(Neo-) Classical Sunday: Braveheart – Sound of Freedom

Braveheart is a 1995 American epic historical fiction war film directed and co-produced by Mel Gibson, who portrays William Wallace, a late-13th-century Scottish warrior. The film depicts the life of Wallace leading the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England.

Braveheart – Sound of Freedom

A Soundtrack-Mix of the film Braveheart.

700 Years Ago Today: The Declaration of Arbroath, 6 April 1320

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself”.

PDF:  Download the transcript and translation of the Declaration of Arbroath  from the National Records of Scotland.

“The Declaration is a letter from the barons and whole community of the kingdom of Scotland to the pope in 1320, asking him to recognise Scotland’s independence and acknowledge Robert the Bruce as the country’s lawful king.

The Declaration was in Latin and was sealed by eight earls and about forty barons. Over the centuries various copies and translations have been made, including a recent microscopic edition.”

Clipboard01  BBC RADIO SCOTLAND Broadcast, Today @13:30


The Declaration of Arbroath and Scottish independence

“The Declaration was written during the long war of independence with England which started with Edward l’s attempt to conquer Scotland in 1296. When the deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter Margaret, Maid of Norway, left Scotland without a monarch, Edward used the invitation to help choose a successor as an excuse to revive English claims of overlordship. When the Scots resisted, he invaded.

Edward refused to allow William Wallace’s victory at Stirling Bridge in 1297 to derail his campaign. In 1306 Robert the Bruce seized the throne and began a long struggle to secure his position against internal and external threat. His success at Bannockburn in 1314, when he defeated an English army under Edward II, was a major achievement but the English still did not recognise Scotland’s independence or Bruce’s position as king.

On the European front, by 1320 Scottish relations with the papacy were in crisis after they defied papal efforts to establish a truce with England. When the pope excommunicated the king and three of his bishops, the Scots sent the Declaration of Arbroath as part of a diplomatic counter-offensive. The original letter, delivered to the pope in Avignon, is lost, but we know it reached him. He wrote to Edward II urging him to make peace, but it was not until 1328 that Scotland’s independence was acknowledged.

The Declaration was probably drawn up by Bernard, Abbot of Arbroath. It was authenticated by seals, as documents at that time were not signed. Only 19 seals now remain of what might have been 50 originally, and many are in poor condition.”

Poesie: Scott’s Proud Maisie

I guess here’s what you might get if no-one seems good enough.

Incidentally, Sir Walter Scott is responsible for the modern meaning of the word ‘glamour’, thus removing from the word its original connection with enchantment and magic.  Did you know ‘glamour’ comes from the word ‘grammar’?  Would it have changed your attitude towards learning grammar in school, had you known?

Proud Maisie

Proud Maisie is in the wood,
Walking so early;
Sweet Robin sits on the bush,
Singing so rarely.

“Tell me, thou bonny bird,
When shall I marry me?”—
“When six braw gentlemen
Kirkward shall carry ye.”

“Who makes the bridal bed,
Birdie, say truly?”—
“The gray-headed sexton
That delves the grave duly.

“The glowworm o’er grave and stone
Shall light thee steady;
The owl from the steeple sing,
‘Welcome, proud lady.'”

~ Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), from The Heart of Midlothian

Cultured Wednesday: McIntosh Patrick’s Road in a Spring Landscape

To celebrate the vernal equinox, we chose a spring painting by a 20th century Scottish painter.

Happy Spring Equinox, everyone!

Spring is upon us, finally.  Today, the sun will rise exactly in the east, and set exactly in the west.  Therefore, if you have a sun dial, you might want to adjust it today.

Not only will the sun pass the celestial equator from the south into the north today, but we also have the first full moon of spring!  It’s the Worm Moon, and another supermoon since it is only one day after the moon’s perigee, in other words, yesterday the moon was closest to the earth in its orbit around us, and tonight it will still appear bigger than usually, and just about completely round to boot.  In case you are wondering:  The vernal equinox and a full moon only fall on the same day about four times in a century.  The last time this happened was on 20 March 2000, so it seems we have 2 down, 2 to go in this century.

To celebrate the occasion, we chose a spring painting by a 20th century Scottish painter, James McIntosh Patrick:  Road in a Spring Landscape.

McIntosh Patrick spring
James McIntosh Patrick, Road in a Spring Landscape.

What I love about this painting is that it shows the beginning of spring like we have it here:  The birds are back already, the sun is shining and there is a tint of green to the grass, but otherwise, the trees are still bare.  You know by the promising light that spring is on its way, but you are still waiting for leaves, blossoms and spring flowers.  I find all this wonderfully captured in McIntosh Patrick’s painting.

James McIntosh Patrick (1907 – 1998) was a Scottish painter, celebrated for his finely observed paintings of the Angus landscape, Scotland.  Three features typical for this painter’s work can be observed in the painting we chose:  Firstly, he is known mainly for his paintings of cultivated landscapes in the Scottish countryside.  Secondly, his landscapes are often very wide in scope yet meticulously detailed.  Lastly, he frequently make use of lanes, roads, waterways or other features leading from foreground to middle distance or beyond to draw the viewer into the picture.

If you follow the link above, you will find a rather detailed bio and some more paintings for your perusal.




Book Review: Lassie Come-Home

Give it a whirl. I doubt you will regret it.

“Lassie Come-Home” by Eric Knight is a classic, and on our oldest daughter’s reading list this year.  I guess everyone has heard of the story, more likely because of movies and TV series than because they read the book, but it truly is a novel worth your time.

The actual story line is quickly summed up:  Loyal dog is sold but seeks to return home through 400 miles of rugged terrain and crowded cities alike.  A similar story line is followed in another novel I strongly recommend for people who do not shy away from children’s books, namely “The Incredible Journey” by Sheila Burnford, but it is not the story line as such that makes the novels good novels, as can be seen by the way in which the plot can be commercialized or turned into nothing much more than comedy or a tearjerker.  So, why would I go out of my way to recommend this book?

lassie book cover
First published in 1938 as a short story, “Lassie Come-Home” is a classic for good reason.

The main reason is, it is a rich book, rich like a good meal with many courses that you come away from satisfied but not over-stuffed.  It touches on many topics that are great for pondering and discussion alike and yet elaborates on none of them to the point where nothing is left unsaid.

The setting is Yorkshire and the Scottish Highlands, and the human characters we meet speak the dialects of the regions, including the inevitable outsider nobody trusts because he sticks out like a sore thumb the moment he opens his mouth.  We also meet those who deeply love their home, the hills and the moors, whose characters are shaped by the demands and beauties thereof, and those of the city who cherish the country folks’ opinions and attitudes.

Then there are selfish people and selfless ones to encounter, cruel people, kind people and blustery people, and we hear about their actions and thoughts in a variety of ways that is astonishing for a story of this kind.  We read about complex relationships between father and son, mother and son, father and mother, grandfather and granddaughter, master and servant, couples having grown old together, authorities of various degrees with those under and over them, concerned watchers and by-passers and also those who delight in making things even more difficult for their fellow creatures than they already are.  We meet shrewd people and honest people, cheats and greedy ones, happy companions and ruthless crooks, in a word, the whole range of people one can possibly put into one little 250-page book.  They make the story colorful and give us lots to think about concerning human nature in general, and human behavior in particular.

As if this plethora of characters wasn’t enough already to fill the side-lines of a story, the novel also touches on various social, or socio-political problems, from the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression with their impact on community and family life to country-city differences and environmental pollution, and on to very thoughtful and unsentimental references to WWI.  In any and all of these cases, you get the distinct impression that the author is speaking from personal experience, which even a cursory look into his life will confirm, although you wouldn’t think it from his rather superficial Wikipedia entry, had you no read the book first.  For me personally, the initial setting of the novel – an impoverished coal-miner community in Yorkshire – is just the environment our not-so-very-distant ancestors lived in on both sides of the Atlantic, and you can get a glimpse into what life would have been like for them, and how it would have formed them.

Last but not least, the novel presents a great deal of insight into the nature and temperament of one specific dog breed – the Collie.  Obviously, the author owned and loved, and was loved by a collie, and her name in real life was Toots.  In the novel, however, this name is given to a little mongrel who is the companion of a travelling peddler, acting in much the same way as the real-life collie Toots did for the author in his own travelling days.  The dog Toots in the novel meets a tragic end just like the author’s mongrel did in real life, and thus this little side-story becomes a lasting memorial for the little mongrel, following The Bard’s line “so long lives this, and this gives life to thee”.

Now, this post is already much longer than what I usually write, and I still haven’t told you (or, if you will, given away) the development of the story, the most moving moments, the astonishing turn of events in the end which is remarkable on many levels, or the most impressive character lessons one can learn from both human and canine main characters.  So give it a whirl.  I doubt very much that you will regret it.


POETRY: “A Pict Song”

Rome never looks where she treads…

by Rudyard Kipling

A Pict Song

Rome never looks where she treads,
Always her heavy hooves fall
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on — that is all,
And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk — we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you’ll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot in the root!
We are the germ in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

Mistletoe killing an oak —
Rats gnawing cables in two —
Moths making holes in a cloak —
How they must love what they do!
Yes — and we Little Folk too,
We are as busy as they —
Working our works out of view —
Watch, and you’ll see it some day!

No indeed! We are not strong,
But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we’ll guide them along,
To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same —
Yes, we have always been slaves,
But you — you will die of the shame,
And then we shall dance on your graves!

We are the Little Folk — we!
Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you’ll see
How we can drag down the Great!
We are the worm in the wood!
We are the rot in the root!
We are the germ in the blood!
We are the thorn in the foot!

Remembering Uilleam Uallas: c. 1270-August 23, 1305

William Wallace was the first great populist leader of any Western nation.

William Wallace Statue, Aberdeen
William Wallace Statue, Aberdeen

William Wallace was born sometime around the year 1270 in a wild area of southwest Scotland, and was executed by order of King Edward I of England in London August 23, 1305 for high treason and crimes against the English people.  From another perspective, William Wallace was simply a freedom fighter.

Wallace was a man who took his role as Governor and the welfare of the common Scottish people seriously enough to risk life and limb in the pursuit of justice, and as a result is best remembered today as the first great populist leader of the West.

Wallace’s response to the charges brought against him:

“I can not be a traitor, for I owe him [Edward I] no allegiance.  He is not my sovereign; he never received my homage; and whilst life is in this persecuted body, he will never receive it.  To the other points of which I am accused, I freely confess them all.  As Governor of my county I have been an enemy to its enemies; I have slain the English; I have mortally opposed the English King; I have stormed and taken the towns and castles which he unjustly claimed as his own.  If I or my soldiers have plundered or done injury to the houses or ministers of religion, I repent me of my sin; but it is not of Edward of England I shall ask pardon.”

Indeed, pardon he did not receive, at least from Edward I.  Instead, he was tied to a team of horses and dragged through the streets to the gallows, where he was hung until semi-conscious and then disemboweled.  Yes, he was still alive when the disemboweling took place.

Helpful hint:  Nothing gets you dragged through the streets quite so fast as challenging the legitimacy and sovereignty of “the system.”

The next phase of the execution involved being pulled apart in four directions by horses (ye olde drawn and quartered treatment) with the final stroke being that of a quick beheading.  His head was then stuck on a pole and displayed on London Bridge.  The remaining four quarters were evenly distributed to Newcastle, Perth, Stirling, and Berwick, with the ostensible goal of provoking a degree of terror in the hearts of other potential “outlaws,” a tactic which in fact had the opposite effect.  Edward was wrong, again!

Wallace died around the age of 35.  His life has become the stuff of myth and legend and continues to inspire 713 years after his death.

Today, we remember Uilleam Uallas!

More info on Sir William Wallace at Electronic Scotland


Fun Fact:  One of the very first books published in Scotland was entitled The Wallace, written around 1471-1479.  It was composed in Middle English.  A certain familiarity with King James English or especially the Geneva bible might be helpful if you wish to read the text.



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