t na time, brothers,” he cried,

“Now, is’t na time to flee?”

“Aye, by my sooth!” they baith replied,

“We’ll bear you company.”

The youngest turn’d him in a path,

And drew a burnished brand,

And fifteen of the foremost slew,

Till back the lave did stand.

He spurr’d the gray into the path,

Till baith his sides they bled —

“Gray! thou maun carry me away,

“Or my life lies in wad!”

The captain lookit ower the wa’,

About the break o’ day;

There he beheld the three Scots lads,

Pursued along the way.

“Pull up portcullize! down draw-brigg!

“My nephews are at hand;

And they sall lodge wi’ me to-night,

“In spite of all England.”

Whene’er they came within the yate,

They thrust their horse them frae,

And took three lang spears in their hands,

Saying, “Here sall come nae mae!”.

And they shot out, and they shot in,

Till it was fairly day;

When mony of the Englishmen

About the draw-brigg lay.

Then they hae yoked carts and wains,

To ca’ their dead away,

And shot auld dykes aboon the lave,

In gutters where they lay.

The king, at his pavilion door,

Was heard aloud to say,

“Last night, three o’ the lads o’ France

“My standard stole away.

“Wi’ a fause tale, disguised, they came,

“And wi’ a fauser trayne;

“And to regain my gaye standard,

“These men were a’ down slayne.”

“It ill befits,” the youngest said,

“A crowned king to lie;

“But, or that I taste meat and drink,

“Reproved sall he be.”

He went before King Edward strait,

And kneel’d low on his knee;

“I wad hae leave, my lord,” he said,

“To speak a word wi’ thee.”

The king he turned him round about,

And wistna what to say —

Quo’ he, “Man, thou’s hae leave to speak,

Tho’ thou should speak a’ day.”

“Ye said, that three young lads o’ France

“Your standard stole away,

“Wi’ a fause tale, and fauser trayne,

“And mony men did slay:

“But we are nane the lads o’ France,

“Nor e’er pretend to be;

“We are three lads o’ fair Scotland,

“Auld Maitland’s sons are we;

“Nor is there men, in a’ your host,

“Daur fight us, three to three.”

“Now, by my sooth,” young Edward said,

“Weel fitted ye sall be!

“Piercy sall wi’ the eldest fight,

“And Ethert Lunn wi’ thee;

“William of Lancaster the third,

“And bring your fourth to me!”

Remember, Piercy, aft the Scot94

“Has cow’rd beneath thy hand:

“For every drap of Maitland blood,

“I’ll gie a rigg of land.”

He clanked Piercy ower the head,

A deep wound and a sair,

Till the best blood o’ his bodie

Cam rinning down his hair.

“Now, I’ve slayne ane; slay ye the twa;

“And that’s gude companye;

“And if the twa suld slay you baith,

“Ye’se get na help frae me.”

But Ethert Lunn, a baited bear,

Had many battles seen;

He set the youngest wonder sair,

Till the eldest he grew keen —

“I am nae king, nor nae sic thing:

“My word it shanna stand!

“For Ethert sail a buffet bide,

“Come he beneath my brand.”

He clanked Ethert ower the head,

A deep wound and a sair,

Till the best blood of his bodie

Cam rinning ower his hair.

“Now I’ve slayne twa; slay ye the ane;

“Is na that gude companye?

“And tho’ the ane suld slay ye baith,

“Ye’se get na help o’ me.”

The twa-some they hae slayne the ane;

They maul’d him cruellie;

Then hung them over the draw-brigg,

That all the host might see.

They rade their horse, they ran their horse,

Then hovered on the lee;

“We be three lads o’ fair Scotland,

“That fain wad fighting see.”

This boasting, when young Edward heard.

An angry man was he!

“I’ll take yon lad, I’ll bind yon lad,

“And bring him bound to thee!”

“Now, God forbid,” King Edward said,

“That ever thou suld try!

“Three worthy leaders we hae lost,

“And thou the fourth wad lie.

“If thou should’st hang on yon draw-brigg,

“Blythe wad I never be!”

But, wi’ the poll-axe in his hand,

Upon the brigg sprang he.

The first stroke that young Edward gae,

He struck wi’ might and mayn;

He clove the Maitlan’s helmet stout,

And bit right nigh the brayn.

When Maitland saw his ain blood fa’,

An angry man was he!

He let his weapon frae him fa’,

And at his throat did flee.

And thrice about he did him swing,

Till on the grund he light,

Where he has halden young Edward,

Tho’ he was great in might.

“Now, let him up,” King Edward cried,

“And let him come to me!

“And, for the deed that thou hast done,

“Thou shalt hae erldomes three!”

“Its ne’er be said in France, nor e’er

In Scotland, when I’m hame,

That Edward once lay under me,

And e’er gat up again!”

He pierced him through and through the heart;

He maul’d him cruellie;

Then hung him ower the draw-brigg,

Beside the other three.

“Now, take frae me that feather-bed!

“Mak me a bed o’ strae!

“I wish I had na lived this day,

“To mak my heart sae wae.

“If I were ance at London tower,

“Where I was wont to be,

“I never mair suld gang frae hame,

“Till borne on a bier-tree.”

91 Waled— Chosen.]

92 North–Berwick, according to some reciters.]

93 Edward had quartered the arms of Scotland with his own.]

94 The two first lines are modern, to supply an imperfect stanza.]

Notes on Auld Maitland.

Young Edward hight his name. — P, 25. v. 2.

Were it possible to find an authority for calling this personage Edmund, we should be a step nearer history; for a brother, though not a nephew of Edward I., so named, died in Gascony during an unsuccessful campaign against the French. —Knighton, Lib. III. cap. 8.

I wish him dool and pyne. — P. 26. v. 3.

Thus, Spenser, in Mother Huberd’s tale

Thus is this ape become a shepherd swain,

And the false fox his dog, God give them pain!

Who, marching forth with false Dunbar,

A ready welcome found. — P. 26. v. 4.

These two lines are modern, and inserted to complete the verse. Dunbar, the fortress of Patrick, Earl of March, was too often opened to the English, by the treachery of that baron, during the reign of Edward I.

They laid their sowies to the wall,

Wi’ many a heavy peal. — P. 27. v. 4.

In this and the following verse, the attack and defence of a fortress, during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, is described accurately and concisely. The sow was a military engine, resembling the Roman testudo. It was framed of wood, covered with hides, and mounted on wheels, so that, being rolled forwards to the foot of the besieged wall, it served as a shed, or cover, to defend the miners, or those who wrought the battering ram, from the stones and arrows of the garrison. In the course of the famous defence, made by Black Agnes, Countess of March, of her husband’s castle of Dunbar, Montague, Earl of Salisbury, who commanded the besiegers, caused one of these engines to be wheeled up to the wall. The countess, who, with her damsels, kept her station on the battlements, and affected to wipe off with her handkerchief the dust raised by the stones, hurled from the English machines, awaited the approach of this new engine of assault. “Beware, Montague,” she exclaimed, while the fragment of a rock was discharged from the wall —“Beware, Montague! for farrow shall thy sow!”95 Their cover being dashed to pieces, the assailants, with great loss and difficulty, scrambled back to their trenches. “By the regard of suche a ladye,” would Froissart have said, “and by her comforting, a man ought to be worth two men, at need.” The sow was called by the French Truie. — See Hailes’ Annals, Vol. II. p. 89. Wintown’s Cronykil, Book VIII. William of Malmesbury, Lib. IV.

The memory of the sow is preserved in Scotland by two trifling circumstances. The name given to an oblong hay-stack, is a hay-sow; and this may give us a good idea of the form of the machine. Children also play at a game with cherry stones, placing a small heap on the ground, which they term a sowie, endeavouring to hit it, by throwing single cherry-stones, as the sow was formerly battered from the walls of the besieged fortress. My companions, at the High School of Edinburgh, will remember what was meant by berrying a sowie. It is strange to find traces of military antiquities in the occupation of the husbandman, and the sports of children.

95 This sort of bravade seems to have been fashionable in those times: “Et avec drapeaux, et leurs chaperons, ils torchoient les murs à l’endroit, ou les pierres venoient frapper.”—Notice des Manuscrits de la Bibliotheque Nationale.]

The pitch and tar-barrels of Maitland were intended to consume the formidable machines of the English. Thus, at a fabulous siege of York, by Sir William Wallace, the same mode of defence is adopted:

The Englishmen, that cruel were and kene,

Keeped their town, and fended there full fast;

Faggots of fire among the host they cast,

Up pitch and tar on feil sowis they lent;

Many were hurt ere they from the walls went;

Stones on Springalds they did cast out so fast,

And goads of iron made many grome agast.

Henry the Minstrel’s History of Wallace. — B. 8. c. 5.

A more authentic illustration may be derived from Barbour’s Account of the Siege of Berwick, by Edward II., in 1319, when a sow was brought on to the attack by the English, and burned by the combustibles hurled down upon it, through the device of John Crab, a Flemish engineer, in the Scottish service.

And thai, that at the sege lay,

Or it was passyt the fyft day,

Had made thaim syndry apparall,

To gang eft sonys till assaill.

Off gret gests a sow thai maid,

That stalwart heildyne aboyne it haid;

With armyt men inew tharin,

And instruments for to myne.

Syndry scaffalds thai maid withall,

That war wele heyar than the wall,

And ordanyt als that, be the se,

The town suld weill assaillyt be.

Thai within, that saw thaim swa,

Swa gret apparaill schap to ma,

Throw Craby’s cunsaill, that wes sley,

A crane thai haiff gert dress up hey,

Rynnand on quheills, that thai micht bryng

It quhar that nede war off helping.

And pyk, and ter, als haiff thai tane;

And lynt, and herds, and brymstane;

And dry treyis that wele wald brin,

And mellyt aythir other in:

And gret fagalds thairoff thai maid,

Gyrdyt with irne bands braid.

The fagalds weill mycht mesuryt be,

Till a gret towrys quantite.

The fagalds bryning in a ball,

With thair cran thoucht till awaill;

And giff the sow come to the wall,

To lat it brynand on her fall;

And with stark chenyeis hald it thar,

Quhill all war brynt up that thar war.

* * *

Upon sic maner gan thai fycht,

Quhill it wes ner none off the day,

That thai without, on gret aray,

Pryssyt thair sow towart the wall;

And thai within sune gert call

The engynour, that takyn was,

And gret manance till hym mais,

And swour that he suld dey, bot he

Prowyt on the sow sic sutelté

That he to fruschyt ilk dele,

And he, that hath persawyt wele

That the dede wes wele ner hym till,

Bot giff he mycht fulfil thair will

Thoucht that he at hys mycht wald do.

Bendyt in gret by then wes sche,

That till the sow wes ewyn set.

In hy he gert draw the cleket;

And smertly swappyt owt a stane,

Ewyn our the sow the stane is gane,

And behind it a litill way

It fell: and then they cryt, “Hey!”

That war in hyr, “furth to the wall,

For dredles it is ours all!”

The gynour than deleuerly

Gert bend the gyn in full gret hy;

And the stane smertly swappyt out.

It flaw out quethyr, and with a rout,

And fell rycht ewyn befor the sow.

Thair harts than begouth to grow.

Bot yhet than, with thair mychts all

Thai pressyt the sow towart the wall;

And has hyr set tharto gentilly.

The gynour than gert bend in hy

The gyne, and wappyt owt the stane,

That ewyn towart the lyft is gane,

And with gret wycht syne duschyt doun,

Rycht be the wall in a randoun;

And hyt the sow in sic maner,

That it that wes the maist sowar,

And starkast for to stynt a strak,

In sundre with that dusche it brak.

The men than owt in full gret hy,

And on the wallis thai gan cry,

That thair sow wes feryt thar.

Jhon Crab, that had hys geer all yar

In hys fagalds has set the fyr,

And our the wall syne gan thai wyr,

And brynt the sow till brands bar.

The Bruce, Book XVII

The springalds, used in defence of the castle of Lauder, were balistae, or large cross-bows, wrought by machinery, and capable of throwing stones, beams, and huge darts. They were numbered among the heavy artillery of the age; “Than the kynge made all his navy to draw along, by the cost of the Downes, every ship well garnished with bombardes, crosbowes, archers, springalls, and other artillarie.”—Froissart.

Goads, or sharpened bars of iron, were an obvious and formidable missile weapon. Thus, at the assault of Rochemiglion “They within cast out great barres of iron, and pots with lyme, wherewith they hurt divers Englishmen, such as adventured themselves too far.”—Froissart, Vol. I. cap. 108.

From what has been noticed, the attack and defence of Lauder castle will be found strictly conformable to the manners of the age; a circumstance of great importance, in judging of the antiquity of the ballad. There is no mention of guns, though these became so common in the latter part of the reign of Edward III., that, at the siege of St. Maloes, “the English had well a four hondred gonnes, who shot day and night into the fortresse, and agaynst it.”—Froissart, Vol. I. cap. 336. Barbour informs us, that guns, or “crakis of wer,” as he calls them, and crests for helmets, were first seen by the Scottish, in their skirmishes with Edward the Third’s host, in Northumberland A.D. 1327.

Which some call Billop–Grace. — P. 28. v. 5.

If this be a Flemish, or Scottish, corruption for Ville de Grace, in Normandy, that town was never besieged by Edward I., whose wars in France were confined to the province of Gascony. The rapid change of scene, from Scotland to France, excites a suspicion, that some verses may have been lost in this place. The retreat of the English host, however, may remind us of a passage, in Wintown, when, after mentioning that the Earl of Salisbury raised the siege of Dunbar, to join King Edward in France, he observes,

“It was to Scotland a gud chance,

“That thai made thaim to werray in France;

“For had thai halyly thaim tane

“For to werray in Scotland allane.

Eftyr the gret mischeffis twa,

Duplyn and Hallydowne war tha,

Thai suld have skaithit it to gretly.

Bot fortowne thoucht scho fald fekilly

Will noucht at anis myscheffis fall;

Thare-fore scho set thare hartis all,

To werray Fraunce richit to be,

That Scottis live in grettar lé.

Cronykil, B. VIII. cap. 34.

Now, will ye go, my brethren two,

And try some jeopardie? — P. 29. v. 2.

The romantic custom of atchieving, or attempting, some desperate and perilous adventure, without either necessity or cause, was a peculiar, and perhaps the most prominent, feature of chivalry. It was not merely the duty, but the pride and delight, of a true knight, to perform such exploits, as no one but a madman would have undertaken. I think it is in the old French romance of Erec and Eneide, that an adventure, the access to which lay through an avenue of stakes, garnished with the bloody heads of the knights who had attempted and failed to atchieve it, is called by the inviting title of La joie de la Cour. To be first in advancing, or last in retreating; to strike upon the gate of a certain fortress of the enemy; to fight blindfold, or with one arm tied up; to carry off a banner, or to defend one; were often the subjects of a particular vow, among the sons of chivalry. Until some distinguishing exploit of this nature, a young knight was not said to have won his spurs; and, upon some occasions, he was obliged to bear, as a mark of thraldom, a chain upon his arm, which was removed, with great ceremony, when his merit became conspicuous. These chains are noticed in the romance of Jehan de Saintré. In the language of German chivalry, they were called Ketten des Gelubdes (fetters of duty). Lord Herbert of Cherbury informs us, that the knights of the Bath were obliged to wear certain strings, of silk and gold, upon their left arm, until they had atchieved some noble deed of arms. When Edward III. commenced his French wars, many of the young bachelors of England bound up one of their eyes with a silk ribband, and swore, before the peacock and the ladies, that they would not see with both eyes until they had accomplished certain deeds of arms in France. —Froissart, cap. 28.

A remarkable instance of this chivalrous frenzy occurred during the expedition of Sir Robert Knowles, who, in 1370, marched through France, and laid waste the country, up to the very gates of Paris. “There was a knighte, in their companye, had made a vowe, the day before, that he wolde ryde to the walles or gates of Parys, and stryke at the barryers with his speare. And, for the fournyshing of his vowe, he departed fro his companye, his spear in his fyst, his shelde about his neck, armed at all pecesse, on a good horsse, his squyer on another, behinde him, with his bassenet. And whan he approached neare to Parys, he toke and dyde on his helme, and left his squyer behind hym, and dashed his spurres to his horsse, and came gallopynge to the barryers, the whiche as then were opyn; and the lordes, that were there, had wened he wolde have entred into the towne; but that was not his mynde; for, when he hadde stryken at the barryers, as he had before avowed, he towrned his reyne, and drue back agayne, and departed. Than the knightes of France, that sawe hym depart, sayd to hym, ‘Go your waye; you have ryghte well acquitted yourself.’ I can nat tell you what was thys knyghtes name, nor of what contre; but the blazure of his armes was, goules, two fusses sable, a border sable. Howbeit, in the subbarbes, he had a sore encontre; for, as he passed on the pavement, he founde before hym a bocher, a bigge man, who had well sene this knighte pass by. And he helde in his handes a sharpe hevy axe, with a longe poynt; and, as the knyght returned agayne, and toke no hede, this bocher came on his side, and gave the knyghte suche a stroke, betwene the neck and the shulders, that he reversed forwarde heedlynge, to the neck of his horsse, and yet he recovered agayne. And than the bocher strake hym agayne, so that the axe entered into his body, so that, for payne, the knyghte fell to the erthe, and his horsse ran away, and came to the squyer, who abode for his mayster at the stretes ende. And so, the squyer toke the horsse, and had gret marveyle what was become of his mayster; for he had well sene him ryde to the barryers, and stryke therat with his glayve, and retourne agayne. Thanne he rode a lytell forthe, thyderwarde, and anone he sawe where his master layn upon the erthe, bytwene foure men, layenge on him strokes, as they wolde have stryken on a stethey (anvil); and than the squyer was so affreyed, that he durst go no farther; for he sawe well he could nat helpe his mayster. Therefore he retourned as fast as he myght: so there the sayd knyghte was slayne. And the knyghtes, that were at the gate, caused hym to be buried in holy ground.”—Froissart, ch. 281.

A similar instance of a military jeopardy occurs in the same author, ch. 364. It happened before the gates of Troyes. “There was an Englyshe squyre, borne in the bishopryke of Lincolne, an expert man of armes; I can nat say whyder he could se or nat; but he spurred his horse, his speare in his hande, and his targe about his necke; his horse came rushyng downe the waye, and lept clene over the barres of the baryers, and so galoped to the gate, where as the duke of Burgoyne and the other lords of France were, who reputed that dede for a great enterprise. The squyer thoughte to have returned, but he could nat; for his horse was stryken with speares, and beaten downe, and the squyer slayn; wherewith the Duke of Burgoyne was right sore displeased.”

Wilt thou lend me our king’s standard,

To bear a little way? — P. 29. v. 4.

In all ages, and in almost all countries, the military standards have been objects of respect to the soldiery, whose duty it is to range beneath them, and, if necessary, to die in their defence. In the ages of chivalry, these ensigns were distinguished by their shape, and by the various names of banners, pennons, penoncelles, &c., according to the number of men, who were to fight under them. They were displayed, on the day of battle, with singular solemnity, and consigned to the charge only of such as were thought willing and able to defend them to the uttermost. When the army of Edward, the Black Prince, was drawn up against that of Henry the Bastard, king of Castile, “Than Sir Johan Chandos brought his baner, rolled up togyder, to the prince, and said, ‘Sir, behold, here is my baner. I requyre you display it abrode, and give me leave, this daye, to raise it; for, sir, I thanke God and you, I have land and heritage suffyciente to maynteyne it withal.’ Than the prince, and King Dampeter (Don Pedro), toke the baner betwene their handes, and spred it abrode, the which was of sylver, a sharp pyle gaules, and delyvered it to hym, and said, ‘Sir Johan, behold here youre baner; God sende you joye and honour thereof!’ Than Sir Johan Chandos bare his baner to his owne company, and sayde, ‘Sirs, beholde here my baner, and yours; kepe it as your owne.’ And they toke it, and were right joyful therof, and sayd, that, by the pleasure of God, and Saint George, they wold kepe and defend it to the best of their powers. And so the baner abode in the handes of a good Englishe squyer, called William Alery, who bare it that day, and acquaytted himself right nobly.”—Froissart, Vol. I. ch. 237. The loss of a banner was not only great dishonour, but an infinite disadvantage. At the battle of Cocherel, in Normandy, the flower of the combatants, on each side, were engaged in the attack and defence of the banner of the captall of Buche, the English leader. It was planted amid a bush of thorns, and guarded by sixty men at arms, who defended it gallantly. “There were many rescues, and many a one hurt and cast to the earth, and many feats of armes done, and many gret strokes given, with good axes of steel, that it was wonder to behold.” The battle did not cease until the captall’s standard was taken and torn to pieces.

We learn, from the following passage in Stowe’s Chronicle, that the standard of Edward I. was a golden dragon. “The king entred Wales with an army, appointing the footmen to occupie the enemies in fight, whiles his horsemen, in a wing, set on the rere battell: himselfe, with a power, kept his place, where he pight his golden dragon, unto whiche, as to a castle, the wounded and wearied might repair.”

Where was thou bred? where was thou born?

Where, or in what countrie?”

“In north of England I was born:

(It needed him to lie.)— P. 29. v. 5.

Stratagems, such as that of Maitland, were frequently practised with success, in consequence of the complete armour worn by the knights of the middle ages. In 1359, Edward III. entered France, to improve the success of the battle of Poictiers. Two French knights, Sir Galahaut of Rybamont, and Sir Roger of Cologne, rode forth, with their followers, to survey the English host, and, in short, to seek adventures. It chanced that they met a foraging party of Germans, retained in King Edward’s service, under the command of Reynold of Boulant, a knight of that nation. By the counsel of a squire of his retinue, Sir Galahaut joined company with the German knight, under the assumed character of Bartholomew de Bonne, Reynold’s countryman, and fellow soldier in the English service. The French knights “were a 70 men of armes, and Sir Renolde had not past a 30; and, whan Sir Renolde saw theym, he displayed his baner befor hym, and came softely rydynge towarde theym, wenyng to hym that they had been Englyshemen. Whan he approched, he lyft up hys vyser, saluted Sir Galahaut, in the name of Sir Bartylmewe de Bonnes. Sir Galahaut helde hymselfe styll secrete, and answered but fayntly, and sayd, ‘let us ryde forth;’ and so rode on, and hys men, on the one syde, and the Almaygnes on the other. Whan Sir Renolde of Boulant sawe theyr maner, and howe Sir Galahaut rode sometyme by hym, and spake no word, than he began to suspecte. And he had not so ryden, the space of a quarter of an hour, but he stode styll, under his baner, among hys men, and sayd, ‘Sir, I have dout what knyght ye be. I thynke ye be nat Sir Bartylmewe, for I knowe hym well; and I see well that yt ys nat you. I woll ye telle me your name, or I ryde any farter in your company.’ Therwith Sir Galahaut lyft up hys vyser, and rode towardes the knyght to have taken hym by the raygne of hys brydell, and cryed, ‘Our Ladye of Rybamont!’ than Sir Roger of Coloyne sayd, ‘Coloyne to the rescue!’96 Whan Sir Renolde of Boulant sawe what case he was in, he was nat gretly afrayed, but drewe out his sworde; and, as Sir Galahaut wolde have taken hym by the brydell, Sir Renolde put his sworde clene through hym, and drue agayne hys sworde out of hym, and toke his horse, with the spurres, and left Sir Galahaut sore hurt. And, whan Sir Galahautes men sawe theyr master in that case, they were sore dyspleased, and set on Sir Renolde’s men; there were many cast to the yerth, but as sone as Sir Renolde had gyven Sir Galahaut that stroke, he strak hys horse with the spurres, and toke the feldes. Than certayne of Galahaut’s squyers chasyd hym, and, whan he sawe that they folowed hym so nere, that he muste other tourne agayne, or els be shamed, lyke a hardy knyght he tourned, and abode the foremost, and gave hym such a stroke, that he had no more lyste to folwe him. And thus, as he rode on, he served three of theym, that folowed hym, and wounded theym sore: if a goode axe had been in hys hand, at every stroke he had slayne a man. He dyd so muche, that he was out of danger of the Frenchmen, and saved hymselfe withoute any hurte; the whyche hys enemyes reputed for a grete prowess, and so dyd all other that harde thereof; but hys men were nere slayne or taken, but few that were saved. And Sir Galahaut was caryed from thence sore hurt to Perone; of that hurt he was never after perfectly hole; for he was a knyght of suche courage, that, for all his hurte, he wold not spare hymselfe; wherefore he lyved not long after.”—Froissart, Vol. I. Chap. 207.

96 The war-cries of their family.]

The youngest turn’d him in a path,

And drew a burnished brand, &c.— P. 31. v. 2.

Thus, Sir Walter Mauny, retreating into the fortress of Hanyboute, after a successful sally, was pursued by the besiegers, who ranne after them, lyke madde men; than Sir Gualtier saide, “Let me never be beloved wyth my lady, without I have a course wyth one of these folowers!” and turning, with his lance in the rest, he overthrew several of his pursuers, before he condescended to continue his retreat.

Whene’er they came within the yate,

They thrust their horse them frae, &c.— P. 32. v. 1.

“The Lord of Hangest (pursued by the English) came so to the barryers (of Vandonne) that were open, as his happe was, and so entred in therat, and than toke his speare, and turned him to defence, right valiantly.”—Froissart, Vol. I. Chap. 367.

They rade their horse, they ran their horse,

Then hovered on the lee, &c.— P. 36. v. 1.

The sieges, during the middle ages, frequently afforded opportunity for single combat, of which the scene was usually the draw-bridge, or barriers, of the town. The former, as the more desperate place of battle, was frequently chosen by knights, who chose to break a lance for honour, and their ladies’ love. In 1387, Sir William Douglas, lord of Nithisdale, upon the draw-bridge of the town of Carlisle, consisting of two beams, hardly two feet in breadth, encountered and slew, first, a single champion of England, and afterwards two, who attacked him together. —Forduni Scotichronicon, Lib. XIV. cap. 51.

He brynt the surburbys of Carlele,

And at the bareris he faucht sa wele,

That on thare bryg he slw a man,

The wychtast that in the town wes than:

Quhare, on a plank of twa feet brade,

He stude, and twa gude payment made,

That he feld twa stout fechteris,

And but skath went till his feres.

Wintown’s Cronykil, Book IX. Chap. 8.

These combats at the barriers, or palisades, which formed the outer fortification of a town, were so frequent, that the mode of attack and defence was early taught to the future knight, and continued long to be practised in the games of chivalry. The custom, therefore, of defying the inhabitants of a besieged town to this sort of contest, was highly fashionable in the middle ages; and an army could hardly appear before a place, without giving rise to a variety of combats at the barriers, which were, in general, conducted without any unfair advantage being taken on either part.

The following striking example of this romantic custom occurs in Froissart. During the French wars of Edward the Black Prince, and in the year 1370, a body of English, and of adventurers retained in his service, approached the city of Noyon, then occupied by a French garrison, and arrayed themselves, with displayed banners, before the town, defying the defenders to battle. “There was a Scottysh knyghte97 dyde there a goodly feate of armes, for he departed fro his companye, hys speare in hys hand, and mounted on a good horse, hys page behynde hyme, and so came before the barryers. Thys knyghte was called Sir Johan Assueton,98 a hardy man and a couragyous. Whan he was before the barryers of Noyon, he lyghted a-fote, and sayd to hys page, ‘Holde, kepe my horse, and departe nat hens;’ and so wente to the barryers. And wythyn the barryers, there were good knyghtes; as, Sir John of Roy, Sir Lancelat of Loutys, and a x or xii other, who had grete marveyle what thys sayde knyghte wolde do. Than he sayde to them, ‘Sirs, I am come hyder to se you. I se well, ye wyll nat issue out of your barryers; therefore I will entre, and I can, and wyll prove my knyghthode agaynst yours; wyn me and ye can.’ And therewyth he layde on, round about hym, and they at hym. And thus, he alone fought agaynst them, more than an houre; and dyd hurte two or three of them; so that they of the towne, on the walles and garrettes, stode still, and behelde them, and had great pleasure to regarde his valyauntness, and dyd him no hurte; the whiche they myght have done, if they hadde list to have shotte, or cast stones at hym. And also the French knyghtes charged them to let hym and them alone togyder. So long they foughte, that, at last, his page came near to the barryers, and spake in his langage, and sayd, ‘Sir, come awaye; it is time for you to departe, for your cumpanye is departyng hens.’ The knyghte harde hym well, and than gave a two or three strokes about him, and so, armed as he was, he lepte out of the barryers, and lepte upon his horse, without any hurte, behynde his page; and sayd to the Frenchemen, ‘Adue, sirs! I thank you;’ and so rode forthe to his owne company. The whiche dede was moche praysed of many folkes.”—Froissart, cap. 278.

97 By the terms of the peace betwixt England and Scotland, the Scottish were left at liberty to take service either with France or England, at their pleasure. Sir Robert Knolles, therefore, who commanded the expedition, referred to in the text, had under his command a hundred Scottish spears.]

98 Assueton is a corruption for Swinton. Sir John Swinton, of Swinton, was a Scottish champion, noted for his courage and gigantic stature.]

The barriers, so often alluded to, are described, by the same admirable historian, to be grated pallisades, the grates being about half a foot wide. In a skirmish before Honycourt, Sir Henry of Flanders ventured to thrust his sword so far through one of those spaces, that a sturdy abbot, who was within, seized his sword-arm, and drew it through the harriers, up to the shoulder. In this aukward situation he remained for some time, being unwilling to dishonour himself by quitting his weapon. He was at length rescued, but lost his sword; which Froissart afterwards saw preserved, as a relique, in the monastery of Honycourt. — Vol. I. chap. 39. For instances of single combats, at the barriers, see the same author, passim.

And if the twa suld slay ye baith,

Ye’se get na help frae me. — P. 34. v. 5.

According to the laws of chivalry, laws, which were also for a long time observed in duels, when two or more persons were engaged on each side, he, who first conquered his immediate antagonist, was at liberty, if he pleased, to come to the assistance of his companions. The play of the “Little French Lawyer” turns entirely upon this circumstance; and it may be remarked throughout the poems of Boiardo and Ariosto; particularly in the combat of three Christian and three Pagan champions, in the 42d canto of Orlando Furioso. But doubtless a gallant knight was often unwilling, like young Maitland, to avail himself of this advantage. Something of this kind seems to have happened in the celebrated combat, fought in the presence of James II. at Stirling, in 1449, between three French, or Flemish, warriors, and three noble Scottishmen, two of whom were of the house of Douglas. The reader will find a literal translation of Olivier de la Marche’s account of this celebrated tourney, in Pinkerton’s History, Vol. I. p. 428.

I am nae king, nor nae sic thing:

My word it shanna stand! — P. 35. v. 2.

Maitland’s apology for retracting his promise to stand neuter, is as curious as his doing so is natural. The unfortunate John of France was wont to say, that, if truth and faith were banished from all the rest of the universe, they should still reside in the breast and the mouth of kings.

They maul’d him cruellie. — P. 35. v. 5.

This has a vulgar sound, but is actually a phrase of romance. Tant frappent et maillent lex deux vassaux l’un sur l’autre, que leurs heaumes, et leurs hauberts, sont tous cassez et rompus. — La fleur des Battailes.

But, wi’ the poll-axe in his hand,

Upon the brigg sprang he. — P. 36. v. 4.

The battle-axe, of which there are many kinds, was a knightly weapon, much used in the middle ages, as well in single combat as in battle. “And also there was a younge bachelor, called Bertrande of Glesguyne, who duryng the seige, fought wyth an Englyshman, called Sir Nycholas Dagerne; and that batayle was takene thre courses wyth a speare, thre strokes wyth an axe, and thre wyth a dagger. And eche of these knyghtes bare themselves so valyantly, that they departed fro the felde wythout any damage, and they were well regarded, bothe of theyme wythyn, and they wythout.” This happened at the siege of Rennes, by the Duke of Lancaster, in 1357. —Froissart, Vol. I. c. 175. With the same weapon Godfrey of Harcourt long defended himself, when surprised and defeated by the French. “And Sir Godfraye’s men kepte no goode array, nor dyd nat as they had promysed; moost part of theyme fledde: whan Sir Godfraye sawe that, he sayde to hymselfe, howe he had rather there be slayne than be taken by the Frenchmen; there he toke hys axe in hys handes, and set fast the one legge before the other, to stonde the more surely; for hys one legge was a lytell crooked, but he was strong in the armes. Ther he fought valyantly and long: none durste well abyde hys strokes; than two Frenchmen mounted on theyr horses, and ranne both with their speares at ones at hym, and so bare hym to the yerth: than other, that were a-fote, came wyth theyr swerdes, and strake hym into the body, under his barneys, so that ther he was slayne.”—Ibid, chap. 172. The historian throws Sir Godfrey into a striking attitude of desperation.

When Maitland saw his ain blude fa’,

An angry man was he — P. 37, v. 1.

There is a saying, that a Scottishman fights best after seeing his own blood. Camerarius has contrived to hitch this foolish proverb into a national compliment; for he quotes it as an instance of the persevering gallantry of his countrymen. “Si in pugna proprium effundi sanguinem vidissent, non statim prostrato animo concedebant, sed irato potius in hostes velut furentes omnibus viribus incurrebant.”

That Edward once lay under me,

And e’er gat up again. — P. 37. v. 4.

Some reciters repeat it thus:

“That Englishman lay under me,”

which is in the true spirit of Blind Harry, who makes Wallace say,

“I like better to see the southeron die,

“Than gold or land, that they can gie to me.”

In slaying Edward, Maitland acts pitilessly, but not contrary to the laws of arms, which did not enjoin a knight to shew mercy to his antagonist, until he yielded him, “rescue or no rescue.” Thus, the seigneur de Languerant came before the walls of an English garrison, in Gascony, and defied any of the defenders to run a course with a spear: his challenge being accepted by Bertrand Courant, the governor of the place, they couched their spears, like good knights, and dashed on their horses. Their spears were broke to pieces, and Languerant was overthrown, and lost his helmet among the horses’ feet. His attendants were coming up; but Bernard drew his dagger, and said, “Sir, yield ye my prisoner, rescue or no rescue; else ye are but dead.” The dismounted champion spoke not a word; on which, Bertrand, entering into fervent ire, dashed his dagger into his skull. Besides, the battle was not always finished by one warrior obtaining this advantage over the other. In the battle of Nejara, the famous Sir John Chandos was overthrown, and held down, by a gigantic Spanish cavalier, named Martino Fernandez. “Then Sir Johan Chandos remembred of a knyfe, that he had in his bosome, and drew it out, and struck this Martyne so in the backe, and in the sydes, that he wounded him to dethe, as he laye upon hym.” The dagger, which the knights employed in these close and desperate struggles, was called the poniard of mercy.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/s/scott/walter/minstrelsy-of-the-scottish-border/chapter2.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:29