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The Balletis of the Nine Nobles

The Balletis of the Nine Nobles: FOOTNOTES

1 Lines 34–36: [He] that in his days would never for sure / be in dread of a multitude of men, / even though he was one against ten

2 [And] Lucius the public procurator

3 Before [conquering] Antioch and Corborant

4 Lines 51–52: His sword has gone through the body and defensive armor of him whom he overtook with a fulsome blow

5 [He, i.e. Bruce] who was sometimes so hard-pressed

6 Lines 61–62: You good men who read these verses, / judge who was the most valiant in deeds

The Balletis of the Nine Nobles: EXPLANATORY NOTES

ABBREVIATIONS: Alexander: Buik of Alexander, ed. Ritchie; Bruce: Barbour, The Bruce, ed. McDiarmid and Stevenson; C: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Library, MS 171, fol. 371r; JL: Edinburgh, University Library, MS Dc.7.63, fols. 155v–56r (John Law’s abbreviation of Bower’s Scotichronicon); Les Voeux: Les Voeux de Paon (original French), in Buik of Alexander, ed. Ritchie; OA: Octosyllabic Alexander (Older Scots translation of French Les Voeux de Paon) in Buik of Alexander, ed. Ritchie.

1 Hector of Troy. Hector was a prince of Troy, son of King Priam. Barbour compares his second hero, James Douglas, to “gud Ector of Troy” in the Bruce (1.395).
throu hard feichtingis. This phrase recurs throughout the Balletis. Compare lines 8, 53, 55.

2 In half thrid yeris slew xix kingis. Medieval accounts of the Trojan War document Hector’s killing of many kings and dukes; in Benoît de Saint-Maure’s Le Roman de Troie (c. 1160–65), for instance, he is responsible for the death of 21 people, at least thirteen of whom were kings. The Balletis follows both Les Voeux (Alexander, 4:403, line 7492) and OA (Alexander, 4:403, line 9909) in listing nineteen kings. The time-scale (“half thrid yeris”) is shared only with the latter text (“Into the half thrid ȝeir all anerly,” Alexander, 4:402, line 9907).

3 ammirallis a hunder and mare. Benoît notes that during one battle Hector killed the Greek warrior, Patroclus, E bien mil chevaliers e plus (“And also more than  one hundred knights,” translation mine); Hector’s epitaph also recorded his killing of many amirauz (“admirals”) (Le Roman de Troie, ed. Constans, 1:15, line 258; 3:108 line 16846). The killing of over a hundred admirals appears only in Les Voeux (Alexander, 4:403, line 7493), not in the OA.

4 smal folk. The motif of a few fighting against many recurs three times later in The Balletis (lines 34–36, 56, 59–60). It is also a running theme throughout Barbour’s Bruce (e.g., 2.333 ff.).

5 so fele at was ferli. There is no equivalent to this comment in Les Voeux but it does appear in the OA. Of Hector’s killings, the narrator comments, “That was sa fell it is ferly” (Alexander, 4:403, line 9911).

6 Quham Achiles slew tresnabili. In the medieval Trojan tradition, Hector is killed by Achilles shortly after himself killing a Greek king, Polyboetes. In an attempt to despoil Polyboetes’ body of its armor, Hector set aside his own shield and therefore left himself vulnerable to Achilles’ attack. The Balletis’ author takes a dim view of Achilles’ decision to kill Hector when unarmed, but elsewhere in the medieval Trojan tradition (e.g., Lydgate’s Troy Book and Christine de Pizan’s Épître d’Othéa la déesse à Hector) Hector’s death is attributed to his own covetousness. See Benson, “Prudence, Othea and Lydgate’s Death of Hector.”

7 Alexander als nobil king. Alexander is similarly described as a “nobill King” in the OA (Alexander, 4:403, line 9918). Alexander the Great (356–23 BCE) was King of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia and famed for a career of conquests that led to the creation of an exceptionally large empire. Two separate fifteenth-century Older Scots romances about Alexander the Great survive: the Buik of Alexander or Octosyllabic Alexander (a translation of two French Alexander texts, Le Fuerre de Gadres and Les Voeux du Paon completed by an anonymous author c. 1438) and The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour (an encyclopedic account of Alexander’s career, conquests, and death produced by Sir Gilbert Hay c. 1460). Three Scottish monarchs were also named Alexander in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It has been suggested that the popularity of Alexander the Great in Older Scots culture was due in no small part to his being Greek, and thus of the same stock as Scotland’s mythological founding father, Gaythelos. See Edington, “Paragons and Patriots,” p. 71; Caughey and Wingfield, “Conquest and Imperialism,” pp. 463–66.

8 In xii yere. Les Voeux (Alexander, 4:403, line 7500) similarly refers to a twelve year period of conquest, as does Barbour’s Bruce (1.532). The OA refers just to seven years (Alexander, 4:403, line 9918) but this may be the result of an error in the sole surviving print witness or a prior exemplar (“xii” might have been mistakenly copied as “vii”). 1 Maccabees 1:8 records that Alexander reigned for twelve years before he died (et regnavit Alexander annis duodecim et mortuus est; “And Alexander reigned twelve years, and he died”).

9 under the firmament. This phrase appears both in Les Voeux (desous le firmament, Alexander, 4:403, line 7501) and OA (“vnder the firmament,” Alexander, 4:403, line 9919).

10-12 Equhethir a dai . . . . til his governance. Alexander the Great is here imagined as a medieval monarch addressing a contemporary parliament. In touching upon Alexander’s insatiable desire to rule as many lands as possible, the Balletis narrator hints at (but does not condemn) something of the increasingly covetous nature for which Alexander was criticized in other treatments of his legend. In the Older Scots Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour, for instance, Alexander is criticized for his greed in the final stages of the romance by a succession of individuals, including Dindimus, king of the Brahmins, and the philosopher Diogenes, and in the Talis of the Fyve Bestes (edited elsewhere in this volume) Alexander again has to be steered away from his desire to conquer the town of Lapsat. See further Caughey and Wingfield, “Conquest and Imperialism.” The more subtle account of Alexander’s career in the Balletis bears comparison with that of Chaucer’s Monk in The Canterbury Tales. For a comprehensive overview of attitudes towards Alexander in the Middle English tradition see Ashurst, “Alexander the Great.”

13-18 Julius Cesar wan . . . . the first emperour. Certain elements of this stanza match details in Les Voeux and OA; the catalogue of countries conquered condenses the slightly more extensive list in the original French and Scots, and the comment that Caesar “discumfit his mawche, Pompe” (line 16) appears both in the French (Pompeë son serorge . . . / Desconfist il en Gresce, Alexander, 4:403, lines 7508–09) and Scots (“In Grece alsua discumfit he / Pompeyus, his mauch . . .” Alexander, 4:403, lines 9927–28). However, the stanza as a whole is far closer to the lines on Julius Caesar in Barbour’s Bruce:
Iulius Cesar als, yat wan
Bretane and Fraunce as dowchty man,
Affryk Arrabe Egipt Surry
And all Evrope halyly,
And for his worschip & valour
Off Rome wes fryst maid emperour . . . (1.537–42)
In the years immediately prior to the composition of the Balletis, Andrew of Wyntoun wrote about Caesar at considerable length in his Original Chronicle (c. 1408–20x4) (MS Cotton: book 4, chapter 25).

13-15 Julius Cesar wan . . . . Bretan wan he. Julius Caesar, Roman statesman and general, achieved a series of notable victories in Africa and the Middle East in 47 and 46 BCE. Rome’s earlier Gallic Wars between 58 BCE and 50 BCE, led by Caesar, had resulted in the expansion of the Roman Empire over the whole of Gaul (modern day France and Belgium), and Caesar also led invasions of Britain, one in 55 BCE and one in 54 BCE.

16 his mawche, Pompe. Pompey married Caesar’s daughter, Julia. A civil war between Caesar and Pompey (erstwhile political allies) broke out in 50 BCE. After a series of battles, Pompey fled to Egypt where he was assassinated.

18 He was the first emperour. Caesar’s victory against Pompey placed him in a position of unrivalled power. He was appointed Dictator of Rome in 48 BCE, usually a temporary position, but in 44 BCE Caesar declared himself Dictator for life. Increasing political enmity led to Caesar’s assassination on the Ides of March 44 BCE, and a subsequent series of civil wars. Caesar’s adopted grandson, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, later became the Emperor Augustus.

19 The geanntill Jew schir Josue. A central figure of the Old Testament, Joshua became the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses and led them in the conquest of Canaan. See the book of Joshua.

20 Ane and xxx kingis. As observed in the textual notes, MS C originally had Joshua defeat twelve kings, but a later hand emended this to 31. The latter number appears in all other manuscript witnesses and is the number also given in the Bible (Joshua 12:24) and in a section on the Nine Worthies in John Rolland’s late sixteenth-century Scots Court of Venus (ed. Gregor, p. 54, line 217). In the OA, Joshua “wan” “tuelfe Kingis” (Alexander, 4:404, line 9954), whilst in manuscripts of the French Voeux the number of kings is either 12 or 41.

22 The Flum Jordan partit in two. The Jordan is a river of over 250km running through the Middle and Near East into the Dead Sea. In Joshua 3, the River Jordan miraculously divides into two to allow Joshua and the Israelites to pass over. The event parallels Moses’ earlier crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14). In the Declaration of Arbroath (the famous 1320 letter of Scottish barons to Pope John XXII), the Scots are paralleled with the Israelites and their leaders with Moses, Joshua, and Judas Maccabeus; Scottish ancestors are said to have journeyed from Egypt “twelve hundred years after the people of Israel crossed the Red Sea” and Robert Bruce is described as “like another Maccabaeus or Joshua.” See Declaration, ed. and trans. Fergusson and Borthwick.

25 David slew michti Golias. Depicted variously as a warrior, poet, and musician, King David was the second King of Israel and reported ancestor of Christ. Although not without fault (he committed adultery with Bathsheba and brought about the death of her husband, Uriah), he was generally held throughout the medieval world as a righteous and effective king. David’s triumph over the Philistine giant, Goliath, is documented in 1 Kings 17:4–51. Although designed to demonstrate David’s identity as a true king of Israel, the story is also about the triumph of a small, weak force against a larger and stronger opponent. A similar motif of a few against many runs throughout the Balletis and Barbour’s Bruce. See the note to line 4 above.

26 And Philestens at felon was. The Biblical Book of Samuel contains several accounts of battles between the Israelites and their enemies, the Philistines (a non-Semitic people occupying the southern coast of Palestine in biblical times). David’s battle against Goliath represented the defeat of the Philistines. Subsequently, Saul is praised for his slaying of thousands of Philistines, but David for slaying tens of thousands (1 Kings 18:7). The French Les Voeux and Scots OA have David instead kill many felon payen (Alexander, 4:404, line 7532) or “mony ane fell pagan” (Alexander, 4:404, line 9961). Although the name given to those killed differs in the Balletis, it echoes the French adjective felon.

28 was never sene recriand. The OA similarly notes that David “was neuer recryand” (4:404, line 9964); Les Voeux that he was ne recrëant (Alexander, 4:404, line 7534).

31 Michti Judas Machabeus. Judas Maccabeus, the son of a Jewish priest, led a revolt against the Seleucid (Hellenic state) ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, around 166 BCE. The Seleucids had forbidden certain Jewish practices. Events are related in two Old Testament books: 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. As discussed in the note to line 22 above, Robert Bruce was compared to Judas Maccabeus in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath. Comparisons are also made to the Maccabees throughout Barbour’s Bruce. See 1.465; 14.312–16.

32 In batel slew Antiochus. The death of Antiochus is reported three times in the two books of Maccabees: 1 Maccabees 6:1–16; 2 Maccabees 1:14–17; and 2 Maccabees 9.

33 Appollonius, and Nichanore. Apollonius, governor of Samaria, was killed by Maccabeus on the battlefield (1 Maccabees 3:10–12); two Biblical accounts of the death of Nicanor, leader of a Seleucid force, survive (1 Maccabees 7:39–47; 2 Maccabees 15:20–36).

37-42 Arthur wan Dace . . . . slew withoutin mo. As observed in the textual note to line 37, attitudes towards Arthur in medieval and early modern Scotland were mixed. During the Anglo-Scots Wars of Independence, the Arthurian legend (and Arthur’s rule over the whole of Britain) was used by the English to bolster their claims to lordship and ownership of Scotland (Wingfield, Trojan Legend, pp. 10–15). As a consequence, it used to be thought that the Scots adopted a persistently hostile attitude towards Arthur, but this view has been revised over recent years. Whilst it is indeed true that a number of Scottish chronicles (both Latin and English) stress Arthur’s illegitimacy and consequent lack of right to the British throne, the Arthurian legend nevertheless remained popular, as evidenced by the Older Scots romances Lancelot of the Laik and Golagros and Gawane, and Arthur himself was increasingly presented with what Nicola Royan has termed “a curious mixture of praise and condemnation” (“Fine Art,” p. 44). See also Göller, “King Arthur in the Scottish Chronicles”; Alexander, “Late Medieval Scottish Attitudes”; Royan, “‘Na les vailyeant.’”

This stanza is notably different from both the French Voeux and OA. It appears to stem either directly or indirectly from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of Arthur’s enemy, Lucius, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136). Geoffrey and the Balletis author both describe Lucius as a “procuratour,” whereas he appears elsewhere, for instance in the Alliterative Morte Arthure (ed. Benson, lines 554, 1293) or Barbour’s Bruce (1.555) as an “emperour.” The Balletis description of Arthur may also owe something to Andrew of Wyntoun’s Original Chronicle (c. 1408–20x4), book 5, chapter 13 (MS Cotton). In a well known passage where Wyntoun discusses the enigmatic poet “Huchon of þe Aule Reale” (4:21–27, lines 4279–360, quotation on line 4279), he spends some time discussing whether Lucius should be called “emperoure.” He clarifies that Huchown in fact states that “Lucyus Hyberius in his dayis / Was of þe hee state procuratoure” (4:23, lines 4302–03).

37 Dace. In book 9 of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia (ed. Reeve, pp. 206–07), Arthur subdues Norway, Dacia, Aquitaine and Gaul. Throughout Reeve’s edition, wherever the Latin word Dacia appears, it is translated as Denmark, and this is the country given in the JL witness of the Balletis. It is, however, also possible that “Dace” referred to the ancient kingdom of Dacia, which included the present-day countries of Romania and Moldova, as well as parts of Ukraine, Eastern Serbia, Northern Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Southern Poland.

38 hand for hand slew two geantis. Like David, Arthur is here presented as a conqueror of giants as well as humans. In book 10 of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia (ed. Reeve, pp. 224–27), Arthur kills a Spanish giant (Rithio) on St. Michael’s Mount. In Les Voeux and OA, this giant (there named Ruiston/Rostrik) is presented as separate from the giant of St. Michael’s Mount, and Arthur is also said to have killed “ma gyantis in vther places” (Alexander, 4:405, line 9991); giants [e]n plusours autres lieus (Alexander, 4:405, line 7556).

39 Lucius the publik procuratour. A public procurator was an officer in charge of finance and taxation in a province of the Roman Empire. In book 9 of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia (ed. Reeve, pp. 214–17), Lucius writes to Arthur demanding tribute. After taking the advice of his council, Arthur agrees to a war with the Romans and refuses to pay tribute. A series of European battles follow, culminating in a personal battle between Arthur and Lucius, during which the latter is killed. See also the notes to lines 37–42 and 37 above.

41 And in til Pariss schir Frollo. Frollo was a Roman tribune who held the province of Gaul. Arthur agrees to a dual with Frollo in Paris and is eventually victorious after a fierce round of fighting. The episode is described in book 9 of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia (ed. Reeve, pp. 206–09).

43-48 Charles of France . . . . the hali Cristianté. This stanza is particularly close to lines in the OA:
Charles of France slew Agoment,
And wan Spane to his commandement,
And slew the duke of Pauy,
And wan the Saxones halely,
[. . . .]
And quhair God deit for our sauetie,
He put the haill christintie (Alexander, 4:405, lines 9993–10,000)
Charlemagne, King of the Franks from 768 to 814 and later Holy Roman Emperor, enjoyed widespread literary popularity throughout the Middle Ages and he and his knights were repeatedly depicted as defenders of the Christian faith. Only one Older Scots Charlemagne romance survives (Rauf Coilyear), but other texts in the tradition appear to have been known in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Scotland. The mid-fifteenth-century Complaynt of Scotland, for instance, collocates Rauf Coilyear alongside “the siege of millan” (ed. Stewart, Complaynt, p. 50); in Barbour’s Bruce, King Robert reads from the “Romanys of worthi Ferumbrace” to comfort his men as they attempt to cross the shores of Loch Lomond (3.435–62, quotation from line 437); and accounts of Charlemagne are found in the chronicles of Wyntoun, Bower, Boece, and Bellenden, and in Sir Gilbert Hay’s Buke of the Law of Armys and John Ireland’s Meroure of Wyssdome. Several English Charlemagne romances survive from the fourteenth through to sixteenth centuries. See Lupack, Three Middle English Charlemagne Romances; Smyser, “Charlemagne Legends”; and Hardman and Ailes, The Legend of Charlemagne.

43 Aygoland. Ago[u]lant or Aigolandus was a Saracen king of Africa. Charlemagne’s battle against him is recounted in the twelfth-century Latin chronicle known variously as the Historia Karoli Magni et Rotholandi or Pseudo-Turpin Chronicle. See The Pseudo-Turpin, ed. Smyser, pp. 22–31 (especially pp. 22–23n4).

45 Sowdon of Pavy. In Les Voeux this figure is described as Desÿer de Pavie (Alexander, 4:405, line 7560) and in the OA as “duke of Pauy” (Alexander, 4:405, line 9995). The individual intended is Didier de Pavia, king of the Lombards (757–74). Charlemagne conquered the Lombard kingdom in 773–74. See McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 28, 107–14.

46 wan the Saxonis halili. Charlemagne’s war against the Saxons (and Franks) lasted from the beginning of his reign until c. 803/04. See McKitterick, Charlemagne, pp. 103–06.

47-48 And quhar God . . . . the hali Cristianté. Although Charlemagne is thought to have not in fact visited Jerusalem personally, legendary accounts, including the Pseudo-Turpin, see him journey to Jerusalem to restore the Christian faith.

49-54 Godfrey Bolyon slew . . . . yere was king. Godfrey of Bouillon (1060–1100), a medieval Frankish knight and Lord of Bouillon, was one of the leaders of the First Crusade. After the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099 he became the first ruler of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. See Lock, The Routledge Companion to the Crusades, p. 237. And, for Scotland’s relationship to the Crusades, see Macquarrie, Scotland and the Crusades. Given the appearance of Robert Bruce immediately below and Charlemagne above this stanza it is interesting to observe that during the Wars of Independence the Bishops of Glasgow and St Andrews reportedly preached that “it was no less meritorious to fight for Robert Bruce against the English than to go to the Holy Land to fight against pagans and saracens” (Macquarrie, Scotland and the Crusades, p. 71); as already noted, Bruce was also compared to Charlemagne by Barbour (Bruce, 3.435–62). He is again implicitly presented as a crusading hero within this poem.

49-50 Godfrey Bolyon slew . . . . Antioche, and Corborant. These lines are close to the OA: here, Godfrey “Wincust the michty Salamant, / And, before Anthioche, Corborant” (Alexander, 4:406, lines 10005–06).

49 Solimant. Kilij Arslan I, ibn Suleiman, Sultan of Nicea (1079–1107). See Lock, Routledge Companion to the Crusades, p. 244; Runciman, A History of the Crusades, p. 77n1.

50 Antioche. Antioch, a Muslim city near to the modern city of Antakya in Turkey, was conquered in the Crusaders’ Siege of 1098. See Lock, Routledge Companion to the Crusades, p. 23; Runciman, A History of the Crusades, pp. 236–50.
Corborant. Corborant or Corboran was a prince of Mosul and sultan of Aleppo, who commanded the army of the sultan of Persia and was involved in the Siege of Antioch. See Runciman, A History of the Crusades, pp. 236–49, 62; Cropp, “Les Vers Sur Les Neuf Preux,” p. 479n7569.

54 of Jerusalem a yere was king. Contrary to the opinion of the Balletis author (and the authors of Les Voeux and OA), Godfrey in fact refused the title of King. See Lock, Routledge Companion to the Crusades, p. 237.

55-60 Robert the Brois . . . . til him toward. This stanza positions the Scottish king Robert I (Robert the Bruce) (1274–1329) as a tenth Worthy.

56-57 With few vencust . . . . twyse in ficht. It is likely that one of the battles referred to here is the Battle of Bannockburn (24 June 1314) during which Robert Bruce’s army triumphed against the much larger English host, led by Edward II. The battle is depicted visually on fol. 265r of MS C.

61-62 Yhe gude men . . . . was in dedis. The closing demande echoes a moment in Barbour’s Bruce where the narrator compares Bruce, after he has fought single-handedly against a large number of men from Galloway, to Tydeus, who (in the French Roman de Thèbes, ed. Petit) single-handedly killed fifty men (6.181–286). The narrator asks firstly “ȝe yat yis redys, cheys yhe / Quheyer yat mar suld prysit be / Ye king . . . / Or Thedeus,” and secondly, “Now demys quheyer mar lowing / Suld Thedeus haiff or ye king” (6.271–77, 285–86).

The Balletis of the Nine Nobles: TEXTUAL NOTES

ABBREVIATIONS: B: National Records of Scotland, MS GD 45/26/48, fol. 420v; C: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Library, MS 171, fol. 371r (base manuscript); D: Darnaway Castle, Forres, Donibristle MS, fol. 433v; E: Edinburgh, University Library, MS 186, fol. 434r; JL: Edinburgh, University Library, MS Dc.7.63, fols. 155v–56r (John Law’s abbreviation of Bower’s Scotichronicon).

\ / indicates words inserted by the scribe; words/phrases deleted by the scribe are struckthrough; [ ] indicates letters supplied where the MS is defective or difficult to read.

1 Hector. The first letter of this stanza in C (like all other stanzas) is copied as an enlarged majuscule in bold black ink. In D the initial letters of each line are touched in red and in E the initial letter of the first stanza is in red, with subsequent initial letters of stanzas alternating in red and blue.

2 In half thrid yeris slew xix kingis. C: the word “throu” is erased between “yeris” and “slew” and the final three letters of “kingis” are now lost. JL: In xiii yeris.

4 smal folk at unrekkynnit war. So C. JL: small folk that not reknit war.

5 In C, virgules appear at the end of this line, as well as lines 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 29, 33, 43, 47, 49, and 55.

7 Alexander als nobil king. So C. D: Alexander als nobil a kyng. E: Alexander als nobil a king. JL: Alexander of macedo[n] the nobil kyng.

10 Equhethir a dai in til parlement. So C. B: Quhil a day in til parliament. JL: Quhil a day he said in plain parliament.

11 He said he had, but variance. So C. JL: He said for owthyn wariance.

12 Our litil til his governance. So C. D: Our litill til his guidu[n?]ance. JL: He had ouer litill to his gowarnance.

13 wan halili. So C. JL: wan halely all halely.

14 The ilis of Grece and al Surry. So C. JL: The landis of grece and of surry.

15 Affrike, Arab, Bretan wan he. So C. D: Affrik \and/ arabi heathen wan he.

18 He was the first emperour. C: He was the first was emperour. JL: In rome the first he was emperour.

20 Ane and xxx kingis. In C a later hand has erased the original number of kings (12) and replaced this with what appears to be the number 31 (the hand is now hard to read): \ane and thr — / twelff kingis. This latter number appears in all other manuscript witnesses.

24 Men suld him loff on gret maner. So C. JL: we suld him loif in gret maner.

25 michti. At this point in C the word is abbreviated. In expanding it, I adopt the form found at line 31.

26 Philestens. So C. B: filestes. D: Filestens. E: philisteus. JL: philistanis.

29 Tharfor. So C. JL: Heir for.

34 for schore. Only C prefaces “schore” with “for,” but its reading is here retained on grounds of sense.

36 Theroff. So C. JL: Thot.
ten. In MS C this word is now lost where the MS is defective. It is here supplied following all other witnesses.

37 Arthur wan Dace, Spanye, and France. So C. D: Arthur wan dace \saw neuer/ spanye and \nor/ france. JL: Arthur van denmark span and france. A later hand has emended D to deny or downplay Arthur’s achievements. Attitudes towards Arthur in medieval and early modern Scotland were notably mixed. See the explanatory note for lines 37–42.

38 And hand for hand slew two geantis. The final three letters of the line in C are missing. These have been supplied following the reading of all MSS except JL. D: And \Bot/ hand for hand slew two giantis. E: And hand for hand slew giantis \tua/ (the number is supplied by a later hand). JL: And hand for hand slew tua gyance. JL’s spelling best preserves the rhyme with the previous line but the reading of all other witnesses is here preferred on grounds of sense.

40 Of Rome, with milleonis in stalwart stour. B: In Rome. JL: In Rome slew in stalwart stour. With the exception of JL, this line contains a notably lengthy number of syllables in all other witnesses, as does line 39. I have, however, decided not to emend as the poem as a whole is metrically irregular. The final four letters are lost in C but supplied from other witnesses.

41 And in til Pariss schir Frollo. So C. D: And in till \not in/ Pariss sir Frollo.

44 And wan Spanye fra hethoun hand. So C. E: And wan spanye fra hethon land.

48 He put the hali Cristianté. So C. JL: He put hail it in cristinite.

51 Quham he throu ful strak has ourtane. So C. JL: Quhan he wyt[h] strak hais ouer tain.

52 Throu corps and harnes his glave his gane. C lacks the final three words of this line, and begins throu corps and harmes his. Although “harmes” is a valid form of the word “arms,” “harnes” (“defensive armor”) is the reading of all other manuscript witnesses and is preferred here. The second half of the line is taken from D. B: cops and hernies. E: cops and harnieȝ. JL: Throw cors and harnes hais glawe his gain.

54 And of Jerusalem a yere was king. The final two letters of this line are missing in C and are here supplied from other witnesses; the first three words are also unnecessarily repeated in C on the following line (by the same scribe). JL: And of Jerusalem twa yere was kyng.

57 Of Ingland, Edward, twyse in ficht. So C. B: Of Inglonde Edward ii in fycht. JL: Off Ingland Edward the secund in feill feyt. The reading of C is here retained, but the readings of B and JL have much to recommend them since Robert’s opponent was Edward II of England.

59 At sum tyme. So C. B: Ande sum thym. JL: And sum tym.

60 At had nocht sex til him toward. So C. JL: That he had not sex to hym toward.

61-62 Yhe gude men . . . . was in dedis. Only C has “ye” after “Demis.” JL: Gud men at thir ballatis reddis / Deim quha hard dowchtyast was in deide.













Hector of Troy throu hard feichtingis
In half thrid yeris slew xix kingis,
And ammirallis a hunder and mare,
With smal folk at unrekkynnit war;
He slew so fele at was ferli,
Quham Achiles slew tresnabili.

Alexander als nobil king,
In xii yere wan throu hard feichting
Al landis under the firmament.
Equhethir a dai in til parlement
He said he had, but variance,
Our litil til his governance.

Julius Cesar wan halili
The ilis of Grece and al Surry;
Affrike, Arab, Bretan wan he,
And discumfit his mawche, Pompe:
Throu hard batel and stalwart stour
He was the first emperour.

The geanntill Jew schir Josue
Ane and xxx kingis throu weer wan he,
And conquirit thair landis also.
The Flum Jordan partit in two,
Throu Goddis grace and strang power:
Men suld him loff on gret maner.

David slew michti Golias,
And Philestens at felon was;
He was so wicht and wele fechtand
That he was never sene recriand;
Tharfor men call him, loud and stil,
A trew prophet of hardi will.

Michti Judas Machabeus
In batel slew Antiochus,
Appollonius, and Nichanore,
At in his dais wald never for schore
No multitude be edrad of men,
Theroff he war ane egaynis ten.1

Arthur wan Dace, Spanye, and France
And hand for hand slew two geantis;
Lucius the publik procuratour2
Of Rome, with milleonis in stalwart stour;
And in til Pariss schir Frollo,
In leystis slew withoutin mo.

Charles of France slew Aygoland,
And wan Spanye fra hethoun hand;
He slew the Sowdon of Pavy,
And wan the Saxonis halili;
And quhar God deid for our safté,
He put the hali Cristianté.

Godfrey Bolyon slew Solimant,
Befor Antioche, and Corborant;3
Quham he throu ful strak has ourtane,
Throu corps and harnes his glave his gane.4
Sere hethounis he slew throu hard feichtyng,
And of Jerusalem a yere was king.

Robert the Brois throu hard feichting
With few vencust the michti Kyng
Of Ingland, Edward, twyse in ficht,
At occupide his realme but richt;
At sumtyme was set so hard5
At had nocht sex til him toward.

Yhe gude men at thir balletis redis,
Demis ye quha dochtiast was in dedis.6
through violent battles; (see note); (t-note)
half of three years (eighteen months); killed 19 kings; (see note); (t-note)
admirals; 100 more; (see note)
a small, insignificant army; (see note); (t-note)
It was a wonder he killed so many; (see note); (t-note)
[He] whom Achilles; treacherously; (see note)

also [a]; (see note); (t-note)
In 12 years conquered; (see note)
the heavens; (see note)
Nevertheless one day in parliament; (t-note)
without a doubt; (t-note)
Too few [lands] under his command; (see note); (t-note)

completely; (t-note)
isles; Syria; (t-note)
Africa; Arabia; Britain; (see note); (t-note)
defeated his son-in-law, Pompey; (see note)
strong conflict
(see note); (see note); (t-note)

well-born (kindly); sir; (see note)
Defeated thirty-one kings through war; (see note); (t-note)

River Jordan [he] parted; (see note)
God’s grace
should glorify him in high fashion; (t-note)

Goliath; (see note); (t-note)
Philistines that were savage; (see note); (t-note)
physically strong and good at fighting
never seen admitting defeat; (see note)
loudly and quietly (i.e., in every way); (t-note)
valiant disposition

Mighty; (see note)
(see note)
Nicanor; (see note)


Denmark (Dacia); Spain; France; (see note); (t-note)
at close quarters; giants; (see note); (t-note)
(see note)
with millions in fierce battle; (t-note)
in Paris; sir; (see note); (t-note)
In the lists [he] killed single-handedly; (see note)

Charlemagne; Agoulant; (see note)
conquered Spain from the heathens; (t-note)
Sultan of Pavia; (see note)
Saxons completely; (see note)
where God (Christ) died; preservation
installed; holy Christianity; (see note); (see note); (t-note)

(see note)
(see note); (see note)
So many heathens
for a year; (see note); (see note); (t-note)

the Bruce
With a few [men] vanquished; mighty
twice in battle; (see note); (t-note)
[He, i.e., Edward] that; unjustly
That he did not have six on his side; (see note); (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)

Go To the Introduction to the Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland