Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BRUCE: HOW KING ROBERT WAS HUNTED BY THE SLEUTH-HOUND, by JOHN BARBOUR



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BRUCE: HOW KING ROBERT WAS HUNTED BY THE SLEUTH-HOUND, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The king hath sought the wood withal
Last Line: At that stream he escaped, the king.
Subject(s): Robert I. King Of Scotland (1274-1329); Bruce, Robert; The Bruce


THE king hath sought the wood withal,
Covered with sweat, and redeless all,
Straight thro' the wood, and without fail,
He held him downward to a vale,
Where thro' the wood a stream doth flow --
Thither in haste the king doth go,
Full fain was he to rest him there,
He said he might no further fare --
His man quoth: "Sire, that may not be,
Abide ye here ye soon shall see
Five hundred, yearning ye to slay,
'Gainst two, I trow too many they!
Since we may aid us not with might
Help that we get us hence by sleight."
The king quoth: "Since wilt have it so,
Go on, and I will with thee go;
But I have oft-times heard men say
Would one thro' water take his way,
Wading a bow-shot long, that he
Could from a sleuth-hound shake him free,
For dog and leader should him lose --
I rede that we this sleight now choose,
For were you Devil's hound away
I 'ld care not for the rest, i-fay!"

As he devised have they done;
Straight to the water have they gone,
Along the stream their way they make,
Then, once again, to woodland take,
And flee, as aye before that day. --
Then John of Lorn, with great array,
Hath come unto that place, I trow,
Wherein his men were slain but now,
And when he saw them lying dead,
He sware with mickle grief that stead,
He would have vengeance for their blood,
In other ways take payment good.
He thought to dwell no longer there,
But on the king's track straight would fare.
They follow true, until at last
They find the water where he passed,
The sleuth-hound might no further go --
Long time he wavered to and fro,
Nor led them truly here nor there.
Then John of Lorn was well aware
Of how the hound had lost the trail --
He quoth: "This shall us naught avail,
The wood, it is both broad and wide,
And he hath gone far by this tide,
Therefore I rede we turn again,
And weary us no more in vain."
With that he called his companie,
Back to the host his way took he.

Thus he escaped, the noble king;
But other-wise some tell this thing,
And say that his escape befell
Not thro' his wading, for they tell
How the king had an archer true,
Who, when he his lord's peril knew,
How he was left with ne'er a man,
Ever on foot beside him ran
Till he into the wood was gone --
Then said he to himself alone,
That he would there behind him stay,
And see if he the hound might slay.
For, an that dog should live, he knew
Full well he'ld follow, fast and true,
The king's track, till they found him fair --
Full well he wist they'ld slay him there;
And, since his lord he fain would aid,
His life he on the venture laid.
Hidden within a bush he lay
Until the sleuth-hound passed his way,
Then, with an arrow, he him slew,
And forthwith to the wood withdrew.
But whether his escape befell
As first I said, or as these tell,
I wot not, but I know one thing,
At that stream he escaped, the king.





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