Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Tuesday Poem: from The Bruce, by John Barbour

..A! Fredome is a noble thing
Fredome mays man to haiff liking.
Fredome all solace to man giffis,
He levys at es that frely levys.
A noble hart may haiff nane es
Na ellys nocht that may him ples
Gyff fredome failyhe, for fre liking
Is yharnyt our all other thing.
Na he that ay has levyt fre
May nocht knaw weill the propyrte
The angyr na the wrechyt dome
That is couplyt to foule thryldome,
Bot gyff he had assayit it.
Than all perquer he suld it wyt,
And suld think fredome mar to prys
Than all the gold in warld that is.

- John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, ca 1375

The Scots have just celebrated the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, which took place at a site very close to where my ancestors farmed for several centuries near Stirling.

A copy of this poem has been restored for the 700th anniversary of the battle. "The Brus" is believed to have been written by the Archdeacon of Aberdeen in 1375 and tells of Robert the Bruce's wars for Scottish independence.

The battle was fought on June 23 and 24 in 1314 and is relived through the 1,400-line poem. Now, a 15th century copy of the poem has been restored by a team at St John's College at Cambridge University. More information is found here.

The poem is available in a modern translation by A A M Duncan, complete with copious additional notes. (Translation on the left hand side, with the original Scots version on the right hand side of each two page spread)

The passage above runs as follows in modern English:
Ah! Freedom is a noble thing/Freedom lets a man have pleasure,/Freedom all solace to man gives,/He lives at ease that freely lives./A noble heart will have no ease/Nor aught else that pleases him/If freedom fails, for free decision/Is longed for above all else./No, he who has always lived free/Cannot well know the properties,/The anger, no, the miserable fate,/That are coupled to foul thralldom./But if he had experienced it/Then he would know it perfectly/And would think freedom more to be prized/Than all the gold there is in this world.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.


Helen McKinlay said...

Thanks for posting this...1400 lines
wow! And what beautiful handwriting they had! I really enjoyed this story.
I remember eating a type of bread called bannocks once in Scotland.

Helen Lowe said...

Very cool, Catherine!