Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fredome is a Noble Thing

One of the most important of Scottish poets, John Barbour, died on March 13, 1395.  Barbour was a clergyman, situated at Dunkeld Cathedral, who succeeded to the Archdeaconry of Aberdeen in 1356.  Barbour has been credited with translating Latin and French works into Scots, including, from two French poems, "The Buik of Alexander", which was reprinted by the Bannatyne Club in 1831.  Above all, Barbour is known for being the first major literary figure to write in the Scots vernacular.  His seminal work was "The Brus".

Barbour's story of Robert the Bruce, from which the famous quote "Fredome is a Noble Thing" comes, is known for being fairly accurate historically.  It is written in octosyllabic lines, a form that Scott employed in his poetry four centuries later.  Barbour's "The Brus" served as inspiration for Scott for his work "The Lord of the Isles".

From "The Brus":
"A! fredome is a noble thing!
Fredome mayss man to haiff liking;
Fredome all solace to man giffis:
He levys at ess that frely levys!
A noble hart may haiff nane ess
Na ellys nocht that may him pless,..."
And, at Bannockburn:
"And on schir Eduard the Brysis rout From "The Lord of the Isles":
That was so sturdy and so stout,
As dreid of nakyn thing had he,
He prykit, cryand “Argente!”
From Scott's "The Lord of the Isles":
"...'Twixt Bannock's brook and Ninian's shrine
Detach'd was each, yet each so nigh
As well might mutual aid supply.
Beyond, the Southern host appears
A boundless wilderness of spears,
Whose verge or rear the anxious eye
Strove far, but strove in vain, to spy.
Thick flashing in the evening beam.
Glaives, lances, bills, and banners gleam ;
And where the heaven join'd with the hill.
Was distant armour flashing still.
So wide, so far, the boundless host
Seem'd in the blue horizon lost..."

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