Blind Harry

Blind Harry

Blind Harry (c. 1440 – 1492), also known as Harry (also spelt "Hary") or Henry the Minstrel, is renowned as the earliest surviving lengthy source for the events of the life of William Wallace, the Scottish freedom-fighter. He wrote "The Actes and Deidis of the Illustre and Vallyeant Campioun Schir William Wallace" around 1477, 172 years after the death of Wallace in 1305. His poem of Wallace's defeat of the English at Dunnottar Castle is thought to be the earliest work of verse to address that site (J. Reid, "Picturesque Stonehaven", 1899).

Blind Harry's words were made more accessible by a translation written by William Hamilton of Gilbertfield (ca. 1665-1751) published in 1722. In this form they met the notice of poets such as Robert Burns, Lord Byron, Robert Southey, John Keats, Joanna Baillie, and William Wordsworth. It was also a prime source for Randall Wallace in his writing of the screenplay Braveheart, upon which the Award Winning Hollywood film was based. Most recently, in 1998, Elspeth King published Hamilton's text amended for modern readers, as "Blind Harry's Wallace".

Little is known about Blind Harry's life, but a few snippets of information are available. One source is the Lord High Treasurer's Accounts of 1473-1492, which recorded payments to him for performances at the court of James IV. He is mentioned by William Dunbar on line 69 of his "Lament for the Makeris" early in the 16th century. Historian John Major also wrote about Harry in 1518. These sources differed on whether or not he was blind from birth, but Harry almost certainly seems to have had a military background.

Harry's depiction of Wallace has been criticised by Major and others as being fictionalized. Some parts of it are at variance with contemporary sources; the work describes Wallace leading an army to the outskirts of London; adopting the disguises of a monk, an old woman, and a potter while a fugitive; and travelling to France to enlist support for the Scottish cause, there defeating two French champions as well as a lion. "Are there any more dogs you would have slain?" Wallace asks the French king.

The minstrel claimed it was based on a book by Fr. John Blair, Wallace's boyhood friend and personal chaplain, but this may have been a literary device; the chief sources seem to have been traditional. Most historians nowadays regard it as effectively a historical novel, written at a time of strong anti-English sentiment in Scotland. At twelve volumes, the work is also doubted to be solely his work. Elspeth King maintained that despite any inaccuracies, Harry's patriotic and nationalistic portrayal was to ensure Wallace's continuing reputation as a hero. Burns acknowledged his debt to Harry, incorporating the following lines from Harry's "Wallace" in his own poem Robert Bruce's Address to his Army at Bannockburn (Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled):

A false usurper sinks in every foe
And liberty returns with every blow
which Burns described as a "a couplet worthy of Homer".

Harry is often considered inferior to Barbour as a poet, and has little of his moral elevation, but he surpasses him in graphic power, vividness of description, and variety of incident. He occasionally shows the influence of Chaucer, and is said to have known Latin and French.

Mel Gibson's film Braveheart draws heavily on this source.Anderson, Lin. "Braveheart: From Hollywood to Holyrood." Luath Press Ltd. (2005): 27.]


*A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature
*"Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain" (London: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1973), 520.
*"Blind Harry's Wallace" translated by William Hamilton, introduction by Elspeth King (Edinburgh: Luath Press, 1998). ISBN 0-946487-33-2.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • BLIND HARRY —    a wandering Scottish minstrel of the 15th century; composed in verse The Life of that Noble Champion of Scotland, Sir William Wallace …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Blind Harry or Henry the Minstrel — (fl. 1470 1492)    Is spoken of by John Major in his History of Scotland as a wandering minstrel, skilled in the composition of rhymes in the Scottish tongue, who fabricated a book about William Wallace, and gained his living by reciting it to… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Harry The Minstrel — ▪ Scottish writer also called  Henry The Minstrel , or  Blind Harry   flourished 1470–92       author of the Scottish historical romance The Acts and Deeds of the Illustrious and Valiant Champion Sir William Wallace, Knight of Elderslie, which is …   Universalium

  • Harry — This interesting surname is first recorded in England, but also has later Scottish associations. It derives from the personal name Harry, itself a nickname or dialectal transposition from the old French name Henri . This name translating as home… …   Surnames reference

  • Blind-Simultan-Schach — ist eine Variante des Simultanschachs oder Blindschachs bzw. die Kombination von beidem. Ein Spieler spielt gleichzeitig – simultan – gegen mehrere andere Schachspieler, wobei er die Bretter nicht sieht, also „blind“. Die Züge der „sehenden“… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Harry Salter — Harry Solter Harry Solter est un réalisateur, acteur et scénariste américain né en 1874 décédé le 2 mars 1920 à El Paso (Texas). Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Filmographie 2.1 comme réalisateur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Harry Solter — est un réalisateur, acteur et scénariste américain né en 1874 décédé le 2 mars 1920 à El Paso (Texas). Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Filmographie 2.1 comme réalisateur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 Theatrical poster Directed by David Yates Produced by …   Wikipedia

  • Harry Everett Smith — (29 May 1923, Portland, Oregon ndash; 27 November 1991, New York City) was an American archivist, ethnomusicologist, student of anthropology, record collector, experimental filmmaker, artist, bohemian and mystic. Smith is a well known figure in… …   Wikipedia

  • Harry Levi Hollingworth — (1880 1956) was one of the first psychologists to bring psychology into the advertising world, as well as a pioneer in applied psychology. Hollingworth was born in 1880 in the town of DeWitt, Nebraska. Hollingworth graduated from high school at… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”