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Forum LockedBannockburn speech

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JRScotia View Drop Down
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    Posted: 15-May-2009 at 07:00
Ha. I'm such a noob on this forum I posted this in the wrong place at first. Tsk. Embarrassed

I was reading the article on Braveheart (nice article and I appreciated seeing it pointed out as so rarely happens that historically Wallace was not "Braveheart") but I did think it was odd to mention the words that Rabbie Burns attributed to the Bruce but not Barbour's which were much more likely to have been at least close to what the king actually said.  Admittedly, especially in translation, probably Burns's comes out a bit more poetical to our eye and, to a Scot, they strike a strong chord. But I'm willing to bet since Barbour wrote his The Brus while there were still survivors alive from Bannockburn that his is the more accurate version.

Really, other than that I have no criticism of the page though. I was impressed with how many of the points of inaccuracy the article did touch on. Very nice job, all in all.

As someone who is constantly fighting for accuracy in articles on Scotland, and it seems to be a huge struggle, it is actually a rarity to read an article and think someone got it RIGHT. So my thanks.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Orderic Vitalis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 18:24
It was just standard practice for medieval chroniclers to write up the speeches given out on the battlefield, usually so they can get across the political points these kings were meaning to say.  In some cases, the speeches written in medieval accounts are just lifted from passages in Roman Classical texts.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JRScotia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-May-2009 at 18:51
Are you even slightly acquainted with John Barbour's The Brus? It doesn't sound like it.

I suggest reading it before you make that assumption. Barbour was not a "standard" chronicler.

The speech was not one that was cribbed from a classical text. Would men have, a few decades later, remembered King Robert's words on the field? It's very possible. Believe me, Bannockburn is not a battle that Scots forget--ever.

Barbour wrote well within living memory of the event. It is generally looked at as a "severe" work with few of the poetical flourishes found in that period. Although his numbers are never to be trusted, most of what he chronicled is amazingly accurate.

In that particular situation, I would not say that Bruce was getting across a political point unless survival is a political point. I suppose one might look at it that way. There is something about being faced with an army three times the size of your own made up of those who have decimated your family (Three of King Robert's own brothers had been hanged, drawn and quartered by the English along with his brother-in-law and numerous others) that just might give rise to a strong speech.

One way or the other, it is certainly more likely to be close to what Bruce said having been written within decades of the event than Rabbie Burns' marvelous and beloved "Scots Wha Hae."

I never mind seeing that quoted, mind you, and as I mentioned I thought the article was well done, but I also question that Bruce said anything at all like that. I was quibbling a detail. :)

Edit: Compare, for example, Blind Harry's The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace which can almost never be trusted for accuracy with John Barbour's The Brus which almost always can. Of course, one difference is that Blind Harry's chronicle was written 170 years after Wallace's death while Barbour's four or five decades afterwards. It's unknown when he started it or even of a certainty when he completed it, but at about 14,000 octosyllabic lines it is a substantial work that one can reasonably assume took years to complete. No one questions that Barbour got his information about the Scottish War of Independence from people who fought it. His account of Bannockburn is amazing.

"A! Fredome is a noble thing!"



Edited by JRScotia - 17-May-2009 at 23:48
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Orderic Vitalis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-May-2009 at 05:06
I am not familiar with The Brus or the actual wording of the speech in his text - I just wanted to point out the more general trend of how medieval writers tended to develop the speeches they attribute to others.  In any case, one would have to do a thorough analysis of the text to see how he got his sources and his purpose for writing the poem.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote JRScotia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 23-May-2009 at 06:24
I assure that John Barbour's The Brus has had more thorough examination than any text in Scottish history.  Reading it is an absolute requirement for an understanding of the Scottish War of Independence. He was an amazing chronicler and his writing quite different from the standard.  That isn't to say that he didn't have political aims, which he did.

As for Scots Wha Hae--Burns never claimed to have knowledge of what Bruce had said 500 years previously. It was poetry. Stirring but with no claim to historical accuracy. I'll be the first to shed tears listening to it. :)


Originally posted by Orderic Vitalis Orderic Vitalis wrote:

I am not familiar with The Brus or the actual wording of the speech in his text - I just wanted to point out the more general trend of how medieval writers tended to develop the speeches they attribute to others.  In any case, one would have to do a thorough analysis of the text to see how he got his sources and his purpose for writing the poem.
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