Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose

By Kenneth Sisam | Go to book overview

X
THE BRUCE
WRITTEN IN 1375 BY JOHN BARBOUR.

John Barbour was archdeacon of Aberdeen, an auditor of the Scottish exchequer, and a royal pensioner. Consequently a number of isolated records of his activities have been preserved. In 1364 he was granted a safe-conduct to travel with four students to Oxford. In 1365 and 1368 he had permission to travel through England so that he might study in France. The notices of his journeys, his offices, and his rewards point to a busy and successful life. He died in 1395.

According to Wyntoun, Barbour's works were (1) The Bruce; (2) The Stewartis Oryginalle (or Pedigree of the Stewarts), now lost; (3) a Brut, which some have identified with extant fragments of a Troy Book (see the prefatory note to No. VII), and others with (2) The Stewartis Oryginalle.

The Bruce is found in two late MSS., both copied by John Ramsay; the first, St. John's College, Cambridge, MS. G 23, in the year 1487; the second, now at the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, in 1489. It has been edited by Skeat for the Early English Text Society, and for the Scottish Text Society. The poem is valuable for the history, more especially the traditional history, of the period 1304-33. Barbour speaks of it as a romance, and the freedom and vividness of the narrative, with its hero-worship of Robert Bruce and Douglas, place it well above the ordinary chronicle. But far from disclaiming historical accuracy, Barbour prides himself that truth well told should have a double claim to popularity:

Storys to rede ar delitabill
Suppos that thai be nocht bot fabill:
Than suld storys that suthfast wer,
And thai war said on gud maner,

-107-

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Fourteenth Century Verse & Prose
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction ix
  • The Texts xlv
  • Select Bibliography xlvi
  • I - Robert Mannyng of Brunne's Handlyng Synne Begun 1303 1
  • II - Sir Orfeo 13
  • III - Michael of Northgate's Ayenbyte of Inwyt 32
  • IV - Richard Rolle of Hampole 36
  • V - Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight About 1350-75. 43
  • VI - The Pearl 57
  • VII - The Gest Hystoriale of the Destruction of Troy 68
  • VIII - Piers Plowman (1362-1400) 76
  • IX - Mandeville's Travels 94
  • Epilogue. 104
  • X - The Bruce Written in 1375 by John Barbour. 107
  • XI - John Wiclif 115
  • XII - John Gower D. 1408. 129
  • XIII - John of Trevisa's Translation of Higden's Polychronicon 1387. 145
  • XIV - Political Pieces 151
  • XV - Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse 162
  • XVI - The York Play 'Harrowing of Hell' 171
  • Xvii the Towneley Play of Noah 185
  • Notes 204
  • Appendix the English Language in the Fourteenth Century 265
  • A Middle English Vocabulary 293
  • Glossary 297
  • Index of Names. 455
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