"That Dark Inn, The Grave"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The Lord of the Isles, King Robert Bruce (1274–1329), the Liberator of Scotland, fights against great odds to free his native land from English domination. Large armies of the two powers are ranged to meet each other in battle before Stirling. On the day before the battle begins, Bruce rides out in front of his army and is immediately charged by Sir Henry Boune, of Hereford. Bruce avoids Boune's lance and kills him with an axe. Next, Earl Randolph of Moray leads his troop against an English force and puts it to flight. The next day the great battle begins with the advance of ten thousand English archers, who shoot clouds of arrows into the Scottish host. Edward Bruce leads a force of armed knights against them, cuts them down, and puts the survivors to flight. King Edward I (1272–1307) of England, known as Longshanks, scornfully witnesses the defeat of his commoners and orders the chivalry into action. The English knights charge, but Bruce had had the territory they must cross provided with pits covered with sods and bushes. As the horses fall into the pits, the battle is joined, and slaughter is general on both sides. The English and the Scots fight fiercely, but knights and common soldiers alike take their way to that dark inn, the grave.

Yet fast they fell, unheard, forgot,
Both Southern fierce and hardy Scot;
And O, amid that waste of life
What various motives fired the strife!
The aspiring noble bled for fame,
The patriot for his country's claim;
This knight his youthful strength to prove,
And that to win his lady's love:
Some fought from ruffian thirst of blood,
From habit some or hardihood.
But ruffian stern and soldier good,
The noble and the slave,
From various cause the same wild road,
On the same bloody morning, trode
To that dark inn, the grave!