Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BRUCE: HOW AYMER DE VALENCE, AND JOHN OF LORN CHASED THE BRUCE ..., by JOHN BARBOUR



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BRUCE: HOW AYMER DE VALENCE, AND JOHN OF LORN CHASED THE BRUCE ..., by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Sir aymer had great companie
Last Line: God save them for his great mercie!
Subject(s): Robert I. King Of Scotland (1274-1329); Bruce, Robert; The Bruce


SIR AYMER had great companie
Of noble men of high degree,
From England, and from Lothian;
And he had also with him then
John of Lorn, with all his might
Of valiant men, and good in fight,
More than eight hundred with him go --
A sleuth-hound had he there, also,
Which no man from a trail might bring --
And some men say, I trow, the king
For coursing once that dog had had,
And aye so mickle of him made,
He'ld feed the hound with his own hand,
Take him where'er he went on land --
And that the dog he loved him so,
That he would never from him go --
How John of Lorn, he gat that hound,
Thereof I never mention found,
But this men say of certainty,
The dog should in his keeping be.
He thought thro' him to take the king --
The dog loved him o'er everything,
And ne'er for chance that him befell,
The Bruce's scent, he knew right well,
Would that dog ever change or miss.
This John of Lorn did hate, I wis,
The king, for John of Comyn's sake,
His uncle, -- Fain the king to take,
He valued not his life a straw
So that he fitting vengeance saw.
The Warden, then, Sir Aymery,
With John of Lorn in company,
And many another goodly knight,
(One of them Thomas Randolph hight, --)
In Cumnok came to seek the king --
The Bruce had knowledge of that thing;
His force had greater waxed by then,
He had with him three hundred men.
His brother too, with him did fare,
And James of Douglas, he was there.
Sir Aymer's army well he saw,
The plain they held, and eke the lawe,
For battle all, in fair array --
At the king's heart small doubt there lay
That all his foemen he saw there,
For none beside them had he care;
Wherein he wrought right foolishly,
For John of Lorn, with subtlety,
Thought from behind to seize the king --
Therefore, with all his gathering,
Behind a hill he took his way
Holding himself in ambush aye.
Thus came he to the king full nigh;
Ere he his coming did espy,
Well nigh upon the king he fell --
Sir Aymer, with his men, right well,
Pressed on their foes so hardily
The king, he was in jeopardy,
Beset he was on either side,
By foes, who hard to slay him tried;
And e'en the lesser force, that day,
More than sufficed his men to slay.
Seeing how strait they on him pressed,
He thought him well what course were best,
And quoth: "My Lords, we have no might
To-day to hold our own in fight,
Divide we now, in parties three,
Thus all will not assailed be,
And in three parties go our way."
Further, he did his council say
Betwixt them there, full privily,
Where their next hiding-place should be.
With that, they gat them on their way,
In parties three they fled that day.
But John of Lorn, he came full fain,
There, whence the Bruce his flight had ta'en,
The hound set on his track straightway,
That lingered not, nor made delay,
But held the track where he fled fast,
E'en as by sight -- The dog, he cast
About, tracks twain, he left them there,
Knowing the path whereon to fare --
The king, he saw the hound that tide,
He kept the line, nor swerved aside,
And knew what dog that same should be,
Therefore he bade his companie
In the three bands to make their way,
And this they did without delay,
Holding their road in parties three --
The hound, he showed his mastery,
For ne'er he swerved aside, but led
Straight on the track where Bruce, he fled.
The king perceived at that same,
His foemen still behind him came,
'T was him they followed, not his men --
He gat to him assurance then
That he was known -- for that cause, he
Now bade his men, right hastily,
To scatter, and to go his way
Each man alone -- and so did they,
Each on his several way has gone --
The king, he had with him but one,
His foster-brother, no man more,
The twain, they fled their foes before;
The hound, he still pursued the king,
And swerved not, for their severing,
But followed on the track full fast,
Knowing right well which way he past.
When John of Lorn thus surely saw
The hound his course thus straight to draw,
And follow hard the twain, he knew
One was the king, by tokens true.
He chose five of his soldiers then,
Who hardy were, and valiant men,
And who right swift of foot should be,
Swiftest of all his companie,
Bade them pursue the Bruce, "That so
He may in no wise pass ye fro' --"
Swift as they heard that counselling
They followed hard upon the king,
So speedily their way they make
That soon they did their foes o'ertake;
The king, he saw them draw anear,
Methinks, he deemed it sorry cheer,
He thought, an they were men of might,
They would in such wise stay his flight,
Force him to make so long a stand,
He were o'er-ta'en by all the band;
But might he dread no other foe
Than five, then do I surely know
Of them were he in little dread --
Then to his fellow, as they fled,
He said: "Yon five come speedily,
Well nigh o'er-taken now are we,
Say, canst thou give me help in fight?
Assailed shall we be forthright!"
"Yea, Sire," he said, "as best I may" --
The king quoth: "'T is well, by my fay,
I see they draw to us full near,
No further will I, but right here
I'll make my stand, while breath doth last,
And try their valour fair and fast."
The king, he stood there sturdily,
And the five foemen, speedily,
Came with great clamour, menacing;
Three of them set upon the king,
While t'ward his man the other two,
With sword in hand, they swiftly go.
The king, these foemen who him sought
Hath met, on one his vengeance wrought
In such wise that he shore away
Cheek, ear, and shoulder on that day.
So swift he smote, so dizzily,
The twain who saw, thus suddenly,
Their fellow fall, for very fear
They held them back, nor drew so near.
The king, with that he glanced aside,
And saw the other twain, that tide.
'Gainst his man sturdily to fight --
With that, he left his two, forthright,
And t'ward those who his man would slay
Full swift and light he leapt that day,
The head of one he off hath ta'en,
Then turned him to his foes again,
Who set on him right hardily --
He met the first so eagerly,
That with his sword, that sharply shore,
The arm he from the body tore.
What strokes they smote I cannot tell,
But to the king it chanced so well
That, tho' he travail had, and pain,
Four of his foemen hath he slain.
His foster-brother true, that day,
The fifth from life hath reft away;
And when the king saw of that five
Not one was left on ground alive,
To his companion did he say:
"Well hast thou helped me now, i-fay!"
"To say so pleasures ye," quoth he,
"Too great a share ye took to ye
Who slew five, where I slew but one!"
The king quoth: "So the game did run,
Better than thou I here might do,
Of leisure more had I thereto;
Those fellows twain, who dealt with thee,
When they saw me assailed by three
No more of me they went in dread,
Deeming I were too sore bestead,
And e'en because they feared me not,
Could I harm them the more, I wot."
With that, the king, he looked near by,
Saw John of Lorn, his company,
That with the hound came on full fast;
Straightway into the wood they passed,
There, with his comrade would he lie,
God save them for His great Mercie!





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