« PreviousContinue »
From the remote period, when the Roman province was contracted by the ramparts of Severus, until the union of the kingdoms, the borders of Scotland formed the stage, upon which were presented the most memorable conflicts of two gallant nations. The inhabitants, at the commencement of this æra, formed the first wave of the torrent, which assaulted, and finally overwhelmed, the barriers of the Roman power in Britain. The subsequent events, in which they were engaged, tended little to diminish their military hardihood, or to reconcile them to a more civilized state of society. We have no occasion to trace the state of the borders during the long and obscure period of Scottish history, which preceded the accession of the Stuart family. To illustrate a few ballads,
the earliest of which is hardly coeval with James V. such an enquiry would be equally difficult and vain. If we may trust the Welch bards, in their account of the wars betwixt the Saxons and Danes of Deira
and the Cumraig, imagination can hardly form 570 any idea of conflicts more desperate, than were
maintained, on the borders, between the ancient British and their Teutonic invaders. Thus, the Gododin describes the waste and devastation of mutual havoc, in colours so glowing, as strongly to recall the words of Tacitus; “ Et ubi solitudi
nem faciunt, pacem appellant *.”
At a later period, the Saxon families, who fled from the exterminating sword of the Conqueror, with many of the Normans themselves, whom discontent and intestine feuds had driven into exile,
* In the spirited translation of this poem, by Jones, the following verses are highly descriptive of the exhausted state of
the victor army.
At Madoc's tent the clarion sounds,
With rapid clangour hurried far:
But when return the sons of war!
And owns thy melancholy sway.
began to rise into eminence upon the Scottish borders. They brought with them arts, both of peace and of war, unknown in Scotland ; and; among their descendants, we soon number the most powerful border chiefs. Such, during the reign of the last Alexander, were Patrick, earl of March, and 1249 Lord Soulis, renowned in tradition; and such were, also, the powerful Comyns, who early acquired the principal sway upon the Scottish marches. In the civil wars betwixt Bruce and Baliol, all 1300 those powerful chieftains espoused the unsuccessful party. They were forfeited and exiled; and upon
their ruins was founded the formidable house of Douglas. The borders, from sea to sea, were now at the devotion of a succession of mighty chiefs, whose exorbitant power threatened to place a new dynasty upon the Scottish throne. It is not my intention to trace the dazzling career of this race of heroes, whose exploits were alike formidable to the English, and to their sovereign.
The sun of Douglas set in blood. The murders of the sixth earl, and his brother, in the castle of Edinburgh, were followed by that of their successor, poignarded at Stirling by the hand of
his prince. His brother, Earl James, appears neither to have possessed the abilities nor the ambition of his ancestors. He drew, indeed, against his prince, the formidable sword of Douglas, but with a timid and hesitating hand. Procrastination ruined his cause; and he was deserted, at Abercorn, by the knight of Cadyow, chief of the Hamiltons, and by his most active adherents, af
ter they had ineffectually exhorted him to com1453 mit his fate to the issue of a battle. The border
chiefs, who longed for independence, shewed lit1455 tle inclination to follow the declining fortunes of
Douglas. On the contrary, the most powerful clans engaged and defeated him, at Arkinholme, in Annandale, when, after a short residence in England, he again endeavoured to gain a footing in his native country*. The spoils of Douglas were liberally distributed among his conquerors, and royal grants of his forfeited domains effectual
ly interested them in excluding his return. An 1457 attempt, on the east borders, by “the Percy and
the Douglas, both together," was equally unsuccess
At the battle of Arkinholme, the Earl of Angus, a near kinsman of Douglas, commanded the royal forces; and the