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Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Heart of the Bruce, Part II

There's a story here and I'm getting to it... But you really need to read these words to wrap your head around it. To bring new readers up to speed, this is the conclusion of an old poem about the Lockhart family of Scotland and how they got their name. The poem is entitled "The Heart Of The Bruce," and was written ages ago. King Robert the Bruce of Scotland left instructions to his knights to take and bury his heart, (after his death) in the Holy Land. You can read the beginning of this poem in an earlier blog. On their way, the knights ran into some Spaniards outnumbered by some Moselm invaders, and decide to do a good deed, and this is how the legend goes...

We bring our great King Robert’s heart,
Across the weltering wave
To lay it in the Holy soil,
Hard by the Savior’s grave.

“True pilgrims we, by land or sea,
Where danger bars the way;
And therefore we are here, Lord King,
To ride with thee this day!”

The King has bent his stately head,
And the tears were in his eyne –
“God’s blessing on thee, noble knight,
For this brave thought of thine!

“I know thy name full well, Lord James;
And honored may I be,
That those who fought beside the Bruce,
Should fight this day for me!

“Take thou the leading of the van,
And charge the Moors amain;
There is not such a lance as thine
In all the host of Spain!”

The Douglas turned towards us then,
Oh but his glance was high!—
“There is not one of all my men
But is as bold as I.

“There is not one of all my Knights
But bears as true a spear—
Then onwards Scottish gentlemen,
And think King Robert’s here!”

The trumpets blew, the cross-bolts flew,
The arrows flashed like flame,
As spur in side and spear in rest,
Against the foe we came.

And many a bearded Saracen
Went down, both horse and man;
For through their ranks we rode like corn,
So furiously we ran!

But in behind our path they closed,
Though fain to let us through,
For they were forty thousand men,
And we were wondrous few.

We might not see a lance’s length,
So dense was their array,
But the long fell swoop of the Scottish blade
Still held them hard at bay.

“Make in, make in!” Lord Douglas cried—
“Make in my brethren dear!
Sir William of St. Clair is down;
We may not leave him here!”

But thicker, thicker grew the swarm,
And sharper shot the rain,
And the horses reared amid the press,
But they would not charge again.

“Now Jesu help thee,” said Lord James,
“Thou kind and true St. Clair!
An’ if I may not bring thee off,
I’ll die beside there!”

Then in his stirrups he stood,
So lion-like and bold,
And held the precious heart aloft
All in its case of gold.

He flung it from him, far ahead,
And never spake he more,
But – “Pass thee first, thou dauntless heart,
As thou were wont of yore.”

The roar of fight rose fiercer yet,
And heavier still the stour,
‘Till the spears of Spain came shivering in
And swept away the Moor.

“Now praised be God, the day is won!
They fly o’er flood and fell—
Why dost thou draw the rein so hard,
Good knight that fought so well?”

“Oh, ride ye on, Lord King!” he said,
“And leave the dead to me,
For I must keep the dreariest watch
That ever I shall dree!

“There lies above his master’s heart,
The Douglas stark and grim;
And wo is me I should be here,
Not side by side with him!

“The world grows cold, my arm is old,
And thin my lyart hair,
And all that I loved best on earth
Is stretched before me there.

“O Bothwell banks! That bloom so bright
Beneath the Sun of May,
The heaviest cloud that ever blew
Is bound for you this day.

“And Scotland! Thou may’st veil thy head
In sorrow and in pain:
The sorest stroke upon my brow
Hath fallen this day in Spain!

“We’ll bear them back unto our ship,
We’ll bear them o’er the sea,
And lay them in the hallowed earth,
Within our own countrie.

“And be thou strong of heart Lord King,
For this I tell thee sure,
The sod that drank the Douglas' blood
Shall never bear the Moor!”

The King he lighted from his horse,
He flung his brand away,
And took the Douglas by the hand,
So stately as he lay.

“God give thee rest, thou valiant soul!
That fought so well for Spain:
I’d rather half my land were gone,
So thou wert here again!”

We bore the good Lord James away,
And the priceless heart we bore,
And heavily we steered our ship
Towards the Scottish shore.

No welcome greeted our return,
No clang of martial tread,
But all were dumb and hushed as death
Before the mighty dead.

We laid our chief in Douglas Kirk,
The heart of fair Melrose;
And woeful men were we that day—
God grant their souls repose!

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