Excerpt from Book I, Chapter I of The Wallace (c. 1488)
Of our Ancestors brave true, Ancient Scots,
Whose glorious Scutcheons, knew no Bars, nor Blots:
But Blood untainted circled ev'ry Vein,
And ev'ry Thing ignoble did disdain;
Of such Illustrious Patriots, and bold,
Who stoutly did maintain our Rights of Old,
Who their malicious, and invet'rate Foes,
With Sword in Hand, did gallantly oppose;
And in their own, and Nations just Defence,
Did briskly check the frequent Insolence
Of haughty Neighbours, Enemies profest,
Picts, Danes, and Saxons, Scotland's very Pest:
Of such I say, I'll brag and vaunt so long
As I have Pow'r to use my Pen or Tongue;
And sound their Praises, in such modern Strain,
As suiteth best a Scots Poetick Vein.
First, Here I honour in Particular,
Sir William Wallace, much renown'd in War:
Who's bold Progenitors have long Time stood,
Of honourable, and true Scotish Blood;
And in first Rank of Ancient Barrons go,
Old Knights of Craigy, Barronets also;
Which gallant Race, to make my Story brief
To good Sir William, for some Minutes few,
Till, like a just, impartial, honest Man,
As I have heard, tell how the Wars began.
King Alexander, at Kinghorn in Fife,
There, from his Horse did lose his Royal Life,
Thro' which arose a grievous sore Debate,
Some Years thereafter, who should Rule the State.
David our Prince, Earl of Huntingtoun
Three Daughters had; whom search all Britain round,
Thro' all its Corners, and its different Airts,
None more excell'd in bright, and princely Parts.
Bruce, Baliol, Hasting from those Ladies spring;
The Bruce and Baliol strive who shall be King.
Nor did the Dispute end, but grew so hot,
The Candidats in two strong Factions got.
Which at that Time appear'd to be so equal,
Few could foresee, or guess well at the Sequel;
Here lay the great Distress and Misery,
The Case at Home could not determin'd be;
Wherefore, to void a bloody Civil War,
The Scotish States esteem'd it better far,
The two Contendants should submit the Thing,
To the Decision of the English King.
Who greedily the Ref'rence did Embrace,
But play'd his Cards with a dissembling Face:
Yea, so politick was this crafty King,
For his Self-ends, Things so about to bring,
That, Agents he did secretly imploy,
The Scotish Lords with cunning to decoy
To his ow'n Measures; a pernicious Plot
Quite opposite unto the Trust he got;
Thinking to make, (so big his Hopes were grown)
The Scotish Crown pay Homage to his own.
Which with one Voice, flatly the States refuse,
In spite of all Politicks he could use
Braveheart’s story loosely adapts Blind Harry’s The Wallace (1488) as a source for the life and achievements of William Wallace, who became, after his death and in legend, a Scottish military and national hero. The excerpt above is from William Hamilton’s 1722 translation. The epic poem was written as a tribute to Sir William Wallace for his acts of patriotism. This excerpt begins with the description of the brave and patriotic Scottish ancestors, who defended their lands from invaders for a long time. Sir William Wallace is described as an honorable man and renowned military leader against oppression. This description of William Wallace is likely what Mel Gibson had in mind when he made Braveheart. Just like Gibson’s film highlights the lack of succession to the Scottish throne and the rule of Edward I in Scotland, The Wallace speaks about the disputes between Scottish nobles and the desire to keep Scotland out of civil war. The poem clarifies how Edward I became the powerful lawmaker and oppressor of the Scottish people. Braveheart shows viewers Edward I of England invading Scotland after Alexander III died without an heir; however, this epic poem explains that the Scottish nobles of the time reached out to Edward I because they did not want civil war to break out. In The Wallace Edward I accepted the Scottish offer, but he manipulated his way into a more powerful position over time. He grew his political power at the cost of Scottish sovereignty, which is a theme that runs through Braveheart.
c. 1488 (original)