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It was reprinted at the same place in 1620 and 1670; at Glasgow in 1672; and again at Edinburgh in 1714 (the title page, however, being usually dated 1758). The first critical edition was that by Pinkerton, published in 3 vols. 8vo., at London in 1790; the last and best, that by the Rev. Dr. John Jamieson, forming the first volume of 'The Bruce, and Wallace,' 2 vols. 4to. Edinburgh, 1820. We may notice by the way that Gordon, who speaks with great contempt of Barbour's "outworn barbarous speech," and ill-composed and immethodical work, tells a story in the Preface to his 'Famous History' about a still older poem on the exploits of Bruce, written by a monk of the Abbey of Melrose, called Peter Fenton" in the year 1369, a manuscript copy of which," old and torn, almost illegible, in many places wanting leaves," yet having the beginning, had been put into his hands by his "loving friend, Donald Farquharson." "It was," he says, "in old rhime like to Chaucer, but wanting in many parts; and especially from the field of Bannockburn forth it wanted all the rest almost, so that it could not be gotten to the press; yet such as I could read thereof had many remarkable tales, worthy to be noted, and also probable, agreeing with the truth of the history, as I have followed it, as well as the other." “One cannot help regretting," Dr. Jamieson sensibly remarks, “that Gordon, instead of bestowing his labour on a new poem, had not favoured the public with even the fragments of that written by Fenton." It would have been something if he had even informed us what he had done with the manuscript, (if he did not put it into the fire upon finding that he could not read it.) He writes the date, 1369, in words at
full length; but he is evidently not a person upon whose testimony much reliance can be placed, as to such a matter. It is a suspicious circumstance, as is hinted by Macpherson, the editor of Wynton's Chronicle, that that writer, though he often quotes Barbour, has never once mentioned Fenton.*
The Scotch in which Barbour's poem is written was undoubtedly the language then commonly in use among his countrymen, for whom he wrote and with whom his poem has been a popular favourite ever since its first appearance. By his countrymen, of course, we mean the inhabitants of southern and eastern, or lowland Scotland, not the Celts or Highlanders, who have always been and still are as entirely distinct a race as the native Irish are, and always have been, from the English in Ireland, and to confound whom either in language of in any other respect with the Scotish Lowlanders, is the same sort of mistake that it would be to speak of the English as being either in language or lineage identical with the Welsh. Indeed, there is a remarkable similarity as to this matter in the circumstances of the three countries; in each a primitive Celtic population, which appears to have formerly occupied the whole soil, has been partially expelled by another race, but still exists inhabiting its separate locality (in all the three cases the maritime and mountainous wilds of the west,) and retaining its own ancient and perfectly distinct language. The expulsion has been the most sweeping in England, where it took place first, and where the Welsh form now only about a sixteenth of the general
* Wyntown's Chronicle, by Macpherson (1795), Pref. p. xxix.
population; it has been carried to a less extent in Scotland, where it was not effected till a later age, and where the numbers of the Highlanders are still to those of the Lowlanders in the proportion of one to five or six; in Ireland, where it happened last of all, the new settlers have scarcely yet ceased to be regarded as foreigners and intruders, and the ancient Celtic inhabitants, still covering, although not possessing, by far the greater part of the soil, continue to be perhaps eight or ten times as numerous as the Saxons or English. For in all the three cases it is the same Saxon, or at least Teutonic, race before which the Celts have retired or given way: the Welsh, the Scotish Highlanders, and the native Irish, indeed, all to this day alike designate the stranger who has set himself down beside them by the common epithet of the Saxon. We know that other Teutonic or northern races were mixed with the Saxons in all the three cases; not only were the English, who settled in Scotland in great numbers, and conquered Ireland, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, a mixture of Saxons and French Normans, but the original Normans or Danes had in the eighth and ninth centuries effected extensive settlements in each of the three countries. Besides, those whom we call the Saxons, or Anglo-Saxons, were themselves a mixed people; and they were even the old hereditary enemies of the Danes, whom the Celts confound with them under a common name. Still, they were all of the same Teutonic blood, and spoke only varieties of the same language; and, as the Saxons, Angles, and Jutes were as one people against the Scandinavian Danes, or their descendants the French Normans, so even Saxons and Danes, or Normans, were united every where against the
Celts. As for the language spoken by the Lowland Scots in the time of Barbour, it must have sprung out of the same sources, and been affected by nearly the same influences, with the English of the same age. Nobody now holds that any part of it can have been derived from the Picts, who indeed originally cccupied part of the lowlands of Scotland, but who were certainly not a Teutonic but a Celtic people. Lothian, or all the eastern part of Scotland to the south of the Forth, was Saxon from the seventh century, as much as was Northumberland or Yorkshire: from this date the only difference that could have distinguished the language there used from that spoken in the south of England was probably a larger infusion of the Danish forms; but this characteristic must have been shared in nearly the same degree by all the English then spoken to the north of the Thames. Again, whatever effect may have been produced by the Norman Conquest, and the events consequent upon that revolution, would probably be pretty equally diffused over the two countries: the breaking up of the original system of the Saxon language, as has been pointed out in a preceding page, is to be attributed to other causes than the intrusion of a foreign idiom; but it is certain that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries both the Normans themselves and their literature had acquired almost the same establishment and ascendancy in Scotland as in England. We have found that French was the language of the court in the one country as well as in the other, and that Scotish as well as English writers figure among the imitators of the Norman trouveurs and romance poets. Afterwards the connexion of Scotland with France became much more intimate and uninterrupted
than that of England; and this appears to have affected the Scotish dialect in a way which we shall presently have to point out. But in Barbour's day, the language of Teutonic Scotland was distinguished from that of the south of England (which had now acquired the ascendancy over that of the northern counties as the literary dialect), by little more than the retention, perhaps, of a good many vocables which had become obsolete among the English, and a generally broader enunciation, giving rise to a peculiar spelling, of the vowel sounds, the effect of the greater admixture or prevalence of the Danish element. Hence Barbour never supposes that he is writing in any other language than English any more than Chaucer; that is the name by which not only he, but his successors Dunbar and even Lyndsay, always designate their native tongue: down to the latter part of the sixteenth century, by the term Scotch was generally understood what is now called the Gaelic, or the Erse or Ersh (that is, Irish), the speech of the Celts or Highlanders. Divested of the grotesque and cumbrous spelling of the old manuscripts, the language of Barbour is quite as intelligible at the present day to an English reader as that of Chaucer; the obsolete words and forms are not more numerous in the one writer than in the other, though some that are used by Barbour may not be found in Chaucer, as many of Chaucer's are not in Barbour; the chief general distinction, as we have said, is the greater breadth given to the vowel sounds in the dialect of the Scotish poet. The old termination of the present participle in and is also more frequently used than in Chaucer, to whom however it is by no means unknown, any more than its modern substitute ing is