Page:Robert the Bruce and the struggle for Scottish independence - 1909.djvu/400

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[1329 A.D.
Robert the Bruce.

"there was no way for him but death." The King spent the last weeks of his life in setting in order his private affairs and those of his kingdom and subjects. On May 11th he granted a protection to the Abbey of Melrose, forbidding all men, on pain of forfeiture, to injure the monks. On the same day he dictated what is known as his death-bed letter, addressed to Prince David Earl of Carrick, and his successors; and here again special injunction was made for the protection of Melrose Abbey and the completion of the new church, "in which," said the King, "I have directed that my heart shall be buried."

Barbour and Froissart both give a narrative of the death-bed scene, and, though differing in some details, these two authorities agree in the main. Of the two one naturally inclines to credit the prose writer with greater accuracy, as being free from the exigencies of rhyme and metre. The chief difference between them lies in the account of how Douglas came to be charged with his famous mission. Barbour says that the King having sent for his chief baron to his death-bed told them how, remembering that there had been much innocent blood shed in his cause, he had resolved, when fortune favoured him, to make an expedition against the Saracens—the foes of God. But seeing that his strength had failed—

"Sa that the body may na wis
Fulfill that the hart can devis,"

he now desired them to choose one of their number to carry his heart to the Holy Land.

"Quhen saul and cors disseverit ar."