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Blind Harry - (c 1440-c 1492) - Poet

Little is known with certainty about the life of Blind Harry who wrote a long poem, wallace, about the life of the Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace. Blind Harry was mentioned in 'Lament quhen he was seik' by William Dunbar and in Historia Majoris Britanniae by John Major, and there are references to five payments made to 'Blind Hary' by James IV in the Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland between April 1490 and January 1492. Early scholars assumed that Harry had been blind since birth but it is unlikely that a blind man would have conceived with such passion the vivid descriptions of warfare which make up the bulk of Wallace. From his knowledge of the topography of Scotland it would seem that he was a native of the central belt in which most of Wallace's adventures took place; his familiarity with contemporary scholarship suggests a burgh grammar school education; and his opposition to the pro-English politics of james III would place him as a member of a family from the old landed gentry such as those of Sir William Wallace of Craigie and Sir James Liddale of Creich, at whose instigation he wrote Wallace. Harry probably composed Wallace about 1477. Written in 12 books, the purpose of the poem was to present in heroic terms the life of Wallace and the story of his struggle against the English. The central character emerges as a man of selfless honesty and, in spite of Harry's distortion of historical fact and his exaggeration of Wallace's prowess, the poem is both a statement of nationhood and a source of information about Wallace's life.

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