Imágenes de páginas

And thou through force will stop me of this thing,
I vow to God, who is my righteous king,
That all England I shall her interdict,
And make it known thou art a heretic.
The sacrament of kirk I shall him give :
Syne? take thy choice, to starve 3 or let him live.
It were more 'vail, in worship of thy crown,
To keep such one in life in thy bandoun,
Than all the land and good that thou hast reft,
But cowardice thee aye from honour dreft.5
Thou hast thy life rougino in wrongous deed;
That shall be seen on thee, or on thy seed.'
The king gart 7 charge they should the bishop tae,
But sado lords counselled to let him gae.
All Englishmen said that his desire was right.
To Wallace then he raiked 10 in their sight,
And sadly heard his confession till an end:
Humbly to God his sprite he there commend,
Lowly him served with hearty devotion
Upon his knees, and said an orison.
A psalter-book Wallace had on him ever,
From his childhood from it would not dissever;
Better he trow'd in voyage 11 for to speed.
But then he was despoiled of his weed. 12
This grace he ask'd at Lord Clifford, that knight,
To let him have his psalter-book in sight.
He gart a priest it open before him hold,
While they till him had done all that they would.
Steadfast he read for ought they did him there;
Feil 13 Southrons said that Wallace felt no sair.14
Good devotion so was his beginning,

l'An:' if. "Syne:' then. Starve:' perish. – Bandoun: disposal.SDreft:' drove.— Rougin:' spent.—7.Gart:' caused.-_8 Tae;' take.-9. Sad:' grave._10 Raiked:' walked.—11 Voyage:' journey to heaven.-12 «Weed:' clothes 13 · Feil:' many._14 Sair:' sore.

Continued therewith, and fair was his ending;
Till speech and spirit at once all can fare
To lasting bliss, we trow, for evermair.

JAMES I. OF SCOTLAND. HERE we have a great ascent from our former subject of biography—from Blind Harry to James I.—from a beggar to a king. But in the Palace of Poetry there are many mansions, and men of all ranks, climes, characters, professions, and we had almost added talents, have been welcome to inhabit there. For, even as in the House Beautiful, the weak Ready-to-halt and the timid Much-afraid were as cheerfully received as the strong Honest and the bold Valiant-for-truth; so Poetry has inspired children, and seeming fools, and maniacs, and mendicants with the finest breath of her spirit. The 'Fable-tree' Fontaine is as immortal as Corneille; Christopher Smart's David' shall live as long as Milton's 'Paradise Lost;' and the rude epic of a blind wanderer, whose birth, parentage, and period of death are all alike unknown, shall continue to rank in interest with the productions of one who inherited that kingdom of Scotland, the independence of which was bought by the successive efforts and the blended blood of Wallace and Bruce.

Let us now look for a moment at the history and the writings of this "Royal Poet.' The name will suggest to all intelligent readers the title of one of the most pleasing papers in Washington Irving's "Sketch-book.' James I. was the son of Robert III. of Scotland,—a character familiar to all from the admirable · Fair Maid of Perth,'—and of Annabella Stewart. He was created Earl of Carrick; and after the miserable death of the Duke of Rothesay, his elder brother, his father, apprehensive of the farther designs of Albany, determined to send James to France, to find an asylum and receive his education in that friendly Court. On his way, the vessel was captured off Flamborough Head by an English cruiser, (the 13th of March 1405,) and the young prince, with his attendants, was conveyed to

London, and committed to the Tower. As there was a truce between the two nations at the time, this was a flagrant outrage on the law of nations, and has indelibly disgraced the memory of Henry IV., who, when some one remonstrated with him on the injastice of the detention, replied, with cool brutality, 'Had the Scots been grateful, they ought to have sent the youth to me, for I understand French well.' Here for nineteen years,during the remainder of the life of Henry IV., and the whole of the reign of Henry V.,-James continued. He was educated, however, highly, according to the fashion of these times,-instructed in the languages, as well as in music, painting, architecture, horticulture, dancing, fencing, poetry, and other accomplishments. Still it must have fretted his high spirit to be passing his young life in prison, while without, horses were stamping, plumes glistening, trumpets sounding, tournaments. waging, and echoes from the great victories of Henry V. in France ringing around. One sweetener of his solitude, however, he at length enjoyed. Having been transferred from the Tower to Windsor Castle, he beheld one day from its windows that beautiful vision he has described in The King's Quhair,' (see

Specimens.) This was Lady Jane or Joanna Beaufort, daughter of the Earl of Somerset, niece of Richard II., and granddaughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. She was a lady of great beauty and accomplishments as well as of high rank, and James, even before he knew her name, became deeply enamoured. The passion was returned, and their mutual attachment had by and by an important bearing upon his prospects.

In 1423, the Duke of Bedford being now the English Regent, the friends of James renewed negotiations—often attempted before in vain-for his return to his native land, where his father had been long dead, and which, torn by factions and steeped in blood, was sorely needing his presence. Commissioners from the two kingdoms met at Pontefract on the 12th of May 1423, when, in presence of the young King, and with his consent, matters were arranged. The English coolly demanded £40,000 to defray the expense of James's nurture and education, (as though a bill were handed in to a man who had been unjustly

detained in prison on a false charge, ere he left its walls,) insisted on the immediate departure of the Scots from France, where a portion of them were fighting in the French army, and procured the assent of the Scottish Privy Council to the marriage of James with his beloved Jane Beaufort. A truce, too, with Scotland was concluded for seven years. All this was settled ; and soon after, in the Church of St Mary Overies, Southwark, so often alluded to in the Life of Gower,' the happy pair were wed. It seemed a most auspicious event for both countries, and to augur the substitution of permanent peace for casual and temporary truces. To Lady Jane Beaufort it gave a crown, and a noble, gallant, and gifted prince to share it withal. On James it bestowed a lady of great beauty, who was regarded, too, with gratitude as having lightened the load of his captivity, and been a "sunshine in his shady place," and-least consideration—who brought him a dowry of £10,000, which was, in fact, a remission of the fourth part of his ransom.

Attended by a magnificent retinue, the royal pair set out for Scotland. They were met at Durham by three hundred of the principal nobility and gentry, twenty-eight of whom were retained by the English as hostages for the national faith. Arrived on his native soil, James, at Melrose Abbey, gave his solemn assent on the Holy Gospels to the treaty; and seldom have the Eildon Hills returned a louder and more joyous shout of acclamation than now welcomed back to the kingdom of his fathers the · Royal Poet.' He proceeded to Edinburgh, where he celebrated Easter with great pomp, and a month later, he and his queen were solemnly crowned in the Abbey Church at Scone. This was in 1424. He lived after this only thirteen years; but the period of his reign has always been thought a glorious interlude in the dark early history of Scotland. He set himself, with considerable success, to curb the exorbitant power of the nobles, sacrificing some of them, such as Albany, to his just indignation. He passed many useful regulations in reference to the coinage, the constitution, and the commerce of the country. He suppressed with a strong hand some of the gangs of robbers and sorners' which abounded, founding instead the order of Bedesmen or King's Beggars, immortalised since in the char

acter of Edie Ochiltree. He stretched a strong hand over the refractory Highland chieftains. While keeping at first on good terms with the English Court, he turned with a fonder eye to the French as the ancient allies of Scotland, and in 1436 gave his daughter Margaret in marriage to the Dauphin. This step roused the jealousy of his southern neighbours, who tried even to intercept the fleet that was conveying the bride across the Channel, whereupon James, stung to fury, proclaimed war against England, and in August commenced the siege of Roxburgh Castle. The castle, after being environed for fifteen days, was about to fall into his hands, when the Queen suddenly arrived in the camp, and communicated some information, probably referring to a threatened conspiracy of the nobles, which induced him to throw up the siege, disband his army, and retum northward in haste. This unexpected step probably retarded, but could not prevent the dreadful purpose of death which had already been formed against the King.

In October 1436, he held his last Parliament in Edinburgh, in which, amidst many other enactments, we find, curiously enough, a prefiguration of the Forbes Mackenzie Act, in a decree that all taverns should be shut at nine o'clock. In the end of the year he determined on retiring to Perth, where in the language of Gibbon, applied to Timour) “ he was expected by the Angel of Death. It is said that, when about to cross the Frith of Forth, then called the Scottish Sea, a Highland woman, who claimed the character of a prophetess, like Meg Merrilees in fiction, met the cavalcade, and cried out, with a loud voice, 'My Lord the King, if you pass this water you shall never return again alive;' but as she was concluded to be mad or drunk, her warning was scorned. He betook himself to the convent of the Black Friars, where Christmas was being celebrated with great pomp and splendour. Meanwhile Robert Grahame, and Walter, Earl of Athole, the King's own uncle, actuated, the former by revenge on account of the resumption of some lands improperly granted to his family, and the latter by a desire to succeed to the Crown, had formed a plot against James's life. Several Warnings, besides that of the Highland seeress, the King received, but he heeded them not, and, like most of the doomed,

« AnteriorContinuar »