Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

before possessed. They found it a barbarous jargon; they fixed it in writing ;1 and they employed it in legislation, in poetry, and in romance. They renounced that brutal intemperance to which all the other branches of the great German family were too much inclined. The polite luxury of the Norman presented a striking contrast to the coarse voracity and drunkenness of his Saxon and Danish neighbours. He loved to display his magnificence, not in huge piles of food and hogsheads of strong drink, but in large and stately edifices, rich armour, gallant horses, choice falcons, wellordered tournaments, banquets delicate rather than abundant, and wines remarkable rather for their exquisite flavour than for their intoxicating power. That chivalrous spirit which has exercised so powerful an influence on the politics, morals, and manners of all European nations, was found in the highest exaltation 4 among the Norman nobles. These nobles were distinguished by their graceful bearings and insinuating address. They were distinguished also by their skill in negotiation, and by a natural eloquence which they assiduously cultivated. It was the boast of one of their historians, that the Norman gentlemen were orators from the cradle. But their chief fame was derived from their military exploits. Every country, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Dead Sea, witnessed the prodigies of their discipline and valour. One Norman knight, at the head of a handful of warriors, scattered the Celts of Connaught. Another founded the monarchy of the Two Sicilies, and saw the emperors, both of the East and of the West, fly before his arms. A third, the Ulysses of the first Crusade, was invested by his fellow-soldiers 8 with the sovereignty of Antioch ; and a fourth, the Tancred whose name lives in the great poem of Tasso,9 was celebrated through Christendom as the bravest and most generous of the champions of the Holy Sepulchre.

1 They found it a barbarous jargon; they fixed it in writing, Ils le trouvèrent à l'état de jargon, et en firent une langue écrite.—2 Polite luxury, Luxe raffiné. 3 Exquisite flavour, Bouquet délicieux. _4 Was found in the highest exaltation, Se trouvait au plus haut degré.—5 Bearing, Tournure.–6 Address, Manières.--7 It was the boast of one of their historians, Aussi un de leurs historiens a-t-il dit avec orgueil. -_8 Fellow-soldiers, Compagnons d'armes.-9 Tasso, Le Tasse.

The vicinity of so remarkable a people early began to produce an effect on the public mind of England. Before the Conquest, English princes received their education in Normandy. English sees and English estates were bestowed onNormans. Norman-French was familiarly spoken in the palace of Westminster. The court of Rouen seems to have been to the court of Edward the Confessor what the court of Versailles long afterwards was to the court of Charles II.

MACAULAY. 1808–1859.

WILLIAM WALLACE.2

WILLIAM WALLACE was none of the high nobles of Scotland, but the son of a private gentleman called Wallace of Ellerslie, in Renfrewshire, near Paisley. He was very tall and handsome, and one of the strongest and bravest men that ever lived. He had a very fine countenance, with a quantity of fair hair, and was particularly dexterous in the use of all weapons which were then employed in battle. Wallace, like all Scotsmen of high spirit,3 had looked with great indignation upon the usurpation of the crown by Edward, and upon the insolencies which the English soldiers committed on his countrymen.

The action which occasioned his finally rising in arms happened in the town of Lanark. Wallace was at this time married to a lady of that place, and residing there with his wife. It chanced, as he walked in the market-place, dressed in a green garment with a rich dagger by his side, that an Englishman came up 4 and insulted him on account of his finery : saying, a Scotchman had no business to wear so gay a dress, or carry so handsome a weapon. It soon came to a quarrel,5 and Wallace having killed the Englishman, fled to his own house, which was speedily assaulted by all the English soldiers. The governor of Lanark, whose name was Hazelrigg, burned the house, and put his wife and servants to death. He also proclaimed Wallace an outlaw, and offered a reward to any one who should bring him to an English garrison, alive or dead.

1 Bestowed on, Conférés à.-2 A.D. 1300.-3 All Scotsmen of high spirit, Tous les Écossais de cæur.–4 Came up, Survint. -5 It soon came to a quarrel, On en vint bientôt à une querelle.

On the other hand, Wallace soon collected a body of men outlawed like himself. One of his earliest expeditions was directed against Hazelrigg, whom he killed. He fought skirmishes with the soldiers who were sent against him, and often defeated them ; and in time became so well known and so formidable, that multitudes began to resort to his standard, until at length he was at the head of a considerable army, with which he proposed to restore his country to independence.

At length, an opportunity presented itself near Stirling to engage? the English army under the Earl of Surrey ; and the Scotch were victorious.

The remains of Surrey's great army fled out of Scotland after this defeat; and the Scots, taking arms on all sides, attacked the castles in which the English soldiers continued to shelter themselves, and took most of them by force or stratagem. Wallace defeated the English in several combats, chased them almost entirely out of Scotland, regained the towns and castles of which they had possessed themselves, and recovered for a time the complete freedom of the country. He even marched into England, and laid Cumberland and Northumberland waste, where the Scottish soldiers, in revenge for the mischief which the English had done in their country, committed great cruelties. Wallace did not approve of their killing the people who were not in arms, and he endeavoured to protect the clergymen and others, who were not able to defend themselves. “Remain with me,” he said to the priests of Hexham, a large town in Northumberland, “ for I cannot protect you from my soldiers when you are out of my presence.” The troops who followed Wallace received no pay, because he had no money to give them; and that was one great reason why he could not keep them under restraint, or prevent them doing much harm to the defenceless country people. He remained in England more than three weeks, and did a great deal of mischief to the country.

i He also proclaimed Wallace an outlaw, Il déclara aussi Wallace proscrit.—2 TO engage, D'en venir aux mains avec.—3 Wallace did not approve of their killing, Wallace ne les approuva pas de tuer.

Edward I. was in Flanders when all these events took place in 1298. You may suppose he was very angry when he heard that Scotland, which he thought completely subdued, had risen into a great insurrection against him, defeated his armies, killed his treasurer, chased his soldiers out of their country, and invaded England with a great force. He came back from Flanders in a mighty rage, and determined not to leave that rebellious country until it was finally conquered, for which purpose he assembled a very fine army and marched into Scotland.

In the meantime the Scots prepared to defend themselves, and chose Wallace to be governor or protector of the kingdom, because they had no king at the time. But although, as we have seen, he was the best soldier and bravest man in Scotland, and therefore the most fit to be placed in command at this critical period, when the king of England was coming against them with such great forces, yet? the nobles of Scotland envied him this important situation because he was not a man born in high rank, or enjoying a large estate. So great was their jealousy of Sir William Wallace, that many of these great barons did not seem very willing to bring forward their forces, or to fight against the English. Yet, notwithstanding this unwillingness of the great nobility to support him, Wallace assembled a large army ; for the middle, but especially the lower classes, were very much attached to him. He marched boldly against the king of England, and met him near the town of Falkirk. Most of the Scottish army were on foot, because in those days only the nobility and great men of Scotland fought on horseback.

The English king, on the contrary, had a very large body of the finest cavalry in the world, Normans and English, all clothed in complete armour. He had also the celebrated archers of England, each of whom was said to carry twelve Scotchmen's lives under his girdle ; because every archer carried twelve arrows.

1 See § 30, 2._? See § 42.—3 Their jealousy of, Leur jalousie contre.

The Scots had some good archers from the forest of Ettrick, who fought under command of Sir John Stewart of Bonkill ; but they were not nearly equal in number to the English. The greater part of the Scotch, armed with long spears, were placed so thick and close together, that it seemed as difficult to break through them as through the wall of a strong castle. The English made the attack. King Edward, though he saw the close ranks and undaunted appearance of the Scottish infantry, resolved nevertheless to try whether he could ride them down with his fine cavalry. He therefore gave his horsemen orders to advance. They charged accordingly at full gallop. It must have been a terrible thing to have seen these fine horses riding as hard as they could against the long lances which were held out by the Scots to keep them back, and a dreadful cry arose when they came against each other.

The Scottish spearmen being thrown into some degree of confusion by the loss of those who were slain by the arrows of the English, the heavy cavalry of Edward again charged, with more success than formerly, and broke through the ranks, which were already disordered. Sir John Grahame, Wallace's great friend and companion, was slain, with many other brave soldiers; and the Scots, having lost a very great number of men, were at length obliged to take flight.

After this fatal defeat of Falkirk, Sir William Wallace seems to have resigned his office of Governor of Scotland. And the King of England obliged all its nobles and great men, one after another, to submit themselves once more to his yoke. Wallace alone refused either to acknowledge the usurper, Edward, or to lay down his arms. He continued to maintain himself among the woods and mountains of his native country for no less than seven years after the battle of Falkirk. Many proclamations were sent out against him by the English, and a great reward was set upon his head. For the sake of this reward Wallace was basely betrayed by a pretended friend, and led prisoner to the Tower of London.

Edward caused this gallant defender of his country to be

« AnteriorContinuar »