The Declaration of Arbroath

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Seven Hundred years ago this week, the Scottish nobility put their names & seals to a document which defined the independence of Scotland. In this extract from THE SCOTIAD, the Mumble presents a poetical dramatisation of the events around the signing of the Treaty of Arbroath.


1 The Declaration of Abroath

All wars end in diplomacy,
Battle has set the Scottis free,
But far away the contree’s hope
Lies with the bias of the Pope,
If Robert was refused his reign
Would all their suffrance be in vain?
If Christ’s first soul denies the king
Many more knights could Ingland bring
Drawn from all over Christendom,
From Bannockburn to Kingdom Come,
So Bruce summon’d nobility
To come & pay due fealty
At the cathedral of Arbroath –
From both sides of the frothing Forth
They came in splendid finery
& plentiful festivity,
Where on the beach did De Linton,
Muse magic in the morning sun
Native spirit helping him scrieve
& web of noble words to weave
This brightly shining document,
A manuscript that would be sent
To Avignon, where pious bides
The Pope & all His spirit-guides,
As one-by-one the magnates came
Each swore to add their seal & name
To Scottis spirit carved in word,
As gather’d round their King they heard
The settl’d will of Scottis soul
The Bruce’s words filling the hall
Chaunting in sweeping cadences
Through these sonorous sentences!


2 The Scottish Nobility

“Most Holy Father, friend of Christ,
Lord John, vicar of paradise,
Man of the providence divine,
Supreme Pontiff of Jesus’ wine,
Laird of the holy church of Rome,
Receive us from oor Scottish home,
Your sons so humble in their life;
Noble Duncan, the Earl of Fife,
Thomas Randolph, Roger Mowbray,
David Graham & Gilbert Hay,
The Earls of Ross, March & Moray,
Lennox, Strathearn & Sutherland,
Sir Walter, Steward of Scotland,
Campbell, Fergus of Ardrossan,
Mowat, Murray, Maxwell, Straiton,
Cheyne, Ramsay, Leslie, Cameron,
Wemyss, Mushet, Graham, Fenton,
Magnus of Caithness & Orkney
& others of good baronrie,
The Lords of Brechin & Douglas
& through Scotland divers others
Offer filial reverence,
Kisses devout & Peter’s pence.


3 The Scottish Primacy

Thou most Holy Father & Lord,
As ancyent chronicles abroad
Tell that the Scottis & their crown
Graced with a widespread, world renown,
From Greater Scythia they hail’d,
Through pillars Herculean sail’d
To dwell an age in dusky Spain
Where savage tribes desired them pain,
But nowhere could they be subdued
By races barbarous & crude,
& thence they came, twelve hundred years
Since Moses dried old Israel’s tears,
Finding a special place to stay,
Westerly, where they live today,
The Britons, there, they first drove out
& then the Picts utterly rout,
Though often was assailed the reign
By Norwegian, Saxon & Dane,
They took possession of that home,
Valorous as a second Rome
&, as historians of old
Bare witness, they have kept good hold
Upon these lands where minstrel sings
Of one hundred & thirteen kings
Of oor ain royal stock divine,
Pure in blood, an unbroken line.



4 Saint Andrew

This people’s highest qualities
Have gain’d glories enough from this:
But in the kirk the eunoch sings
Of Jesus Christ, oor king of kings,
Following his perfect Passion
& the day of Resurrection,
Did call them to his holy thought,
Even though settled so remote
Into the Earth’s uttermost parts,
Nigh first, with faith filling their hearts,
Nor would He have confirmed the Scots
With anyone chosen by lots,
But the first of His Apostles
Whose e’erlasting relique fossils
Were brought for all good Scots to view,
Him, the most gentle Saint Andrew,
Him, the blessed Peter’s brother,
Desires to be our protector
& sacred patron forever –
Since then oor Most Holy Fathers,
Your wide, revered predecessors,
Gave careful heed to all these things
& on the country & her kings
Bestowed many gracious favours
& numerous privileges,
As we, being the special care
Of blessed Peter’s brother fair,
Have lived & thrived so peacefully,
Rejoicing in oor liberty.


5 The Wars of Independance

Scotland saw days of darkling crime
In Ingland’s first King Edward’s time,
Father of him that rules today,
Who to low lots oor land would lay,
Seeing oor kingdom had no head,
& our people unprotected
He treat us as an enemy
Drew deeds of violent cruelty
Wholesale slaughter, pillage, arson,
Both robb’d & murder’d monk & nun,
Comitting many outrages
To all sexes, ranks & ages,
That could cover countless pages,
Such horrors no-one could surmise
Unless were seen by their own eyes!
But from this endless treachery
Our peoples have gain’d liberty
By help of Him, who though afflicts,
Heals & restores, & those edicts
Sent by our tireless King & Lord,
Robert the Bruce, whose fiery sword,
Fearless in wars that others wage,
Preserv’d his people’s heritage,
Deliver’d from opponent hands,
& ‘gainst the tides of peril stands
Like another Macabaeus
Or Joshua, victorious
He bore those hardships cheerfully,
For greater good of his contree,
With divine providence, his right
Of succession in heaven’s sight!


6 The Scottish Defiance

According to those ancyent laws
We shall maintain, them whom oppose
Oor customs, fight unto the death,
All of Scotland join’d in one breath,
That duly with oor consenting
Has made the Bruce oor prince & king,
Whereby whose merits & the law
Holding oor freedom to the fore,
We are bound to the Bruce today
& by him stand, proud come what may!
Yet, thoogh he is oor greatest son,
If he gives up what he begun,
Trifles with oor hard-won freedom
& to make us or oor kingdom
Subject to the King of Ingland,
For this we Scots would never stand
& would at once put him to flight
As the subverter of oor right
& make some other man the king,
Able the land’s defence to bring,
For as long as but a hundred
Of us remain alive & good,
From this moment & forever,
We shall never, thrice times never,
Be brought before the Inglis rule,
‘Tis not for glory, gleaming jewel,
Nor honours that we are fighting,
But freedom, tis a noble thing,
Which no man born with honesty
Would give up, unless dead were he!

Read More of the Scotiad


7 The Papal Plea

Thus we to thee, Father & Lord,
Beseech thy Holinesses word,
Hearts open, praying earnestly,
Hope you will in sincerity
& goodness consider all this,
Look at those troubles brought on us
By Inglis hosts vainglorious
May it please you to admonish
& exhort Kings of the Inglis,
Who ought them to be satisfied
With what once seven did divide
& leave us Scots to our own soil,
Who covet nothing but the toil
Of oor poor, little dwelling place,
Father, this truly concerns you,
Since you have been sanction’d to view
The savagery of the heathens
Raging against the Christians,
Whose princes false reasons pretend,
They cannot to the crusades send
Their Knights because of local wars,
For all this read one real cause,
For making war on neighbours small
Makes fast profit & few knights fall,
As Him, whom nothing does not know,
Knows how cheerfully would we go
To war against the infidel,
In your thoughts let this reason dwell,
Our lives we shall profess to thee,
Vicar of Christianity!



8 Bruce Completes the Reading

But, if regards your Holiness
With faith the false English impress
& will not grant belief sincere
To what we have written down here,
Then the slaughter that must befall,
With the perdition of the soul
& all the woe inflicted then,
By them on us & us on them,
Will surely be laid upon you
By Him Most High that all must view
Concluding, we shall ever be,
As far as the call of duty
Binds us to your will, full ready
As sons obedient to you
His Vicar, & forever true
To Him our Supreme judge & King,
To cast our cares in thee, trusting
He will inspire us with courage,
Annul the wars our foemen wage,
May the Most High with sacred gaze,
Preserve your health, grant length of days!”
Silence descended for a while,
De Linton gave approving smile
& all the nobles gather’d there
Toss’d herbs & flowers to the air
& all who heard the words agree
They’d never known sic majesty,
Feeling their rightful liberties
Would thunder down the centuries,
Seeming that Scotland & the age
Are cast forever on the page!


9 The Declaration Taken to France

The Treaty of Arboath is born
& on the breast of Scotland worn
As noble men with teary zeal
Inscribe the parchment with their seal,
The bells of Abroath peeel & peel!
With the declaration muster’d,
On two knights the scroll entrusted,
De Gordon & De Maubuisson,
Who by the morning star were gone,
Meandering to Avignon,
Sails bellied out beneath the breeze,
Stretch’d far & roundabout the seas,
Where bottlenose & flipper rise
Above the waves… the crows nest cries,
“Inglis pirates are bearing down!”
The captain’s face grew affy frown,
“Do not fret!” said De Maubuisson,
“We shall win yet!” adds De Gordon,
As pirates pulled aside to board
Both knights unsheath’d a gleaming sword
& leapt upon the pirate’s deck
Severing bodies from the neck
& less than half-a-minute pass’d
Before they had broken the mast
& slain the ocean banditry,
The Scottis captain jigged in glee
& boated them round Brittany,
Surfing the vast Atlantic flow
To dock the vessel at Bordeaux,
& bid the knights his heart-felt hope
They would be welcom’d by the Pope.


10 Avignon

Two Knights kelper’d through sundry lands
To where the Rhone spreads silver sands
Where the Rocher les Doms commands
An oval bowl of gardens green
Stuffed full of priestliness serene
That gilded cage beneath the sun
The holy see of Avignon!
Here many days those knights did wait,
The mistral fierce, the evening late,
When they were granted audience,
The room was candle lit intense,
As bishop reads De Linton’s words,
Fluttering as a flock of birds,
Their flight ends & a silence falls,
Soft breeze flutters along the walls
Raising the rows of canvas art,
The Pope took bishoprie apart
& there they talk’d a little while,
The knights stood nervous in the aisle
Til bishop greets them with a smile,
“De Gordon & De Maubisson,
Ye brave young knights of Caledon,
Him that resides at Avignon
Has been heart-struck by your warm plea,
Wishes freedom for your contree,
& now shall treat you as his friend
By morning prayers he shall send
A transcript to your sacred king,
Which ye two knights shall to him bring!”


11 Two Letters

Two parchments have departed France,
Both texts desiring to advance,
The peaceful isles of Albion –
The first is carried to London,
Words that the second Edward reads
Describing warfare’s gory deeds,
& strongly urging them to cease
So Scots can carry on in peace –
Of this Edward did nobly learn
First witness of the papal turn,
Remembering brave Bannockburn,
He sent a letter to Scotland
Offering them filial hand!
So one by sea & one by land
Two letters came to Edinburgh!
Arriving almost together,
One from King Edward in London
One from the Pope in Avignon
Which with a knife of silver sheen
Was opened by the Scottis Queen,
“Has word come on from Avignon
On oor ex-communication?”
“My husband, Dio gloria,
Absolvitur ab instantia!”
The second text confirms the truce,
Sent by King Edward to the Bruce,
Recognizing the Scotis right,
Resolved for ever in her fight,
To never let battle renew,
So both lands can the future view
In perfect calm as neighbours do.


12 Freedom

The Scots free from tyrant control,
Free as the waves of ocean roll,
Free as the thoughts of minstrel soul
But freedom bought at such a price,
Many had made good sacrifice,
But bonnie Scotland has stood firm
Against the frightful Lambeth worm!
Her voices rising proud & free
For love of land & liberty,
Frae granite city, Aberdeen,
To Aberfeldy sat serene
Frae Inchcolm, Findochty, Durness
To Comrie, Sanquhar & Stenness,
Frae Fintry, Keith & Cunnighame
To woolly-wooded Whittinghame
Frae bothys between Lairg & Tongue
To all the islands set among
The Hebrides both near & far,
Frae Dalkeith, Dunfermline, Dunbar
To Currie, Carnoustie, Cupar,
Frae Granton, Gorbals & Maybole
To Papay near the Arctic Pole
The Glaswegian, the Galwegian,
Frae Gilmerton in Lothian,
To Motherwell & marshy Merse,
& all the luchts that intersperse
The golden spellcraft of a glen,
Where nature dwells with happy men!


13 Saint Andrew’s Cross

Fly mightily noble Saltire
Frae Taransay & Luskentyre
To the crofts of treeless Lewis
& the soft hill slopes of Harris,
Frae Ayr, which no town can surpass
For honest lad & bonny lass,
To Invergarry, Inverness,
Portlethen, Prestwick, Quanterness,
& Edina, Scotia’s empress,
Frae Newcastleton in the south
To Ullapool at Loch Broon’s mouth,
Where fishermen e’er praise this day
Frae Kenmore, all along the Tay,
Thro’ Crieff to Perth & then Dundee
& further, perch’d upon the sea,
Airy Arbroath & its abbey,
Where pious Bernard de Linton
Reads out the text from Avignon,
Ending the pages with a smile,
As wide as Thurso to Argyle
& summons a young trumpeteer
To sound the glory of this year,
Soft airels on the ocean breeze
Ascend the skies in sweet degrees,
Sailing to nations overseas,
Now all shall know who know the world
Saint Andrews cross fore’er unfurl’d!



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