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One bade me buy a hood to cover my head;
ings contain only a few good passages, he is allowed to have improved the poetical language of the country. He at one time kept a school in his monastery, for the instruction of young persons of the upper ranks in the art of versification; a fact which proves that poetry had become a favourite study among the few who acquired any tincture of letters in that age. In the words of Mr Warton," there is great soft-Some sung of Jenkin and Julian for their meed; ness and facility" in the following passage of Lydgate's Destruction of Troy :
[Description of a Sylvan Retreat.]
Till at the last, among the bowes glade,
A fugitive poem of Lydgate, called the London Lyck-
The London Lyckpenny.
Within the hall, neither rich, nor yet poor
Where Flemings began on me for to cry, 'Master, what will you copen' or buy? Fine felt hats? or spectacles to read?
Lay down your silver, and here you may speed.'
Cooks to me they took good intent,
And proffered me bread, with ale, and wine,
A fair cloth they gan for to spread,
Then unto London I did me hie,
Of all the land it beareth the price; 'Hot peascods!' one began to cry,
'Strawberry ripe, and cherries in the rise !'3
Then to the Cheap I gan me drawn,
One cries ribs of beef, and many a pie ;
Where was much stolen gear among;
I knew it well, as I did my creed;
'Sir,' saith he,' will you our wine assay?'
The reigns of Edward IV., Richard III., and Henry VII, extending between the years 1461 and 1509, were barren of true poetry, though there was no lack of obscure versifiers. It is remarkable, that this period produced in Scotland a race of genuine poets, who, in the words of Mr Warton, displayed a degree of sentiment and spirit, a command of phra seology, and a fertility of imagination, not to be found in any English poet since Chaucer and Lydgate.' Perhaps the explanation of this seeming mystery is, that the influences which operated upon Chaucer a century before, were only now coming with their full force upon the less favourably situated nation which dwelt north of the Tweed. Overlooking some obscurer names, those of Henryson, Dunbar, and Douglas, are to be mentioned with peculiar respect.
Of this poet there are no personal memorials, except that he was a schoolmaster at Dunfermline, and died some time before 1508. His principal poem is The Testament of Cresseid, being a sequel to Chaucer's romantic poem, Troylus and Cresseide. He wrote a series of fables, thirteen in number, and some miscellaneous poems, chiefly of a moral character. One of his fables is the common story of the Town Mouse and Country Mouse, which he treats with much humour and characteristic description, and concludes with a beautifully expressed moral. [Dinner given by the Town Mouse to the Country Mouse.] their harboury was tane Intill a spence, where victual was plenty, Baith cheese and butter on lang shelves richt hie, With fish and flesh enough, baith fresh and salt, And pockis full of groats, baith meal and malt. After, when they disposit were to dine, Withouten grace they wuish' and went to meat, On every dish that cookmen can divine, Mutton and beef stricken out in telyies grit ; Ane lordis fare thus can they counterfeit, Except ane thing-they drank the water clear Instead of wine, but yet they made gude cheer. With blyth upcast and merry countenance, The elder sister then spier'd at her guest, Gif that sho thoucht by reason difference Betwixt that chalmer and her sairy2 nest. London stone is still preserved in Cannon Street, formerly Yea, dame,' quoth sho, but how lang will this last l
Where much people I saw for to stand; One offered me velvet, silk, and lawn,
Another he taketh me by the hand,
'Here is Paris thread, the finest in the land!'
Then comes me one cried hot sheep's feet;'
One cried mackerel, rushes green, another gan greet,
1 Koopen, (Flem.) is to buy. Took notice; paid attention.
ralled Canwick, or Candlewick Street.
5 A fragment of
'For evermair, I wait, and langer too;'
A threif2 of cakes, I trow sho spared them noucht,
Furmage full fine sho broucht instead of jeil,
A white candle out of a coffer staw,
Instead of spice, to creish their teeth witha'.
Thus made they merry, while they micht nae mair,
Syne comfort gave, with words as honey sweet.
With water kail, and green beans and peas.
With fair 'treaty, yet gart she her rise;
And bade God speed. The burgess up then gat,
Sae hie sho clam, that Gilbert might not get her,
Till he was gane, her cheer was all the better:
Thy guise is gude, thy gane-full sour as gall;
So shall thou find hereafterward may fall.
I thank yon curtain, and yon parpane wall,
Of my defence now frae yon cruel beast; Almighty God, keep me fra sic a feast! Were I into the place that I cam frae,
For weel nor wae I should ne'er come again.'
I cannot tell how afterward sho fure.
But I heard syne she passit to her den,
Blissed be simple life, withouten dreid;
The Garment of Good Ladies.
I should a garment goodliest
Of high honoùr should be her hood,
Her sark3 should be her body next,
Of chastity so white:
With shame and dread together mixt,
The same should be perfyte.4
Her kirtle should be of clean constance,
The mailies of continuance,
For never to remove.
Her gown should be of goodliness,
Her belt should be of benignity,
To thole 9 both wind and weit. 10
Her sleeves should be of esperance,
Her shoen should be of sickerness,
1 Cause to be made to her shape.
injure her. 3 Shift.
6 Eyelet-holes for lacing her kirtle. 8 Each. fringed, or bordered. 11 Thinking.
2 No opinion should 5 Lawful. 7 Parfilé (French), 9 Endure. 10 Wet.
12 Her neck ribbon of pity.
Would she put on this garment gay,
WILLIAM DUnbar, a poet,' says Sir Walter Scott, unrivalled by any that Scotland has ever produced,' flourished at the court of James IV., at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries. His works, with the exception of one or two pieces, were confined, for above two centuries, to an obscure manuscript, from which they were only rescued when their language had become so antiquated, as to render the world insensible in a great measure to their many excellencies. To no other circumstance can we attribute the little justice that is done by popular fame to this highly-gifted poet, who was alike master of every kind of verse, the solemn, the descriptive, the sublime, the comic, and the satirical. Having received his education at the university of St Andrews, where, in 1479, he took the degree of master of arts, Dunbar became a friar of the Franciscan order (Grey Friars), in which capacity he travelled for some years not only in Scotland, but also in England and France, preaching, as was the custom of the order, and living by the alms of the pious, a mode of life which he himself acknowledges to have involved a constant exercise of falsehood, deceit, and flattery. In time, he had the grace, or was enabled by circumstances, to renounce this sordid profession. It is supposed, from various allusions in his writings, that, from about the year 1491 to 1500, he was occasionally employed by the king (James IV.) in some subordinate, but not unimportant capacity, in connexion with various foreign embassies, and that he thus visited Germany, Italy, Spain, and France, besides England and Ireland. He could not, in such a life, fail to acquire much of that knowledge of mankind which forms so important a part of the education of the poet. In 1500, he received from the king a pension of ten pounds, afterwards increased to twenty, and finally to eighty. He is supposed to have been employed by James in some of the negotiations preparatory to his marriage with the Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry VII., which took place in 1503. For some years ensuing, he seems to have lived at court, regaling his royal master with his poetical compositions, and probably also his conversation, the charms of which, judging from his writings, must have been very great. It is sad to relate of one who possessed so buoyant and mirthful a spirit, that his life was not, as far as we can judge, a happy one. He appears to have repined greatly at the servile courtlife which he was condemned to lead, and to have longed anxiously for some independent source of income. Amongst his poems, are many containing nothing but expressions of solicitude on this subject. He survived the year 1517, and is supposed to have died about 1520, at the age of sixty; but whether he ultimately succeeded in obtaining preferment, is not known. His writings, with scarcely any exception, remained in the obscurity of manuscript till the beginning of the last century; but his fame has been gradually rising since then, and it was at length, in 1834, so great as to justify a complete edition of his works, by Mr David Laing..
The poems of Dunbar may be said to be of three classes, the Allegorical, the Moral, and the Comic; besides which there is a vast number of productions composed on occasions affecting himself, and which may therefore be called personal poems. His chief
allegorical poems are the Thistle and the Rose (a triumphant nuptial song for the union of James and the Princess Margaret), the Dance, and the Golden Terge; but allegory abounds in many others, which do not strictly fall within this class. Perhaps the most remarkable of all his poems is one of those here enumerated, the Dance. It describes a procesand for strength and vividness of painting, would sion of the seven deadly sins in the infernal regions, stand a comparison with any poem in the language. The most solemn and impressive of the more exclusively moral poems of Dunbar, is one in which he sides in a debate on earthly and spiritual affections, represents a thrush and nightingale taking opposite the thrush ending every speech or stanza with a recommendation of a lusty life in Love's service," and the nightingale with the more melodious declaThere is, however, something more touching to comration, All Love is lost but upon God alone.' mon feelings in the less laboured verses in which he moralises on the brevity of existence, the shortness and uncertainty of all ordinary enjoyments, and the
wickedness and woes of mankind.
This wavering warld's wretchedness
For to consider is ane pain.
The sliding joy, the gladness short,
For to consider is ane pain.
The suggared mouths, with minds therefra,
in another poem
Evermair unto this warld's joy,
His very heir, succeedés Pain.
He is, at the same time, by no means disposed habitually to take gloomy or desponding views of life. He has one poem, of which each stanza ends with 'For to be blyth methink it best.' In another, he advises, since life is so uncertain, that the good things of this world should be rationally enjoyed while it is yet possible. Thine awn gude spend,' says he, while thou has space.' There is yet another, in which these Horatian maxims are still more pointedly enforced, and from this we shall select a few stanzas :
Be merry, man, and tak not sair in mind
The wavering of this wretched world of sorrow; To God be humble, to thy friend be kind, And with thy neighbours gladly lend and borrow; His chance to-night, it may be thine to-morrow; Be blyth in hearte for my aventure,
For oft with wise men it has been said aforow, Without Gladness availes no Treasure.
Make thee gude cheer of it that God thee sends,
For warld's wrak but welfare3 nought avails; Nae gude is thine save only that thou spends,
Remanant all thou bruikes but with bails Seek to solace when sadness thee assails; In dolour lang thy life may not endure,
Wherefore of comfort set up all thy sails; Without Gladness availes no Treasure.
Follow on pity, flee trouble and debate,
For trouble in earth tak no melancholy;
Dunbar was as great in the comic as in the solemn strain, but not so pure. His Twa Married Women and the Widow is a conversational piece, in which three gay ladies discuss, in no very delicate terms, the merits of their husbands, and the means by which wives may best advance their own interests. but licentious tale. There is one piece of peculiar The Friars of Berwick (not certainly his) is a clever humour, descriptive of an imaginary tournament between a tailor and a shoemaker, in the same low region where he places the dance of the seven deadly sins. It is in a style of the broadest farce, and full of very offensive language, yet as droll as anything in Scarron or Smollett.
The Merle and Nightingale.
In May, as that Aurora did upspring,
Under this branch ran down a river bright,
Ne'er sweeter noise was heard with living man,
Cease, quoth the Merle, thy preaching, Nightingale:
The Nightingale said, Fool, remember thee,
And died himself, fro' dead him to succour ;
O, whether was kythit there true love or none !
And love is lost but upon him alone.
The Merle said, Why put God so great beauty
O Nightingale ! it were a story nice,
God bade eke love thy neighbour fro the spleen ;
The Nightingale said, Bird, why does thou rave!
The Merle said, Love is cause of honour aye,
The Nightingale said, True is the contrary,
Then said the Merle, Mine error I confess :
But love the love that did for his love die:
Then sang they both with voices loud and clear,
Then flew thir birdis o'er the boughis sheen,
Me to recomfort most it does avail,
To think how sung this Merle and Nightingale;
Of Februar the fifteenth nicht,
I lay intill a trance;
And then I saw baith heaven and hell: Methocht amangs the fiendis fell,
Mahoun gart cry ane Dance Of shrewis that were never shriven,3 Agains the fast of Fastern's Even,4
To mak their observance
He bade gallands gae graith a guise,5 And cast up gamonds in the skies, As varlots does in France.
Heillie 7 harlots, haughten-wise, 8
But yet leuch never Mahoun;
While precsts came in with bare shaven necks, Then all the fiends leuch and made gecks, Black-belly and Bausy-broun.9
Let see, quoth he, who now begins.
And first in all the Dance was PRIDE,
His kethat12 for the nanes.13
They grinned with hideous granes.
He brandished like a bear; Boasters, braggarts, and bargainers, After him, passit in to pairs,
All boden in 'feir of weir,14
In jacks, and scrips, and bonnets of steel ;
Some upon other with brands beft,15
With knives that sharp could shear.
1 Whose close disputation yet moved my thoughts. 2 The Devil.
3 Accursed men, who had never been absolved in the other world. 4 The eve of Lent.
5 Prepare a masque. 8 Haughtily. 9 The names of popular spirits in Scotland. 10 Something touching puffed up manners appears to be hinted at in this obscure line. 11 Large folds. 12 Robe. 13 For the occasion. 14 Arrayed in the accoutrements of war. 15 Gave blows.
* Dunbar is a poet of a high order. ** His Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins, though it would be absurd to compare it with the beauty and refinement of the celebrated Ode on the Passions, has yet an animated picturesqueness not unlike that of Collins. The effect of both pieces shows how much more potent allegorical figures become, by being made to fleet suddenly before the imagination, than by being detained in its view by prolonged description. Dunbar conjures up the personified sins, as Collins does the passions, to rise, to strike, to disappear. "They come like shadows, so depart." '—CAMP
Next in the Dance followed Envy,
Hid malice and despite :
For privy hatred that traitor trembled ;
And rouners of fals lesings,
Next him in Dance came COVETICE,
That never could be content:
Full sleepy was his grunyie ;7 Mony sweir bumbard belly-huddron,8 Mony slute daw, and sleepy duddron,9 Him servit ay with sunyie.10 He drew them furth intill a chenyie, And Belial with a bridle reinyie
Ever lashed them on the lunyie :"1 In dance they were sae slaw of feet, They gave them in the fire a heat,
And made them quicker of counyie.
4 Great quantity.
9 Slow and sleepy drabs. 12 Circulation, as of coin. 14 A compliment, obviously, to the poetical profession. 15 Pageant. In this stanza Dunbar satirises the outlandish habits and language of the Highlanders.