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Wallace (extract) -- Blind Harry

Carrying on with the theme, a guest poem sent in by Anustup Datta
(Poem #1167) Wallace (extract)
 Of our ancestors, brave true ancient Scots,
 Whose glorious scutcheons knew no bars or blots;
 But blood untainted circled ev'ry vein,
 And ev'ry thing ignoble did disdain;
 Of such illustrious patriots and bold,
 Who stoutly did maintain our rights of old,
 Who their malicious, invet'rate foes,
 With sword in hand, did gallantly oppose:
 And in their own, and nation's just defence,
 Did briskly check the frequent insolence
 Of haughty neighbours, enemies profest,
 Picts, Danes, and Saxons, Scotland's very pest;
 Of such, I say, I'll brag and vaunt so long
 As I have power to use my pen or tongue;
 And sound their praises in such modern strain
 As suiteth best a Scot's poetic vein,
 First, here I honour, in particular,
 Sir William Wallace, much renown'd in war,
 Whose bold progenitors have long time stood,
 Of honourable and true Scottish blood.
-- Blind Harry
        (15th c., trans. William of Gilbertfield, 1722)

Note: Variously titled - everything from "Wallace" to "The Life and
Heroic Actions of the Renoun'd Sir William Wallace, General and Governor
of Scotland"

Then there is the "The Life of Sir William Wallace", which, if I'm not
mistaken was used in "Braveheart". (Today's extract is the opening lines
of the poem.)  The book became the most popular volume in Scotland after
the Bible. It inspired Burns to write "Scots Wha Hae" and Randall
Wallace also read them prior to his involvement in creating the film
"Braveheart." A modern edition of this epic poem was published in 1998.

Anustup

[Martin adds]

I was surprised I'd never heard of this; anyway, I enjoyed reading bits
and pieces of it (no, I was not about to sit and read the whole thing
through :)), and exploring some of the background behind the poem and
Blind Harry (who, if you believe all the critics, was neither).

And as an aside, it always gives me a pleasant little frisson to see,
among all the 18th century English, a startlingly modern-looking phrase
like

  So much for the brave Wallace's father's side

- it's like an interesting little linguistic tidepool hidden among the
rocks.

Links:

The whole book can be found at [broken link] http://skell.org/SKELL/blharry1.htm

An excellent discussion of 'Braveheart' and the poem:
  [broken link] http://www.unf.edu/classes/medieval/film/halsall-krossa-braveheart.htm

A biography of Blind Harry:
  http://www.bartleby.com/65/bl/BlindHar.html

And a discourse on "The Wallace" and its place in the canon:
  http://www.bartleby.com/212/0503.html

martin

78 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ian Watt said...

Well.

Wallace reminded me of McGonigal. Which took me to your website to
find the Silv'ry Tay of Tay Bridge Disaster fame ... and that led me to
think of the best piece of MockGonigal I've ever hear. To whit:

Upon a hill there was a coo.
If it's no there, it's awa noo.

All his inborn ability to break rhythms and inflict dreadful rhyming
are revealed in two short lines. I only wish I'd written it :-)

Thank you for the poems.

Ian Watt

nick blackburn said...

By gum, that's terrible.

Nick B
London

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