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history. I doubt whether even in clear weather it is possible to see from Flodden hill the bridge of Twizell, five miles distant and somewhat down in a hollow, and on the 9th of September the weather was not clear, but the air was thick with vapour from rain fallen or falling.
In this part of the poem Scott has evidently followed the patriotic Pitscottie, whose account of the proceedings in the Scottish camp, though, as I believe, inaccurate, must bere be noticed, since it is almost the only record that we have of what was passing on Flodden hill in the morning of Friday, the 9th of September. The King of Scotland, according to Pitscottie, knew nothing of the Earl of Surrey's coming, and did not believe that he would have battle of him nor of none other of England at that time, considering the king was not present in the realm. Deceived by the wiles of the wicked lady of Ford,20 and abiding her coming (though she did nothing but deceive him, and came not again till the English army came with her), he never knew the coming of the army of England till they were within the space of three miles, arrayed in seven great battles .. When these novels [news] were shown to the King of Scotland he would scantly credit them, but lap on horse and rode to the hills to visit them. But when he saw them coming so fast forward, he caused to sound his trumpets and put his men in array, and ordained to charge his artillery and make all ready.'
Then follows Pitscottie's description of a council of war held by the Scottish lords, which the king attended in disguise. Patrick, lord Lindsay, 'chancellor and first voter in the council, delivered a harangue earnestly dissuading from battle, at any rate, from battle in which the king should take part. The chances of the game were not equal. To put in jeopardy their noble king and his nobility against an old crooked carle lying in a chariot [the Earl of Surrey), and certain suitors and sailors with him in company,' was to act like a common hazarder who should jeopardy a rose-noble on a cast against a gleed halfpenny.' Whereupon he voted for the departure of the king and certain of his lords with him, leaving the battle to be fought by those whom he might think most expedient to take the matter in hand, and jeopardy themselves for the king's pleasure and their own
20 This alludes to a story which I shall notice at the end of this paper.
SCOTTISH COUNCIL OF WAR.
honour, and the safety of the common weal. At this extraordinary proposition the king threw off his disguise and burst into the council, saying, in furious tones, ‘My lords, I shall fight this day against England though ye had sworn the contrary ; though ye would all flee from me and shame yourselves, ye shall not shame me as ye desire. And to Lord Patrick Lindsay that has gotten the first votes, I vow to God I shall never see Scotland sooner than I shall cause him hang at his own gate.'
. Seeing the king thus enraged, the lords were fain to satisfy his pleasure and serve his appetite in all things as he commanded.' It was probably in this council that the historic scene 21 between James IV. and old Archibald ( Bell-the-Cat') Douglas took place; the aged nobleman urging his king to decline battle, the king replying, • Douglas, if you are afraid, you may go home,' and the earl taking the monarch at his word, but leaving his two sons to fight and die with their hot-tempered master.
• By this' (to return to Pitscottie's narrative) “the watches came and showed the king the English army was at hand, marching fast forward within the space of a Scottish mile. Then the king caused blow the trumpets and set his men in order of battle, to wit, he gave the vanguard to the Earl of Huntley and to the Lord Home, who were in number 10,000 men, and took the great battle unto himself with all the nobility of Scotland, which passed not above 20,000 men, and marched forward a little in the sight of the Englishmen who were then passing over the bridge to them. Then the master-gunner, Robert Borthwick, came in presence of the king, and falling on his knees implored permission to shoot his artillery at the English host when they were coming over the bridge of Tills, promising to cut the bridge at their overcoming, and that the king should have no displeasure at the one-half, while the other should be devoured. But the king answered, like a man that had been reft of his wit, “I shall hang thee, quarter thee, and draw thee if thou shoot one shot this day. I am determined that I will have them all before me on a plain field, and see then what they can do all before me.”)
This chivalrous refusal of King James to use his ordnance for the slaughter of his enemies while passing Twizell bridge has become an
21 Mentioned by Buchanan.
essential part both of the poem and the history, and yet I think we may boldly say that at any rate in its present shape it is utterly inconsistent with fact, and could never have been accepted as fact22 by any one who had studied the ground. Take Pitscottie's own version of the event. The English army was “at hand marching fast forward within the space of a Scottish mile, that is to say, they were at least as far advanced as Cornhill, probably farther. By the time that any considerable part of the vanguard marching fast forward' had reached Cornhill how many of their comrades would still be on the other side of Twizell bridge, at least three miles behind them? And, then, even if gunner Borthwick could have seen Twizell bridge on that rainy September day in order to take aim at it (which I do not believe), what ordnance had he that could carry so far and batter down the solid stone arches of the bridge at that distance. Twizell bridge, as I have said, was fully five miles from the crest of Flodden. It is true that the Seven Sisters' and their companion guns were probably not on the crest of the hill, but on the plain below, but they were planted to command the eastern and south-eastern approaches to the hill, and therefore they would be out of position for firing towards the north-west, and would be not less but more than five miles distant from their supposed mark. In the stage of development which the art of gunnery had then reached we may surely pronounce Robert Borthwick’s alleged proposal quite impracticable.
But an opportunity for the use of artillery was afforded to James by the march of the rearguard of the army, and was neglected by him. It is from some confused remembrance of this, as I imagine, that the story of the proposal to batter down Twizell bridge has arisen.
When Earl Surrey sent forward the vanguard and the ordnance under the command of his son, the admiral, he reserved for himself marching with the rearguard the shorter journey along the base of the triangle of which they were to tramp along the hypothenuse and perpendicular. Shorter it was, but also in some respects more dangerous and difficult. As they descended from Barmoor towards Etal and Ford the English rear must have become in some measure visible to
22 I say 'as fact.' Scott had most carefully studied the ground, but he claimed the liberty conceded pictoribus atque poetis of telling the story in the way which most conduced to pictorial effect.
the Scottish host (who very possibly thought that the whole of the English army was coming by this route); and, then, they had to cross, not by a bridge but by a ford, the Till, that deep and treacherous stream of which the border muse has sung
Tweed said tae Till
Till said tae Tweed
I droon twa.", And now the sullen river had its power for evil largely increased by the incessant rain which had been falling ever since September opened.
However, the old crooked carle,' with the men under his command, accomplished the passage successfully, probably at some of the fords in the neighbourhood of Crookham.23 Surrey spoke words of cheer and encouragement to his men as they dashed into the turbid flood. Now, good fellowes, do like Englishmen this day; take my part like men, which part is the king's part. If I thought you would not, I would in my own person fight with the king of Scots, rather to die honourably by his cruelty than to live in shame, or that any reproach should be laid to me hereafter.' To whom they answered “that they would serve the king and him truly that day.'
After crossing the ford the rearguard had to creep round the shoulder of a hill overlooking the valley, where we now see the pleasant gardens and fine old red brick mansion of Pallinsburn. The Pallins
23 These fords are (1) Millford, close to the old Barley mill (now in ruins), one-third of a mile below Etal manor ; (2) Willowford, about half a mile above Etal; and (3) Sandyford, about half a mile above Willowford, if you follow the here very winding course of the river, but only a quarter of a mile from it if you take the straight course (the chord of the arc) across the green haugh which lies between them. It seems to me probable that Surrey's troops, to whom it was important to save time, would cross by more than one of these fords simultaneously, and the contemporary evidence names at least two of them. Millford (not to be confounded with three or four miles distant Milițield) is mentioned by Hall, and Sandyford by the author of the ballad (cccclix.), who, however, has probably confused it with Pallinsburn when he calls it
• A brook of breadth a tailor's yard.' The river at all these fords is probably now fuller than it was in the sixteenth century, owing to the dams which have been constructed across it; but Sandyford is still pretty often used in summer time by labourers going to or returning from their work. It is important to notice that at this ford the soldiers would be out of sight and out of range of an enemy posted on Flodden hill, being hidden by a little eminence near Crookham.
burn, or brook of Paulinus (in which the apostle of Northumbria is said to have baptized a multitude of his converts) lost itself at the time of the battle in a great expanse of bog, perhaps about a mile and a half long and half a mile wide, near the base of the hill wbich is, as it were, a footstool to Flodden. This great straggling marsh is now drained, fine crops of turnips are raised from the recovered land, a good hard road runs through it, and the brook of Paulinus, though still apt to rise in rebellion after heavy rains, generally flows peacefully enough along the narrow channel which the spade of the drainer has prepared for it. In 1513, however, it was quite untraversable by foot-soldiers, and the waters of the marsh combined with the height of Flodden hill to make the Scottish position unassailable. Of course the same waters preserved the English rearguard from charges of horse or hand-to-hand encounter of infantry while they were executing this part of their dangerous flank march. But it is difficult not to think that the Scottish ordnance, the Seven Sisters' and all their clamorous kindred, ranged at the foot of Flodden hill, could have grievously hindered the march of Surrey and his men as they crept round the little hill which rises on the north side of the marsh, and still more, while slowly, almost in single file, they toiled over the little bridge (Branx bridge) which led them out at last on to solid ground about half a mile north of Branxton. It is therefore to the march of this part of the army, not to the passage of the vanguard over far-away Twizell bridge, that I would apply the proposal of gunner Borthwick to bring his cannon to bear on the foe; and here in Pallinsburn marsh and over Branx bridge it was that the Englishmen were saved from ruin by the apathy or over-strained chivalry of James : here that, from the Scottish point of view, the great opportunity was lost by which might have
• From Fate's dark book a leaf been torn,
And Flodden had been Bannockburn.' Thus, then, the daring scheme of Surrey and his son, the separation of the army and the long flank march of the vanguard, succeeded; and though we are not told the exact time or place we must, I think, infer that somewhere about two o'clock vanguard and rearguard coalesced near Branxton. This little village is situated about halfway up a long, low ridge called Branxton moor. It is about a mile