The Bruce

John Barbour

The Bruce by John Barbour (eBook ISBN 9781847675941) book cover

Available as eBook

Edited and introduced by A.A.M. Duncan

A! Fredome is a noble thing
Fredome mays man to haiff liking
Fredome all solace to man giffis
He levys at es that frely levys

These are some of the most famous lines in Scottish literature. They were written c.1375 by John Barbour, Archdeacon of Aberdeen, as a celebration of the Age of Chivalry - an age of bravery, valour, and above all loyalty. Its twin heroes are Robert the Bruce and James Douglas, his faithful companion.

The epic sweep and scale of the poem catch the full drama of Bruce’s life - from being pursued by dogs in Galloway to his great triumph at Bannockburn, from hunted fugitive surrounded by traitors to kingship of a free nation. The poem is one of the key sources for any life of Bruce and incorporates much information not found elsewhere.

The language of the poem is easy to read and its vigour and imagery provide a marvellous insight into the medieval mind. This is the first accessible modern edition of The Bruce featuring a full historical introduction, a special commentary on Bannockburn, a facing page translation with extensive annotation and six detailed maps. This edition also includes the other great nationalist statement about the reign of Robert the Bruce, The Declaration of Arbroath.

A.A.M. Duncan’s work on The Bruce represents the culmination of a life-long interest and this book, comprehensively revised in 2007, marks a radical reassessment of the history of Robert the Bruce as recounted in the poem which bears his name.

John Barbour

John Barbour (1320-95) was an early Scottish poet and the first major author to write in Scots. His main surviving work is The Bruce, a verse epic about the life of Robert the Bruce, and a significant historical source.

John Barbour lived between 1330 and 1395. Most of his working life was spent as archdeacon of Aberdeen, and the poem was written in 1375 in the reign of Robert II. He is thus a rough contemporary of Chaucer, but his verse chronicle falls rather more into the tradition of Froissart and the other great chroniclers of the age of chivalry. The language of the poem is Scots at an early stage of development. The range of imagery and references provides an insight into the medieval mind. The editor A.A.M. Duncan is the author of “The Making of the Kingdom”.