Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/297

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1317 A.D.]

England and Ireland Invaded.


The scene perhaps has been faithfully drawn, and is not likely to have been the bard's invention; but when Barbour proceeds to point the moral, by asserting that when the Scots had cleared the wood, they found 40,000 English drawn up in battle array under Richard de Clare, whom forthwith they attacked and vanquished, he is making an almost incredible statement, of which there is no corroboration elsewhere. Moreover, one is asked to believe that this was accomplished by the single division under the King of Scots. It seems impossible that Edward de Brus, as Barbour affirms, can have led his vanguard so carelessly through an enemy's country, as to have passed 40,000 men without becoming aware of their presence, besides maintaining no communication with the rear division. This is an instance of the disadvantage of having to rely on the poetical labours of an ecclesiastic for an account of military operations.

As the Scottish host approached Dublin, the seat of English rule in Ireland, the spirit of its citizens rose to the occasion. They burned their suburbs and pulled down a church to strengthen their defences; they even went so far as to imprison the Earl of Ulster—the "Red Earl"—because they suspected him, most unjustly, of complicity with his brother-in-law, the King of Scots. Dublin proved too strong to be attacked, though Castle Knock,[1] belonging to the Tyrrels, fell into the hands of the Scots.

The invaders remained four days at Leixlip on

  1. In what is now the Phœnix Park.