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grounde of Scotland, and is frome my house of Werkworthe, above lx myles of the most evill passage, where great snawes dothe lye ; heretofore the same townes nowe brynt haith not at any tyme in the mynd of man in any warrs been enterprised unto nowe; your subjects were therto more incouraged for the better advancement of your highnes service, the said Lord of Buclough beyng alwais a mortall enemy to this your graces realme, and he dyd say within xiiii dayes before, he wolde see who durst lye near hym, wt many other cruell words, the knowledge whereof was certaynly haid to my said servaunts, before theyre enterprice maid vppon him, most humbly beseeching your maiesty that youre highness thanks may concur wnto theyme, whose names be here inclosed, and to have in your most gracious memory, the paynfull and diligent service of my pore servaunte Wharton, and thus, as I am most bounden, shall dispose wt them that be vnder me f. . . . . . . . . . . annoysaunce of your highnes enemy's.
Bards long shall tell
Sir Walter Scott, of Buccleugh, succeeded to his grandfather, Sir David, in 1492. He was a brave and powerful baron, and warden of the west marches of Scotland. His death was the consequence of a feud betwixt the Scotts and Kerrs, the history of which is necessary to explain repeated allusions in the romance.
In the year 1526, in the words of Pitscottie, “The Earl of Angus, and the rest of the Douglasses, ruled all which they
liked, and no man durst say the contrary: wherefore the king (James V. then a minor) was heavily displeased, and would fain have been out of their hands, if he might by any way: And to that effect wrote a quiet and secret letter with his own hand, and sent it to the laird of Buccleuch, beseeching him that he would come with his kin and friends, and all the force that he might be, and meet him at Melross, at his homepassing, and there to take him out of the Douglasses hands, and to put him to liberty, to use himself among the lave (rest) of his lords, as he thinks expedient.
"This letter was quietly directed and sent by one of the king's own secret servants, which was received very thankfully by the laird of Buckleuch, who was very glad thereof, to be put to such charges and familiarity with his prince, and did great diligence to perform the king's writing, and to bring the matter to pass as the king desired: And to that effect convened all his kin and friends, and all that would do for him, to ride with him to Melross, when he knew of the king's home-coming. And so he brought with him six hundred spears, of Liddisdale, and Annandale, and countrymen, and clans thereabout, and held themselves quiet while that the king returned out of Jedburgh, and came to Melross, to remain there all that night.
"But when the Lord Hume, Cessfoord, and Fernyhirst (the chiefs of the clan of Kerr) took their leave of the king, and returned home, then appeared the laird of Buckleuch in sight, and his company with him, in an arrayed battle, intending to have fulfilled the king's petition, and therefore came stoutly forward on the back side of Halidenhill. By that the Earl of Angus, with George Douglas, his brother, and sundry other of his friends, seeing this army coming, they marvelled what the matter meant; while at the last they knew the laird of Buccleuch, with a certain company of the thieves of Annandale; with him they were less affeared, and made them manfully to the field contrary them, and said to the king in this manner, "Sir, yon is Buccleugh, and thieves of Annandale with him, to unbeset your Grace from the gate (i. e. interrupt your passage). I vow to God they shall either fight or flee; and ye shall tarry here on this know, and my brother George with you, with any other company you please; and I shall pass, and put yon theives off the ground, and rid the gate unto your Grace, or else die for it." The king tarried still, as was devised; and George Douglas, with him and sundry other lords, such as the earl of Lennox and the lord Erskine, and some of the king's own servants; but all the lave (rest) past with the earl of Angus to the field against the laird of Buccleuch, who joyned and countered cruelly both the said parties in the field of Darnelinvir *, either against other, with uncertain victory. But at the last, the Lord Hume, hearing word of that matter how it stood, returned again to the king in all possible haste, with him the lairds of Cessfoord and Fairnyhirst, to the number of fourscore spears, and set freshly on the lap and wing of the laird of Buccleugh's field, and shortly bare them backward to the ground; which caused the laird of
* Darnwick, near Melrose. The place of conflict is still called Skinners' Field, from a corruption of Skirmish Field.
Buccleugh, and the rest of his friends, to go back and flee, whom they followed and chased; and especially the lairds of Cessfoord and Fairnihirst followed furiouslie, till at the foot of a path the laird of Cessfoord was slain by the stroke of a spear by an Elliot, who was then servant to the laird of Buccleugh. But when the laird of Cessfoord was slain, the chase ceased. The earl of Angus returned again with great merriness and victory, and thanked God that he saved him from that chance, and past with the king to Melross, where they remained all that night. On the morn they past to Edinburgh with the king, who was very sad and dolorous of the slaughter of the laird of Cessfoord, and many other gentlemen and yeomen slain by the laird of Buccleugh, containing the number of fourscore and fifteen, which died in defence of the king, and at the command of his writing.” In consequence of this battle, there ensued a deadly feud betwixt the names of Scott and Kerr, which, in spite of all means used to bring about an agreement, raged for many years upon the Borders. One of the acts of violence to which this quarrel gave rise, was, the murder of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, who was slain by the Kerrs in the streets of Edinburgh, in 1552. This is the event alluded to in Stanza VII.; and the poem is supposed to open shortly after it had taken
No! vainly to each holy shrine,
Among other expedients resorted to for staunching the feud betwixt the Scotts and the Kerrs, there was a bond executed, in 1529, between the heads of each clan, binding themselves to perform reciprocally the four principal pilgrimages of Scotland, for the benefit of the souls of those of the opposite name who had fallen in the quarrel. This indenture is printed in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, Vol. I. But either it never took effect, or else the feud was renewed shortly afterward.
Such pactions were not uncommon in feudal times; and, as might be expected, they were often, as in the present case, void of the effect desired. When Sir Walter Mauny, the renowned follower of Edward III., had taken the town of Ryoll, in Gascony, he remembered to have heard that his father lay there buried, and offered a hundred crowns to any who could shew him his grave. A very old man appeared before Sir Walter, and informed him of the manner of his father's death, and the place of his sepulture. It seems the lord of Mauny had, at a great tournament, unhorsed, and wounded to the death, a Gascon knight of the house of Mirepoix, whose kinsman was bishop of Cambray. For this deed he was held at feud by the relations of the knight, until he agreed to undertake a pilgrimage to the shrine of St James of Compostella, for the benefit of the soul of the deceased. But as he returned through the town of Ryoll, after accomplishment of his vow, he was beset, and treacherously slain by the kindred of the knight,