Imágenes de páginas

fort petit de corps, mais fort grand de courage. Ses ennemis disoient qu'il ne tuoit pas bien ses gens, que par advantages et supercheries. Certes, je tiens de grands capitaines, et mesme d'Italiens, qui ont estez d'autres fois les premiers vengeurs du monde, in ogni modo, disoient ils, qui ont tenu cette maxime, qu'une supercherie ne se devoit payer que par semblable monnoye, et n'y alloit point là de déshonneur.-Oeuvres de Brantome, Paris, 1787-8. Tome viii. p. 90-92. It may be necessary to inform the reader, that this paragon of France was the most foul assassin of his time, and had committed many desperate murders, chiefly by the assistance of his hired banditti; from which it may be conceived how little the point of honour of the period deserved its name. I have chosen to give my heroes, who are indeed of an earlier period, a stronger tincture of the spirit of chivalry.

Note LV

Ill fared it then with Roderick Dhu,
That on the field his targe he threw.

For, train'd abroad his arms to wield,

Fitz-James's blade was sword and shield.-p. 133.

A round target of light wood, covered with strong leather, and studded with brass or iron, was a necessary part of a Highlander's equipment. In charging regular troops they received the thrust of the bayonet in this buckler, twisted it aside, and used the broadsword against the encumbered soldier. In the civil war of 1745, most of the front rank of the clans were thus armed; and Captain Grose informs us, that in 1747, the privates of the 42d regiment, then in Flanders, were for the most part permitted to carry targets.-Military Antiquities, vol. i. p. 164. A person thus armed had a considerable advantage in private fray. Among verses between Swift and Sheridan, lately published by Dr. Barrett, there is an account of such an encounter, in which the circumstances, and consequently the relative superiority of the combatants, are precisely the reverse of those in the text.

'A Highlander once fought a Frenchman at Margate,
The weapons, a rapier, a backsword, and target;

Brisk Monsieur advanced as fast as he could,

But all his fine pushes were caught in the wood,

And Sawny, with backsword, did slash him and nick him,
While t'other, enraged that he could not once prick him,

Cried, "Sirrah, you rascal, you son of a whore,

Me will fight you, be gar! if you'll come from your door."'

The use of defensive armour, and particularly of the buckler, or target, was general in Queen Elizabeth's time, although that of the single rapier seems to have been occasionally practised much earlier. Rowland Yorke, however, who betrayed the fort of Zutphen to the Spaniards, for which good service he was afterwards poisoned by them, is said to have been the first who brought the rapier-fight into general use. Fuller, speaking of the swash-bucklers, or bullies, of Queen Elizabeth's time, says, 'West Smithfield was formerly called Ruffians' Hall, where such men usually met, casually or otherwise, to try masteries with sword and buckler. More were frightened than hurt, more hurt than killed therewith, it being accounted unmanly to strike beneath the knee.


But since that desperate traitor Rowland Yorke first introduced thrusting with rapiers, sword and buckler are disused.' In The Two Angry Women of Abingdon, a comedy, printed in 1599, we have a pathetic complaint: 'Sword and buckler fight begins to grow out of use. I am sorry for it: I shall never see good manhood again. If it be once gone, this poking fight of rapier and dagger will come up; then a tall man, and a good sword and buckler man, will be spitted like a cat or rabbit.' But the rapier had upon the continent long superseded, in private duel, the use of sword and shield. The masters of the noble science of defence were chiefly Italians. They made great mystery of their art and mode of instruction, never suffered any person to be present but the scholar who was to be taught, and even examined closets, beds, and other places of possible concealment. Their lessons often gave the most treacherous advantages; for the challenged, having the right to choose his weapons, frequently selected some strange, unusual, and inconvenient kind of arms, the use of which he practised under his instructors, and thus killed at his ease his antagonist, to whom it was presented for the first time on the field of battle. See Brantome's Discourse on Duels, and the work on the same subject, 'si gentement écrit' by the venerable Dr. Paris de Puteo. The Highlanders continued to use broadsword and target until disarmed after the affair of 1745-6.

Note LVI

Let recreant yield, who fears to die.-p. 134.

I have not ventured to render this duel so savagely desperate as that of the celebrated Sir Ewan of Lochiel, chief of the clan Cameron, called, from his sable complexion, Ewan Dhu. He was the last man in Scotland who maintained the royal cause during the great Civil War, and his constant incursions rendered him a very unpleasant neighbour to the republic garrison at Inverlochy, now Fort William. The governor of the fort detached a party of three hundred men to lay waste Lochiel's possessions, and cut down his trees; but, in a sudden and desperate attack made upon them by the chieftain, with very inferior numbers, they were almost all cut to pieces. The skirmish is detailed in a curious memoir of Sir Ewan's life, printed in the Appendix of Pennant's Scottish Tour.

'In this engagement, Lochiel himself had several wonderful escapes. In the retreat of the English, one of the strongest and bravest of the officers retired behind a bush, when he observed Lochiel pursuing, and seeing him unaccompanied with any, he leapt out and thought him his prey. They met one another with equal fury. The combat was long and doubtful: the English gentleman had by far the advantage in strength and size; but Lochiel, exceeding him in nimbleness and agility, in the end tript the sword out of his hand; they closed and wrestled, till both fell to the ground in each other's arms. The English officer got above Lochiel, and pressed him hard, but stretching forth his neck, by attempting to disengage himself, Lochiel, who by this time had his hands at liberty, with his left hand seized him by the collar, and jumping at his extended throat, he bit it with his teeth quite through, and kept such a hold of his grasp, that he brought away his mouthful: this, he said, was the sweetest bit he ever had in his lifetime.'-Vol. i. p. 375.


Ye towers! within whose circuit dread
A Douglas by his sovereign bled;

And thou, O sad and fatal mound!

That oft hast heard the death-axe sound.-p. 139.

It is

An eminence on the north-east of the Castle, where state criminals were executed. Stirling was often polluted with noble blood. thus apostrophised by J. Johnstone :

.. Discordia tristis

Heu quoties procerum sanguine tinxit humum !
Hoc uno infelix, et felix cetera; nusquam

Lætior aut cœli frons geniusve soli.'

The fate of William, eighth Earl of Douglas, whom James II. stabbed in Stirling Castle with his own hand, and while under his royal safeconduct, is familiar to all who read Scottish history. Murdack, Duke of Albany, Duncan, Earl of Lennox, his father-in-law, and his two sons, Walter and Alexander Stuart, were executed at Stirling, in 1425. They were beheaded upon an eminence without the castle walls, but making part of the same hill, from whence they could behold their strong castle of Doune, and their extensive possessions. This heading hill,' as it was sometimes termed, bears commonly the less terrible name of Hurly-hacket, from its having been the scene of a courtly amusement alluded to by Sir David Lindsay, who says of the pastimes in which the young King was engaged,

'Some harled him to the Hurly-hacket';

which consisted in sliding, in some sort of chair, it may be supposed, from top to bottom of a smooth bank. The boys of Edinburgh, about twenty years ago, used to play at the hurly-hacket, on the Calton-hill, using for their seat a horse's skull.


The burghers hold their sports to-day.—p. 140.

Every burgh of Scotland, of the least note, but more especially the considerable towns, had their solemn play, or festival, when feats of archery were exhibited, and prizes distributed to those who excelled in wrestling, hurling the bar, and other gymnastic exercises of the period. Stirling, a usual place of royal residence, was not likely to be deficient in pomp upon such occasions, especially since James v. was very partial to them. His ready participation in these popular amusements was one cause of his acquiring the title of the King of the Commons, or Rex Plebeiorum, as Lesly has latinised it. The usual prize to the best shooter was a silver arrow. Such a one is preserved at Selkirk and at Peebles. At Dumfries, a silver gun was substituted, and the contention transferred to fire-arms. The ceremony, as there performed, is the subject of an excellent Scottish poem, by Mr. John Mayne, entitled The Siller Gun, 1808, which surpasses the efforts of Fergusson, and comes near those of Burns.

Of James's attachment to archery, Pitscottie, the faithful though rude recorder of the manners of that period, has given us evidence.

In this year there came an ambassador out of England, named Lord William Howard, with a bishop with him, with many other gentlemen, to the number of threescore horse, which were all able men and waled [picked] men for all kind of games and pastimes, shooting,

louping, running, wrestling, and casting of the stone, but they were well 'sayed [essayed or tried] ere they passed out of Scotland, and that by their own provocation; but ever they tint; till at last, the Queen of Scotland, the King's mother, favoured the English-men, because she was the King of England's sister: and therefore she took an enterprise of archery upon the English-men's hands, contrary her son the king, and any six in Scotland that he would wale, either gentlemen or yeomen, that the English-men should shoot against them either at pricks, revers, or buts, as the Scots pleased.

"The king, hearing this of his mother, was content, and gart her pawn a hundred crowns, and a tun of wine upon the English-men's hands; and he incontinent laid down as much for the Scottish-men. The field and ground was chosen in St. Andrews, and three landed men and three yeomen chosen to shoot against the English-men, to wit, David Wemyss of that ilk, David Arnot of that ilk, and Mr. John Wedderburn, vicar of Dundee; the yeomen, John Thomson, in Leith, Steven Taburner, with a piper, called Alexander Baillie; they shot very near, and warred [worsted] the English-men of the enterprise, and wan the hundred crowns and the tun of wine, which made the king very merry that his men wan the victory.'-P. 147.

Note LIX

Robin Hood.-p. 141.

The exhibition of this renowned outlaw and his band was a favourite frolic at such festivals as we are describing. This sporting, in which kings did not disdain to be actors, was prohibited in Scotland upon the Reformation, by a statute of the sixth Parliament of Queen Mary, c. 61, A.D. 1555, which ordered, under heavy penalties, that, 'na manner of person be chosen Robert Hude, nor Little John, Abbot of Unreason, Queen of May, nor otherwise.' But in 1561, the rascal multitude,' says John Knox, 'were stirred up to make a Robin Hude, whilk enormity was of many years left and damned by statute and act of Parliament; yet would they not be forbidden.' Accordingly they raised a very serious tumult, and at length made prisoners the magistrates who endeavoured to suppress it, and would not release them till they extorted a formal promise that no one should be punished for his share of the disturbance. It would seem, from the complaints of the General Assembly of the Kirk, that these profane festivities were continued down to 1592.1 Bold Robin was, to say the least, equally successful in maintaining his ground against the reformed clergy of England: for the simple and evangelical Latimer complains of coming to a country church, where the people refused to hear him, because it was Robin Hood's day; and his mitre and rochet were fain to give way to the village pastime. Much curious information on this subject may be found in the Preliminary Dissertation to the late Mr. Ritson's edition of the songs respecting this memorable outlaw. The game of Robin Hood was usually acted in May; and he was associated with the morricedancers, on whom so much illustration has been bestowed by the commentators on Shakespeare. A very lively picture of these festivities, containing a great deal of curious information on the subject of the private life and amusements of our ancestors, was thrown, by the late ingenious Mr. Strutt, into his romance entitled Queen-hoo Hall, published after his death, in 1808.

1 Book of the Universal Kirk, p. 414.


Indifferent as to archer wight,

The monarch gave the arrow bright.—p. 142.

The Douglas of the poem is an imaginary person, a supposed uncle of the Earl of Angus. But the king's behaviour during an unexpected interview with the Laird of Kilspindie, one of the banished Douglasses, under circumstances similar to those in the text, is imitated from a real story told by Hume of Godscroft. I would have availed myself more fully of the simple and affecting circumstances of the old history, had they not been already woven into a pathetic ballad by my friend Mr. Finlay.1

His (the king's) implacability (towards the family of Douglas) did also appear in his carriage towards Archibald of Kilspindie, whom he, when he was a child, loved singularly well for his ability of body, and was wont to call him his Gray-Steill.2 Archibald, being banished into England, could not well comport with the humour of that nation, which he thought to be too proud, and that they had too high a conceit of themselves, joined with a contempt and despising of all others. Wherefore, being wearied of that life, and remembering the king's favour of old towards him, he determined to try the king's mercifulness and clemency. So he comes into Scotland, and taking occasion of the king's hunting in the park at Stirling, he casts himself to be in his way, as he was coming home to the castle. So soon as the king saw him afar off, ere he came near, he guessed it was he, and said to one of his courtiers, yonder is my Gray-Steill, Archibald of Kilspindie, if he be alive. The other answered, that it could not be he, and that he durst not come into the king's presence. The king approaching, he fell upon his knees and craved pardon, and promised from thenceforward to abstain from meddling in public affairs, and to lead a quiet and private life. The king went by, without giving him any answer, and trotted a good round pace up the hill. Kilspindie followed, and, though he wore on him a secret, or shirt of mail, for his particular enemies, was as soon at the castle gate as the king. There he sat him down upon a stone without, and entreated some of the king's servants for a cup of drink, being weary and thirsty; but they, fearing the king's displeasure, durst give him none. When the king was set at his dinner, he asked what he had done, what he had said, and whither he had gone? It was told him that he had desired a cup of drink, and had gotten none. The king reproved them very sharply for their discourtesy, and told them, that if he had not taken an oath that no Douglas should ever serve him, he would have received him into his service, for he had seen him sometime a man of great ability. Then he sent him word to go to Leith, and expect his further pleasure. Then some kinsmen of David Falconer, the canonier, that was slain at Tantallon, began to quarrel with Archibald about the matter, wherewith the king showed himself not well pleased when he heard of it. Then he commanded him to go to France for a certain space, till he heard further from him. And he did so, and died shortly after. This gave occasion to the king of England (Henry VIII.) to blame his nephew, alleging the old saying, That a king's face should give grace. For this Archibald (whatsoever were Angus's or Sir George's fault) had not been principal actor of any thing, nor no counsellor nor 1 See Scottish Historical and Romantic Ballads. Glasgow, 1808, vol. ii. p. 117. 2 A champion of popular romance. See Ellis's Romances, vol. iii.

« AnteriorContinuar »