Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/37

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
7
Introduction.

It must be confessed that, at first sight, little of value could be looked for from such a dubious source. But closer examination reveals that the cardinal falsehood is all disposed of in the first few cantos. The first ten of these may be rejected as irrelevant to any honest purpose. After that, in the description of the coronation of the Bruce, his flight, the detailed account of his adventures, and his subsequent campaigns, the poet shows praiseworthy respect for

" the suthfastnes
That schawis the thing richt as it was,"

which he declares in his exordium to constitute the superiority of "story" over "fabill." The more closely this part of the narrative is examined, the more fully it will be found borne out by such State papers and other documents as are available for comparison ; to which, of course, Barbour had no access. This was enough to convince the critical intellect of Lord Hailes, who, practised as he was in testing evidence, did not scruple to found largely on Barbour's statements.

It is necessary, however, to add a further caution in regard to the witness borne by Barbour on highly controversial matters. Not only was he actuated by the laudable desire to win the applause of his countrymen by showing the leaders of the patriotic movement in the most favourable light, but it was also his interest to pass lightly over anything that might detract from the lustre of the royal house of Scotland. Otherwise the royal bounty might have