Poems Comic, Satiric, and Parodic

WILLIAM DUNBAR: THE COMPLETE WORKS: FOOTNOTES


1 Of lechery, gluttony, with sloth always to be overcome

2 Friends, prosperity, here peace, then Heaven's bliss

3 Lines 71-72: Where burning souls / Are always crying, Woe Woe!

4 "With the holy, holy you shall be" (Psalm 17:26 in the Vulgate)

5 to show mercy to the downtrodden

6 While the most valuable effects they grab for themselves

7 Some with a large number [of churches] play dice

8 Lines 65-66: It might by this [time], had it been [according to] the natural order of things, / Coming out of (all the way from) the deserts of India

9 That I should be a Yuletide nag (i.e., a horse put out to pasture/a "holiday" horse too old to work)

10 I was anxious until a certain lord (the Lord Treasurer) came home

11 Such strikings and strugglings were on [the] stair

12 Lines 9-10: For to have ridden away would have been less humiliating / Than to have allowed their wives to have been infected with the pox

13 Lines 103-18: And do not lead us into the temptation of Stirling, / But deliver us from its evil. / Give them the peace of Edinburgh, Lord, / And let its light shine upon them. / From Stirling's gate of sadness, / Lord, bring forth their souls and bodies. / I believe I shall taste the wine of Edinburgh / In the city of the living. / May they shortly be at rest in Edinburgh. Amen. / Lord, hear my prayer, / And let my cry come to Thee. / Let us pray. / God, who deigns to free the just and the humble of heart from their tribulations, release Thy servants dwelling in the town of Stirling from all its pain and sorrows, and bring them joyfully to the bliss of Edinburgh. Amen.

14 For the good things in life, wherever you get them

15 Hail, sovereign lord, your balls hang out through your breeches

16 Lean, impotent lay-about, louse-ridden in groin and loin

17 Useless coward, no one accounts you [to be worth] a piece of cress

18 Lines 221-22: Then old women cry, "Keep your kerchiefs (finery) hidden (in the dark) - / Our gallows gape (i.e., are empty) - lo, where an ill-favored loser lurks (goes)!"

19 Lines 239-40: Outdone in flytting, poxed (cunt-bitten/impotent/infected by venereal disease), filthy (beshitten), scruffy (hardened skin), / Ladder-climber (i.e., one about to be executed), one who befouls the hangman's noose, loathsome (vile, plague-infected) adder, I defy you

20 Lines 241-42: Maggoty sheep, nipple-biter, naked glutton, heir to a sheepshed (?), / Nasty-smelling beggar, oyster dredger, flea infestation in the hall

21 Lines 243-44: Pig guts, ill-made shoe, chaff-licker in the millhouse, / Villainous "poet," born thief, false traitor, spawn of a fiend

22 Lines 245-46: Tallow-stuffing, stretched sack (i.e., gallows bird) - epitome of defeat (cry "beaten"), you are overcome! / Mutton driver, grain thief, mare humper, evil befall you

23 Retract your poems, both ban and burn thy letter.

24 The ravens shall tear nothing except your tongue's roots (i.e., throat)

25 Crying "charity," at doors, "by the love of God"

26 Whereas you accuse me of poisoning, I charge

27 You shall buy it dearly, dwarf, if you deal with me

28 With "Out of the depths" defend yourself, and [if] that fails

29 Devil-bear, your spear of war doubtless you must yield (i.e., you are defeated)

30 So glittered like gold wire their glorious gilt tresses

31 And give all impotent men their walking papers when they lack heartiness (potency)

32 And proclaim my beauty abroad where men were numerous

33 A vigorous furrower, always up front, and forceful in plowing

34 For all the fruit that I should seize, though he [made] the flower bloom

35 I have [as husband] a useless slob, a worm, an old hairy caterpillar

36 A scabby cormorant, a scorpion, a befouled behind

37 He shoves on me his shovel-mouth and befouls my lips

38 He extends his lip like a sick old nag leering at a filly

39 Lines 128-29: And may not satisfy my needs in bed worth a bean. / He thinks I yearn eagerly for young folk, since he is senile

40 I think the delay dearly bought, so feeble are his works

41 He has a body without strength and appearance without energy

42 And how it suits him so widely to boast of such matters

43 To such a coward without desire who possessed my splendid beauty

44 She should not flinch at his stroke a straw's breadth of earth

45 Laughing loudly the others commended her greatly

46 They quaffed the sweet wine, those swan-white ladies

47 If you do not wish to be abandoned to faithless deceivers

48 Lines 275-77: Well could I scratch his crooked back and comb his cropped head, / And with puffed out cheeks make a face at him from behind, / And with a look of respect turn about and blear his old eye

49 Lines 298-99: But we were not equals in friendship nor in descent, / Nor generosity nor conduct, nor personal beauty

50 That lower-class person was never of such worth as to presume ever

51 He dared not once disregard my summons, for before a second command

52 If not for the injury to my reputation and the people's disapproval

53 Lines 346-47: That my anger nearly erupted before the contract was established. / But when my legal documents and formal reproaches were all fully sealed

54 Until after the death of that drooper who was useless in bed

55 When he a whole year was curbed and needed sexual passion

56 As if with man's sexual dealings I were done for the rest of my life

57 Lines 429-30: To see what man is best brawned or broadest in shoulders / Or forged is most strongly to provide a [sexual] banquet

58 We present ourselves in such a way as to deceive men of the truth

59 I am so piteous to the poor when there are many people

60 And many glance inside who sit far on the outside

WILLIAM DUNBAR: THE COMPLETE WORKS: EXPLANATORY NOTES

Abbreviations

Ar: Arundel MS
As: Asloan MS
B: Bannatyne MS
BD: Bannatyne Draft MS
Bw: Bawcutt, Poems of William Dunbar (1998), 2 vols.
CM: Chapman and Myllar Print
CT: Canterbury Tales
DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue
HF: House of Fame
IMEV: Brown and Robbins, Index of Middle English Verse
K: Kinsley, William Dunbar: Poems (1957)
LGW: Legend of Good Women
Mc: Mackenzie, Poems of William Dunbar (1932; rev. 1960)
MED: Middle English Dictionary
MEL: Middle English Lyrics, ed. Luria and Hoffman
MF: Maitland Folio MS
OED: Oxford English Dictionary
PF: Parliament of Fowls
R: Reidpeth MS
RP: The so-called Rouen Print
RR: Roman de la Rose
SGGK: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
TA: Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland
TC: Troilus and Criseyde


1. On the Nativity of Christ [Et nobis puer natus est]

Dunbar's hymn on the birth of Christ is often considered one of the finest expressions of sheer joy in English literature. In what is sometimes referred to as the Jubilate omnia theme, the voices of all Creation blend together in celebration of this most special occasion, Christ's Nativity. The Latin phrase with which the poem begins, and the second Latin phrase that provides the refrain for each stanza, both derive from messianic passages in Isaias; they were incorporated in the liturgy for Advent services and were also used for the Feast of the Annunciation. The image of the dew dropping from Heaven was commonly associated in the Middle Ages with the Incarnation and is frequently found in hymns in the Adoration of the Virgin tradition. (Compare the "dew in Aprille" [line 15] of the Marian lyric "I syng of a Maiden" - MEL, p. 170.) While the poem focuses primarily on Christ's Nativity, it also contains many traditional images and symbols that occur in literary and visual depictions of the Annunciation and the Incarnation. Seven 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC, the refrain in Latin. Found in B only. Mc79, K1, Bw58.

1-2 Verse 2 is the English paraphrase of the Latin in verse 1, which comes from Isaias 45:8, the Introit for the fourth Sunday in Advent.

3-7 Here the birth of Christ is treated as if a new sun has arisen, a daystar so bright that no clouds can hide it and not even the old sun, Phoebus Apollo, can rival it. (Compare Apocalypse 22:16 where Jesus is called "the bright and morning star.") This new sun, which has come down from His heavenly tower, is born of the Virgin Mary, the flower of flowers and the rose of Paradise. Compare "A Ballad of Our Lady" (Poem 4), line 26, where the phrase "day sterne" is used to describe Mary.

8 Et nobis puer natus est. The Latin phrase from Isaias 9:6 commonly appears as a refrain in nativity carols as well as the Christmas Mass Introit.

9-10 There are nine groups of angels comprising the heavenly hierarchy, and five of them are mentioned here: archangels, angels, dominations, thrones, and powers (the four not mentioned are seraphim, cherubim, virtues, and principalities). The marteris seir ("martyrs many," line 10) probably refers to the 144,000 of Apocalypse 14 who have merited a place for themselves in Heaven prior to the general Last Judgment.

9-16 Beginning with the denizens of Heaven, the movement in this stanza is downward from the angels and martyred saints, to the operations of the cosmos - the stars, planets, spheres, and the heavenly vault - and then to the realm of Nature existing beneath the moon and composed of the elements fire, earth, air, water. These verses probably suggest that the birth of Christ has brought about a great cosmic harmony, and as a result, all of creation rejoices.

12 firmament. The heavenly vault generally, though possibly the eighth sphere of the fixed stars.

17-24 In this stanza the focus shifts to sinful man, whose redemption is made possible by Christ's birth, death, and resurrection. Lines 19-20 reveal that because sinners were not able to come to Christ, Christ has humbly volunteered to come to them.

25-32 Now the poet turns more specifically to members of the clergy, who are urged to fulfill their responsibilities and to honor this occasion with reverence and ceremony.

28 of kingis King. From Apocalypse 19:16. Compare "In Praise of Women" (Poem 5), line 29.

33-56 The final three stanzas return to the Jubilate omnia theme introduced earlier, as the birds, the flowers, and then all of creation unite in singing Gloria in excelsis.

38-39 In "On the Resurrection of Christ" (Poem 3), lines 21-23, Christ is also depicted as the glorious dawn or daybreak that dispells the darkness of night. This image also recalls Isaias 9:2 ("the people that walk in darkness shall see a bright light"), a verse read by Christian exegetes as an allusion to the Harrowing of Hell.

43-44 The image of Jesus as the blessed fruit of Mary would have been familiar from the angelic salutation of the Annunciation (Luke 1:28, 42): Ave Maria, gratia plena; dominus tecum: benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedicus fructus ventris tui Jesus ("Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus").

47 Prince. Compare Isaias 9:6 ("the prince of peace").

49-51 The regions of the universe treated in stanzas 2 and 3 - the heavens, the area of the cosmos between Heaven and earth, and the earthly realm itself - are again shown to be three distinctive places that unite in celebrating the Lord's coming.

49 hevin imperiall. The highest heaven of all and God's dwelling place. Compare Douglas, The Palis of Honoure, line 1878, and Lindsay, Dreme, lines 383 and 514-18.

51 fische . . . foull. A common juxtaposition indicative of scope. Compare the thirteenth-century song "Foweles in the frith / þe fisses in þe flod" - MEL, p. 7.

53 Gloria in excelsis. "Glory in the highest"; these are the initial words of the Gloria in the Mass, reflecting the angels' words to the shepherds in Luke 2:14.


2. Of the Passion of Christ

One of Dunbar's several dream-vision poems, "Of the Passion of Christ" is a Good Friday meditation that offers a vivid account of the events surrounding Christ's Passion. In addition to depicting the terrible agony experienced by Christ both before and during the Crucifixion, the poem also reminds sinful man of the spiritual preparations he must make in preparing a resting place for Christ in his heart. After the initial stanza, in which the narrator falls asleep in the oratory of a friary, the next eleven stanzas (lines 9-96) focus on the horrific events themselves; among the grisly details depicted are several that are absent from the gospel accounts but that are often seen in the visual arts and in literary works such as the mystery plays. The next sub-section comprises five stanzas depicting the narrator's emotional responses, which are reflected in a series of personified figures (representing the narrator's own internal feelings) who vigorously accost him and ultimately purify him, making him a fit receptacle for God's grace. In the final stanza the narrator awakens and immediately records his visionary experience. Hasler comments on the meditative patterns that foreground the cultural construction of subjectivity as the poem establishes connections between language and desire: "The subject observing the Passion becomes a series of metamorphoses of allegorical spaces; the engaged witness is transformed into a stage for a psychomachia, to emerge finally as a house fit for Christ to enter" (p. 197). Eighteen 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbc in MF; As contains only twelve stanzas. Mc80, K3, Bw1.

3-4 And knelit doun with ane Pater Noster / Befoir the michtie King of Glorie. I.e., he kneels down and recites the Lord's Prayer before an image of Christ; for the phrase King of Glory, see Psalm 24:7-10 in the Vulgate. Compare "The Table of Con-fession" (Poem 7), lines 1-3.

7 gaude flore. He sings the popular Latin hymn Gaude flore virginali, which concerns the seven heavenly joys of the Virgin. In my gloss I have followed the ME poet's translation of "Gaude virgo, Mater Christi": "Glade us, maiden, moder milde." See Middle English Marian Lyrics, ed. Karen Saupe (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1998), Poem 87, line 1 (p. 162).

16 O mankynd, for the luif of thee. This line, which becomes the refrain for this 11- stanza sub-group, recalls line 49 in Lydgate's Cristes Passioun: "Al this was doon, O man, for love of the!" (p. 218).

19 ruge. According to DOST, the word primarily means "to tug," esp. violently, and is often used in conjunction with the feeding habits of beasts that ruge (i.e., "rend") their food, a meaning utilized in lines 60 and 106. A secondary, nominal meaning of the word is "roaring," for which DOST lists only this line as a source. It is likely that Dunbar has both meanings in mind here, an implication that further emphasizes the terrible violence perpetrated on Christ.

26 For scorne thai cled Him into quhyt. That Jesus was garbed in white as a mark of scorn reflects the Latin phrase vesta alba in the Vulgate text of Luke 23:11.

29 Dispituouslie syn did Him smyt. Luke 22:64.

38 warldis thre. Three is a number indicative of a totality, thus "all worlds"; see Vincent Hopper, Medieval Number Symbolism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1938), pp. 4-5, and Aristotle's De Caelo 1.1. Augustine, in De Libro Arbitro 2.11.126, implies a formulation whereby the three worlds of air, land, and sea are equivalent to the "everywhere" that would perish were it not for God's numbering of Creation.

54 His face, the fude of angellis fre. The reference recalls line 28, which had mentioned the delight angels took in looking upon His eyes; in both cases the references emphasize the vileness of what is taking place. The phrase may ultimately derive from the Latin phrase panis angelorum ("the bread of angels") in Psalm 77:25 in the Vulgate. Compare IMEV 1715, where Jesus is called "the faire aungels fode" (line 33) and "aungels brede" (line 44).

59-62 The clayth that claif to His cleir hyd . . . That it was pietie for to se. This gruesome detail is not found in the canonical scriptures but does occur in other literary accounts, including the cycle plays (see Rosemary Woolf's discussion, The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968], pp. 226-27).

71 be houris sax. Possibly "for six hours," though more likely "at the sixth hour" (John 19:14).

74-76 Quhill all His vanis brist and brak . . . Thay leit Him fall doun with ane swak. Christ's tormentors allow the Cross to fall to intensify His suffering; this is a traditional feature rather than a scriptural one.

81 Betuix tuo theiffis the spreit He gaif. Luke 23:46.

83-85 The erde did trimmill . . . The day wox dirk as ony nicht. Luke 23:45.

86 Deid bodies rais in the cité. Matthew 27:52-53.

89-92 weir that He wes yit on lyf . . . blude and watter did furth glyde. John 19:34.

97-136 In this 5-stanza sub-group (which introduces a new refrain line), the vision shifts from focusing on the events of the Passion to focusing on the narrator's emotional response to them. The device of having a series of allegorical personifications interact directly with the narrator is one that Dunbar uses in many poems. The afflictions visited upon him by Compassion, Contrition, Ruth, Remembrance, Pain, and Pity show how genuine and how painful is his response to Christ's suffering. Unlike the others, Grace treats him kindly and urges him to prepare a final resting place for Christ.

104 Thy blissit Salvatour Jesu. The new refrain reflects the dreamer's acceptance of Jesus as his "blessed Savior," one of the most important of the traditional names for Jesus.

106 rugging. The verbal echo of lines 19 and 60 deftly recalls both the buffeting and scourging of Christ, a literal example of the act of Remembrance and thereby of the experience of the dreamer.

109 passioun. Once again, Dunbar utilizes a verbal echo, this time of line 5, to provide a concrete example of the experience of the dreamer. The dream is situated by reflection upon the Passion, and it is the pain of that Passion - graphically revealed in the dream vision itself - that causes the dreamer such pain and moves him, at last, to Pity and Grace.

115-19 The final resting place that Grace urges the narrator to prepare for Christ is not a tomb or sepulcher but rather a home - presumably a spiritual home within the heart or body of the true Christian (compare 2 Corinthians 5:1). This metaphor is continued in the next two stanzas.

117 dayis thre. The three days between the dreamer's witnessing of the Passion and the Christ's return into his soul parallels the three days between Christ's death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter Sunday (Luke 24:7). It is also likely meant to recall the three worlds ransomed by Christ's Passion (line 38).

119 in thy hous sall herbrit be. For the body as the soul's dwelling place, see 2 Corinthians 5:1. This medieval commonplace provides the allegorical framework for works such as King Hart.

121-28 Here Contrition, Confession, Conscience, and Repentance cleanse the dwelling and open its gates so that Penance can enter, all in anticipation of the Savior's arrival. In the following stanza Grace becomes the dwelling's caretaker.

123 Conscience me accusit heir. Conscience plays a vital role at the Last Judgment; see 2 Corinthians 1:12 and King Hart, line 572.

131-132 Being spiritually prepared for the Lord's arrival is the message of such parables as "The Good Steward" in Matthew 24 and "The Wise and Foolish Virgins" in Matthew 25.

138-39 The earthquake which awakes the narrator recalls the shaking of the earth at the moment of Christ's death in the gospel accounts (e.g., Matthew 27:51, compare line 83); here, of course, it also provides the device by which the narrator's visionary experience is brought to an end.

140 With spreit halflingis in effray. The line may reflect the state of emotional turmoil in which the narrator awakens, while also suggesting that the spirit creatures who have appeared to him are fleeing in all directions. Compare line 187 of "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30).


3. On the Resurrection of Christ [Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro]

The third of Dunbar's hymn-like poems depicts Christ's great triumph over Satan and his minions in the Harrowing of Hell and celebrates His Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. Here the poet creates a striking collage of traditional images and ideas associated with the time immediately following the Crucifixion. Virtually every commentator on the poem has been in awe of the compelling rhythmic power of Dunbar's verses; C. S. Lewis called it "speech of unanswerable and thundering greatness" (1954, p. 96). Contributing to the thundering effect of the verses is Dunbar's frequent use of alliteration and especially the end-stopped quality of every line in the poem. It seems quite possible that the poem was composed for choral singing, though we have no evidence that that actually occurred. The Latin refrain is a versicle for the Mass for Easter Sunday.
     The poem contains a total of forty lines, arranged in five 8-line stanzas, and it is possible that the numbers 5, 8, and 40, numbers rich in biblical associations and symbolism, were selected to enhance the themes of the Resurrection. In regard to structure, the first and last stanzas of the poem summarize the overall events; the second stanza focuses on images of Satan and his malice; the third focuses on images of Christ and His victory over Satan; and the fourth stanza emphasizes the glorious consequences of Christ's Resurrection. See Pamela K. Shaffer, pp. 54-60, for a detailed analysis of the poem's symmetrical architecture. The rhyme scheme - ababbcbC - is that of Dunbar's other hymns. B only. Mc81, K4, Bw10.

1 dragon blak. The dragon symbolizes Satan several times in Apocalypse, particularly in the War in Heaven. See Apocalypse 12:7-9, 12:17, and 20:2.

2 Our campioun Chyrst. The heroic actions of Christ following His death on the Cross provide the subject for numerous literary works throughout the Middle Ages. The English mystery play cycles include a Harrowing of Hell play, and there are vivid descriptive accounts in poems such as the Middle English debate poem Death and Liffe. The principal source for all of these materials is the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. The scriptural basis for the Harrowing of Hell is very slight, occurring only in 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6.

3 The gettis of Hell ar brokin with a crak. The breaking open of the gates of Hell is a common element in the Harrowing of Hell; it occurs in Nicodemus 18, and may derive ultimately from Psalm 23:7 in the Vulgate.

4 The signe triumphall rasit is of the Croce. Depictions of Christ - both visual and literary - carrying the Cross as a battle standard were medieval commonplaces.

6 The saulis ar borrowit and to the blis can go. The redeemed souls that now can go to bliss are those of the Old Testament patriarchs, who were condemned to Hell as a consequence of Adam's sin. Compare the Middle English lyric "Adam lay i-bounden" (MEL, p. 147).

7 indoce. Literally, "endorse"; the metaphor is a financial one in which Christ has repaid Man's ransom by endorsing the promissory note with His own blood.

8 Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro. Compare Luke 24:34.

9 the deidly dragon Lucifer. Satan is not depicted as a serpent in Genesis 3 alone, but also in Apocalypse 12:9, where he is called "the ancient serpent . . . the deceiver of the whole world." For the name Lucifer ("light-bearer"), compare Isaias 14:12.

11-15 The tiger, like the dragon and the serpent, was also a common symbol of the devil in the Middle Ages. This cruel beast who lies in wait for his prey will be thwarted by the lion, the resurrected Christ of line 19.

18 lyk a lamb in sacrifice. Christ is depicted as a lamb in many passages of Scripture: e.g., Isaias 53:7, Acts 8:32, 1 Peter 1:19, and throughout Apocalypse.

19 lyk a lyone rissin up agane. In Apocalypse 5:5 Christ is called the Lion of Judah; and commonly in medieval bestiary literature the lion was a symbol of Resurrection - this was because a lion cub was said to be brought to life on the third day after its birth when its father licked it into shape and breathed into its face.

20 as a gyane raxit Him on hicht. Probably an allusion to the exultant giant in Psalm 18:6 in the Vulgate; but the story of Samson carrying off the gates of Gaza (Judges 16:3) may also be pertinent. In any case, it is a powerful and arresting image. See Biblia Pauperum, plate 1 (p. 43), which juxtaposes Samson carrying the gates with the Resurrection.

21-23 Christ is the bringer of radiant light - He is the dawn, the sun, and the day that vanquishes the night. Compare "On the Nativity of Christ" (Poem 1), lines 36-40.

27-28 The allusion in these verses is to the darkness that occurs during the Crucifixion (Luke 23:44-45).

29 The knell of mercy. This refers to the ringing of the church bells on Easter Sunday morning, emblematic of the triumph of the Resurrection. Compare Piers Plowman, B.18.428.

33-39 This final descriptive summary returns us to the initial stanza of the poem. Here the rhythm of each line is intensified by the yoking of pairs of related items: "The foe is chased, the battle is done / The prison broken, the jailers fled," etc.

35 weir. "War" is the obvious gloss, though there may also be connotations of weir n. 2: "uncertainty, doubt, and confusion"; and weir n. 3: "a bog, or slough, swamp," which are common metaphors of Hell (n.b., Bunyan's "slough of despond" from Pilgrim's Progress).

39 This verse takes us back to the first verse of the poem, telling us once more that the terrible black dragon that had guarded his hoard for so long has been vanquished and his treasure taken away. Thus the poem concludes with an image of Christ as a heroic dragon-slayer.


4. A Ballad of Our Lady [Ave Maria, gracia plena]

Dunbar's poem in praise of the Virgin is highly traditional and yet also quite unusual. It draws heavily upon the great store of traditional images associated with the Virgin in numerous Adoration of the Virgin poems, images that are derived not only from the scriptures but also from the liturgy, biblical commentaries, sermons, and Latin hymns. Most of these images are familiar to students of medieval literature - e.g., Mary as the bright heavenly star, Mary as the rose of Paradise, Mary as the fleur-de-lis, Mary as both mother and maiden, Mary as intercessor for sinful man. Others are probably less familiar - Mary as a shield and as a strong warrior, Mary as an unseen anchor, and Mary having been fed with angel food.
     At the same time, Dunbar's penchant for experimentation and innovation is greatly evident in this poem. For example, in each of the 12-line stanzas the Latin refrain occurs not in the final verse but in the ninth verse; and in each of these stanzas, aside from the Latin refrain, the end rhyme is achieved with just two rhyming sounds. Even more remarkable is the fact that in each a verse in the rhyme scheme internal rhyme occurs in triplets, while in each b verse there is alliteration. Aureate diction also occurs throughout the poem, and Dunbar often seems to be inventing words or adapting them directly from Latin phraseology - e.g., "regyne" (line 6) from regina, "rosyne" (line 8) from rosa. The end result of this profusion of devices is a jewel-like creation, though one, it is probably safe to say, that does not suit the taste of every modern reader. The poem survives only in As. Seven 12-line stanzas rhyming ababababCbab. Mc82, K2, Bw16.

1 Hale. Echoes of the angelic salutation to Mary, recorded in Luke 1:28 and 42, reverberate throughout the poem both in English and in the Latin Ave maria, gracia plena! of the refrain.

1-12 The dominant image in the first stanza is of Mary as a heavenly beacon who disperses the darkness and serves as our guide. Very often in poems on the Virgin she is called the stella maris, "the star of the sea," though that particular image does not occur in Dunbar's poem. Dunbar returns to the image of Mary as a heavenly star in lines 25-28.

5 Hodiern, modern, sempitern. "For this day, for this age, for all eternity"; compare Hebrews 13:8.

6 Angelicall regyne. The Virgin was often thought of as the queen of Heaven and the queen of angels; students of ME literature will be familiar with this idea from the anonymous ME poem Pearl. Compare Kennedy's Passioun of Crist, line 123.

8-10 The association of flowers with the Virgin - especially roses and lilies - probably derives from the imagery of the Canticle of Canticles 2:1-2.

9 Ave Maria, gracia plena. See Luke 1:28.

11 virgin matern. The phrase reflects the Virgin's paradoxical status as both maiden and mother.

14 Alphais habitakle. The reference is to the physical Incarnation of Christ in Mary; she has become His "dwelling." For Alphais, compare "I am the Alpha and the Omega" - Apocalypse 1:8 and 22:13.

16 His tabernakle. This is a common image for the Virgin's womb; compare Kennedy's Passioun, line 28: "The Haly Gaist schane in hir tabernkill."

22 but makle. "Without blemish," i.e., immaculate; in the ME lyric "I sing of a maiden" (MEL, p. 170) the Virgin is similarly said to be "makeles" (line 2).

26 day sterne. A phrase more often applied to Christ than to Mary, as in "On the Nativity of Christ" (Poem 1), line 23.

29-30 puttar to flicht / Of fendis in battale. This striking image of Mary as strong in fight is fairly unusual in adoration poems; nevertheless, the Virgin is sometimes so portrayed in Miracle of the Virgin narratives and in various works in the visual arts.

31 plicht. Although Mary is not called the stella maris in this poem, her frequent association with maritime metaphors is reflected in her image as an anchor, a traditional symbol of hope for medieval Christians.

34 gentill nychttingale. The nightingale, though often associated with amorous love in medieval literature, could also be associated with Christian love. Lydgate refers to Mary as a nightingale in Ballade of Reverence of Our Lady (line 80, p. 258); and in Dunbar's own "The Merle and the Nightingale" (Poem 66), the nightingale speaks in favor of loving God.

39 schene unseyne with carnale eyne. This image of Mary as a beauteous one who is unseen by human eyes, which contrasts strongly with the many references to her as a radiant heavenly beacon, accords with the image of Mary as an unseen anchor in line 31.

40 ros of Paradys. The rose of Paradise is also the rosa sine spina, the "rose without a thorn," a phrase commonly applied to the Virgin in poems of adoration. In medieval tradition, prior to the Fall the rose was unfading and thornless.

42 flour delyce. The fleur-de-lis, a variety of lily, often used to symbolize Mary's royalty and her sexual purity, a tradition arising from biblical commentaries on Canticle of Canticles 2:2.

43 grene daseyne. "Green daisy" - "green" perhaps in the sense of "fresh." The daisy, a variety of sunflower, was a common symbol of truth and fidelity in the Middle Ages, and in its whiteness and perfect circularity was associated the pearl. The Latin word margarita may be used to refer to either the daisy or the pearl.

47-48 Mary as intercessor or mediator is one of her most familiar and important roles. Oratice (line 48) means "orator" or "speaker" and is just one of the several terms Dunbar creates by applying the feminizing suffix -ice.

51 Our glore forlore for to restore. Mary, as the second Eve, restores our lost glory by undoing Eve's deed, which results in a greater good than would have otherwise been; this is perhaps an oblique allusion to the paradox of the Fortunate Fall.

56 To mak our oddis evyne. The phrase apparently refers to Mary's help in "evening up the odds" for sinners at the time of the Last Judgment when their souls are being weighed in the balance. There may also be a hint in this stanza that Mary will help to "even the odds" by producing a fortunate roll of the dice, suggested by the references to seven and eleven in lines 50 and 58.

59 Quhill store and hore my youth devore. "While pain and age devours my youth" - the only personal reference in the entire poem.

65 Our wys pavys fro enemys. In regard to Mary as our "shield," it is interesting to note that Sir Gawain has the image of the Virgin painted on the inside of his shield in SGGK (lines 648-50).

73 Imperiall wall. Kinsley interprets wall to mean "well" (or fountain), and Mary as a "well" or "wellspring" is certainly a common image in Marian poetry. But the central figure that runs through lines 73-78 is of Mary as a magnificent habitation suitable for enclosing Christ. Thus wall may actually refer to the "outer wall" or "rampart" which surrounds the palace, the hall, the hospice, and the private chamber ("closet" [line 78]) - all of which are itemized in the ensuing verses.

74 peirles pulcritud. Compare Douglas, The Palis of Honoure, line 1414.

79 Bricht ball cristall. Crystal was often used as a symbol of the Virgin's purity, though the image of the Virgin as a crystal ball was not so common. Here, though, it creates a compelling sense not only of her purity but also of her physical perfection, making her the perfect house in which to enclose the Lord.

80 angell fude. Compare "Of the Passion of Christ" (Poem 2), line 54 and note.

82-84 The final verses of the poem emphasize the crucial importance of the Virgin in the ransoming of fallen man by Christ on the Cross.


5. In Praise of Women

Because this poem in praise of women contrasts so strongly with the negative attitude toward women reflected in many of Dunbar's poems, some commentators have wondered whether "Now of wemen" should be assigned to him at all, or whether his praise of women might actually be ironic. While neither of those suggestions can be entirely discounted, they seem unlikely. Indeed, just as the previous poem is a genuine celebration of the Virgin Mary in particular, this poem appears to be a genuine celebration of women generally; and the two poems are directly connected by the fact that the Virgin is here presented as the supreme example of womanhood.
     While "In Praise of Women" is a celebration of all women, what it especially praises is mothers and motherhood and the most glorious mother of all, the Virgin mother. (If Mother's Day had been celebrated in the sixteenth century, one could imagine this poem as having been written for that occasion.) Beginning with verse 14, the emphasis in what follows is on the pain and suffering that mothers experience for the sake of their children - in conception and pregnancy, in giving birth, and in nursing and child-rearing. And as the poet points out in his final verses, although Christ did not have a human father, He had a human mother who bore Him in perfect holiness. For that reason, he suggests, women should be honored above all things. A ME poem containing many of the same sentiments is the Vernon MS poem "Of Women cometh this Worldes Weal" (IMEV 1596; see Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century, ed. Brown, pp. 174-77). This is Dunbar's only poem in iambic pentameter couplets. B and MF. Mc45, K72, Bw40.

4-6 Here the speaker denounces men who disparage women - which was certainly a common medieval phenomenon - by saying that a man who dishonors women only dishonors himself. Lines 22-26 repeat this sentiment in even stronger terms.

7-8 Sen that of wemen cumin all ar we; / Wemen ar wemen and sa will end and de. It is not entirely clear how these lines relate to each other, or what is intended by line 8. But what seems to be stressed is the commonality of men and women - women give birth to all people, men and women alike; and women are merely flesh and blood and thus subject to death, just as are men. Bawcutt believes there may be a visual play on words in wemen, with its possible suggestion of we men (Bw 2.373).

13 consaif with pane. This phrase probably refers to the pain of childbirth rather than conception, though it is also possible that it refers to the physical discomforts experienced by women during pregnancy.

22-24 "Whoever says anything against them, he fouls his own nest and should be exiled from good company." Although the unnatural act of fouling one's own nest is proverbial (Whiting B306), these lines directly recall issues raised in the ME bird debates the Owl and the Nightingale and the Thrush and the Nightingale. In the O&N the nightingale accuses the owl of being such a bird. The T&N concludes with the thrush, who has been disparaging women, being bested by the nightingale - whose trump card is Virgin Mary. The final result is that the thrush is exiled from the land.

27-30 The final argument in support of women stems from the fact that Christ had a human mother but no human father. At this point one might expect the poem to pursue the Adoration of the Virgin theme, but it does not. This has led some commentators to suspect that the poem has been abridged in order to satisfy post-Reformation religious sentiments.

29 King of Kingis. Compare "On the Nativity of Christ" (Poem 1), line 28; and Apocalypse 19:16.


6. The Manner of Going to Confession

"The Manner of Going to Confession" is one of Dunbar's several religious poems that focus on the Lenten season. Its particular concern is with the Christian's spiritual preparation for confession, and it is therefore one of the only poems we have in which we see the poet fulfilling one of his clerical responsibilities. The tone of the poem is sober and fatherly, gently admonishing its hearers to be mindful of the sins they must reveal to their priest. The forty days of Lent, the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, was a time for penitence and reflection on one's spiritual condition, all in anticipation of receiving the Holy Eucharist at mass on Easter Sunday. One curious side note in the poem is the speaker's admonition (in lines 29-35) to select one's confessor with care, comments that imply a criticism of some of his fellow clergymen. The main emphasis in the poem, though, is on the importance of searching one's conscience thoroughly, uncovering every sin, and then fully reporting those sins in confession. Ten 7-line rhyme royal stanzas rhyming ababbcc. Ar only. Mc84, K5, Bw41.

1 fourty dayis. The forty days of Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. Compare Henryson's Fables, lines 320 and 2120. Forty is used to signify a period of trial in the Bible: it measures the time Moses spent on the mountain (Exodus 24:18), Elijah traveled before his vision in the cave (3 Kings 19:8), Ninevah was given to repent (Jonas 3:4), the spies were in the land (Numbers 13:26), and, of course, the time Jesus spent in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2).

2 wilfull. "Willing," i.e., voluntary; a valid confession must be freely offered and not compelled.

3-6 The reference is to Jesus' forty-day fast in the wilderness. See Matthew 4:1-2.

8-14 The first requirement in preparation for confession, as these verses suggest, is a truly penitent heart.

13 That every syn be theselfe be schawin. This verse seems to indicate that each sin must be separately revealed.

15-28 This pair of stanzas develops an analogy between physical ailments and spiritual ailments. A person can be neither physically whole nor spiritually whole unless all ailments have been addressed. The confessor is a person's spiritual physician.

28 Thow sulde it tell with all the circumstance. The full circumstances surrounding a particular sin should also be recounted.

29 discreit. "Discerning"; the confessor must be able to distinguish, for example, between the lesser sins (venial sins) and greater sins (mortal sins). Compare "The Table of Confession" (Poem 7), line 91.

29-36 The speaker here urges his listeners to choose their confessors wisely. If they do not, it becomes a case of the blind leading the blind.

35 ane blynde man is led furth be aneuther. "The blind leading the blind" is a popular medieval proverb (Whiting B350), originating in Matthew 15:14. Pieter Bruegel the Elder has a striking painting illustrating this proverb (The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind, 1568). Compare Piers Plowman, B.12.180-86, and "Als I lay in a winteris nyt" (IMEV 351), lines 375-76.

48 contrycioun. On contrition as the first step toward penance, followed by confession of mouth, see Chaucer's Parson's Tale (CT X[I]106-315).

50-56 Here, finally, the sinner is advised to confess with his "own mouth" all of his sins, which he knows far better than anyone else.

54 Thow knawis best quhair bindis thee thi scho. Proverbial (Whiting S266).

57-63 Medieval Christians were required to go to confession at least once a year, a ruling that was established at the Lateran Council of 1215. The advice offered here is that they take stock of their spiritual situations far more frequently.

60 And on the end hes no rememberance. I.e., "And on the end [of life] gives no thought."

64-70 The advice offered in this final stanza is that we should be mindful of our moral conditions while we are still young, for there is great danger in putting it off until old age has come upon us. Compare Ecclesiastes 12:1.


7. The Table of Confession

This comprehensive enumeration of the sins probably served as a guide to confession for members of the laity, but it may also reflect the poet's own heartfelt contrition. Like the previous poem, it seems to give us a glimpse of Dunbar in his role as professional cleric; and also like the previous poem, it was probably written expressly for the Lenten season. Unlike "The Manner of Going to Confession," however, in which the speaking voice is admonitory and directed at the sinner, here the voice is that of the sinner himself.
     The poem reads like a primer in medieval Christian doctrine, with stanzas devoted to the five senses, the seven deadly sins, the seven deeds of corporal mercy, the seven deeds of spiritual mercy, the seven sacraments, the ten commandments, the twelve articles of faith, the seven virtues, and so on. But, as Bawcutt observes, the poem "is more than a dry tabulation of sins, and is suffused with emotion, particularly in the refrain and the final prayers" (Bw 2.485). "The Table of Confession" survives in four MS texts, three of which have been altered, probably to make them more palatable to Protestantism; the text here printed is from BL MS Arundel 285, a pre-Reformation devotional book once belonging to the Howard family. Twenty-one 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. Mc83, K6, Bw83.

1-8 This introductory stanza depicts the state of mind the humble and genuinely penitent sinner should be in as he approaches confession.

3 Befor Thy bludy figour dolorus. The speaker is presumably kneeling before an image of the Crucifixion, as in lines 3-5 of "Of the Passion of Christ" (Poem 2).

6 in word, in wark, and in entent. I.e., "In word, deed, and thought," a phrase from the General Confession.

8 I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent. I.e., "I beg of you mercy and a chance to repent"; compare Henryson's Fables, lines 775-76, and The Wallace 9.275-76.

11 my wittis fyve. The five wits, which are the five physical senses, are often mentioned in manuals on confession. The failure to control them leads to sins of the flesh. In SGGK they are one of the five fives symbolized by the pentangle on Sir Gawain's shield; Gawain is said to be faultless in his control of them (line 640), which the story largely bears out.

17-24 Here the speaker expresses his regret for exercising (Exercing, line 21) the seven deadly sins. The sins are listed in lines 19-20, beginning with pride, envy, wrath, and covetousness - the sins of the spirit. Then come lust, gluttony, and sloth - the sins of the flesh (although sloth may also be a spiritual sin). Compare their depiction in lines 13-102 of "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77).

23 Thy woundis five. The five wounds of Christ (two in the hands, two in the feet, and one in the side) became a commonplace in medieval devotional literature. They are also one of the fives represented by the pentangle on Gawain's shield (SGGK, lines 642-43).

25-32 The seven deeds of corporal mercy derive from Matthew 25:35-36: "I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink . . . ."

33-40 The seven deeds of spiritual mercy are correcting the sinner (line 35), teaching the ignorant (line 34), counseling the doubter (line 35), comforting the sorrowful (line 36), bearing wrongs with patience (line 38), forgiving others their offenses (line 39), and praying for the souls of the living and the dead (line 37).

43 hie Eucarist moist of exellence. The first - and "most of excellence" - of the seven sacraments is Holy Communion; the serving of the Eucharist on Easter Sunday is the culminating act of the entire Lenten season. The other sacraments are Baptism, Penance, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Ordination, and Extreme Unction.

49-56 The ten commandments are presented twice in the Old Testament, in Exodus 20:1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.

57-72 The twelve articles of faith listed in this stanza are familiar to many Christians as the Apostles' Creed.

73-80 The seven virtues consist of the three theological virtues - hope, faith, and charity - and the four cardinal virtues - fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice. For the Christian virtues compare 1 Corinthians 13:13 and Galatians 5:5-6.

76 Agins vicis sure anarmyng me. "Against the sins arming myself securely"; compare Ephesians 6:13-17.

81-88 The seven commands of the Church enumerated in this stanza are tithing, avoiding cursing, observing fast days, hearing mass, attending the parish church, making one's confession, and receiving communion once a year at Easter.

89-96 This stanza surveys the sins against the Holy Spirit, which St. Mark warns against in Mark 3:28-30. Compare Chaucer's Parson's Tale (CT X[I]692-95).

90 syn aganis natour. Presumably, this refers to "unnatural" sex acts; compare Romans 1:26-27.

91 of confessour undiscreit. As he did in line 29 of the previous poem and in line 85 of this poem, Dunbar again emphasizes the importance of selecting one's confessor wisely.

92 ressait synfull of my Salviour. I.e., receiving the Eucharist while still in a state of sinfulness.

94 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit originate in Isaias 11:2-3.

95 Pater Noster. The Lord's Prayer, from Matthew 6:9-13, which includes a series of seven clauses called the seven petitions.

105-44 These stanzas offer a lengthy catalogue of more particular offenses - especially sins of word, thought, and deed - in contrast to the more standard violations of Christian doctrine previously described.

105-12 This stanza focuses on varieties of the sin of evil speaking.

113-20 This stanza focuses on varieties of the sin of evil thinking.

121-28 This stanza depicts varieties of sinful deeds, especially improper actions concerning money and property.

129-36 Here the focus shifts to the speaker's sins involving duplicity, hypocrisy, and deceit.

134 Counsall. The King's Council, his chief group of advisors.

Sessioun. The Court of Sessions, the supreme civil court of Scotland, a parliamentary court that sat at various times in various places after 1425. See DOST Ses(s)io(u)n(e), ii. In "Tidings from the Session" (Poem 74), Dunbar affiliates the Session with Edinburgh. See also "Dunbar at Oxford" (Poem 28), line 37, and "To the Merchants of Edinburgh" (Poem 75), line 57.

140 culpabill knaw I me. In contrast to the previous stanzas, the speaker now acknowledges sins he knows he is capable of committing - sins that lodge in his heart - even though he has not actually committed them.

145-52 In this stanza the speaker likens himself to Mary Magdalene, whose sins Christ forgave. The model for the penitent sinner, she became the object of a popular cult in the Middle Ages. She was one of the witnesses to the Crucifixion and was among the first to see the risen Christ on Easter morning; she was also traditionally identified with the unnamed woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears in Luke 7:37-50. In Luke 8:2, Jesus cast seven demons out of her, traditionally seen as the seven deadly sins. See the Digby play of Mary Magdalene for a late medieval confluence of Magdalene traditions on penance and redemption.

153-60 Here the speaker, though physically unharmed, expresses his desire to share with Christ the full experience of His Passion on the Cross. Compare "Of the Passion of Christ" (Poem 2), lines 97-112.

163-64 Using a judicial metaphor, the speaker expresses his desire for his case to be heard, not in the Lord's court of extreme justice, but in His court of surpassing mercy; it is Christ's death and resurrection that makes such a request possible.

165-66 Although it is a medieval commonplace, the figure of the soul as a ship striving to reach safe harbor is a poignant one. Compare "Of Man's Mortality" (Poem 9), lines 41-44, and "Of the World's Vanity" (Poem 11), line 13.


8. All Earthly Joy Returns to Pain

There is no neat dividing line between Dunbar's religious poems and his moral poems, as this poem illustrates, for while it clearly belongs to the poet's series of Lenten poems - it is written specifically for Ash Wednesday - it also shares with his moral poems a fundamental concern with human mortality and earthly mutability. Dunbar has several poems in which the narrator tells us what he has overheard; in this case it is the "words" of a bird's song, a fairly common device in medieval poetry (Chaucer had used it in The Complaint of Mars, for example). It seems likely that the poem's forty lines are intended to provide a parallel to the forty days of Lent. The verse form of the poem is the French kyrielle, a quatrain rhyming aabB; Dunbar was fond of this form, employing it about a dozen times. B and MF (which omits lines 17-20). Mc71, K59, Bw49.

4 All erdly joy returnis in pane. The sentiment expressed in the refrain is a medieval commonplace. Compare Chaucer's "evere the latter ende of joye is wo" (CT VII[B2]3205); compare also Henryson's Praise of Age, line 26. Whiting cites several early proverbs that express this same idea (J58-61).

5-7 These verses reflect passages of Scripture such as Genesis 3:19 and Ecclesiastes 3:20 and 12:17, which provided the basis for the Ash Wednesday liturgy.

10 Deth followis lyfe with gaipand mowth. Hellmouth is commonly represented in medieval drama by the mouth of the Leviathan. Sometimes it was represented on maps as a place far in the west, opposite Eden, which was said to be in the east.

15 flouris laid in ane trane. Compare Henryson's Fables, line 1856.

17-18 January and May were traditional opposites in the Middle Ages; compare Chaucer's Merchant's Tale, and The Kingis Quair, line 765.

19 Wes nevir sic drowth bot anis come rane. The image of the rain coming after a period of drought might seem more like joy following woe than the other way round, although in a damp, cold northern climate dry spells might be highly valued; in any case, the saying is proverbial (Whiting D417).

21-24 Although the literal meaning of these verses is problematic, the general sense seems to be that it is a joyful thing when a person has a true heir who can succeed him after the painful experience of his death. The refrain line here deviates from the refrain used in the other stanzas.

29-36 The sentiments expressed in these two stanzas are often found in satiric poems in the tradition of the "complaint against the times."

37-40 In several of Dunbar's moral poems there is a slight shift in thought at the very end, as there is here. It is as if he is saying, "Since this is the way things are, let us endeavor to achieve a joy that will never end" - the joy of salvation.


9. Of Man's Mortality [Quod tu in cinerem revertis]

This highly conventional poem on the memento mori theme also belongs to the poet's series of Lenten poems. Both the opening Latin verse and the Latin refrain are derived from the Ash Wednesday service as reflected in the Sarum Missal. Blending the motif of the fallen heroes (one variety of ubi sunt) with the motif depicting what we shall soon become (the ubi erunt theme), the speaker admonishes his readers or hearers to "speed thee, man, and thee confess," for you shall soon return to ashes. Once again, the central concern in this poem is with penitence, contrition, and confession. Six 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. B and MF (where it is anonymous). Mc74, K61, Bw32.

1-2 The Latin opening, as well as the Latin refrain, reflects the words spoken by the priest on Ash Wednesday as he touches a worshiper's forehead with ashes: "Man, remember that you are dust and to dust you will return." Verse 2 contains an English paraphrase of the Latin. These phrases derive from Genesis 3:19 - "dust thou art and unto dust thou shall return." The Latin phrasing of lines 1 and 8 is that of the Sarum Liturgy used in Scotland (Bw 2.360).

3 Lang heir to dwell nathing thow pres. Bawcutt translates the line: "Strive in no way to remain here long" (Bw 2.360).

4-6 Compare Job 14:2, "Who cometh forth like a flower, and is destroyed, and fleeth as a shadow"; and Job 8:9, "for we are but of yesterday and are ignorant that our days upon earth are but a shadow." Compare also Whiting B511.

9-16 The theme of the fallen heroes is often used to illustrate human mortality and impermanence, and this is a fairly standard group of such figures. They are usually selected to show that whatever outstanding qualities people may possess - strength, wisdom, power, or beauty - those things have no value when death arrives, for all people go the way of all flesh.

11 Alexander. As Bawcutt points out, Alexander the Great "had particular popularity in Scotland (the name was given to three kings)" (Bw 2.360). Like Hector of Troy, he was one of the Nine Worthies.

13 playit thair pairtis. "Fulfilled their roles" on the great stage of life. Compare "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14), line 46.

17-32 This pair of stanzas reflects the ubi sunt theme, graphically depicting the physical dissolution that lies ahead for every person.

27-28 For Death as a dragon, compare "Elegy for Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny" (Poem 36), lines 17-18, and "To the King" (Poem 41), line 28.

29-30 These verses bring to mind the conclusion of Ingmar Bergman's classic film The Seventh Seal, when Death comes for the knight and his companions who have taken shelter within the knight's castle.

33-36 Regardless of the extent of a person's worldly goods, only one's good deeds have value after death; this idea, which stems from Apocalypse 14:13, is at the heart of the ME morality play Everyman. Compare "A Meditation in Winter" (Poem 15), line 44.

37-39 The admonition to go quickly to confession is the basic message of the poem.

41-48 The extended metaphor contained in these verses describes the sinner as a tempest-tossed ship that is inevitably driven into Death's harbor; only his Ransomer with His five wounds can save the sinner by providing an anchor and a rudder that will steer the ship to the haven of eternal life. Dunbar also uses this figure in line 13 of "Of the World's Vanity" (Poem 11).

45 The five wounds are the five wounds of Christ on the Cross; Christ is the Ransomer because He ransomed humankind from sin and death by paying with His own life. Compare "The Table of Confession" (Poem 7), line 23.

46 The anchor as a symbol of hope derives from Hebrews 6:19. The rudder (steiris) as a symbol of divine guidance is seen in Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale (CT II[B1]833).


10. An Orison

In this short, simple devotional poem the speaker acknowledges that his sensuality has sometimes lured his soul into sin, but he rejoices in the spark of "light and spirituality" that has awakened his mind and has allowed him to rise up in new awareness. He begs for God's grace and a chance to make amends for his sins, in the hope that he can achieve peace and prosperity in this life and afterward attain the bliss of Heaven. This gentle, heartfelt poem anticipates the poetry of George Herbert in the seventeenth century. Bawcutt suggests that the poem may be an extract from a longer poem, which was a common practice in the sixteenth century (Bw 2.421). R and MF. One 8-line stanza rhyming ababbcbc. Mc78, K7, Bw60.

1 sensualité. I.e., the pursuit and indulgence in physical, sensual pleasures.

4 witt. Wit is the intellectual faculty that relates to knowledge and understanding, while ressoun ("reason") often relates more to one's ability to make sound moral decisions. As Bawcutt points out, "in King Hart Reason and Wit arrive in each other's company (line 578)" (Bw 2.422).

6-8 Kinsley calls attention to the similarity between these verses and a passage in the Scottish Book of Common Prayer: "May the almighty and merciful Lord grant unto you pardon and remission of all your sins, time for true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit" (K, p. 241n7, 6-8). The request for time to repent and atone for one's sins is also reflected in the refrain line of "The Table of Confession" (Poem 7) in the phrase "laser to repent" ("the time to repent").


11. Of the World's Vanity [Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas]

This is one of Dunbar's most conventional poems on the theme of worldly impermanence; as in several others, the voice of the preacher urges its hearers to be spiritually prepared for the journey they will soon take. Although it does not mention confession specifically, that appears to be its implicit message. While "Of the World's Vanity" consists largely of moral commonplaces, the poem is enhanced by its rhetorical flair and its effective use of poetic devices. Three 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. MF only. Mc75, K60, Bw42.

1 O wreche, be war. As Reiss points out (p. 128), this phrase is typical of a small group of Dunbar's poems in which the speaking voice is that of a moralizing preacher speaking to "everyman."

2 mony greit estait. I.e., many people of high rank and great achievement.

3 freynd . . . fo. While "friend" and "foe" may be taken literally, it is surely figurative as well - i.e., Christ and Satan.

5 Remeid in tyme and rew nocht all to lait. This is one of the verses (along with line 12) in which the need for repentance, contrition, and confession are most strongly implied.

6 Provyd thy place. The "place" that needs to be readied is our heavenly abode, not our earthly habitation. Compare Psalm 83:5 in the Vulgate - "Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord."

7 Out of this vaill of trubbill and dissait. The image of this earthly life as a "vale of trouble," a medieval commonplace, derives from Psalm 83:7 in the Vulgate. Compare Henryson's Thre Deid Pollis, line 2, and Lindsay's Monarche, line 5077.

8 Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas. The well-known refrain is taken from Ecclesiastes 1:2.

9 Walk furth, pilgrame, quhill thow hes dayis licht. Hebrews 11:13-15 provides the scriptural basis for viewing life as a spiritual pilgrimage to God. Dunbar's phrase "Walk furth, pilgrame" seems to echo line 18 from Chaucer's lyric "Truth": "Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stal!"

10 desert. I.e., the wasteland of this world.

13 Bend up thy saill and win thy port of grace. This nautical metaphor is similar to what occurs in "Of Man's Mortality" (Poem 9), lines 41-47. Bawcutt points out that the phrase "port of grace" was used for "New Haven and Burntisland, two small harbours on the Firth of Forth," and may therfore have had "a special piquancy for Scottish readers" (Bw 2.376).

17-18 N.b., echoes of instability and change in Chaucer's "Lak of Stedfastness."

17-24 Several of the verses in this stanza alliterate, and internal rhyme occurs in line 22. Especially striking is the rhetorical pattern in lines 19-22; here the first and fourth lines consist of a balanced pair of antithetical "now" phrases, while the two verses within them each contain four "now" phrases arranged in contrasting pairs. Compare uses of alliteration and internal rhyme in "An Orison" (Poem 10).


12. Of Life

This short homiletic poem provides a succinct analysis of life as offering a choice between Heaven and Hell: we can choose short torment and receive unending bliss, or we can choose short-lived joy and receive lasting sorrow. What is unstated but clearly implied is the fact that we make this choice by how we live our lives. It is possible that this single rhyme royal stanza (ababbcc) is an excerpt from a longer poem. MF and B (where it is anonymous). Mc76, K57, Bw51.

1 Quhat is this lyfe. This recalls the opening phrase of Arcite's death speech in Chaucer's Knight's Tale: "What is this world? What asketh men to have?" (CT I[A]2777). The notion of life as a way to deid ("a road to death") is a medieval commonplace and is also reflected in The Knight's Tale in Egeus' comment that "This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo" (CT I[A]2847).

3 A slyding quheill. The image of the sliding wheel is allied to the medieval concept of Dame Fortune and her wheel. It brings to mind instances in which figures such as the Nine Worthies are placed upon Fortune's wheel and then dashed to their destruction when she spins it; e.g., the ME Alliterative Morte Arthure, lines 3388-90.

5 A pray to deid, quhome vane is to repell. The image of man as death's prey also occurs in line 95 of "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14).


13. Of the Changes of Life

One of Dunbar's several poems on the topic of earthly mutability, "Of the Changes of Life" focuses especially on the changes in the weather and the seasons as reflective of the impermanence of life in this world. Life's basic pattern, the poet suggests once again, is the alternation of joy and woe. But here, in contrast to poems such as "All Earthly Joy Returns to Pain" (Poem 8), there is no positive upturn at the end, and no admonition to work to achieve a life of permanence in the life to come. Four 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. Two texts are preserved in MF, and one in R (copied from the first in MF). Mc66, K58, Bw20.

6-15 In both stanzas the poet establishes the contrast between yisterday (lines 6 and 11), when the weather was soft and fair and the flowers were springing, and This day (lines 9 and 12), when the weather stings like an adder and the flowers are all slain. This may simply imply the natural turning of the seasons with winter following summer, or it may suggest the unexpectedness of life, with winter making an untimely reappearance in spring.

8-9 The juxtaposed images of the peacock feather and the adder's sting may reflect (and reverse) a traditional piece of Scottish weather lore: "When March comes in with an adder's head, it goes out with a peacock's tail" (Bw 2.333), which is similar to the American expression, "In like a lion and out like a lamb."

14 walkis. May mean "awakens" rather than "walks" or "moves."

16-19 This pairing of items - summer/winter, comfort/care, midnight/morrow, joy/sorrow - often occurs in mutability poems. The third juxtaposition in line 18 (midnight/morrow), reverses the pattern of something negative following something positive. This may be an intentional variation; or it may simply result from the requirements of the rhyme scheme.


14. The Lament for the Makars [Timor mortis conturbat me]

"The Lament for the Makars" is a poignant tribute to the poet's fellow poets as well as a general meditation on human mortality in the memento mori tradition. The Latin refrain - Timor mortis conturbat me - which originates in the response to the seventh lesson in the Office of the Dead, a service read daily by medieval clerics such as Dunbar - became a familiar phrase in the later Middle Ages. It occurs as the refrain in other poems and was often inscribed on tombs. Structurally, the poem consists of two major sections. The first is the speaker's general meditation on the plight of all mankind, and the second is his more specific meditation on the mortality of the great poets, a fellowship to which he himself belongs. The poem may obliquely reflect the late medieval tradition of the danse macabre, the Dance of Death, although that association is never made explicit. Scholars debate whether the somber tone of the poem - and the reference to the speaker being "sick" - implies a late date of composition. But the simple fact that all but one of the poets named in the catalogue of makaris are now deceased - poets who in some cases were still alive in the first decade of the sixteenth century - justifies the suggestion that this is a fairly late poem.
     Two aspects of the poem especially impress this reader. The first is the way the poem creates a sense of Death closing in on the speaker, coming ever nearer and nearer. It does this by first depicting all the general classes of humanity - rulers, nobles, high churchmen, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, the scholar, the theologian, the physician - and then focusing directly on poets - first on the great English poets and then on the Scottish poets. Finally Death turns his attention to Dunbar's closest contemporaries; now, in fact, he is on the verge of taking the last of them, "good Master Walter Kennedy" (lines 89-90). Death's next victim will be the poet himself. Also impressive is the variety of images and metaphors used to depict Death's taking of the poets. It devours Chaucer and Gower; poisons Master John Clerk and James Afflek like a cruel scorpion; kills Blind Hary and Sandy Traill with a shower of mortal hail; and ensnares Robert Henryson and Sir John Ross with the intimacy of a lover's embrace.
     But despite the somberness of the poem overall, it is important to note that this poem, like many of Dunbar's poems on the mutability theme, ends on a positive note, emphasizing that life in this world should be viewed as a preparation for the life to come. The length of the poem, 100 lines, may be intended to create a sense of completion and finality. And while it may well be just a coincidence, it is worth noting that the poem contains twenty-five stanzas, which is also the number of makaris listed in the catalogue of poets, with the speaker being the twenty-fifth. Twenty-five 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB (the Old French kyrielle). B, MF, and RP. Mc7, K62, Bw21.

1-44 The first eleven stanzas, essentially the first half of the poem, offer a fairly traditional treatment of the mutability theme. The opening stanza, in which the speaker's own condition is described, provides the point of departure for his meditation on death. Stanzas 2-4 discuss human and worldly mutability in quite general terms, while stanza 5 shifts the focus to more specific groups within society. Stanzas 6 to 11 focus on individuals in highly impressive occupations; despite their great abilities, however, they are completely powerless in the face of Death.

2 gret seiknes. Most commentators suspect the phrase refers to the poet's actual ill health. Reiss suggests that it should be taken symbolically (pp. 229-30).

3 And feblit with infermité. Although the poem touches in earnest upon a wide range of themes pertaining to death, A. A. MacDonald suggests that "if the poem were to be read aloud at the court, it would without doubt lend itself to ironic presentation: 'Dunbar at death's door' could easily be another of the protean poet's poses." He might be "deeply concerned at the fact of human mortality, even at the very moment of employing this subject in a profoundly comic poem." Dunbar's actual death was still nearly a decade away when he wrote the poem, perhaps as "a parody of the cliché-ridden and vapid rhetoric all too common in such complaints of love" ("Alliterative Poetry," pp. 277-78).

4 Timor mortis conturbat me. From the seventh lesson of the Office of the Dead. See headnote, above.

5-11 Nicolaisen juxtaposes the repetitive syntax in lines 5 and 6, with the half lines of line 7 and 11, the stress patterning of line 9, the chopped-up quadrupartite line 10, and the later refrain's classic structural division of the sentence into its ultimate constituents (i.e., Timor mortis conturbat me) to exemplify the metrical, syntactic, grammatical, in short the linguistic virtuosity of Dunbar, whose understanding of sentence and line makes him "the Hopkins of his age" (Nicolaisen, "Line and Sentence in Dunbar's Poetry," in Aitken, pp. 61-71, esp. pp. 63-69).

6-7 The World, the Flesh, and the Devil are man's three traditional foes. Compare Als I lay in a winteris nyt (IMEV 351), lines 377-432, possibly derived from St. Bernard's "De tribus inimicis hominis, carne, mundo, et diabolo"; compare also IMEV 2865.

10-11 Dunbar uses similar sets of opposing pairs elsewhere, e.g., in "Of the World's Vanity" (Poem 11), lines 19-22. The phrase about "dancing merrily" in line 11 depicts a fleeting moment of joy in this life and is not an allusion to the Dance of Death.

13 stait. Perhaps Dunbar is using this word in both of its senses, "state" (condition) and "estate" (social position).

17-19 Here Death is the Great Leveler, taking all humankind without regard to power, status, or wealth.

21-44 The listing of the specific occupations that fall prey to Death recalls the vado mori ("I go to death") motif encountered in several ME poems in which individual representatives of estates or occupations testify to their "going to death." Compare, for example, "I wend to deeth, knight stith in stour . . . / . . . I wende to deeth, clerk ful of skile" (IMEV 1387: "I Wende to dede a kyng y-was").

37-39 Grouped together here are various practitioners and possessors of arcane knowledge, people whose vast learning avails them not at all when Death arrives.

41-43 The allusion is to Luke 4:23, "Physician, heal thyself." Compare Whiting L170.

45-48 This stanza provides the transition into the second half of the poem, with its focus on the makars or poets.

46 Playis heir ther pageant, syne gois to graif. "Perform here their parts in life's pageant, then go to the grave." Compare line 13 in "Of Man's Morality" (Poem 9). The "life's a stage" metaphor was common long before Shakespeare. Compare Whiting P5.

49-52 Here Dunbar celebrates his greatest predecessors among the English poets. Line 50 contains his famous homage to Chaucer, whom he describes as of makaris flour - the flower of all poets in the English language (line 50). The monk of Bery in line 51 is John Lydgate (1370-1449), a Benedictine monk in the monastery at Bury St. Edmunds and the most prolific English poet of the fifteenth century. Gower, line 51, is John Gower (c. 1330-1408), Chaucer's contemporary and the author of Confessio Amantis, among other notable works.

53-92 Now Dunbar begins his roll call of the deceased Scottish poets. A few of them are well-known as poets, but several of them, to the extent that they can be identified at all, are not known for having been poets, though presumably they were. Nothing is known about some of them. See explanatory notes, below, for details.

53-54 Of the first three Scottish poets mentioned, Heryot is completely unknown. Sir Hugh Eglintoun, who died in the 1470s, was the brother-in-law of Robert II; he is not known as a poet unless he is the "Huchown of the Awle Ryale" for whom Wyntoun provides a list of works. Wyntoun is Andrew Wyntoun, the prior of Lockleven and author of a long verse chronicle, Oryginale Chronkil of Scotland.

55 this cuntré. I.e., Scotland, as distinct from England.

57 scorpion. The agent of the "sting of Death"; compare 1 Corinthians 15:55.

58 Johne Clerk may be the author of the several poems in the B MS attributed to "Clerk," though that is only a supposition. The "Johne Clerk" mentioned in line 81 of "Master Andro Kennedy's Testament" (Poem 80) is thought to be a different John Clerk. James Afflek (or perhaps Auchinleck?) has not been identified.

59 trigidé. Not a "tragedy" in the narrower sense but rather a sad and moving narrative; compare Henryson's Testament of Cresseid, line 4, and Chaucer's TC V.1786. Compare also the definition of the term offered by Chaucer's Monk (CT VII[B]1973-77).

61 Holland is Sir Richard Holland, an important fifteenth-century Scottish cleric and author of the allegorical animal fable Buke of the Howlat. Barbour is John Barbour (d. 1395), author of the life of Sir Robert the Bruce, The Actes and Life of Robert Brus.

63 Schir Mungo Lokert of the Le has not been positively identified, although the Lockharts of the Lee were a prominent family in Lanarkshire.

65-66 Clerk of Tranent is the second "Clerk" in the list, but no more is known about him than is known about Johne Clerk. Tranent is a small town located between Edinburgh and Haddinton. If the phrase anteris of Gawane is a title rather than a description, it is the only specific work mentioned in the catalogue. Several MS copies of a ME romance called The Awntyrs off Arthur survive in a northern dialect of English and Sir Gawain is the central character. Perhaps also pertinent is the Middle Scots romance Gologras and Gawain, which is written in the same strange form as Awntyrs. See Thomas Hahn, ed., Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1995).

67 Schir Gilbert Hay. The fifteenth-century cleric Sir Gilbert Hay was primarily a translator of prose works but also translated the poem The Buik of Alexander. He lived much of his life in France and was Charles VII's chamberlain.

69 Sandy Traill has not been identified, but Blind Hary has long been considered the author of The Wallace - The Actis and Deidis of Schir William Wallace - even though his name is not mentioned in the single surviving manuscript of the poem.

70 Slaine with his schour of mortall haill. Showers of mortal hail were sometimes used as God's instruments of death in the Old Testament, e.g., Exodus 9:23-25 and Joshua 10:11.

71 The poem "The Thre Deid Polis," usually attributed to Robert Henryson, is assigned to Patrik Johinstoun in B. It is known that Johnston was an actor and a producer of dramatic entertainments, in addition to being a notary and a landowner who received revenues from Crown lands in West Lothian (Bw 2.336).

73-75 These verses offer the fullest praise in the catalogue, and Merseir is the only deceased poet to receive an entire stanza. Several poems in B are ascribed to him, but he is otherwise unknown, although Lindsay includes a "Merser" in a list of poets in Papyngo (line 19).

75 So schort, so quyk, of sentence hie. This verse echoes a line from Chaucer's description of the Clerk of Oxenford, whose speech was "short and quyk and ful of hy sentence" (CT I[A]306).

77-78 Neither of these Roulls have been identified, though one of them may be the author of The Cursing of Sr Iohine Rowlis in B, which Bawcutt describes as "a blackly comic poem" (Bw 2.336).

81-82 Robert Henrisoun. Dunbar's famous older contemporary and the author of the Testament of Cresseid, the Fables, and Orpheus and Eurydice. He was often called "the schoolmaster of Dunfermline," an important royal and monastic town; he did not live beyond 1505. See the METS edition of his works, ed. Robert Kindrick and Kristie A. Bixby (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1997).

83 The identity of Schir Johne the Ros remains uncertain, though he is almost certainly the same person mentioned in the opening line of Dunbar's famous Flyting with Kennedy (Poem 83), and probably a very close friend of Dunbar's. None of his poems survive.

86 Stobo is John Reid, a very notable clergyman who had served in the secretary's office under James II, James III, and James IV. He is mentioned in line 331 in the Flyting with Kennedy (Poem 83). He died in July of 1505.

Quintyne Schaw is the author of one poem in MF; he was still alive in 1504, when there is a record of his receiving a royal pension. He is possibly the same person as the Quinting that Dunbar links with Kennedy in line 2 of the Flyting (Poem 83).

89-91 Walter Kennedy, Dunbar's opponent in the Flyting, is the one poet in his catalogue who has not yet succumbed to death; but Dunbar's great sorrow at Kennedy's imminent demise is poignantly reflected in line 91. Bawcutt points out, however, that he did not actually die until 1518 (Bw 2.337).

93 brether. I.e., brother-poets.

94 lat me lif alane. Although the line could mean "leave my life alone," it is more likely to mean "let me live alone"; this sets up a parallel with line 99, where Dunbar hopes that all may live together after death. The latter reading could also be extended to the idea that a man, perhaps especially a poet, cannot truly live in solitude.

97 Sen for the ded remeid is none. Proverbial; compare Whiting D78.

98 Best is that we for dede dispone. Preparing for death would involve attending to worldly concerns such as making a will, but perhaps more importantly, attending to spiritual concerns, "so that after our death we may live" (line 99).


15. A Meditation in Winter

In contrast to most of Dunbar's general meditations on earthly instability and human mortality, "A Meditation in Winter" focuses on the bitter winter weather that creates for the poet an oppressive sense of melancholy, a spiritual malaise that is akin to the emotional state reflected in several of Dunbar's petitions. Here those feelings are caused by the long nights and the dark, wintry days that prevent him from taking pleasure in songs, poems, or plays (line 5) - which probably includes his inability to take pleasure in the writing of songs, poems, and plays. In his petition poems the remedy the poet needs is some tangible reward, but here it is simply the coming of spring. Commentators agree that this is one of Dunbar's finest poems. Ross calls it "the gem" of Dunbar's moral poems (p. 157), and Ridley calls it a "beautiful meditation" (p. 1010). Ten 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. MF contains both a complete version and an incomplete version; R contains only lines 1-22. Mc10, K69, Bw26.

1-10 With these verses compare the well-known Harley lyric "Wynter wakenth al my care" (Mel, pp. 13-14).

2 sabill. The heraldic term for "black," but also customarily described the color of clothing worn by mourners.

4 Nature all curage me denyis. The meaning of the term curage differs widely in ME texts, depending on the particular context in which it occurs. Here the meaning may be "Nature denies me any pleasure in songs," or perhaps "Nature deprives me of any desire to compose songs."

6 nycht dois lenthin houris. If one follows ecclesiastical time, whereby the daylight and nighttime hours are 12, in winter the nighttime hours are long; in summer short.

11-15 These verses recall the opening lines of Chaucer's Book of the Duchess in which the narrator describes his similar condition.

17 The personified figures who address the narrator are similar to the ones found in several of Dunbar's petitions and satires. Despair expresses his frustrated attempts to achieve at court the material rewards he believes he deserves; this is the central topic of Dunbar's petition poems.

21-30 Patience and Prudence provide the kind of advice that Lady Philosophy offers Boethius in The Consolation of Philosophy - that Fortune does not accord with reason and that earthly rewards are simply false felicities that do not last.

26 Prudence is an especially high form of wisdom. Compare Henryson's Fables, lines 1757-59, and Chaucer's Tale of Melibee (CT VII[B2]1869-72). Prudence as a cardinal virtue equates with discernment and right reason.

31-40 The benign-seeming words of welcome of Old Age and Death are terrifying in their understated gentleness, as the following stanza makes clear. The little vision is sometimes thought to imply that the poet has now entered old age (and thus that this is one of his later poems). But this petit rêve of what lies in store holds true for all, whether youth or eld.

34-35 Making a final reckoning or accounting after death was a common feature in homiletic literature about death and is a central element in the ME morality play Everyman. Compare Romans 14:12.

36 Deid castis upe his gettis wyd. For a biblical reference to the gates of Hell, compare Job 38:17.

39 this lyntall. The grave is depicted in numerous works - poems, plays, sermons - as a low, narrow, windowless house.

46 Yit quhone - "yet when" - introduces "the turn" or the about face that turns this stanza (not unlike that of an Elizabethan sonnet) toward a note of hopefulness, on which the poem ends.

48 schowris refers back to the literal "schouris" of line 7, but also metaphorically to the speaker's frame of mind.

49 Cum, lustie Symmer, with thi flowris. This verse recalls the joyous welcome the birds sing to summer near the end of Chaucer's PF: "Now welcome, somor, with thy sonne softe" (line 680). Compare also The Kingis Quair, line 235.


16. None May Assure in this World

Because it reflects the characteristics of several poetic types - the moral poem, the petition, the complaint against the times, and the courtly satire - "None May Assure in this World" illustrates the difficulty in neatly categorizing many of Dunbar's poems. Clearly, though, the poem reflects the poet's devout religious feelings, and, because it incorporates several Latin verses of liturgical origin in its final stanzas, it also reflects the poet's clerical status. Much of the material in the poem about the unfairness and uncertainty of life is familiar - the difficulty in distinguishing friend from foe, falsehood flourishing while truth goes unrewarded, the poor suffering at the hands of the rich, and so on. Yet there are also moments of remarkable freshness, as in the striking group of interconnected metaphors in lines 46-55. All in all, this is one of Dunbar's most intriguing moral poems. Seventeen 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. B, MF, and R. Mc21, K63, Bw54.

1-50 This initial section of the poem, with its catalogue of social ills, is essentially a complaint against the present time. The emphasis in these stanzas is on the lack of fairness that prevails in the world. In the second section of the poem, which is introduced in line 51 with the word "yet," the focus shifts away from present evils to a consideration of future events - especially death and judgment - and these stanzas are filled with apocalyptic images and overtones.

6-9 These verses suggest the feelings of an aggrieved petitioner. Whether Lord in line 6 refers to his earthly lord or his heavenly Lord is somewhat ambiguous. There is no ambiguity, however, about which lord is addressed in line 81.

18 And nane bot just men tholis injure. Ironically, it is the just who are treated unjustly.

23-24 Similar sentiments about the undeserving being rewarded with important secular and religious offices are reflected in Dunbar's petition poems.

26-30 In this stanza the speaker suggests that noble qualities are no longer found in mem-bers of the nobility. In line 28 fredome, the noble virtue of generosity, has been replaced by an insistence upon foirfaltour, forfeiture, which indicates legal proceed-ings (probably involving confiscation of land) against those unable to pay.

36-40 Court flatterers are listened to and rewarded while truth-speakers are excluded. Compare Isaias 59:14.

44 fra the handis gois few gud deidis. Compare "Of Man's Mortality" (Poem 9), line 35.

46-49 These lines present conventional images in an unconventional fashion. The "white whale bone" of line 46 - a reference to the ivory tusk of the narwhal - is often used to describe the loveliness of a lady's complexion, and "azure blue" (line 48) commonly describes a lady's eyes. Here "flint stone" and "adamant" (lines 47, 49) convey a sense of hardness, coldness, and unfeelingness. "Azure" in line 48 refers more to the stone lapis lazuli than to the color, already described in the word blew. Adamant was a legendary stone of extreme hardness; it would be difficult to pry open hands of adamant.

51-55 This stanza, which initiates the second section of the poem, is linked to the previous stanza by the physical images of the body - "heart, hand, and body all" - which now must face death and a final accounting before the Judge. (Compare 2 Corinth-ians 5:10).

55 Quha suld into this warld assure. This is the only variation on the refrain line in the poem, a device Dunbar uses elsewhere. It presents the first in a series of rhetorical questions that occur in these final stanzas.

57-59 For other depictions of Fortune as an alluring whore, compare Barbour's Bruce 13.636-38, and The Kingis Quair, lines 1124-25.

63 the angell blawis his bugill sture. This is "the last trump" mentioned in several apocalyptic passages of Scripture - e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:15, and Apocalypse 11:15.

66 Quhat help is thair in lordschippis sevin. Compare Proverbs 11:4: "Riches profit not in the day of wrath."

71-72 This verse is based on a passage from the liturgy for the Office of the Dead. Compare also Matthew 6:23.

73 Sall cry "allace" that wemen thame bure. Compare Job 3:3: "Let the day perish wherein I was born."

74 O quante sunt iste tenebre. Compare Matthew 6:23.

76-79 These apocalyptic verses stem from passages of Scripture such as Apocalypse 8:8 and 11:19. They also exhibit the heaviest use of alliteration in the poem, climaxing with the running alliteration of lines 77-78 and the four alliterating words of line 78.


17. Best to Be Blithe

Contrasting with Dunbar's bleaker moralities is a small group of poems informed by Boethian philosophy and possibly influenced by such Chaucerian works as "Truth" and The Knight's Tale. In these poems the speaker, while fully observing the falseness of the world, seeks consolation in being cheerful in the face of adversity and in being content with his lot. But the optimistic face the speaker is trying to put on in this poem - "For to be blythe me think it best" - seems to be just that, and the poem actually reflects a strong sense of personal pain, most notably in the next-to-last stanza. Eight 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB, with the b rhyme continuing through all stanzas. B, MF (which lacks lines 16-20), and R. Mc69, K64, Bw14.

1-5 The poem begins in much the same vein as several of the preceding poems, with the speaker musing on the falseness and impermanence of life in this world. But what is different here is his expressed desire to enjoy life in this world anyway; he does not view life as a vale of tears that must be endured, though he does make one brief mention of the everlasting life that is to come (line 28).

5 For to be blyth me think it best. Bawcutt suggests that the refrain sounds proverbial (Bw 2.319). Compare also Henryson's Fables, line 521: "Be blyith in baill, for that is best remeid."

6-15 These verses concerning Fortune and her wheel reflect common sentiments in medieval literature that derive from Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. The poet's point is that by not placing one's heart in the gifts of Fortune, or by recognizing their impermanence, the inevitable fall that occurs when Fortune turns her wheel will be less painful (line 14).

26 tynsall. Bawcutt glosses the word to mean "loss, deprivation," and she may be correct (Bw 2.319). But in this context a more specific meaning seems likely. Kinsley argues that the poet literally means "tinsel," a fabric with golden threads woven through it, a distant relative of what we call tinsel today. If that is so, Dunbar is using the term to symbolize things that appear attractive but have no real lasting value.

28-29 Medieval writers commonly used the phrase "The twinkling of an eye" to reflect the brevity of life; its origin is 1 Corinthians 15:52 - "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet"; compare Whiting T547.

31-34 These poignant, personal-sounding verses indicate that the only thing that prevented the speaker from being destroyed by the world's unkindness was his conviction that it is best "for to be blithe."

39 His characterization of life in this world as a frawdfull fary - a "deceitful dream" - is certainly a powerful indictment of it, and one wonders how successful he has been in his brave attempt to remain cheerful.


18. Of Content

This poem has much in common with Dunbar's other poems on Boethian themes; the benefits of being content are also endorsed by Paul in Phillippians 4:1 and 11, and in 1 Timothy 6:6-8. Ridley suggests that these poems "would seem to reflect Dunbar's reaction to the failure of his petitions" (1973, p. 1041), a notion worth considering; Ross observes that "the general note struck by the poem is that of Proverbs" (p. 134); and Bawcutt notes the similarity to the moralitas in Henryson's fable of The Two Mice (1992, p. 142). Dunbar's hortatory or "preaching voice" is often in evidence, as illustrated by line 11: "Thairfor I pray yow, bredir deir . . ." Seven 5-line stanzas rhyming abaB. R and MF (differing significantly). Mc70, K66, Bw53.

5 He hes anewch that is content. The refrain line reflects a common medieval proverb (Whiting E120).

6 unto Ynd. "As far as India"; India was considered to be a rich and exotic realm.

6-10 This stanza, which reverses the sentiments of first stanza, touches on covetousness, a topic treated more fully in another of Dunbar's moral poems - "Of Covetise" (Poem 22).

11 bredir. "Brother," i.e., "fellow human."

13 Thank God of it is to thee sent. Compare Chaucer's Boethian ballad "Truth: Balade de Bon Conseyl," especially lines 2 and 19. Compare also "Without Gladness No Treasure Avails" (Poem 19), line 9, and the refrain in Henryson's "The Abbey Walk."

17 Withe gall in hart and hunyit hals. I.e., "with a malicious heart and a honey-speaking mouth"; this is a common proverbial saying on the theme of hypocrisy and deceit (compare Whiting G12 and H433).

18 Quha maist it servis. "Who most it serves"; the "it" refers to the world of line 16.

19 subchettis. The reading in R is subcharges. In either case, the meaning probably is something like "second servings" or "extra dishes"; it is clear from the context that eating to excess proves bitter.

21 Giff thow hes mycht. In light of Dunbar's many petition poems, it is easy to see in a verse such as this one an indirect appeal to the king for his support.

29 Gif we not clym, we tak no fall. This verse expresses another common proverb; compare Whiting C295 and C296.

31-33 Also proverbial; compare Whiting C489 and 494.


19. Without Gladness No Treasure Avails

This is another of Dunbar's moral poems that reflects Boethian themes. While it expresses many of the same general ideas as the others, here the emphasis is on being merry (rather than on just being content) and on enjoying what life has to offer. Although the mood of the poem is not fully that of the carpe diem poem, it leans in that direction, reflecting Dunbar's conviction that comedy can play an important role in providing consolation. Bawcutt points out that several similar pieces in Scottish poetry, the most distinguished of which is Henryson's fable of The Two Mice (Bw 2.301). Five 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbc. Aberdeen Minute Book, B, and MF. Mc73, K65, Bw6.

1 man. Several of Dunbar's moral poems address "man" and admonishing him to be mindful of the speaker's advice. Henryson does much the same in the Moralitates applied to his Fables.

3-6 A spirit of charity and generosity flows through the entire poem. Here, in contrast to Polonius' advice to Laertes, the hearer is urged to be both a borrower and a lender, for the help he gives his neighbor now may be returned to him later. Compare Proverbs 3:28.

5 His chance this nycht, it may be thine tomorow. Proverbial; compare Whiting T405 and T349; also Ecclesiasticus 38:23.

11-12 In these verses stress is placed on using and enjoying whatever one has, not on storing it away in a miserly fashion. This is a central theme in Dunbar's "Spend Thine Own Goods" (Poem 21).

14 Thy lyfe in dolour ma nocht lang indure. The idea that a person cannot long survive in such a depressed state of mind is also expressed in line 34 of Dunbar's "Best to Be Blithe" (Poem 17).

20 bot ane cry. No longer than the duration of a shout, i.e., a short time.

23 Quha levis mery, he levis michtely. Proverbial; compare Whiting M131.

28-30 As was indicated in line 12, great misery attends the hoarding of goods; and here there is the additional point that others will soon come along and use them up anyway.

33-37 Only the basic necessities of food and clothing really matter; but if you do happen to possess great wealth, you will only enjoy it fleetingly, and you will still be held accountable for it. A more favorable final reckoning will come from a shorter list of possessions.

39 treuth sall mak thee strang as ony wall. "Strong as any wall" is proverbial; compare Whiting W14-18.


20. His Own Enemy

This is one of Dunbar's more controversial moral poems, if in fact it is one. At first glance the poem seems straightforward enough, advising its hearers to be cheerful and to enjoy what they are fortunate enough to possess. To do otherwise, the refrain suggests, is to bring sorrow upon oneself. Yet there is a sardonic quality to this poem that sets it apart from Dunbar's other moral poems; and the third stanza, surprisingly, seems to be informed by a bawdy double entendre. The final stanza also has a flippant quality not usually seen in Dunbar's moral poems. Five 5-line stanzas rhyming aabab, with much alliteration. B and MF (where it is anonymous). Mc2, K70 [Ane werkis Sorrow to him sell], Bw17 .

1-5 In several of Dunbar's moral poems the speaker urges his hearers to be content with whatever they have, however little; here it is the inverse - use fully what you have, however much.

6-10 This stanza reflects sentiments found in many ME poems that satirize the evils of marriage. In most instances these anti-marriage poems also contain statements about the wickedness of women, as in line 9.

11-15 The figure developed in this stanza apparently concerns the danger of shooting one's arrow at an unfamiliar target rather than the customary one; but the phrases and images are rife with sexual innuendo. The speaker's warning against illicit sex, though, has little to do with morality; it has more to do with avoiding the unpleasant physical consequences of venereal disease. Archery was a favorite pastime at the Scottish court, and the king often participated along with his courtiers (Bw 2.325).

12 prop. "Target"; DOST cites it as a current figure in Scots for a sexual mark. N.b. "gengie" ("arrow") in line 11. The Wife of Bath makes a similar joke in her send-up of St. Paul: "The dart is set up for virginitee; / Cacche whoso may, who renneth best lat see" (CT III[D]75-76) where "dart" (prize) becomes dart (arrow) and virginity the target (prop). The allusion is to 1 Corinthians 9:24.

13 schuttis. "Shoot/have sex" (Burness, p. 211).

uncow schell. "A strange target"; but schell may also mean "shell," which may imply the female sex organs. As Kinsley points out, in folklore "the correspondence between the cowrie shell and the female pudendum is a familiar theme" (K, p. 362).

14 fleis of Spenyie. Literally "fleas of Spain," but probably meaning syphilis. Bawcutt quotes the Glasgow surgeon, Peter Lowe: "Amongst the Frenchmen, it is called the Spanishe sicknesse, in England the great pocks, in Scotland the Spanish Fleas, and that for two causes, the one because it began first amangst the Spanyards; the other because when the infection spreadeth . . . it is like unto red spots called flea-bitings" (Bw 2.326).

16-20 Considering the sentiments expressed in so many of Dunbar's petition poems, this stanza may offer a comment on his own situation, in which case his pitiless master would be the king.

25 I gif him to the Devill of Hell. Rather than the expected final refrain, the poet gives us something with a little more punch.


21. Spend Thine Own Goods [Thyne awin gude spend quhill thow hes space]

This poem has had its doubters and detractors - those who doubt Dunbar's authorship, and those who question the poem's worth. Scott calls it "the worst poem Dunbar wrote" (p. 258), and Mackenzie believes it is "scarcely congruous with Dunbar's usual utterances" (Mc, p. 223). While it is attributed to Dunbar in B, it is not in MF, and many commentators such as Bawcutt have noted its "several clumsy passages" (p. 144). What may be most important to observe about this poem, though, is its repudiation of miserliness; for what the speaker is advocating is the judicious use of one's own goods while it is still possible, that is, while you are still alive. His comments on the future misuse of one's goods and on the callous attitudes of one's heirs and relatives may seem rather cynical, but many other medieval works reflect the same sentiments. Ten quatrains rhyming aabB. B and MF (where it is anonymous). Mc72, K67, Bw31.

1-3 Many ME lyrics on death and mutability comment on the certainty of death and the uncertainty of when it will arrive; compare the ME lyric, "Wanne I thenke thinges thre" (IMEV 3969).

4 Thyne awin gude spend quhill thow hes space. The refrain accords with a common ME saying; compare Whiting M59.

9-10 today . . . to morne. I.e., today (while you are alive) . . . tomorrow (when you are dead).

13-15 As Bawcutt suggests (Bw 2.144), these lines may advise drawing up a will to prevent future strife among heirs.

17-19 These verses satirize the hoarder or the miser (much like the figure of Winner in the ME debate Winner and Waster), the person who spends all his time gathering but then never expends what he has gathered at joyful celebrations.

21-23 These lines comment on ungrateful heirs who care only about their own good fortune and who do not care at all about the eternal welfare of the one who has died.

27 settis on ane es. "Sets on an ace," i.e., "places a very low value on"; an ace is the one on a die. Thre Prestis of Peblis, lines 176-248, offers a full account of the wasteful extravagance of one's heirs.

33-35 I.e., "Do not assume that others will not do to you what you would never do to them; if you do, you'll learn the hard way" - a bitter comment on human nature.

37 the bairne dois to the muder. Children turning against their parents - filial ingrat-itude - long predates Shakespeare's King Lear. Compare also Ecclesiasticus 3:18, which cautions against angering your mother.


22. Of Covetise [And all for caus of cuvetice]

This poem reflects the medieval tradition of complaints against the times, and it also has much in common with Dunbar's poems satirizing the court. The first ten stanzas offer a long list of societal ills, all of which stem from the sin of covetousness. The final stanza presents the speaker's conclusion: please your Maker, be merry, do not care about the world, and work to attain a place in Paradise, where there is no covetousness. Kinsley suggests that the poem was probably written after the Battle of Flodden in 1513, when Scottish society was thrown into great turmoil (K, p. 360), but there is nothing in the poem that explicitly or specifically substantiates that notion. Eleven quatrains rhyming aabB. MF and B (where it is anonymous). Mc67, K68, Bw13.

1-3 The virtues listed in the first two lines - which the speaker says are now considered vices - were commonly assumed to be the natural attributes of the aristocratic class.

4 all for caus of cuvetice. Covetousness is the root of all evil - 1 Timothy 6:10; compare also Whiting C491.

9-11 The noble pastimes of hunting and hawking, he says, have now been abandoned in favor of gambling - especially for cards and dice; the more usual courtly games of chess and "tables" (backgammon) are not mentioned. Compare Lindsay's Com-plaint, line 83: "There was no play bot cardis and dyce."

29-31 The speaker is outraged by the social injustice of lords going about in long silk cloaks that trail to the ground while their tenants survive by eating roots.

33-35 In the first stanza it is pointed out that the noble virtues are held to be vices; now the Christian virtues also are held to be foolish. As the next stanza will point out, the man who is considered wise in these times is the one who is good at taking from others.

41-44 The advice offered in the final stanza is similar to that expressed elsewhere in Dunbar's moral poems; but in the face of all that has gone before in the poem, it sounds rather like a "hoe your own garden" consolation.

42 And sett not by this warld a chirry. As Bawcutt notes, "A cherry typifies something of small value" (Bw 2.318). Compare Whiting C184 and 187; compare also line 8 in the ME lyric "Farewell, this world": "This lyfe i see, is but a cherye feyre" (line 8, MEL, pp. 228-29).

44 For thairin ringis na covettyce. The altered refrain in the final stanza is a device Dunbar also uses in "How Should I Conduct Myself" (Poem 24) and in "Of Content" (Poem 18).


23. Of Deeming

Although attributed to "Stewarte" in MF, B assigns it to Dunbar, and most scholars have accepted that attribution. (Mackenzie, however, demurs.) The poem condemns the human failing of speaking ill of others, what in the Middle Ages was often called "backbiting," a common form of the sin of envy. After suggesting that no one is immune from vicious gossip, the speaker's anger at such behavior rises to near fever pitch (lines 41-45) when he expresses his desire to take vengeance on those who judge others, something he resists doing only because it would serve to make matters worse. Ultimately he accepts the wise advice of King James IV - to live virtuously and ignore malicious tongues. Perhaps implicit in the poem is the biblical admonition: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). Some commentators have seen in line 26 - "be I but little of stature" - and line 31 - "be I ornate in my speech" - references to the poet's personal characteristics. Eleven 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB, with variations on the refrain. B, and two versions in MF (neither attributed to Dunbar). Mc8, K81, Bw33.

1-5 This stanza employs a common device to introduce the topic of the poem. The voice the narrator hears in line 4 - the voice of a moralizing preacher - is presumably the speaking voice throughout the poem until the final stanza, when the narrator's own voice resumes. Since no further mention is made of the voice the narrator hears, perhaps we can assume it is his inner thoughts he is listening to.

3 Within ane garth undir a tre. Compare line 1 in Henryson's Praise of Age: "Wythin a garth, under a red rosere," and lines 4-5 in The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84).

6-35 These six stanzas suggest that no one remains unjudged, not king, nobleman, lady, courtier, knight, small man, huge man, or ornate speaker.

14 Thocht he dow not to leid a tyk. Compare The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy (Poem 83), line 114.

18 scho and he. "She and he," i.e., everyone, both men and women.

19 In this context jaipit probably implies "seduced"; presumably the gossipers are impugning the lady's moral behavior. The phrase lait and air - "late and early" - reverses the usual word order of this common expression for the sake of rhyme but still means "constantly."

24-25 "God send them a strong rope" with which to be hanged - sentiments elaborated on in lines 41-44.

26 "Be I but little of stature" may be a reference to the poet's small physical size, which is alluded to elsewhere in Dunbar's poetry and perhaps most directly in his Flyting with Kennedy (Poem 83), who repeatedly calls Dunbar a "dwarf."

32 The name Towsy is used to suggest a frowzy, sharp-tongued, peasant woman. Compare Christis Kirk, line 54.

34 Suppois hir mowth misteris a leiche. I.e., "despite the fact that her own speech is so fractured as to require surgery"; her speech, one might say, is uncouth.

46-47 These verses seem to indicate that King James IV, who was born in 1473, is no longer young; James was killed in battle at Flodden in 1513, but was obviously alive at the time the poem was written.

48-50 While the wisdom contained in verses 49-50 is attributed to King James IV, the verses actually paraphrase Matthew 7:1-2. Perhaps the poet means to flatter the king (as he does in some of his petitions); or perhaps there is some irony here, a device only rarely used by Dunbar.

51-55 The final sentiments are similar in a general way to what is expressed in several of Dunbar's more conventional moral poems, poems in which the poet expresses his belief that he will escape the unfairness of this life in the life to come.


24. How Should I Conduct Myself [Lord God, how sould I governe me]

Ridley aptly describes this poem as a companion piece to the preceding poem (1973, p. 1010), although the behavior the speaker here deplores is malicious speaking, which was commonly viewed as a sub-category of the sin of envy. Several other ME lyrics also deplore this vice (compare, e.g., IMEV 1633 and Lydgate's "A wicked tunge wille seye amys"), and Bawcutt is correct in suggesting that the poem "treats a didactic theme very common in the late Middle Ages" (Bw 2.326). Like several of Dunbar's poems in this general vein, the poem not only offers a negative critique of slanderous speech but also reflects the speaker's determination to ignore such behavior and to be governed (and judged) by God. MF, B, and R. There are significant differences between the MF and B texts; and each of them has virtues and each has flaws. Nine 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. Mc9, K82, Bw18.

9 confort. Kinsley suggests the implication here is that someone has given him strong drink; Bawcutt suggests (Bw 2.326) the implication is that he has been comforted by having received sexual favors; either could be right. Or perhaps people assume that his jaunty behavior stems from certain financial benefactions.

17 paramoris. This is an adverbial usage of the noun paramour; to love paramoris is to love sexually, perhaps illicitly.

28 not worthe ane fle. "Not worth a fly" is a proverbial phrase for something of little value. See Whiting F345. Compare Chaucer (CT V[F]1132; VII[B2]172; VIII[G] 1150) and Henryson (Fables, lines 2054 and 2286).

41-45 The sentiments here expressed are similar to those in lines 49-55 of the previous poem.


25. Rule of Oneself [He rewllis weill that weill himself can gyd]

One of the most sententious of Dunbar's moralizing poems, "Rule of Oneself" provides advice, not about how to live life generally, but about how to survive the vagaries of life at court. Thus the speaker's words of advice to his "friend" (who is also referred to as his "son"), inevitably bring to mind Polonius' advice to Laertes, though there was an ancient tradition of works that offer similar counsel that long predated either Dunbar or Shakespeare. (See Bw 2.483.) While the poem conveys no sense that the speaker himself is being satirized, there can be no doubt that life at court is. Bawcutt observes that the poem "has had few admirers" (1992, p. 141), a circumstance not likely to change. Six 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. B only. Mc41, K77, Bw81.

1-2 The speaker's initial observation seems crucial - if you wish to dwell at court, do not desire the gifts of fortune. Although he does not explain himself here, he does later on: such gifts are "variand" (line 41), that is, constantly changing and untrust-worthy. Compare Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, II, prose 2.

3 lat thy tung tak rest. This is the first of many references in the poem to the importance of speaking in all of its varieties, including false-speaking and malicious-speaking; especially important is minding one's own tongue.

8 He rewlis weill that weill himself can gyd. Compare the refrain here and in lines 16, 24, 32, 40, and 48 with Chaucer's "Truth: Balade de Bon Conseyl": "Reule wel thyself that other folk canst rede" (line 6). Compare Whiting M414, R231, and G407.

9-16 This stanza focuses on the importance of choosing one's friends wisely, another topic treated throughout the poem.

15 Cum sancto sanctus eiris. See Psalm 17:26 in the Vulgate.

17-24 This advice on being content reflects the sentiments expressed in some of Dunbar's other moral poems - e.g., "Of Content" (Poem 18) - as well as elaborating upon the first two verses of the poem.

19 Be thow content, of mair thow hes no neid. Compare the refrain of "Of Content" (Poem 18).

21 Chakmait. "Checkmate," the word signifying the end of a chess match.

25-32 This stanza merges the themes of keeping good company with keeping well one's tongue.

33-40 These verses offer the most overt statement of the wisdom of following the expedient course - for if you do not, your behavior may bounce back at you and "strike you in the neck" (line 36). It becomes very clear that the principal object at court is self-preservation. The implications of these verses also recall the "moral message" contained in Chaucer's Manciple's Tale about the tale-telling crow.

33-34 Compare Ecclesiasticus 21:28: "The lips of the unwise will be telling foolish things: but the words of the wise shall be weighed in a balance."

35-36 Proverbial (Whiting S92).

41-48 Only in this final stanza does a Christian element appear - hold God for your friend, do not mistreat the poor, and wrong no man at any time.


26. Discretion in Asking [In asking sowld discretioun be]

This is the first in a series of three superficially similar poems: poems that share the same form, have similar refrains, and reflect a central concern with "discretion." In fact, though, they are quite distinctive pieces. This one is the least satirical of the three, the most optimistic, and has the most in common with Dunbar's moral poems, though its advice is of a decidedly worldly kind. In essence, it outlines the best ways to go about asking for deserved rewards. Overall the tone is quite hopeful, though the poem ends on a rather bleak note by pointing out that if this advice is unsuccessful, there is little to be done about it. This is one of Dunbar's moral poems that also has some affinities to his petition poems. Nine 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. B (two versions), MF (where it is anonymous), and R. Mc14, K78, Bw44.

1-4 To begin with, the speaker says, one must have good cause before asking; if there is no justification for reward, that will be perceived.

6-9 Do not be constantly asking, for it will dull the ears of your listeners. Compare Proverbs 30:15.

11-14 Some ask for more than they deserve, some for less, and some (like the speaker) are too shamefaced to ask, and thus they go unrewarded. This last comment seems to provide a link with Dunbar's petition poems. These sentiments also bring to mind the various groups of petitioners in Chaucer's HF (lines 1553-1867).

16-19 Do not ask without having served, and do not hesitate to ask for service. But to have served and still to live in poverty is shameful both to the master and the servant - another comment that reflects sentiments expressed in Dunbar's petition poems.

21-24 Similar to the advice in the second stanza, here the suggestion is, do not spoil your good works by constant importuning.

22 May spill it all with crakkis and cryis. Compare King Hart, line 903, and Lindsay's Satyre, line 2220.

24 Few wordis may serve the wyis. This is a well-known saying; compare Whiting W588.

26-27 Nocht neidfull is men sowld be dum, / Nathing is gottin but wordis sum. Compare Whiting M276: "Seldom gets a dumb man land."

29 For nathing it allane will cum. Compare Whiting N151: "Nothing has its being of nought."

31-32 Asking wald haif convenient place, / Convenient tyme, lasar, and space. Compare Proverbs 15:23 and Ecclesiastes 8:6.

36-39 Biding your time may result in a "yes," when pressing your suit may result in many "no"s.

38 All for that tyme not byd can he. Compare The Kingis Quair, line 926, and Whiting T303.

41-42 A lord will ultimately reward his servant, even if he has to go unrewarded for a long time - yet another comment that brings to mind Dunbar's petition poems.


27. Discretion in Giving [In geving sowld discretioun be]

The second in the interconnected sequence of poems on discretion in asking, giving, and taking, this one concerns such things as the reasons for which people give, the manners in which they give, and the attitudes with which they give. A good deal of attention is paid to the selfish motives of the givers and to the unworthy causes or individuals to which they give. Although giving alms and providing for the poor were important Christian responsibilities (compare lines 25-32 in "The Table of Confession" [Poem 7]), here the emphasis is on satirizing the vanity and foolishness of givers rather than applauding their charity. Twelve 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. B (two versions), MF, and R. Mc15, K79, Bw45.

1-5 The reasons for giving listed here seem noble until we discover at the end of line 4 that the recipients have little need of reward.

8-9 Both verses suggest that the giver is giving in the selfish hope of gaining more in return.

14 Giftis fra sum ma na man treit. The verse suggests that we are offered gifts by some people that we simply must not accept.

16-19 The too long overdue gift - or the "too little, too late" gift - expresses a sentiment found in many of Dunbar's petition poems. Compare Henryson's Fables, line 2269, and Whiting T45.

21-30 These two stanzas play off the miserly giver against the excessive giver, condemning both.

26-27 As Bawcutt observes, "The figure of the overladen boat or barge had various medieval applications (see Whiting B422 and S249). Here, it refers to an over-generous man, loaded with debts, who founders financially" (Bw 2.381).

31-40 This pair of stanzas expresses familiar sentiments in Dunbar's poetry, the first deploring the giving of gifts to those who do not need them while ignoring those who do, the second deploring the practice of rewarding strangers with fresh faces while ignoring familiar faces who have served long and well.

36-37 Dunbar is frequently aggrieved by the generosity of the court to foreign newcomers, while familiar longtime servers are ignored. Compare "To the King" (Poem 47), line 69.

41-44 Here the poet presents a contrasting pair within a single stanza, with a positive example of discretion in giving (one of the few in the poem) being used to counter-balance a negative one.

46-50 This stanza satirizes court flatterers and yes-men, of which "there are many such now in these days" (line 49), verses reminiscent of Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale (CT VII[B2]3325-30).

56-60 The final stanza focuses on the giving of benefices and clerical offices to the undeserving or incompetent, which again brings to mind the central concern in many of Dunbar's petition poems.

57 Sanct Barnard. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the great twelfth-century theologian and founder of the Cistercian monastic order.

Sanct Bryd. St. Bride (a variant on the name St. Bridget), who was an Irish abbess in the sixth century; many Scottish churches are dedicated to her.


28. Discretion in Taking [In taking sowld discretioun be]

The third poem in this sequence offers the most overt social criticism, attacking those members of society that "take" from others through various immoral and illegal means. In contrast to the previous two poems, which offer some positive examples of "asking" and "giving," there is little here but selfish grasping. In fact, throughout much of the poem "taking" is merely a euphemism for stealing. Eight 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. B, MF, and R. Mc16, K80, Bw46.

1 Eftir geving I speik of taking. The first verse provides a direct link back to the previous poem. For the linkage between "giving" and "taking," compare Acts 20:35; compare also Whiting G93-94.

2 Bot littill of ony gud forsaiking is in fact an understatement, since the poet does not speak at all of anything that could be described as "good forsaking," that is, refusing to take what one should not take.

3-4 In typical fashion, Dunbar contrasts those who refuse to take enough authority with those who insist upon taking too much. Each extreme is folly.

6-15 In this pair of stanzas the satire is first against greedy clerics who take income from their ecclesiastical holdings while caring little for the spiritual welfare of their parishioners, and then against greedy barons who gouge their tenants - actions in both cases that are immoral rather than strictly illegal. As Bawcutt points out, "sympathy for the rural poor is rare in Dunbar, and recalls Henryson" (Bw 2.382). Compare Henryson's fable of the wolf and the lamb, Fables, lines 2728-62.

6 The clerkis takis beneficis with brawlis. Bawcutt notes that "Disputes between churchmen over rich benefices were common, and occasionally turned into pitched battles" (Bw 2.382).

13 Mailis and gersomes, terms often used together in legal documents, refer to the annual rents and payments tenants are charged by their overlords, payments in money or in kind; in this case those charges are so excessive that the tenants are forced to become beggars.

15 MF includes a stanza here that is not in B:

 

Thir merchandis takis unlesum win
Quhilk makis thair pakkis oftymes full thin;
Be thair successioun ye may see
That ill won geir riches not the kin
In taking suld discretioun be.
unlawful


goods enrich
 

 

Mackenzie includes the stanza within his text. Bawcutt prints it in her notes.

16-30 In these three stanzas, in contrast to the previous two, the focus is on varieties of theft, illegal practices that may result in harsh punishments if the perpetrators are caught.

27-29 Here the moral consequences and the legal consequences of these actions are compared; it is too bad, the poet says, that people are more afraid of being found out by other men than they are of being found out by God.

31-35 These verses contrast the insatiably greedy (lines 31-33) with the person who takes so little that he cannot succeed (line 34), the only time in the poem the poet faults someone for not taking.

36-40 The final stanza comments on the great social injustice reflected by the fact that the powerful receive acclaim for their taking while the poor are cruelly punished and their families are shamed. Compare Lindsay's Satyre, lines 2657-68, and Whiting T68.


29. Dunbar at Oxford [Ane peralous seiknes is vane prosperité]

Although the colophon in the second version of the text in MF reads "Dunbar at Oxinfurde," there are no specifics in the poem to justify that association, nor is there any historical evidence that Dunbar was ever in Oxford, either as a visitor or a student. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the poem addresses learned scholars, reminding them that their wisdom is of little worth if they fail to live good lives - that moral wisdom surpasses all other wisdom. Whether or not it is "a rather dull piece," as Bawcutt suggests (1992, p. 151), she is certainly right in pointing out that it lacks local color. The poem's chief interest lies in the way it celebrates the intellectual achievements of scholars while exhorting them to maintain their moral grounding. MF (two slightly variant texts) and R. Three 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC, with varying refrain. Mc53, K76, Bw82.

1-8 The opening stanza addresses intellectual achievements in a general way, as line 4 clearly suggests, referring to "every field of study, every subject, every discipline."

7 the fyne. "The end," probably meant in several senses - "the end result" of their endeavor, "the end of life," and the "end" they achieve after the end of life. Compare Chaucer's TC 5.1828-34. Compare also Ecclesiasticus 7:36 and Whiting E84.

8 Ane peralous seiknes is vane prosperité. Compare Henryson's Fables, line 291, and Whiting P420-23.

9-16 The second stanza addresses more directly the academic fields common to the medieval university. Logic (line 9) and rhetoric (line 10), along with grammar, are the verbal arts comprising the trivium. The mathematical arts of the quadrivium are suggested by astronomy (line 12) and natural science (line 11), the study of natural phenomena. Theology and literature (line 13) would be more specialized fields of study.

12 Bawcutt believes this line "suggests suspicion of the branch of astronomy now called astrology" (Bw 2.485).

17 Here the use of direct address creates the "preaching voice" often heard in Dunbar's moral poems.

19-20 Two of the most effective verses in the poem, they simultaneously praise scholars for being shining lamps in the darkness, while urging them to be mirrors to us - i.e., moral examples - in the way they govern their own lives. Compare 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 22:29.

20 lampis. I.e., sources of moral and intellectual illumination.

22 Gyff to yowr sawis your deidis contrar be. Compare Whiting W642.


30. The Thistle and the Rose

Dunbar's celebration of the impending marriage of James IV of Scotland to Princess Margaret Tudor of England was first given the title "The Thrissill and the Rose" by James Ramsay in his Ever Green (1724), by which it has been known ever since. Although the wedding did not take place until August of 1503, the poem was apparently composed for an earlier occasion, perhaps in May of that year, for the poet states near the end of the poem that he "wret . . . / Of lusty May upone the nynt morrow" (lines 188-89). It is possible that it was presented at a public ceremony marking the beginning of summer, as several scholars have suggested. Certainly the poem reflects well upon ambitions of court entertainment of the kind James IV adored. Louise Fradenburg puts the matter well: "The poem is spectacular; and while we have no external evidence to suggest that it was performed to the accompaniment of dancing, costume or 'machinery,' its poetics . . . are clearly those of the court masque - of shifting 'scenes,' visual astonishment, splendid 'discryving'" (p. 173).
     The poem blends several genres and traditions. It is both an epithalamium and an elegant love vision in the French dream-vision tradition, and it pays particular homage to Chaucer's dream visions, especially PF. Along the way the poem incorporates many elements from classical myth, animal fable tradition, medieval natural histories and herbals, heraldry, Scottish folklore, Scripture, and the imagery of medieval lyrics in praise of the Virgin Mary. Seventy-seven 7-line stanzas rhyming ababbcc (rhyme royal). B only. Mc55, K50, Bw52.

1-7 This otherwise conventional description of spring - with its April showers, May flowers, and songbirds singing the divine hours - contains an unexpected reference to the orient blast (line 3), which is not the gentle west wind, Chaucer's "Zephirus . . . with his sweete breeth" (CT I[A]5). This reference is elaborated upon in lines 29-35, where the wind is identified as "Lord Eolus" (line 33), and again in lines 64-70; in Greek mythology, Aeolus is the king of the winds.

4 And lusty May, that muddir is of flouris. A probable echo of lines from Chaucer's TC: "In May, that moder is of monthes glade, / That fresshe floures, blew and white and rede, / Ben quike agayn, that wynter dede made" (TC 2.50-2). Compare also Douglas, The Palis of Honoure, line 65.

5 maid the birdis to begyn thair houris. By the fifteenth century, the description of the birds' singing as the singing of the divine hours had become a commonplace, occurring in poem after poem.

8 In bed at morrow sleiping as I lay. Chaucer's dreamer in The Book of the Duchess is similarly "awakened" while lying in his bed at dawn in the month of May (lines 291 ff.).

9 Aurora's cristall ene refers to the morning dew, the tears the dawn-goddess sheds for her son Memnon, who was killed at Troy. Compare lines 1-2 of Dunbar's "The Merle and the Nightingale" (Poem 66) and the first line of Douglas' The Palis of Honoure.

11 visage paill and grene. Ross interprets the phrase as referring to the dreamer, whom he sees as a "typical Ovidian lover" (p. 242); it more likely refers to Aurora.

12 On quhois hand a lark sang fro the splene. The lark, Aurora's bird, is the traditional announcer of the dawn.

15-21 This description of the personified figure of May focuses on her wondrous raiment, which reflects the loveliest attributes of the month. Compare The Golden Targe (Poem 65), lines 82-90. Evans (1987) points out that May wears the Tudor colors - perhaps alluding to the May-January theme of Chaucer's Merchant's Tale (pp. 98-99).

22 Compare the opening verses of Robert Herrick's "Corinna's Going A-Maying."

23 May's command, that the narrator write something in her honor, is fulfilled by the poem itself, as he tells us in the final lines: "And thus I wret . . . / Of lusty May upone the nynt morrow" (lines 188-89).

26-35 The narrator's lack of desire to write songs, which May says has not always been the case, stems from the atypical May weather, which many readers have seen as reflecting his internal landscape - is he perhaps a forlorn lover? - rather than the actual weather. The effect, in any case, is to create a narrative persona similar to the narrators in Chaucer's dream poems. Compare Geffrey's apathy for learning in HF lines 994-95. Evans (1987) reads this stanza as Dunbar's evidence "that a court poet is sometimes encouraged to describe things more favorably than seems natural in a grumpy, early-morning mood" (p. 97). In addition, Evans suggests that throughout the poem, Dunbar - a poet who would have found it difficult not to satirize a marriage between "such discrepancies in age and sophistication" - alludes to the May-January theme in dealing with James and Margaret (pp. 98-99).

33 Lord Eolus dois in thy sessone ring. In Scottish tradition Aeolus takes on the characteristics of Boreas, the north wind (Bw 2.397). Compare Henryson's refer-ence to his "blastis boreally" Fables, line 1693.

37 Uprys and do thy observance. Compare Chaucer's Knight's Tale: "The sesoun priketh every gentil herte / . . . And seith, 'Arys, and do thyn observaunce'" (CT I[A]1043-45).

38-39 These verses seem to suggest that the poet had agreed to write a poem honoring Princess Margaret that would be performed on a particular occasion during the month of May.

44 a lusty gairding gent. The lovely garden that May enters, and into which the narrator sees himself go also, reflects the general medieval topos of the locus amoenus; its more specific literary model, however, is the garden of Nature in Chaucer's PF.

45-46 These verses in B (see textual notes) are clearly flawed, for the poet surely would not have repeated the phrases full hestely and full haistely in successive lines. Various emendations have been proposed. I suggest keeping the MS reading in line 46 and emending the phrase in line 45 to sa listely.

56 Doing all sable fro the hevynnis chace. Compare "The Merle and the Nightingale" (Poem 66), line 1-2.

62-63 The birds salute five personified ladies - May, Flora, Aurora, Nature, and Venus - but from this point on the focus is exclusively on the figure of Nature, as she presides over the activities in her garden.

64-70 Nature is God's "vicaire general" ("chief deputy"), as Chaucer puts it in The Physician's Tale (CT VI[C]20), and because she has control over the natural elements, she is able to instruct the lesser deities of water (Neptune), wind (Aeolus), and sky (Juno) to do her bidding. In Douglas' The Palis of Honoure, similarly, Aeolus and Neptune, along with "ald Saturne," are similarly excluded from Nature's garden (lines 49-52). Compare Lindsay's Monarche, line 185. Nature's injunction to Aeolus, Neptune, and Juno is a reminder that the marriage between Margaret and James is acting as a peace treaty after James supported Perkin Warbeck's rebellion against Henry VII in 1499. Evans (1987) says that "the presence of the Medieval literary goddess suggests that the English-Scottish marriage was prompted by Reason and blessed by God; consequently, the once inimical nations should flourish now in peace and harmony" (p. 101).

71-77 In Chaucer's PF, set on Valentine's Day, Nature assembles all the birds to select their mates for the coming year. Here Nature not only summons all the birds but also all the beasts and flowers, who come and do homage to her, their maker. Dunbar's other specific literary model for this portrayal of Nature is found in Richard Holland's The Howlat, where Nature also presides over an assembly of her creatures.

75 As thay had wont in May fro yeir to yeir. Compare Chaucer's PF, line 321.

76-77 These verses reflect the feudalistic practice of doing homage to one's superior (Bw 2.398). The staging of such practices became a principal court entertainment in James IV's reign. Few poets have been more skilled than Dunbar in celebrating (or mocking) the style of court pageantry. Enid Welsford, long ago, astutely observed that Dunbar saw "nature" through the "medium of courtly pageant; the artificiality of which his poetry has been accused is an artifice that strives, like the masque, to empower illusion to give evanescence an essence" (Fradenberg, p. 173, paraphrasing Welsford, p. 74).

78-84 Nature sends her three messengers to summon the three sets of living things. The first two messengers, the swift roe and the restless swallow, are understandable enough. The third messenger is the yarrow, or milfoil, a daisy-like flower which according to Kinsley was "said to be used by witches to give them speed on night rides" (K, p. 352); but it may have been selected simply because of the way this wild flower spreads so rapidly across the fields.

87 first the lyone, gretast of degré. The lion is the king of the beasts in animal fable tradition, bestiaries, and in other symbolic contexts, but he is also the central figure in the royal arms of Scotland and by this time had become the traditional emblem of the Scottish king. In the poem he is the first of the triumvirate of royal figures - Lion, Eagle, and Thistle - each of whom stands for James IV of Scotland.

93-102 Here Dunbar's flattery of James rests not just in representing the king as a regal lion, but "by making him an actual replica of the royal arms of Scotland," that is, crowned, on a field of gold, and surrounded by fleur-de-lis (Ridley, 1990, p. 357). Ridley's discussion engages many examples of Dunbar's use of animal and heraldic imagery in specific poems (Poems 3, 49, 54, and 84), commenting that he consistently turns "man into creature" (p. 359). But her essay is particularly useful in this context because it compares Dunbar's use of animal imagery to Robert Henryson's. Henryson's poetry, particularly his Moral Fables, uses animal imagery in a more general way than Dunbar. In Fable II, for example, the discussion between the country mouse and the town mouse over the former's coarse diet reveals more about the author's reading of bourgeois attitudes towards the poor than it does about one particular person (see lines 208-35, quoted in Ridley). Ridley argues that, whereas Dunbar's subjects are animalized to achieve a specific, self-related effect (e.g., humiliating Walter Kennedy or getting a Christmas bonus from the king), Henryson's poetry takes place in an animalized world to effect social or moral change.

103-12 In this coronation ceremony in which Nature makes the lion king of the beasts, she instructs him to protect the people and uphold the laws, and to apply the laws equally to all and exercise justice with mercy.

110-12 These verses may imply that the king has a responsibility to make the Highlander - the bowgle ("wild ox," line 110) - and the Lowlander - the meik pluch ox ("the gentle plough ox," line 111) - work together in harmony.

117 homege and fewté. "Formal acknowledgement of allegiance by a vassal to his lord" (Bw 2.398).

119 parcere prostratis. "To show mercy to the downtrodden"; Dunbar is quoting a part of a well-known Latin maxim: Parcere protratis scit nobilis ira leonis ("the noble wrath of the lion knows how to spare those who are prostrated before him").

120-26 The eagle, the traditional king of the birds, receives far less attention than the lion and the thistle, the two more familiar symbols of Scottish royalty. But like the lion, the eagle is told to uphold justice for all birds, the weak (e.g., the wrens, line 124) as well as the strong. This second ceremony in the poem, Dunbar's "parliament of fowls," alludes, as Evans (1987) sees it, to the agreement between James and Henry to cease border warfare by not allowing the other country's criminals to take refuge over the border. Nature sharpens the eagle's feathers to make him a better law enforcer (pp. 102-03). In "To the King" (Poem 48), lines 26-29, King James is also depicted as an eagle who rules over his kingdom.

130 a busche of speiris. I.e., the many large thorns and prickly foliage that surround the flower of the spear thistle. The thistle had only recently been adopted as a royal emblem, and it symbolized the king's duty to protect his kingdom from invasion (Bw 2.399).

131-33 Here Nature refers to the king's responsibility to be the defender of his people and their leader in war.

134-47 Commentators agree that this lengthy passage urging the thistle to maintain a well-ordered garden is also meant as an admonition to King James against future sexual indiscretions. As Spearing observes, "James IV was a notorious womaniser, and it is known that in the very summer of his marriage he had left the court in order to renew acquaintance with an old flame" (p. 214).

138 Hir fallow to. "To be her equal," i.e., allow her to receive the same (sexual) favors.

138-40 The gudly flour delyce, the fleur-de-lis, which is either the lily or the iris. Perhaps both the iris and the lily (mentioned specifically in line 140) represent Princess Margaret, as the rose in the following stanza certainly does.

142 The "fresh rose of color red and white," the chief symbol in the poem for Princess Margaret, reflects that fact that she is the daughter of Elizabeth of York (the white rose) and Henry of Lancaster (the red rose). The Tudor rose, in which the white rose is enclosed within the red rose, combines the two.

144-54 Nature's great praise of the rose - of her virtue, beauty, and perfection - accords with descriptions of the rose found in medieval herbals and other works of natural history, where the rose is often exalted as the chief of all flowers. The phrases Imperiall birth (line 147) and stok ryell (line 151) allude once again to her royal parentage, and the phrase Aboif the lilly (line 150) may suggest not only the rose's superiority to the lily but the superiority of English royalty to French royalty, commonly symbolized by the lily.

153 Cum, blowme of joy, with jemis to be cround. This verse may echo Canticle of Canticles 4:8 - "Come . . . my spouse, . . . come: thou shalt be crowned from the top of Amana" - a verse usually associated in the Middle Ages with the Virgin Mary.

162-82 The narrator's dream concludes with the birds singing in praise of the rose; first there is a succession of individual birdsongs - by the mavis, the merle, the lark, and the nightingale - and then all the birds sing in unison. Ross describes this as "a secular Salve Regina" (p. 248), and it does contain many images commonly found in "Adoration of the Virgin" poetry.

180 perle. Probably a play on the name Margaret, whose Latin form is margarita, meaning "pearl."

183-89 The shouting of the birds similarly awakens Chaucer's dream-narrator in PF, lines 693-95. The specific date given here, the ninth morrow of May, is also the date Douglas gives for writing the Prologue to his Eneados. The ninth of May was the Feast of the Translation of St. Nicholas, "sometimes regarded as the first day of summer" (Bawcutt, 1992, pp. 74-75), and thus may have provided an occasion for Scottish court revels. Chaucer had also given a specific date for the writing of his dream vision HF, in that case 10 December.

187 Than up I lenyt, halflingis in affrey. Compare line 140 in "Of the Passion of Christ" (Poem 2).


31. To Princess Margaret [Welcum of Scotlond to be quene]

This brief and possibly fragmentary lyric in praise of Princess Margaret is commonly attributed to Dunbar, though it is anonymous in its unique MS text, the appendix to BL Royal 58, an early sixteenth-century collection of English madrigals. Its style, diction, and imagery suggest Dunbar's authorship, and, if that is true, it is the only one of Dunbar's poems we can be certain was set to music. According to Ross: "This piece is set in the key of F major/D minor, and the last note of the first stanza in the tonic F. This fact and the range of the part suggest it is the bass of a madrigal. There is an interlude of instrumental music following the two stanzas presented in the manuscript, which is in keeping with the idea that the music formed part of a pageant" (p. 205). In addition to its praise of Margaret, the poem also celebrates her parents, the Tudor monarch Henry VII and his wife Elizabeth of York. Four 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB, with the refrain repeated twice in the final stanza. BL Royal MS 58. Mc89, K24. (Bawcutt excludes it from her edition.)

5 Younge tender plant. Margaret was thirteen at the time of her marriage to James in 1503. Compare line 2 in "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 32).

6 Descendyd of imperyalle blode. This verse pays tribute to Margaret's noble lineage, and is surely meant as a compliment to Henry VII.

10-11 Once again the poet compliments the English King Henry, this time along with his wife Elizabeth, a princes most serene (line 11).

13 The rose bothe rede and whyte is the Tudor rose, formed by the union of the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York. Compare lines 148-61 in "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30).

15 Oure spreit rejoysyng frome the sone beme. A problematic line in both sound and sense; it has too many syllables and an imperfect rhyme; I have followed Kinsley in emending seqete to spreit.


32. To Princess Margaret [Gladethe, thoue queyne of Scottis regioun]

The text of this poem in praise of Margaret Tudor is found only in the Aberdeen Minute Book, where "q dunbar" is written beneath the final stanza, and most of the editors and commentators have accepted this ascription. The poem is a rather conventional panegyric in which the young queen - she was thirteen at the time of her marriage to James in 1503 - is portrayed as the epitome of beauty, goodness, and refinement. The poet especially uses two sets of comparisons in praising her. The first involves comparing her to various gemstones and plays upon the Latin word margarita (meaning "pearl"), the gem that surpasses all others. The second involves flower imagery, particularly emphasizing red and white roses, and plays upon Margaret Tudor's Lancastrian and Yorkist family lineage. The flower images are also associated with the desire clearly stated in the poem for "A plaunt to spring of thi successioun" (line 30), who would be an heir to continue the Scottish royal line. Since Margaret's first child was born in 1507, when she was seventeen, the poem was almost certainly written before that date. Five 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. Aberdeen Minute Book. Mc90, K31, Bw15.

2-3 Ying tendir plaunt of plesand pulcritude, / Fresche flour of youthe, new germyng to burgeoun. While these verses celebrate the freshness of Margaret's beauty, they also reflect the fact that she was very young when she married James. The use of alliteration, as in line 2, occurs frequently throughout the poem.

2 Compare line 5 in "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 31).

4-6 The paired images of "Our pearl of price" and "Our chosen ruby of high imperial blood" in lines 4-5 not only celebrate her beauty and value but reflect the white and red colors of the Tudor rose mentioned in line 6. The phrase "pearl of great price" originates in the biblical parable in Matthew 13:46.

5 charbunkle. The carbuncle, or ruby, which was believed to radiate light in the darkness, was often used by Scottish poets as an emblem of great perfection. Compare Douglas' praise of Virgil in Eneados 1.Prol.7.

10 Lodsteir. A lodestar is a guiding star such as the North Star.

11-12 Polyxena was the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Priam and Hecuba of Troy. Pallas is Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom.

13 Mastres of nurtur and of nobilnes. This line praises her refined behavior. In The Thre Prestis of Peblis, peasants possess neither "nurtour nor nobilnes" (line 328).

17-24 Natur is the goddess Natura, the creator of all natural creatures. These verses recall the passage in Chaucer's Physician's Tale concerning Natura's creation of Virginia (CT VI[C]30-71).

29-31 Here the poet states explicitly the desire of the Scots for an heir to ensure the succession of the monarchy. Producing such an heir was "A queen's most important duty" (Bw 2.321).

33-39 Margaret, the "perle of price" (line 4) and Fair gem of joy (line 39), is here compared to the gemstones beryl, diamond, sapphire, emerald, and ruby; she embodies all of their finest qualities and even surpasses them in those qualities. Compare the ME lyrics IMEV 1394 ("Annot and John") and 752 ("A Lover's Farewell"), lines 89-96.

38 Moir riche na is the ruby of renowne. The ruby was often valued above all the other gemstones (compare Whiting R227); compare also Proverbs 31:10, where a virtuous woman is said to be more valuable than rubies.


33. To Aberdeen [Be blyth and blisfull, burgh of Aberdein]

One of Dunbar's most topical poems, "To Aberdeen" celebrates Queen Margaret's visit to the burgh in May of 1511. The poem describes the colorful pageantry surrounding the royal visit, appearing to be an eyewitness account, and is a paean not only to the queen but also to the burgh. The poem has nine stanzas, seven of which depict the city's joyous and elaborate welcome to the queen. Those seven stanzas are enclosed within a pair of stanzas that offer balanced apostrophes, with the opening stanza addressing "Blyth Aberdeane, thow beriall of all tounis, / The lamp of bewtie" (lines 1-2), and the final stanza addressing Margaret - "O potent princes, pleasant and preclair" (line 65). The poem's final stanza, though, rather than presenting a lavish eulogy to the queen, focuses more on the fact that she should be thankful to the citizens of this burgh, who have pulled out all the stops for her. As Fradenburg notes, the poem attests "the strongly visual character of much of [Dunbar's] writing and the court's interest in pageants and entertainments" (p. 173). Nine 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. R only, with several lacunae. Mc64, K48, Bw8.

1 Beryl, the gemstone the poet associates with Aberdeen, was noted for its clarity and brightness; the eighth foundation of the New Jerusalem in Apocalypse (21:20) is entirely formed of beryl, and perhaps a comparison of the two cities is obliquely suggested.

1-5 Aberdeen was a royal burgh and an important North Sea port city. This eulogy to a city is not unique. Compare "London, thou art of townes A perse" (sometimes attrib-uted to Dunbar) and Lindsay's Papyngo, lines 626-46.

7-8 Here the poet's praise shifts from the burgh to the queen, who is called the wall of welth (line 7), i.e., "the well-spring of prosperity," an image often associated with the Virgin Mary.

8 A burgh was a town with a royal charter; it enjoyed special laws and privileges.

9-24 The second and third stanzas describe the queen's ceremonial entry to the city and the first pageant presented for her entertainment. This pageant, fittingly, is the biblical story of the angel's salutation to Mary (Luke 1:28-38).

18 cap. Bawcutt suggests "cape; specifically cope, ecclesiastical vestment" (Bw 2.528).

25-31 The second pageant depicts the adoration of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12), and the third the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise (Genesis 3:23-4).

33-40 The queen next views a dramatic enactment depicting more recent Scottish historical figures, beginning with Robert Bruce and followed by figures in the family tree of Scottish kings of the Stewart line, probably ending with a depiction of James IV. This is partly conjectural, however, because the text has a lacuna in line 37.

33 the Bruce. Robert Bruce "reigned as Robert I (1306-29). His success in the war of Independence was celebrated by Barbour . . . , and he figures as a tenth hero in Scot-tish treatments of the Nine Worthies theme" (Bw 2.305). He is often viewed as the hero of the great Scottish victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1314.

41-48 There is a strongly Celtic flavor to the final entertainment described, in which twenty-four maidens clad in green sing, dance, and play small timbrels before the queen. Their garb and the specific number of twenty-four suggests a company of lovely faerie maidens dancing in a meadow, as in The Wife of Bath's Tale (CT III[D]991-93). In Malory, the queen and her knights are similarly garbed all in green when they go a-maying (Works, p. 649).

45 The timbrel was a small percussion instrument (similar to the tambourine) often played by young women; see "timbre" in Henry Holland Carter, A Dictionary of Middle English Musical Terms (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1961), pp. 500-01.

49-56 This stanza depicts the common citizens of the town doing homage to their royal visitor.

57-64 Here the emphasis is on the city's generosity toward the queen, bestowing upon her the lavish gift of a large and costly cup filled with gold coins.

65-72 The emphasis in these verses is on the poet's expectation (or hope) that the queen will acknowledge the city's generosity with generosity of her own.


34. To the Queen [Devoyd languor and leif in lustines]

This poem is only found in B, where it is anonymous, and thus Dunbar's authorship remains conjectural. But several editors, including Laing and Kinsley, accept this attribution, largely on stylistic grounds. In addition to the uncertainty about the poem's authorship, it also is not certain to whom the poem is addressed. Laing suggested Queen Margaret who, when she was widowed by James' death at Flodden in 1513, was just twenty-four years old. If so, the poem surely would have had to be written before August of 1514, when Margaret married the earl of Angus. Regardless of these uncertainties, the poem is a tender and moving attempt on the part of a poet to comfort a grieving widow. Ross aptly describes it as a "graceful poem of praise, consolation, and proffer of service" (p. 98). Both the stanza form and the number of verses are identical to those used in "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 32). Five 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbabC. B only. Mc91, K49. (Does not appear in Bawcutt's edition.)

1-8 In contrast to the rose imagery used to describe Margaret in other poems, here the woman is described as a lily, which might be more appropriate for a woman who is no longer in her teens - and who is no longer so closely associated with her Tudor lineage? - and who is now a widow and perhaps also a queen. Furthermore, Dunbar does associate the lily and fleur-de-lis with Margaret in "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30), lines 138-40. In this stanza, as throughout the poem, there is a heavy use of alliteration.

8 Devoyd langour and leif in lustiness. Although each stanza ends with the poet urging the woman to be glad and to expel sorrow, the cause of her sorrow is not revealed until line 35 in the final stanza.

9-16 Brycht sterne at morow. Here the imagery shifts to "the bright star of the morning" and the poet's desire that no dark cloud will hide her face. Compare "A Ballad of Our Lady" (Poem 4), lines 25-28.

17-24 This stanza presents a catalogue of the woman's exemplary qualities, including praise for her noble lineage (line 19), which recalls the praise of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York found in "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 31).

25-32 Here the poet offers his service to the woman, whose servant he is, and for whom he offers to make songs for her reconforting (line 31).

35 Finally - and briefly - the poet reveals the cause of the woman's grief; it is fittingly brief, since the poem is not an elegy for the dead but a poignant expression of support for the living.


35. Eulogy to Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny [Withe glorie and honour]

Among the most dateable of Dunbar's poems are the two written in praise of Bernard Stewart. The first is a eulogy celebrating Stewart's return to Scotland in May of 1508; the second is an elegy which was probably composed shortly after Stewart's death in June of that same year. Stewart was a famous French knight of Scottish ancestry who achieved international acclaim for his many feats of arms. He led the French contingent that fought in support of Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485; he also served for a time as French ambassador to Scotland and was thus a familiar figure to the Scottish court. Indeed, he seems to embody personally the close ties between Scotland and France during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Bawcutt describes the poem as "a well-deserved tribute to a great soldier" (1992, p. 82). The poem may seem repetitious, but there is a skillful interweaving of three or four principal motifs, with the later stanzas often elaborating on what had been briefly suggested earlier. Twelve 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. CM and MF. Mc61, K35, Bw56. CM introduces the poem with the following heading (quoted in Bw 1.177):

 

The ballade of ane right noble victorious and myghty lord, Barnard Stewart, lord of Aubigny, erle of Beaumont Rober and Bonaffre, consaloure and chamerlane ordinare to the maist hee, maist excellent and maist crystyn prince Loys, king of France, knyght of his ordoure, capitane of the kepyng of his body, conquereur of Naplis and umquhile constable general of the same. Compilit be Maister Willyam Dumbar at the said lordis cumyng to Edinburghe in Scotland send in ane ryght excellent embassat fra the said maist crystin king to our maist souuerane lord and victorious prince, Iames the ferde kyng of Scottis.
 

1-8 The poem is highly rhetorical throughout; there is frequent use of classical devices such as anaphora, and there is also frequent use of alliteration, as in lines 1 and 3. In part, these elaborate rhetorical devices may strike readers, in Reiss' words, as "too full of hyberbole" (p. 47). If Dunbar's praise of Stewart seems over the top to a modern audience, we would do well to keep in mind Evans' argument that the highly aureate language in the poem serves a formal purpose in signifying responses to the audience and moving them to appreciate Stewart as a man highly worthy of their praise. These reader-response signals, says Evans, are marked both by rhetorical devices and by formal comparisons of Stewart to the Nine Worthies, the optimistic reading of his horoscope (unfortunately, an inaccurate once, since he died the next month), and by the climactic acrostic on his name at the end of the poem. See Evans (1991), pp. 123-24.

4 laureat. In this case referring to the laurel wreath bestowed upon a military victor; compare Chaucer's Knight's Tale (CT I[A]1027). Later in the Renaissance this gives rise to the concept of the poet laureate.

5 Onto the sterris. I.e., Stewart is exalted "unto the heavens" or "up to the skies."

7 servatour. The term is used here, as in "To the King" (Poem 46), to refer to mem-bers of the court who fulfill official functions. Dunbar considered himself to belong to this group.

8 Withe glorie and honour, lawde and reverence. Bw 2.408 notes that the refrain echoes the Palm Sunday processional hymn, Gloria laus et honor tibi sit ("glory, praise, and honor be unto you"). Compare Douglas, The Palis of Honoure, line 1063.

13 moste lusti branche of our linnage. The poet pays tribute to the fact that Bernard Stewart is of Scottish ancestry. (His grandfather was Sir John Stewart of Darnley, who began his French service in 1422 and later became a landholder in France.) Throughout the poem the poet conveys a strong sense that all Scotland embraces Stewart as one of their own.

17 secund Julius. Julius Caesar, whom the Middle Ages regarded as a great military conqueror and who was included in the famous group of heroes known as the Nine Worthies; two more of them (Hector and Arthur) are mentioned in lines 57-64 when the poet returns to this theme. Compare the reference in Chaucer's TC 2.158 to Troilus as "Ector the secounde."

25-32 This stanza focuses on Stewart's personal kindness to the Scottish people, and may reflect real deeds performed during the time he was the French ambassador to Scotland. Or, it may refer to his concern for the well-being of Scottish merchants abroad.

41-48 This stanza reiterates what was already expressed in lines 17-24, in a kind of theme and variation device.

49-56 The idea first expressed in line 5 of Stewart's great fame, which ascends to the heavens, is here elaborated. For a discussion of this topos, see Curtius, pp. 160-62.

50 Fame was commonly portrayed as a swift, winged goddess; compare Chaucer's TC 4.659-61.

57-64 Just as he had been compared to Julius Caesar in line 17, here Stewart is likened to a group of the world's most worthy warriors and war leaders - Achilles, Hector, King Arthur, Agamemnon, Hannibal, and once again, Julius Caesar.

67 Thi cristall helme withe lawry suld be crownyt. Compare line 4, above, and Chaucer's Knight's Tale (CT I[A]1027).

68 The olive branch is the traditional sign of peace, an emblem used occasionally in envoys. Compare Douglas, Eneados 7.3.15-16, and Whiting O32.

73-80 At Stewart's birth, the poet suggests in this presumably imaginary horoscope, several of the planetary deities bestowed upon him their particular virtues - Mars gave him his fierceness, Mercury gave him his eloquence, etc. Kinsley proposes that Fortuna maior (line 79) was a group of stars marking out a particular geometric pattern; to be born under that sign would presage good fortune (K, p. 311). Bawcutt disagrees, suggesting instead that Fortuna maior is an astrological synonym for Jupiter, a planet of positive influence (Bw 2.409). Chaucer used the device of creating a character's horoscope for the Wife of Bath (CT III[D]609-16) and for Hypermnesta in LGW (lines 2576-93). Compare also Lindsay, Testament, lines 64-91.

74 Rong. Bawcutt proposes (Bw 2.409) the gloss "reigned"; but perhaps it simply means "rang" or "resounded," for each of the planetary deities in this stanza is making a particular sign or action to bless Stewart's birth. In The Knight's Tale the sign Mars gives to Arcite also involves the ringing of his metal hauberk (CT I[A]2431-32).

83-87 Using the rhetorical device of occupatio, the poet tells us in short what he does not plan to tell us at greater length, Stewart's many military victories. He suggests in lines 86-87 that he intends to do this before Stewart departs again from Scotland; unfortunately, Stewart's death occurred scarcely over a month later.

85 Bertan. Britain; probably a reference to Stewart's service in command of a French force at Bosworth Field in 1485.

89-93 Within these verses the poet creates an acrostic, spelling out in its Latin form Steward's first name, BARNARDVS. Such acrostics were fairly common in eulogistic poetry.

94-95 Compare Lydgate's Fall of Princes 4.371 and Douglas, Eneados 12.Prol.309-10.


36. Elegy for Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny [Sen he is gon, the flour of chevalrie]

Bernard Stewart arrived in Scotland in May of 1508, and within a few weeks he fell ill while traveling from Edinburgh to Sterling. Stewart wrote his will on 8 June and died on 11 June, and Dunbar's short, somber elegy was probably written shortly thereafter. The poem is addressed to Louis XII of France, and probably should be seen primarily as expressing the grief of the entire "Scottis natioun" (line 29) rather than Dunbar's own personal grief (Bawcutt, 1992, p. 87). It stands as a companion piece with Dunbar's eulogy to Stewart, with which it shares several phrases and a common stanza form. The catalogues of warriors and victories in the eulogy add to the moving injunction of the elegy, which turns loss into what Fradenburg calls an occasion: "The memorializing, the final theatrical manifestation, of a life ideally devoted to the risk of death, to an intentional relation with death. Though Stewart died of illness, his last antagonist, in Dunbar's poem, is the dragon dolorous [line 178] - a heroization of loss, the obverse of the grandeur of risk" (p. 178).The funeral lament became a distinct genre in late medieval poetry, especially on the continent but also in Scotland (see Bw 2.338). As Bawcutt notes, several fine examples "are embedded in larger works; in Henryson's Orpheus, 134-81; Hary, Wallace, XII, 1109-28 . . . and the verse on James I in Bower, Scotichronicon, XVI.38" (Bw 2.338). Four 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. R only. Mc62, K36, Bw23.

1 Bawcutt points out (1992, p. 87) that it was customary in medieval Europe to restrict the use of the epithet most Cristin king to the king of France, who at this time was Louis XII.

4 In deid of armes most anterous and abill. Compare line 42 in the previous poem.

7 sabill. Sable is the heraldic term for black, as well as the color traditionally associated with mourning. Compare line 284 in Chaucer's Complaint of Mars: "Now have ye cause to clothe yow in sable."

8 the flour of chevelrie. "The flower of chivalry" was a phrase often used for a knight who represented chivalric perfection; it occurs twice in Chaucer's Knight's Tale (CT I[A]982 and 3059), once to describe Theseus, and once in Theseus' tribute to the slain Arcite.

13 To the Turkas sey all land did his name dreid. Whereas in the previous poem Stewart's fame reaches up to the stars (line 5), here his reputation as a fearsome warrior reaches across a vast expanse of earthly terrain, all the way to the Turkish sea (i.e., the Black Sea), the point where Asia begins.

17 O dragon dolorous. Dunbar refers to death as a dragon in several other poems, e.g., "Of Man's Mortality" (Poem 9), line 28.

17-24 Evans (1991) sees the poem not just as an elegy, but as a presentation of Stewart's life as an exemplum of the perfect Christian knight and a guide for moral behavior. She agrees with Scott (p. 260) that the "moral conclusion" to the poem may be vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas, as this is a common theme in Dunbar's poetry (p. 125). For example, see "Of the World's Vanity" (Poem 11). While Stewart's life is certainly a model for good behavior, it does not appear to be an example of vanity, only that all things pass. Dunbar is alluding to the common ubi sunt theme. Compare "When the turuf is thy tour" (MEL, p. 223). Dunbar seems to be comparing Stewart's physical prowess to his earthly goods, and, in an interesting twist on ubi sunt, asks "why?" instead of "where?"

20 The witt of weiris. I.e., "the wisest of military commanders." Compare Golagros and Gawain, line 1137.

24 charbuckell. The carbuncle, or ruby, was a gem that represented great excellence; compare its use in Dunbar's eulogizing Princess/Queen Margaret ("To Princess Margaret" [Poem 31]), line 5.

25-32 These verses urge all the poem's hearers to pray for Stewart's soul; such admonitions were common in medieval laments for the dead; the greater the number of prayers on earth that are said for you (this is "intercessioun"), the shorter your time in Purgatory.


37. To the King [In hansill of this guid New Yeir]

In this "gay, fresh, hopeful" poem (Scott, p. 135) the poet presents his New Year's greeting to King James IV of Scotland. Although it is very brief, the poem does several things. Primarily, it expresses the speaker's wish that the king receive many blessings - "Joy, gladness, comfort, and solace" (line 2) and "prosperity, fair fortune, and felicity" (lines 9-10). Less obviously, the poem appears to be exhorting the king to pursue a virtuous path both in his private behavior (stanza 2) and in his ruling of Scotland (stanza 4). And finally, in the last stanza it tenders a request for the king to be liberal toward his faithful servers, which by implication includes the poet. It is reasonable, therefore, to consider the poem one of Dunbar's petitions, even though it contains no explicit request. Because its tone is light and cheerful and lacks any hint of cynicism, "To the King [In hansill of this guid New Yeir]" is commonly assumed to be one of Dunbar's earliest petitions, though that is only a guess. R only. Five 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB. Mc26, K18, Bw37.

4 A hansill was a gift given in honor of a special occasion, most frequently around the time of the New Year, and was a token of the giver's good wishes for the receiver. In the poem Dunbar expresses his desire for the king's good fortunes, and the poem itself is the poet's hansill to the king. Compare the giving of such gifts in Arthur's court in SGGK: "And sythen riche forthe runnen to reche hondeselle, / Yeghed yeres-giftes on high, yelde hem bi hond" (lines 66-67).

5 ane blissed chance. "A blessed good fortune"; i.e., good luck.

13-16 Among the king's most important responsibilities are protection of the realm and preservation of justice, duties which are emphasized in "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30), lines 103-12.

18 And send thee many Fraunce crownes. The French crown, or ecu, was a gold coin highly valued in Scotland, though worth slightly less than the Scottish pound.

19 handis not sweir. "Hands not ungenerous"; this verse hints at the poet's own desire to receive a generous hansill from the king.


38. To the King [God gif ye war Johne Thomsounis man]

Like the previous poem, this petition also begins with the poet's prayer for the king's well- being. But it quickly modulates into something quite different - a comic plea for the poet's receipt of a benefice. The humor in the poem, which Bawcutt terms witty and "audacious" (1992, p. 109) and Ridley "rueful whimsy" (1973, p. 1013), stems from the desire expressed in the refrain: "God gif ye war Johne Thomsounis man." This essentially means, "I wish to God you were more under your wife's thumb." Apparently the poet has found a strong ally in Queen Margaret; but just as apparently, at least for the comic purposes of the poem, the king remains hard-hearted and merciless (lines 29-30) in his attitude toward the poet. The poem would have had to be written between 1503 (the date of the royal marriage) and 1513 (the date of the king's death), perhaps earlier in this period rather than later. Eight 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB. MF only. Mc18, K25, Bw63.

1 Schir. This is the form of address Dunbar uses for the king in several poems. It is formal and respectful, but by no means flowery, and usually connotes a seriousness of purpose.

6 benefice. An ecclesiastical office or living by which Dunbar could attain financial security. The poet's desire to receive such a benefice, and the king's reluctance to grant him one, is the central source of conflict throughout most of Dunbar's petition poems. Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenford has not yet attained a benefice, though in contrast to Dunbar he seems to have little interest in doing so (CT I[A]291-2).

9-16 These two stanzas (as are two later ones) are filled with compliments to the queen. It may be that he is flattering her in the hope that she will intervene on his behalf, though throughout his poetry one has the sense that Dunbar truly admired Margaret.

14 fair and gude. Dunbar also uses the phrase to describe Margaret in line 4 of "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 32) and in the opening verse of "Of the Aforesaid James Dog" (Poem 58).

19 ye had vowit to the swan. Dunbar is here having fun with the practice of offering a chivalric vow on a noble bird, a practice that is described in many romances and that was sometimes performed in real life. It apparently originates in Jacques de Longuyon's Voeux du Paon (c. 1310), in which vows are made upon the peacock.

21-23 The Rose (line 21) and the Thirsill (line 22) are references to Margaret and James. It is not clear whether we should take a verse such as 23 seriously, in which case the poet feels that he has been abused by the king, or whether it is all part of a comic pretense.

25 My advocat, bayth fair and sweit. Perhaps part of the joke, as this verse may suggest, involves a parody of a Christian's prayer to Mary to intercede on his behalf with God.

31 sweit Sanct An. Stories of St. Anne, the Virgin Mary's mother, were greatly revered throughout the Middle Ages. Although no mention of her is made in the New Testament, the Latin apocryphal Protoevangelium of James and, especially, the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew provided details of Mary's birth and childhood that sustained many rewritings - the De Nativitate Mariae, the Franciscan Meditationes Vitae Christi, Mirk's Festial, and popular collections of saint's lives such as Jacobus de Voragine's Legenda Aurea and Bokenham's Legendys. The N-Town Cycle includes a sequence of Mary plays, the first two of which (plays 8 and 9) deal with Joachim and Anne and the marvelous conception of Mary, and her presentation at the Temple. Dunbar might have known the story from Lydgate's Life of Our Lady. Bawcutt suggests that Anne's "name was often used in asseverations, as here, to supply a rhyme. Compare Chaucer's Friar's Tale, CT III(D)1613: 'by the sweete Seinte Anne'; and Lindsay, Satyre, 878" (Bw 2.425).


39. To the King [My panefull purs so priclis me]

This wry, clever petition to the king focuses on the poet's financial hardship, hardship that causes him great mental and physical distress due to the lamentable emptiness of his purse. The poem brings to mind "The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse," which also makes a direct appeal to the king for aid; Chaucer's poem, however, does not dwell at such length on the practical consequences of his penury, which is Dunbar's main concern through the first five stanzas of the poem. One of the charms of this petition is its ironic, or upside-down, quality. For example, the speaker begins by cursing silver, but it turns out that he is not cursing silver because silver is a bad thing (which in the medieval Christian frame of reference it probably is), he is cursing silver because it is the very thing he wants but lacks. And later in the poem, he says he wishes he could make a conjuration to put silver in his purse, since that would ward off the devil, who might be attracted to his empty purse (there is an old saying that "the devil dances in an empty purse"). But making magical conjurations would itself involve engaging in a demonic exercise; and a purse full of silver is much more likely to lead to a person's moral downfall than an empty one is, since money is the root of all evil. Seven 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. B only. Mc1, K19, Bw61.

1 Sanct Salvatour, send silver sorrow. "Holy Savior, accused be silver!" Several Scottish churches were dedicated to Saint Salvatour - a title commonly used for Christ - including the collegiate church at St. Andrews University, which Dunbar may have attended.

3 cheritie. Probably meant in both senses, i.e., in possession of a loving spirit, and having a desire to be generous to others.

4 borrow. Probably means "give away," i.e., no longer have.

5 My panefull purs so priclis me. His purse is painful because it is empty, and that emptiness, like an empty stomach, causes pain. The line may possibly contain sexual innuendo, as some commentators have suggested - i.e., the purse can also mean the scrotum - and there are other lines in the poem that invite similar speculations (e.g., lines 21-22). But such implications, if they are even there, do not seem much in keeping with what the poet is attempting. More interesting is the possibility that he is playing upon the penitential concept of "the mortification of the flesh" in a cleverly inverted fashion. Here pain is being inflicted upon his flesh - not by a hair shirt but by an empty purse!

6-7 The languor that prevents him from creating cheerful verse is probably related to the depressed state of mind that he describes at length in several other petition poems. Compare "A Dream" (Poem 42), lines 16-25, the entirety of "The Headache" (Poem 43), and "A Meditation in Winter" (Poem 15), lines 4-10.

16 in tone. "In tune," i.e., they clink with the sound of coins. Compare "The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse," line 9, and the "blisful soun" (the clink of coins) that he misses.

17 disjone. Lit., "breakfast," from OF desjeun; but probably here it means simply "to eat." The word is needed for the rhyme.

22-23 cors. "Cross," referring to a coin with a cross stamped on one side; in these lines Dunbar is reversing the usual idea that the Cross (or making the sign of the Cross) frightens away the devil.

24 Quhaevir tyne, quhaevir win. "Whoever loses, whoever wins," i.e., "regardless" or "whatever the case."

26-29 A magic purse that is never empty brings to mind various folk tales, as well as stories such as Marie de France's Lanval, in which the title character's faerie lover gives him just such a purse.

33 The lord he is addressing is presumably his earthly king, not his heavenly Lord, though a double meaning is possible.

33-34 These verses may echo line 25 from "The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse": "And ye, that mowen alle oure harmes amende."

34 malice. This word, too, may be meant in at least two senses - "harm" or "evil," but also perhaps "malaise" or "disease." The king is the speaker's physician who can undo his harm and cure his disease.


40. To the King [Schir, at this feist of benefice]

This is one of Dunbar's lighter, wittier, and fairly good-humored petition poems, yet there can be no doubt that the poet is serious in his desire to receive what he has been denied, a benefice from which he could derive a proper income. The Scottish king, the "Schir" of lines 1 and 5, had the authority to nominate members of the clergy to a variety of ecclesiastical offices, and the poem clearly reflects the poet's devout wish to receive such a nomination. The poem develops an extended metaphor in which the handing out of benefices is compared to a feast at which the guests should be served equal portions but are not - those who "thirst sorely" are allowed to die of thirst, while those who are already full get fed until they burst. The poem is a plea for fairness. Three 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. MF contains two texts of the poem (MFb is used here), and R (based on MFa). Mc11, K41, Bw62.

1 Schir. This is the formal mode of address the poet normally uses in his petition poems when addressing James IV.

2 Think that small partis makis grit service. Proverbial; see Whiting S397.

7 The rightness of giving a drink to a thirsty man may also be a biblical allusion: "I was thirsty and you gave me drink" (Matthew 25:35).

11 collatioun. Dunbar is playing on the two meanings of the word: "an evening repast" and "the conferral of a benefice on a clerygman."

13 The phrase playis cop out suggests a drinking game in which the participants are trying to be the first one to swill the entire contents of the cup. Compare "Master Andro Kennedy's Testament" (Poem 80), line 101. See also Douglas, Eneados 1.11.91-92.

14 "Let [for] once the cup go around the table" - so that all may sip from it equally. A refrain in drinking songs. Compare Oxford drinking carol, "How, butler, How! / Bevis a towt!" where the refrain, "Fill the boll, jentill butler, and let the cup rowght," apparently refers to just such an appeal for drinking equity. See Greene, Carols, p. 254.


41. To the King [Of benefice, sir, at everie feist]

This petition poem is often paired with the previous one, with which it has a good deal in common. However, it is far more explicit in its condemnation of ecclesiastical greed and the way in which ecclesiastical appointments are made. The poem is twice the length of the preceding poem and is perhaps twice as harsh in tone. Here, though, the poet's criticisms are not directed at the king but at greedy churchmen who grab everything for themselves and still feel that they have not received enough. This is one of Dunbar's petitions that reflects a fairly strong note of self-pity. Six 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB, with varying refrain. MF preserves two versions (MFb is here used), and R. Mc12, K40, Bw43.

1 sir. Dunbar's usual form of address for the king.

2 I.e., "Those who [already] have the most are the ones who make the most urgent requests [for more]." The word monyast is the superlative form of "many."

4 "Ever the refrain of the song is." The word ovirword ("the refrain") literally means the "over word," i.e., the phrase that is repeated over and over.

5 The image here is of a gang of thieves dividing their plunder ("parting the pelf") among themselves. Compare Lindsay's Complaint, line 198.

6-7 Returning to the feast metaphor, the poet says that some eat very fine food (swans), some eat quite respectable food (ducks), and some (like him) eat nothing at all. A fat roasted swan, the food of royalty, since all swans belong to the king, was the favorite food of Chaucer's gluttonous Monk (CT I[A]206).

11-12 Feasts celebrating saints days could be either "common," that is, a day celebrating a general category of saints (e.g., martyrs) or even all the saints (All Hallows); or they could be "proper," that is, a feast day celebrating a particular saint (e.g., 27 December, St. John's Day).

13 Dunbar indicates that he sang at such feasts, perhaps fulfilling his professional responsibilities as a cleric; or perhaps he sang as a court entertainer.

14-15 The irony of his singing "Charity, for the love of God" - for which he receives nothing - is readily apparent. Compare The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy (Poem 83), line 383.

16-20 In this stanza the metaphor shifts to fishing, with the rich ecclesiastics catching all the fish in their nets and leaving nothing for the poor. The metaphor is perhaps an ironic allusion to St. Peter as fisherman after the Resurrection catching so many fish that his nets are full (John 21), whereupon Jesus admonishes him three times to "Feed my lambs."

19 Quha nathing hes can nathing gett. This is probably a proverbial expression (compare Whiting N176 and Tilley N337); and it brings to mind King Lear's famous remark to Cordelia that "Nothing can come of nothing" (King Lear I.i.85).

20 syphir. A cipher or zero, which in itself had no value except as a placeholder; thus, such a person is essentially a nonentity.

21-25 These verses criticize wealthy churchmen for neglecting the everyday needs of local parish churches. It is possible, as Bawcutt suggests, that Dunbar is referring to the practice of influential cathedrals and abbeys assuming control over smaller churches and then failing to pay attention to their needs (Bw 2.377).

28 Dunbar refers to death as a dragon in several poems; compare "Elegy for Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny" (Poem 36), line 17, and "Of Man's Mortality" (Poem 9), line 28.

29-30 These sentiments are similar to those found in some of Dunbar's moral poems, e.g., "None May Assure in This World" (Poem 16), lines 61-64, or "Without Gladness No Treasure Avails" (Poem 19), lines 33-35.


42. A Dream

Perhaps more than any other poem, "A Dream" reflects the wide range of devices and techniques Dunbar employed within his group of petition poems. Here, in his continued pursuit of ecclesiastical preferment (i.e., the receipt of a benefice), he draws upon the techniques of the medieval dream vision, techniques he uses very effectively in some of his courtly poems and in some of his comic poems. In the case of this poem, however, most commentators do not admire the result. Scott calls the poem "more of a curiosity than an achievement" (p. 154), and Kinsley bluntly declares it "not an artistic success" (K, p. 334); Reiss, on the other hand, calls it "one of Dunbar's most interesting poems" (p. 86). What is especially striking to this commentator is the poem's pervasive tone of cynicism and disillusionment in its depiction of court corruption, and also the poet's use of irony, a device Dunbar employs only occasionally. Twenty-three 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. R only. Mc60, K51, Bw75.

1 halff sleiping as I lay. Medieval dream visions often begin with the narrator in a state midway between waking and sleeping; compare The Cuckoo and the Nightin-gale: "I fil in such a slombre and swow - / Nought al a-slepe, ne fulli wakyng" (lines 87-88), Middle English Debate Poetry, ed. Conlee, p. 255.

2-5 It is common in dream visions in the tradition of RR for the dreamer to discover that the walls of his chamber have been adorned with splendid frescoes. This occurs, for example, in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess (lines 321-34); HF (lines 119 ff.); and Lindsay's Squire Meldrum (lines 883-84).

11-15 The dreamer is uncertain whether this impressive company has come for friendly or fiendly purposes. There are many instances in medieval and Renaissance literature where visual displays are conjured up for diabolical purposes, e.g., Marlowe's Dr. Faustus and the ME Disputation between a Christian and a Jew (lines 149-258). Being unsure, the dreamer prays to Jesus and Mary to protect him.

16-20 The dreamer's predicament, we discover, is a sickness of spirit reminiscent of what Chaucer's dreamer initially experiences in The Book of the Duchess. Because he is beset by the personified figures of Distress, Heaviness (i.e., Depression), and Languor (in line 21), he finds no pleasure in the singing of this company.

20 lay me abone. "Lay above me," i.e., were pressing down upon me.

26 in ane trece. This phrase is usually glossed, "in a processional dance"; but perhaps the meaning is "in a trice" (in an instant), indicating the suddenness of their appear-ance.

26-57 The dancing ladies who attempt to address the dreamer's plight are the sister virtues of Nobleness, Comfort, Pleasance, Perceiving (i.e., Insight), Wit, and Consideration. Their efforts, however, fail.

27 Nobilnes is a virtue of particular importance to healing the dreamer; the reference is probably to the king.

48-50 Discretion suggests that the dreamer's illness stems from melancholy. She then points out that his remedy lies with Nobleness, which is an implied indictment of the court - perhaps of the king in particular - for failing to reward the dreamer according to his deserts.

53 The reference to the dreamer's "long service made in vain" suggests that this may be one of Dunbar's later petition poems.

55 this guid New Yeir. Distributing New Year's gifts to servants and members of the court was a common practice in the Middle Ages; compare SGGK lines 66-68. Dunbar's "To the King" (Poem 37), thought to be one of his earlier petitions, also reflects this practice. There is a good likelihood that both of these poems are in some sense New Year's poems.

58-60 Blind Effectioun. Volunteering to speak on the dreamer's behalf is the personified figure of Blind Affection - which might be translated as "Blind Favoritism" - a person kindly disposed, who enjoys an important standing at court.

60-72 Reason argues that the period of Blind Affection's influence at court is now over, and Reason proposes that the time has come for the dreamer - who has long served the king though he is no flatterer - to receive his proper deserts.

62 sessioun. See explanatory note to "Discretion in Taking" (Poem 28), line 37.

72 Be Nobilnes his help mon first be found. This verse (like line 50 earlier) once again indicates that the dreamer's cure resides with Nobleness.

74 The Lords of Session were members of the king's council who were appointed to hear civil complaints. Dunbar refers to them often; compare "The Table of Con-fession" (Poem 7), line 134; "Discretion in Taking" (Poem 28), line 37; "Tidings from the Session" (Poem 74), line 21; "To the Merchants of Edinburgh" (Poem 75), line 57.

76-85 Inoportunitie - meaning something like "persistent importuning" or "constant demanding" - belongs with "Blind Effectioun" (line 58) in the ranks of the court sycophants.

81-82 These verses indicate that the "besy askar" (line 81) is the one who succeeds, while deserving servants who do not ask are ignored - a clear case of squeaky wheels getting the grease. Similar sentiments are expressed in "Discretion in Asking" (Poem 26), especially lines 26-29.

83 And he that askis not tynes bot his word. Compare Chaucer's TC 5.798 and Whiting S614.

84 "But to waste long service is no joke" - this refers to the two busy servants in line 82 whose service goes unrewarded.

86 Schir Johne Kirkpakar. A clergyman with many churches crammed into his pack. Having many ecclesiastical holdings, he stands at the opposite extreme from the dreamer, who can lay claim to no churches at all. Clergymen, especially corrupt ones, were often pejoratively called "Sir John." Pluralism, the practice of having multiple church holdings, was widely deplored. Dunbar concurs.

90 In using the phrase yon ballad maker, Sir John Kirkpakar is heaping scorn on the narrator.

91-95 Sir Bet-the-Kirk. "Sir Beat-the-Church," or perhaps "Sir Best-the-Church." Although it is not entirely clear who he is, most commentators believe he is a secular figure who has been "besting" the church by snatching up ecclesiastical holdings for his own personal gain. Reason's comments in lines 96-100, though, indicate that this is merely another name for Sir John Kirkpakar.

96 The ballance gois unevin. The balanced scales being uneven clearly indicate the injustice of the situation.

100 sufficience dwellis not bot in Heavin. Reason is suggesting, rather pessimistically, that the only satisfaction the dreamer will ever receive will come in Heaven, not in this world - a sentiment expressed in some of Dunbar's moral poems.

102 him. "Him" may refer to the dreamer, though it seems more likely that it refers to the king and that lines 102-04 are commenting on the king's capriciousness rather than on the dreamer's dissatisfaction with what has been offered to him - since it appears that nothing has ever been offered to him. If this is the case, line 105 is ironic.

106-10 Patience's advice to the dreamer - to "make good cheer and depend on the prince" - seems cold comfort indeed.

109-10 In instances where a bishopric was vacant, the income generated by its holdings reverted to the king. But Patience asserts that the king would never intentionally delay the dreamer's preferment in order to reap such benefits for himself; perhaps Patience truly believes this, but the irony is inescapable.

111-15 The dreamer's vision is suddenly shattered by the firing of a great gun, which causes the earth to reverberate. Compare the conclusion to Dunbar's The Golden Targe (Poem 65). A variety of similar devices occur in other dream poems; compare Chaucer's Book of the Duchess (lines 1321-25), where the dreamer is awakened by the sound of a bell, and the ME Parliament of the Three Ages (lines 656-57), where the dreamer is awakened by the sounding of a bugle.

114 Leith was a port very close to Edinburgh where foreign goods, including guns, were brought into Scotland. Bawcutt observes that a large cannon was fired on Leith sands in July of 1506, in the king's presence (Bw 2.469).


43. The Headache

This is one of Dunbar's most personal poems and is a petition only in that it seems to be designed to evoke the sympathetic understanding of the person to whom it is addressed, presumably King James. The narrator's predicament is that he is experiencing an excruciating headache (the "magryme," or migraine, of line 3), and thus composing poetry is completely out of the question. The poem appears to be an apology for his inability to produce a poem, and may be Dunbar's explanation for his failure to fulfill a specific request. A central irony, of course, is that he has written a poem about the inability to write a poem. "The Headache" conveys a strong sense of reality and probably should be accepted as a literal description of a headache. It therefore stands in contrast to several other petitions where the speaker's dilemma is characterized more by psychological or spiritual torpor than by real physical suffering. The final stanza, however, which describes his "curage" (line 12) lying asleep even though he has physically arisen, may suggest that there is also a spiritual component to his distress. Three 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. R only. Mc3, K21, Bw35.

4 Perseing my brow as ony ganyie. The image of an arrow piercing his brow bestows a palpable realness on the description.

6 And now, schir. Here, as in several of Dunbar's petition poems, the "sir" he is addressing is almost certainly the king. The poem does not make it clear why he is addressing the king, but probably because he has been unable to fulfill a specific request made of him, or a promise made by him. On the other hand, it may be that this is just a clever device for playing on the king's sympathy.

8 sentence. "The meaning" or "the heart of the matter," rather than the actual words. Compare "Of the Changes of Life" (Poem 13), lines 1-5.

9 Unsleipit, rather than meaning "unasleep" or "awake," literally means "un-slept," i.e., not having slept, or unrefreshed by sleep.

12 curage. Always a difficult word to translate in ME texts, here it seems to mean "spirit" or "mental faculties."

13-15 All of these things that fail to awaken the speaker's spirit - mirth, minstrelsy, play, din, dancing, and revelry - recall the personified company of entertainers who entered the dreamer's chamber in "A Dream" (Poem 42), lines 7-10, but who likewise failed to provide the narrator with any cheer.


44. To the King [For to considder is ane pane]

Although this poem clearly belongs among Dunbar's petitions, it blends elements from several lyric categories. Most of the first half of the poem intertwines general observations about worldly mutability with comments deploring the failure of people in authority to reward those who have given long service. Some of the sentiments reflected in these verses are also typically found in satires against the times. But, beginning in line 41, the poem focuses more specifically on ecclesiastical corruption; then, in line 47, we discover the speaker's particular grievance: some men possess seven benefices while he does not possess a single one! In lines 61-75 he compares his long wait for a benefice with that of a merchant who hopes for the safe arrival of a well-laden ship from far-distant lands. Finally, near the end of the poem, he addresses the king directly, beseeching his help (line 90). In the king, he says, lies his only hope help for a lessening of his pain (lines 96-100). This poem does not reflect the powerful sense of disillusionment seen in some of Dunbar's other petitions, but it begins to lean in that direction. Twenty-five 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB; this is the kyrielle, a form Dunbar employs in about a dozen poems. MF and R. Mc13, K39, Bw79.

5 The slydand joy. I.e., happiness that does not last - it slip-slides away; compare the phrase "a slyding quhiell" ("a slippery or turning wheel") in line 3 of "Of Life" (Poem 12). Compare also Chaucer's reference to alchemy in The Canon Yeoman's Tale as the "slidynge science" ("the elusive science"), CT VIII(G)732. The sequence of half line oppositions is tonally akin to the first stanza of PF, where "dredful joye . . . slit so yerne" (line 3).

6 feynyeid luif. "Pretended love"; Dunbar also uses this phrase in line 17 of "True Love" (Poem 68); variant forms of the word feynyeid occur frequently in his poems.

7 sweit abayd. Kinsley glosses this phrase as "adroit delay" and Bawcutt as "sweet waiting." I would suggest "pleasurable anticipation."

9-12 Similar sentiments occur in some of Dunbar's moralities; compare, for example, lines 41-50 in "None May Assure in This World" (Poem 16).

10 faceis tua. "Two faces"; hypocritical or deceitful people have long been considered two-faced; compare Whiting F12.

16-20 What he is criticizing, he claims, is not unique to Scotland but also occurs in all the major countries of Europe. Perhaps this is a ploy to suggest that the king is not the only one at whom he is pointing a finger.

21 This commonplace sentiment is also expressed in several of Dunbar's moral poems, e.g., "All Earthly Joy Returns to Pain" (Poem 8), lines 21-22, and "Of the Changes of Life" (Poem 13), line 17. Compare Whiting W132 and 133.

23 In hall and bour, in burgh and plane. This verse captures the all-pervasiveness of what the poet is describing - it is simply everywhere.

27 People are as changeable as the weather - or the wind and rain. Compare Chau-cer's comments in The Clerk's Tale (CT IV[E] 995-98); and Whiting W289 and W295.

29 "Good Rule" often pertains to law and order; the border probably refers to the border-country separating England from Scotland, an area notorious for its lawlessness.

42-43 A clergyman with an overly broad conscience is one who is far too tolerant of sin. Compare Tilley W888.

47 Sum men hes sevin and I nocht ane. Compare "A Dream" (Poem 42), in which "Schir Johne Kirkpakar" is said to possess seven churches (lines 86-90).

49 browk ane stall. "Possess a stall" within a cathedral.

50-51 A bishopric is not good enough for him; he must be made a cardinal.

53 The speaker, considered unworthy, remains among those completely left out.

55 "Some play dicing games with a large number (of churches)"; the sense seems to be that some men who are rich in church holdings manage them frivolously. As Bawcutt points out (Bw 2.479), passage was the name of a dice game corresponding to French passe-dix.

57-83 The It in these verses is the benefice or church holding that the speaker so greatly desires.

62 Calyecot is Calicut (Calcutta), on the Malabar coast of southwest India; the New Fund Yle is either Newfoundland (discovered by Cabot in 1497) or another North American locale (i.e., on the other side of the globe).

63 The partis of transmeridiane may refer to recent discoveries in the southern hemi-sphere. Literally, transmeridiane would mean beyond the meridian, the dividing line in the Atlantic between the Old World and the New World.

69 out of all ayrtis. I.e., "from all points of the compass"; or, "from any direction you can think of."

70-71 Some have suggested that Paris (line 70) is an error for Percia. But more likely Paris equated with Europe, orient partis (line 70) with Asia, and The ylis of Aphry-cane (line 71) with Africa, thus implying the threefold geographical division of the world. See Bw 2.450, note to lines 69-71.

71 Perhaps the "isles of Africa" are the Canary or Cape Verde Islands, which were well-known by the end of the fifteenth century.

78 In 1486 James III issued gold coins with a unicorn stamped on one side; "crowns of weight" would be crowns of the standard weight, not "light crowns."

81-82 Apparently provision has definitely been made for the poet to receive what he wants; but it is the interminable wait that he has trouble coping with.

83 The reference to the long wait "bursting his brain" brings to mind his migraine headache described in "The Headache" (Poem 43).

85-88 His desires, he suggests, are modest. He does not require a great abbey, merely a humble parish church roofed with heather.

86 Bawcutt notes that heather was sometimes used to cover the roofs of small country churches but never for wealthy abbeys (Bw 2.480).

89-91 Since he can never be accused of pluralism (possessing several ecclesiastical holdings at the same time), he suggests, facetiously, that his soul will certainly be better off because of it.

93-95 The poet returns once more to sentiments commonly expressed in his poems about earthly mutability. The key image here is of the world being as changeable as an ever-moving weather vane. Compare Whiting V5 and V6.

99 "Your grace" is an honorific title usually assigned to a high-ranking churchman, though here it is clearly directed at the king; perhaps the poet is playing on "grace" to mean "favor" as well as "mercy."


45. Against the Solicitors at Court

This poem, which is a petition only by implication, offers an overview of the strategies adopted by those at court who are soliciting royal patronage. Some of them, the poet says, make their case by performing true and diligent service, some by just hanging around, some by providing various kinds of entertainment, some by flirting, flattering, or pretense, and so on. As for the poet, he claims that he knows no other way to conduct himself except with humility; and, as far as he is concerned, the king's gracious countenance offers him riches enough. In Scott's view the poem provides a blatant "example of the guile [Dunbar] disclaims having. Certainly it is a study in, and example of, hypocrisy" (pp. 92-93). Such an appraisal may be harsh, but it is certainly true that in "Against the Solicitors at Court" Dunbar is employing the modesty topos, a device that he will move away from in what appear to be his later petitions. Twenty-six verses in octosyllabic couplets. MF contains two versions (MFa is used here), and R. Mc29, K20, Bw5.

2 solistationes. "Solicitations," here probably more in the sense of "making attempts to gain the royal attention" than in the sense of making formal petitions to the king.

3 In this single verse Dunbar briefly mentions those who truly merit the king's recognition; in the next poem, "To the King" (Poem 46), they receive much fuller attention.

4 be continuall residence. I.e., by their constant presence; they are court hangers-on.

5-6 These verses probably mean: "One on his own means survives, / Until fortune does for him provide." A second, though less likely, reading is: "A certain one preserves his own resources / While fortune (i.e., the court) provides for him."

7 "The Scottish court records list payments to singers, musicians, and entertainers of many kinds. . . . One singer brought 'a sang buke' for the king . . . [and] several story-tellers are named, such as 'Wallass that tellis the geistis to the king'" (Bw 2.300).

8 the Moryis. The Morris dance; the phrase apparently derives from "Moorish dance," a colorful spectacle involving outlandish music, dancing, and costuming that be-came a popular entertainment at the Scottish court. There are many references to it in court records, and one was organized by John Damian, the chief subject in "The Antichrist" (Poem 51) and "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54) (see Bw 2.301).

10 Sum playis the fuill and all owt clatteris. This verse may refer to an actual court fool - Dunbar mentions real fools elsewhere, most notably in lines 73-80 of "Master Andro Kennedy's Testament" (Poem 80) - or it may be figurative.

11-12 "One man, musing alone by the wall, / Looks like he wants nothing to do with all the rest." This man may be setting himself apart from the others in order to call attention to himself. Or perhaps the poet is referring to himself as an objective observer.

13 Whisperers are usually gossipers or backbiters. Compare "Rule of Oneself" (Poem 25), lines 33-34.

17-18 Some even turn holy occasions into occasions for self-promotion.

19-20 Some shamelessly have their own advocates working on their behalf within the king's inner circle. (In "To the King" [Poem 38], line 25, Dunbar calls the queen his "advocat.")

21-26 In these verses the poet calls attention to his own "simpleness" - his innocence, or lack of worldliness, or absence of guile. In contrast to the previous person, who has his own advocate to recommend him, all the poet has to recommend him is his "humble cheer and face."

25-26 The king's "gracious countenance" refers literally to his "face," but also to his "regal bearing" or "demeanor." There may also be an oblique biblical allusion in these verses to the light of God's countenance (compare Psalm 4:4-7 in the Vul-gate).


46. To the King [Schir, ye have mony servitouris]

This poem is "one of the most subtle and carefully composed of Dunbar's petitions" (Bw 2.450) and a poem that must be considered one of the most artful in the Dunbar canon. As Spearing has observed, "After nearly five hundred years, this poem still has the power to move as well as to entertain" (1985, p. 205). It offers a rich and colorful depiction of various activities that occurred within the larger context of the Scottish royal court. The poem is organized into two major sections that offer lengthy catalogues of two contrasting groups of servitors. The first group (3-24) is composed entirely of true contributors, and all the members of this group have been appropriately rewarded. In the 10-line passage that follows, the poet flirts with the modesty topos, though his true feelings soon emerge - he not only believes that he belongs among this first group, he also believes that his poetry will endure as long as the accomplishments of any of them.
     The poet then turns his attention to a second group of servitors, a group composed entirely of fakes, leeches, spongers, and flatterers. But what infuriates the poet is the fact that each of these contemptible folk has also been rewarded. Not only does the poet find himself excluded from the ranks of the first group, those who have been deservingly rewarded, but he has also been excluded from the ranks of the second group, those who have been undeservingly rewarded. In essence, he comprises a third category all by himself, that of the deserving but unrewarded person. At this point, in the section that begins at line 61, he can no longer contain his anger; ultimately, he says, either his heart must break, or he must take his pen and get revenge by letting "the venom issue all out" (line 85). In these final verses, the poet's anger seems real and considerable. Eighty-eight lines in iambic couplets. MF only. Mc17, K44, Bw67.

1-16 Here the speaker pays tribute to a long list of servitouris (line 1) and officiaris (line 2) who perform valuable, honorable service for the king and who are fully deserving of their rewards and the king's gratitude. They range from highly accomplished lawyers and physicians to more humble craftsmen and artisans. Norman (in McClure and Spiller, 1989) makes the shrewd observation that Dunbar in this passage "castigates the vice and folly of the court only to reveal his own willing complicity with that same corruption. It is as if the poet in playing various roles before and within the court exposes the ambiguities inherent in that experience" (p. 190).

3 Kirkmen, courtmen, and craftismen fyne. The ordering and grouping of individuals who serve the king has a rough logic, perhaps, moving downward through the social hierarchy, though many of the verses seem to be arranged more for their sounds than for the close connection of the individuals' functions. The group in this line is linked by "k" alliteration and that in line 6 by vowel alliteration; in lines 9 and 12 the alliteration does coincide with a unified grouping, but in lines 11 and 16 that is not the case.

5 Divinouris probably means "theologians" (i.e., doctors of divinity), not "practitioners in the art of divination," as has been suggested. Compare the similar word in Chaucer's Knight's Tale: "I nam no divinistre; / Of soules fynde I nat in this registre" (CT I[A]2811-12).

6 artistis. Here it probably means "scholars," men who have completed their study of the liberal arts.

7 Men of armes. Often called "men at arms," these are professional soldiers of lower social status than the knights they accompany.

8 The "many other goodly wights" probably refers to the lesser foot soldiers who would have accompanied the knights and men at arms of line 7, perhaps men such as Chaucer's Yeoman, who accompanied and served the Knight and the Squire.

9 There is a wealth of evidence, both from within Dunbar's poems and elsewhere, to show that James' court was greatly enlivened by musical entertainment.

10 Chevalouris, cawandaris, and flingaris. Since the poet has already mentioned val-iant knights and other military figures, perhaps these terms refer to varieties of entertainers; the meaning of cawandaris is obscure, but flingaris normally means "dancers." Bawcutt suggests it may have a military sense: "hurlers of missiles" (Bw 2.451).

11 Cunyouris. "Coiners"; the king's mint was known as the cunyehouse. In this con-text, carvouris probably are "wood carvers."

12-14 Beildaris of barkis . . . schipwrichtis. In the early years of the sixteenth century James IV embarked on an extensive, costly program of shipbuilding; its finest pro-duct was a ship called the Great Michael. Completed in 1511, the Great Michael carried a crew of 300, along with 120 gunners and a thousand men of war. The phrase barkis and ballingaris (line 12) refers to sea-going ships of all varieties. Compare Douglas, Eneados 4.7.72.

13 Masounis lyand upon the land. This line alludes to James' massive program of castle building and rebuilding.

16 Pryntouris. If this term actually means "printers" rather than something like "stampers" or "impressors," then this line offers evidence for dating the poem, since the first printing press in Scotland was established in 1507 by Chepman and Myllar, whose first book actually appeared in April 1508. The poem, then, would have had to be written after this date.

25-34 The speaker's attitude toward his plight is initially stated with becoming modesty (lines 25-27); but then he reveals his belief (lines 28-32) that his works are just as perfect as any performed by the people previously mentioned; and by the end of this passage, his bitterness is undisguised. In the following section (lines 35-60), as the speaker presents a huge catalogue of "Aneuthir sort" (line 37) - the king's undeserving servitors who have also been rewarded - his bitterness intensifies. On the highly ornate, rhetorical idiom of Dunbar's court poetry here and in the two long lists of court functionaries see Norman (in McClure and Spiller, 1989), pp. 179-80: "The key to understanding Dunbar as 'makar' lies in his role as court poet. He is the only one of the important fifteenth-century Scots poets who was directly and solely dependent on the patronage of the court for his livelihood" (pp. 179-80).

28-33 Here Dunbar expresses the classical view, much reiterated in Renaissance poetry, that art has the power to endure despite the ravages of time.

39-49 Many of the terms in this catalogue of underserving servers are both highly colloquial and terribly insulting, and many of them are recorded nowhere else, making it difficult to be certain of their meanings. But one thing is certain - everyone included in this list is either a self-serving parasite or a hanger-on of one variety or another.

41 gunnaris. Perhaps these "gunners" are included among the "leeches" because of the great expense that gunnery practice required; or perhaps because most of them were foreigners, like the figures mentioned in lines 42-43. "James IV's interest in artillery and fire arms is well known" (Bw 2.451).

42 Monsouris. He is probably using this French title sarcastically. The fact that they are experts in fine wines - good clarets - suggests their gluttony and drunkenness. Delicacy, the second daughter of Gluttony, according to John Gower, is a particular vice of nobles who "reconcile their taste for gluttony to all delights so that they can live delicately." In particular Gower describes Delicacy's wine cellar, which includes "vernage, malmsey, spiced claret" and "foaming wine" (John Gower, Mirour de l'Omme, trans. William Burton Wilson [East Lansing, MI: Colleagues Press, 1992], p. 108).

42-43 As these lines suggest, at James' court there were many foreigners (here French and Irish), something the poet seems to resent greatly.

44 lyk out of mynd. "As if out of their minds."

46 hall huntaris. Hunters who do their "hunting" in the dining hall, not in the fields.

48 and kennis na man of gude. "And who know no good of any man," i.e., have nothing good to say of anyone.

54-60 These verses reflect James' keen interest in alchemy and Dunbar's aversion to it, a topic also treated in Dunbar's poems on John Damian ("The Antichrist" [Poem 51] and "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" [Poem 54]).

60 In a Scottish burgh the Tolbooth served as a meeting place for the town council, as the seat of the burgh court, as a center for financial administration, as a prison or town jail, or simply as a place of security; see DOST. In some instances it even served as a school. In Edinburgh, the Tolbooth was on the High Street near St. Giles church.

65-66 These lines contain an allusion to the popular poem Colkelbie Sow, in which a gathering of fools feast upon a little pig called a gryse.

73 panence. "Penance"; but perhaps the sense of the line is that he would feel more "forgiving" or "tolerant" had he too been rewarded.

76 The poet's melancholy, mentioned here and again in line 84, is caused, according to medieval humor theory, by an excess of black bile. One remedy for it would be "to vent his spleen." His melancholy is also mentioned in line 49 of "A Dream" (Poem 42). Compare Pertelote's comments on "malencolie" in Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale (CT VII[B]2933-37).

82-88 In these verses, the poet seems to be casting himself in the role of the ancient Celtic bard, or satirist, whose words had the power to destroy the reputation of the person at whom they were directed.

87 The tryackill, the sweet medicine that can calm his heart, is of course the better treatment he wishes to receive from the king. Compare the Host's use of the word in Chaucer's Prologue to The Pardoner's Tale (CT VI[C]314)


47. To the King [Complane I wald]

"To the King [Complane I wald]" has much in common with "To the King [Schir, ye have mony servitouris]" (Poem 46), and, like the previous poem, it appears to be one of Dunbar's angriest petitions - at least on the face of it. But here the poet's sense of outrage and his use of vituperative language has become so extreme and exaggerated that the poem moves beyond the realm of serious satire and into the realm of comic invective, the realm of the flyting. Commentators have been especially intrigued by the colorful, and in some instances very obscure, set of abusive epithets the poet uses in his catalogue of rascals (lines 15-27). Ridley plausibly suggests that many of these terms may have been "neologisms, coined for the sake of verbal attack and highly suited for it because of the harsh, contemptuous effect they create even when their literal meaning is unknown - if it ever existed" (1973, p. 1014).
     Following the catalogue of rogues are brief descriptions of three varieties of ecclesiastical abuses (lines 28-39) practiced by those scoundrels. There then follows a scathing portrait of a low-born cleric who lords it over members of the aristocracy (including the speaker, presumably) and who does all he can to see that they "never rise to his renown" (line 66). As Ross observes, this cleric's "crooked body betrays his crooked nature" (p. 144). Some critics have been incensed by the anti-egalitarian attitude Dunbar expresses in this poem, but others have defended him as being a man of his time who simply reflects the viewpoint of the class to which he was born. In any case, in the final ten lines the poet once again voices his plea to the king to "have an eye toward your old servant, who has long relied on you" (lines 69-70), verses perhaps suggesting that this is one of Dunbar's later petitions. Seventy-six verses in octosyllabic couplets. MF and R. Mc19, K45, Bw9.

1-8 The gentle, benign, almost devotional tone of the poem's opening verses is surely meant to provide a stark contrast with the stream of invective that soon follows.

6 The epithet "Queen of Heaven" is commonly used for the Virgin Mary. Compare "A Ballad of Our Lady" (Poem 4), lines 6, 38, and 61.

7-14 One of the king's most important responsibilities was to insure that justice was had by all. Dunbar refers to this fact elsewhere, especially in lines 106-26 of "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30). Compare also "To the King" (Poem 37), line 15.

10-11 The nobles and men of virtue mentioned in these verses are people who have been slighted. They stand in contrast, in their virtue and in their unrewardedness, to the men listed in the ensuing catalogue.

15-27 Now the poet's string of abusive phrases pours forth - almost as a fulfillment of the poet's prediction in lines 85-86 of the previous poem, so that what we see here is an example of the poet "spouting" his venom. The precise meanings of some of these phrases are uncertain, but on the whole the passage reviles rustics and men at court who come from rural backgrounds, i.e., men of low birth and little cultural sophistication.

18 haschbaldis, haggarbaldis . . . hummellis. Bawcutt observes: "Obscure, but DOST (s.v. luschbald) notes the existence of a group of abusive words, employing the pejorative suffix -bald, and suggests their connection with verbs, such as hasch, hag, lusch, meaning 'strike, cut down.' [H]ummellis. Perhaps cattle. In later Scottish the word was used of polled domestic animals" (2.307n18).

28-38 The three varieties of unworthy clerics described in these verses are found among the same men just described; now we are given further elaboration of the vices they practice.

28-32 Some of the men just described snatch for themselves a cowl - that is, they wear a monk's habit - and soon they are in charge of a great convent, that is, they have risen to the position of abbot. (It is possible that one such figure is John Damian, the abbot of Tungland and the subject of two of Dunbar's most scathing poems, "The Antichrist" [Poem 51] and "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" [Poem 54].)

33-34 Some beg from the king a rokkat (line 33), i.e., a rochet (the white vestment of a bishop), which destroys a worthless person, i.e., which thus converts a nobody into a somebody.

35-38 Some who receive just an ordinary parsonage think it a gift that is greatly beneath them - a gift fit only for a page boy; they cannot be content until they have received the title of "my lord" - an honorific title used for prelates as well as for nobles.

39-40 "But whether he is content or not / Judge for yourself in your own mind." The answer, clearly, is that he is not content, not even when he has achieved the title of "my lord."

41-48 In these verses the poet expresses his outrage at the plight of impoverished young noblemen who are reduced to accepting castoff clothing and running errands for their far less worthy and capable "superiors."

45 maister. Here the term probably means a gentleman, a man of noble birth, rather than a university graduate.

47-48 "And has much more intelligence - by three times - to possess such a dignified office."

51-52 "Seated at table so far above the place / suitable for one who formerly mucked out the stable." The seats at a meal or banquet were assigned according to social rank. Compare SGGK, lines 72-73.

54-60 Now the poet additionally portrays his depraved clergyman as being physically grotesque, perhaps in the tradition of Chaucer's Summoner, or perhaps as a kind of male counterpart to the "loathly lady" of medieval romance. It is possible that the "pack" mentioned in line 58 does not refer to an actual pack but to the hump of a hunchbacked clergyman.

59 The term glaschane is obscure. Bawcutt suggests glaschane gane may mean something like "fish face" (Bw 2.308). My suggestion is that glaschane may mean "glowing" or "glassy" - indicating that his face has become shiny from excessive food and drink; Chaucer's portrait of the Monk comes to mind: "His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas, / And eek his face, as he hadde been enoynt" (CT I[A]198-99).

62 strumbell. A plodding farm horse (?); it is probably related to "strummellis" in line 17.

67 O prince maist honorable. The prince is King James, to whom he is making his petition; the phrase also recalls the "wardlie prince" he had mentioned in line 7.

69 And to thy auld servandis haff e. This verse recalls line 38 in "Discretion in Giving" (Poem 27): "And to awld servandis list not se."

73 The reference to his "writing" may refer to his poetry, or it may refer to other kinds of secretarial services he has performed as a clerk in the king's household.

74-76 With the terms danger (line 74) and grace (line 75), the poet is playing on the relationship of a lady and her suitor; the lady long displays her danger (her disdain or standoffishness) before finally taking pity on the lover and bestowing upon him her grace.


48. To the King [Exces of thocht dois me mischeif]

This petition poem has a good deal in common with the next poem, "To the King [That I suld be ane Yowllis yald]," especially in what it suggests about the poet's advancing years and in its comparison of the poet to an animal - in this case a bird, in that case a horse. It also offers suggestions (yet again) about Dunbar's attitude toward rustics and foreigners who have benefitted from the king's generosity (while he has not), and it may also offer important insights into the poet's relationship with the king. As Ridley observes, "The poem is interesting for what it suggests about Dunbar's early and lasting ecclesiastical ambitions, his attitudes toward low-born men, and his relations with James IV, which were either so intimate or so misguided that he felt he could reprove the King in most outspoken terms" (1973, p. 1015). Scott suggests that one of "the freshest things in the poem is the [poet's] honest self-analysis, self-revelation, and confession of state of mind" (p. 118). The bird metaphor, which is only sustained through the first six stanzas of the poem, draws upon heraldic imagery, animal fable tradition, and on specific works such as Chaucer's Parliament of Fowls and Dunbar's own "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30). Dunbar surely selected the bird metaphor with James' passion for falconry in mind. Seventeen 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. MF, B, and R (which only preserves a fragment of the text). Mc20, K42, Bw68.

4 Gud conscience. It is the king's "good conscience" of course, not the speaker's, which should be crying out for the poet to be rewarded; and it is to the king's conscience that he is making his appeal.

5 Exces of thocht dois me mischeif. This refrain line is similar in sentiment to the refrain in "To the King" (Poem 44): "For to considder is ane pane." Both reflect the pain the speaker feels when he thinks about these things - something he cannot help doing.

6 clarkis. Probably minor scribes, not clergymen.

7-9 "And I, like a red hawk, do cry out / To come to the lure (but) I do not have permission, / Even though my feathers have begun to molt." Why like a red hawk? No one is sure. Kinsley wonders whether Dunbar may have had red hair (K, p. 319). If that is so, perhaps the reference to his beginning to molt implies that he has also begun to grow bald. In the next poem, he indicates that his hair has turned white (lines 21-22).

11 falcounis kynd. "The falcon's race," i.e., noble birds (as opposed to lesser ones).

12 myttell. This unidentified term seems to refer to a specific variety of lesser bird of prey; but perhaps it simply means "middle," referring generically to birds of middle rank, birds that would stand in contrast to truly noble high-ranking birds.

hard in mynd. I.e., "firmly remembered"; that is, not forgotten or neglected, as the poet is.

13-14 The kite (gled, line 13) was considered a rapacious and cowardly bird that fed, ignobly, on carrion; the goshawk, though a relatively low-ranking falcon, was still a genuinely noble bird. In Chaucer's PF the goshawk is the first of the "egles of a lowere kynde" (line 332).

16-19 The magpie imitates the songs of other birds; but when it tries to mimic the song of the nightingale, it cannot begin to reproduce the actual song of the nightingale. Here the magpie symbolizes a plagiarizing or derivative poet, in contrast to a true artist, the nightingale. Perhaps Dunbar means to contrast himself with lesser poets at court. In "A Complaint against Mure" (Poem 60) he lodges a complaint against a man named Mure for stealing his verses.

21 Ay fairast feddiris hes farrest foulis. The earliest recorded example of a well-known proverb (Whiting F573).

21-23 It was often fashionable in late medieval courts to have exotic species of birds on public display; these verses, though, are clearly alluding to the favoritism shown to foreigners in James' court.

24 Kynd native nestis. These "natural, native nests" (of owls!) stand in sharp contrast to the silver cages of the exotic birds mentioned in the previous verse.

26 The gentill egill is of course the king; the eagle, a traditional symbol of kingship, is one of the three symbols Dunbar uses for the king in "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30).

28-29 These verses contain one of Dunbar's most direct and audacious rebukes of the king.

33 Kyne of. I.e., "The likes of"; Rauf Colyard and Johnne the Reif represent commoners who have been elevated to noble status. Both names may be drawn from tales in which this occurs (compare Ralph the Collier, in Three Middle English Charle-magne Romances, ed. Alan Lupack [Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1990], pp. 161-204).

36 Perhaps there is a play on words in maid refuse ("refused" or "turned down"), with the secondary meaning being "made into refuse," i.e., "treated like garbage."

38 This proverb (Whiting A37) usually occurs when the speaker is pleading for social equality; the irony here is that it is the person of high birth (Dunbar) who is pleading for equality with the commoner who has been elevated above him.

41-65 Autobiographical writing was not yet common in European writing. In England, Hoccleve, following tendencies in Chaucer (such passages as the Prologue to the LGW), had shown the way. These lines are among the most personal and self-revelatory verses in all of Dunbar's poetry.

48-49 "Alas, all I am able to do is write poems - such childishness controls my bridle's reins." This is, of course, mock humility; Dunbar has no doubts about the value of writing poetry.

54 For the figure of the king as the poet's physician, compare "To the King" (Poem 39), line 34, and "A Dream" (Poem 42), lines 49-50.

58-59 Here Dunbar makes a direct request for a benefice, which contrasts greatly with the indirect appeals he normally makes in his petitions.

61-64 The poet here reminisces about his early childhood. He says that as he was dandled on his nurse's knee she sang to him dandillie, bischop, dandillie (line 62). The implication is that from an early age it was expected of Dunbar that he would have a brilliant career in the church. But now that he is old, he has not even managed to become a simple vicar, a minor churchman who oversaw a parish church whose rector was non-resident.

66-75 These stanzas once again express the poet's sense of injury and injustice, that country rustics have come into possession of the things he wants but continues to lack.

66 Jok. Jock is a stock name for a man belonging to the lower class - a rustic.

68-69 Having a false card up your sleeve usually refers to cheating at cards; but here it may mean that not only does Jock openly possess far more than the poet, even the card he has tucked away has greater value than all the poet's poems.

71 uplandis Michell is similar to Jock, but perhaps the distinction between them is largely geographical - Jock being a Lowlander of low birth, while Michell comes from the Highlands.

72 With dispensationis in ane knitchell. Papal dispensations were often required in order for a churchman to hold several benefices at the same time.

74 He playis with totum and I with nychell. The reference here may be to a game involving a four-sided spinning toy; when the top stops spinning, the side resting on the ground will either show a T (for totum=all), or an N (for nihil=nothing).

78-79 Dunbar's sardonic wit is mischievously evident in his apophatic "excess of thought" (line 80): "I'm not saying this, sir, to criticize you, / But I very nearly am."

81-82 The comparison of himself to a soul in Purgatory awaiting God's assistance recalls the image of the interminable wait for his ship to arrive that Dunbar employs in "To the King" (Poem 44), lines 61-75.


49. To the King [That I suld be ane Yowllis yald]

In this poem Dunbar makes a specific but fairly modest request, asking the king for a new suit of clothes so that he may be suitably attired for Christmas. And judging from the Respontio Regis in lines 69-76, as well as from other external evidence (see TA iii, 181, 361), in this instance Dunbar's request was granted. In the metaphorical conceit that runs throughout the main body of the poem, the poet depicts himself as an old, exhausted workhorse relegated to the roughest pastures and considered unfit to be stabled next to "great court horses" such as palfreys (line 46) and coursers (line 64). As Bawcutt aptly observes, "The poem is striking for its balance of pathos and self-mockery, witty wordplay, and imaginative parallels between the hierarchies of men and horses" (Bw 2.447). The use of the "old horse" metaphor, along with the references to the horse's white mane (lines 21, 70, and 72), suggests that the poem is a late work. The poem has the form of a carol, the two-verse burden with which it begins providing the refrain for each stanza. The main body of the poem consists of eleven 6-line stanzas rhyming aaabBB; that is followed by the Respontio Regis, a single 8-line stanza in rhymed couplets. The text here printed combines the MF fragment with the text in R, following Kinsley's reconstruction. K43, Bw66. Not included in Mc.

1 in toune. I.e., "in public"; the speaker wants to avoid public humiliation.

2 Yowllis yald. Yald was a colloquial term for an old, worn-out horse, a "holiday" horse put out to pasture; apparently the term had come to be used to describe someone not properly dressed for the occasion, in this case the Yuletide. The word yald is related to the English word jade (see line 3), which also means a broken-down horse of little value, i.e., a nag.

3-6 These lines suggest that if he had been a worn-out workhorse from the wilds of the north, he would have been treated well - i.e., "housed and stalled" - revealing Dunbar's irritation at the king's beneficence toward Highlanders.

5 Strenever. Stranaver, located in northern Sutherland, is probably used to suggest a very remote and rugged place.

6 housit. Probably refers to the horse-cover placed over the horse's back rather than to the building containing the stables. That would make sense in the context of Dunbar's request for a suit of clothing. Compare its similar use in line 65.

9 as ye knaw. The phrase indicates the king's familiarity with Dunbar and his sit-uation.

12 To fang the fog. The phrase probably refers to his having to feed on the rough, rank winter grass, although it may also suggest having nothing to feed on but damp air.

16 On pastouris that ar plane and peld. Bawcutt suggests that pastouris may refer to "the part of the horse's foot between the fetlock and the hoof" (Bw 2.448), in which case peld would mean "bare of hair or flesh."

17-18 Now that he is old and "long in the tooth," he says, he should be called in from his cold, bare pasturage. These verses may attest to Dunbar's advancing years, or they may just be part of a fiction he is creating.

22 ye haff all the wyt. I.e., "as you know full well," once more indicating that the king is personally acquainted with the speaker's situation.

30 evill schoud strae. The adjective schoud in the phrase is obscure, but the sense of the whole line is clear: "For the wretched straw that I would be given to eat."

36 With uglie gumes to be gnawin. Lit., "by ugly gums to be gnawed," if the word gumes means "gums"; perhaps this may be a figurative description of how cobblers would "chew on" the horse's hide.

41 See Douglas, Eneados 7.4.191-94 "for a description of richly embroidered horse-trappings" (Bw 2.449).

45 Now lufferis cummis with larges lowd. This line describes the ceremonial gift-giving of the holiday season, perhaps offering a real-life parallel to what is described fictionally in SGGK, lines 66-70. Bawcutt suggests that lufferis does not mean "lovers" but rather "liveries" (Bw 2.449), and that is quite possible.

47-48 This reference to mares that are ridden by both nobles and commoners may contain a humorous allusion to the king's sexual indiscretions.

53-54 These are intriguing verses. Do they suggest that in his younger days Dunbar had opportunities elsewhere (possibly abroad?) that he passed up in order to remain in the king's service?

64 "Coursers" are powerful war-horses - steeds or chargers. Compare CT I[A]2501.

65 hous. A cloth covering for a horse. See explanatory note to lines 3-6.

69-76 Respontio Regis. Scholars and critics disagree about whether these final lines were actually composed by the king. The relatively simple language and the basic couplet form of the "king's response" - which contrasts with the more sophisticated stanza form of what has preceded it - may be evidence that this truly is the king's response to Dunbar's petition. On the other hand, Dunbar might have written this response in such a way as to suggest that it is really the king's own work. Such effrontery might well have been part of the joke.

69 Among the duties of the king's treasurer was providing liveries for petitioners such as the speaker. The Lord Treasurer is also the person that the poet joyfully addresses in "To the Lord Treasurer" (Poem 52).

72 The term lyart, which means "silvery-gray," is commonly used to describe the color of horses, but was sometimes used to describe men's hair or beards.

74 Apparently it was common for high-ranking churchmen such as bishops to ride on mules, very often mules that were lavishly adorned. Compare Lindsay, Papyngo, lines 1050-52.


50. Of People Hard to Please

"Of People Hard to Please" is both a satiric poem and a moral poem (it bears an especially close relationship to "Of Covetise" [Poem 22]), but it is also one of Dunbar's most subtle petitions to the king. The central tactic here involves contrasting his own lack of wealth with the grasping of others who already enjoy great abundance; his own pride, though, prevents him from crying out for the largess he believes he deserves. This is the humility topos that also appears in poems such as "Against the Solicitors at Court" (Poem 45) and "To the King" (Poem 49). The four manner of men who "are evil to please" (who are never satisfied) are general types - rich men who want more riches; powerful landholders who want more land and power; men who seek sexual gratification outside of their marriages; and gluttons who can never get their fill of wine or ale. It is possible, however, that each of these men who are hard to please actually represents just a single man - the one man Dunbar finds it especially "hard to please" - King James IV. Barbed jokes directed at the king occur in several of Dunbar's petitions, and perhaps the king enjoyed hearing them as much as Dunbar enjoyed making them. Bawcutt suggests that the structure of the poem may be modeled upon Proverbs 30:15-16 (Bw 2.316). The poem is attributed to Dunbar only in R, but most of the editors and commentators accept his authorship. R and B (two versions, both defective). Seven 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB, and a concluding couplet. Mc23, K83, Bw12.

1-4 This stanza depicts the man of great wealth who desires still more.

4 And wald have part fra utheris by. The refrain line underscores this man's greedy desire to take some of what others have; in regard to the poet, the suggestion seems to be that the covetousness of men such as this is what keeps him from receiving his due.

5-8 In these verses the man who is not satisfied is a powerful landholder; he has a hard time managing what he already has, and yet he wants to have more.

7 That he may nother rewll nor gy. This verse may mean that this man is so mighty and powerful "That he may be neither ruled nor controlled" - he considers himself above the law. But it is more likely that it refers to his inability to rule or control the lands he already possesses.

9-12 This stanza is quite clear in its literal meaning. But given James' reputation for extramarital dalliances, and given the similarity of the phrases used to describe the nobleman's wife with those used elsewhere by Dunbar to describe Queen Margaret, it is likely that the king is one of the targets of the satire - perhaps the chief target.

17-20 This stanza provides a summation of the previous stanzas and also a transition into the more personal stanzas that follow.

22 The phrase to concluid often "signals the approaching end of a poem" (Bw 2.317). Compare Henryson, Fables, lines 394, 611, and 2970.

24 Here the meaning of the refrain is cleverly reversed. Now the flow of goods is not from the others nearby, but rather from the poet to the others nearby, who are presumably the very ones who in the previous stanzas were taking from the others nearby.

25-26 The poet's suggestion that he has been overlooked by "Sir Gold" in the handing out of gifts at Christmas brings to mind his plea in "To the King" (Poem 49) that he not be overlooked and that he be given clothing suitable for the occasion. "Sir Gold" may simply be a flippant way of alluding to the king; but perhaps there was actually a figure called Sir Gold who distributed the gifts to members of the court during a lavish public ceremony. Bawcutt suggests that the "personification is modelled on 'Sir Penny' . . . who often figures in medieval satiric verse" (Bw 2.317).

27 Bawcutt glosses larges here and in line 29 as "ceremonial distribution of gifts" (Bw 2.563). See explanatory note to lines 25-26.

29-30 The repetition of these verses is probably for the purpose of driving home his point with a final rhetorical flourish. It may also suggest that the poem was intended to be sung.


51. The Antichrist

This poem is one of a pair of Dunbar poems that ridicule a particular figure at the court of James IV - John Damian - a man who seems to represent almost everything the poet finds objectionable about the court. Damian was apparently a flamboyant figure (he did such things as organize Morris dancing) and a great favorite of the king, who not only appointed him to the position of abbot of Tongland (in Kirkcudbrightshire) but who also gave substantial financial support to his alchemical experiments. Damian was one of the many foreign courtiers (he was probably French or Italian) that Dunbar seems to have despised. But the most important thing about him in regard to Dunbar's poetry is his ill-fated attempt to fly from the battlements at Stirling Castle, an action that may have resulted in a broken leg (if, in fact, it actually happened).
     The poem may be grouped with Dunbar's petitions because of the references in Dame Fortune's speech (lines 21 ff.) to the fact that the poet will never have a calm spirit or receive a benefice until an abbot dresses himself in eagle's feathers and flies up among the cranes. Since such a thing is unlikely ever to happen, it is equally unlikely that the poet will ever receive a benefice - a fine example of the medieval topos of impossibilia. The joke, however, is that an abbot will be foolhardy enough to try to fly, a fact in which the poet finds great comfort. Several of Dunbar's petitions satirize court figures who depended upon the king's generosity, and those poems may also contain thinly-veiled references to John Damian.
     Also notable in this poem is its burlesque of prophetic and apocalyptic writings of the later Middle Ages, popular writings that were often attributed to figures such as Merlin or the "Scottish Merlin," Thomas of Erceldoun. The description of the griffin and the dragon copulating in mid-air and giving birth to the Antichrist (lines 26-30) parodies the kind of intentionally bizarre and obscure mumbo-jumbo found in such works. Ten 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. MF, B, and R. Mc39, K53, Bw29.

1 Lucina is another name for Diana, the moon goddess.

4-5 The poet's heaviness of thought, as subsequent verses make clear, stems from his general lack of good fortune and his specific lack of a benefice.

10 Both Kinsley and Bawcutt have seen in the word fantasie "a hint that the dream may be delusive" (Bw 2.352); perhaps, though, it is meant to suggest that the dream will be filled with wondrous and fantastical occurrences.

11 Dame Fortune, the goddess Fortuna, is the traditional medieval emblem of worldly instability and uncertainty, symbolized by her ever-turning wheel. The poet's earlier complaints against her (lines 6-7) have provoked her anger against him, which is reflected in her fremmit cheir, the angry look on her face. For depictions of Fortune in Scottish literature, compare Barbour's Bruce 13.635-70 and The Kingis Quair, lines 1110-55.

13-14 These verses contain Dame Fortune's stern admonition to the poet to leave her alone and let her do her work.

16-18 These verses offer a traditional description of what happens to those who are placed upon Fortune's wheel.

19-20 Fortune tells the poet that the signs she is about to describe signify that his troubles are nearly over.

23-25 These verses obliquely allude to the episode in which John Damian attempted to fly from the walls of Sterling Castle. The poet will go on to suggest, in his satiric attack upon Damian, that he is the father of the Antichrist.

26 Like the cockatrice and basilisk, the griffin was a fabulous composite creature. It had the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. According to bestiary lore, it was a vicious creature that would destroy any human it met, and it was sometimes believed to be the incarnation of Satan.

27-30 The "she-dragon" with which the griffin copulates in mid-air - thus begetting the Antichrist - is perhaps suggested by the Dragon mentioned in Apocalypse (12: 3-17 and 20:2-3). On diablerie in Dunbar see headnote to "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77) and Bawcutt (1989), p. 165.

29 The Antichrist is the false prophet who will appear just before the Second Coming of Christ and who will attempt to lead believers astray. Although there are few scriptural references to such a figure (compare 1 John 2:18 and 4:3; and 2 John 7), it is often suggested that the second of the two beasts described in the thirteenth chapter of Apocalypse - the so-called Lamb-Beast - represents the Antichrist. In some medieval accounts of the birth of Merlin it is suggested that he was fathered by a demon in an attempt to place a satanic agent in the world who would function as a kind of Antichrist.

31 Saturn's regioun is the seventh sphere, the outermost sphere of the planets or "erratic stars." It is more often described as cold or frosty, not fiery, though Dunbar is right in associating Saturn with wondrous and often malevolent happenings, as Chaucer also does in The Knight's Tale (CT I[A]2443-69). Compare Henryson's Orpheus, line 191, and Lindsay's Dreme, line 378.

32 Simon Magus, mentioned in Acts 8:9-24, is an emblem of ecclesiastical greed (the sin of simony is named for him); but in the Middle Ages he was commonly portrayed as a sorcerer and as a man who attempted to fly up to Heaven but who failed.

Mahoun in medieval texts is usually a reference to a devil worshiped as a false god, not a reference to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In Patience (based upon the book of Jonah) he is one of the false gods the sailors pray to during the terrible storm at sea (lines 165-68).

33 Merleyn at the mune. Merlin's father, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth's account of Merlin's birth, is one of the incubus demons that inhabit the airy spaces between the earth and the moon.

34 "Janet the Widow" is probably just a generic name for a witch.

36 Smoke and fire, or fire and brimstone, are often associated with devils and with the apocalypse. Compare Apocalypse 9:18-19.

37-38 In Apocalypse 20:7-10, Satan and his supporters have a brief period of earthly triumph before being vanquished and cast into a lake of fire and brimstone forever.

39-40 Dame Fortune suddenly departs, leaving the dreamer completely frustrated in his desire to appease her.

41-43 The poet is too embarrassed by his ludicrous dream to even mention it to anybody until, incredibly, Dame Fortune's prophecy begins to come true.

49 Normally seeing two moons in the sky would be a portent of impending disaster; for the poet, ironically, it is an omen of good fortune, for now the impossible has actually happened.


52. To the Lord Treasurer [Welcome, my awin lord thesaurair]

This poem seems to indicate that the poet's desperate need of money has finally been satisfied. Indeed, line 25 seems to indicate that his long-sought-after benefice may have been obtained. Bawcutt suggests, however, that although the "tone sounds exultant, an underlying anxiety is present" (Bw 2.337). While the poem cannot be dated precisely, it was probably written after August 26, 1510, when Dunbar's annual pension was increased substantially. The lord treasurer, whom the poet so enthusiastically welcomes, was the official chiefly responsible for collecting and administrating Crown revenues. Eight 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB. R only. Mc24, K47, Bw22.

5 rink. "Men of rank" or "knights"; the word is borrowed from the specialized vocab-ulary of alliterative poetry; its more common spelling in ME alliterative poems such as SGGK and Winner and Waster is renk.

9-12 This stanza describes the promise the treasurer had made to him. The following stanza expresses the speaker's delight when this promise has been fulfilled.

17-20 This stanza reveals the anxiety and trepidation the poet was feeling until the promise had been kept. As Bawcutt notes, "delays in disbursements were common at most medieval courts, and it was often necessary to put pressure on the authorities, to speed up payment" (Bw 2.337).

18-19 "Before you came in the most direct way / From the town of Stirling to the courts of justice [in Edinburgh]." Apparently he is impressed and delighted at the treasurer's speedy journey, which has resulted in the timely paying of his pension.

19 the air. The justice ayres, or circuit courts, which were held in the spring and the fall of the year.

21-22 Pensions were paid in the spring at Whitsuntide (late May or early June, usually) and in the fall at Martinmas, November 11. If his fall payment had been delayed, he might have had to go until Christmas without it.

30-31 The poet addresses the lord treasurer as his "own dear master" and speaks humbly of himself as the lord treasurer's "man" and servant singulair (his "devoted servant," line 31).


53. To the Lords of Chalker

The lords of Chalker that the poet is fictitiously addressing are the lord auditors of the exchequer; they were responsible for making an annual audit of royal expenditures, which usually occurred during the summer between June and August. Although Dunbar's pension would not have come within their purview, he is having fun with the idea of having been called before them to make a formal reckoning - for he finds himself hard pressed to explain where all his funds have disappeared to! Ridley notes the poem's "combination of slight pomposity, down-to-earth urgency, and humor at the poet's own expense" (p. 1017). Four 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. R only. Mc25, K46, Bw36.

4 corce nor cunyie. Lit., "cross nor cuigne"; these terms refer to two kinds of coins, with the corce probably being of greater value than the cunyie. The St. Andrew's cross was imprinted on one side of some Scottish coins.

6 For rekkyning of my rentis and roumes. The income he had received from rents and properties would be the auditors' major concern.

7 tyre your thowmes. To "tire one's thumbs" means to go to the trouble to do something; but in this case they do not need to.

8-10 They do not need to make their counters clink (referring to the metal disks used for counting), or need to waster paper or ink, in calculating his totals - since what he has left is zero.


54. A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland

This is the second Dunbar poem to satirize John Damian, the foreign-born physician and alchemist who was the abbot of Tungland (in Kirkcudbrightshire) from 1504 to 1509. But whereas "The Antichrist" (Poem 51) only briefly alludes to Damian's attempt to fly from the walls of Sterling Castle, here this ignominious event receives more than sixty lines of detailed description. And whereas "The Antichrist" appears to be primarily a lighthearted attempt to curry favor with the king, this poem seems designed to heap abuse upon a man for whom Dunbar must have felt great contempt.
     In this dream vision, the poet first presents us with an outline - probably for the most part fictitious - of Damian's earlier life. In the lengthy opening stanza the poet characterizes Damian - whom he calls a "Turk of Tartary, a son of Satan's seed" (lines 4-5) - as a man who has continually managed to remain one step ahead of the law. Having had to flee from Europe, Damian turns up in Scotland where he continues to perform his nefarious deeds. In the next two stanzas Dunbar describes Damian's fraudulent medical practices, showing him to be not only a charlatan but also a murderer. In the second half of the poem, after Damian's alchemical experiments have proved failures, the poet focuses on Damian's final desperate act, his ill-fated attempt to fly from the battlements of Sterling Castle. In this section of the poem Dunbar presents an extended catalogue of the birds that viciously attack the airborne abbot (lines 69-118). And in the final phases of this description, the poet introduces a strong scatological element; for as this unnatural aviator becomes terrified by the birds' relentless attack, he defecates all over himself (lines 101-04). The poem is written in tail-rhyme stanzas rhyming aaabcccb; the b verses are in trimeter, the others in tetrameter; and the b rhyme is often carried over from one stanza to the next. B and As. Mc38, K54, Bw4.

1 Dream-vision poems are often set at dawn; that is also the case in Dunbar's "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30), following the long-established tradition of the RR. What is puzzling about this verse, though, is the phrase cristall haile. Perhaps as Bawcutt suggests, haile means "dew-drops" rather than "hail," or it might mean "salutation" (Bw 2.297). But since Aurora's visage is appearing in the sky, perhaps "halo," or "glow" makes better sense for Aurora's aura in this context.

4 sonis of Sathanis seid. The reference is to beings such as Merlin, or perhaps the Antichrist, beings who were sired by incubus demons. In this case, of course, it refers to John Damian. On diablerie in Dunbar see headnote to "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77), below.

5 Turk of Tartary. Here Dunbar gives Damian an exotic and pagan origin.

7 lay forloppin in Lumbardy. The implication is that he is a fugitive from his native land.

11 abeit new. The phrase refers to the dress (i.e., the habit) of a religious order; thus because he can read and write (line 12), Damian is able to pretend that he belongs to an ecclesiastical order.

17 To be a leiche he fenyt him thair. After having fled from Lumbardy, Damian now pretends to be a medical man. Perhaps he had learned something of medical science at the university in Bologna, which at the time was a leading center for medical studies in Europe.

21 His ability to "skillfully slit throats" is meant sardonically.

23-24 Once again, Damian turns fugitive to avoid receiving his just deserts.

27 it was no play. I.e., it had serious consequences.

31 The Jow. Literally "the Jew," though here probably with the more general meaning of "the infidel" or "the unbeliever" - which is not to deny that the phrase contains an anti-Semitic slur. Bawcutt sees possible influence "by legends of the Wandering Jew . . . and of evil Jewish alchemists and doctors; one, Zedekiah, was credited with the power of flight and reassembling disembodied corpses" (Bw 2.298).

32 Monstrous creatures being the offspring of giants reflects the common medieval interpretation of Genesis 6:1-5 and Isaias 14:9. Compare Crying of ane Play, line 29, and Henryson's Bludy Serk, lines 25-32.

46 suddane deid. "Sudden death" was greatly feared by medieval Christians, who did not want to die unconfessed and unshriven; compare Henryson's Fables, lines 775-76.

49-50 Damian, the poet suggests, disdained the most holy observances; the sacring bell (line 50) would have been rung at the holiest moment in the mass, when the Eucharist was consecrated.

53-56 The abbey at Tungland, where Damian served as abbot, belonged to the order of Premonstratensian canons. Dunbar is playing on the two meanings of channoun in lines 53 and 54; and perhaps in using this term there is a sidelong glance in the direction of Chaucer's Canon's Yeoman's Tale, which concerns fraudulent and disreputable alchemists.

54 For an abbot not to attend the service of matins would be a serious breach of canon law.

55 He never donned ecclesiastical vestments such as the stole, which was worn around the priest's neck and shoulders, or the maniple, a strip of silk attached to the priest's wrist.

58 The quintessance, or fifth element, is here equated with the elixir or "touchstone," the material alchemists needed to create or discover in order to transmute base metals into precious ones. (Technically, the quintessence is "ether," the element in which all the heavens beyond the sphere of the moon are bathed; it is the fifth essence because it is an element other than earth, air, fire, and water.)

64-68 The birds are dumbfounded by this strange airborne creature: could he be Daedalus or the Minotaur or Vulcan or - the best guess of all - Saturn's cook? Daedalus is the famous craftsman of classical myth whose skillfully crafted wings led to the ill-fated flight of his son Icarus. The Minotaur was the monstrous half-man, half-bull creature on the isle of Crete; he was not a flier, but Icarus escaped from his Labyrinth by flying. Vulcan, the blacksmith to the gods (not just to Mars), is perhaps a candidate because Damian's besmirched clothing and blackened face give him the sluttish appearance of a blacksmith. Saturn's cook might have a similarly disreputable appearance (Saturn's sphere is the seventh sphere, the outermost sphere of the erratic stars.)

69 At this point the birds begin their attack. It might be suggested that Dunbar is anticipating film director Alfred Hitchcock by about five hundred years. A significant difference, however, is that in Hitchcock's film the birds' attack is presented as an aberration of nature, whereas here it is the winged figure of Damian that is the aberration of nature. The birds' attack provides him with the final comeuppance he so richly deserves.

73 Neither the myttane nor the Sanct Martynis fowle have been positively identified. The former is thought to be a term for a lesser bird of prey; the latter may be the martin, so called because it begins its yearly migration around the time of Martinmas (11 November); other suggested identifications include the hen-harrier and the mergus, a diving, fish-eating bird. Bawcutt provides an intriguing explanation for this last possibility (Bw 2.299).

73-76 Dunbar is alluding to "the mobbing of the owl," when a large group of lesser birds gather together and harass the hated owl; this practice is also alluded to in the ME debate poem The Owl and the Nightingale (lines 1658-69).

77-105 Alliteration is used freely throughout the poem, but it is especially heavy between these lines.

83 The pyot furth his pennis did rug. "The magpie tugged at his feathers." It is possible, though, that pennis also carries a suggestion of "penis," which would be in keeping with the reference in line 86 to his "bawis" ("balls"). The poet's intention, in any case, is humiliation.

89 Thik was the clud of kayis and crawis. Compare Holland's Howlat, line 191.

97-98 Compare Holland's Howlat, line 61, and Chaucer's PF, line 346.

103 "He made a hundred cows all streaked." Dunbar is playing on the term hawkit, which was used to describe cattle with spotted or streaky hides. Here they are "streaked" because of Damian's massive loosing of excrement.

105-08 Damian slips out of his coat of feathers, falls, and lands in a bog, sinking up to his eyeballs.

113-24 Damian remains submerged in the mire (at the plunge, line 113) while the circling, squawking birds continue to search for him. At the plunge, in falconry, describes a technique of evasion used by diving birds.

115 How crows got their cryis of cair, their voices of woe, is the subject of Chaucer's Manciple's Tale. Compare also PF, line 363.

125-26 Employing a device found in many vision poems (e.g., the concluding stanzas of PF), the poet is suddenly awakened from his vision by a loud noise, which in this case is the yammering and clamoring of the birds.


55. Sir Thomas Norny

Dunbar's satiric exposé of Sir Thomas Norny, which is modeled on Chaucer's Sir Thopas, is a poem of mock praise for a court figure who, though he may not have actually been a court jester, seems to have made a great fool of himself at court. (A real court fool named Curry is mentioned in the poem, along with the suggestion that Norny has earned the right to be Curry's knave, his helper or tutee.) The comic effect in this poem, as in Sir Thopas, largely results from the incongruous juxtaposing of the chivalric with the unchivalric. Throughout the poem Norny's great feats of chivalry are celebrated, and yet the joke insinuated in the refrains of several stanzas is that he alone knows the truth about his allegedly glorious deeds. Scholars disagree about what Norny's actual status and position at court was, but it seems likely that he was a court braggart in the tradition of the miles gloriosus. Six-line stanzas rhyming aabccb, with the b verses in trimeter, the others in tetrameter - this is the basic stanza form of Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas. MF and R. Mc35, K27, Bw39.

1 Now lythis. This appeal for silence is the standard "minstrel-call" seen in the opening verse of Sir Thopas and in numerous popular romances and ballads.

4-6 These verses attest to the hero's noble lineage (compare Sir Thopas, CT VII[B2]718-23). In Norny's case, his parents are no less than a giant and a fairy queen. That he was begotten by sorcery recalls the conception of King Arthur, aided by the magic of Merlin.

12 Ross and Moray, located in the far north of Scotland, are probably meant to ironically suggest the "exotic" lands in which romance heroes perform their deeds of derring-do as they are bleak and remote. It may be, though, that Norny actually took part in some military excursions in those areas.

14 The phrase "Highland ghost" suggests the elusiveness of the Highlanders, whose ability to quickly disappear when pursued in their misty northern glens was legend-ary. Dunbar might also be taken to mean that the deeds of Norny are themselves phantom-like; they cannot be proved and border on being mere fantasy.

16 The Clan Chattan was a large and warlike group of the north that were allied together; one of the leading groups within this confederation of clans were the MacIntoshes. "It had a fierce, warlike reputation, and in 1430 murdered 'nearly the whole membership of Clan Cameron.' . . . Dunbar possibly recalls the clan's recent activities, such as a raid on Cromerty and Inverness in 1490, and the 1502 revolt . . . which threatened royal estates in Moray" (Bw 2.371).

17 As Bawcutt points out, "Norny turns the tables on the Highlanders, who were notorious as cattle-thieves" (Bw 2.371).

18 This is the first instance in which the poet hints that all these claims of heroic deeds might actually be lies.

19-21 His prowess at dancing must have really been something (we are told with a wink), since the Highlanders were renowned for their great skills at dancing. Perhaps part of the joke here, though, has to do with the uncouthness - from Dunbar's point of view - of the Highland fling.

22-23 Whether or not his Highland dancing is an ignoble activity, his wrestling clearly is, since wrestling was a lower-class sport more appropriate for someone such as Chaucer's Miller. Compare Sir Thopas, CT VII[B2]740.

25-30 These verses compare Norny to several heroes well-known from ballads and popular romances, including Robin Hood and Guy of Gisburn from the Robin Hood ballads. Roger of Clekniskleuch has never been identified, but Allan Bell is probably a mistake for Adam Bell, the hero of Child Ballad 116; or perhaps Allan Bell is a conflation of the names Alan Adale and Adam Bell. The sons of Simon of Whinfell have not been positively identified either, though the phrase occurs in line 381 of Colkelbie Sow, where it appears to be the title of a song. Archery, like wrestling, was not usually considered a chivalric activity, except for Sir Thopas, CT VII [B2]739, where Chaucer mocks the knight.

35 Bevis of Hampton was the hero of a popular medieval romance; it is one of the specific works that Chaucer burlesques in Sir Thopas, CT VII[B2]899.

37 The Quintin whose opinion the poet facetiously derides (facetiously, since he actually concurs with it), might be the man who serves as Kennedy's second in the Flyting (Poem 83), lines 2 and 34, though that is only a guess. It is also possible that he may be the poet named Quintyne Scham who is mentioned in "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14), line 86.

38 The meaning of plum (adj.) is obscure. Perhaps it is related to the archaic American expression found in a sentence such as the following: "Sheriff, that man is plumb loco!" - meaning he is "completely insane."

43-48 Curry was a fool who is mentioned several times in court records between 1495 and 1506. He was apparently a fool "by nature" who had to have an attendant to look after him. See TA 2.529, 3.465.

46-48 I.e., "To this extent I dare to praise him: / He never once in his life befouled his saddle, / Whereas Curry befouled his twice" - some praise indeed!

49-50 Easter and Yule were two of the times during the year when great courtly festivities occurred. On these occasions, the poet suggests, Norny deserves to be treated as the king of fools, not just as a mere attendant to one.

54 Small bells were worn hanging down from the fool's costume. They are all that is needed to show Norny for the fool that he is.


56. A Dance in the Queen's Chamber [A merrear daunce mycht na man see]

This lighthearted, comic poem, which was possibly written for the queen's amusement, reflects the poet in one of his happiest moods, as he "burlesques the balletic abilities of the court" (Fradenburg, p. 174). He is both an observer of and a participant in the dance scene he describes, a scene in which members of the queen's retinue successively demonstrate their talents in tripping the light fantastic. There is a coarse element in some of the descriptions that is reminiscent of fabliau, but there is also a degree of tenderness and warm affection toward the elegant Mistress Musgrave, one of the queen's chief attendants. Dunbar's own dancing is frenzied and filled with sexual innuendo. Kinsley suggests that the awkward meter in several lines (e.g., 4, 10, 16-17) is intended to reflect the awkwardness of the dancers (K, p. 302), as they improvise talent where none exists. See Annette Jung in McClure and Spiller, pp. 221-43, on the Morris Dance trope here, and in "Against the Solicitors at Court" (Poem 45) and "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77), as well as other Scots poems like Peblis to the Play and Chrystis Kirk on the Grene. Jung includes several drawings of Morris dancing at court or before ladies. Seven 7-line stanzas rhyming aabbcbc. MF and R. Mc32, K28, Bw70.

1-7 The first dancer is Sir John Sinclair, a well-known courtier during the reign of James IV. Because he is recently returned from France, the seat of high fashion, one would expect him to set a high standard for the dancers to follow. But he is so inept that someone rudely shouts out, "Take him away!"

8-14 The second dancer, Master Robert Shaw, is probably the court physician who had studied for several years at the University of Paris. He looks the part of a dancer, initially, but he too proves to be as clumsy as a hobbled cart-horse.

13 "From Sterling to Strathnaver" means "from one end of Scotland to the other."

15 The master almoner was responsible for distributing gifts to the poor. Throughout the reign of James IV the king's chief almoner was Sir Andrew McBrek; but he may not be the dancer in the third stanza, since the queen also had an almoner.

16 hommiltye-jommeltye. The phrase seems to be an invented reduplicating phrase, meaning something like "higgledy-piggledy" or "topsy-turvy."

18-20 These verses contain the first of the several vulgar jokes in the poem. There are many references in contemporary records to John Bute the Fool; one of them refers to him as "John of Bute," perhaps indicating his place of origin.

22-28 These verses depict Dunbar the Makar's dancing as bold and daring and almost frenzied, and they tell us that the dancer's performance has been inspired by his love of Mistress Musgrave. The dirrye dantoun in line 24 is apparently a specific kind of dance or dance step, though it has not been identified. However, the reference in line 60 of "In a Secret Place" (Poem 72) to the "dery dan" (there clearly referring to the act of sex) may offer a helpful suggestion. The word pillie in line 25 is a crude colloquial term for the male sex organ.

29-35 Putting all the other would-be dancers to shame is Mistress Musgrave, whose dancing is stylish and elegant. This woman, who is the object of the poet's admiration, is probably Agnes Musgrave, the wife of Sir John Musgrave, an important member of the queen's English entourage. There are many references to her in the account books, recording the gifts and clothing she often received. "Mistress" is a polite form of address for a married woman.

36-42 Dame Dounteboir (line 36) is probably a disparaging epithet rather than a surname, but those for whom the poem was intended would surely have known who the poet had in mind. Her dancing is treated more derisively than that of any of the others.

43-49 The "queen's dog," the figure depicted in this final stanza, is James Dog, the queen's wardrobe official who is the subject of the next two poems. Throughout this sequence of poems Dunbar puns on his name. He is referred to twice in these poems as a mastiff, which may indicate that he was a man of huge size.

47 Compare "Of James Dog" (Poem 57), line 17, where James Dog is also called a mastiff.

48 He stinckett lyk a tyk, sum saed. Compare Whiting H592.


57. Of James Dog [Madame, ye heff a dangerous dog]

This poem and the one that follows focus on the figure of James Dog, an officer of the queen's wardrobe who was the final member of her retinue to be described in the previous poem. There the poet ridiculed the man's dancing, and here he exposes the man's vicious, suspicious, and stingy nature; in the next poem, however, the poet completely recants - though it seems clear that his tongue is firmly in his cheek. While we cannot be certain that the previous poem was specifically addressed to the queen, in the case of this pair of poems concerning James Dog we can be. James Dog had been a groom in the king's wardrobe before passing into the service of the queen, where he became responsible for overseeing such things as the furnishings and tapestries in the queen's chamber, as well as the distribution of gifts and liveries to the members of her retinue. Records show that he continued in her service until 1527. The poet's canine imagery that runs through both poems sustains an obvious play on the man's name. Six 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB. MF and R. Mc33, K29, Bw72.

1 "Venus' bower" is obviously meant as a compliment to the queen.

2-3 These lines attest to James Dog's tightfistedness; the doublet which he refuses to give the poet is presumably the bone of contention here (so to speak). Because a doublet only reaches to the waist, it would cost much less than a long frock reaching all the way to a person's foot. Frog was the Scottish form of "frock." It was expansive enough to be worn over armor. Compare Barbour's Bruce 10.380-81.

4 Perhaps there is a play on the two meanings of dangerous - dangerous in the sense of being "a danger to others" and in the sense of being "hard to please" (i.e., stingy).

6-7 These verses contain the first of the canine images in the poem - here the image is of a barking dog that is "worrying" a hog.

17 The mastiff was frequently used as a guard dog; it is a large and unattractive dog, attributes the poet probably means to assign to James Dog. He is also called "mastiff-like" in "A Dance in the Queen's Chamber" (Poem 56), line 47.

19 Gog Magog became a traditional name for a fearsome pagan giant; this is probably not an allusion to the biblical figures Gog and Magog, or to the giant mentioned early in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (Thorpe, pp. 72-73). Bawcutt (Bw 2.464) cites Hay's King Alexander, where there is a strange oriental giant descended from Gog Magog found in a lists of sowdanis, lines 6049-67.

21-23 James Dog is so huge that when he walks the queen's whole chamber shakes; yes, he is much too large to be a lapdog!

23 Bawcutt compares Crying of ane Play, lines 37-38: "Gog Magog / ay quhen he dansit the warld wald schog" (Bw 2.464).


58. Of the Aforesaid James Dog [He is na dog, he is a lam]

Here the poet retracts - or appears to retract - the unflattering portrayal of James Dog offered in the previous poem. "He is no dog," he claims in the refrain to each stanza, "but a lamb." Perhaps the reason for this sudden about-face is that the queen was not amused by the previous poem. Or perhaps the poet received the doublet he had been seeking and so is now (facetiously) making amends. Or perhaps the joke here is more along the lines of the Manciple's remarks in the link into The Manciple's Tale in The Canterbury Tales, where the Manciple, after making a vicious verbal assault on the Cook, tries to make amends and claim that he was only kidding. In any case, it seems unlikely that the poet's opinion of James Dog has undergone a radical transformation. Six 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB. MF and R. Mc34, K30, Bw73.

1 The "gracious Princess" is Queen Margaret. Compare "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 32), line 4.

3 maist friend. Usually glossed as "most friendly," but possibly meaning "best friend" or "closest chum."

4 The vicious, dangerous dog of the previous poem is now said to be "as gentle as a lamb." That is a remarkable transformation and one that should make us suspicious of the poet's true intentions. Interestingly, Kinsley points out that there actually was a man at court named James Lam (K, p. 304), and so perhaps the poet is playing on the names of Mr. Dog and Mr. Lam, and perhaps on their contrastive personalities as well.

5-6 Compare the Manciple's remarks: "I wol nat wratthen hym, also moot I thryve! / That that I spak, I seyde it in my bourde" (CT IX[H]80-81).

9-11 Bawcutt suggests that "These lines sneeringly imply that Dog is performing tasks more fitted for a woman" (Bw 2.464).

13-20 This pair of stanzas concerning James Dog's relationship to his wife are highly insulting - they suggest that she physically abuses him and that she has made him a cuckold.

18 syd and back. This is an inclusive formula, meaning "all over."

19 barrou tram. One of the poles or handles used to carry a hand-barrow. Bawcutt notes that in Christis Kirk, lines 193-94, peasants used them as weapons (Bw 2.464).

21-22 These verses indicate that James Dog has complied with the poet's wish to receive a doublet, a desire that had been suggested in line 2 of the previous poem. But perhaps he did so only at the queen's insistence.


59. Epitaph for Donald Oure

Bawcutt points out that the subject of this poem is probably Donald Owyr (or Donald Dubh - in Gaelic meaning "Donald the Black"), a member of the Macdonalds, who as Lords of the Isles had maintained their virtual independence from Scotland until the reign of James IV (Bw 2.348-49). After the forfeiture of the Lordship of the Isles in 1493, Donald Owyr was held at court in the king's service. But he managed to escape in 1501, and he later led a major uprising of the western clans - including the Macdonalds, Camerons, MacLeans, and MacLeods - against Scotland in 1503. Donald was eventually captured and imprisoned in Stirling Castle. He was not executed, however, as Dunbar appears to be urging in the poem. Indeed, he lived many more years and led yet another revolt against the crown in 1545. Although not all scholars accept this identification (e.g., Ross, p.183), the Highlander being reviled in this poem must have been a man of considerable prominence and Donald Owyr, who is specific-ally named in line 19, is the most likely candidate. For a fuller account of the Lordship of the Isles, see Jean Munro, "The Lordship of the Isles," in The Middle Ages in the Highlands, ed. Loraine Maclean (Inverness: Inverness Field Club, 1981), pp. 23-37. Kinsley points out that the form Dunbar uses for this poem is associated with satire (K, p. 309). Eight 6-line stanzas rhyming aabbba (a variant of the tail-rhyme stanza). BD, MF, and R. Mc36, K34, Bw27.

1-6 Bawcutt calls attention to the repeated use of sibilant sounds in these verses (Bw 2.349). Clearly there is an association between Oure and a hissing serpent.

7-8 In the Middle Ages the owl was often viewed not only as an especially ugly creature but also as an unnatural one, for of all the birds it was the only one to "foul its own nest" (compare the ME The Owl and the Nightingale, lines 625-58). Also, in one of the fables in the popular fourteenth-century work Dialogus Creaturarum Moralizatus, the owl leads an unsuccessful rebellion against the eagle, resulting in its banishment.

11-12 The figure of a dissembling fiend lurking in a monk's habit and eating alongside the brothers in the monastery frater is quite striking; perhaps anti-clerical satire is intended.

13-16 Compare the proverb cited near the end of Chaucer's Reeve's Tale: "A gylour shal hymself bigyled be" (CT I[A]4321); compare also Whiting T444 and G491, and Psalm 7:16 in the Vulgate.

19-24 The meaning of this stanza seems to be that Donald Owyr, by far the worst of the rebels, has been spared, though he must watch the executions of his lesser allies. Dunbar is apparently incensed at the fact that the chief culprit has been pardoned. Bw 2.350 offers the paraphrase: "Donald Owyr has more falsehood than any four of his supporters from around the isles and seas, [who] now grimace on high upon gibbets."

22 This is a problematic verse. Kinsley glosses suppleis as "punishment, torture," but Bawcutt argues for "allies, armed supporters" (Bw 2.350).

24 Now he dois glowir. The sense appears to be "Now he glowers" from the gallow tree (line 23). Though possibly "he" could mean "high," as in "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54), line 62.

31-48 Just as Dunbar had compared this villain earlier to the foulness of the owl, now he compares Owyr at even greater length to another beast well-known from animal fable tradition, the cunning, deceitful, thieving fox. In the Fables Henryson says that the fox, by nature, is "fenyeit, craftie and cawetous" (line 402). See Bw 2.350.

32 reffar, theiff, and tratour. "An inclusive phrase for malefactors; cf. the excommunication of 'common traitouris reyffaris theyffis' in the St Andrews Forumulare, I, 268" (Bw 2.350).

45-46 Apparently it is in the nature of women who are spinning at the distaff to engage in rude or scornful speech; compare the lyric tradition of the chanson de mal mariée.

47-48 See Whiting F592. The sense of this proverb is that a fox will always behave like a fox - it is the nature of the beast. Compare Henryson's witty "ay runnis the foxe, als lang as he feete hais," Fables, line 827.


60. A Complaint against Mure

Here the poet requests the king to redress an injury inflicted upon his poetry by a man named Mure, presumably a rival poet. Mure has not been identified, and once again it is difficult to know if he was a real person, if the poem reflects a real or an imagined situation, and if the great anger the poet expresses in the poem is real or pretended. However, the charge Dunbar makes against Mure - that the man has extracted lines from Dunbar's poetry and inserted them into his own - has a ring of truth about it. The poem certainly reflects the great pride Dunbar took in his own literary artistry, and may also provide some evidence about how poems were transmitted at this time. Four 7-line stanzas rhyming aabbcbC. MF and R. Mc5, K26, Bw64.

2 This verse casts aspersions upon Mure's family background by calling him the thieving offspring of a troop of roving vagabonds, or possibly, by suggesting that he is of Moorish descent, if the poet is playing on "Mure" and "Moor."

3-4 These verses indicate that Mure has "mangled" Dunbar's poetry - that is, hacked it up - and then presented it to the king. As Bawcutt points out, the word magellit (line 3) commonly referred to the hacking up of corpses on the battlefield (Bw 2.426). Breeze (1998, pp. 12-13) suggests that Scots "maggle" may not be, as the OED describes, a derivation of "mangle" or "maul." Instead the word could come from early Welsh or Cumbric maglu meaning "to defile or spoil." Although "man-gle" and "defile" are similar, the connotations of the latter meaning could carry a much stronger sense of shame, making Mure's actions that much more unbearable.

5-6 Apparently Mure denies Dunbar's charges or wishes to debate them. If so, Dunbar says, he will slander Mure from here to Calais, recalling the ancient Celtic tradition of the bardic satirist destroying a person's name. "From here to Calais" means from one end of Britain to the other. Compare "How Dunbar Was Desired to Be a Friar" (Poem 76), line 34.

8-9 These verses continue the figure of dismemberment from line 3 and add to it the image of poisoning. Saltpeter, potassium nitrate (a key ingredient in gunpowder), was foul-smelling and considered poisonous.

8 fulle dismemberit hes my meter. This verse recalls Chaucer's plea near the end of TC that "non myswrite the, / Ne the mysmetre for defaute of tonge" (5.1795-96). Compare also Douglas, Eneados 4.194, where he urges scribes not to "maggill nor mismetyr my ryme" (Bw 2.426).

10-13 These verses suggest the nature of the piece that Mure has "written," which apparently involves serious, possibly slanderous, attacks upon certain high-ranking figures. Dunbar objects to the slander and resents having his poetry adapted for such a purpose.

15-16 These verses indicate that what Mure has produced is a pastiche of Dunbar's verses and his own.

18-19 To be a fool out of season is to engage in foolery at the wrong time. And since Mure has been acting like a fool, he deserves to receive the close-cropped haircut appropriate to a fool.

23 gar deliver him a babile. One of the emblems of a fool is his carrying of a bauble, a round glass sphere.

23-27 In the Flyting (Poem 83), Kennedy suggests that such a punishment would be appropriate for Dunbar, lines 397-99.

24 The Dumfries fool named Cuddy Rug (more often, Cuddy Rig) was a real person who is mentioned several times in early historical records, "the last being 1512, when he is specifically termed a fool" (Bw 2.427).

26 Kinsley suggests that red and yellow were the colors of the royal livery (K, p. 300), but garments of those colors were commonly worn by court fools; Curry and John Bute, two of the fools at the court of James IV, wore coats and hose of those colors.

27 Apparently bull-baiting was a popular entertainment in Scotland at this time. Bawcutt compares Christis Kirk, line 211 (Bw 2.427).


61. Sweet Rose of Virtue

"Sweet Rose of Virtue" is a lovely, elegant poem in the amour courtois tradition. According to Scott it is "Dunbar's most perfect lyric, and one of the supreme lyrics in Scots and English. The three 5-line stanzas move with exquisite grace and smoothness of rhythm, no word, no syllable superfluous or misplaced, no phrase awkwardly turned, no image or thought jarring the mood" (pp. 57-58). Few readers, I think, would disagree. The speaker describes his lady in the imagery of a lovely flower-filled garden. But he laments the fact that this otherwise perfect person/place is lacking in just one essential virtue/plant - rew - playing on the two meanings of the word: "pity" and "a heavily scented medicinal plant with yellow flowers." Three 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. MF only. Mc49, K8, Bw71.

1-4 Lilies and roses are conventional emblems of feminine beauty, and here they represent female virtue as well, perhaps because of their long association with the Virgin Mary. Compare The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84), lines 28-29.

2 of everie lustynes. Dunbar uses this phrase in "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 32), line 10, to describe Princess Margaret.

5 Except onlie that ye are mercyles. In love lyrics in the amour courtois tradition the lady is normally depicted as being unfeeling and merciless in her attitude toward her suitor.

6-10 Here the speaker gazes upon her lovely face, which he describes metaphorically as a lovely garden (compare Campion's famous song, "There is a garden in her face"). He praises it for its freshness and beauty, yet no rue can he find therein.

8 Baithe quhyte and rid. In medieval idealizations of female beauty, white and red are the two colors most often used to describe a beautiful woman's face; they suggest that she possesses a "peaches and cream" complexion.

9 And halsum herbis upone stalkis grene. Compare "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 32), line 27, and Chaucer's Knight's Tale, CT I[A]1036.

10 Rew refers both to the human virtue of having pity or compassion and also to a variety of strongly-scented evergreen herb that in the Middle Ages was used for medicinal purposes, a fact the speaker may be alluding to in line 15.


62. Beauty and the Prisoner

This poem is written in imitation of the psychological love-allegory initiated in the Middle Ages by RR. Here the speaker, overcome by the sight of his lady's great beauty and her refined manners, finds himself completely in her thrall. As a result, he is taken to the Castle of Penance (i.e., of suffering); he is put in her dungeon by the personified figures of Strangeness and Comparison and guarded by Languor and Scorn, the court jester. But Good Hope, Lowliness (Humility), and Fair Service rally to his support, and then Pity and Thought, aided by Lust (Desire) and Diligence, manage to set him free. In the process the castle's defenders are vanquished. But also destroyed is the figure of Good Reputation, which allows Slander and Envy to mount a counterattack. It is short-lived, however, and King Matrimony quickly chases them off to the west coast. The heir of Good Reputation is then confirmed in his inheritance at court, where he remains with Beauty and the Prisoner. The poem shares many specific features with a number of poems in this tradition, but especially notable are its similarities to the homiletic allegory King Hart. A second distinctive feature, as Bawcutt points out, is "the ferocity of the exotic siege, described in a style reminiscent of Barbour's Bruce" (Bw 2.456). One other notable feature of the poem is that while the love affair briefly creates a scandal, it finally ends with marriage, which is uncharacteristic of most poems in the amour courtois tradition. The poem also contains some additional oddities and inconsistencies, possibly the result of transmission errors. Most commentators suspect that this is one of Dunbar's earliest works; there is also the possibility that it is not even by Dunbar, since it is only attributed to him in R, a MS containing only a partial text. See Josephine Bloomfield, "A Test of Attribution: William Dunbar's 'Bewty and the Presonair,'" English Language Notes 30 (1993) pp. 11-19, for the case against Dunbar's authorship. The general consensus, however, is that the poem is his. Fourteen 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbaba or ababbcbc; although there is not a refrain, each stanza ends with the word "presoneir." B (where it is anonymous), and R (where the text is fragmentary). Mc54, K9, Bw69.

1-8 This stanza and stanza 6 contain only two rhyme sounds; the others contain three.

5-14 In the larger tradition to which this poem belongs, a key element in falling in love is a sudden visual experience - love at first sight. In RR the Lover is shot in the eye by Cupid's arrows, which go immediately to his heart. In Chaucer's TC, it is Troilus' initial sight of Criseyde that leads him into the service of Love.

9 In the final verse in each of the last two stanzas, the lady herself is referred to as "Beauty." But at this point in the narrative Fresche Bewté is shown to be one of her two most important personified qualities, along with Sweit Having; it is the combined power of these qualities that wound the narrator and force him to go bound to the Castle of Penance. This minor inconsistency is also encountered in lines 15-16, where it is clear that Fresche Bewté is only one of the lady's attributes. Fresche is also applied to Beauty in King Hart, lines 199 and 251 (Bw 2.457).

12 Penance is used to describe the lover's suffering in other poems in this tradition; compare Charles of Orleans, English Poems, line 526, and The Kingis Quair, line 887 (Bw 2.457).

18 Strangenes is the equivalent of Daunger, who is the porter to the castle in RR. In both cases the words mean something like "aloofness" or "disdain." The lady in the courtly love tradition must be cold and distant until she is won over by the lover's long suffering and faithful service. Compare King Hart, line 304.

22 This verse appears to be flawed. Strangeness is the porter and so clearly would not be addressing the porter. Kinsley suggests that unto means "in the manner of," but that seems unlikely.

27-28 Comparesone (line 27) reflects the lady's initial assessment of the lover, as she notes how inferior he is in comparison to her other suitors.

32 wofull presoneir. Compare The Golden Targe (Poem 65), line 208.

33 One might expect Langour to be one of the lover's qualities (i.e., his dispirited state of mind), but here it seems to reflect the lady's attitude of complete indifference toward him. In King Hart, lines 261-62, where Langour is also a watchman, he serves the lover rather than the lady (Bw 2.457).

39 Scorn accuses the lover of being too uncourtly to be the lady's suitor. The phrase be this buke ("by this book") probably refers to swearing an oath on Holy Scripture. Bawcutt compares Charles of Orleans, English Poems, line 4152 (Bw 2.458).

41-48 Here the lover's own qualities serve him well in proving his worth to the lady. Good Hope reflects his optimistic attitude, Lowliness his humble disposition, and Fair Service his willingness to fulfill his lady's wishes. Good Hope occurs in RR, lines 2754-87; The Kingis Quair, lines 787-88; and Charles of Orleans, English Poems, lines 196-200 (Bw 2.458).

45 I wouk. He awoke? This is one of the poem's minor oddities, since we were never told that he was asleep.

49 Pity is the feminine quality most sympathetic toward the lover; compare King Hart, lines 339-50 (Bw 2.458).

49-56 Here the lover, through the actions of Lowliness, finds allies among the lady's qualities in the figures of Pity and Thought.

55-56 Thought (which probably refers to the lady's state of mind) has now decided to change sides and support the prisoner.

57-60 Thought, Lust ("Desire," line 59), and Bissines ("Vigor," or "Physical Vitality," line 60) now mount their attack upon the castle. Dunbar works within a tradition of RR as the Barons of Love assail the Lady's defenses. The device is popular with English as well as Scots writers, often with religious as well as courtly overtones.

65-80 "Stylistically this is Barbour's manner; cf. the siege of Berwick in Bruce, XVII, 445-66" (Bw 2.458).

68 In King Hart, the defeat of the foretower (guarding the castle's main entrance) indicates defeat (line 875).

69-72 The exact meaning of this passage is unclear, but Comparison is apparently surrendering and voluntarily offering up the prisoner, in hopes that he will be treated "soft and fair." But line 83 seems to indicate that his pleas for mercy went unanswered, for he is destroyed along with the lady's other negative qualities.

73-88 All those things that had thwarted the lover are now destroyed or removed.

79-80 These verses indicate that the tables have been turned - the lady by whom the lover had been imprisoned is now herself under siege.

81-82 Bawcutt observes that "Animals, such as bulls, had pins or skewers set in their noses, by which they might be controlled" (Bw 2.459); but perhaps the point here is that Scorn has received a disfiguring wound (which will cause him to be scorned), in addition to being banished.

83 Comparison must be put to death so that the lover will have the lady's attention exclusively.

84 It is fitting that Langour, the watchman atop the castle wall (lines 33-34), leaps off the wall to his death.

86 Lust chasit my ladeis chalmirleir. There are possible sexual implications in this verse, and perhaps what is implied here contributes to the death of Good Fame (Reputation or Good Name) in the next verse. In King Hart the queen's chalmarere (chamber attendant) is Chastity (lines 303 and 416).

87 Gud Fame. Compare The Golden Targe (Poem 65), line 164, and King Hart, line 116.

89-96 Slander is clearly a member of a large clan and finds it easy to assemble an extensive group of sympathizers. Indeed, Slander's cousin (line 93) apparently remains at court even when the bulk of his followers are banished. Compare "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77), lines 50-54.

101 Compare King Hart, line 221.

103 band of freindschip. Presumably the bond of matrimony.

105-12 In line 87 Good Fame had been drowned in a sack, but now Good Fame is fully restored through the figure of his heir who has recently come of age. Thus the reputations of the lady and the lover, though attacked by Slander, are now above reproach.

109 confirmatioun. "The action of confirming a grant, or inheritance" (Bw 2.459).


63. To a Lady

This courtly love lyric has often been viewed as one of Dunbar's parodies - Ross, for example, suggests that it "exaggerates wildly the plea of the lover for mercy, burlesquing . . . the conventions of the weeping, wan-visaged suitor" (p. 215). Nevertheless, while the poem is largely a pastiche of courtly love lyric clichés, it is very typical of a popular category of late medieval love poetry. Indeed, the sentiments it expresses are similar to those reflected in the pseudo-Chaucerian lyrics "Complaynt D'Amours" and "Merciles Beaute" (Riverside Chaucer, pp. 658-59). Nor are they very different from sentiments voiced by Palamon and Arcite in The Knight's Tale, Aurelius in The Franklin's Tale, or Troilus in TC. Many fifteenth- and sixteenth-century love poems were written in this mode, perhaps the most notable being the lyrics of Charles of Orleans. Seven rhyme royal stanzas rhyming ababbcc. MF only. Mc50, K12, Bw34.

1-2 These verses may contain echoes from The Knight's Tale (CT I[A]2775-76 and 2780), and the phrase "sweet foe" is also used by Troilus to describe Criseyde (TC 1.874). Such oxymorons are Petrarchan commonplaces.

6 The lover as the lady's feudal vassal, typified in French poetry devolving from Andreas Capellanus and RR, burgeons in English and Scots poetry of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Compare TC 1.427 and 5.939, and The Kingis Quair, line 435.

15-16 Compare TC 4.302-3.

24 undir traist. The phrase concerns the protection or safe-assurance a lord extends to his vassal. A breach of such a promise would be a serious infringement on a social and legal commitment.

28 Pity, Mercy, Ruth - these are the related qualities the lover hopes to find in his lady. Note that in the previous poem Pity plays a key role in persuading the lady to look more kindly upon her wooer, lines 49-56.

31 mayne and morning. "Grief and mourning." Compare Henryson's Fables, line 1555.

36-37 The turtledove in the Middle Ages symbolizes not only fidelity in love but also great feeling and compassion. The poet compliments the lady by making the comparison, but at the same time urges her to feel as warmly toward him as the female turtledove does toward her mate. Bawcutt suggests the poet intends a distinction between dov and turtour (Bw 2.365), but they appear to be synonyms.

41 This verse recalls a famous phrase used several times in The Canterbury Tales: "For pitee renneth soone in gentil herte" (I[A]1761; IV[E]1986; V[F]479). Compare also Whiting P243.

43-49 As the lover's death approaches, he continues to beg for her mercy in his mind, even when all his physical senses have been stilled. Lines 48 and 49 may imply that "unless my mind may think and tongue may move" once more - as a result of having received her mercy - then there is nothing more to say except "farewell, my heart's lady dear."


64. Good Counsel for Lovers [Be secreit, trewe, incressing of your name]

Rules prescribing how a lover should behave occur frequently in medieval works in the courtly tradition. Deriving ultimately from Ovid's Ars Amatoria, influential passages on this theme occur in such works as Andreas Capellanus' De Amore, RR, and Chaucer's TC. Of special importance are secrecy, fidelity, and the continual improvement of one's good name, along with the careful governance of one's own tongue while ignoring the wicked tongues of others. Three 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbC. B only. Mc68, K11, Bw7.

3-4 The lover is urged to behave discreetly so that he will not become the subject of malicious criticism or public condemnation.

5 A lover was expected to be generous and giving, not miserly. In RR, for example, Avarice is one of the personified vices depicted on the outside of the wall sur-rounding the Garden of Delight, indicating that stinginess must be excluded from affairs of the heart.

8 secreit. The great emphasis upon secrecy in medieval love poetry reflects the idea that the lovers' love would be profaned if it became a subject for idle gossip. In The Kingis Quair, "Secretee" is the handmaiden of Venus (line 675). Compare also Chaucer's PF, line 395, and TC 1.743-44.

9-16 This stanza focuses on the lover's verbal behavior: he must not be a liar, a teller of false tales, or a gossip, and he must not speak when he should keep quiet.

17 In RR the personified figure of Wicked Tongue (Malebouche) is one of the defenders of the Rose. Here the lover is advised to persevere, even in the face of "wicked tongues." Compare Whiting T401-03.

19 Be nocht sa lerge unto thir sawis sung. This is a difficult verse, but perhaps the sense is "Be not so free in repeating these rules," an interpretation that keeps with the secrecy of the refrain. Alternatively, it could read something like, "Be not so freely given to the spouting of proverbs," i.e., to sententiousness.

20 The lover should be humble, not proud. In "Beauty and the Prisoner" (Poem 62) one of the lover's most important virtues is "Lawlines" ("Humility").

21 The lover should set an example for others by behaving wisely.

22-23 "Do not defame others, and do not proclaim to others the glories of your own love."


65. The Golden Targe

Although Dunbar's The Golden Targe no longer holds the same interest to readers and editors that it once did, the general consensus remains that the poem should be considered one of the poet's major works. It is certainly one of Dunbar's most ambitious poems, and it is perhaps the finest achievement among his courtly poems. Like "Beauty and the Prisoner" (Poem 62), it stands directly in the tradition of RR. But in this case the assessment of romantic love it offers is quite different, for the poem suggests that passionate love, which can only occur after the overthrow of reason, is ultimately ephemeral and leads to sorrow and disillusionment. What has especially impressed many of the poem's commentators, however, is not the poem's narrative elements but rather its language. Ridley, for example, points out that "The poem is one of the best examples of the aureate style, and despite its artificiality of diction and action contains description which has been justifiably praised for its striking vividness" (1973, p. 1034). Although Denton Fox's suggestion that The Golden Targe is "a poem about poetry" (1959, pp. 331-32) has not been widely accepted, there can be no doubt that the poem reflects the poet's preoccupation with the aural and visual effects of words.
     Dunbar was above all a court poet, and as such his poetry, particularly The Golden Targe, is informed by "the medium of Court pageantry" (Welsford, p. 74). His preoccupation with visual and auditory effects points to the pageant tradition and setting in which he was writing - the court of James IV, and the court's main source of visual and auditory entertainment. James' love of pageantry is well attested, particularly by events such as the Tournament of the Black Lady (see "Of a Black Moor" [Poem 71]) and the various revels staged for events such as his wedding to Margaret Tudor (see "The Thistle and the Rose" [Poem 30]) and Bernard Stewart's entry into Edinburgh (see "Eulogy to Bernard Stewart, Lord of Aubigny" [Poem 35]). For a discussion of pageantry and revels at the court of James IV, see Fradenburg, pp. 172-77, especially pp. 173-74. The king's love of spectacle and ceremony went so far as to the tailoring of his own set of mumming robes and his firing of a cannon at the newly constructed Great Michael - a ceremonial gesture that resulted in damage done to the costly ship (see King, p. 117). When we read Dunbar's very visual and perhaps "over the top" description of "A saill als quhite as blossum upon spray, / Wyth merse of gold brycht as the stern of day" (lines 51-52), it may be that we are reading a description of a sail that is to be understood as an actual, visible spectacle, not as a cartoonish figure in a dream-landscape.
     While The Golden Targe may not describe an actual court masque or pageant, Dunbar certainly alludes to that practice and uses the masque's conventions to comment on his contemporary society. King reads The Golden Targe as a kind of "anti-masque" that deliberately reverses the conventions of the "court of love," and in which the male narrator, assisted by other men, has to defend his reason against female assailants. Dunbar's allegorical personifications perform on the stage of our imagination: Presence fights dirty, blinding the narrator's reason with powder, after which both the order of nature and the narrator's compact with God threaten to disintegrate. When he wakes up from his dream-pageant, the natural world has returned to order, and all is well again. King writes, "The message of the allegory is a severe one, particularly in view of James IV's philandering habits: to allow Reason [in this poem uncharacteristically represented as a male] to be blinded by female sexuality can destroy harmony" (p. 127).
     The stanza form is the one Chaucer had used in his unfinished Anelida and Arcite, a 9-line pentameter stanza containing just two rhyming sounds; the only other important poem written in this demanding stanza is Douglas' The Palis of Honoure. Several Scottish poets use it for lover's complaints set within poems, such as Henryson in The Testament of Cresseid, line 407-69. The Golden Targe is one of the six Dunbar poems included in the Chepman and Myllar printing of 1508. Thirty-one 9-line stanzas rhyming aabaabbab. CM, B, and MF. Mc56, K10, Bw59.

1-9 Few poets graft art with nature more craftily than Dunbar. The opening stanza offers a lovely description of dawn on a May morning that is as fresh as it is conventional. In Dunbar, conventions give life to nature. Bawcutt observes, "The poet's rising parallels that of the sun and the lark" (Bw 2.414); a kind of elaborated parallel to Chaucer's "Up roos the sonne, and up roos Emelye" (The Knight's Tale, CT I[A]2273). But, given the dynamics of Dunbar's craft, the effect is "up rose the poet and up rose all nature." Harrison, commenting on the elaborately decorative language in these first five stanzas, writes that "the first five stanzas with all their sensory appeals quite plausibly lull the narrator into a mood of easy surrender, though the thought of surrendering to a person rather than to the flowers and music of nature has not yet occurred to him" (p. 175). By the time Beauty approaches (line 145), this narrator has already been half-seduced by the sensuous world around him.

1 stern of day. The "star of day" is the sun, although in some poetic contexts the phrase is used for Venus. In his religious poems Dunbar uses it for Christ ("On the Nativity of Christ" [Poem 1], line 3) and the Virgin Mary ("A Ballad of Our Lady" [Poem 4], line 26).

2 Vesper, the evening star, and Lucyne, the moon - i.e., the heavenly bodies of the night - have departed as dawn approaches.

4 goldyn candill matutyne. The "golden candle of the morning," a metaphorical description of the sun, recalls Old English kennings such as heofon-candel and daeg candel; similar phrases, however, occur throughout ME poetry. The adjective matutyne, like the reference to Vesper in line 2, suggests the canonical hours of the day, a concept continued in the singing of the birds in the second and third stanzas.

7 Perhaps Phebus (the sun) being "clothed in a purple robe" suggests both his regal majesty and his role as ecclesiastical dignitary - since cape may be read either as "cape" or as "cope."

8 Up raise the lark, the hevyns menstrale fyne. Compare "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30), lines 12-14.

10 thir birdis sang thair houris. The birds' singing is like the singing of the divine hours, which in this case would be the morning service of matins. Compare The Book of the Duchess, lines 291-320.

14-18 These verses describe the morning dew, Aurora's tears. She sheds her tears because she must leave Phebus, who in turn "drinks" them with his heat. These verses recall numerous passages from earlier poems, but compare especially Chaucer's LGW: "Tyl on a day, whan Phebus gan to cleere - / Aurora with the stremes of hire hete / Hadde dreyed up the dew of herbes wete" (lines 773-75), and The Knight's Tale (CT I[A]1493-96). Compare also line 10 of Dunbar's "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30).

20 the tender croppis. Compare CT I(A)7.

26 The purpur hevyn, ourscailit in silvir sloppis. This is a problematic verse because we do not know the precise meanings of the terms ourscailit and sloppis. Bawcutt glosses sloppis as "patches," Mackenzie as "bands," and Kinsley as "small clouds." The general meaning seems to be that the purple heavens were suffused with silver streaks.

28-36 Depictions of beautiful May mornings, especially in dream-vision poetry, often include a river flowing through the scene; compare Pearl (lines 207-22), Piers Plowman B.Prol.5-10, and Death and Life (lines 26-29). This is also one of the most highly alliterated stanzas in the poem, perhaps to reflect the music of the river. This passage was imitated by Douglas in The Palis of Honoure (lines 40-42) and in Eneados 12.Prol.59-62.

36 "The small pebbles shone as brightly as stars on a frosty night." The phrase "as stars on a frosty night" is a common simile (Chaucer uses it to describe the Friar's eyes - CT I[A]267-68), but in this instance compare especially lines 113-16 in Pearl, which also liken the small stones gleaming in a river to stars that "Staren in welkyn in wynter nygt." Compare Whiting S673 and S685.

37-39 Here the glorious air and sky are compared metaphorically to gemstones: crystal, sapphire, ruby, beryl, and emerald.

40-41 The description of the garden employs the dignity of heraldic terms and colors to convey its artificial brilliance.

42 Flora is the goddess of flowers and springtime; she is also mentioned in line 62 of "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30). In line 48 the speaker, lying on her mantle, falls asleep.

46-48 It is a convention in dream-vision poems for the narrator to fall asleep as a result of the singing of the birds, the music of the river, and the fragrance of the flowers. Compare The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, lines 81-90.

46-60 Fradenburg suggests that the account "might well be an idealization of a ship-pageant wheeled into the banqueting-hall and there discharging its burden of disguised ladies" (p. 75).

48 "Flora's mantle," on which the narrator falls asleep, is the flower-covered ground. Medieval poets frequently described the spring landscape as being clad in a flowery garment; Bawcutt compares Complaint of the Black Knight, lines 1-2, and Wallace 9.147: "fresch Flora hir floury mantill spreid" (Bw 2.416).

50-54 The dreamer sees a ship rapidly approaching, with white sails and a golden merse, i.e., the top-castle, a raised structure surrounding the ship's mast.

54 This simile involving the falcon in pursuit of its prey may provide an ominous foreshadowing of what will later happen to the narrator (Bw 2.416).

55-63 One hundred lovely ladies, all dressed in green, emerge from the ship.

64-72 Dunbar here employs the "inexpressibility" topos (n.b., Curtius, pp. 159-62), claiming that no poet, not even Homer or Cicero, could do justice to such a sight. See Hasler on how the self-reflexive indescribability topos functions here: "There is no developed outer layer of narrative activity - no narrator . . . looking back with whatever degree of involvement on youthful folly - to which such lines can finally be referred" (p. 198).

71 Compare CT IV(E)1736-7.

73 Venus and Nature (and their two temples) are paired and strikingly contrasted in Chaucer's PF. The phrase "There saw I" is a descriptive formula used by Chaucer in The Knight's Tale (CT I[A]1995-2040) and HF, lines 1214-81.

73-90 The poet provides an elaborate catalogue of all the illustrious ladies who were there - including, curiously, Apollo (line 75).

75 Kinsley suggests that the phrase Juno Appollo is used to refer to Juno as a sky goddess, just as elsewhere the phrase Phebus Apollo is commonly used to refer to the sun (p. 250); if so, that would account for the presence of "Apollo" among these female figures. But, as Bawcutt points out, "mistakes over the sex of classical figures were not uncommon in medieval authors" (Bw 2.416). Proserpyna is Persephone, the spring-goddess abducted by Pluto while she was gathering flowers. She figures importantly in Chaucer's Merchant's Tale.

76 Dyane, the goddesse chaste of woddis grene. Compare Chaucer's Knight's Tale CT I[A]2297.

77 Cleo. Clio, the muse of history, is also invoked by Chaucer's narrator at the beginning of Book 2 of TC (2.8-11). Compare The Kingis Quair, line 128.

78 Thetes (Thetis) is goddess of the sea; Pallas (Pallas Athena) is the Greek goddess of wisdom and the counterpart of the Roman goddess Minerva; here, though, Athena and Minerva are treated as two distinct entities. Compare Gower, Confessio Amantis 5.1189-1220.

79 Perhaps the goddesses Fortuna and Lucina (the moon) are listed together because both of them are often changeable; the moon, because of its constantly changing face, was commonly used to symbolize impermanence.

81 Lucifera is a feminine form of Lucifer, the name often given to the evening star, Venus.

82-90 This stanza describes May and the beautiful gown that Nature bestows upon her. Nature's association with an elaborate gown stems from Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature (trans. James J. Sheridan, Mediaeval Sources in Translation 26 [Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1980], p. 85). Compare Chaucer's PF, lines 316-18.

93 Quhare that I lay ourhelit wyth levis ronk. The dreamer reminds us of his presence. The ladies entering the garden, however, do not see him because he is hidden among the leaves. See A. C. Spearing, The Medieval Poet as Voyeur: Looking and Listen-ing in Medieval Love-narratives (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

94-99 First the birds and the flowers honor and celebrate Nature, their own special goddess. In the next stanza they similarly celebrate Flora and Venus.

94-95 Compare lines 71-77 in "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30).

96-99 Compare lines 146-47 in The Kingis Quair.

109-26 Balancing the assemblage of female goddesses is a similar assemblage of male gods; they receive two stanzas rather than four.

110-11 In medieval texts Cupid, Venus' son, is normally depicted as a handsome youth, and in several Scottish texts he is also referred to as a king, as here. What is most notable about him in every case, however, is his bow and his sharp, dredefull arrows (line 111). Compare The Kingis Quair, lines 653-65. For a fuller discussion of Cupid in the Middle Ages, see Erwin Panofsky, Studies in Iconography (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), pp. 95-128.

112-17 These verses depict three of the planetary deities - Mars, Saturn, and Mercury - assigning to each of them some of their major attributes: to Mars, anger and power; to Saturn, old age and malice; to Mercury, wisdom and eloquence.

114-15 For more extensive depictions of Saturn, see The Knight's Tale, CT I[A]2443-69, and Henryson's Testament of Cresseid, lines 151-68.

116-17 For a fuller depiction of Mercury, see Henryson's Testament, lines 239-52.

118-20 Priapus is the god of gardens as well as an emblem of male sexual arousal; Faunus is the god of the open countryside. Both figures are closely associated with fertility. Janus is the god of gates and doorways; in Chaucer's TC, Pandarus prays to him as the "god of entree" (2.77), a phrase that may also carry sexual overtones.

120-26 Whereas Priapus, Faunus, and Janus are gods associated with the earth, Neptune is the god of the sea, Aeolus the chief god of the air, and Pluto the god of the underworld. Bacchus, the gladder of the table (line 124), is of course the god of wine.

125 Pluto, dressed in a cloak of green, is here portrayed as a kind of faerie king, similar to his depiction in the ME Sir Orfeo and Chaucer's Merchant's Tale. Green is a kind of natural camouflage that enhances his lurking (and dangerous) presence. This depiction may reflect the Celtic tradition of faerie abductions that occur in May - the season in which Pluto abducted Persephone. The color green can also be associated with inconstancy, envy, and agents of the devil. See D. W. Robertson, Jr., "Why the Devil Wears Green," Modern Language Notes 69 (1954), 470-72.

elrich. Etymology uncertain. The word first appears here and in Gavin Douglas, The Palis of Honoure and Eneados 6.Prol.118, etc., to denote some fantastic connection with the supernatural, the uncanny, weird, or spooky. Bawcutt (1989) notes that "early Scottish writers apply the term to 'browneis' and 'bogillis,' to Pluto and to the Cyclops and the 'weird sistiris,' to angels and also to elves (with whom some etymological link has been posited), to the faery queen and to the desolate places inhabited by ghosts and demons" (p. 112). The modern word is eldritch.

127 And eviry one of thir in grene arayit. Green apparel was often worn during festivities honoring May. In "The Knight of the Cart" episode in Malory, for example, Gwenyver orders the ten knights who go a-Maying with her "to all be clothed in gryne" (Works, p. 649); see also the courtly literary dress-up games in The Floure and the Leafe, where the royal heralds wear "Chapelets of greene" (line 222), the knights wear crowns of "laurer grene" (line 249), and the ladies choose knights "Clad in grene" (line 401). Compare Dunbar's poem "To Aberdeen" (Poem 33), where the twenty-four maidens who dance in honor of the queen's visit are likewise "All claid in greine" (line 42).

133-35 The narrator now draws near to get a better look; compare him to the lurking, curious "poet" in The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84) in this instance. He pays a heavy price for his looking in that it causes him to fall in love at first sight.

136-44 In this stanza the narrator is discovered and "arrested," but, like many a would-be lover, he is neither displeased nor dismayed.

136 "Love's queen" - i.e., Venus.

139-41 The ladies suddenly reveal the bows that have been concealed beneath their cloaks.

145-207 In this group of stanzas the narrator comes under attack from a large company (Dame Beautee, Fair Having, Fyne Portrature, etc.) reflecting the lady's qualities. Some of these figures are very common in medieval love allegory, but others are not so common.

146-50 Fittingly, Beauty is the first quality by which the narrator is smitten, and she is quickly followed by her attendant qualities of Attractive Deportment, Fine Ap-pearance, Delightful Nature, and Joyful Countenance.

151-53 As in RR, Reason attempts to protect the narrator from being overwhelmed by his amorous desires. In this case Reason equips him with a shield of gold - the Golden Targe. As Bawcutt observes, the shield of Pallas Athene, which is important in Gower's Confessio Amantis (1.390-435), is a likely influence (Bw 2.419).

156 Previous editors have viewed humble obedience as one of the figures who ac-companies Youth. It seems more likely, though, that this phrase simply describes how Innocence, Bashfulness, and Timidity were deporting themselves; compare the similar use of the phrase "full of reverence" in line 162 to describe the deportment of the ladies accompanying Sweet Womanhood.

174 Note that the figure of Comparisoun plays an important role in defending the lady in "Beauty and the Prisoner" (Poem 62).

175 Will, meaning "desire," is Cupid's daughter in Chaucer's PF, line 214.

177 Wit ye thay did thair baner hye display. Displaying their banner on high should probably be seen as a challenge to him to come forth and do battle openly. But he remains entirely passive, hiding behind the golden shield of reason.

181-85 Seeing that the battle tactics used thus far have failed, Venus decides to pursue a different line of attack, now shifting to the use of guile. Thus she makes Dissimulation her field general, giving her a free hand in her operations. What follows seems to imply an attempt at a physical seduction.

187 Presence seems to mean "Intimate Physical Proximity." The fact that she is called "the main anchor of the barge" implies that she is Venus' trump card. Note that in line 196 she is called "Perilouse Presence."

188-89 Fair Callyng (line 188) is "Fair Welcome" (the equivalent of Bialacoil in RR), and Cherising (line 189) is "Kind Treatment." In The Kingis Quair "Fair Calling" is said to be Venus' "uschere" (line 673).

190 Hamelynes means something like "Intimate Familiarity."

199-207 As in RR, Reason is finally vanquished and then banished, leaving the narrator completely vulnerable to amorous attack.

205-06 When Reason has been blinded, he is briefly tormented ("they played the fool with him") and then exiled to the forest wastes.

214-16 These are transitional verses that reflect the narrator's ambivalence toward what is happening to him, for without Reason a hell may seem to be a paradise and mercy may seem to exist where grace does not exist. Now that he has been brought into the snare, the narrator is soon to discover that his love for the lady is not requited.

217-25 Dissymulance and her companions, having completed their mission, now desert the narrator, leaving him to Dangere (i.e., "Standoffishness" or "Cool Disdain"). In RR, Dangier is the Rose's protector and the lover's chief impediment.

226-27 Departing. I.e., "Separation." Now the narrator has been rebuffed and dismissed, leading him to Hevynesse, "Depression."

229-34 The stormy weather, which completely destroys the beautiful garden, probably symbolizes, or parallels, the emotional torment the narrator is experiencing.

235-43 The entire company swiftly returns to the ship where they fire their great guns, causing a huge commotion. The great noise of the guns serves to bring the narrator's vision to its end. Compare Lindsay's Dreme, lines 1018-29. The frightening sound of rocks cracking among the cliffs at the din evokes the natural upheaval that occurred at the death of Christ (see Matthew 27:51). This evocation combined with the narrator's fear that the rainbow - God's covenant against catastrophic floods (Genesis 9:13-17) - will break suggests a kind of apocalyptic fear from the point of view of the narrator. For a very different reading of this artillery salute, see Pamela King, who sees the departing shots as Dunbar's nod to James IV, whose enjoyment of ceremonial artillery firing was legendary (pp. 117-18).

244-52 When he awakens from his vision, the narrator finds himself back in the same beautiful May setting with which the poem began. However, the joyous sense of reveling in sensuous nature is somewhat lessened, as the narrator finds The air attemperit, sobir, and amene (line 249). Having been assaulted, overcome, and depressed by the sensual world (both of Nature and Love), he resembles Amans in Book 8 of the Confessio Amantis, who, after being healed of love by Cupid and Venus, goes home sobered and centered, "Thenkende uppon the bedis blake" (8.2959). While Gower devotes the end of his poem to prayer, Dunbar devotes his to rhetoric and the English literary tradition.

253-70 This pair of stanzas celebrates Dunbar's greatest predecessors among the English poets. Compare The Kingis Quair, lines 1373-79, and, for line 253, compare Douglas, Eneados, 1.Prol.342, and Lindsay, Papyngo, line 24. John Gower was Chaucer's contemporary and the author of the Confessio Amantis, among other important works. He is one of the two people to whom Chaucer dedicated TC, and it is there that he is first called "moral Gower" (5.1856). John Lydgate, the Monk of Bury, was a prolific English writer of the fifteenth century; his works include the Siege of Thebes, the Fall of Princes, and the Troy Book. Hasler notes "This vision of literary 'Inglis' [see line 259] as a barbaric tongue civilized into eloquence by means of the rhetoric of Chaucer, Gower and Lydgate is . . . worth pondering" (p. 200); he goes on to compare Dunbar's "clere illuminate" with what Chaucer calls Petrarch's "Enlumyned . . . art" (Clerk's Prologue, CT IV[E]33-35), the point being that Dunbar's rhetorical artifice of aureation, like Chaucer's and Petrarch's, elevated "Inglis" to the level of a noble tongue.

259 oure Inglisch. English was the common language of both the English and the Lowland Scots.

271-78 The farewell to one's book became popular in late medieval poetry, but Dunbar is clearly modeling his own farewell upon Chaucer's famous farewell in TC (5.1786-92). The modesty topos is a standard element in such farewells. Compare Lydgate's Complaint of the Black Knight, lines 674-81, and The Kingis Quair, lines 1352-65.

272 Compare TC 5.1790: "But subgit be to alle poesye."

278 "Coarse is your clothing," a metaphorical description of his crude and unsophisticated language - a very self-effacing note upon which to end his poem. Compare Douglas' similarly self-deprecating comments in the envoi to The Palis of Honoure, lines 2161-69.


66. The Merle and the Nightingale

The one true debate poem in Dunbar's corpus, "The Merle and the Nightingale" belongs to the significant group of poems comprising the ME bird-debate tradition. These poems touch upon a variety of topics, but one of the most central ones concerns the values and/or dangers of loving women. In Sir John Clanvowe's The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, a poem that Dunbar almost certainly knew, the idealistic nightingale has the role of defending the value of women and the love of them. In this case, however, it is the merle who speaks in favor of loving women and the nightingale who, to the contrary, urges the loving of God. Whereas some of the other ME bird debates remain unresolved or at least somewhat ambiguous in their resolution, here the poem's final resolution is made quite clear - the human love celebrated in courtly poetry is nothing but "frustir" love (line 54), that is, worthless love. Indeed, by the end of the poem both birds see eye to eye and join together in singing the same song, that "all love is lost except but upon God alone." Fifteen 8-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbc, with alternating refrains. B and MF. Mc63, K16, Bw24.

1-2 Similar descriptions of the coming of dawn on a May morning occur in the opening verses of The Golden Targe (Poem 65), "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30), and "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54). Aurora's eyes are "crystal" because they shine with her tears, i.e., the dew she drops.

3 a merle with mirry notis sing. The merle is the European blackbird; like most of the birds in the ME bird-debate poems, she is highly regarded for her springtime singing.

6 Upone a blisfull brenche of lawry grene. In several ME poems, birds that sing in praise of secular, amorous love are perched on branches of laurel; compare The Floure and the Leafe (line 109) and Lydgate's The Churl and the Bird (line 25).

8 A lusty lyfe in luves service bene. The refrain sung by the merle reflects the traditional sentiments of the "courtly lover." In this case, "love" probably refers both to the emotional experience of amorous love and to the personified figure of Cupid, the god of love. Note that the narrator in Chaucer's TC depicts himself not as a servant of love but as serving lovers who are in the service of the love: "For I, that God of Loves servantz serve" (1.15). In The Kingis Quair birds are also singing in "lufis service" (line 448).

9-12 This description of the river is similar to the one in The Golden Targe (Poem 65), lines 28-31, but here the fact that the birds are singing from opposites sides of the river carries an obvious symbolism, reflecting their earthly and heavenly points of view. Perhaps there is an allusion to the pure "river of water of life, clear as crystal" in Apocalypse 22:1.

14 Quhois angell fedderis as the pacok schone. The nightingale, in fact, is not noted for its physical attractiveness. But the verse seems to be an echo of line 356 in Chaucer's PF: "The pekok, with his aungels fetheres bryghte."

16 All luve is lost bot upone God allone. The nightingale's refrain, in contrast to the merle's, reflects the traditional Christian principle that love has no value unless it is a reflection of man's love of God.

20-23 Compare these sentiments with those sung by the lark in "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30), lines 13-14. Here the merle has assumed the role traditionally assigned to the lark, of greeting the dawn and waking would-be lovers.

21 Flora, the goddess of flowers and plants, is one of the chief goddesses of the springtime and a principal assistant to the goddess Natura. She is celebrated in both The Golden Targe (Poem 65), lines 40-44, and "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30), line 62.

29 O fule. "Oh, bird" (i.e., fowl), or "Oh, fool" - or perhaps both, although neither of the relatively polite birds in this poem is very much given to name-calling, in contrast to most of their predecessors in medieval bird-debate tradition. (Note in line 73 that the nightingale also addresses the merle as "Bird.") See also line 41.

31 For boith is tynt the tyme and the travaill. Proverbial; compare Whiting T442 and also Barbour, Bruce 7.45.

35 Of yung sanctis growis auld feyndis, but faill. Proverbial; compare Whiting S19 and also Lindsay's Satyre, lines 233-34.

36-39 In these verses the merle argues that according to the law of Nature, people in their youth should behave one way and people in old age another - but that the nightingale, in violation of the law of Nature, desires young people to behave like old ones.

41 Fule may mean either "fool" or "fowl," but judging by line 73's "Bird," probably the latter.

41-45 The nightingale responds by reminding the merle of the injunction found in Ecclesiastes 12:1 to "Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth."

44 That Him of nocht wrocht lyk His awin figour. Genesis 1:26-27.

46 "Oh, what was demonstrated there, true love or none?" - a rhetorical question.

47 He is most trew and steidfast paramour. Compare Chaucer's TC 5.1845-48.

53 And He, of Natur that wirker wes and king. This is a medieval commonplace, that God is the Creator and that Nature is his chief deputy. See PF and The Physician's Tale (CT VI[C]19-28).

57-64 The nightingale readily acknowledges the many virtues that God has bestowed upon women; but we should praise God for doing that, not women. In other words, we should worship the Creator, not His creation.

65-72 With an ingenuity worthy of the Wife of Bath, here the merle interprets the biblical admonition to "love your neighbor" (Christ's second great commandment - Matthew 22:39 and Mark 12:31) as an open invitation to love the women who happen to live nearby.

81-87 Descriptions of the ennobling power of love are common; compare, e.g., lines 151-60 in The Cuckoo and the Nightingale and TC 1.1079-85.

89 Trew is the contrary. Compare The Cuckoo and the Nightingale, lines 166-67.

92 fals vane glory. Vainglory was usually considered to be one of the major sub-varieties of the sin of Pride; but it was also sometimes considered a separate sin of the spirit equal in seriousness to Pride.

97 Myn errour I confes. The merle's unexpected and rather tame capitulation recalls the Thrush's surrender to the nightingale in the ME bird-debate The Thrush and the Nightingale.

102 the Feindis net. There are several scriptural references to the devil's nets and snares (e.g., 1 Timothy 3:7 and 2 Timothy 2:26), and Henryson places a similar warning in a bird's mouth in Fables, lines 1843-45. Douglas applies this metaphor to love in Eneados 4.Prol.246.

103 "But love the Love (i.e., Christ) who, because of His love (for man), died." The wordplay on "love" surely derives from the biblical adage that "God is charity" (1 John 4:8, 16). Here Christ replaces Cupid as the true "God of Love."

105-12 The antiphonal singing of the two birds links the poem with many other fifteenth- century poems in which the singing of the birds is likened to religious observances; compare also lines 164-75 in "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30).

118-20 The narrator finds comfort in knowing that when love fails him in this world, God's love will not fail him. These verses again express the sentiments found near the end of Chaucer's TC (5.1842-48).


67. Love's Inconstancy

Whereas The Golden Targe (Poem 65) may offer a subtle and oblique indictment of romantic love, this poem does so very directly. As Ross points out, the speaker simply asserts that "love is untrustworthy, inconstant, indiscriminate, inconsiderate, and her pleasure is brief to boot " (p. 216), which surely accounts for his determination to have nothing further to do with it. Ridley aptly describes the poem as "A polished little piece, whose quick, graceful rhythm with its turns is well adapted to the subject of fickleness" (p. 1031). The poem is written in tail-rhyme stanzas of tetrameter and dimeter lines; and only two rhyme sounds are used throughout the twenty-four verses of the poem. Three 8-line stanzas rhyming aaabaaab. B only. Mc51, K15, Bw50.

1 Quha will behald of luve the chance. I.e., "Let him who wishes consider the fortunes of love."

5-6 I.e., "Love begins with inconstancy / And it ends in nothing but variance." In other words, inconstancy is its major characteristic from beginning to end. Variance probably implies the desire to pursue new lovers, what Chaucer often terms new-fangelnesse - novelty.

7 In Henryson's Garmont of Gud Ladies, line 15, "continuance" is one of woman's personified virtues (Bw 2.394).

9-12 Discretion and consideration are two virtues that love has no control over, and therefore if they were to be found in an amorous relationship, they would not remain for long.

11-12 The short duration of love and the pleasures of love is a medieval commonplace; compare Whiting L524.

13-14 Love is quick to pursue new acquaintances and quick to abandon old ones. Compare Chaucer's TC 4.414-16, and Whiting L547.

15-16 These verses, which reveal the speaker's decision to "give over" love (i.e., abandon it), are the logical result of all of his previous observations.

17-24 The final stanza expresses his final evaluation of pursuing love - it is a foolish, ignorant enterprise in which there is nothing to be gained and much time to be lost.

19 tyme mispendit. Medieval moralists, including Chaucer's Host (CT II[B1]18-32), disapprove of the wasting of time; compare also Henryson, Ane Prayer for the Pest, line 86: "For we repent all tyme mispent."

21-24 I.e., "It would be as foolish to expect love to maintain its allegiance as it would be to command a dead man to dance within his tomb." Perhaps the notion of ordering a dead man to dance is suggested by the Danse Macabre, the Dance of Death. But the main idea here is that of the impossibilia - it would be just as unlikely for love to remain steadfast as it would be for dead people to dance in the grave.


68. True Love [And trew luve rysis fro the splene]

This poem follows the preceding poem in the B MS, and like the preceding poem, it draws a sharp distinction between "feynit" love (line 6), the imperfect and short-lived love represented by Venus, and true love, the perfect spiritual love represented by Christ. Here the poet merges two related themes, the praise of old age and the aged lover's repudiation of physical love; this latter theme became very popular in late medieval and early Renaissance lyric poetry. In its larger structure the poem consists of three 5-stanzas groups. The first group lays out the central point, the second describes the narrator's own experiences when he himself was at the court of Love, and the third celebrates his new love, Christ (Reiss, p. 115). Fifteen 6-line stanzas, with 2-line burden, rhyming aaabBB. B only. Mc52, K17, Bw38.

1-2 The poem is written in the form of the carol; these initial verses provide the burden used to conclude each of the poem's fifteen stanzas. The phrase fro the splene (line 2) - meaning "from the heart" or "from deep within" - is often used by Dunbar. Compare Henryson's Annunciation, line 65.

3-4 Here, stated succinctly, is the poem's main theme - while Venus' torch has cooled, the fire of true love remains ever burning. For Venus' torch, compare the wedding feast of January and May in Chaucer's Merchant's Tale, where Venus is described as dancing with "hire fyrbrond in hire hand" (CT IV[E]1727-28). For the cooling of Venus' torch, compare Henryson, Testament of Cresseid, lines 29-30. See Burness, p. 216, on Dunbar's use of Venus tropes here and in "To the Queen" (Poem 70).

10 Trew luvis fyre. Although "trew luve" in the refrain (line 8) is akin to divine love that abides ever burning in the heart regardless of Venus, Trew luvis fyre apparently alludes to the passions of cupidinous love that wane as Venus' fire diminishes. Perhaps Trew luvis should be considered a plural form as well as a genitive. Or, if the service of true love in this line and the refrain is the same, then nevir should be emended to evir, which is, perhaps, the simplest solution. Bawcutt, Mackenzie, and Kinsley read nevir without comment. Kinsley notes that saints' lives speak of the divine fire "that bald can byrne" (p. 276), the implication being that such is the love that precedes and also can replace Venus' fires and is always more reliable.

21-24 These difficult verses praise the person who instructs his heart to accept true love, thus transcending the ancient quarrel between physical love and spiritual love.

27-30 Love's court is the court of Venus and Cupid, which the speaker himself has experienced, and where he has learned that troubles outnumber joys by fifteen to one. The next five stanzas touch upon some of these troubles.

59 To "set not a bean" by something is to consider it worthless. This is a very common phrase in medieval texts. Compare CT I(A)3772 and II(B1)93, and Whiting B82-92.

63-92 In the last five stanzas the speaker celebrates the love of Christ.

81-84 These verses are very reminiscent of lines 1842-48 in Book 5 of Chaucer's TC.

87-90 I.e., "No one in his youth can understand this, except through the grace of God, because this false, deceiving world exerts such great control over the young."

90 in flouris grene. Compare King Hart, line 705, and the refrain in Henryson's Ressoning betwix Age and Yowth: "O 3outh, be glaid in to this flouris grene."


69. A Wooing in Dunfermline [And that me thocht ane ferly cace]

This comic tale of seduction reflects the characteristics of both the fabliau and the animal fable. Indeed, the cuckolding of the wolf by the fox is one the central stories in the Reynard the Fox cycle, an event also alluded to in the ME comic tale of the Fox and the Wolf in the Well. In all probability, the poem is actually a parody of the animal fable, perhaps intended to spoof the fables written by the Middle Scots poet Robert Henryson, who is closely associated with the town of Dunfermline, the place where this comic adventure is set. The descriptive rubric for the poem in B is the "Wowing of the King quhen he wes in Dumfermeling," which has led several commentators to surmise that the poem is a thinly veiled account of an amorous exploit involving James IV. But while there is abundant evidence elsewhere to indicate that James was indeed a philanderer, there are few specifics in the poem to support that suggestion. The poem may allude to a real situation involving real people, but it is impossible to be sure. Ten 7-line stanzas rhyming ababbcc. B, MF, and a fragmentary text in R. Mc27, K37, Bw76.

1 This hindir nycht. This is a common formula meaning "once upon a time" or "just the other night." Dunbar uses it at the outset of a half dozen poems, several of which are dreams (compare Poems 42, 43, 72, 76, and 79).

1-2 Dunbar here employs the narrative device of claiming to retell a tale that he has recently heard; compare lines 30-31 in SGGK. The choice of Dunfermline for the setting may be to "localize" the action, but it inevitably brings to mind Robert Henryson, the author of a collection of animal fables, who lived at Dunfermline. Dunfermline was also the location of one of James IV's palaces, a fact that may be pertinent to the historical reading of the tale.

3-49 This large section of the poem presents a detailed account of the wily fox's wooing and seducing of the innocent lamb - all of which the speaker finds quite astonishing. There is a good deal of irony, however, in the narrator's feigned astonishment at the lamb's feigned innocence.

3 lait. Probably "lately," though possibly "late at night."

4 "And with her he played and made good game." The word "play" often occurs in ME in the phrase "to rage and play" (compare CT I[A]3274); it usually means overt flirtatiousness and may also imply sexual foreplay.

6 riddin. Compare CT VII(B)3167-69, verses spoken by Chauntecleer in the Nun's Priest's Tale.

8-14 The description of the fox's actions in this stanza are quite consistent with real canine behavior. Perhaps it is all undercut in line 13, however, when the lamb, maintaining a posture of innocence, calls upon the Virgin Mary to protect her.

11 The word todlit probably means "toyed with" (or possibly "tootled"?); but Dunbar may also be punning on the word tod ("fox").

12 Syne lowrit on growfe and askit grace. This is an accurate depiction of the "play bow" that one dog makes to another when it wishes to be friends.

13 Lady, help. The lamb, in crying for the Lady's protection, is momentarily playing hard to get, as is expected of her, even in a work that is more fabliau than romance; compare Alison's initial rebuff of Nicholas in The Miller's Tale (CT I[A]3284-86).

15-18 The brutishness of the fox is here emphasized, presumably to create a striking contrast with the smallness of the lamb. Aside from its red hair, this creature does not seem much like a fox; perhaps these verses are meant to flatter a certain person (James IV?) for his physique or virility.

16 lowry. The word may derive from the name Lawrence, the Scottish nickname for the fox which was first recorded in Henryson's Fables. In English and Continental tradition the fox is usually called Reynard, though Chaucer calls him "Russell" in The Nun's Priest's Tale (CT VII[B2]3334), which is the name of Reynard's youngest son in the Cycle.

18 silly lame. Pun on "innocent lamb" and "useless lome" (penis), which is too small.

19 To sic ane tribbill to hald ane bace. Literally, "For such a treble to hold a bass." Dunbar is playing on musical terminology, and at the same time creating a sexual double entendre. For tribbill Kinsley cites "treble/triple instrument"; but also, through wordplay, "such a male genitalia (the triple being penis and two testicles) to hold [mount, pin down] a base (female foundation)." See K, p. 313n19. Bawcutt (Bw 2.471) notes a comparative "bawdy use of musical terms" in Greene, Carols, 46.1. Compare also the Summoner's "stif burdoun" in CT I(A)673.

20 Here, and in lines 27, 34, 41, and 49, the lamb's behavior seems to surprise the wide-eyed (but rather voyeuristic) narrator.

23-25 Compare January's insistence upon having a young, tender wife in The Merchant's Tale - for "bet than old boef is the tendre veel" (CT IV[E]1420).

34 girnand gamis. Compare the descriptions of the wolf's "girnand teeth" in Hen-ryson's Fables, line 2630.

36 He held hir till him be the hals. Compare Henryson's Fables, line 2699.

39 prenecod. A pincushion, used here as a euphemistic metaphor for a woman's genitalia. See DOST. Burness notes that Partridge, in his Slang Dictionary, has it as a term for "the female pudenda" from the seventeenth century onwards.

45 Bot be quhat maner thay war mard. A problematic verse. Does it refer to the harm done to those who are gossiped about, or to the fact that gossipers only harm themselves?

48 Bot all the hollis wes stoppit hard. The sexual double entendre is hardly subtle.

50-51 This traditional bit of moralizing provides a narrative transition. Compare Whiting J58.

55 The lamb than cheipit lyk a mows. The lamb squeaking like a mouse is probably her attempt to deceive the wolf into thinking that she has been the victim of the fox's unwelcomed advances - and thus the narrator's expression of surprise. But perhaps Kinsley is right, too, in seeing it as "an ambiguous cry" designed "to meet the expectations of both male lovers" (K, p. 313).

58-61 The fox hiding beneath a sheep's skin suggests that he has climbed into her closet or wardrobe and has hidden beneath her clothing. Dunbar may also be playing on the phrase "a wolf in sheep's clothing" - here a fox hiding beneath sheep's clothing to escape from a wolf! Bawcutt, however, notes that "the image here is peculiarly sinister, and implies - on one level of the fable - that the fox has killed the lamb" (Bw 2.471).

62 The other ewes who make no din appear to be the lamb's chambermaids. They also seem complicitous in their mistress' deception - yet another thing that causes wonderment in the narrator.

66 The phrase the bell, the reading in MF, is an emendation adopted by most editors, although Bawcutt retains the B reading of the tod, the implication being that the wolf visits the fox after the latter has had ten "scores."

68 Protestand for the secound place. The wolf (unknowingly) claims for himself "second place," because the fox has already claimed "first place" - that is, he has taken his pleasure with the lamb first.


70. To the Queen [Madam, your men said]

Variously described as tasteless, tactless, and puzzling, this comic-satiric poem has produced a great deal of critical commentary. The one thing about which the commentators agree is that they do not much like the poem - Scott, for example, declares that it is "not worth the energy spent on construing it, being an inferior and distasteful thing, though morally serious under the jocularity" (p. 165). The "Madam" addressed is generally assumed to be the queen, and although there is no evidence to prove that assumption, it seems likely, especially in light of what is stated in line 6.
     The poem is set on Fastern Eve (or Shrove Tuesday), the day before the beginning of Lent. Fastern Eve provided a final occasion for reveling before the forty days of self-denial of the Lenten season. The poem is thus related to Dunbar's other poems set at this time of the year. A major difficulty in interpreting the poem stems from a number of words and phrases of uncertain meaning. Also difficult to unravel is the complex wordplay involving the term "pockis" ("pox"), a term that could be used to refer to various physical ailments in either people or animals, but one that also clearly implied syphilis. Central to the poem is the meaning of the phrase "libbin of the pockis," which may literally mean "to be cured of the pox," but which appears to be a colloquial expression referring to sexual intercourse. Seven 5-line stanzas rhyming aabab, with each stanza ending with the same word. MF and R. Mc31, K32, Bw30.

1 Madam. A respectful term of address for a woman of high rank. If the woman addressed is indeed the queen, the men would be those belonging to her household.

1-5 The opening stanza seems to indicate that the men wanted to set off on their travels without participating in the Fastern Eve festivities but that their wives persuaded them to stay. There may also be a sexual double entendre in the phrase thai wald ryd (line 1); compare line 6 of the previous poem: "And wald haif riddin hir lyk ane rame."

2 During the later Middle Ages in Europe, Fastern Eve, the final evening before the beginning of Lent, was a time of carnivalesque entertainments and often of un-bridled physical indulgence. "How Dunbar Was Desired to Be a Friar" (Poem 76) is also set on Fastern Eve and may describe a comic pageant presented at court.

3 Bawcutt suggests that flockis was "chiefly used of animals, and anticipates the farmyard imagery in [lines] 8, and 16-18" (Bw 2.355). Compare Chaucer's Host, who "was oure aller cok, / And gadrede us togidre alle in a flok" (CT I[A]823-24.)

4 The phrase betteis soin (or possibly som) remains obscure and may result from textual corruption; still, the meaning of the line seems clear: the wives have requested their husbands not to leave.

5 Later in the poem the phrase lib tham of the pockis means "to have sex with them"; no one is quite sure how the phrase came to have that meaning. Here, though, it may carry its literal meaning of "cure them of the pox," possibly referring to medical treatments but perhaps implying that the wives hope to prevent their husbands from having illicit sex; or, that if a man has the pox, the woman might take it from him.

6 The phrase sen ye dwell still suggests that the queen and her household were about to set off on a journey, perhaps on a round of royal visits.

7 For a similar use of "Venus' banquet," compare The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84), lines 430-31.

8 Cockfighting was apparently a popular entertainment on Fastern Eve, but the imagery is used here to suggest the men's sexual inadequacy. Compare The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84), line 326.

14 pamphelet on a pled. Bawcutt makes a plausible case for pamphelet meaning "a woman of easy virtue" and for pleid meaning "plaid" (Bw 2.356). But the meaning of the line remains conjectural. Kinsley glosses pled as "plea, excuse," perhaps implying "a compromised position."

16-18 The men who were "riotous as rams" have been become like tame lambs, or, even more humiliating, like old ewes.

21-25 This stanza continues the imagery of the men having been unmanned - in this case with images of physical decrepitude that are the result of a surfeit of sex.

22 The phrase willing wandis may mean "pliant wands" or it may "willow wands"; in either case it also alludes to the men's sexual inadequacies.

23 The description of the men's shins as "sharp (i.e., bony) and small (i.e., skinny) like a distaff" recalls the description of the long, lean legs of Chaucer's Reeve which were like a staff, with "no calf ysene" (CT I[A]591-92). Compare also Christis Kirk, line 39.

24 And gottin thair bak in bayth thair handis. This verse may mean that they are placing their hands on their aching backs, or more likely, that they have become so thin that a pair of hands can encircle their emaciated bodies.

30 The Spanish Pox is syphilis. As Bawcutt aptly observes, "Most European nations traced the origin of the disease to their neighbours" (Bw 2.357). See "His Own Enemy" (Poem 20), line 14, and the note to that line.

33 Thai sall repent quhai with tham yockis. Compare 1 Corinthians 6:16-18.


71. Of a Black Moor [My ladye with the mekle lippis]

One of Dunbar's more controversial works, this poem "has been interpreted both as a broad but good-natured caricature and as a display of unusual cruelty and inhumanity" (Ridley, 1973, p. 1023). Here the poet presents the anti-type to the traditional idealization of feminine beauty, an anti-type also seen in the Loathly Lady of medieval romance, a figure with whom Dunbar's depiction shares specific details - e.g., the huge mouth, the cat-like nose, the comparison to a toad. As Bawcutt observes, it appears that "Much care was lavished on the poem, which has vivid animal imagery, and is structured by repetitio" (Bw 2.351). It is known that Africans were present in Scotland as early as 1504, several of them serving in the court of James IV as musicians and entertainers. Perhaps pertinent here too are the Tournaments of the Black Lady held in 1507 and 1508, which are described in Pitscottie's Chronicles (1.242-44) and in The Treasurer's Accounts (TA, III, 258-94). During these tournaments, jousts and mock battles were held, and "the focus of the rivalry of the jousters was a Black Lady, presumably one of the 'Moris [Moorish] lasses' mentioned in the court records of the time" (Ross, p. 70). It is possible, as Fradenburg suggests (p. 174), that the black lady that the poem "blazons" could have been the Black Lady of the Tournament, whereby the savagery of the description becomes part of the carnivalesque cruelties. Five 5-line stanzas rhyming aabab. MF and R. Mc37, K33, Bw28.

1-2 Medieval poets commonly lavish praise upon the fair white complexions of the ladies they celebrate, often comparing their skin to the ivory of the narwhal ("as white as whale bone" is a common simile). Dark-complexioned women are also sometimes celebrated in medieval literature, though they are likely to belong to the lower social classes. The term blak in line 2 could be used for a woman of dark complexion; but as the poem develops, it becomes clear that the poet is describing an African.

5-6 Contrast Chaucer's Prioress, whose mouth is "ful smal, and therto softe and reed" (CT I[A]153). Bawcutt notes that "physiognomists considered large lips a sign of folly" (Bw 2.351).

6 lyk an aep. Europeans were familiar with the Barbary ape, which they considered ugly and grotesque. Symkyn's bald head in The Reeve's Tale is compared to that of an ape (CT I[A]3935).

8 Pug or snub noses were considered very ugly, an attitude Chaucer touches on in The Reeve's Tale with the "camus" noses of Symkyn the miller and his daughter (CT I[A]3934, 3974). In a matched pair of sarcastic love letters in MS Rawlinson Poet. 36, the lady compares her lover's nose to that of a hare or a cat, and he returns the compliment with interest, saying that her "camusyd nose, with nose-thryllys brode" could be used in church to quench tapers burning on the altar (see Secular Lyrics, ed. Robbins, pp. 219-22).

9 And quhou schou schynes lyk ony saep. Bawcutt points out that soap was chiefly used "for washing clothes rather than persons" and "was made from a mixture of tallow, fish-oil, and potash" (Bw 2.352).

12 The image of the "tar barrel" is probably meant as a comment both on her blackness and on her physical shape. A lady's very slender waist - reflected in a phrase like "her sides small" (i.e., narrow) - was the standard for admiration.

13 This verse may either suggest an explanation for the lady's blackness - she is black because she was born during an eclipse of the sun - or it may rudely suggest that at her birth the sun was so frightened that it hid itself. Compare Crying of ane Play, line 55.

14 Following up on the previous verse, the speaker suggests that the personified figure of the Night will gladly fight as her champion, implying that the figure of Day would want nothing to do with her. There may be wordplay on "night" and "knight," also. And this verse might also refer to participants in a court pageant involving a mock joust.

23-24 The loser's reward is that he must kiss her "hips." Absolon in The Miller's Tale is tricked into performing this humiliating act; and Chaucer's Host also alludes to it in his angry exchange with the Pardoner (CT VI[C]948). Compare the Flyting (Poem 83), line 131.


72. In a Secret Place [Ye brek my hart, my bony ane]

Medieval literature produced a wide variety of love-dialogues, including the pastourelle, a poem involving the attempted seduction of a rural maiden by a young courtier, and the aube or aubade, the dawn song of parting lovers. A third notable variety is the dialogue of the night visit, in which a young man tries to woo his love from beneath her window or in some other private place. Dunbar's poem belongs to this latter category, and like several other examples in this tradition, it provides a lower class counterpart to upper class wooing. The humor in Dunbar's poem arises primarily from the use of comic inversions, from the would-be courtly behavior of a pair of lovers who are decidedly uncourtly, and from the amorous endearments the lovers lavish upon each other, endearments rich in sexual double entendre and ludicrous incongruities. Ridley may be right in suspecting that some of the more obscure phrases spoken by the lovers are actually nonsense terms designed to create the effect of baby talk (1973, p. 1019). Bawcutt notes that this "genre was popular in sixteenth-century Scotland, and Bannatyne contains a number of examples, extremely varied in tone and treatment: these include Henryson's Robene and Makyne, and several anonymous pieces" (Bw 2.343). See Burness on poetic uses of bawdy language in Dunbar. The poem is attributed to Dunbar in MF, an attribution that most scholars have accepted, despite the fact that in B it is attributed to Clerk. Nine stanzas rhyming aabbcbc, with alternating refrain. MF, B, R, and Osborn. Mc28, K13, Bw25.

1-2 It is a common convention in medieval dialogues and debates for a third party to overhear the dialogue, which he then duly reports. Perhaps in this case, then, it was not such a "secret place" after all, if the narrator has been able to eavesdrop so readily.

2 The terms beyrne and bricht - "young man" and "attractive lady" - are commonly found among the stock vocabulary of alliterative poetry and usually imply a high degree of social standing - which will turn out not to be the case.

3-7 In these verses the young man makes the standard appeal of the courtly lover, beseeching his lady whom he has long served to show him some kindness. Through line 7 the poet has offered few hints that the poem will become a burlesque of amour courtois.

3 My huny, my hart, my hoip, my heill. Alliteration, which is especially noticeable in this verse, is just one of several sound devices often used in the poem. Compare Hary's Wallace, ed. McDiarmid, 11.569.

6 Her coldness toward him, her danger, suggests that she is the disdainful lady of courtly love tradition.

8 Compare the description of Absolon in Chaucer's Miller's Tale: "He kembeth his lokkes brode, and made hym gay" (CT I[A]3374).

8-14 The second stanza completely undercuts the initial impression created in the first stanza, as we discover that this young man is no more a true courtly lover than is Absolon in Chaucer's Miller's Tale.

10 The young wooer here is "tounish," no country bumpkin like Robene in Henryson's Robene and Makyne.

11-14 These verses recall Nicholas' "wooing" of Alisoun in The Miller's Tale (CT I[A]3276-87).

13 fukkit. The term means exactly what it says, and this is one of the earliest recorded occurrences of the word. There may be an earlier use of it in a collection of proverbs and sayings contained in MS Peniarth 356B of the National Library of Wales: "Wemen were wode and sweryne by the rode / That thay owyles fuc ne men / Men were wys and turnyd her geryes / And swuyud ham" (fol. 149v, lines 1-4). Compare "wanfukkit" in the Flyting (Poem 83), line 38.

15 sweit as the hunye. For the clichéd simile "sweet as the honey," compare Whiting H430.

16-17 Compare Diomede's similar, though more courtly, assertions to Criseyde in Chau-cer's TC 5.155-8.

18-19 The images in these linked verses are intentionally incongruous.

22 This verse obviously echoes Alisoun's "'Tehee!' quod she" from The Miller's Tale (CT I[A]3740).

23 tuchan. Bawcutt suggests that a tuchan might be a stuffed calf-skin that was placed beside a cow to trick her into giving milk. Or, perhaps the term is a nominal form of toudr, meaning a tactile effect for whatever purpose. See OED touch sb.1.a.

26-27 She suggests that he is the only lover she has had for an entire week!

29 claver . . . curldodie. Compare the similar comparison of Alisoun to wild flowers in The Miller's Tale: "She was a prymerole, a piggesnye" (CT I[A]3268). Kinsley follows DOST and glosses curldodie as "ribwort plantain" or the wild scabiosa (K, p. 257), which, like the clover, is round-headed in bloom. This, according to Burness (p. 210), suggests the shape of the vulva, thereby enhancing collectively the obscene endearments of the first wife's fantasy.

30 huny soppis. "Honey sops," which was bread soaked in water and honey. Chaucer's Franklin prefers his "sop" soaked in wine (CT I[A]334).

31 Be not oure bosteous to your billie. Perhaps the joke here is that he is asking her not to be too rough with him, the reverse of what we might expect.

33-34 The comparison of a lady's white neck to the whiteness of whale bone (the ivory from the tusk of the narwhal) is a commonplace. See note to "Of a Black Moor" (Poem 71), lines 1-2. But Bawcutt is probably right in suggesting that heylis (line 33) means "heels," not "neck" (hals), thus creating a "greater comic incongruity" (Bw 2.345). It is her white heels, then, that cause his sexual arousal.

34 quhillelille. The term refers to his penis (compare "pillie" in line 25 of "A Dance in the Queen's Chamber" [Poem 56]). It is possible the word was made up for the occasion (and perhaps also to satisfy the rhyme scheme), but in the United States "willie" is still a common slang expression for the penis. The "lilly" element in this compound noun may allude to his lily-white penis, or it may allude to the fleur-de-lis, which sometimes carries phallic overtones. Burness notes the term in Lyndsay's Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis (line 4372) where the sense is "an attack of sickness, a spasm," which makes a kind of sense here too (p. 214).

37 mychane. One of several unexplained words in the poem. The context suggests that it is a slang expression for some part of the body, perhaps the mouth or stomach.

38 belly huddrun . . . hurle bawsy. Neither of these expressions has been fully explained, though both are evidently terms of endearment. Huddrun is perhaps some form of "hood" or a woman's covering (see DOST on hude). In The Merchant's Tale Januarie's God sees Adam as being "belly-naked" and in kindness supplies him with Eve (CT IV[E]1326), apparently as a belly-cover, which seems to be the same way that the woman here looks upon her eager friend. Bawsy is perhaps a term of affection for a clumsy person with a big belly. See DOST.

39 slawsy. This word, which also occurs in line 41, is apparently a slang term meaning something like "fellow."

40 Your musing waild perse ane harte of stane. Compare Chaucer's TC 3.114 and Whiting H277.

43 Alisoun in The Miller's Tale is also compared to a kid (i.e., a young goat), CT I(A)3260. See Burness, pp. 212-14, on sexual associations with various animals.

44-48 brylyoun. The term is obscure, but Kinsley suggests "pudendum muliebre." It seems likely that most of the images in lines 44-46 refer directly or euphemistically to the female genitals. See Burness, p. 210, on tirly mirly (line 46) for female pudendum (compare eighteenth-century tirly-whirly), and towdy (line 48) for buttocks (n.b., "Towdy-fee," a fine for fornication). Mowdy (line 46) is a variant of the verb mow ("to copulate" - DOST).

48 stang. This term (meaning "stake" or "pole," or possibly "sting") refers to his penis.

51 Welcum, my golk of Marie land. This difficult verse is usually explained as an allusion to King Berdok, another comic wooing poem contained in B.

52-53 chirrie . . . unyoun. On food with sexual associations, see Burness, p. 214.

53 my sowklar sweit. See lines 23-24 for other suggestions of what Burness refers to as the sexuality of "mammary stimulation" (p. 214).

57 The apill rubye may refer to the actual gift of an apple, and Bawcutt may be right in suggesting that it is also "a humorous reference to ruby rings given as love tokens" (Bw 2.346). Compare Henryson's Testament of Cresseid, line 582, and Lindsay's Squire Meldrum, lines 1003-06. Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde also exchange rings, but it is the brooch she gives him that contains a ruby (TC 3.1368-72). Still, one cannot help wondering whether it is also a euphemistic reference to his penis.

59-61 Here the lovers engage in the dery dan (line 60), which is clearly the dance of love where "both of their joys are met in one." A similar phrase, the "dirrye dantoun," occurs in line 24 of "A Dance in the Queen's Chamber" (Poem 56), where it is used to describe a sexually suggestive dance.

62-63 These final verses suggest that their amorous passions have been satisfied and that he is about to leave, thus prompting her expression of regret.


73. These Fair Ladies That Repair to Court

This comic-satiric poem celebrates, with tongue in cheek, the ability of women to further their husbands' legal interests by "soliciting" at court. The satire is aimed both at judicial corruption and at women who are willing to grant sexual favors for personal gain. Ridley's comments on the poem seem especially apt: "It has been claimed that Dunbar does not pun, but this graceful minuet seems to be built upon just such a device. The tripping meter serves to intensify the irony, for it results in a rather dainty movement, one appropriate to woman's refinement but here used to describe her prostitution" (1973, p. 1030). Six 8-line tail-rhyme stanzas rhyming ababcdcd. MF, B, and R. Mc48, K71, Bw74.

2 courte ar kend. The word courte may refer either to the royal court or to the court of justice; in this case it may refer to both. The word kend may mean both "well-known" and "known carnally."

5 gud men. "'Husbands,' and, ironically, 'good men'" (Bw 2.465).

14 collatioun. A light refreshment often taken in the evening, and the word came to suggest a private evening of amorous intimacy. Compare Henryson, Testament of Cresseid, line 418, and Lindsay, Satyre, lines 437-38.

17 Ye may wit weill thai have grit feill. Dunbar is no doubt punning on feill, which means "having a natural ability for something" but also implies its literal, physical meaning of "feel."

19 "True as the steel" is a clichéd simile; compare Whiting S707 and S709; here it is used ironically.

31-32 A sexual double entendre on the word spend (line 31) seems likely, since the impli-cation is that what they are "spending" is not money.

32 geir. The terminology, meaning "'property/sexual apparatus' (K), controls a reading of the poem, and by focusing and fusing the themes of selling sex and legality, neatly satirises both women and jurisprudence" (Burness, pp. 211-12).

35-40 Compositouris. The legal officials responsible for drawing up the financial settle-ments for people whom the court had found guilty of various crimes. It is not surprising that they were often accused of taking bribes. Compare Lindsay, Satyre, lines 2660-64.

47-48 The sense is: "Such (ladies) can succeed, and no one can stop / Them, because of their honest reputations."

48 honesté. "Dunbar plays ironically on the word's various implications: honour, moral integrity; the more specific sense, chastity; and the mere outward show of such virtues" (Bw 2.466). Hamlet does much the same when he asks Ophelia if she is "honest" (Hamlet 3.1.102-06).


74. Tidings from the Session

This satiric commentary on the legal corruption rampant in Edinburgh is presented through the voice of a naïve, impressionable "moorland man." Having just returned to his rural home from the city, he offers his neighbor a rapid-fire catalogue of all the shocking goings-on at the Court of Session, concentrating primarily on the illegal or morally dubious actions of lawyers and their clients. Henryson's fable of The Sheep and the Dog provides a similar satiric exposé (Fables, lines 1146-1320). In the final stanzas he turns his attention to the equally corrupt practices of the clergy. Eight 7-line stanzas rhyming aabbcbc, with slightly varying refrain. MF, B, and R. Mc43, K74, Bw2.

1 Bawcutt suggests that this opening line conveys "scorn for the simple peasant" (Bw 2.282). That may be so, but it does not undermine the truthfulness or accuracy of what he is about to report; his naiveté is contrasted with the corruption of the city in a fashion reminiscent of the fable of the town mouse and the country mouse.

1-7 The poem begins dramatically with the newly-arrived countryman being accosted by his neighbor, who is eager to hear the news of the outside world. The countryman, who has just climbed down from his horse, is happy to comply.

3 Quhat tythingis, gossope, peace or weir. The neighbor's question turns out to be wonderfully ironic. He wants to know the answer to the big questions - whether there is "peace or war" - but what he will hear is that people are completely caught up in their own petty concerns.

5 I tell yow this, undir confessioun. The speaker makes it clear, here and in lines 8-9, that what he is telling his neighbor is said in confidence. His experience at the Session, apparently, has given him cause to be distrustful of his fellow man.

7 The Session was the highest judicial court in Scotland. The king's council consti-tuted its membership, and it sat for lengthy sessions two or three times a year at the Tolbooth in Edinburgh.

13 fuider. Lit., "a cart load." The term was used colloquially to mean "a great many."

15-42 These four stanzas itemize the actions and activities of those who come to court. The word sum with which most of these verses begin means "one" or "a certain one" rather than "some," although it is also meant collectively - i.e., each sum represents a type of behavior practiced by many.

15-21 This stanza emphasizes the duplicity and hypocrisy that characterize the behavior of many people at court.

18 pattiris. The word literally means "patters," i.e., speaks rapidly; this verb apparent-ly derives from the rapid, mechanical recitation of the Pater Noster, the Lord's Prayer.

beidis. Literally, beads, i.e., the beads of the rosary; but it became a standard metonym for "prayers."

20-21 I.e., "One bows quite low and bares his head (in a show of false humility) whose demeanor would be quite haughty under other circumstances."

22 Sum bydand law layis land in wed. Some who are still waiting for their cases to be heard are forced to mortgage their own land in order to survive.

29 exceppis. Formulate objections.

30 Sum standis besyd and skayld law keppis. Some bystanders are able to glean small amounts of legal knowledge or terminology, which they presumably use in a pretentious, pseudo-learned fashion.

37 For the image of a "fox in sheep's clothing," compare lines 58-61 of "A Wooing in Dunfermline" (Poem 69).

38 I.e., his kindness is expressed in words but not in deeds.

41 Sait. Lit., "Seat," collectively meaning the seated members of the court.

43-56 Now the satire shifts to the orders of friars and monks who come to court, ostensibly for the purpose of recruiting new members, but Dunbar draws upon the familiar portrayal of the lecherousness of the monks and friars.

45 The Carmelites, or White Friars, were a contemplative order originally established on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. The Coirdeleiris is another name for the Franciscans, or Grey Friars, originally founded by St. Francis of Assisi. They could be identified by the knotted ropes or cords tied around the waist of their robes.

48 "The younger ones learn from the example of the older ones" - here, ironically, they learn their bad habits.

50-51 het complexioun. The phrase may well suggest that the bodily humors of blood and choler were dominant features of the monk's personality. But what Dunbar appears to be doing in this pair of verses is juxtaposing the monk's contradictory qualities - his hot complexion and his devout mind - to create the kind of humorous non sequitur that Chaucer sometimes used. Compare, for example, Chaucer's statement in the General Prologue that the Monk was "A manly man, to been an abbot able" (I[A]167).

50-56 These final verses depicting the "young monks of hot complexion" are filled with sexual double entendre, much in the fashion of Chaucer's portrait of the Friar in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.

52-53 "And in the court they subdue their proud flesh / In a fatherly fashion, with gasps and pants" - verses with an obvious double meaning.

54-55 More verses with an obvious double meaning - the monks' intercession is so gentle and gracious that women are readily disposed to give them what they want.


75. To the Merchants of Edinburgh

The poem is both a powerful satiric exposé of the many social and economic ills that beset Edinburgh and an exhortation to the wealthy merchants of the city, very likely the important burgesses who sit upon the burgh council, to remedy this shameful state of affairs. Bawcutt is surely correct in suggesting that Dunbar "appeals to their civic pride . . . , their self-interest . . . , and above all their moral sense" (Bw 2.404). The poem is especially memorable for its vivid and realistic portrayal of late medieval urban life. Eleven 7-line stanzas rhyming aaabBab; the fifth verse, which provides the internal refrain, is a dimeter (and thus similar to the bob in a bob and wheel); also, each stanza ends with the word name. It is an unusual stanza form and one not used elsewhere by Dunbar. R only. Mc44, K75, Bw55.

4 The "common profit" refers to the general well-being of all. It is the opposite of the "Singular proffeit" (an individual's self interest) mentioned in line 71. Compare Chaucer's PF, line 47, and CT IV[E]431 and 1194.

5-7 These verses convey the poet's appeal to their civic pride, a theme sounded throughout the poem.

8 gaittis. While often meaning "gates," the term may actually refer to the city's major streets rather than to its gateways.

9 For stink of haddockis and of scattis. The stink the poet mentions may not be caused by the fish alone. As Kinsley observes, "fishmongers and butchers threw their trimmings into the streets, which were piled high with middens on both sides" (K, p. 367).

12-14 Again the poet expresses his concern with what visitors to the city will think.

15-19 These verses create a vivid sense of the city's dark and gloomy streets, passageways, churches, and houses, a condition the poet believes is a disgrace.

15-16 There is uncertainty over the meaning of the Stinkand Stull (line 15), but it was probably a rank passageway that was crammed with stalls, not a school, as some have suggested. Whatever it was, it blocked the light to St. Giles parish church in the High Street.

17 foirstairis. Wooden staircases attached to the fronts of the multi-storied tenements.

22 The High Cross was the Mercat Cross, or market cross, located to the northeast of St. Giles Church. It was the symbolic center of the city "where proclamations were made and punishments meted out" (K, p. 367). A fragment of the medieval cross still survives, which has been incoporated into a nineteenth-century building (Bw 2.405). Compare the Flyting [Poem 83], line 211).

24 Trone. The public weighing house. Every Scottish burgh had one, and it was always located in close proximity to the market cross; in Edinburgh it was at the corner of West Bow and Castle Hill.

cokill and wilk. "Cockles and whelks."

25 Jok. Jock or Jack, a conventional name for a man of lowbirth. Compare "To the King" (Poem 48), line 66 and "Master Andro Kennedy's Testament" (Poem 80), line 73.

29-30 The minstrels maintained by the burgh are criticized for their limited and trite repertoire. Now the day dawis has been identified as a popular song of the time, but Into Joun remains unidentified (line 30). Compare Douglas, Eneados 13.Prol.182.

31-32 The meaning of these verses is uncertain. Sanct Cloun (line 31) may be the Irish saint St. Cluanus who was linked with eating and drinking; but it is also possible that the phrase simply refers to a mock saint. The general point, in any case, seems to be that truly talented musicians are given no real opportunities. Compare Lindsay, Satyre, lines 1371 and 4388.

34 To hald sic mowaris on the moyne. This line refers back to the inept minstrels in the hire of the city. Bawcutt suggests that the phrase refers to gallow birds, criminals left to hang on the gallows who "make faces" at the moon (Bw 2.406).

36 Dunbar's scornful opinion of tailors and shoemakers is more fully revealed and explored in "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77).

38 merchantis at the Stinkand Styll. In the fifteenth century there was a tenement of several stories built along the north side of St. Giles which was "pierced by two passages, one of which was the notorious Stinkand Styll that led directly to the north door of the church" (Bw 2.406). Dunbar is not the only one to be offended by it.

43-46 City records comment on Edinburgh's "multitude of beggars" (Bw 2.406).

57 Sessioun. The important judicial court that Dunbar satirizes in "Tidings from the Session" (Poem 74).

71-72 Here the contrast and conflict between Singular proffeit (line 71) and common proffeit (line 72) is made explicit.

74 Jerusalem, the city of God, provided the model after which earthly cities should aspire.

76 "That at some time (in the future) you will be governed by reason."

77 In this verse there is a blank space in the manuscript; the emendation here supplied seems as likely as those supplied by others; see textual note to this line.


76. How Dunbar Was Desired to Be a Friar

This poem presents one of Dunbar's strongest indictments of the friars, in particular the Franciscans, and its negative critique is consistent with the anti-fraternal feelings he expresses elsewhere. The poem is cast in the form of a vision in which the dreamer has a supernatural visitation, in this case from a figure who appears to be St. Francis of Assisi but who is actually a fiend. The central symbol in the poem is the friar's habit, which the visitant tries to lay over the dreamer and which the dreamer leaps from his bed to avoid; this despised habit, clearly, is the tangible emblem of the falseness and hypocrisy the poet associates with the friars. Is it possible that Dunbar had once been a novice in the Franciscan order and that he decided not to enter the order? This is a question that scholars have hotly debated, with no consensus emerging. Most recent commentators, however, tend to view lines 33-45 as being in the tradition of the mock confession; that is, his description of his travels "in freiris weid" ("in a friar's habit," line 36) is actually a fiction and should not be viewed as providing evidence about the poet's life. Ten 5-line stanzas rhyming aabba. B, MF, and R. Mc4, K55, Bw77.

2 Sanct Francis. St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) founded the first of the fraternal orders of the friars, and his order was dedicated to poverty and to ministering to the poor and sick. Dunbar is probably not satirizing St. Francis nor the ideals of this order, but rather the practices of his later followers. Many Franciscan houses were established in Scotland in the later Middle Ages.

2-5 In "Tidings from the Session" (Poem 74) the speaker describes how older friars attempt to recruit younger men for their orders (lines 43-48), and here a figure in the guise of St. Francis appears before the dreamer in the hope of recruiting him to the Franciscan Order. His admonition to the dreamer in line 5 to repudiate the world probably reflects the vows of poverty and chastity that were sworn by members of the regular clergy.

8-10 The friar's habit which the "saint" tries to place over the dreamer terrifies him so much that he leaps away from it and "would never come near it." Dunbar may be playing upon the idea encountered in various tales and romances that if a mortal has physical contact with fiendish persons or objects it will lead to his damnation.

13 Thow that hes lang done Venus lawis teiche. This verse probably alludes to Dun-bar's courtly poems, which may well have been among his earliest works.

15 Delay it nocht, it mon be done but dreid. Here, as in line 5 and lines 29-30, there is a strong degree of coercion in the "saint's" manner of address, which contrasts with the dreamer's meek politeness.

19 Bot thame to weir it nevir come in my mynd. The dreamer makes it clear in this verse that he has never entertained any intention of becoming a friar.

20 Sweit confessour. "Sweet confessor" is a both a deferential and a correct manner of addressing a saint such as St. Francis who was not a martyred saint. Bawcutt suggests that "It has a further point here, since the friars' right to hear confessions was much resented" (Bw 2.473).

21-24 The speaker denigrates the friars by suggesting that far more saints were produced by the secular clergy than by the regular clergy; this point of view is not surprising, since Dunbar was probably a member of the secular clergy. The speaker's desire to wear a bishop's robe rather than a friar's habit may also hint at Dunbar's long-standing desire for ecclesiastical preferment within the secular clergy.

26-27 These verses reflect the various means by which the friars might urge young men to join their ranks - through letters, sermons, and other written documents.

34 From "Berwick to Calais" symbolizes the geographical extremes of England, from Berwick on Tweed in the far north of England, to the small portion of French soil around Calais that England still controlled. Compare "A Complaint against Mure" (Poem 60), line 6.

38 Derntoun kirk. The collegiate church in the English town of Darlington, in the shire of Durham. It would have been a stopping point along the main pilgrimage route from the north of Britain to Canterbury.

44 Quhilk mycht be flemit with na haly watter. This claim is surely hyperbolic, since holy water had the power to drive out evil spirits. Indeed, the very mention of it may contribute to the apparition's sudden disappearance in the next stanza. Compare Whiting D208.

47 Ane fieind he wes. Bawcutt (1989) compares the passage (lines 46-48) to other fiend poems like "Diabolus et Virgo" and "The False Knight on the Road" (p. 171).

48-50 The thwarted fiend departs, but he does not go without leaving a certain amount of wrack and ruin in his wake, probably reflecting his displeasure. Fiends were often given to making dramatic exits. Compare, for example, the exit the fiend makes in Malory (Works, p. 500) after failing to seduce Percival during the Grait Quest. On diablerie in Dunbar see headnote to "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77).


77. The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins

Set on Fastern Eve, the last day before the beginning of the Lenten season, this is one of Dunbar's most carnivalesque poems. It is a comically grotesque dream vision in which the dreamer observes a pair of elaborate and hellish entertainments. The poem has two major sections of 108 lines each, separated by a brief comic interlude of twelve lines. In the first half of the poem, Mahoun (a conventional synonym for Satan) summons for his entertainment the personified figures of the Seven Deadly Sins; accompanied by their personal entourages (consisting of damned souls who practiced those particular sins), they perform an elaborate and rather gruesome dance. This section of the poem is informed by a wide variety of medieval materials that pertain to the seven deadly sins and graphically depict the torments inflicted on sinners in Hell. Fradenburg (pp. 173-74) comments on the poem's pageantry and notes that the poem presents the "specifically monarchial poetics of spectacularity" (p. 224) at which Dunbar excels. See also Welsford's remarks on the poem's revel qualities: "The ground of the poet's imagination is a wild mumming or morisco" (p. 75). Bawcutt (1989) classifies this poem, along with "The Antichrist" (Poem 51), "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54), "How Dunbar Was Desired to Be a Friar" (Poem 76), and "The Devil's Inquest" (Poem 79), as diablerie poems - "all bad dreams or nightmares" (p. 168). Noting, with C. S. Lewis (1954, p. 94), how often in Dunbar "the comic overlaps with the demonic and terrifying," Bawcutt (1989) argues that Dunbar's treatment of the uncanny (elrich) differs from that of other Scots writers: "The elrich is harnessed and put to some purpose, though this is not always or primarily a moral one. . . . Dunbar's characteristic tone is not genial, but dark and sinister; we are told that God laughed 'his hairt sair' at Kittok's exploits, and also at the Highlander, but in Dunbar's poems the only laughter (apart from the poet's) is that of devils (Festernis Evin in Hell, 29 [the present poem], and Renunce Thy God, 39 ["The Devil's Inquest" - poem 79]). It is not faerie that predominates in his comic poems, but diablerie" (p. 165).
     In the brief interlude that occupies the center of the poem, Mahoun now calls for a Highland pageant. But the great rabble of Gaelic speakers who appear make such a terrible racket that Mahoun consigns them to the deepest pit of Hell where they are smothered in smoke. This section is clearly intended to satirize Highlanders, but it also serves to introduce the lighter comic tone that prevails in the second half of the poem. As a third entertainment Satan calls for a tournament between a tailor and a shoemaker who have been elevated to knightly status for the occasion. Their "joust itself is broad excremental farce, with the tailor sliding from his saddle leaving it 'all beschittin' when he comes near the soutar, whose horse is so alarmed at the rattle of the armour that it carries its rider to the Devil. [The Devil] wants no more of the soutar's vomit, so he turns his backside on the new-made knight and befouls him from neck to heel, striking horse and rider to the earth with a tremendous fart" (Ross, p. 175). This section of the poem belongs to the same comic tradition that produced such works as Chaucer's Sir Thopas and the ME Tournament of Totenham, works that intentionally burlesque popular romance tradition. The poem contains twenty stanzas: eighteen are 12-line stanzas of the tail-rhyme variety rhyming aabccbddbeeb, and two are 6-line stanzas rhyming aabccb. Only B contains all three sections as a continuous sequence; MF contains two versions; R's text copies the first of the MF versions; As contains only the Tournament section. Mc57 and Mc58, K52A and K52B, Bw47.

1 Of Februar the fyiftene nycht. Scholars debate whether 15 February possesses symbolic significance or whether it is the date of an actual dream. If the latter, then it might be possible to date the composition of the poem, since Fastern Eve (or Shrove Tuesday) was the day before the beginning of Lent. In "The Thistle and the Rose" (Poem 30) the poet's dream vision is also linked to a specific date, in that case 9 May. In both poems, though, Dunbar may simply be imitating Chaucer, who had provided a specific date for his dream experience in HF, line 63.

2-3 This is the time of night that visionary experiences in dream poems often occur - just a few hours before dawn. The dreamer's trance-like state is the state of semi-consciousness in which literary visions usually occur.

4 Medieval literature abounds with visions of Heaven and Hell - from the masterpieces of Dante and the Pearl-poet, to comic and parodic pieces such as Chaucer's Prologue to The Summoner's Tale. Dunbar's poem is very much in the latter tradition. In this poem we hear nothing about Heaven but a great deal about Hell.

6 Mahoun. This shortened form of the name of the Muslim prophet Mohammad was often used to signify Satan or the Devil. Compare "The Antichrist" (Poem 51), line 32, and The Tretiis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Widow (Poem 84), line 101.

7 Although this is primarily a comic poem, it should be noted that the sinners in Hell who must join in the dance are people who died without being shriven, that is, while still in a state of sin because they were unconfessed. The Lenten season, which follows Shrove Tuesday, was the spiritual preparation for the act of confession, and this is the central point of Dunbar's several religious poems that focus on Lent. Compare "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54), line 46, and its accompanying note.

8 Fasternis Evin. Fastern Eve is synonymous with Shrove Tuesday, the final day of carnival before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. At the court of James IV, Fastern Eve was marked by celebrations involving dancing, masquerading, and mock jousting. Fradenburg notes that "the king had mumming robes made for himself, so we know that the court participated in its own disguisings as well as patronized professional and municipal entertainments" (p. 175).

10 gallandis. Dunbar refers to young men of the court as gallants, i.e., sycophants always up on the latest fashions. Yet also here he addresses his courtly audience with a warning - there is a very different kind of aristocracy in Hell. Mary E. Robbins writes, "The force of the poet's communication here lies in the social standing of his audience, who are shown in this poem that the trappings of nobility have meaning only for the short span of man's earthly existence. In the next world, the deadly sins become courtiers, and craftsmen can be dubbed knights" (p. 147).

gyis. Lit., "guise" or "disguising" - i.e., a masquerade.

11-12 The latest mode of French dancing is also made fun of in the opening verses of "A Dance in the Queen's Chamber" (Poem 56).

14-15 Dunbar seems to be combining two traditions here: visions of Hell and Purgatory common to Dante's Divine Comedy and English works such as The Vision of Tundale, St. Patrick's Purgatory, Ayenbite of Inwit, etc.; and the Danse Macabre so popular in late medieval art as well as poetry. Traditionally the Danse has skeletons or fiends leading the procession, with people of various social stations, regardless of class, (i.e., those guilty of the seven deadly sins) being dragged along in the dance. For a discussion of the Danse Macabre, see Paul Binski, Medieval Death: Ritual and Representation (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), pp. 153-59.

16 The first of the personified figures of the Seven Deadly Sins is Pride, the mortal sin that provides the foundation for all the others. Compare Ecclesiasticus 10:14-15: "The beginning of the pride of man is to fall off from God: Because his heart is departed from him that made him: for pride is the beginning of sin." Mary E. Robbins notes that the order of the dancing of the sins is Gregorian, namely: Pride, Wrath, Envy, Covetousness, Sloth, Lechery, and Gluttony (p. 148). For the most thorough discussion of the seven deadly sins see Bloomfield.

17 With hair wyld bak and bonet on syd. Editors debate the literal meaning of this line and whether the text should read hair or bair. The point of the verse, in any case, seems to be to describe the vanity Pride takes in his appearance by his wearing his bonnet at a tilt and by displaying his hair. Chaucer's Pardoner comes to mind, who rode "Dischevelee, save his cappe" (i.e., "with unbound hair") and whose hair "his shuldres overspradde" (CT I[A]683, 677-78). See also The Parson's Tale, CT X[I]410-15.

19-21 kethat. The precise meaning of the term is not known, but the context indicates that it is an elaborate or luxurious garment. These verses recall the long, wide sleeves of the coat worn by Chaucer's Squire (CT I[A]93) as depicted in the Ellesmere MS portrait.

22 prowd trumpour. The phrase might also suggest "blowhards" or "self-proclaimers" - those who blow their own horns - in addition to the literal meaning, "impostor" or "trickster."

25-30 This is one of the poem's two 6-line stanzas.

27 But yit luche nevir Mahoun. This line points out indirectly to the audience that poems in this carnivalesque tradition are supposed to be funny in a grotesque way. One of the ways we learn not the emulate the Seven Deadly Sins is to laugh at their tomfoolery. Satan, however, seems to take himself and his ridiculous court all too seriously, indicating his excessive pride. See the headnote, above.

28-30 The appearance of priests within this company of the proud sinners greatly amuses the fiends, including the two who are named in line 30. The poet is probably inventing these names; note that he uses the obscure word Bawsy (line 30) in two other poems: "In a Secret Place" (Poem 72), line 38, and "To the King" (Poem 47), line 56. Bawsy is the name of a dog in Henryson's fable of the Cock and the Fox, Fables, line 546.

31-42 Wrath and his followers next join the dance; the emphasis in these verses is upon their weaponry and bellicosity.

33 He brandeist lyk a beir. The image suggests an enraged bear being constrained by chains; bear-baiting was a common entertainment at this time in England and Scotland.

37 In jakkis and stryppis and bonettis of steill. As Bawcutt notes, this seems to be a very current description of medieval armor (Bw 2.386).

38 Thair leggis wer chenyeit to the heill. This line probably means that they wore chains on their legs in order to constrain them, not that their legs were protected by chain mail, which the context might suggest.

43-54 In this depiction of Envy and his followers, the emphasis is upon a set of vices frequently practiced at court, as lines 53-54 directly state.

48 The phrase wirdis quhyte ("white words") means statements that are insincere; it survives in the expression "little white lies." Compare Henryson's Fables, line 601, and Chaucer's TC 3.901.

54-66 The fourth of the Seven Deadly Sins is Covetousness, which in line 55 is called the root of all evil - compare 1 Timothy 6:10: Radix enim omnium malorum est cupiditas ("For the desire of money is the root of all evils"). The most striking aspects of these verses is in the way the punishment fits the crime (lines 61-66).

59 Hudpykis. Kinsley and Mackenzie gloss the term as "miser." I have followed Bawcutt's "skinflint," having already glossed "wrechis" (line 58) as "miser."

61-66 Bawcutt observes that "Force-feeding with molten metal was one of the stock torments of hell . . . , but to swallow gold was peculiarly, and aptly, a punishment of the covetous" (Bw 2.386). Compare Henryson, Orpheus, line 330.

66 These avaricious sinners are repeatedly filled with the molten gold from every kind of coin they had sought to obtain during their lives.

67-78 Sloth enters fittingly in the manner of a sow, an animal traditionally associated with filth and laziness (see, for example, Chaucer's use of this image in his portrait of the Miller in CT I[A]556, and Whiting S541). Sloth appropriately arrives only at the secound bidding (line 67); as has become increasingly clear throughout the poem, the Seven Deadly Sins personified exemplify the sins they represent. This kind of allegory is common in medieval poetry - and reaches its hilarious high point in Piers Plowman B.5.385-87: "Thanne cam Sleuthe al bislabered with two slymy eighen. / 'I moste sitte to be shryven or ellis sholde I happe; / I may noght stonde ne stoupe ne withoute stool knele.'" During confession Sloth falls asleep and Repent-ance has to wake him up sharply. The cartoon-like comedy of these representations helps to present them as creatures to be laughed at and ridiculed, not imitated.

70 belly huddroun. Compare "In a Secret Place" (Poem 72), line 38.

74 Belial was believed to be the name of one of the devils, an assumption deriving from several passages of Scripture, especially 2 Corinthians 6:15: "And what concord hath Christ with Belial?" (Compare also Judges 19:22 and 1 Kings [1 Samuel] 2:12.) Milton similarly associates Belial with the sin of Sloth when he describes him as "Timorous and slothful" in Paradise Lost 2.117.

75 lunyie. The term means "loins" but here may refer to the "rump."

76 Bawcutt notes that in Dante's Purgatorio, canto 18, "the slothful are forced to run incessantly" (Bw 2.387).

78 counyie. Kinsley and Mackenzie note the obscurity of the term and leave it without gloss. DOST cites verb forms meaning "to take leave," or "have permission to leave." But such meanings do not illuminate the sense here. Bawcutt glosses the term as "dance," which I follow since it fits the context and suits well the "dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" topic.

79-90 Lechery and his followers come next. While this sin was more commonly symbolized by a goat than a horse, the horse could also symbolize unbridled lust (as in The Reeve's Tale, CT I[A]4080-81). Compare also Jeremias 5:8: "They are become as amorous horses and stallions: every one neighed after his neighbour's wife." Here, too, the punishment in lines 88-90 is designed to fit the crime.

84 The poet reiterates the point that these are people who died in a state of sinfulness.

86-87 Kinsley suggests that their strange red countenances imply that they are suffering from sexually-related skin diseases (p. 339). In any case, the lines recall the "fyr-reed cherubynnes face" of Chaucer's Summoner (CT I[A]624). Bawcutt notes that the simile in line 87 "evokes not merely colour but torment" (Bw 2.387).

91-102 The final sin is Gluttony and, as is often the case, the emphasis here is as much or more on excessive drinking as it is on overeating.

102 lovery. A "livery," an allotment of food and drink on which one could live.

103-08 In stark contrast to Heaven, Hell lacks music and musicians and is a place of cacophony and disharmony. The only exception is the occasional murderous min-strel who earns himself a place there.

107-08 Bawcutt suggests that there is "a legal joke" here in the phrase breif of richt (line 108), a writ by which property descended to its rightful heir (Bw 2.338). In this case the property the murderer rightfully deserves to inherit is Hell itself.

109-20 This stanza provides a transition from the first half of the poem, with its frightening dance of the Seven Deadly Sins and their attendants, to the second half of the poem, with its farcical jousting between a tailor and a shoemaker. As Dunbar does else-where, here he ridicules Highlanders and speakers of Gaelic.

110 Makfadyane. Likely to be a type-name for a Highlander, though it may carry certain historical resonances as well. In Blind Hary's Wallace, for example, the hero wages a campaign against a fictional traitor of this name (ed. McDiarmid, 7.626-868).

111 "Northward" is probably used to indicate that Macfaydyane is a Highlander, but perhaps also to suggest that he comes from the worst part of Hell; that is, since north is the Devil's direction, the northern part of Hell would be the most hellish of all. Compare CT III[D]1413, Piers Plowman C.1.110-21, and Death and Life, lines 142-50; compare also Jeremias 6:1: "for evil is seen out of the north, and a great destruction."

113-14 The joke here is that Hell seems to be teeming with these Erschemen - just as Hell in the Prologue to The Summoner's Tale is teeming with friars.

115 In ME works, "Termagant" is a name sometimes used for a Muslim deity believed to be one of Satan's minions. Here, used in the plural, it simply means "fiends" or "demons." Minor devils were customarily depicted as wearing ragged, tattered garb. Compare the Flyting (Poem 83), line 532, and Henryson's Annunciation, line 68.

116-20 These verses treat speakers of Gaelic derisively. In order to shut them up, the Devil has to smother them with smoke.

117 Bawcutt notes that the verb rowp was often used to describe the croaking of ravens. Compare Holland's Howlat, line 215, and Lindsay's Papyngo, line 661 (Bw 2.388).

119 "The deepest pit of Hell" is the bottomless pit of Apocalypse 20:3.

121-23 These lines, opening the second section of the poem, recall "every tail-rhyme romance one has ever encountered" (Mary E. Robbins, p. 149). Dunbar is highly conscious here of the genre he is attempting to undercut. Compare Sir Perceval of Galles and, especially, Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas.

125 A pricklous and ane hobbell clowttar. These are probably contemptuous terms for a tailor and a cobbler, though their literal meanings and their implications are debated; puns may be involved also.

127-32 The tailor, along with his "graceless" supporters, is now led to the tournament field.

130-31 These are the tailor's apprentices, each of whom specializes in a particular task (some of which are unclear).

133-36 The ludicrous battle standard that is carried before the tailor reflects both his trade and his dishonesty. Comic banners of this sort are also carried by peasants in Colkebie Sow, lines 330-32.

137-38 "For as long as the Greek Sea ebbs and flows, / Tailors will never be honest" - in other words, always. Gibes at dishonest tradesmen were common; compare Whiting T13. "The Greek Sea" was a common medieval phrase for the Mediterranean Sea: e.g., see CT I(A)59; Hay's King Alexander, lines 1110 and 2607; and Gower's Confessio Amantis 1.145 and 3.2488.

142-44 In romances kings often bestowed knighthood upon aspiring young heroes just before their participation in a great tournament.

148-56 An arranged fight between a pair of cowards is a common comic device; Shakespeare uses it to good effect in Twelfth Night 3.4.

157-59 As Bawcutt notes, the shoemaker comes from the west because he is the designated defender in the joust. The challenger, in this case the tailor, approaches from the east (Bw 2.389). For the intricate rules for conducting such arranged combats in late medieval Scotland, see "The Order of Combats," a document executed under the direction of King James I of Scotland and based on Thomas of Woodstock's French "Order of Battel." Woodstock's text, along with an early translation of it into English, is provided in The Black Book of the Admiralty, ed. Travers Twiss, Rolls Series 55 (London: Longman, 1871; rpt. Lessing-Druckerei: Kraus Reprint, Ltd., 1965), 1.301-29. The text of the Scots "Order of Combats" can be found in George Neilson's Trial by Combat (New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891), pp. 261-72; for the specific details utilized here, see especially p. 263.

164 Sanct Girnega. The general view is that this is probably a mock-saint or perhaps the name of a devil. It is not the name of the patron saint of shoemakers, which was St. Crispin.

168 The uly that bursts out between the plates in the cobbler's harness is the blacking or cobbler's oil used in his trade.

169-80 Just as the Devil had knighted the tailor, now he knights the shoemaker. And just as the tailor's fear produced his "series of farts like thunder" (line 155), the shoemaker's fear leads him to vomit all over himself and the Devil as well.

193 This alliterating line recalls the stirring battle descriptions often found in ME alliterative works, such as the Alliterative Morte Arthure or Perceval of Galles.

198-208 This time the Devil anticipates the shoemaker's "spewing." He not only manages to avoid being hit, but he uses his own ers (line 203) to launch a counterattack, which effectively ends the tournament. Mary E. Robbins notes that, for a poem warning its readers about the dangers and torments of Hell, it seems "mild by medieval standards" (p. 145) when the most graphically described pain is the shoemaker's beshittening of himself. Certainly the Hell torments of a poem like the Vision of Tundale (see, for example, lines 762-73) are much more frightening than this mock tournament. However, Dunbar is specifically invoking this tradition simply by his subject matter.

211-16 The Devil now strips the two jousters of their knightly status, bars them from further participation in warfare, and returns them to their previous status - something they themselves prefer.

227 air. Perhaps literally "heir," i.e., the inheritor or owner, though a pun on meanings of "air" or "breath" or "wind," thus referring to the power and stench of his prodigious farting, is hard to deny.

228 Schirris. The speaker addressing his audience as "Sirs" reflects the device known as "the minstrel call"; it often occurs at the beginning and/or end of a sub-section in a popular romance. It might also suggest that the poem was publically performed during a Fastern Eve celebration.


78. Of the Tailors and the Shoemakers [Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye]

Here, with tongue in cheek, the poet retracts his highly uncomplimentary depiction of tailors and shoemakers in the jousting section of the previous poem. But this mock-commendation - which is essentially the same device he uses in the second of his two poems concerning James Dog ("Of the Aforesaid James Dog" [Poem 58]) - is obviously intended to extend the joke. In this case the narrator's dream vision turns from hellish concerns to heavenly ones, as an angel comes and announces to tailors and shoemakers that their place in Heaven will surpass the saints and be next to God Himself. They merit such an exalted position, he says, because they are the ones who correct God's mistakes. The poem is "notable for its irreverence, word-play . . . , and a kind of crazy logic that transforms rogues into saints" (Bw 2.391). Ten 4-line stanzas rhyming aabB. B and MF. Mc59, K52C, Bw48.

1 "Between twelve o'clock and eleven," i.e., in the middle of the night. The odd inversion of the hours may have been necessitated by the rhyme, but it also effectively serves to introduce the topsy-turvy "logic" that operates throughout the poem.

2-3 Compare Apocalypse 1:1.

4 Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye. Bawcutt suggests that the refrain "humorously recalls the Beatitudes" (Bw 2.392), especially Matthew 5:3. The word blist literally means "blessed"; but when used sarcastically, the word could also convey the opposite sense of "cursed" or "accursed."

5-8 This stanza is not found in the text of MF, perhaps because of its irreverence.

9 The caus to yow is nocht unkend. This verse implies that tailors and shoemakers are fully cognizant of the vitally important role they play in tidying up God's little mistakes.

11 craft. The word means "skill," but may also carry overtones of "craftiness."

17 fair. The word may refer to actual fairs held on particular saints days, though more likely it is used here as a metaphor for life in this world; compare "This world is nis but a chirie feire" in the lyric "Bi a wode as I gone ride," contained in the Vernon MS (IMEV 563, line 85). This is the only known occurrence of the word flyrok, and thus the context offers the main clue to its meaning - a person with deformed feet?

20 Bot ye can hyd tham, blist be ye. A central irony of the poem is reflected in this verse: the tailors and shoemakers do not actually correct any of these deformities, all they do is hide them. There seems to be an implication that what they are doing is covering up the truth.

31 craftis slie. The phrase effectively captures the double meaning the poet hints at throughout the poem - "skillful artistry" and "sly deceptions."

39 knavis. The word is also double in meaning - "servants" but also "rogues."


79. The Devil's Inquest [Renunce thy God and cum to me]

Two widely differing versions of this poem are extant, and editors agree that it is "likely that neither version represents a finished poem; there are inconsistencies and clumsinesses in both, and in both some stanzas may have been interpolated" (K, p. 348). Bawcutt prints both versions on opposing pages, thus facilitating a comparison of the two texts. The poem itself is a nightmarish dream vision in which the narrator observes the Devil as he moves through the daily marketplace inciting a variety of dishonest people to utter self-damning oaths. Kinsley takes the refrain "Renunce thy God and cum to me," to be the poem's title; Mackenzie calls it "The Devil's Inquest." Both titles make sense: the poem's lengthy catalogue of society begins with a priest and a courtier, but the major emphasis of the satire is on the lesser varieties of merchants and craftsmen, again including tailors and shoemakers, who loudly but falsely proclaim their honesty. The central motif here is the common belief that the swearing of false or blasphemous oaths jeopardizes the soul of the swearer. Thus the poem has some affinity to Chaucer's Friar's Tale and Pardoner's Tale. B; a substantially different version occurs in MF and R. Seventeen 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. Mc42, K56, Bw78.

1-2 These verses establish a dream-vision framework, but aside from the use of the phrase Me thocht in lines 2, 5, and 81, the dreamer has little significance, and there is no return to the opening frame at the end of the poem.

2-5 The Devil moves surreptitiously through the city marketplace, planting in the people a desire to utter "oaths of cruelty." This phrase reflects the common belief that when people swear on the body of Christ they reenact Christ's torments on the Cross. Compare, for example, the actions of the three tavern rioters in Chaucer's Par-doner's Tale, who "many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn, / And Cristes blessed body they torente" (CT VI[C]708-09). There is probably the additional sense that their oaths will also lead to the cruelty they will experience in Hell as a result of having sworn such oaths.

5 Renunce thy God and cum to me. "The refrain inverts the baptismal renunciation of the devil and all his works" (Bw 2.475).

7-8 The priest, symbolizing hypocrisy, takes God's name in vain - thus violating one of the Ten Commandments - while at the same time he is receiving God (in the form of the Host) at the altar.

9 "Thow art my clerk," the Devill can say. See Bawcutt on the ties between this poem and the Book of Job. "The figure of the devil is at the heart of Dunbar's poem" (1989, p. 169). See headnote to "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77) on Dunbar's diablerie.

11-13 The courtier represents the sin of pride. He swears by Christ's wounds and arms, two very common oaths. Compare CT VI(C)654.

17 "Relinquished his portion of Heaven or Hell," i.e., expressed his disbelief in the existence of an afterlife.

21-23 The goldsmith claims, falsely, that his materials are so expensive that he cannot turn a profit. His asseveration in line 23 is similar to that spoken by the summoner in The Friar's Tale: "the foule feend me fecche / If I th'excuse" (CT III[D]1610-11). Com-pare also Lindsay's Satyre, lines 4166-71.

29 Mahoun. A shortened form of "Mohammad," it was often used as a synonym for the Devil. Compare "The Antichrist" (Poem 51), line 32; "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77), line 6; and The Tretiis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84), line 101.

37 evin and od. "Even and odd," a common idiom meaning "everything."

41 be the sacrament. I.e., on Christ's body, the sacrament of Holy Communion. Com-pare Lindsay's Satyre, lines 652 and 1541.

46-49 The malt-maker, or maltster, prepared the malt which would then be used by the brewer; malt was normally made from barley in a process that involved steeping, germinating, and then drying in a kiln.

51-54 The brewer criticizes the quality of the malt in order to pay less for it. A boll (a standard measurement - line 54) of malt should normally produce about twelve gallons of ale.

56 Be rude and raip. It was common to swear by the Cross. The "rope" may refer to the scourge used to beat Christ or perhaps to the rope by which He was bound to the pillar.

61 Beginning with the minstrel, the social catalogue focuses on the more disreputable members of society.

66-69 Dicing and swearing are often closely linked; see Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale (CT VI[C]651-55). Compare also the phrase "false as dicers' oaths" in Hamlet 3.4.45.

71-74 The precise meaning of the thief's words are debated, but he seems to be swearing that if he can escape hanging now, he is willing to be possessed by Hell later. In line 74 the Devil seems to agree, welcoming the thief to his "rope."

76 Fishwives were notoriously noisy and argumentative. (Compare "To the Merchants of Edinburgh" [Poem 75], lines 10-11 and the Flyting [Poem 83], line 231.) Later the term "fishwife" came to stand for any coarse, abusive woman.

82 Solistand wer as beis thik. Compare the description in the Prologue to The Sum-moner's Tale: "Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve, / Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve / Twenty thousand freres on a route" (CT III[D]1693-95).

84 Robin and Dick - stock names for two everyday fellows - rather like "Tom, Dick, and Harry."


80. Master Andro Kennedy's Testament

The poem is a mock-testament in which the speaker, lying on the brink of death, proposes a final disposition for his possessions (stanzas 3-12) and then describes the funeral and burial he wishes to receive (stanzas 12-14). He consigns his soul to his lord's wine cellar; his body to the midden heap in Ayr; his unfaithful heart to his special friend (or his wife?); his most valued possession to the head of his clan (though he does not know who that would be); his false pleasures to the master of St. Anthony's; his false winnings to the friars; his folly to Jock Fool; and his curse and God's to John Clerk. His remaining goods, and the care of his children, he gives to his lord. The poem satirizes many things but chiefly the speaker himself, who makes no effort to conceal the fact that he is an incorrigible drunk.
     It is not clear if Andro Kennedy was a real person or a made-up figure meant to satirize the Kennedys, a prominent family in the royal burgh of Ayr. Some scholars have argued that Andro Kennedy was a quack doctor much favored at court, but there is little external evidence to support that claim, and the evidence within the poem is not especially compelling. It is possible that the speaker is meant to be an Augustinian canon belonging to the monastic house of St. Anthony's in Leith (see lines 57-64). If so, the poem should be viewed primarily as a piece of anti-clerical satire about a drunken clergyman rather than as an attack upon the Kennedys. It is not certain how many of the people mentioned in the poem are real, though some of them (particularly the master of St. Anthony's) probably are.
     The literary genre of the mock-testament was in much in vogue in France in the later Middle Ages (Villon's Grand Testament is a major example), and Scottish literature of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century preserves several examples, including King Hart, Lind-say's Testament of Papyngo and Testament of Squyer Meldrum, and the anonymous Duncan Laideus' Testament. Fourteen 8-line stanzas, rhyming abababab, ababcdcd, or ababacac; the final stanza contains fourteen lines rhyming ababacacacac. RP, B, MF, and R. Mc40, K38, Bw19.

1-8 The speaker proudly offers a commentary on his dubious lineage. He considers himself to be a fiend incarnate, having been sired either by an incubus demon or by a lecherous friar, sentiments recalling the opening verses in The Wife of Bath's Tale (CT III[D]873-81). (If he were a foundling who had been raised in a monastic house, a common phenomenon in the Middle Ages, he would not be certain who had fathered him.)

2 The Latin tags interspersed throughout the text are both made up and drawn from specific sources, sometimes passages of Scripture; they are designed to lend a "serious" and "legalistic" coloration to this ludicrous performance. They reflect the kind of Latin that a rather unstudious cleric (such as Chaucer's Monk) might be able to produce.

3 sum incuby. An incubus was a demonic being who liked to seduce mortal women. Compare the description of the birth of Merlin in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain (Thorpe, pp. 167-69). Compare also "The Antichrist" (Poem 51), lines 26-30, and The Golden Targe (Poem 65), line 125.

9-12 These are moralistic commonplaces. Blind Allan is probably not an actual person; and not knowing any more about something "than Blind Allan does of the moon" was probably a common colloquial expression. Compare Lindsay's Beaton, line 396.

15-16 Fittingly, given his alcoholic predilections, Andro Kennedy's dying wish is for his mouth to be wet with drink; he is much less concerned, apparently, with the administration of Last Rites. Bawcutt suggests the Latin phrase is a "flippant rewriting of the common formula to attest sanity: eger corpore sanus tamen mente, 'sick in body, but sound in mind'" (Bw 2.329).

17 At this point the speaker begins his actual testament, which continues until line 94.

18-24 The speaker consigns his soul to his lord's wine cellar, there to remain until the Day of Judgment. This obliquely touches upon an interesting point of medieval theology - the matter of where the soul resides until the body and soul are once again united for the final judgment. The speaker has his own unique ideas on this matter, at least as it pertains to himself.

20 Into my lordis wyne cellar. Perhaps this verse alludes to Canticle of Canticles 2:4.

24 Sweet Cuthbert has never been identified, and most commentators believe he is a taverner or a cellar-keeper. If the speaker is a member of a monastic house, then very likely Cuthbert would be the cellarer, the official in charge of overseeing the wine cellar. Cuthbert, the name of a celebrated northern British saint, whose shrine is at Durham, would be a fitting name for a monastic official. In Chaucer, the saint's name carries a derogatory sexual connotation (cut beard = have sex) as John swears to Simkin "by Seint Cuthbert" before swiving the Miller's wife in The Reeve's Tale (CT I[A]4127).

24-32 There is no love lost between the speaker and Cuthbert, since Cuthbert keeps a careful watch over the cellar and knows the kind of fellow Andro is.

32 bed of stait. The bed of a great lord or lady, which would be hung with costly, lavishly decorated fabrics.

33-40 He stipulates that he wants his body to be buried, not in a churchyard, but in the refuse heap outside the town of Ayr, where the leavings of food and drink might be thrown over his face.

36 Ayr, in the county of Ayrshire in the southwest of Scotland was, like Aberdeen, a royal burgh. The Kennedys were one of Ayr's most prominent families.

41-48 In the previous two stanzas Andro consigned his soul and his body to their final resting places, and here he consigns his heart. But who is his "consort Jacob" to whom he gives his faithless heart? Bawcutt suggests it is either his mistress or his wife (interpreting Jacobe as the dative form of Jacoba) (Bw 2.330). But if it is his wife, why would she not retain the guardianship of his children (lines 91-92)? Are they illegitimate? Perhaps Jacob is a monastic brother with whom Andro had (at least ostensibly) a close friendship.

49-56 The best aucht (line 49) is a person's most valuable possession, to be claimed by the head of one's family upon one's death. The problem here is that Andro does not know who that is, for the matter of his family origins, as the first stanza indicated, is quite murky.

46 Compare Jeremias 9:6.

50 The Latin here does not parse, but the sense seems to be a gloss on the lines before and after the phrase. Caupe refers to the Highland custom of paying tribute to one's head of kin. Bawcutt notes that the practice "was abolished by Parliament in 1490, but persisted into the late sixteenth century" (Bw 2.330).

51-52 The sense is: "but I no more know / Who that is than I would put a curse on my own head."

53-56 The lord he openly claims as his earthly lord is presumably the head of the Kennedy family. He says that they are as alike as two similar kinds of sieves, or as two trees that grow in the same forest - but no one else shares his opinion (line 54). "Kennedy is the sort of person who boasts, without justification, of being related to great men" (Bw 2.330).

57-64 This stanza contains a direct attack upon "William, the master of St. Anthony's" - a man who never tells lies except when the holly is green! (Compare Whiting H417.) William Gray has not been identified, but it seems unlikely that so specific an identification would have been fabricated.

65-72 All of his falsity he leaves to the friars, who are portrayed as masters of deceit and hypocrisy. Dunbar's attitude toward the friars is consistently negative and hostile; compare especially "Tidings from the Session" (Poem 74), lines 45-49, and "How Dunbar Was Desired to Be a Friar" (Poem 76) in its entirety.

68 Compare Psalm 111:9 in the Vulgate.

73-80 Jok Fule (Jock Fool) receives Andro's foolishness, for Andro is a bigger fool than Jok. Indeed, Jok Fule is only pretending to be a fool, to his considerable profit. Dunbar may or may not have had a specific fool in mind. In The Miller's Tale Alison refers to Absolom as "Jakke fool" (CT I[A]3708).

79 I.e., "pulls the wool over my lord's eye."

81-88 John Clerk has not been identified; the term master (line 81) might refer either to his degree of education or to his clerical position. Compare "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14), line 58.

84 One wonders why this man is said to be the cause of Andro's death.

88 This is a much-debated line; perhaps it completes the dog and swine metaphor of the previous verses. The dog's teeth are writing all over the swine's body - writing without stopping (i.e., without a fixed day - sine de), or without including a single "d" (de) in the text.

89-92 Everything else, including his children, will go into the care of his lord - who perhaps in this case is his immediate superior in the monastery, if the speaker belongs to one. His children pose an interesting problem. Very possibly Ade and Kytte and "all the others" are illegitimate. (Ade was a nickname for Adam, Kytte for Katherine.)

93-116 The funeral Andro desires is much more in keeping with the Celtic tradition of the wake than with normal Christian burial.

101 playand cop out. Playing "empty the cup" may or may not refer to a specific drinking game. Compare "To the King" (Poem 40), line 13.

104 Compare Psalm 101:10 in the Vulgate - "For I did eat ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping."

106 This famous Latin phrase comes from the Office for the Dead.

110 The "ale wisp" is what in Chaucer is called "the bush" or the "ale stake." It is the small bundle of straw that is displayed when an alehouse is open for business.

116 This final Latin phrase, taken from the burial service, derives from Job 10:8-9. Compare also Psalm 118:73 in the Vulgate.


81. Dunbar's Dirge

This comic and parodic poem consists of two main sections. Lines 1-28 are an introductory letter in which the speaker urges the king and his courtiers to free themselves from the pain and purgatorial bleakness of Stirling and return to the heavenly bliss of Edinburgh. What then follows is Dunbar's "dirge," an elaborate parody of the Office of the Dead, used here to commemorate the released soul's journey to the joy and bliss of the divine court of Heaven. The poem is dominated by two themes. One is the comic comparison between the cities of Edinburgh and Stirling, with Stirling coming off much the worse. The other is the clever parody of religious ritual and the liturgy, a medieval literary tradition more frequently encountered among Latin works than vernacular ones. According to Bawcutt, "Dunbar simulates the striking threefold structure of Matins of the Dead, which in its full form consisted of three nocturnes, each of which contained three lessons and three psalms. He does not parody the lessons, drawn from the book of Job, but substitutes prayers of his own invention; he also devises three responsiones, whose metrical form recalls the repetenda, or repeated short phrases, common in responsories. The poem is also punctuated by the liturgical forumulae Iube domine and Tu autem" (Bw 2.490).
     Commentators have offered a good deal of speculation about the poem's historical context. James IV made frequent visits to Stirling for a variety of reasons. It is well-known that James had a mistress in Stirling, but he also often made a Lenten retreat to the friary of the Observant Franciscans, a religious house that he himself had founded near Stirling. That might accord well with the poem's references to hermits and to the meagerness of the food and drink at Stirling. On the other hand, the reference to Yule in line 89 suggests that the season may be fall, not spring, which would link the poem more to the liturgical season of Advent than to Lent. The poem is primarily in octosyllabic couplets, with interspersed triolets. MF, B, and R. Mc30, K22, Bw84.

3 Commendis us. A formula commonly used at the beginning of letters, meaning "recommend ourselves," i.e., "we send greetings."

6 Striveling. An earlier spelling of Stirling; the rhyme sounds in lines 98-101 provide evidence for the pronunciation.

9-18 These verses may refer to the simple lives of the friars with whom the king is in residence; or they may be wholly ironic, alluding to the fact that the king is actually enjoying himself a great deal. One of the well-known reasons for his trips to Stirling was to visit his mistress Margaret Drummond.

18 stok and stone. Literally, "stumps and stones," but a common phrase, especially in Lydgate (see Fall of Princes lines 2834-35; Resson and Sensualite, line 6411, and various minor works), meaning lifeless things or desolate countryside; compare Henryson's Orpheus, line 179. See also Pearl, line 380, Cleanness, lines 1344, 1522, and 1720; TC 3.589, Sir Orfeo, line 332, and romances such as Sir Firumbras, line 201, and the Avowying of Arthur, line 187.

23 dirige. The first word of the opening antiphon at Matins for the Office of the Dead - Dirige, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam ("Direct, O God, my way in Your sight").

30 blissit. The "Blessed Virgin" is a common epithet for Mary.

31 The angels of Heaven were traditionally grouped into nine orders, beginning with the angels and archangels. Compare "On the Nativity of Christ" (Poem 1), lines 9-10, and the notes to those lines.

38 Pious phrases such as these are often found at the end of works as benedictions. Compare Lindsay's Squire Meldrum, line 1593, and CT I[A]174 and VII[B2]3320.

39 Tu autem, Domine. This abbreviation of the liturgical formula is from the daily service of Matins, as Tu autem Domine miserere nobis, "Do Thou, O Lord, have mercy on us," is the Iube Domine of line 44. See Bw 2.490 and 2.491n39, as well as Bawcutt (1992), pp. 200-01, for discussion of the liturgical formula, which would normally precede and follow each lesson.

47-48 This brief catalogue lists those ranking highest in Heaven. The patriarchs are the founding fathers of Israel from the book of Genesis, figures such as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the prophets would include Old Testament figures such as Daniel, Isaias, and Jeremias. Line 48 reflects a threefold classification of saints into martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.

58 Bawcutt notes that financial records show how popular the wines of Anjou were in Scotland (Bw 2.492).

62 The great parish church of Edinburgh was dedicated to St. Giles, making him an appropriate saint to invoke in the desire to bring the king back to the city. His September 1 feast day was celebrated with processions through the city. Bawcutt (Bw 2.492) notes: "St. Giles was believed to have special power in obtaining forgiveness for sinners, because of his successful intercession for Charlemagne" (see The Golden Legend 5.84-85).

70 sternis sevin. Here the phrase refers to the spheres of the seven moveable "stars" - the five visible planets and the sun and the moon. The saints in Heaven would dwell in the highest Heaven (the coelum empyreum), located above the seven spheres of the planets, the eighth sphere of the fixed stars (the zodiac), and the ninth sphere known as the primum mobile.

78 The Archangel Gabriel was traditionally viewed as God's primary messenger (compare Daniel 9:21 and Luke 1:19, 26).

85-90 Compare Chaucer's TC 1.638-39.

103-04 These verses parody some of the petitions contained in the Pater Noster, the Lord's Prayer.

112-13 This is the second verse of Psalm 101 in the Vulgate, which is found in some versions of the Office of the Dead (Bw 2.493).


82. The Twa Cummars [This lang Lentrin it makis me lene]

This poem belongs to a minor comic genre in which carousing women, with drink-loosed tongues, speak derisively about their husbands. John Skelton's The Tunning of Elynor Rumming and Dunbar's own Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84) are the two most famous examples, but several others survive from late medieval literature (compare IMEV 1362 and 1852). In the case of this poem, the satire is also directed at those who create flimsy excuses in order to avoid participating in the Lenten fast required of all Christians. The poem survives in four MS copies, the earliest being the one in the Aberdeen Minute Book. Six 5-line stanzas rhyming aabaB. Aberdeen, B, MF, and R. Mc46, K73, Bw57.

1-2 Ash Wednesday is the first day of the forty-day Lenten season that culminates on Easter Sunday. The joke is that the two gossips have begun to violate the Lenten fast within a few hours of its beginning. Although the drinking of wine was not totally forbidden during Lent (the eating of meat was forbidden), sobriety was the rule and abstinence the ideal.

2 cummaris. "Gossips" or "female confidants"; like the word "gossip," cummar originally meant "godmother" but soon came to mean "close female friend."

5 It has not taken long for her to begin complaining about "the long Lenten season" - since it has only just begun.

7-8 Although the woman is "great and fat," she contends that observing the rigors of Lent will surely endanger her health, given her enfeebled physical condition.

9 lat preif of that. I.e., "Just look at me - there's the proof." Compare Lindsay's Satyre, Proclamation, line 225.

13-14 Her mother's slenderness, her friend alleges, was due to her refined taste in wines - she restricted her drinking to the sweet, fortified wine called malmsey; it was an expensive, imported wine, the preference for people of style and estate. See the Alliterative Morte Arthure, line 236, and Sir Degrevaunt, line 1431. Bawcutt notes that "the boozy gossips of Noah's wife in play 3 of The Chester Miracle Cycle likewise prefer Malmsey to cheaper wine" (Bw 2.411).

18-19 There are two jokes here. The first is her advice that she should refrain from fasting (in Lent one refrains by fasting); and the second is that her husband should bear the burden of her refraining from fasting, causing him to experience the pain that a person should experience themselves during Lent.

23 The women's disparagement of their husbands' sexual prowess is a basic feature of this comic genre. Compare also May's appraisal of January's sexual performance in The Merchant's Tale: "She preyseth nat his pleyyng worth a bene" (CT IV [E]1854). Compare Whiting B92.

24 Compare The Debate of the Carpenter's Tools, lines 229-32.

29 "By which to mend they had great hope" - by forcing themselves to do all this drinking, they have high hopes of alleviating their debilitating leanness.

30 As he often does, Dunbar slightly alters the final refrain, signaling the end of the poem.


83. The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy

If The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84) is Dunbar's most sexually explicit poem, The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy is his most scatologically explicit poem, what one critic, Tom Scott, has amusingly called "the most repellent poem . . . in any language" (p. 175). In contrast to all the other poems in this volume, however, the Flyting cannot be attributed exclusively to Dunbar, for Walter Kennedy, one of Dunbar's contemporaries, probably composed 328 of the poem's 552 verses. It is possible, in fact, that the poem was intended as a public entertainment, perhaps one in which the two contesting poets actually performed their parts before the court of James IV. Modern critical response to the poem has varied widely. Some readers and critics find the Flyting offensive - as much for its social attitudes as for its scatology - but others consider it to be one of the great comic poems of the later Middle Ages. Somewhat surprising, perhaps, is the fact that although the poem contains much that is coarse and vulgar, it appears to have been very well received throughout the sixteenth century. It was one of a small number of Dunbar's poems to appear in an early printed text; its text appears in both B and MF, and it inspired several imitations from Dunbar's Scottish successors (see Bw 2.428).
     The genre of the Flyting has been much discussed, and scholars cite a wide range of possible influences and literary precursors. The poem clearly shares some of the basic characteristics of the medieval debate poem in that it is a verbal sparring match in which each speaker tries to demonstrate the superiority of his views to those of his opponent. In this poem, however, the main point seems to be not so much for each contestant to demonstrate the superiority of his views as it is to demonstrate his superior talent at heaping comic abuse on the other while at the same time displaying his poetic virtuosity. It is possible, therefore, that the poem was a conscious attempt to revive the ancient Celtic tradition of a public "slanging contest" between court bards or satirists. In this respect, the poem provides "a striking example of how orality can shape a written text" (Robichaud, p. 10). Walter J. Ong comments on the agonistic nature of oral civilizations that so mark flytings.1 Slanging contests are often mentioned in the early Irish and Welsh narratives; compare, for example, Taliesin's virtuoso performance at the court of Maelgwn Gwynedd in the Welsh "Tale of Taliesin" (The Mabinogi and Other Welsh Tales, trans. Patrick K. Ford [Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1977], pp. 171-77). Also see "The Verse Debate between Dafydd ap Gwilym and Gruffudd Gryg" for another "slanging contest" between two well-known Celtic poets.2 The technique of the Flyting relies on the additive rather than the subordinate for its effect, piling on insult upon insult. To a modern reader the effect "may seem overwrought and excessive, but in a residually oral culture, overstatement is a virtue if it is more memorable than plain presentation of opinion" (Robichaud, p. 11). The "cumulative nastiness" is created largely though alliterative combinations of adjective noun phrases using many reduplicative rhyming insults, puns, scatology, name calling, and verbal sexual assault.3 As to the accuracy or directed purpose of the abuse each poet shovels on the other, see Scott (p. 176), Baxter (p. 67), and Bawcutt (1992, p. 7). Robinson, following Bawcutt, explains the insults as caricatures of sorts - severely exaggerated but accurate enough to be recognizable (p. 275).
     Dunbar's Flyting has a very simple structure. First there are two short sections in which the disputants exchange their initial challenges, and then there are two very lengthy sections in which each one takes a turn at reviling the other. In both cases Dunbar speaks first and Kennedy second, a pattern that would seem to give Kennedy something of an advantage. The opening verses in Dunbar's initial speech indicate that he is responding to something Kennedy and his colleague Quintin have previously said or written, but that may simply be a device by which to initiate the contest. The poem ends without any concluding materials other than the final rubric: "Juge ye now heir quha gat the war" - "Judge you now here who got the worst."
     Walter Kennedy, Dunbar's opponent in the Flyting, was a member of a prominent Ayrshire family and a graduate of Glasgow University (1478). The Kennedy family's land holdings were primarily in Carrick (located in the southern part of Ayreshire) and in Galloway, areas which at this time were still primarily Gaelic-speaking. Kennedy had a wife and a son, so he was probably not a member of the priesthood, though he did come to hold important church positions at Douglas and at Glasgow. Like Dunbar he was also a poet, and Dunbar speaks affectionately of Kennedy in "Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14), lines 89-92, as do Douglas (The Palis of Honoure, line 923) and Lindsay (Papyngo, lines 15-16). Here, though, Dunbar portrays him as being a poor, raggedy, thieving Gaelic bard. Kennedy, on the other hand, portrays Dunbar as a dwarfish benefice-beggar belonging to a family with a long history of treachery to Scotland. Kennedy's vitriolic attack on Dunbar may allude to actual events in Dunbar's life, though the exaggerated nature of his scurrilous "exposé" requires scholars to be cautious in drawing any firm conclusions from Kennedy's remarks. For a fuller account of Kennedy and his family, see Bw 2.427.
     One of the main points of the poem is to allow the two poets to display their poetic talents. Dunbar's verses tend to be wittier and tighter, perhaps, and to demonstrate his particular aptitude for clever wordplay. Kennedy's verses are more discursive and long-winded, and he seems intent on displaying his learnedness through the frequent use of literary allusions, some of which are quite obscure. Both poets end their performances with fairly similar grand finales, grand finales that in both cases contain a profusion of internal rhyme. But on the whole the styles and techniques of the two poets seem to differ fairly significantly, and there is little reason to accept Reiss' suggestion that Dunbar is actually the author of the entire poem (p. 55).
     The Flyting contains 552 verses in 8-line stanzas, rhyming ababbcbc or ababbccb; 224 verses are attributed to Dunbar, and 328 verses are attributed to Kennedy. The text here presented is a composite, following Bawcutt: Lines 1-315 are based upon B; lines 316-552 are based upon CM. Mc6, K23, Bw65.

1 Schir Johine the Ros. Dunbar is addressing Sir John the Ross, his close friend and possibly his sometime collaborator (compare Kennedy's remarks in lines 39-40); Ross is included among the poets whose deaths Dunbar mourns in "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14), line 83.

1-5 The poet claims to be responding to something (possibly a poem) written by Kennedy and Quintin in which they praise themselves at the expense of other poets. Little is known of Quintin, though he was probably Kennedy's kinsman and his collaborator. It is possible that he is the Quintyne Schaw included in the list of deceased poets in "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14), line 86. Bawcutt doubts that he is the same man as the "Quenetyne" mentioned in line 37 of "Sir Thomas Norny" (Poem 55).

1-24 The first three stanzas provide a context and a justification for the verbal warfare to come. In them Dunbar is apparently making a public pronouncement to Sir John Ross, his friend and kinsman, commenting on the general grievance he feels toward Kennedy and Quintin, who in their pride have elevated themselves to a status above the stars. Dunbar serves warning of what he might be forced to do if they were to speak negatively about him. Dunbar's threat provokes Kennedy to do just that - although one suspects that this was all done by pre-arrangement.

4-12 Bawcutt remarks on the mock apocalyptic tone which, though comic, is, nonetheless, ominous. "No reader is disposed to laugh at the menacing figure of the devil in Dunbar's poem on the Resurrection" (1989, p. 165). Dunbar seems perpetually interested in the world of evil spirits and the uncertainty about their nature. N.b., the flying Abbot of Tungland or his references to Titivullus (Bawcutt, 1989, pp. 165-68).

6-7 Dunbar compares Kennedy's pride to that which caused Lucifer's fall; compare Isaias 14:12-14. See Whiting L587 and Lindsay, Monarche, lines 867-85.

9-15 The poet uses generalized apocalyptic imagery to suggest the catastrophic con-sequences of what he might write; these images do not have specific biblical sources, but compare verses such as Isaias 13:10-13 and Apocalypse 8:7-12.

14 The se sould birn, the mone sould thoill ecclippis. Compare line 489; and compare also "Of a Black Moor" (Poem 71), line 13.

16 Sa loud of cair the commoun bell sould clynk. This refers to the alarm bell sounded to warn the public of an impending disaster such as might be caused by fire or armed threat; but the verse seems to be intentionally ludicrous - in light of all that he has just described.

17-24 Dunbar initially indicates his reluctance to take part in any bardic flyting contest (lines 17-21), probably to suggest his disdain toward such an unworthy and uncouth activity. He concedes, though, that he will participate if his opponents force him into it - thus placing the onus upon them. Compare Douglas, Eneados 1.Prol.153, and Lindsay, Complaint, line 31.

25-48 Kennedy's response, also in three stanzas, balances Dunbar's opening statement and serves to conclude the introductory section of the poem. Dunbar has challenged Kennedy to throw down the verbal gauntlet, and Kennedy does not hesitate to do so.

25-26 The sense is: "Beshitten Dunbar, against whom do you make your boast, / Claiming the right to write such scabby scrolls (i.e., writings)?"

29 Mandrag mymmerkin. I.e., "dwarfish creature resembling a man"; this is the first of Kennedy's numerous references to Dunbar's dwarf-like stature. The mandrake is a European herb whose forked root was thought to resemble the body of a man. Compare John Donne's "get with child a mandrake root" ("Song," line 2).

29-30 These verses contain the first of Kennedy's several mocking references to Dunbar's university education. Here he claims that Dunbar was given a master's degree only as a scornful joke.

30 Thrys scheild. "Thriced shilled" or "peeled"; i.e., often exposed. "The phrase is agricultural in origin" (Bw 2.431).

36 Ignorant elf, aip, owll irregular. This verse also ridicules Dunbar's physical appear-ance by likening him to an elf (a comment on his small stature) and to an ape and an owl (a comment on his ugliness).

37 Skaldit skaitbird and commoun skamelar. Compare King Berdok, lines 26-27.

38 Wanfukkit funling that Natour maid ane yrle. "A misbegotten foundling that Nature made a dwarf." The prefix wan- in the verb wanfukkit means "poorly" or "badly," and the second element in wanfukkit is the vulgar term it appears to be; compare "In a Secret Place" (Poem 72), line 13.

41-48 In the final stanza of his opening salvo, Kennedy urges Dunbar to stop the action he has initiated and to make recompense to Quintin for having slandered him. Otherwise, he says, Dunbar will rue the day he was born.

43 walidrag. The term, which can mean "undergrown," is one of Kennedy's many insulting references to Dunbar's small stature.

49 Iersche brybour baird. Before launching into a string of scurrilous invective, Dunbar first establishes Kennedy's professional identity - he is an Irish (i.e., Gaelic) "vagabond bard, a vile beggar in rags."

49-64 All of the verses in these rhymed stanzas are perfect examples of the alliterative long line of ME. See A. A. MacDonald, 1994.

49-248 In this group of twenty-five stanzas Dunbar takes his turn at heaping invective upon Kennedy. In doing so, he draws heavily upon the stereotyped figure of the dirty, impoverished, dishonest Highlander, and he depicts Kennedy as a Gaelic bard - an idle, begging wanderer considered by Lowlanders to be thoroughly disreputable. Dunbar's imagery in these verses is frequently drawn from rural farm life in order to portray Kennedy as a barefoot yokel.

50 Cuntbittin. Probably means "impotent," though possibly "cuckolded," "syphilitic," or "pussy-whipped."

51-52 Denseman . . . gulesnowt dynd. "A Danishman"; there are records of Danish pirates having been executed in Edinburgh upon the execution wheel, a brutal instrument of torture and execution. The bodies of the dead often remain tied to these wheels and were feasted upon by birds. (Compare lines 423-24.) Both Kinsley and Bawcutt gloss gulesnowt as "yellow nose" - suggesting perhaps "ghoulish"; or maybe they have in mind a (sea)gull's beak. But gules is also a heraldic term (here used ironically?) meaning "red," in which case a "red nose" might imply a drunk. The drunkenness of pirates is mythic - "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum," etc. Certainly a "Denseman" would not be noted for abstinence. Robinson, on the other hand, sees Kennedy's gulesnowt (ghoul-snout) as a deformity resembling symptoms of leprosy, syphilis, or tuberculosis, since "erosion of the nasal septum" is an indication of any one of these diseases. "Of course," she adds, "he might just have had an ugly nose" (p. 278). Perhaps there is wordplay on gleddis, which could mean "glowing red coals" as well as "kites."

56 Lawland ers wald mak a bettir noyis. "Dunbar uses the pun on Erse [Gaelic] / arse to suggest that Lowland farting is more pleasant than Highland speech" (Robichaud, p. 12).

64 I.e., "a mere wisp of straw may wipe away your wit and wisdom." (Wisps of straw could be used as toilet paper.)

65 Thow speiris, dastard, gif I dar with thee fecht. Dunbar is apparently referring back to Kennedy's original challenge in lines 1-2.

66 Dagone dowbart. Here used to mean "monster," but stemming from Dagon, the name of the Philistine deity in 1 Kings (1 Samuel) 5:2-7; dowbart is an abusive term of obscure origin. DOST glosses the sense as "a dull or stupid person."

71-72 Dunbar says he will cause him to cry out by whipping him with a dog leash; more noble weapons - such as a knife, sword, or ax - would be neither necessary nor appropriate for a cur such as Kennedy.

73 crop and rute. Literally, "shoots and root," but meaning something in its entirety. Here it implies that he is both the cause and the result of treason and treachery. Compare Chaucer's TC 2.348.

76 The verse reiterates what Dunbar has already suggested about Kennedy in line 50.

77-80 Here Dunbar accuses Kennedy of attempting to poison "our lord's chief [or 'our chief lords'?] in Paisley," possibly an allusion to a specific event, though that remains uncertain. Kennedy appears to be rebutting this charge in lines 417-20.

81-82 Dunbar suggests that Kennedy's physical appearance offers a clear indication of his malicious nature. The pseudo-science of physiognomy, which maintained that a person's external body offers clues to one's own inner nature, remained popular in Scotland in the late Middle Ages.

83 glengoir loun. Bawcutt emends to ganyelon, reasoning that Ganelon, the arch-traitor of the Song of Roland, better accords with the accusations of treachery. But the reading of the MS seems to fit the specific context of this stanza better, where the emphasis is on Kennedy's ugliness and physical abnormality - his "frawart phisnomy" (line 81).

84 fen. "Midden" (dunghill), not "marsh"; compare line 517, and Henryson's Fables, line 111. Compare also Whiting F120.

85 Dunbar's grievances against Kennedy also include Kennedy's attacks upon Dunbar's friends.

89-90 Dunbar suggests that Kennedy delayed making his malicious allegations until Dun-bar was on shipboard, thus giving Dunbar no chance to respond to them.

90-96 The stormy voyage Dunbar mentions here was probably a real one, though scholars are unsure of the date and have discussed at length the geographical possibilities. This is probably the same voyage that Kennedy depicts so graphically (!) in lines 449-72.

91 The allusions to the classical gods Aeolus and Neptune, who cause this tempest at sea, provide a heroic coloration to the ill-fated voyage. Bawcutt suggests that these verses recall, "imperfectly, an episode in Aeneid 1.81-141 where Aeolus shatters the ships of Aeneas and black clouds obliterate the sun" (Bw 2.433).

94 Seland. Perhaps Zealand, the island on which Copenhagen stands, though more likely it is the area of Holland called Zeeland; Yetland (in the MS 3etland) may be either Jutland (in Denmark), or Shetland.

97 Thow callis thee rethore with thy goldin lippis. Compare Kennedy's reference to himself in line 500 as "of rhetory the rose."

99 gluntoch, with thy giltin hippis. "You are knobby-kneed with your kilted hips" (?); if giltin does mean "kilted" (i.e., "tucked up") here, as the context suggests, it would be one of the earliest occurrences of the term. There is probably wordplay, also, on "golden lips" and "gilded hips." William Neill, on the other hand, traces gluntoch to Gaelic glum dubh, "black-kneed," suggesting that it "refers to a man who wore no breeches [. . .] and in those unhygienic days black knees would be common" (as cited by Roderick MacDonald, p. 84). Neill glosses giltin as "yellow," implying old and jaundiced. See line 104.

104 thy bawis hingis throw thy breik. Refers to the fact that the kilted Highlander commonly wore no undergarments.

106-12 In these verses Dunbar disparagingly suggests that "flyting" is an art form in which Gaelic poets or bards took particular delight.

112 Carrik. The southern district of Ayrshire; it remained primarily Gaelic-speaking until after Dunbar's time. It was "a lowly populated area of upland pasture" (Bw 2.434).

113 Taking a dog out to defecate was a task given to the lowest ranking servants. Compare The Flyting betwixt Polwart and Montgomerie, in The Poems of Alex-ander Montgomerie, ed. David Irving (Edinburgh: J. Ballantyne and Co., 1821), line 370.

115-20 Dunbar depicts Kennedy as a country peasant who did not bother to work hard during the summer and thus starves in the winter.

121 Dunbar frequently remarks on Kennedy's dirty, unkempt, and lice-ridden body.

123-26 Kennedy's ugly visage is here compared to that of the men who persecuted the saints. St. Lawrence was martyred in Rome by being roasted on a grid. In some accounts and visual depictions, John the Baptist was blindfolded before being beheaded. St. Augustine of Canterbury, according to an early legend, was struck by attackers who wielded fish tails. And St. Bartholomew was flayed alive before being crucified.

128 haggeis. Haggis - made from chopped entrails, spices, eggs, and milk that are cooked in a sheep's stomach - wasn't exclusively a Scottish dish at this time. Dunbar is disparaging it for being peasant's fare.

129 na man comptis thee ane kers. "No one values you worth a piece of cress." Compare Whiting C546.

131 kis his ers. Compare Towneley Plays 2.61 and CT VI(C)948.

141 Greitand in Galloway lyk to ane gallow breid. Note the wordplay on Galloway and gallow.

143 Compare "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54), line 8.

145 Ersch katherene. William Neill points out that "katherene is not a woman's name; rather, an alternate form of cateran, a Highland marauder or a band of them." (As cited by Roderick MacDonald, pp. 84-85.) But, Roderick MacDonald continues, "is it not possible that Kennedy's wife may in reality have been named Catherine, and that Dunbar was guilty of perpetrating a rather low-grade pun?" (p. 85). As Bawcutt observes, this verse "sums up Lowlanders' view of the Highlander" (Bw 2.435), carrying a tartan bag and wearing shoes of undressed hide.

polk breik. Often said to be nether garments made from sacking (polk britches). But possibly a variant on pol breac, in Gaelic "a speckled purse." See Roderick MacDonald, p. 84.

148 "There is nothing except lice and long fingernails among (the two of) you" - another of Dunbar's barbs about Kennedy's lack of cleanliness.

149-52 Although heggirbald (line 149) is an obscure term, these verses involving the stealing of hens, lamb, and kids suggest the predatory habits of a fox or wolf.

150-52 Compare the effect of the Summoner's face in frightening children (CT I[A]628). Here Kennedy's ugly face frightens mother goats and their offspring.

153-60 In this stanza Dunbar directs his abuse at Kennedy's home - which he says was formerly used to house lepers - and at his wife. Robinson observes that Dunbar frequently connects Kennedy to lepers in both his insulting physical descriptions of his rival and in his implications that Kennedy is guilty of the sin of lust. These insinuations build up repeatedly until the overt reference to Lazarus in stanza 21, at which point it should be clear to the audience that Dunbar is accusing Kennedy of being a leper. Whether or not this accusation is accurate, what is important is the difference it reveals about the attitudes of insulting between medieval and modern culture. While Dunbar's references to Kennedy's numerous and chronic gastrointestinal problems are "delightfully shocking" to its medieval audience, they are perhaps (depending, of course, on the reader) more unpleasantly shocking to us. In contrast, the accusation of leprosy would be much more "vicious and damning" than revealing to an audience the fact that Kennedy's wife has to clean his beshitten rear end for him. See Robinson, pp. 275-82.

154 For medieval attitudes concerning leprosy, see the introduction to Denton Fox's edition of Henryson, pp. lxxxvii-xc, and also Peter Richards, The Medieval Leper and His Northern Heirs (Rochester, NY: D. S. Brewer, 2000).

155 of blis als bair. "Devoid of bliss"; compare Henryson, Fables, line 1701.

158 Bawcutt is probably right in suggesting that dowsy means "harlot" and refers to Kennedy's wife (Bw 2.435).

160 scaryne bell. A bell rung at the consecration of the Eucharist. Compare "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54), lines 49-50.

161-76 In this pair of stanzas Dunbar depicts Kennedy as a spirit that has returned from the grave - a parody of the "warning from beyond the grave" motif that occurs in penitential works such as Robert Henryson's poem "The Thre Deid Polis."

161 Dunbar's depiction of Kennedy as Lazarus draws upon both of the biblical figures of that name, the Lazarus whom Christ raised from death (John 11:17) and the leper who lay at the rich man's gate (Luke 16:20). It was common for these two figures to be conflated in the Middle Ages.

171 ane saffrone bag. Small bags containing saffron were often worn about the neck; the yellow spice was used medicinally as well as for cooking.

172 spreit of Gy. In a popular work composed by the Dominican friar Jean Gobi, Gy (or Guido) of Corvo was a tormented spirit who returned to earth to warn his wife by describing the horrors of Purgatory. For a ME version, see The Gast of Gy, in Three Purgatory Poems, ed. Edward Foster (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publi-cations, 2004), pp. 15-107. A vernacular version of the story occurs in Scoti-chronicon 13.6-9. Compare Lindsay's Dreme, line 16, and Crying of ane Play, line 14.

177-92 These stanzas contain Dunbar's depiction of Kennedy as a tall, thin scarecrow of a man; they provide a sharp contrast to Kennedy's later depiction of Dunbar as a tiny dwarf of a man.

179 Hard hurcheoun hirpland, hippit as ane harrow. Compare Henryson's Fables, line 903.

184 carrybald. An obscure term of abuse; it also occurs in line 94 of The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (Poem 84).

185-92 The figurative description of Kennedy in this stanza is that of a bony, shriveled old horse caked with mud and wildflowers.

191-92 Bawcutt notes that the images in these verbs are culinary. "Kennedy lies in a saffron sauce . . . sprinkled with powder made from primroses, and scented with cloves" (Bw 2.437).

193-200 Here Dunbar briefly engages in excremental humor, something Kennedy does later in the poem to a much greater extent.

198 I.e., "You shall (receive it back) again from more witnesses than just me"; what is rebounding against Kennedy is his earlier description of Dunbar as "dirtin" and "dirtfast" in lines 25 and 33.

201-32 The emphasis in this group of stanzas is upon Kennedy's extreme rusticity, which makes him an object of scorn and comic amusement in the more sophisticated urban environs of Edinburgh.

205 "Now in the uplands you live on rubbed wheat"; rubbing wheat between one's hands was a very primitive method of extracting the grain.

209 The identity of Strait Gibbons is uncertain, though a man by that name received a payment in 1503 by royal command. He may have been a court entertainer, very possibly a clown.

209-10 Never having ridden a horse reflects on Kennedy's lack of knightly qualities as well as on his poverty.

211 Edinburgh Cross, the high market cross in the center of the city, was a site for official proclamations, public punishment of felons, and the like. Thus Kennedy has brought the mud of the country into the symbolic heart of the city. Compare "To the Merchants of Edinburgh" (Poem 75), lines 22-23.

213 Dunbar asserts that Kennedy has cushioned the inside of his boots with straw that sticks out through the worn spots.

219 Kennedy is mobbed by the lads of Edinburgh like an owl mobbed by crows. Compare "A Ballad of the Friar of Tungland" (Poem 54), lines 73 ff., and the note to those lines.

220 bichis. "Bitches" literally means "female dogs," though here it probably means "dogs" generally; it may have been chosen for the sake of the alliteration. The dogs are excited by the smell of Kennedy's deer-hide boots.

221 "Then old women cry out, 'Keep your kerchiefs in the dark'" - i.e., hide your finery, or bring in your laundry. This gibe at Kennedy as a likely thief of clothing continues in lines 223-32. One is reminded of Shakespeare's pick-purse gallows evader, Autolycus, trafficking in sheets, linens, and snapping up "unconsidered trifles" along the way (Winter's Tale 4.3.21-30), or Falstaff's collection of gallows-birds stealing clothing in 1 Henry IV 4.2.42-48.

225-32 Dunbar revels in imagining the noisy uproar Kennedy's presence, with his rattling boots, creates in the midst of the city.

233-48 The verses in the final two stanzas of Dunbar's speech are filled with internal rhymes, a device popular among late medieval Scottish poets; compare Henryson's Prayer for the Pest, Douglas' The Palis of Honoure (lines 2116-42), and the final sixty-four verses of Polwart's Flyting. The result is that both the vocabulary and the syntax are highly inventive and unconventional. These stanzas, which reprise the main themes of Dunbar's attack, build to a grand crescendo of comic invective.

233-35 Dunbar is calling upon Kennedy to admit defeat and beg for mercy (Cry grace, line 235) - or else.

239 Forflittin. This probably means "defeated in flyting," and barkit hyd probably refers disparagingly to Kennedy's weathered skin.

240 Clym ledder, fyle tedder. The images here depict a condemned man climbing the ladder to the gallows who defiles (vomits on?) the noose around his neck.

241 air to Hilhous. It is not clear what is meant by being "heir to Hill House" or why it is an insult. Bawcutt suggests that it may have something to do with being a glutton (Bw 2.445). Kennedy also refers to Hill House in line 515. Perhaps the hill house is the sheepfold or an outhouse. Whatever the sense, it is demeaning.

241-43 Several of the abusive phrases in these verses are obscure, and their precise meanings can only be guessed at - e.g., byt buttoun, air to Hilhous (line 241), and Chittirlilling (line 243). DOST butto(u)n n. cites Hume Epistle 145: "My breast was brusd . . . My buttons brist," where buttons might imply "nipples"; hence my gloss "nipple-biter" for byt buttoun.

245 rak sauch. "Stretched" (or "racked") sack, meaning a "gallows bird"; Bawcutt explains the phrase as "one who stretches a withy, when hanged from it on a gallows" (Bw 2.438). It is also possible that Dunbar is intimating that Kennedy stuffs his trousers with fake marks of manhood made of tallow and rocks. The phrases cry crauch and "cry cok" in line 248 refer to cries of submission as a defeated party admits his defeat.

247 carlingis pet. The phrase may simply mean "old woman's lap pet"; in this list of insults, however, that would seem surprisingly tame, and Bawcutt's suggestion of "fart" (Bw 2.438) may be closer to the mark. Compare the French word pet ("fart") and the expression, "hoist by his own petard."

249-50 In Numbers 16, Dathan and Abiron are important members of a group that rebel against Moses and Aaron. Their punishment involves being swallowed alive in the earth and taken to Hell. In the latter Middle Ages they were viewed as types of the seditious clergyman and were sometimes linked with the Lollards, as here. Beliall (line 250) was the name of a devil famed for his ability to corrupt through persuasive speech. The name originates in the phrase filii Belial ("sons of Belial") in Judges 19:22 and 1 Kings (1 Samuel) 2:12. See Bw 2.438.

249-552 Kennedy's main speech, which occupies the remainder of the poem, is longer than Dunbar's and more discursive; whereas Dunbar's attack on Kennedy is largely personal, Kennedy's attack on Dunbar encompasses a broader range of Scottish history and the larger history of the Dunbar family.

254 "Have I not silenced you, knave of a shepherd (or shepherd's knave?)?" The reference to Dunbar as a shepherd or shepherd's helper may reflect Kennedy's notion that this particular flyting should be viewed as a contest between a pair of pastoral poets.

255 ryme and raif. A contemptuous phrase for alliterative verse. Compare the statement of Chaucer's Parson, who claims that he cannot "rum, ram, ruf" (CT X[I]43).

257-64 Here Kennedy provides a sketch of the history of the Dunbar family, which may be traced to Gospatrick, earl of Northumberland, who relocated to Scotland in 1068 following the Conquest. Descended from him are the earls of Dunbar and March. Late in the thirteenth century, Patrick, eighth earl of Dunbar and first earl of March, had supported Edward I of England during the earlier stages in the War of Independence.

258 The earls of Dunbar held a castle at Cockburnspath in Berwickshire, a few miles to the southeast of the town of Dunbar.

259-60 Kennedy creates his own etymological explanation for the name Dunbar, suggesting that it reflects the union of a devil and a she-bear, hence the name Dewlbeir ("Devil-Bear," line 260) rather than Dunbar.

261 This verse may allude to an ancient Celtic tradition in which leaders copulated with horses, though here it is used to comment derisively on Dunbar's monstrous lineage. Kennedy links Dunbar to horses several times (earlier Dunbar had noted Kennedy's "horselessness"), and perhaps Kennedy's description of Dunbar as horse marshall in line 476 involves wordplay on the phrase meir of Mar in this verse.

262-64 Patrick's support of Edward I is the treachery that Kennedy is alluding to. Much of the information contained in verses 262-88 is probably drawn from Blind Hary's Wallace, Books 1 and 8.

265 Robert Bruce was the grandfather of Robert I. John Balliol was the nominal king of Scotland from 1292 to 1296, having been granted the title by Edward I of England. Compare "To Aberdeen" (Poem 33), lines 33-40, and the note to those verses.

267-68 According to Hary's Wallace, during the strife between the Scots and the English Patrick played a key role in opening Berwick to the English. The fall of Berwick occurred on 30 March 1296. See Hary's Wallace 1.94.

269-72 The Battle of Dunbar, which Kennedy calls Spottismuir, occurred on 27 April 1296. See Hary's Wallace 8.180.

270 Edward I was commonly known as "Longshanks" because he was unusually tall. Compare The Wallace 1.56.

277-78 In 1296 Edward "despoiled" (spulyeit - line 277) Scotland of its most highly revered treasures, including the Stone of Scone, the "Black Rood" of Holyrood House (which was believed to contain fragments of the True Cross), and the crown jewels. See Hary's Wallace 1.115-30.

281-88 In The Wallace, Book 8, Patrick refuses to attend the council called by Wallace and refers to him scornfully as "that king of Kyll" (8.21); subsequently Wallace exiles Patrick from Scotland.

287-91 Kennedy, perhaps echoing Isaias' prophecy of the fall of Babylon (13:19-22), predicts a dire future for the castle at Dunbar.

292-96 Kennedy now provides Dunbar with an ancestral mother who, after eating from the fateful apple of Paradise that was cast ashore from the sea, coupled with the devil and engendered Devil-bear.

295 The cockatrice, a fabulous monster described in medieval bestiaries, was a serpent hatched from a cock's egg; its glance was poisonous, and it was sometimes compared to women. Basilisks and cockatrices are similar (occasionally the terms are used interchangeably) in bestiaries, though the latter was considered mythical, the former real (see T. H. White, Bestiary: A Book of Beasts [New York: Putnam, 1960], p. 169n1).

299-304 Here Kennedy relates yet another historical anecdote that associates Dunbar's family with treachery and treason. See Bw 2.440.

309 Thow wes prestyt and ordanit be Sathan. Kennedy is casting aspersions on Dunbar's true ordination into the priesthood.

313-20 Kennedy suggests that Dunbar has failed to fulfill his responsibilities to his deceased ancestors, whose souls may find no rest because of it.

319 Trentals were sets of thirty masses that were said for the dead to help their souls to achieve respite from the pains of Purgatory. Compare CT III(D)1724-25.

321-22 Kennedy is alluding to the Eclogue of Theodulus, a popular Latin school text, which presents a debate between a shepherd and a shepherdess - Pseustis ("Liar"), who represents the falsehood of the pagans, and Alithia, who represents the truth of Christianity. For an English translation of the text, see Ronald E. Pepin, An English Translation of the Auctores Octo: A Medieval Reader, Mediaeval Studies 12 (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1999), pp. 25-40.

325-28 Kennedy is suggesting that Dunbar should subject himself to a public act of penance for having slandered Kennedy. The Latin phrase deliquisti quia ("Because you have sinned") are the first words spoken by the priest to a penitent during confession.

331 Stobo refers to John Reid, a highly respected clerk in the royal secretariat and a figure whose death Dunbar laments in line 86 of "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14).

332 Renounce thy rymis, bath ban and birn thy bill. Kennedy calls for a public retraction of Dunbar's accusations against him; Bawcutt suggests birn thy bill refers to the "recantation required of heretics" (Bw 2.441).

336 Arthuris Sete. Arthur's Seat is the name of a high hill on the outskirts of Edinburgh not far from Holyrood Palace. This is one of the first recorded references to it.

337-44 Kennedy claims to have walked in the proper season upon the slopes of Mount Parnassus, a place sacred to the Nine Muses, been inspired by Mercury, the god of eloquence, and drunk from Hippocrene, the sacred fountain of poetic inspiration on Mount Helicon. But Dunbar, he says, came there in early spring and merely drank toad-spawn from a pool. This is a case of the traditional modesty topos being turned upside down.

343 glod. An adjective of uncertain meaning; perhaps "glued" or "gluey"? Or, on the basis of glod, a variant of glade, meaning "barren space" (see OED), the sense might be "empty language."

345 elf. Perhaps here meaning "dwarf," referring to Dunbar's small stature.

348 Scota. Bawcutt suggests that this is not a personification of Scotland but rather "the mythical daughter of Pharoah and wife to the Greek prince Gadelus, from whom Scots traced their origin" (Bw 2.441).

351 rumplis. The word may mean "fish tails," reflecting the legend that the people who struck St. Augustine of Canterbury with fish tails (see note to line 125) later gave birth to children having fish tails, a fitting punishment for the English.

355 Quhare thou writis. Kennedy is referring to Dunbar's claim in line 51.

356 Densmen of Denmark ar of the kingis kyn. James III had married Princess Margaret of Denmark in 1468, and thus James IV was the nephew of King Hans of Denmark (1481-1513).

358 A sling staff was a sling on a wooden shaft used to hurl stones; compare Barbour's Bruce 17.344.

361-68 Kennedy is here responding to the charges Dunbar had made in lines 145-52.

363-64 Compare Luke 16:20.

365 Dunbar's empty purse is mentioned in his petition poems, especially "To the King" (Poem 39).

367 wedy teuch. The phrase literally means "a tough (or strong) withy" but refers to the hangman's rope.

368 Mount Falcoun. Mount Falcon, or Montfaucon, was the name of the gallows hill near Paris. "It was a huge, several-storeyed structure, and sixty criminals could be hanged simultaneously" (Bw 2.441).

371 Aire. The principal city in Ayreshire, in south-western Scotland; compare "Master Andro Kennedy's Testament" (Poem 80), line 36, and the note to that verse.

378-80 Kennedy is apparently referring to the storm Dunbar described in lines 91-95. Carrying holy ashes on a sea voyage would ideally provide a measure of protection; Kennedy alleges that Dunbar lost them and then attempted, unsuccessfully, to rescue them.

383 Compare "A Dream" (Poem 41), line 14.

385-92 Kennedy argues that Dunbar's family is not related to the true Dunbars, the earls of Moray, a branch of the Dunbars with a long and valiant history of fighting for Scotland against the English.

394 cor mundum. A penitential formula originating from Psalm 50:12 in the Vulgate - "Create a clean heart in me, O God"; compare Lindsay, Flyting, line 20.

397 If Dunbar is the same person who received bachelor's and master's degrees from St. Andrews (in 1477 and 1479), these would be the degrees that Kennedy is referring to.

399 Medieval fools often had close-cropped hair cuts; compare "A Complaint against Mure" (Poem 60), line 19.

405 Quhare thou puttis poysoun to me. Kennedy is responding to Dunbar's charge in lines 77-78.

406-08 Kennedy challenges Dunbar to prove his allegations in personal combat, and he urges him not to try to get out of the fight by claiming benefit of clergy.

413-16 Kennedy describes a suitable coat of arms for Dunbar - a gallows, a noose, and a pin - and then suggests an appropriate inscription for the Dunbar coat of arms.

425-28 Kennedy here describes Dunbar as having been an itinerant preacher selling pardons, begging for his food, and then stealing under the cover of night. Kennedy's intention is to depict Dunbar as a clergyman of the lowest and most corrupt sort.

429-40 In order to escape Scottish ill will, Kennedy asserts, Dunbar traveled abroad under the pretense of being a wandering pilgrim - a "feigned palmer."

430 a knycht of the felde. The phrase may be an idiom meaning "a wandering vagabond" or perhaps "a pretended pilgrim."

431 Scallop shells indicated that a pilgrim had been to the shrine of St. James of Compostella in Spain. A burdoun was a pilgrim's staff; why it is described as kelde ("cold" or "cooled"?) is unclear, though the rhyme scheme requires such a word.

433-36 Kennedy suggests that Dunbar was too cowardly to risk crossing the mountain passes that would have allowed him to make a pilgrimage to Rome.

437-40 Kennedy portrays Dunbar as becoming the master hangman's apprentice, receiving half a frank for each person he hangs. He is referring back to line 368.

443 "You drank your savings" - Compare Whiting T253.

446 Danskyn. Danzig (modern Gdansk), the Baltic seaport with which Scotland reg-ularly traded.

447 De profundis. The opening phrase of Psalm 129 in the Vulgate - "Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord." Psalm 129 is considered one of the penitential psalms.

449-72 This extended scene in which Dunbar has an ignominious experience on a ship named the Katherine may contain a kernel of truth, though it may also be wholly fictitious. Kennedy here shows himself to be Dunbar's equal when it comes to excremental humor. For additional information, see Bw 2.443.

455-56 The saulis had sonkyn throu the syn of thee / War not the peple maid sa grete prayere. Perhaps there is an oblique allusion here to the story of Jonah, whose sin nearly caused the deaths of all on board the ship.

457 the schip was saynit. Ships were blessed before departing in order to ensure a safe voyage.

461 the Bas. Bass Rock is in the Firth of Forth, not far from Edinburgh. Dunbar apparently wasted little time in befouling the ship.

468 tane the collum. This phrase is difficult to construe, largely because of the term collum, which does not appear in DOST. Kinsley posits that the phrase means "captured the ship," a meaning that would require collum to be the result of minim confusion: the original word being colvin. It is tempting to read the line as "taken the column" (i.e., group of soldiers), but this usage for the word column is not attested until 1677 (OED). Other possibilities might be an odd spelling of culum, meaning "fundament," which accords well with the scatological nature of these lines but makes little sense with the verb tane. An unusual spelling of culm, meaning "bundle of thatch," is likewise fraught with difficulties (MED).

473-80 Kennedy commands Dunbar to go into exile in England, suggesting that he might try to pass himself off as a "horse marshall."

474 botwand. An obscure term, but possibly a type of whip that would identify him as a master of horses: i.e., a "butt-wand."

481 Hye souverane lorde. Kennedy is apparently addressing James IV, which under-scores the likelihood that this is all a courtly entertainment.

484 A rottyn crok, louse of the dok, thare doun. Kennedy echoes the phrases Dunbar had used to describe him in line 248. The phrase thare doun seems to mean "send him down to England where he belongs!"

489 To be conceived or born during a total eclipse would have been a very ominous sign. Scholars have debated the possible biographical significance of this detail and the general consensus is that it has none. Compare line 14, and "Of a Black Moor" (Poem 71), line 13.

490 Although Mercury is usually portrayed as a beneficent deity and the god that inspires eloquence, he can also possess less positive attributes, as is apparently the case here.

497 gukkis. The likely meaning is "fool." Compare "In a Secret Place" (Poem 72), line 39.

500 Rymis thou of me, of rethory the rose. Compare The Golden Targe (Poem 65), line 253, where Chaucer is called the "rose rethoris all."

505-08 Kennedy's remark suggests that Dunbar's great desire to receive a benefice, a central concern in several of Dunbar's many petition poems, was a well-known fact. Bawcutt may be correct in suggesting that the allusion to Judas' bells refers to the ritual Silencing of the Bells during the three days prior to Easter, with the implication that Dunbar is only fit for minor clerical duties (Bw 2.444). The remark may also be meant as a slur against Dunbar's talent as a poet, as lines 507-08 surely are.

513 Cain, the slayer of his brother Abel (Genesis 4), was cursed to become a fugitive and vagabond. Tutivullus is the name of a demon who figures prominently in the Towneley Plays and in Mankind; he reveled in recording and spreading malicious gossip. In a late ME lyric (see Davies, p. 198), Tutivullus is "the devil of Hell."

514 Bawcutt suggests that "mermaid" implies effeminacy as well as monstrosity (Bw 2.444).

515-16 Kennedy's suggestion that Dunbar be baked and served to the lord of Hill House is probably another reference to his small size. There are many recorded examples of marvelous things being served within baked pies, including not only the four and twenty black birds of the nursery rhyme but even a small man.

521-44 In this extended catalogue of treacherous figures, Kennedy associates Dunbar with a whole host of traitors and enemies of the Christian faith that is drawn from Scripture, literature, history, mythology, and popular lore.

523 In Henryson's Orpheus, Pontius Pilate is placed in Hell, line 327.

524 The Lollards, an important reform movement within the church during Chaucer's time, were later condemned as heretics.

525 Simony was a serious crime that involved the buying or selling of benefices; given Dunbar's numerous pleas for a benefice, the charge has some pertinence.

526 Mohammad could be used as a synonym for Satan but could also refer to any devil.

528 Gog and Magog were thought to be allies of the Antichrist (Apocalypse 20:7) and persecutors of Christians. They are first mentioned in Ezechiel 38 and 39. Compare "Of James Dog" (Poem 57), line 19.

529 Nero was one of the great persecutors of Christians among the Roman emperors. Golyas usually refers to the Philistine giant Goliath whom David slew but also may suggest the Latin poet known as the Archpoet, the author of "The Archpoet's Confession." In the first case Golyas would suggest Dunbar as a freak of nature, and in the second it would suggest his irreverence and vulgarity.

530 Although Potiphar's wife is not named in Genesis, Egiptia (meaning "the Egyptian woman") is the name given to her in the apocryphal work The Testament of Joseph, one of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.

532 Termygantis. Termagant was often used as the name for one of the Saracen gods, though here it is probably used as a synonym for "demons" or "devils." Compare "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77), line 115, and Henryson's Annunciation, line 68. Vespasian was a Roman emperor, though not one of the ones especially noted for persecuting Christians.

534 Cayphas. The high priest at the trial of Jesus mentioned in Matthew 26:57 and John 11:49-53.

535 Pluto. I.e., Satan. Compare "The Merle and the Nightingale" (Poem 65), lines 125-26.

537 Egeas. Probably the Roman proconsul responsible for the martydom of St. Andrew.

538 Marciane. Probably the heretic Marcian of Sinope. See The Golden Legend 7.146.

Maxencius. Probably the son of the Roman emperor Maximianus and a party to the martyrdom of St. Catherine of Alexandria. See The Golden Legend 7.16.

539 Antenor and Aeneas are Trojan princes who conspired with the Greeks to bring about the defeat of Troy, a story alluded to in Chaucer's TC but more fully told in Guido de Columnis' Historia Destructionis Troiae, books 28-30.

540 Throp. A woman or goddess whose identity remains uncertain (Criseyde and Atropos are among those suggested).

Olibrius. Probably the Roman prefect who ordered the death of St. Margaret of Antioch.

541 Puttidew. The name often assigned to the figure known as the Wandering Jew who, because of his rudeness to Jesus on the via dolorosa, was condemned to wander the earth until the Last Day.

Baal. A Phoenican god and pagan idol.

Eyobulus. Probably Eubulus Aurelius, a priest of Baal under the emperor Ela-gabalus.

545-52 As Dunbar had done in his final stanzas (lines 232-48), Kennedy here revels in the use of internal rhymes.

546-52 The jingling effect of the triple rhymes and rhythms brings the flyting to its conclusion.

548 lamp Lollardorum. I.e., "chief of heretics."

551 Tale tellare. Probably carries both the meaning "teller of lies" and "teller of inferior tales," a final slur on Dunbar's artistry.

552 Spynk. A term used for a small bird such as a chaffinch. Kennedy is taking a parting shot at Dunbar's small size, as well as suggesting that he is merely a tiny, insignificant thing.

Termagorum. Bw 2.446 mentions that this unclear word may be connected to Termygantis of line 532 and that the term in general may come from "ter" and "magus." (Thrice-magician - perhaps a kind of arch-fiend.) Compare Gower, Confessio Amantis 4.2408. Whatever the etymology, Kennedy's meaning is still clear: "go to Hell."


84. The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo

The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo is Dunbar's longest poem and also his most provocative, generating greatly differing responses from its readers. Perhaps reflecting the views of many readers is Spearing, who suggests that the Tretis is at once the poet's "most exciting and disturbing poem" (1985, p. 215). While critics have long viewed the poem as a satiric exposé of the vices and hypocrisy of women, several recent critics have observed that the Tretis is at least as revealing about men as it is about women.
     In its design the Tretis is simple enough: on Midsummer's Eve just after midnight the narrator, in search of amusement, squeezes himself into a hedge that surrounds a beautiful garden and eavesdrops on the private conversation of the three lovely ladies who are there entertaining themselves. What he hears is their bitter denunciation of the institution of marriage and their scathing comments about their husbands' sexual inadequacies. Their discussion is framed by a pair of ironic demaundes d'amore: the Widow initiates the discussion by asking the two younger wives if they do not agree that marriage is a blessed bond. Indeed they do not. Once the women have concluded their lengthy collocation and headed off home, the narrator poses the second demaunde d'amore to his audience - which of these three lovely ladies would you most desire to have for your wife?
     The Tretis draws upon several literary and cultural traditions. In genre it reflects aspects of the medieval debate poem, the flyting, the chanson de mal mariée, the comic poem in which drunken women revile their husbands (compare Dunbar's "The Twa Cummaris" [Poem 82]), and the mock sermon. The poem is greatly informed by an extensive tradition of medieval anti-feminist writings, including a special category of works about women that focuses on the vices attributed to widows. The Tretis is also the last great poem of the Middle Ages to be written in alliterative verse; although Dunbar often employs alliteration in his poems, this is the only one composed in the alliterative long line exclusively.
     Many commentators have been struck by Dunbar's success in combining disparate elements into an artistic whole, in particular his union of elements drawn from dream-vision tradition, which comprise the poem's outer framework, with the obscene invective characteristic of the flyting in the women's conversation. One of Dunbar's chief devices in the Tretis involves the collision of opposites - the beautiful with the obscene, the natural with the stylized, the idealized with the starkly realistic. He does this in both large and small ways. Take, for example, the obvious contrast between the external beauty of the poem - the idealized setting of the dream vision and the physical perfection of the three lovely ladies - with the ugliness and vulgarity of their drunken conversation. Or take as a specific instance of this device line 96 - "Bot soft and soupill as the silk is his sary lume" - in which the First Wife applies the image of the soft and lovely texture of silk to her husband's lifeless penis, an arresting combination. The women are remarkable - both shocking and witty - in their invention of bawdy language as each attempts to outdo the other, a sort of one-upmanship (see Burness, pp. 210-11). Dunbar fuses "the language of the court and the language of the byre to suggest that there is no simple way - perhaps no real way - to convey in words the full significance of human sexual activity" (Burness, p. 218).
     Chaucer's influence on the poem is extensive, and Chaucerian elements are drawn from several of the individual Canterbury Tales, especially from The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale and The Merchant's Tale, but also from The Miller's Tale and The Shipman's Tale. Some of these passages are pointed out in the notes that follow. Curiously, The Nun's Priest's Tale may also be pertinent to the discussion of Chaucer's influence on the Tretis, for it is the one tale of Chaucer's that reflects an overall structural design somewhat similar to Dunbar's poem. In both works the real is juxtaposed with the ideal for the purposes of satire. In Chaucer's tale the realistic world of the widow and her daughters encloses and sharply contrasts with the superficially beautiful and idealized world of Chauntecleer and Pertelot. In Dunbar's poem the idealized world of the garden and its three superficially lovely ladies contains an inner reality that is ugly, vulgar, and bestial.
     One of the most fascinating elements of the poem is the narrator himself. What should readers make of him? Is he simply a neutral and unobtrusive narrator like the person who reports the debate he has overheard between the owl and the nightingale in the famous ME debate poem; or is he an obsessed voyeur, a peeping-tom perversely fascinated by the forbidden world he secretly intrudes upon? Should we assume that the narrator is actually the poet? And, if so, what does that reveal about Dunbar, a celibate clergyman, and his true feelings toward women? Is the narrator simply a convenient device, or might he represent a typical member of the court of James IV? Has he learned anything from the experience he reports, or is he more like one of the narrators of Chaucer's dream poems who comes away from his experience no wiser than he began?
     The divisions in the text of 530 alliterative verses are editorial and follow those used by Kinsley. This composite text is based upon the texts in MF and RP. Mc47, K14, Bw3.

1 the Midsummer Evin. Midsummer's Eve, which was also St. John's Eve, occurred in the Middle Ages on the evening of June 23. Although the vigil preceding the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist should have been a time for serious reflection, Midsummer's Eve was commonly celebrated with dancing, bonfires, and other forms of revelry, activities often condemned by medieval preachers.

4 hawthorne treis. Hawthorns were often trimmed to create thick and thorny hedges. There may also be some pertinence to the fact that in fairy lore hawthorns are closely associated with magical occurrences.

5-7 This night-singing bird is probably the nightingale, a bird in medieval literature that often served to inspire romantic feelings. Given the nature of the feelings the three women will soon be expressing, there is irony in the use of this stock convention.

9 dirkin efter mirthis. "Rest quietly after merry-making"; apparently the narrator has been celebrating the evening also, which raises the possibility that what follows is a dream; often in dream-vision poems the narrator is lulled asleep by the fragrance of the flowers and the singing of birds.

10 donkit. Literally "dunked" but here meaning "moistened"; compare the ME Parliament of the Three Ages, line 10: "dewe appon dayses donkede full faire."

11 ane holyn hevinlie grein hewit. Like the hawthorn, the holly was also commonly associated with magic and fairy lore. In SGGK the Green Knight holds a holly sprig in one hand and an ax in the other (lines 206-09); that poem begins near the mid-winter festival, as this one does the mid-summer festival.

11-14 These successive verses all alliterate on the "h" sound, an example of what is sometimes called running alliteration.

14 The observer is also in close proximity to the hawthorn in Wynnere and Wastoure (line 36), Henryson's Fables (line 1729), and Lindsay's Papyngo (lines 187-89).

17 arbeir. Literally "arbor," but the word usually refers to a private grassy space located within a garden, often among trees. Compare the ME Pearl, lines 9-10: "Allas! I leste hyr in on erbere; / Thurgh gresse to grunde hit from me yot." Compare also The Kingis Quair, lines 211-24.

21-24 The women's tresses hang freely over their backs and shoulders but their heads are partially covered by kerchiefs. Their hair and their green apparel suggest the twenty-four dancing maidens in "To Princess Margaret" (Poem 32), lines 41-44. The color green may suggest freshness and innocence but also magic and fairy lore. Compare also The Golden Targe (Poem 65), lines 58-62.

27-29 Flower imagery is a highly traditional means of describing female beauty in medieval literature.

31 annamalit. Literally "enameled" but here meaning "brightly colored." Compare The Golden Targe (Poem 65), lines 13 and 250-51.

34-35 The table and the wine cups, like the fine ladies, are of great beauty and value.

36 wlonkes. This is a word often used in alliterative verse as an adjective meaning "lovely." It is commonly applied to women - compare Pistel of Swete Susan, line 26: "That wlonkest in weede." It is unusual for it to be used as a noun, as here.

37 wantoun. "Playful" or "jesting," but also "lascivious" or "lewd"; the ambiguity is surely intentional. Compare the use of the word in line 529.

39 Thay wauchtit at the wicht wyne and waris out wourdis. This line provides the first hint that these fine ladies may not be all that they seem, for the verb wauchtit, which means "quaffed" or "pulled at," does not strike a genteel note.

44 leyd upone lyf. I.e., (any) living person.

47 The "blessed bond that binds so fast" is of course marriage, which in the Middle Ages was considered permanent.

49-145 In these verses the first of the two married women presents her views of marriage and describes her personal experience of marriage.

53 "Chains are always to be avoided." This image of marriage as "chains" is fairly common; compare lines 9-16 of Chaucer's "Lenvoy de Chaucer a Bukton," and also Whiting C144. For the phrase "changes are sweet," compare the suggestion in line 20 of John Donne's "The Indifferent" that "love's sweetest part" is "variety."

56 God, gif matrimony. "God, if [only] marriage . . . "; or perhaps there should be no comma after God, the sense of the line being: "[It were] good if marriage were made to last for only a year," etc.

56-65 The First Wife's suggestion that marriage should only last a year reflects the fact that most species of birds re-mate on an annual basis. The springtime selection of those new mates is one of the central concerns in Chaucer's PF.

58 In ME texts the words kynd and nature are virtually synonymous and are often used interchangeably.

67 curage. The word has a wide range of meanings in ME texts, but in this poem it generally refers to "sexual desire" or "potency."

69 gent, richt joyus and gent. There is probably a scribal error in the repetition of gent.

70-75 The First Wife's behavior recalls the behavior of the Wife of Bath, who also delights in going "To prechyng eek, and to thise pilgrimages, / To pleyes of myracles, and to mariages" (CT III[D]557-58). Compare also line 474 below.

79 The First Wife refers to the traditional yoke of marriage (compare Chaucer's Merchant's Tale, CT IV[E]1283-85), but here she also likens the husband to a yoked animal used for plowing, a common metaphor for having sex.

80 preveit his pitht. "Proved or tested his sexual potency"; the Wife of Bath may also be using the word pith in the sense of "sexual vigor" in CT III(D)475.

81 kirk . . . markat. I.e., in every public place.

85-88 Note the running alliteration in these verses.

85 forky fure. The phrase is obscure, but the line seems to refer to a draft animal, and therefor fure may mean "furrow" or perhaps "furrower." The OED takes forky to be a variant of forcy, meaning "powerful, strong."

87 fresche of his forme as flouris in May. For this common simile compare the famous line in the description of Chaucer's Squire: "He was as fressh as is the month of May" (CT I[A]92); compare also Whiting F306.

89-145 Here the First Wife presents a portrait of her old, jealous, worthless husband - a literary type known as the senex amans. John the Carpenter in The Miller's Tale reflects this stock character, but the fullest literary example is January in The Merchant's Tale. Compare also Lydgate's Temple of Glas, lines 179-95.

90 wolroun. The term is clearly abusive, though the precise sense is uncertain.

91 Phlegm was one of the four bodily humors or fluids, and it was thought to be the dominant humor during old age. Compare line 272.

92 scabbit. Literally "having scabs" but figuratively meaning "worthless"; the word scutarde is obscure but may derive from the verb scout, "shoot, spurt," and thus may mean "one who pours out," i.e., "defecates"; compare the use of "schute" in line 451 of the Flyting (Poem 83).

94-95 Compare January's love-making in The Merchant's Tale (CT IV[E]1823-27).

94 Compare the Flyting (Poem 83), line 184.

97 to the syn assent. As Bawcutt observes, this is a "sarcastic use of theological terminology" (Bw 2.288). Compare The Pistel of Swete Susan.

101-17 In these verses the First Wife portrays her husband as being a devil or an incubus demon.

101 Mahowne. Literally Muhammad, who was commonly viewed by medieval Christians as a pagan god, though many writers used his name as a synonym for the Devil. Compare the Flyting (Poem 83), line 233; "The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins" (Poem 77), lines 6, 27, 109; and "The Antichrist" (Poem 51), line 32.

105-08 Again compare the description of January's love-making in CT IV(E)1823-27.

107 A heckle was an implement used to comb out flax during an early stage in the process of making linen. See Henryson's Fables, lines 1825-29.

112 Belzebub. I.e., Beelzebub, the "Lord of the Flies," a Syrian deity (4 Kings [2 Kings] 1:2); he was often viewed as being the devil's chief deputy, if not the devil himself. Compare also Matthew 12:24.

113 smake smolet. A phrase of uncertain meaning, but the context suggests something like "ugly mug" or "wicked smile."

114 "He pushes out his lower lip like a sick old horse leering at a filly." Farcy refers to an equine ailment involving, among other things, nasal discharge.

120 gib. "Cat"; in later Scots usage the term denotes a castrated tomcat.

127 Venus werkis. "Venus' works," i.e., "sexual acts." Compare CT IV[E]1971, and Destruction of Troy, lines 753-54.

128 May similarly "preyseth nat [January's] pleyyng worth a bene" in The Merchant's Tale (CT IV[E]1854).

131-41 The First Wife's refusal to grant her husband any sexual favors until she has received payment in the form of rich gifts is a tactic also employed by the Wife of Bath (CT III[D]407-16). Compare: RR 13663-14546 on the old Duenna's advice toward securing gifts.

135-36 Wordplays involving pen and purse - for penis and scrotum - are common. Compare CT III(D)44a-44b, and IV(E)1736-37.

141 rousty raid. "An armed incursion" but also "an incompetent mounting"; compare the similar suggestion of impotence implied by the Reeve's "rusty blade" in his portrait in the General Prologue (CT I[A]620).

142 Johne Blunt. Scottish slang for a simpleton ("blunt" means "dull" or "slow-witted"), but there is surely sexual double entendre here as well.

145 syre. It is possible to read a pun on the term sire as meaning not just "man," "husband," or "lord," but also "sire" in the sense of a "male parent of a quadruped," though the earliest attribution given by the OED for this meaning is 1523. This alternative reading is certainly fitting as the First Wife has already described her husband in bestial terms (see, for example, lines 131 and 137) and is currently describing how he "mounts" her. It hardly needs pointing out that associating him with a stallion is here an insult to his humanity, not a compliment to his sexuality. The Widow likewise disparagingly refers to having sex with one of her deceased husbands as being "loppin with sic a lob avoir" ("mounted by such a clumsy horse" - line 387).

147 leuch apon loft. A common alliterative phrase; compare Rauf Coilyear, line 739, and Holland's Howlat, line 828.

161-238 The Second Wife's marital confession, which requires seventy-seven verses, is longer and more elaborate and more scurrilous than that of the First Wife; the Widow's confession, which comes last, far surpasses them both in every respect.

161 Her assertion that "there is no spy near" is of course incorrect, and serves to remind us of the narrator, securely hidden in the hedge, whose mental recorder is functioning very well.

162-67 I sall a ragment reveil . . . that suellit wes gret. The Second Wife employs the imagery of pregnancy, but she is only pregnant with resentment, not child. The dichotomy underscores her husband's general lack of virility.

164-67 Her sentiments here are strikingly similar to those expressed by Dunbar in his petition poem "Against the Solicitors at Court" (Poem 45), lines 85-88. Compare also the sentiments of King Midas' wife in The Wife of Bath's Tale: "Hir thoughte it swal so soore aboute hir herte / That nedely som word hire moste asterte" (CT III[D]967-68).

168 hur maister. Not a "whoremaster" in the usual sense, but rather a frequenter of whores. The Second Wife's husband is a worn-out lecher who bears some resemblance to the Wife of Bath's fourth husband, a "revelour" who had a mistress (CT III[D]453).

183 Venus chalmer. "Venus' chamber," a common sexual euphemism; compare the Wife of Bath's statement: "I koude noght withdrawe / My chambre of Venus from a good felawe" (CT III[D]617-18). A lady's chamber was a small private room connected to her bower (i.e., bedroom). Compare also lines 430-31.

185 I.e., "He looks like a man who would make a fine lover, though he is of little worth."

186 dotit dog. This is apparently a traditional figure for describing lecherous old would-be lovers. Chaucer uses it also in The Parson's Tale when he says the hound, "whan he comth by the roser . . . though he may nat pisse, yet wole he heve up his leg" (CT X[I]858), referring to "olde dotardes holours" (CT X[I]857).

195 God wait quhat I think quhen he so thra spekis. Compare The Merchant's Tale: "But God woot what that May thoughte in hir herte" (CT IV[E]1851).

197-98 The sense of these verses is difficult, and the repetition of bot may indicate textual corruption. Perhaps the meaning is something like: "Unless he himself one evening might make some (sexual) attempt on one of them; but he is not such a person, not one who possesses their natural powers (i.e., virility)."

201 geit. "Jet"; jet is a hard, dense form of coal; in Dunbar's time it was often polished into black beads used in inexpensive jewelry.

202 He had the glemyng of gold and wes bot glase fundin. Proverbial; compare Whiting G282.

203 ferse. "Fierce"; i.e., "eager with desire."

206 The earliest recorded references to St. Valentine as the patron saint of lovers and mating birds occurs in such fourteenth-century poems as Chaucer's PF and The Complaint of Mars, and Oton de Granson's Le Songe Saint Valentin. There is nothing in the legend of the early Christian martyr to explain why he became associated with amorous feelings, aside from the fact that his feast day occurs in the early spring on 14 February, about the time that birds would actually be selecting their new mates.

232 geir. For the use of this term in a sexual sense, compare "These Fair Ladies That Repair to Court" (Poem 73), line 32.

234 straik. "Strike" or "stroke," here clearly used as a sexual metaphor, though normally a term more appropriate for military usage.

236 werkit. "Worked," but here used in the sense of "ached."

238 bird. A common term in romance poetry for an attractive young woman. Compare Chaucer's Romaunt, line 1014, Sir Degrevaunt, line 701, or Erle of Tolous, line 844.

bourd. "A jest"; the Second Wife's point is that the love-making would be so good that there would be nothing to make jokes about.

245-504 These verses contain the Widow's monologue, which has its closest counterpart, not in the confessions of the first two wives, but in the self-exposé of Chaucer's Wife of Bath.

247-50 This is the Widow's invocation, which draws upon the stock phrases of medieval preachers; indeed, what she presents to the other two wives amounts to a kind of mock-sermon, as well as a parody of a saint's life. See A. A. MacDonald, "Al-literative Poetry," p. 269

250 And mak yow mekar to men in maneris and conditiounis. This verse is of course ironic, for her intent is not at all to make the women she is "preaching" to be meeker in their behavior and attitudes toward men.

257 Unto my lesson ye lyth and leir at me wit. Here, too, the Widow presents herself as a preacher who is instructing her less experienced audience.

260-69 These verses recall the ironic advice to women contained in the envoi to The Clerk's Tale, CT IV(E)1183-1206.

262 turtoris. The turtle dove, one of the few species of birds that mates for life, was a symbol of marital fidelity and of constancy in love. See PF lines 582-83 "'Nay, God forbede a lovere shulde chaunge!' / The turtle seyde, and wex for shame al red."

talis. For "tails" as the female sex organs, compare CT III(D)467 and CT VII(B2) 416 and 434, and Piers Plowman B.3.131. Kinsley cites as a further example "cocke Lorelles Bote" (ca. 1515), line 14: "Many whyte nonnes with whyte vayles / That was full wanton of theyr tayles," noting the bilingual pun on tail, from OE tægl, for posterior extremity of an animal, and OF taille, for a cut or division (p. 269).

263-64 The Widow here echoes Christ's words to the Apostles: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves" (Matthew 10:16-17). Like the Wife of Bath, the Widow employs Scripture for her own purposes. The dove - possibly distinct from the "turtle" - was a symbol of meekness. Compare "To a Lady" (Poem 63), lines 36-37.

269 nought worth a hen. A common expression for something of little value; compare the Wife of Bath's "nat worth an hen," CT III(D)1112, and Whiting H347. See also the Monk's scornful "He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen" CT I(A)177.

270-409 In this section of her speech the Widow presents her marital autobiography; like the Wife of Bath, she successively characterizes each of her marriages - in her case two rather than five. Her first husband was senile and impotent and resembles the Wife of Bath's first three husbands (CT III[D]272-95).

273 I hatit him like a hund thought I it hid prevé. Compare Whiting H585.

274 kissing . . . clapping. "Kissing and clipping (embracing)" a common collocation in medieval works, especially in romances: see, e.g., The Merchant's Tale, CT IV(E)2413; Emaré, lines 212, 1020; Floris and Blancheflour, line 503; and Malory (Works, p. 168).

275 claw his cruke bak. "Scratch his crooked back"; i.e., to "cause him pleasure," or to "flatter him." Compare the Cook's response to the Reeve in the Canterbury Tales: "For joye him thoughte he clawed him on the bak" (I[A]4326).

277 bler his . . . e. A common expression meaning "to cheat or trick"; compare the Miller's remark in The Reeve's Tale: "They wene that no man may hem bigyle, / But by my thrift, yet shal I blere hir ye" (CT I[A]4048-49); and compare Henryson's Fables, line 2041, and Whiting E217.

283-87 The Widow boasts openly of having a youthful lover, something the Wife of Bath only hints at. The Widow's greater candor may reflect the fact that she is speaking privately to a select audience of kindred spirits, whereas the Wife of Bath is speaking publicly to a much broader audience.

284 couth be secrete and sure and ay saif my honour. The Widow's concern for her reputation had practical implications, but it also mirrors the discretion required of courtly lovers engaging in an affair.

289 Bot leit the sueit ay the sour to gud sesone bring. Compare King Hart, lines 657-58.

291-93 The Widow's husband, out of devotion to her, leaves his finest manor house to their child, even though he is not (unbeknownst to him) the one who had fathered the child.

296-410 The Widow now discusses her second marriage, to a wealthy middle-aged merchant whom she considered her social inferior.

298-302 Here the Widow lists the several ways in which she believed herself to be her husband's superior; and she says she made sure that he never forgot it.

305 I.e., "I appeared to be very vivacious by the time I had reached the age of maturity." The phrase perfit eild refers to the age at which a person is considered legally competent; for a girl this was usually twelve, for a boy fourteen.

307-08 She suggests that this clergyman has gone on to achieve considerable prominence in the church, a subtle piece of anti-clerical satire on Dunbar's part.

309 I gert the buthman obey. This verse, as well as many others, reflects her condescending attitude toward her lowly "shopkeeper" of a husband.

316 never bot in a gentill hert is generit ony ruth. This verse echoes the famous line used several times in The Canterbury Tales that "pitee renneth soone in gentil herte" (I[A]1761). The Widow's mercy, however, is motivated by something other than her innate nobility. Compare "To a Lady" (Poem 63), lines 41-42.

319 "He dared not disregard my summons." The Widow's statement, couched in legal terminology, demonstrates her practical wisdom in dealing with the exigencies of experience.

321-28 The Widow's comments on her "womanly nature" are similar to sentiments expressed by the Wife of Bath - that those things that are easily attained are soon despised, while things difficult to attain are greatly desired; compare the Wife of Bath in CT III(D)517-24.

323 or I him faith gaif. I.e., "before I was betrothed to him."

331 I wald haif riddin him to Rome with raip in his heid. The Widow's domination of her husband, reflected in the image of her riding him like a bridled horse, reverses the usual relationship between the sexes during the Middle Ages. It certainly calls to mind the popular imagery of the ridden man (for example, Aristotle and Phyllis) as a misogynist visualization of women's wiles; for more on the trope, see Natalie Zemon Davis, "Women on Top," in Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975), pp. 124-51. The phrase to Rome implies a very great distance (compare Whiting R182); Rome was also an important pilgrimage site for medieval Christians, one of several visited by the Wife of Bath.

332 Wer not ruffill of my renoune and rumour of pepill. The Widow's hostility toward her husband, she says, was only held in check by her fear of public opinion.

338 hie burrow landis. "Tall burgh buildings"; probably tenements within the city. The Widow's husband obviously had extensively property holdings.

344-48 The Widow has concealed her true attitude toward her husband until the legal documents conferring his property on her child were signed, sealed, and delivered. Then she permits her pent-up anger to erupt.

347 bauchles. The word's meaning is debated, but it seems to be a legal term pertaining to the transfer of property or money.

351-52 The reversal of their sex-roles has now been completed.

355-57 The Widow's husband has become a thoroughly subdued, properly behaving packhorse; he is no longer one that casts the baskets slung across his back into the midden (line 355), or that is skittish or nervous or skips to the side (line 357).

362 lumbart. "Banker" or "financier"; the term derives from Lombardy, an important center of banking during the later Middle Ages. Compare Piers Plowman C.4.194.

379 pako. The peacock was a traditional symbol of vanity; compare Whiting P280, and CT I(A)3926, describing Symkyn in The Reeve's Tale.

382 papingay. The popinjay or parrot, like the peacock, was deemed vain and proud of its colorful plumage, as well as being a bird given to the pursuit of sensuous pleasures. In contrast, the husband is called a plukit herle ("plucked heron"), a bird that has been stripped bare. Herons were often hunted in falconry.

384 maid a stalwart staff to strik himselfe doune. Compare the proverbial saying, "to make a rod with which to beat yourself"; Whiting S652.

389 thing. A euphemism for her sex organs. The Wife of Bath uses similar euphemisms: e.g., "oure bothe thynges smale / Were eek to knowe a femele from a male" (CT III[D]121-22); and "For if I wolde selle my bele chose, / I koude walke as fressh as is a rose" (CT III[D]447-48).

403 his first wif. Her husband, we here learn, was himself a widower when the Widow married him; this fact lends greater poignancy to her efforts to gain for her own children all of his money and property, while depriving the children of his first marriage of their inheritance.

405 heid at feid. Literally "had at feud" but probably meaning "held in contempt." Compare Holland's Howlat, line 61.

408-09 "And yet these wise men, they know that all evil wives are given to such behavior and recognized for behaving in such a fashion" - i.e., their cruel treatment of their stepchildren.

410-14 Compare the sentiments of Sprowtok in Henryson's fable of the "Cock and the Fox," Fables, lines 509-22.

412 Ironically, the verse carries religious overtones; compare "Be myrthfull now at all your mycht, / For passit is your dully nycht" in "On the Nativity of Christ" (Poem 1), lines 36-37.

415-21 The Widow's false mourning has many literary counterparts, but compare especially the Wife of Bath, CT III(D)587-92.

423 As foxe in a lambis fleise. A proverbial expression that originates in Matthew 7:15; compare Whiting W474. Compare also "Tidings from the Session" (Poem 74), line 37, and "A Wooing in Dunfermline" (Poem 69), line 59.

424-25 The Widow's book is probably an illuminated book of hours; she carries it more as a symbol of her noble status - i.e., for show - rather than for devotional purposes.

429 best brand. I.e., "the most brawny" or "the best muscled"; brawn originally referred to the chest muscles of a boar, but the word came to mean "brawny" in general.

430-31 "Or [who] has been made most powerfully to furnish a banquet / in Venus' chamber" - colorful sexual metaphors. Compare "To the Queen" (Poem 70), line 7.

433-34 Compare the description of Chaucer's Criseyde in TC 1.174-75.

437-39 Women were often thought to have the ability to shed tears whenever necessary - the Wife of Bath even calls weeping one of God's three gifts to women (CT III[D]401) - but the Widow's tears seems to need a bit of extra help - what A. A. MacDonald wittily calls "do-it-yourself lachrymosity" (1994, p. 268).

443 perle of plesance. Compare the opening verse of the ME Pearl: "Perle, plesaunte to prynces paye."

444 Compare "Women are in church saints, abroad angels, at home devils" (Tilley W702).

452 bejaip. "Fool" or "deceive," often implying "to cuckold" or deceive sexually; compare CT IX(H)144-45.

460 Faith has a fair name bot falsheid faris beittir. This verse sounds very much like a proverbial expression.

464 happy. I.e., "good-fortuned" or "lucky" or "well-off."

465 The Widow heaps scorn upon the woman who has reached the age of a hundred but continues to be a foolish girl in regard to the strategies of love and sex, especially the importance of keeping it secret. Bawcutt notes that "this perverts a much-glossed scriptural text (Isaiah 65:20)" (Bw 2.294).

471 solace under serk. "Joy beneath my gown" - i.e., good sex; there is clever word-play on her "cair under cloke" (line 470) during the day and her "joy under gown" during the night.

476-502 In her grand finale, the Widow touts her ability to satisfy a thik thrang ("thick throng" - line 488) of would-be wooers simultaneously. Like the Wife of Bath, who "ne loved nevere by no discrecioun, / But evere folwede myn appetit, / Al were he short, or long, or blak, or whit" (CT III[D]622-24), the Widow is also happy to bestow her favors upon virtually all comers, regardless of their social rank (lines 497-98).

479 And fyllis me wyne wantonly with weilfair and joy. Perhaps pertinent here is the Wife of Bath's observation that "In wommen vinolent is no defence," for "A likerous mouth moste han a likerous tayl" (CT III[D]467, 466).

484 Serving and carving at table were important social skills, and these duties were often performed by youthful squires such as Chaucer's Squire (CT I[A]99-100).

485-86 This vulgar behavior stands in stark contrast to the genteel behavior in the preceding verse.

489 fair calling. "Warm welcome"; compare the figure of Bialacoil in RR, and The Golden Targe (Poem 65), line 188.

497-502 Kinsley argues that in these verses the Widow's salon "is exposed as a brothel" (K, p. 273); more likely, though, the Widow is having a good time parading before her friends as a woman with voracious appetites and a sexual ego to match.

498 luf unluffit. I.e., "love without being loved in returned"; this is a common phrase to describe unrequited love.

500 That he be lost or with me lak, his lif sall not danger. One of the standard clichés of courtly love poetry was that the wooer would die if his ardor was not satisfied. Chaucer also parodies this sentiment with "hende" Nicholas' remark to Alisoun, "Ywis, but if ich have my wille, / For deerne love of thee, lemman, I spille" (CT I[A]3277-78).

501-02 The Widow, wittingly or unwittingly, is parodying the Beatitude from the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Matthew 5:7).

502 Sabot. The best explanation is that this means "God" and is derived from the biblical phrase Dominus Sabaoth ("Lord God of Hosts") in Isaias 1:9, Romans 9:29, etc. Also, Bawcutt notes that in "Bartholomaeus Anglicus, I. 19, on the names of God: 'the thridde name is Sabaoth'" (Bw 2.295).

504 legeand. "Story," but also carrying the ironic meaning of "saint's life." Compare the comment of the merchant's wife to the monk in Chaucer's Shipman's Tale: "Thanne wolde I telle a legende of my lyf / What I have suffred sith I was a wyf" (CT VII[B2]145-46).

507-08 The practice of women being instructed by the secret teachings of other women and then following their advice is also reflected in The Wife of Bath's Prologue: "I folwed ay my dames loore, / As wel of this as of othere thynges moore" (CT III[D]583-84).

512-22 The narrator returns to the opening description of nature in all of its beauty and perfection, completing the framework which surrounds the women's conversation.

515 Silver schouris. These are drops of dew. Compare The Golden Targe (Poem 65), line 14.

516-18 The birds rejoice at the coming of the dawn. Compare The Golden Targe (Poem 65), lines 20-21.

522 kindill agane his curage thoght it wer cald sloknyt. In light of all that the narrator has just overheard, his curage - his sexual vitality - might well have "slackened cold" and require some "rekindling."

523 rais thir ryall rosis in ther riche wedis. The irony in this line, too, is inescapable.

525 I all prevély past to a plesand arber. Could he now be occupying the very place in which the women were recently disporting themselves - a kind of amusing effort at appropriation of their private domain?

526 with my pen did report. I.e., "recorded in writing"; Dunbar also uses the phrase in line 69 of "A Wooing in Dunfermline" (Poem 69). (There may be some irony in the fact that earlier in the poem the word "pen" - line 135 - had been used to refer to the penis.)

527-30 Here the narrator, or perhaps Dunbar, presents his audience with the traditional demaunde d'amore - "which of these three lively ladies would you wish to marry?" The answer, of course, is not hard to come by. The ironic use of this device may have a parallel in the Franklin's question at the conclusion to his tale: "Lordynges, this question, thanne, wol I aske now, / Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?" (CT V[F]1621-22).

WILLIAM DUNBAR: THE COMPLETE WORKS: TEXTUAL NOTES

Abbreviations: See Explanatory Notes.

Poem 1 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 27r-27v.
8 puer. MS: power. I follow the Vulgate spelling, as do Mc, K, Bw.
24 Refrain abbreviated. So also with lines 32 and 40.
33 fowlis. MS: flour canceled; fowlis written after.
45-46 These verses are written in the margin.
51 fische. So Bw. MS: fiche, corrected to fische. Mc, K read fishe.
Colophon Finis. Quod Dumbar.

Poem 2 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 203-07; with emendations from Asloan MS, fols. 290v-292r and Arundel MS, fols. 168r-170r.
3 And knelit. So As, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: And kneling.
19 ruge. So As and Ar, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: rage.
42 syne. So Mc. MS: syn, followed by K, Bw.
51 to. So As, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: he.
57 bak. MS: bayth canceled before.
59 hyd. So As, followed by K, Bw. MS: syd, followed by Mc.
70 Him all nakit. So As and Ar, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: at him all nathing.
77 and2. Canceled in MS, but I follow As in retaining it.
94 As martir. So As, followed by Mc, K. MS: Ane martirdome, followed by Bw.
96 As ends here with Explicit Dunbar.
103 bludy. So Ar. MS: ane wound, followed by Mc, K. Bw substitutes bludy for ane.
117 The Lord. So Ar, followed by Bw. MS: That schort, followed by Mc, K.
129 Grace. So Ar, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: Grudge.
139 that steid. MS: part thair canceled before.
Colophon Finis quod Dunbar.

Poem 3 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fol. 35r.
2 confountit. MS: coun canceled before.
11 his. MS: þe canceled before.
13 clowis. So K, Bw. MS: clows, followed by Mc.
16 Refrain is abbreviated. So also with lines 24 and 32.
20 as a gyane. So K, Bw. MS: as gyane, followed by Mc.
Colophon Finis quod Dunbar.

Poem 4 Base Text: Asloan MS, fols. 303r-304v.
11 matern. The last three letters are barely legible in the MS, but all modern editors (Mc, K, Bw) read matern.
36 irke. MS: il canceled before.
63 vyce. So Mc, K. MS: wyce, followed by Bw, who glosses"wise".
Colophon Quod Dunbar.

Poem 5 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fol. 278v.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 6 Base Text: Arundel MS, fols. 161r-162v.
8 thee. Supplied, following Mc. K, Bw supply the.
11 that. Supplied, following Mc, K. Bw follows MS.
14 confessour. So K, Bw. MS: confessioun, followed by Mc.
19 schrift. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: schift.
48 hert. Supplied, following Mc, K, Bw.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 7 Base Text: Arundel MS, fols. 1r-4v; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fols. 17v-19v & Maitland Folio, pp. 199-203.
4 schryve. K reads schrife. MS: schir.
7 Thy. MS: my canceled before.
10 Thy. Supplied from B, BD, MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
excelling. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. K reads exelling. MS: excellent.
18 Synnis. So MS, followed by K, Bw. Mc reads synnys.
schrif. So MS, followed by K, Bw. Mc reads schirryve.
27 nor. So B, BD, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: þe.
30 the deid. So B, BD, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: I did.
33 Marcy. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: Mary.
Spirituall. MS: and canceled before.
34 teching. MS: consall canceled before.
35 nor. MS: r added above the line.
37 saulis. MS: we canceled before.
37 preching. So K. MS: peching. Bw follows B, BD, MF: Nor vnto saulis support of my praying. Mc reads (without explanation): Nor to my rychtbowris support of my praying.
43 Eucarist. So K, Bw. MS: vnacrist. Mc reads Holy Supper from B, BD.
exellence. So K, Bw. MS: exelling. Emendation based on rhyme; the line is not in MF.
44 Pennence. So K, Bw. MS: pennce.
45 Matremony. So K, Bw. MS: Matromony.
63 pointis. So K, Bw. Mc reads poynttis. MS: pontis.
70 quhair. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: quair.
71 befoir. So Mc, Bw. MS: befor, followed by K.
85-86 These verses are transposed in MS. See Mc, Bw. The lines are not in MF, B, BD.
99 remembring. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: remembing.
100 Hevinnis. So K. MS five minims rather than six. Mc reads hevenis; Bw reads hevinns.
hiddous feid. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. BD: hidduous sede. MS: having confide.
111 on Rude. Supplied from B, BD, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
redeming. So B, BD, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: redempcioun.
122-23 These verses are transposed in MS.
123 gud. So B, followed by Mc. MS: my, followed by K, Bw.
125 Miswritten line is canceled and then written correctly.
invencionis bredyng. So B, BD, MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: invenconis ledyng (after canceled line), followed by K.
129 Of. So B, BD, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: O.
141-42 These verses are transposed in MS. So K. Bw orders the lines 139, 141, 140, 142; Mc uses this same order but follows B line 140 (In hurt or slawchter, gif I be) as line 141.
147 as scho. So B, BD, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: eschew.
weipe. So K. Mc reads weip. MS: veipe, followed by Bw.
155 unmannyit. So Bw. MS: vnmannrit. Mc follows B, BD: unmen3eit, glossing"unmanned." K reads unmen3it.
156 Bot felling. So Bw. K reads Bot feiling. Mc follows B, BD: Bot fall in.
157 hart a. So B, BD, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: hertis, followed by K.
166 sailis. So Mc. MS: saillis, followed by K, Bw.
168 I cry. So K. MS: I crcy. B, BD, MF: That cryis, followed by Mc, Bw.
laser. So K, Bw. Mc reads lasar. MS: I laser.
Colophon Heir endis the tabill of confessioun compilit be Mr William Dunber.

Poem 8 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fol. 48v.
8 Refrain abbreviated. So also with lines 20, 28, 32, 36.
34 Written to the right of line 33 in MS.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 9 Base Test: Bannatyne MS, fols. 47r-47v; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 193-94.
28 that all devouris. Added in a later hand in MS.
44 dryve. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 10 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 326.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 11 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 195-96.
22 dissolvit. MS: no canceled before.
Colophon Finis quod Dunbar.

Poem 12 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 310.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 13 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 5-6; emendations from Maitland Folio b, p. 315.
1 warld. MS: l inserted above the line.
7 seasoun. MS: written in the margin to correct sessione.
16 Verse supplied from MFb, following Mc, K, Bw; it has been cut away in MS.
17 cairis. MS: ch canceled before.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 14 Base Text: The Rouen Print, b3r-b4v; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fols. 109r-110r and Maitland Folio, pp. 189-92.
8 Refrain abbreviated here and in most subsequent stanzas.
9 and. In several instances MF reads et for and. See also lines 17, 18, 22, 38, 42, 51, 54 (twice), 58, 59, and 69.
15 vanité. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: vainte.
17 Onto. So Mc, Bw. K: One to. Print: On, with a macron over the n.
21 knychtis. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: knythis.
26 Takis. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: Tak.
on. So Mc, Bw. K: one. Print: on, with a macron over the n.
34 clerk. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: clcerk.
46 pageant. So Print, followed by Mc, K. Bw follows B, MF: pad3anis.
49 hes. So Mc. Print: has, followed by K, Bw.
62 that. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: taht.
70 Slaine. So Mc, Bw. K: Slane. Print: Slame.
71 fle. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: only.
Colophon Quod Dunbar quhen he wes sek.

Poem 15 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 318-19.
5 sangis. So Mc, K. MS: sangs, followed by Bw.
6 lenthin. Bw reads lenth in.
43 blys. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: blyiz.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 16 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 84r-85r; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 331-33.
10 may. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: ma, followed by K.
15 Refrain abbreviated here and in all subsequent stanzas.
26 nobilité. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: nobiltie. K reads nobilitie.
37 lordis. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: lord.
38 Trewthe. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: trewth, followed by K.
39 Honour. Supplied from MF, followed by K. Mc, Bw reject MS line entirely and follow MF: Exylit is honour of the toun, thereby avoiding the Latinate exul of MS.
43 lukis. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: luke.
47 hairtis. So MS, followed by K. MF: hartis, followed by Mc, Bw.
48 ar maid of blew. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: of amiable blyth.
72 sunt. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
84 Tu regni da imperium. So MS, followed by K. MF: Bot me ressaue in regnum tuum, followed by Mc, Bw.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 17 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fol. 98v; emendations from Maitland Folio, p. 337.
8 it. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
11 man. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: men.
15 Refrain abbreviated here and in subsequent stanzas.
16 Quha. Corrected from Quhen in MS.
39 frawdfull. MS: d inserted above the line.
Colophon Quod Dunbar.

Poem 18 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 307; emendations from Reidpeth.
18 maist sall. So R, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: sall sonast it.
28 us imprent. So MS, followed by Mc, K. R: ws be lent, followed by Bw.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 19 Base Text: Aberdeen Minute Book, III, pp. 321-22; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fols. 98r-98v.
5 nycht. Supplied from B, following Mc, K, Bw.
23 michtely. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: michely.
28 thar. Supplied from B, following Mc, K, Bw.
29 uthiris cum. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: tothir.
31 Verse supplied from B, following Mc, Bw. K follows MF with Thairfoir be glaid, and spend with mirrie face.
37 ragment. So B, followed by Mc, K. Bw reads regimen. MS: regiment.
39 as ony. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: has.

Poem 20 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 115v-116r.
15 Refrain is abbreviated here and in line 20.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 21 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 136r-136v. Bw uses MF as base text.
7 it. MS: h canceled before.
8 quhill. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: altered to quhen.
12 Refrain is abbreviated here and in lines 16, 20, 24, 28, and 36.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 22 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 64v-65r.
12 Refrain abbreviated here and in lines 16, 28, 32, 36, and 40.
20 Bw follows MF for this line: Is now bot cair and covetyce.
29 heill. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: eill.
30 sald. MS: suld canceled before.
Colophon Finis.

Poem 23 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 63v-64r.
8 thai. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: I.
18 he. So MFb, followed by K. MS: hie, followed by Mc, Bw as a regular spelling for"he," though not an eye-rhyme.
21 I. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
32 streiche. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: screiche.
40 tyme. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 24 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 323-24, but with the sequence of stanzas fol-lowing the arrangement in the Bannatyne MS (fols. 65v-66v). In Maitland the sequence is 1-25, 36-40, 26-30, 31-35, 41-50. The fourth stanza in Maitland is here deleted, also in accordance with Bannatyne.
3 Bw follows B: I can not leif in no degre.
6 and. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: ane. Bw follows B for the entire line: Gif I be galland, lusty, and blyth.
14 lad. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: laid.
16 A stanza in MF is here deleted; as K observes, this stanza is not integral and disturbs the rhetorical pattern of the poem; this stanza, which is here printed (punctuation added), is not found in B:

 

Be I liberall, gentill, and kynd,
Thocht I it tak of nobill strynd,
3it will thai say, baythe he and he,
3on man is lyke out of his mynd:
Lord god, how sall I gowerne me?
 

19 This line supplied from B, following Mc, K, Bw.
31 gif. So K, Bw. B: than, followed by Mc.
31-35 This stanza appears as stanza number six in MF, with a different first line: And gif sum tyme rewarde gif I.
Colophon finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 25 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 68r-69r.
4 speiche. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: speice.
10 trewth2. MS: f canceled before.
14 vyle. So Mc, Bw. MS: vyld is corrected to vyle, though K reads vyld.
40 can. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: gan.
46 do. So K, Bw. MS: to, followed by Mc.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 26 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 61r-61v, with emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 259-60.
7 Gif me. So Mc, K. MF: Gif me, gif me, followed by Bw.
rane. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: drene, followed by K.
15 Refrain is abbreviated here and in lines 30 and 35.
16-20 This stanza is omitted in MF.
24 serve. So Mc, K. MF: suffise, followed by Bw.
33 or. So Mc, K. MF, BD: but, followed by Bw.
36 Ye. Separated within the line by virgules.
38 tyme. MS: tha canceled before.
43 Gife. So Mc, K. Bw reads Gif.
44 fecht. So Mc, K. MF: flytt, followed by Bw.
Colophon Finis of asking. Followis discrecioun of geving.

Poem 27 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 61v-62v, with emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 260-61.
11 and sum for threit. So MF, followed by K, Bw. Mc omits and. MS: sum chereit, with chereit corrected from chereitie.
15 Refrain abbreviated here and in lines 20, 30, 35, 45, 50, and 55.
23 And for a. So Mc, K. BD: And for sic, followed by Bw.
he. So MF, followed by Mc, K. MS: hie, followed by Bw.
31-35 This stanza is lacking in MF.
34 His. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Is.
36 faces. So MF, followed by K, Bw. MS: face, followed by Mc.
38 servandis. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: serwandis.
48 he. So Mc, K. MS: hie, followed by Bw. The whole line in MF reads he ken weill the contrarie.
51 thewis. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. K reads kewis. MS: gud kewis.
53 knaiffis. So MF, followed by Mc, K. Bw reads knavis. MS: knaw his.
59 hes na wit thamselffe. So MF, followed by Mc, K. Bw emends to thame na wit hes thame. MS: he na wit hes thame.
Colophon Finis of discretioun of geving. Followis discretioun in taking.

Poem 28 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 62v-63r.
16 mens. So Bw. Mc, K follow MF: menis.
19 Quhill. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: Quhilk.
20 Refrain abbreviated here and in lines 25 and 30.
21 sum. Supplied, following K.
32 Bw follows MF: And not 3it can be satisfied.
37 Ar. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: At.
38 And peur. So Mc, K. MF: Quhair small, followed by Bw.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 29 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 9-10.
8 Ane. So K. The parchment is blemished. Mc and Bw read A.
prosperité. MS: sp canceled before.
10-11 Full line cancellation of The theologgis sermon, due to eyeskip.
11 filosophicall. MS: off canceled before.
12 astronomy. K reads astronamy. Mc, Bw read astronomie.
13 fablis. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: fable.
14 selfe. So Mc, Bw. MS: salff. K reads selff.
15 flouris. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: floris.
20 owr. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: 3our.
21 frustar is yowr. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: corrected to vain is all your, but the original reading is preferable.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 30 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 342v-345r.
45-46 B repeats the phrase full hestely (full hestely besene / . . . full haistely I went). Most editors treat the repetition as eyeskip error and alter one line or the other. Bw emends line 45 to full fresche and weill besene; Mc emends line 46 to eftir hir I went, followed by K.
67 scharp. Not in MS. Schipper's emendation, followed by K, to repair the meter.
81 seche. So MS, followed by Bw. Mc, K emend to feche, an attractive alternative.
92 full. MS: corrected from wes; wes added after terrible.
104 chief. So K. MS: cheif, followed by Mc, Bw.
the woddis. MS omits the, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
111 for. MS: fow canceled before.
115 le. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: la.
119 parcere. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: proceir.
124 wycht. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: wychtcht.
135 hald. So Bw. MS: thow hald, followed by Mc, K.
143 thyne. So Mc, K. Bw reads thy.
155 clarefeid. MS: clarf canceled before.
182 Chryst. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Crhyst.
184 awoilk. MS: wen canceled before.
Colophon Explicit quod Dumbar.

Poem 31 Base Text: British Library Royal MS 58, fols. 17v-18r.
15 spreit. So K. MS: seqete. Mc reads secrete.

Poem 32 Base Text: Aberdeen Minute Book, II, p. 460.
Colophon quod Dunbar.

Poem 33 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fols. 7r-7v.
3 upheyt. Supplied, following Bw. Mc, K add ascendit.
26 with. MS: with is written twice.
33 stour. So Mc, K. MS stor, followed by Bw.
35 large. MS: full canceled before.
37 royall Stewartis. Supplied, following K. Laing conjectured nobill Stewartis, followed by Mc. Bw emends to stok ryell.
43 gold. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: cold.
44 all browderit. So R, followed by Mc, Bw. K emends to browderit all.
bravelie. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: brav, with a prior cancelation. Emendation based on rhyme.
47 halsand. MS: husband. I follow Bw's emendation; Mc and K emend to saluand.
51 playit. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: plyayit.
54 schene. Supplied, following Mc, K, Bw.
63 Coverit. MS is corrected from Cunyeitt.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 34 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fol. 238v.
10 day the. MS is defective; I follow K's (and Laing's) emendation. Mc omits.
21 persoun. MS: renoun canceled before.
24 Refrain is abbreviated.
37 wyse and trew. MS: fair of hew canceled before.
38 out all. Written twice in MS.
Colophon Finis.

Poem 35 Base Text: Chepman & Myllar Print, pp. 171-74.
56 glorie. So Mc, K. Print: gloire, followed by Bw.
63 fortunate. Print: fortunable, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
69 knyghtheid. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: knyghteid.

Poem 36 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fols. 6v-7r.
3 Stewart. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: stewar.
7 him. Inserted above the line in MS.
13 Turkas. So K. MS: turk, followed by Mc, Bw.
21 stour. So Mc, K. MS: stoir, followed by Bw.
23 chois. So Mc, K. MS: schois, followed by Bw.
32 chavelrie. So Bw. Mc, K: chevelrie. MS: chabelrie.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 37 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fols. 2v-3r.
11 Evir. MS: and canceled before.
16 New. Supplied, following Mc, K, Bw.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 38 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 194-95.
7 hard. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: hart.
Colophon Finis quod Dunbar.

Poem 39 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 113v-114r.
15 Refrain abbreviated here and in line 25.
Colophon Quod Dumbar to the king.

Poem 40 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 316 (MFb); emendations from Maitland Folio a, p. 7.
1 of. Supplied from MFa, following Mc, K, Bw.
8 birst. So MS, followed by K. Mc, Bw follow MFa: brist.
Colophon Quod Dumbar quhone mony Benefices vakit.

Poem 41 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 321-22 (MFb); emendations from Maitland Folio a, pp. 8-9.
8 thame. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: thane. So, too, lines 10, 13, 15, 18, and 20.
17 spraidis . . . nett. So MFa, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: spendis . . . mett.
26 warryit. So MFa, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: variant.
27 Bw follows MFa and R: That men off it are neuer content.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 42 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fols. 3v-5r.
13 This. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Thus.
14 fiendlie. So K, Bw. MS: freindlie, followed by Mc.
19 eik. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: iek.
Hivines. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Hiwenis.
23 so. MS: full corrected to so.
25 leid. Bw emends to weid, which makes good sense in terms of the withering metaphor and the pattern of alliteration.
28 Saying. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Seing.
29 se. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: sa.
36 glader wox. So Mc, K. MS: glaider wax. Bw reads glader vox, the sense being"became more glad."
38 lady. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: lay.
39 fiellis. MS: corrected from fellis.
wecht. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: wicht.
48 malady. So Mc, K. MS: melody, followed by Bw.
50 his. Supplied, following Mc, K, Bw.
56 said. MS: corrected from &.
65 Thy. MS: corrected from The.
evir. MS: corrected from neuir.
72 first. MS: corrected from be.
73 quoth. So Mc, K. Bw emends to quod. MS: with.
74 dies. MS: corrected from dres.
76 Inoportunite. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Inoportunititie.
95 sum. Written above the line in MS.
106 me. MS: said canceled after.
107 humelie. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: altered to heuinelie.
108 full. MS: knaw canceled, full written above.
109 He. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: 3e.
112 rak. MS: altered to crak or trak.
115 anon. MS: corrected from amen.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 43 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fol. 6r.
5 scant. Interlined.
11 oft. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: off.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 44 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 178-81.
13 An extra liell deleted before labour.
17 all. MS: ane canceled before.
38 the father. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: his father.
67 all the. MS: repeated and then canceled.
76 Refrain abbreviated here and in lines 80 and 84.
81 it. Supplied, following Mc, K, Bw.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 45 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 8 (MFa).
6 Quhill. So MFb, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: Quhilk.
7 singis. MS: d canceled after.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 46 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 196-98.
10 flingaris. Preceded by a blank space in MS.
11 carvouris. MS: carpentaris canceled before.
36 eik. Corrected from reik in MS.
65 nyce. MS: y canceled before.
79 mind. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: mynd.
85 Or. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: And.
Colophon Quod Dunbar.

Poem 47 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 16-18.
4 All. Corrected from And in MS.
16 Cowkin. Corrected from Couth quhennis in MS.
culroun. So R, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: cukoun.
19 dyvowris. So Mc, K. MS: dyowris, followed by Bw.
21 mastis. Corrected from kynd in MS.
43 ald. So R, followed by Bw. MS: all, followed by Mc, K.
53 clais. MS: plasse canceled before.
56 beir. So Mc, K. R: bere, followed by Bw. MS: be.
64 Nobles. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: And nobles.
70 That lang. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: words are faded.
71 I be. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: words are faded.
Colophon Quod Dumbar &c.

Poem 48 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 295-96; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fols. 94v-95v.
1 yit. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: 3e.
23 at cheif. So B, followed by Mc, K. MS: but greif, followed by Bw.
33 Kyne of Rauf Colyard. So B, followed by Mc, K. MS: Raf Coilyearis kynd, followed by Bw.
41 suld. so Mc, Bw. MS: sould, followed by K.
76-85 Recorded on p. 309 in MF; leaf misplaced.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 49 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 18 (for lines 1-32); Reidpeth MS, fols. 1r-1v (for lines 33-76).
1 toune. So R, followed by K, Bw. MS: toume.
3 jaid aver. MS: 3ald auir canceled and rewritten as 3aid aver. Bw reads 3ald aver.
5 Strenever. So K, Bw. MS: Streneverne.
7-8 The burden, repeated at the end of each stanza, is abbreviated in both MSS.
30 Verse is faded in MS.
32 MF ends here (subsequent quire is lacking).
33-76 Verses supplied from R.
39 curage. Written above canceled ple3e in MS.
52 cast. Inserted above the line in MS.
63 clappit. MS: altered from chappid.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 50 Base Text: Reidpeth, fols. 3r-3v; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fol. 66v.
4 And. MS: 3ett deleted after.
7 he. Supplied from B, following K, Bw. Mc omits.
10 lusty. So B, BD, followed by K, Bw. MS: nobill, followed by Mc.
15 wame. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: vane.
23 Quha. So B, BD, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: Quhar.
25-30 These lines are not in B or BD. Mc ignores the refrain and ends at line 28. K, following B, ends at line 24. Bw follows MS, as do I.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 51 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 334-35; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fols. 133r-134r.
2 sterris. B: sternis, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
16 the. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw on metrical grounds. Omitted in MS.
31 Saturnus. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: Saturnis.
35 wondrus. So MS. B reads windir, followed by Mc, K, Bw on grounds that wondrus is a modernization. But the OED cites an example of wondrus in 1509. B's windir means"strange, marvellous," and could well be the more likely reading. See Poem 52, line 13.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 52 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fols. 5v-6r.
5 rink. MS: altered to rank. Mc reads raik.
7 thocht. Inserted above a deletion in MS.
16 awin. Inserted above the line in MS.
26 lyflett. In MS, a later insertion filling in a blank.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 53 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fols. 6r-6v.
8 clink. Emendation for rhyme, following Mc, K, Bw. MS: clank.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 54 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 117r-118v; emendations from Asloan MS, fols. 211v-212v (lines 1-69 only).
Title B: Ane ballat of the fen3eit freir of Tungland: how he fell in the myre fleand to Turkiland.
30 mony in. MS: corrected from in to, followed by Mc, K. Bw adheres to the original MS reading.
56 smowking. MS: k is inserted above the line.
67 Martis. MS: the canceled before.
blak. Supplied from As, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
104 with. MS: quhi canceled before.
111 owtsprang. So Bw. MS: owsprang, followed by Mc, K.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 55 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 3-5; emendations from Reidpeth MS, fols. 8r-8v.
4 giand. So R. MS: grand (?).
6 Verse supplied from R, following Mc, K, Bw. MS is defective.
8 On. So R, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: or.
10 comin in. So Bw. MS, R: com in, followed by Mc. K emends to com in to, which satisfies the meter, as does comin in.
37-40 Verses supplied from R, following Mc, K, Bw. MS is defective.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 56 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 340-41.
4 The. MS: corrected from His.
9 culd. MS: man canceled before.
23 thair. Interlined in MS.
36 Dounteboir. MS: u inserted above the line.
37 louket. MS: u inserted above the line.
42 mirrear. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: mirrar.
Colophon Quod Dunbar of a dance in the quen[is] chalmer.

Poem 57 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 339.
1 boure. MS: u inserted above the line.
2 doublett. MS: u inserted above the line.
Colophon Quod Dunbar of James Dog Kepair of the Quenis wardrep.

Poem 58 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 339-40.
7 all. Inserted above the line in MS.
14 taingis. MS: tang canceled before.
Colophon Quod Dunbar of the said James quhen he had plesett him.

Poem 59 Base Text: Bannatyne Draft MS, pp. 53-54; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 11-12.
20 hes. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: had, followed by Mc, K.
21 Round ylis. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: rowme Iylis.
24 Now he dois. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: 3itt dois he, followed by Mc, K.
27 licht. MS: slicht written first, then canceled.
31 fals. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: falis, followed by K.
32 all reffar. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: every, followed by Mc, K.
48 Quhill. MS: quyll written first, then canceled.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar for Donald Ovre Epetaphe.

Poem 60 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 10-11.
8 dismemberit. So R, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: dismeberit.
16 awin. MS: added in margin.
18 seasoun. MS: ressoun corrected in margin to seasoun.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 61 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 320.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 62 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 214r-215r; emendations from Reidpeth MS, fol. 8r (lines 1-16 only).
11 thame. So R, followed by Bw. MS: hir, followed by Mc, K.
15 Fresche. Supplied from R, following Mc, K, Bw.
said. So R, followed by Bw. MS: sayis, followed by Mc, K.
18 Strangenes. Corrected in MS from strangens.
30 a feir. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: affeir.
87 Gud. MS: hi canceled after.
90 His. MS: h canceled after.
he. Supplied, following K, Bw. Mc omits.
94 Bot. MS: ye deleted after.
104 Betuix. MS: the deleted after.
Colophon Finis &c.

Poem 63 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 322-23.
16 goist. MS: fl canceled after.
Colophon Quod Dumbar quhone he list to feyne.

Poem 64 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fol. 212v.
22 nor. MS: or to canceled before.
Colophon Finis &c. Dumbar.

Poem 65 Base Text: Chepman and Myllar Print, pp. 91-99.
Title Here begynnys ane litil tretie intitulit the goldyn targe compilit be Maister Wilyam Dunbar.
14 schuke. So B, MF, followed by Bw. Print: schake, followed by Mc, K.
16 To part. So Mc, K. B, MF: Depart, followed by Bw.
19 hoppis. So B, MF, followed by Bw, Mc. Print: happis, followed by K.
31 wyth. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: wyht.
32 The. So B, MF, followed by Bw. Print: That, followed by Mc, K.
39 emerant. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: emeraut.
47 soun. Mc reads sone. K reads soune.
54 falcoun. Mc, K read falcoune.
64 Discrive. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: Distrine.
90 proporcioun. So Print, Mc, K. Bw: proporcion.
103 ballettis. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: ballectis.
112 the. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: te.
139 grene. So Mc, K. Print: gren, followed by Bw.
140 bowis. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: lowis.
151 Resoun. So Print, followed by Mc, K. Bw: Reson.
153 that. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: thas.
165 Discrecioun. So Print, followed by Mc, K. Bw: Discrecion.
187 anker. So B, MF. Print: ankers, followed by Mc, K. Bw emends to ankeris.
201 assayit. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: assayes.
203 Quhill. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: Quhilk.
228 tuke. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: take.
231 toschuke. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: toschake.
235 schip. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: scip.
254 ane. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: and.
259 noucht. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: noucth.
268 write. So K, Bw. Mc: wryte. Print: wirte.
274 hes spent. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MF: may spend. Print: may spent.

Poem 66 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 283r-284v; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 165-68.
6 lawry. MS: corrected from lawrir.
23 new. MS: noble canceled before.
35 faill. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: fable.
52 luve. MS: eik canceled before.
72 lufes. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: lufe.
74 Ane man may in his lady tak. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: Man may tak in his lady, followed by Mc, K.
75 bewtie. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: vertew, followed by Mc, K.
90 Sic. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: Sir.
92 thai. Inserted above the line in MS.
99 sic. MS: thame canceled before.
hardines. MS: ignorance canceled before.
108 hes. Supplied from MF, following Bw.
115 into. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: 3it, with maid added above line.
116 in rest and. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: in restand, with in canceled.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 67 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fol. 281r.
11 the schort. MS: corrected from with lang.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 68 Base Text: Banntyne MS, fols. 284v-285v.
4 ay. Interlined in MS.
19-20 The burden is abbreviated here and in subsequent stanzas.
58 me. Repeated in MS, then canceled.
75-76 Verses are transposed in MS; in the margin are numbers correcting their order.
84 That. MS: So canceled before.
our. MS: my canceled, our interlined to replace it.
Colophon Finis quod Dumbar.

Poem 69 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 116r-116v; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 335-37.
Rubric Follows the wowing of the king / quhen he wes in Dumfermeling.
27 that. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: this, followed by Mc, K.
35 Refrain abbreviated here and in subsequent stanzas.
36 hir . . . him. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: him . . . hir, where the sense seems to be"pressed himself against her" rather than"drew her to him."
66 bell. So MF, followed by Mc, K. MS: tod, followed by Bw.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 70 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 342.
1 said. So R, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: sad.
4 soin. So K. Mc, Bw read som. R: son.
28 Had. Corrected from a cancellation in MS.
Colophon Quod Dunbar.

Poem 71 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 341-42; emendations from Reidpeth MS, fols. 45v-46r.
9 schou. Supplied from R, following Mc, K, Bw, though Mc reads scho.
Colophon Quod Dunbar of an blak moir.

Poem 72 Base Text: Maitland Folio, p. 308 (for lines 1-28); p. 311 (for lines 29-63), following Bawcutt.
16 I. Inserted above the line in MS.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 73 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 324-25; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fols. 261r-261v.
7 So. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: For.
44 evidens. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: evudens.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 74 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 314-15.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 75 Base Text: Reidpeth MS, fols. 1v-2v.
7 hurt. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: quyt canceled.
11 flyttinis. MS: flyttingis, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
15 Stull. MS: altered to scull.
17 foirstairis. So Mc, Bw. MS: foirstair, followed by K.
20 polesie. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: polaesie.
25 Jame. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Iames.
27 ilk. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: ill.
31 serve. MS: schow canceled.
33 Line 34 is mistakenly written at the end of this line, then repeated below.
37 streitis. So Mc, Bw. K emends to streittis. MS: streit.
38 merchantis. MS: merchandis, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
46 rame. MS: lament canceled before.
61 Continues on same line as 60.
67 proclame. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: proclameid.
73 fynd. MS: corrected from send.
77 restor to. Conjectural emendation to fill blank space. Mc, Bw leave the space blank. K suggests [win bak to].
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 76 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 115r-115v; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 333-34.
Title MS: Followis how Dumbar wes Desyrd to be ane Freir.
29 forder. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: ony. Mc, K follow the MS, but place the whole stanza (lines 26-30) after line 15 (i.e., as the fourth stanza). It appears as the fifth stanza in MF.
30 put. MS: b canceled before.
49 hous end. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: houshend.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 77 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 110r-112v; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 12-16, and Asloan MS, fols. 210r-211v.
17 hair. So Mc, K. MS: bair, followed by Bw.
35 into. MS: all canceled before; to written above line.
50 in secreit places. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: of sindry racis, followed by K.
80 Come. Supplied from MF, following Mc, Bw. K omits.
81 Lythenes. So MF, followed by K, Bw. MS: ydilnes, followed by Mc.
99 creische. MS: creis canceled before.
112 Be he the. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Be he þe the.
131 clayth. MS: beis canceled before.
137 fillis. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: flowis, followed by Mc, K.
142 come furth. So MS, followed by Mc, K. As: comfort, followed by Bw.
145 The tailyeour hecht. So Mc, K. As: He hecht, followed by Bw.
149 curage. So As, MF, followed by K. MS: hairt, followed by Mc, Bw.
151 Entire verse supplied from MF, following Bw. MS: And quhen to þe sowtar he did cum, followed by Mc, K.
154 Entire verse supplied from As, following Bw. MS: In harte he tuke 3it sic ane scunner, followed by Mc, K.
169 talyeour. So As, MF, followed by Bw. MS: tel3our, followed by Mc, K. Bw follows As, MF for the whole line: Apon the tal3eour quhen he did luke.
171 Uneis he mycht. So As, followed by Bw. MS: He mycht nocht rycht, followed by Mc, K.
173 quhilk cost him. So MF. Bw: that cost him. MS: quhilk he cost, followed by Mc, K.
174 never. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: deill, followed by Mc, K.
177 stynk than. So As, followed by Bw. MS: sair syne, followed by Mc, K.
187-88 As, MF: Thai spurrit apon athir syde, / The horw attour the grene did glyd, followed by Bw.
189 Than tham. So Mc, K. MF: And tham, followed by Bw.
190 The tailyeour was. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: The tail3eour þat wes, followed by Mc, K.
193 birnes. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: harnas, followed by Mc, K.
200 wend. Mc, K read went. As: Trowit, followed by Bw.
bene. MS: ha canceled before.
201 stern. So Mc, K. As: strenyt, followed by Bw.
204 Quyte our from. So As, followed by Bw. MF: Quyte our frome. MS: Evin quyte frome, followed by Mc, K.
206 he straik till. So Mc, K. As: flewe to the, followed by Bw.
207 fartit. So Mc, K. As, MF: fart, followed by Bw.
209 The new maid knycht lay into swoun. So As, followed by Bw. MS: Thir new maid knychtis lay bayth in swoun, followed by Mc, K.
210 forswer. So As, followed by Bw. MS: mensweir, followed by Mc, K.
214 bayth. So MS, followed by Mc, K. As: agane, followed by Bw. MF: ay.
217 of. MS: writtin canceled before.
224 To. MS: And corrected to To.
226 To dyte how all this thing. So As, followed by Bw. MS: For this said iusting it, followed by Mc, K.
228 Schirris. So As, MF, followed by Bw. MS: Now, followed by Mc, K.
it. So As, MF, followed by Bw. MS: this, followed by Mc, K.
Colophon Heir endis the sowtar amd tailyouris war maid be the nobill poyet maister William Dumbar.

Poem 78 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 112v-113r; emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 319-20.
Title MS: Followis the amendis maid be him to the telyouris and sowtaris for the turnament maid on thame.
12 Refrain abbreviated here and in subsequent stanzas.
20 Bot. MS: Tely canceled before.
tham. MS: thame, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
25 swayne. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: man, followed by Mc, K.
30 gud. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: gude crafty.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 79 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 132v-133r.
20 Refrain abbreviated here and in subsequent stanzas.
39 cowth. So Bw. Mc, K read cowld. MS: qwith.
Colophon Quod Dumbar.

Poem 80 Base Text: Rouen Print, pp. 193-96.
1 maister. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: maist.
47 hecht. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: hetht.
71 gif. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: hif.
74 Lego. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: Llego.
104 miscebam. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: missebam.
Colophon Explicit.

Poem 81 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 290-92; emendations from Bannatyne MS, fols. 102r-103v.
Title Dumbaris Dirige to the King.
14 into. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: in.
34 manis. So Mc, K. Bw reads mans.
46a Lectio secunda. Supplied from B, following Mc, K, Bw.
49 saitt. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: hewinlie court.
87 sould ye. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: ye sould.
103 ne. Supplied from B, following Mc, K, Bw.
Colophon Dumbaris dirige to the king / Bydand ouir lang in Stirling.

Poem 82 Base Text: Aberdeen Minute Book, II, p. 460.
19 husband. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: susband.
21 scho. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: sche.
22 is. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: ale.
23 nocht. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: norcht.
24 glas. MS: cop canceled before.
me to. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: to me.
Colophon Quod Dunbar.

Poem 83 Base Text: Bannatyne MS, fols. 147r-154r (lines 1-315); Chepman and Myllar, pp. 137-44 (lines 316-552); emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 53-54, 59-63, 69-72, 77-80.
18 richt. So MF, followed by Mc, Bw. MS: for, followed by K.
28 laureat. MS: lane canceled before.
48 This line is added in the left margin in MS.
51 Denseman. MF: Densmen, followed by Bw.
54 royis. MS: reis canceled before.
58 Skitterand scorpion, scauld. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: Scarth fra scorpione scaldit, followed by Mc, K.
68 To. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Tho.
76 cowart. MS: added in the left margin.
83 glengoir loun. MF: gan3elon, followed by Bw.
88 recry it. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: recryat, followed by Mc, K.
92 us. So MF, followed by K, Bw. MS: wes, followed by Mc.
wind and. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: woundis.
95 sey. Supplied from MF, following K, Bw. Mc omits.
97 rethore. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: rethory, followed by Mc, K.
102 lauchtane. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: lachand, followed by Mc, K (reading lathand).
106 rejoys. MS: reris canceled before.
114 pingill. MS: de canceled before.
119 gyngill. MS: In canceled before.
120 bratt. So R, followed by Bw. MS: club, followed by Mc, K.
121 loungeour, lowsy. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: loungeour baith lowsy, followed by Mc, K.
123 Lawrance. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Lawarance.
129 Cummerwarld. So R, followed by Bw. MS: Commirwald, followed by Mc, K.
133 mair. Corrected from thair in MS.
135 for wage. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: ar at, followed by Mc, K.
139 my. So Bw. MS: thy, followed by Mc, K.
152 lymmair. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: lymmerfull, followed by Mc, K.
160 sacryne. So MF, followed by Bw. K emends to sacrand. MS: secirind, which Mc reads as seccrind.
169 linkis. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: lukis, followed by Mc, K.
lenye. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: lene, followed by Mc, K.
175 Entire verse supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
185 pynhippit. So MF, followed by K, Bw. Mc reads purehippit. MS: hippit.
197 me. So MF, followed by K, Bw. MS: my, followed by Mc.
201 burch. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: burcht.
217 Edinburch. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: Edinburcht.
218 Hay. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: ay, followed by Mc, K.
231 skeilis. MS: skiilis canceled before.
237 fed. Added above the line in MS.
241 byt. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MS: byle.
242 flay. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: foule, followed by Mc, K.
251 werwoif. MS: werf canceled before.
257 forbear is. So Bw. MS: forbearis, followed by Mc, K.
261 on. So MF, followed by Bw. MS: of, followed by Mc, K.
281 Pert. So Bw. MS: Perth, followed by Mc, K.
283 disert. So Bw. MS: diserth, followed by Mc, K.
289 binkis. MS: abydis canceled after.
290 abydis. MS: amang canceled after.
299 Archebauld. So MF, followed by Bw. Mc, K read Archbald. MS: Archbard.
316 ff. From this point on, Chepman & Myllar Print is used.
325 kneis. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: keneis.
329 commissare. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: comnissare.
332 bill. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: bull.
335 and. So B, MF, followed by Bw. Print: or, followed by Mc, K.
367 For. Supplied from B, following Bw.
386 erlis. So Bw. Print: erl, followed by Mc, K.
388 that. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: tha.
389 wicht. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: wyth.
392 dicht. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: ditht.
395 Duerch. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: Duerth.
398 thy scule. So Bw. Print: the scule, followed by Mc, K.
399 thy hede. So B, MF, followed by Bw. Print: the hede, followed by Mc, K.
400 for. So MF, followed by Bw. Print: wyth, followed by Mc, K.
408 duerche. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: doerthe.
443 thrift. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: trift.
472 muk. So B, MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: mak.
483 Lat. So B, MF, followed by Bw. Print: That, followed by Mc, K.
509 skryp. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: skyrp.
clamschellis. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: clanischellis.
511 mischance. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: mischanche.
520 tume. So B, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: tune.
526 manesuorne. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: manesuorme.
530 Egiptia. So MF, followed by Bw. Print: Egipya, followed by Mc, K.
548 Prikkit. So MF, followed by Bw. Mc reads Pickit. K reads Prickit. Print: Pirckit.
Colophon MF: Quod Kennedy to Dumbar. No colophon in CM.

Poem 84 Base Text: Maitland Folio, pp. 81-84, for lines 1-103; Rouen Print, pp. 177-89, which lacks the initial two pages, for lines 104-530, with emendations from Maitland Folio, pp. 84-96. Paragraph divisions in the text are editorially supplied, following Kinsley.
Title MF: Heir beginis the Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo.
1-103 Supplied from MF, as RP is missing the initial pages.
2 in. Supplied, following Bw.
18 garlandis. MS: gor canceled before.
29 Now. So K, Bw. MS: New, followed by Mc.
30-38 Verses are faded and difficult to read.
36 tua. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: wyth tua.
40a Followed in MS by Aude viduam iam cum interrogatione sua [Now hear the widow with her question].
48 Followed in MS by Responsio prime vxoris ad viduam [The reply of the first wife to the widow].
62-65 Verses are faded and final words in each are uncertain.
66 feiris. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: freiris.
89a Followed in MS by Aude vt dicet de viro suo [Hear how she talks about her husband].
98 gor. So K, Bw. Mc emends to goreis. MS: gor is.
104 From this point on, the text is that of RP. The compositor of RP often places a t where a c would normally be required: thus printing leuth for leuch (line 147) or rautht for raucht (line 148). The compositor also has difficulty with th and ght endings, often spelling both as tgh (e.g., ritgh for right [line 139], witgh for with [line 152]) or simply as gt (e.g., knygtis for knyghtis [line 216]). Misprinting n for u or u for n is also common (e.g., derue for derne [line 192]). Such errors have been silently emended.
106 schendis. K, Mc follow MF, which reads scheddis, the sense being that the husband"parts" her lips.
116 Than. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: Tan.
124 How. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: Ho.
127 waistit. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: wistit.
141 wod. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: wmyod.
149 Followed in MF by Hic bibent et inde vidua interrogat alteram mulierem et ille respondet vt sequitur [Here they drink and then the widow questions the second wife, and she responds as follows].
150 to. Supplied from MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw.
thir. So MF, followed by Bw. Print: ther, followed by Mc, K.
152 man. So Print, followed by Mc, K, Bw. MF: men.
menskit. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: menkit.
156 samyn. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: samy.
157 And. So Mc, Bw. Print: An, followed by K.
suth. So MF, followed by Bw. Print: south, followed by Mc, K.
172 flurising. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: flurisnig.
175 into swoune. So Bw. Print: in tho swonne. Mc, K: in to swonne.
182 haris. So Bw. Print: hair, followed by Mc, K.
184 semis. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: sunys.
186 damys. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: danys.
187 And. So Mc, Bw. Print: An, followed by K.
190 effect. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: effecc.
192 sal be. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: salle.
199 is. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: i3.
204 and. So MF, followed by Bw. Mc, K emend to or. Print: ot.
209 haif. Print: I canceled after.
fang in myn. So Mc, Bw. Print: faug i mynn. K: fang in mynn.
212 murnys. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: mrnuys.
221 quhy. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: quly.
233 my gud man. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: man gud my.
236 to that. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: to to that.
240 Loud lauchand. So MF, followed by Bw. Mc reads Loudly lauchand. K reads Ludly lauchand. Print: Luly rauthand.
244 Followed in MF by Nunc bibent et inde prime due interrogant viduam et de sua responsione et quomodo erat [Now they drink and then the first two question the widow, and concerning her reply and how it was].
249 your. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: aour.
252 innocent. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: i nicrit.
259 counterfeit. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: conutfeit.
269 hen. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: heun.
275 claw. So MF, followed by Bw. Print: keyth, followed by Mc. K reads krych.
292 he. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
296 merchand. So K, Bw. Mc reads marchand. Print: nichand.
303 tuichandly. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: tinchandly.
315 mercy. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: nicy.
318 that. So MF, followed by Bw. Print: for, followed by Mc, K.
325 ourcummyn. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: ourcummy.
327 sett. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: soit.
338 biggingis. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: biggnigis.
344 evidentis. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: emdentis.
thai. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: ai.
345 that. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: at.
346 neir. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: meir.
347 bauchles. So Mc, Bw. K reads bauchlis. Print: bauthles.
362 misteris. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: nustis.
364 throw. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: thro, with a macron over the o.
368 renoune. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: renovue, with a macron over the e.
369 craftely. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: crftaely.
371 Thought. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: Tought.
374 precius. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: precnis.
377 dink. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: duik.
396 And. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: An.
408 thir. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: ther.
409 knawin. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: knawi.
410 dyvour. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: dyour.
417 makis. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: makris.
421 I. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
431 chalmer. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: chaliu, with a macron over the u.
433 throw. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: tro, with a macron over the o.
434 throw. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: thro, with a macron over the o.
435 cortly. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: corly.
451 wemen. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: men.
453 convoyis. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: gvoyis.
456 to. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: te.
458 thaim. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: þai.
464 woman. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: waman.
466 sobir. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: sovir.
469 service. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: sermce.
480 rownis. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: rowis.
490 nixt. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: mxt.
491 samin. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: sanu, with a macron over the u.
492 sittis. Supplied from MF, following Mc, K, Bw.
495 speciall. So Mc, K, Bw. MS: speiall.
507 said thai suld. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: suid thai sald.
510 going. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: gonig.
516 schill. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: still.
518 glorius. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: glornis.
520 and. Supplied from MF, following Mc, Bw. K omits.
singing. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: singnig.
523 thir. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: ryer.
524 throw. So Mc, K, Bw. Print: thro, with a macron over the o.
529 thir. So MF, followed by Mc, K, Bw. Print: yer.
Colophon Print: Quod Dunbar; MF: Quod Maister Williame Dunbar.




1 Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981), pp. 124-25. See also Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (London: Routledge, 2002), pp. 43-44.

2 Dafydd ap Gwilym: The Poems, trans. and commentary, Richard Morgan Loomis (Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1982), pp. 263-76. The two poets take turns composing cywydd (one of the most popular verse forms in Welsh poetry) of seemingly minor obscenity compared to Dunbar; Dafydd, however, gets the last word in: "very great hatred, lord of terror, / Anus of a goose, withdraw from between me and the man" (p. 276). It is worth noting, perhaps, that, like Dunbar's tribute to Kennedy in "The Lament for the Makars" (Poem 14), Gruffudd also praised his former rival in his elegy "The Yew Tree above Dafydd's Grave" (Loomis, p. 288).

3 Insult slinging is in general out of place in the deodorized confines of modern American life, though the tradition, celebrated in such Shakespearian moments as 1 Henry IV's battle of wits between Falstaff and Hal, does survive. For a modern comparable version of a poetic slanging contest, see Spielberg's Hook, in which Peter Pan and his opponent verbally battle each other for social leadership. While this flyting does not include the scatological and sexual references (the film is directed toward a young audience), the point of the battle is the same - to heap insult after insult on the opponent and let the audience judge the winner. The film even occasionally shares some of the internal rhymes with Dunbar's Flyting, as when Peter crows "You rude, crude, lewd piece of pre-chewed food!"















 
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Poems Comic, Satiric, and Parodic

69. A Wooing in Dunfermline [And that me thocht ane ferly cace]
70. To the Queen [Madam, your men said]
71. Of a Black Moor [My ladye with the mekle lippis]
72. In a Secret Place [Ye brek my hart, my bony ane]
73. These Fair Ladies That Repair to Court
74. Tidings from the Session
75. To the Merchants of Edinburgh
76. How Dunbar Was Desired to Be a Friar
77. The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins
78. Of the Tailors and the Shoemakers [Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye]
79. The Devil's Inquest [Renunce thy God and cum to me]
80. Master Andro Kennedy's Testament
81. Dunbar's Dirge
82. The Twa Cummars [This lang Lentrin it makis me lene]
83. The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy
84. The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo







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530   
69. A Wooing in Dunfermline
[And that me thocht ane ferly cace]

This hindir nycht in Dumfermeling
To me was tawld ane windir thing:
That lait ane tod wes with ane lame
And with hir playit and maid gud game,
Syne till his breist did hir imbrace
And wald haif riddin hir lyk ane rame -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

He braisit hir bony body sweit
And halsit hir with fordir feit,
Syne schuk his taill with quhinge and yelp,
And todlit with hir lyk ane quhelp;
Syne lowrit on growfe and askit grace,
And ay the lame cryd, "Lady, help!" -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

The tod wes nowder lene nor skowry.
He wes ane lusty reid haird lowry,
Ane lang taild beist and grit with all.
The silly lame wes all to small
To sic ane tribbill to hald ane bace.
Scho fled him nocht, fair mot hir fall -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

The tod wes reid, the lame wes quhyte,
Scho wes ane morsall of delyte -
He lovit na yowis, auld, tuch, and sklender.
Becaus this lame wes yung and tender,
He ran upoun hir with a race,
And scho schup nevir for till defend hir -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

He grippit hir abowt the west
And handlit hir as he had hest.
This innocent that nevir trespast
Tuke hert that scho wes handlit fast,
And lute him kis hir lusty face.
His girnand gamis hir nocht agast -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

He held hir till him be the hals
And spak full fair, thocht he wes fals,
Syne said and swoir to hir be God
That he suld nocht tuich hir prenecod.
The silly thing trowd him, allace,
The lame gaif creddence to the tod -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

I will no lesingis put in vers,
Lyk as thir jangleris dois rehers,
Bot be quhat maner thay war mard.
Quhen licht wes owt and durris wes bard
I wait nocht gif he gaif hir grace,
Bot all the hollis wes stoppit hard -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

Quhen men dois fleit in joy maist far,
Sone cumis wo or thay be war.
Quhen carpand wer thir two most crows,
The wolf he ombesett the hous
Upoun the tod to mak ane chace.
The lamb than cheipit lyk a mows -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

Throw hiddowis yowling of the wowf
This wylie tod plat doun on growf,
And in the silly lambis skin
He crap als far as he micht win
And hid him thair ane weill lang space.
The yowis besyd thay maid na din -
And that me thocht ane ferly cace.

Quhen of the tod wes hard no peip,
The wowf went all had bene on sleip;
And quhill the bell had strikkin ten,
The wowf hes drest him to his den,
Protestand for the secound place.
And this report I with my pen,
How at Dumfermling fell the cace.


70. To the Queen
[Madam, your men said]

Madam, your men said thai wald ryd
And latt this Fasterennis Evin ouer slyd,
Bott than thair wyffis cam furth in flockis
And baid tham betteis soin abyd
Att haem, and lib tham of the pockis.

Nou propois thai, sen ye dwell still,
Of Venus feest to fang an fill,
Bott in the fedle preiff thai na cockis.
For till heff riddin hed bein les ill,
Nor latt thair wyffis breid the pockis.12

Sum of your men sic curage hed,
Dam Venus fyre sa hard tham sted,
Thai brak up durris and raeff up lockis
To get ane pamphelet on a pled
That thai mycht lib tham of the pockis.

Sum that war ryatous as rammis
Ar nou maid tame lyk ony lammis,
And settin down lyk sarye crockis,
And hes forsaekin all sic gammis
That men callis libbin of the pockis.

Sum thocht thamselffis stark lyk gyandis
Ar nou maid waek lyk willing wandis
With schinnis scharp and small lyk rockis,
And gottin thair bak in bayth thair handis
For ouer offt libbin of the pockis.

I saw coclinkis me besyd
The young men to thair howses gyd
Had bettir lugget in the stockis.
Sum fra the bordell wald nocht byd
Quhill that thai gatt the Spanyie pockis.

Thairfoir, all young men, I you pray,
Keip you fra harlottis nycht and day -
Thai sall repent quhai with tham yockis -
And be war with that perrellous play
That men callis libbin of the pockis.


71. Of a Black Moor
[My ladye with the mekle lippis]

Lang heff I maed of ladyes quhytt,
Nou of an blak I will indytt
That landet furth of the last schippis.
Quhou fain wald I descryve perfytt
My ladye with the mekle lippis.

Quhou schou is tute mowitt lyk an aep,
And lyk a gangarall onto graep,
And quhou hir schort catt nois up skippis,
And quhou schou schynes lyk ony saep,
My ladye with the mekle lippis.

Quhen schou is claid in reche apparrall,
Schou blinkis als brycht as an tar barrell.
Quhen schou was born the son tholit clippis,
The nycht be fain faucht in hir querrell -
My ladye with the mekle lippis.

Quhai for hir saek with speir and scheld
Preiffis maest mychtellye in the feld,
Sall kis and withe hir go in grippis,
And fra thyne furth hir luff sall weld -
My ladye with the mekle lippis.

And quhai in fedle receaves schaem
And tynis thair his knychtlie naem,
Sall cum behind and kis hir hippis
And nevir to uther confort claem,
My ladye with the mekle lippis.


72. In a Secret Place
[Ye brek my hart, my bony ane]

In secreit place this hyndir nycht
I hard ane beyrne say till ane bricht:
"My huny, my hart, my hoip, my heill,
I have bene lang your luifar leill
And can of yow get confort nane.
How lang will ye with danger deill?
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane."

His bony beird wes kemmit and croppit,
Bot all with cale it wes bedroppit,
And he wes townysche, peirt, and gukit.
He clappit fast, he kist and chukkit
As with the glaikis he wer ouirgane.
Yit be his feirris he wald have fukkit -
"Ye brek my hart, my bony ane."

Quod he: "My hairt, sweit as the hunye,
Sen that I borne wes of my mynnye,
I never wowit weycht bot yow.
My wambe is of your luif sa fow
That as ane gaist I glour and grane.
I trymble sa, ye will not trow,
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane."

"Tehe!" quod scho, and gaif ane gawfe.
"Be still, my tuchan and my calfe,
My new spanit howffing fra the sowk,
And all the blythnes of my bowk.
My sweit swanking, saif yow allane
Na leyd I luiffit all this owk:
Full leif is me yowr graceles gane."

Quod he: "My claver and my curldodie,
My huny soppis, my sweit possodie,
Be not oure bosteous to your billie,
Be warme hairtit and not evill wille.
Your heylis, quhyt as quhalis bane,
Garris ryis on loft my quhillelille:
Ye brek my hart, my bony ane."

Quod scho: "My clype, my unspaynit gyane,
With moderis mylk yit in your mychane,
My belly huddrun, my swete hurle bawsy,
My huny gukkis, my slawsy gawsy,
Your musing waild perse ane harte of stane.
Tak gud confort, my grit-heidit slawsy:
Full leif is me your graceles gane."

Quod he: "My kid, my capirculyoun,
My bony baib with the ruch brylyoun,
My tendir gyrle, my wallie gowdye,
My tyrlie myrlie, my crowdie mowdie,
Quhone that oure mouthis dois meit at ane,
My stang dois storkyn with your towdie:
Ye brek my hairt, my bony ane."

Quod scho: "Now tak me by the hand,
Welcum, my golk of Marie land,
My chirrie and my maikles munyoun,
My sowklar sweit as ony unyoun,
My strumill stirk yit new to spane.
I am applyit to your opunyoun:
I luif rycht weill your graceles gane."

He gaiff to hir ane apill rubye.
Quod scho, "Gramercye, my sweit cowhubye!"
And thai tway to ane play began
Quhilk men dois call the dery dan,
Quhill that thair myrthis met baythe in ane.
"Wo is me," quod scho, "Quhair will ye, man?
Best now I luif that graceles gane."


73. These Fair Ladies That Repair to Court

Thir ladeis fair that maks repair
   And in the courte ar kend,
Thre dayis thair thai will do mair
   Ane mater for to end
Than thair gud men will do in ten
   For ony craift thai can.
So weill thai ken quhat tyme and quhen
   Thair meynis thai sould mak than.

Withe litill noy thai can convoy
   A mater finalie,
Yit myld and moy thai keip it coy
   On evynnis quyetlie.
Thai do no mys, bot gif thai kys
   And kepis collatioun,
Quhat rak of this? The mater is
   Brocht to conclusioun.

Ye may wit weill thai have grit feill
   A mater to solist.
Traist as the steill, syne never a deill
   Quhone thai cum hame is myst.
Thir lairdis ar, me think, rycht far
   Sic ladeis behaldin to
That sa weill dar go to the bar
   Quhone thair is ocht ado.

Thairfoir, I rid, gif ye have pleid
   Or mater in to pley,
To mak remeid send in your steid
   Your ladeis grathit up gay.
Thai can defend, evin to the end,
   Ane mater furthe expres.
Suppois thai spend, it is onkend
   Thair geir is not the les.

In quyet place and thai have space
   Within les nor twa houris,
Thai can, percace, purchas sic grace
   At the compositouris,
Thair compositioun, without suspitioun,
   Thair finalie is endit
With expeditioun and full remissioun
   And selis thairto appendit.

All haill almoist thai mak the coist
   With sobir recompence.
Rycht litle loist thai get indoist
   All haill thair evidens.
Sic ladyis wyis ar all to pryis,
   To say the verité,
Sic can devyis and none supprys
   Thame throw thair honesté.


74. Tidings from the Session

Ane murelandis man of uplandis mak
At hame thus to his nychtbour spak:
"Quhat tythingis, gossope, peace or weir?"
The uther roundit in his eir:
"I tell yow this, undir confessioun.
Bot laitlie lychtit of my meir,
I come of Edinburch fra the Sessioun."

"Quhat tythingis herd ye thair, I pray yow?"
The tuther ansuerit, "I sall say yow,
Keip this in secreit, gentill brudir -
Is no man thair trowis ane udir.
A commoun doar of transgressioun
Of innocent folkis prevenis a fuider:
Sic tythandis hard I at the Sessioun.

"Sum withe his fallow rownys him to pleis
That wald for anger byt of his neis.
His fa sum be the oxtar ledis.
Sum pattiris with his mouthe on beidis
That hes his mynd all on oppressioun.
Sum bekis full laich and schawis bair heidis
Wald luke full heich war not the Sessioun.

"Sum bydand law layis land in wed,
Sum superspendit gois to his bed,
Sum spedis for he in court hes meynis,
Of parcialité sum complenis,
How feid and favour fleymis discretioun.
Sum speikis full fair and falslie feynis:
Sic tythandis herd I at the Sessioun.

Sum castis summondis and sum exceppis,
Sum standis besyd and skayld law keppis,
Sum is contineuit, sum wynnis, sum tynis,
Sum makis thame myrre at the wynis,
And sum putt out of his possessioun,
Sum hyrreit and on credence dynis:
Sic tythingis hard I at the Sessioun.

"Sum sweiris and sum forsaikis God,
Sum in ane lamb skyn is a tod,
Sum on his toung his kyndnes tursis,
Sum kervis throittis, and sum cuttis pursis.
To gallows sum gais with processioun,
Sum sanis the Sait, and sum thame cursis:
Sic tythingis herd I at the Sessioun.

"Religious men of dyvers places
Cumis thair to wow and se fair faces.
Baith Carmeletis and Coirdeleiris
Cumis thair to gener and get freirris,
As is the use of thair professioun.
The youngar at the elder leiris:
Sic tythingis herd I at the Sessioun.

"Thair cumis young monkis of het complexioun,
Of devoit mynd, lufe, and affectioun,
And in the courte thair proud flesche dantis,
Full fadirlyk with pechis and pantis.
Thai ar so humill of intercessioun,
All mercyfull women thair errand grantis:
Sic tythingis hard I at the Sessioun."


75. To the Merchants of Edinburgh

Quhy will ye, merchantis of renoun,
Lat Edinburgh, your nobill toun,
For laik of reformatioun
The commone proffeitt tyine and fame?
   Think ye not schame
That onie uther regioun
Sall with dishonour hurt your name?

May nane pas throw your principall gaittis
For stink of haddockis and of scattis,
For cryis of carlingis and debaittis,
For feusum flyttinis of defame.
   Think ye not schame,
Befoir strangeris of all estaittis
That sic dishonour hurt your name?

Your Stinkand Stull that standis dirk
Haldis the lycht fra your parroche kirk.
Your foirstairis makis your housis mirk
Lyk na cuntray bot heir at hame.
   Think ye not schame,
Sa litill polesie to work,
In hurt and sklander of your name?

At your Hie Croce quhar gold and silk
Sould be, thair is bot crudis and milk,
And at your Trone bot cokill and wilk,
Pansches, pudingis of Jok and Jame.
   Think ye not schame,
Sen as the world sayis that ilk,
In hurt and sclander of your name?

Your commone menstrallis hes no tone
Bot "Now the day dawis" and "Into Joun."
Cunningar men man serve Sanct Cloun
And nevir to uther craftis clame.
   Think ye not schame,
To hald sic mowaris on the moyne,
In hurt and sclander of your name?

Tailyouris, soutteris, and craftis vyll
The fairest of your streitis dois fyll,
And merchantis at the Stinkand Styll
Ar hamperit in ane honycame.
   Think ye not schame
That ye have nether witt nor wyll
To win yourselff ane bettir name?

Your burgh of beggeris is ane nest,
To schout thai swentyouris will not rest.
All honest folk they do molest,
Sa piteuslie thai cry and rame.
   Think ye not schame,
That for the poore hes nothing drest,
In hurt and sclander of your name?

Your proffeit daylie dois incres,
Your godlie workis, les and les.
Through streittis nane may mak progres
For cry of cruikit, blind, and lame.
   Think ye not schame,
That ye sic substance dois posses,
And will not win ane bettir name?

Sen for the Court and the Sessioun,
The great repair of this regioun
Is in your burgh, thairfoir be boun
To mend all faultis that ar to blame,
   And eschew schame.
Gif thai pas to aneuther toun,
Ye will decay and your great name.

Thairfoir strangeris and leigis treit,
Tak not ouer mekill for thair meit,
And gar your merchandis be discreit.
That na extortiounes be, proclame
   All fraud and schame.
Keip ordour and poore nighbouris beit,
That ye may gett ane bettir name.

Singular proffeit so dois yow blind,
The common proffeit gois behind.
I pray that Lord remeid to fynd
That deit into Jerusalem,
   And gar yow schame,
That sumtyme ressoun may yow bind,
For to restor to yow guid name.


76. How Dunbar Was Desired to Be a Friar

This nycht befoir the dawing cleir
Me thocht Sanct Francis did to me appeir
With ane religious abbeit in his hand
And said, "In this go cleith thee my servand.
Reffus the warld, for thow mon be a freir."

With him and with his abbeit bayth I skarrit
Lyk to ane man that with a gaist wes marrit.
Me thocht on bed he layid it me abone,
Bot on the flure delyverly and sone
I lap thairfra and nevir wald cum nar it.

Quoth he, "Quhy skarris thow with this holy weid?
Cleith thee thairin, for weir it thow most neid.
Thow that hes lang done Venus lawis teiche
Sall now be freir and in this abbeit preiche.
Delay it nocht, it mon be done but dreid."

Quod I, "Sanct Francis, loving be thee till,
And thankit mot thow be of thy gude will
To me, that of thy clathis ar so kynd,
Bot thame to weir it nevir come in my mynd.
Sweit confessour, thow tak it nocht in ill.

"In haly legendis haif I hard allevin
Ma sanctis of bischoppis nor freiris, be sic sevin.
Of full few freiris that hes bene sanctis I reid;
Quhairfoir ga bring to me ane bischopis weid,
Gife evir thow wald my sawle gaid unto Hevin."

"My brethir oft hes maid thee supplicationis
Be epistillis, sermonis, and relationis
To tak the abyte, bot thow did postpone.
But forder proces cum on thairfoir annone,
All sircumstance put by and excusationis."

"Gif evir my fortoun wes to be a freir,
The dait thairof is past full mony a yeir;
For into every lusty toun and place
Of all Yngland, frome Berwick to Kalice,
I haif into thy habeit maid gud cheir.

"In freiris weid full fairly haif I fleichit.
In it I haif in pulpet gon and preichit
In Derntoun kirk and eik in Canterberry;
In it I past at Dover our the ferry
Throw Piccardy, and thair the peple teichit.

"Als lang as I did beir the freiris style,
In me, God wait, wes mony wrink and wyle.
In me wes falset with every wicht to flatter,
Quhilk mycht be flemit with na haly watter.
I wes ay reddy all men to begyle."

This freir that did Sanct Francis thair appeir,
Ane fieind he wes in liknes of ane freir.
He vaneist away with stynk and fyrie smowk.
With him, me thocht, all the hous end he towk,
And I awoik as wy that wes in weir.


77. The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins

Of Februar the fyiftene nycht
Full lang befoir the dayis lycht
   I lay in till a trance,
And than I saw baith Hevin and Hell.
Me thocht amangis the feyndis fell
   Mahoun gart cry ane dance
Of schrewis that wer nevir schrevin
Aganis the feist of Fasternis Evin
   To mak thair observance.
He bad gallandis ga graith a gyis
And kast up gamountis in the skyis
   That last came out of France.

"Lat se," quod he, "now, quha begynnis?"
With that the fowll Sevin Deidly Synnis
   Begowth to leip at anis.
And first of all in dance wes Pryd,
With hair wyld bak and bonet on syd,
   Lyk to mak waistie wanis.
And round abowt him as a quheill
Hang all in rumpillis to the heill
   His kethat for the nanis.
Mony prowd trumpour with him trippit,
Throw skaldand fyre ay as thay skippit
   Thay gyrnd with hiddous granis.

Heilie harlottis on hawtane wyis
Come in with mony sindrie gyis,
   Bot yit luche nevir Mahoun
Quhill preistis come in with bair schevin nekkis -
Than all the feyndis lewche and maid gekkis,
   Blak Belly and Bawsy Broun.

Than Yre come in with sturt and stryfe,
His hand wes ay upoun his knyfe,
   He brandeist lyk a beir.
Bostaris, braggaris, and barganeris
Eftir him passit into pairis,
   All bodin in feir of weir.
In jakkis and stryppis and bonettis of steill,
Thair leggis wer chenyeit to the heill,
   Frawart wes thair affeir.
Sum upoun udir with brandis beft,
Sum jaggit uthiris to the heft
   With knyvis that scherp cowd scheir.

Nixt in the dance followit Invy,
Fild full of feid and fellony,
   Hid malyce and dispyte.
For pryvie hatrent that tratour trymlit.
Him followit mony freik dissymlit
   With fenyeit wirdis quhyte,
And flattereris into menis facis,
And bakbyttaris in secreit places
   To ley that had delyte,
And rownaris of fals lesingis -
Allace, that courtis of noble kingis
   Of thame can nevir be quyte.

Nixt him in dans come Cuvatyce,
Rute of all evill and grund of vyce,
   That nevir cowd be content.
Catyvis, wrechis, and ockeraris,
Hudpykis, hurdaris, and gadderaris
   All with that warlo went.
Out of thair throttis thay schot on udder
Hett moltin gold, me thocht a fudder,
   As fyreflawcht maist fervent.
Ay as thay tomit thame of schot,
Feyndis fild thame new up to the thrott
   With gold of all kin prent.

Syne Sweirnes, at the secound bidding,
Come lyk a sow out of a midding,
   Full slepy wes his grunyie.
Mony sweir, bumbard-belly huddroun,
Mony slute daw and slepy duddroun
   Him servit ay with sounyie.
He drew thame furth in till a chenyie,
And Belliall with brydill renyie
   Evir lascht thame on the lunyie.
In dance thay war so slaw of feit,
Thay gaif thame in the fyre a heit
   And maid thame quicker of counyie.

Than Lichery, that lathly cors,
Come berand lyk a bagit hors,
   And Lythenes did him leid.
Thair wes with him ane ugly sort
And mony stynkand fowll tramort
   That had in syn bene deid.
Quhen thay wer entrit in the dance,
Thay wer full strenge of countenance
   Lyk turkas birnand reid.
All led thay uthir by the tersis.
Suppois thay fycket with thair ersis,
   It mycht be na remeid.

Than the fowll monstir Glutteny,
Of wame unsasiable and gredy,
   To dance he did him dres.
Him followit mony fowll drunckart
With can and collep, cop and quart,
   In surffet and exces.
Full mony a waistles wallydrag
With wamis unweildable did furth wag
   In creische that did incres.
"Drynk!" ay thay cryit, with mony a gaip.
The feyndis gaif thame hait leid to laip,
   Thair lovery wes na les.

Na menstrallis playit to thame, but dowt,
For glemen thair wer haldin owt
   Be day and eik by nycht,
Except a menstrall that slew a man,
Swa till his heretage he wan
   And entirt be "breif of richt."

Than cryd Mahoun for a Heleand padyane.
Syne ran a feynd to feche Makfadyane
   Far northwart in a nuke.
Be he the correnoch had done schout
Erschemen so gadderit him abowt,
   In Hell grit rowme thay tuke.
Thae tarmegantis, with tag and tatter,
Full lowd in Ersche begowth to clatter
   And rowp lyk revin and ruke.
The Devill sa devit wes with thair yell
That in the depest pot of Hell
   He smorit thame with smuke.

Nixt that a turnament wes tryid
That lang befoir in Hell wes cryid
   In presens of Mahoun,
Betuix a telyour and ane sowtar,
A pricklous and ane hobbell clowttar,
   The barres wes maid boun.
The tailyeour baith with speir and scheild
Convoyit wes unto the feild
   With mony lymmar loun
Of seme-byttaris and beist knapparis,
Of stomok-steillaris and clayth-takkaris -
   A graceles garisoun.

His baner born wes him befoir
Quhairin wes clowttis ane hundreth scoir,
   Ilkane of divers hew,
And all stowin out of sindry webbis.
For quhill the Greik Sie fillis and ebbis,
   Telyouris will nevir be trew.
The tailyour on the barrowis blent,
Allais, he tynt all hardyment,
   For feir he chaingit hew.
Mahoun come furth and maid him knycht -
Na ferly thocht his hart wes licht
   That to sic honor grew.

The tailyeour hecht hely befoir Mahoun
That he suld ding the sowtar doun,
   Thocht he wer strang as mast.
Bot quhen he on the barrowis blenkit
The telyouris curage a littill schrenkit,
   His hairt did all ourcast.
And quhen he saw the sowtar cum
Of all sic wirdis he wes full dum,
   So soir he wes agast.
For he in hart tuke sic a scunner
Ane rak of fartis lyk ony thunner
   Went fra him, blast for blast.

The sowtar to the feild him drest,
He wes convoyid out of the west
   As ane defender stout.
Suppois he had na lusty varlot,
He had full mony lowsy harlott
   Round rynnand him aboute.
His baner wes of barkit hyd
Quhairin Sanct Girnega did glyd
   Befoir that rebald rowt.
Full sowttarlyk he wes of laitis,
For ay betuix the harnes plaitis
   The uly birsit out.

Quhen on the talyeour he did luke,
His hairt a littill dwamyng tuke.
   Uneis he mycht upsitt.
Into his stommok wes sic ane steir
Of all his dennar quhilk cost him deir,
   His breist held never a bitt.
To comfort him or he raid forder,
The devill of knychtheid gaif him order,
   For stynk than he did spitt.
And he about the devillis nek
Did spew agane ane quart of blek,
   Thus knychtly he him quitt.

Than fourty tymis the feynd cryd, "Fy!"
The sowtar rycht effeiritly
   Unto the feild he socht.
Quhen thay wer servit of thair speiris,
Folk had ane feill be thair effeiris,
   Thair hairtis wer baith on flocht.
Thay spurrit thair hors on adir syd,
Syne thay attour the grund cowd glyd
   Than tham togidder brocht.
The tailyeour was nocht weill sittin,
He left his sadall all beschittin
   And to the grund he socht.

His birnes brak and maid ane brattill,
The sowtaris hors start with the rattill
   And round about cowd reill.
The beist, that frayit wes rycht evill,
Ran with the sowtar to the Devill,
   And he rewardit him weill.
Sumthing frome him the feynd eschewit,
He wend agane to bene bespewit,
   So stern he wes in steill.
He thocht he wald agane debait him.
He turnd his ers and all bedret him
   Quyte our from nek till heill.

He lowsit it of with sic a reird
Baith hors and man he straik till eird,
   He fartit with sic ane feir.
"Now haif I quitt thee," quod Mahoun.
The new maid knycht lay into swoun
   And did all armes forswer.
The Devill gart thame to dungeoun dryve
And thame of knychtheid cold depryve,
   Dischairgeing thame of weir,
And maid thame harlottis bayth forevir,
Quhilk still to keip thay had fer levir
   Nor ony armes beir.

I had mair of thair werkis writtin
Had nocht the sowtar bene beschittin
   With Belliallis ers unblist.
Bot that sa gud ane bourd me thocht,
Sic solace to my hairt it rocht,
   For lawchtir neir I brist,
Quhairthrow I walknit of my trance.
To put this in rememberance
   Mycht no man me resist,
To dyte how all this thing befell
Befoir Mahoun, the air of Hell.
   Schirris, trow it gif ye list!


78. Of the Tailors and the Shoemakers
[Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye]

Betuix twell houris and ellevin,
I dremed ane angell came fra hevin
With plesand stevin sayand on hie:
"Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"In Hevin hie ordand is your place
Aboif all sanctis in grit solace,
Nixt God grittest in dignitie:
Tailyouis and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"The caus to yow is nocht unkend;
That God mismakkis, ye do amend
Be craft and grit agilitie:
Tailyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"Sowtaris, with schone weill maid and meit
Ye mend the faltis of ill maid feit,
Quhairfoir to Hevin your saulis will fle:
Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"Is nocht in all this fair a flyrok
That hes upoun his feit a wyrok,
Knowll tais nor mowlis in no degrie,
Bot ye can hyd tham, blist be ye.

"And ye tailyouris, with weil maid clais
Can mend the werst maid man that gais
And mak him semely for to se:
Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"Thocht God mak ane misfassonit swayne,
Ye can him all schaip new agane
And fassoun him bettir be sic thre:
Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"Thocht a man haif a brokin bak,
Haif he a gud telyour, quhattrak,
That can it cuver with craftis slie:
Telyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"Of God grit kyndnes may ye clame
That helpis His peple fra cruke and lame,
Supportand faltis with your supplé:
Tailyouris and sowtaris, blist be ye.

"In erd ye kyth sic mirakillis heir,
In hevin ye sal be sanctis full cleir,
Thocht ye be knavis in this cuntré:
Telyouris and sowataris, blist ye be."


79. The Devil's Inquest
[Renunce thy God and cum to me]

This nycht in my sleip I wes agast,
Me thocht the Devill wes tempand fast
The peple with aithis of crewaltie,
Sayand, as throw the mercat he past,
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Me thocht as he went throw the way
Ane preist sweirit be God verey
Quhilk at the alter ressavit he.
"Thow art my clerk," the Devill can say,
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Than swoir ane courtyour mekle of pryd
Be Chrystis windis, bludy and wyd,
And be His harmes wes rent on Tre.
Than spak the Devill hard him besyd,
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane merchand his geir as he did sell
Renuncit his pairt of Hevin and Hell.
The Devill said, "Welcum mot thow be,
Thow sal be merchand for mysell.
Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane goldsmyth said, "The gold is sa fyne
That all the workmanschip I tyne -
The Feind ressaif me gif I le."
"Think on," quod the Devill, "that thow art myne.
Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane tailyour said, "In all this toun
Be thair ane better weilmaid goun,
I gif me to the Feynd all fre."
"Gramercy, telyour," said Mahoun,
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane sowttar said, "In gud effek,
Nor I be hangit be the nek
Gife bettir butis of ledder ma be."
"Fy!" quod the Feynd, "thow sairis of blek.
Ga clenge thee clene and cum to me."

Ane baxstar sayd, "I forsaik God
And all His werkis, evin and od,
Gif fairar stuff neidis to be."
The Dyvill luche and on him cowth nod,
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane fleschour swoir be the sacrament
And be Chrystis blud maist innocent,
Nevir fatter flesch saw man with e.
The Devill said, "Hald on thy intent;
Renunce thy God and cum to me."

The maltman sais, "I God forsaik,
And that the Devill of Hell me taik
Gif ony bettir malt may be,
And of this kill I haif inlaik."
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane browstar swoir, "The malt wes ill,
Bath reid and reikit on the kill
That it will be na aill for me.
Ane boll will nocht sex gallonis fill."
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

The smyth swoir, "Be rude and raip,
In till a gallowis mot I gaip
Gif I ten dayis wan pennyis thre,
For with that craft I can nocht thraip."
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane menstrall said, "The Feind me ryfe
Gif I do ocht bot drynk and swyfe."
The Devill said, "Hardly mot it be -
Exers that craft in all thy lyfe.
Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane dysour said with wirdis of stryfe
The Devill mot stik him with a knyfe
Bot he kest up fair syisis thre.
The Devill said, "Endit is thy lyfe;
Renunce thy God and cum to me."

Ane theif said, "God, that evir I chaip,
Nor ane stark widdy gar me gaip
Bot I in Hell for geir wald be."
The Devill said, "Welcum in a raip;
Renunce thy God and cum to me."

The fische wyffis flett and swoir with granis
And to the Feind, saule, flesch, and banis
Thay gaif thame with ane schowt on hie.
The Devill said, "Welcum all att anis;
Renunce thy god and cum to me."

Me thocht the devillis als blak as pik
Solistand wer as beis thik,
Ay tempand folk with wayis sle,
Rownand to Robene and to Dik,
"Renunce thy God and cum to me."


80. Master Andro Kennedy's Testament

I Maister Andro Kennedy
Curro quando sum vocatus.
Gottin with sum incuby
Or with sum freir infatuatus,
In faith I can nought tell redly
Unde aut ubi fui natus.
Bot in treuth I trow trewly
Quod sum dyabolus incarnatus.

Cum nichill sit cercius morte
We mon all de, man, that is done.
Nescimus quando vel qua sorte
Na Blind Allane wait of the mone.
Ego pacior in pectore,
This night I myght not sleip a wink.
Licet eger in corpore,
Yit wald my mouth be wet with drink.

Nunc condo testamentum meum.
I leiff my saull forevirmare,
Per omnipotentem Deum,
Into my lordis wyne cellar,
Semper ibi ad remanendum
Quhill Domisday, without dissever,
Bonum vinum ad bibendum
With sueit Cuthbert that luffit me nevir.

Ipse est dulcis ad amandum.
He wald oft ban me in his breith,
Det michi modo ad potandum,
And I forgif him laith and wraith,
Quia in cellario cum cervisia
I had lever lye, baith air and lait,
Nudus solus in camesia
Na in my lordis bed of stait.

A barell bung ay at my bosum,
Of warldis gud I bad na mair.
Corpus meum ebriosum
I leif onto the toune of Air,
In a draf mydding forevir and ay,
Ut ibi sepeliri queam,
Quhar drink and draff may ilka day
Be cassyne super faciem meam.

I leif my hert that nevir wes sicir
Sed semper variabile,
That nevirmare wald flow nor flicir
Consorti meo Jacobe.
Thought I wald bynd it with a wicir
Verum deum renui.
Bot and I hecht to teme a bicker
Hoc pactum semper tenui.

Syne leif I the best aucht I bocht
(Quod es Latinum propter "caupe")
To hede of kyn; bot I wait nought
Quis est ille, than I schrew my scawpe.
I callit my lord my heid, but hiddill,
Sed nulli alii hoc dixerunt.
We weir als sib as seve and riddill,
In una silva que creverunt.

Omnia mea solacia
(Thai wer bot lesingis, all and ane)
Cum omni fraude et fallacia
I leif the maister of Sanct Antane,
Willelmo Gray, sine gratia,
Myne awne deir cusing, as I wene,
Qui nunquam fabricat mendatia
Bot quhen the holyne growis grene.

My fenyening and my fals wynyng
Relinquo falsis fratribus,
For that is Goddis awne bidding:
Dispersit, dedit pauperibus.
For menis saulis thai say thai sing,
Mencientes pro muneribus.
Now God gif thaim ane evill ending
Pro suis pravis operibus.

To Jok Fule my foly fre
Lego post corpus sepultum.
In faith, I am mair fule than he,
Licet ostendit bonum vultum.
Of corne and catall, gold and fe
Ipse habet walde multum,
And yit he bleris my lordis e
Fingendo eum fore stultum.

To master Johne Clerk syne
Do et lego intime
Goddis malisone and myne.
Ipse est causa mortis mee.
War I a dog and he a swyne
Multi mirantur super me,
Bot I suld ger that lurdane quhryne
Scribendo dentes sine de.

Residuum omnium bonorum
For to dispone my lord sall haif,
Cum tutela puerorum -
Ade, Kytte, and all the laif.
In faith, I will na langar raif.
Pro sepultura ordino
On the new gys, sa God me saif,
Non sicut more solito.

In die mee sepulture
I will nane haif bot our aune gyng,
Et duos rusticos de rure
Berand a barell on a styng,
Drynkand and playand cop out evin,
Sicut ego met solebam.
Singand and gretand with hie stevin,
Potum meum cum fletu miscebam.

I will na preistis for me sing
Dies illa, dies ire,
Na yit na bellis for me ring,
Sicut semper solet fieri,
Bot a bag pipe to play a spryng
Et unum ail wosp ante me;
Instayd of baneris for to bring
Quatuor lagenas cervisie,
Within the graif to set sic thing
In modum Crucis juxta me,
To fle the fendis, than hardely sing
De terra plasmasti me.


81. Dunbar's Dirge

We that ar heir in hevynnis glorie
To you that ar in purgatorie
Commendis us on hartlie wys -
I mene we folk of paradys
In Edinburgh with all merynes -
To yow at Striveling in distres,
Quhair nowdir plesour nor delyt is,
For pietie this epistell wrytis.
O ye heremytis and ankirsadillis
That takkis your pennance at your tabillis
And eitis no meit restorative
Nor drinkis no wyne confortative
Nor aill, bot that is thin and small,
With few coursis into your hall,
But cumpany of lordis and knychtis
Or ony uther gudlie wychtis,
Solitar walking your alone,
Seing nothing bot stok and stone;
Out of your panefull purgatorie
To bring yow to the blys and glorie
Of Edinburcht, the myrrie town,
We sall begin ane cairfull sown,
Ane dirige devoit and meik,
The Lord of blys doing beseik
Yow to delyver out of your noy
And bring yow sone to Edinburgh joy,
For to be merye amangis us.
The dirige begynnis thus:

   Lectio prima

The Fader, the Sone, the Holie Gaist,
The blissit Marie, virgen chaist,
Of angellis all the ordour nyne,
And all the hevinlie court divyne
Sone bring yow fra the pyne and wo
Of Striveling, everie court manis foo,
Agane to Edinburchtis joy and blys,
Quhair wirschip, welthe, and weilfair is,
Play, plesance eik, and honestie.
Say ye amen, for chirritie.
   Tu autem, Domine.

   Responsio

Tak consolatioun in your payne,
In tribulatioun tak consolatioun,
Out of vexatioun cum hame agayne,
Tak consolatioun in your payne.
Iube, Domine, etc.
Out of distres of Stirling town
To Edinburgh blys God mak you bown.

   Lectio secunda

Patriarchis, prophetis, apostillis deir,
Confessouris, virgynis, and martyris cleir,
And all the saitt celestiall,
Devoitlie we upone thame call
That sone out of your paynis fell
Ye may in hevin heir with us duell
To eit swan, cran, peirtrik, and pluver,
And everie fische that swowmis in rever;
To drink withe us the new fresche wyne
That grew apone the revar of Ryne,
Fresche fragrant claretis out of France,
Of Angeo and of Orliance,
With mony ane cours of grit daynté.
Say ye amen, for chirrité.
   Tu autem, Domine.

   Responsio

God and Sanct Geill heir yow convoy,
Baythe sone and weill, God and Sanct Geill,
To sonce and seill, solace and joy,
God and Sanct Geill heir yow convoy.
   Iube, Domine.

Out of Stirling paynis fell
In Edinburgh joy sone mot ye dwell.

   Lectio tertia

We pray to all the sanctis in Hevin
That ar abuif the sternis sevin,
Yow to delyver out of your pennance,
That ye may sone play, sing, and dance
And into Edinburgh mak gud cheir
Quhair welthe and weilfair is, but weir.
And I that dois your paynis discryve
Thinkis for to visie you belyve,
Nocht in desert with yow to duell,
Bot as the angell Gabriell
Dois go betweyne fra Hevynis glorie
To thame that ar in Purgatorie,
And in thair tribulatioun
To gif thame consolatioun,
And schaw thame quhone thair pane is past
Thay sall to Hevin cum at the last,
And how nane servis to have sweitnes
That never taistit bittirnes.
And thairfoir how sould ye considdir
Of Edinburgh blys quhone ye cum hiddir,
Bot gif ye taistit had befoir
Of Stirling toun the paynis soir?
And thairfoir tak in patience
Your pennance and your abstinence,
And ye sall cum or Yule begyn
Into the blys that we ar in,
Quhilk grant the glorious Trinité.
Say ye amen, for chirrité.
   Tu autem, Domine.

   Responsio

Cum hame and duell no mair in Stirling,
Fra hyddows hell cum hame and duell,
Quhair fische to sell is nane bot spyrling,
Cum hame and duell na mair in Stirling.
   Iube, Domine.

Et ne nos inducas in tentationem de Stirling
Sed libera nos a malo eiusdem.

Requiem Edinburgi dona eis, Domine,
Et lux ipsius luceat eis.
A porta tristitiae de Stirling
Erue, Domine, animas et corpora eorum.
Credo gustare vinum Edinburgi

In villa viventium.
Requiescant statim in Edinburgo. Amen.

Domine, exaudi orationem meam
Et clamor meus ad te veniat.
Oremus.


Deus qui iustos et corde humiles ex eorum tribulatione
liberare dignatus es: libera famulos tuos apud villam
de Stirling versantes a penis et tristitiis eiusdem, et ad
Edinburgi gaudia feliciter perducas. Amen.
13


82. The Twa Cummars
[This lang Lentrin it makis me lene]

Richt arely one Ask Wedinsday
Drinkande the wyne sat cummaris tua.
The tane couthe to the tothir complene,
Granand ande suppand couth sche say:
"This lang Lentrin it makis me lene."

One couch befor the fyir sche sat.
God wait gif sche was gret and fat,
Yet to be feble sche did hir fene,
Ay sche said, "Cummar, lat preif of that:
This lang Lentrin makis me lene."

"My fair suet cummar," quod the tothir,
"Ye tak that megirnes of your modir.
Ale wyne to tast sche wald disdene
Bot malwasy, and nay drink uthir:
This lang Lentryn it makis me lene."

"Cummar, be glaid baith evin and morrow,
The gud quharevere ye beg or borrow.14
Fra our lang fasting youe refrene
And lat your husband dre the sorrow.
This lang Lentryn it makis me lene."

"Your counsaile, commar, is gud," quod scho.
"Ale is to tene him that I do;
In bed he is nocht wortht ane bane.
File anis the glas and drink me to:
This lang Lentryn it makis me lene."

Of wyne out of ane chopin stoip
Thai drank tua quartis, bot soip and soip,
Of droucht sic axis did thame strene,
Be thane to mend thai hed gud hoip,
That lang Lentrin suld nocht mak thaim lene.


83. The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy

"Schir Johine the Ros, ane thing thair is compild
In generale be Kennedy and Quinting,
Quhilk hes thameself aboif the sternis styld.
Bot had thay maid of mannace ony mynting
In speciall, sic stryfe sould rys but stynting;
Howbeit with bost thair breistis wer als bendit
As Lucifer that fra the hevin discendit,
Hell sould nocht hyd thair harnis fra harmis hynting.

The erd sould trymbill, the firmament sould schaik,
And all the air in vennaum suddane stink,
And all the divillis of Hell for redour quaik,
To heir quhat I suld wryt with pen and ynk;
For and I flyt, sum sege for schame sould sink,
The se sould birn, the mone sould thoill ecclippis,
Rochis sould ryfe, the warld sould hald no grippis,
Sa loud of cair the commoun bell sould clynk.

Bot wondir laith wer I to be ane baird.
Flyting to use richt gritly I eschame,
For it is nowthir wynnyng nor rewaird,
Bot tinsale baith of honour and of fame,
Incres of sorrow, sklander, and evill name.
Yit mycht thay be sa bald in thair bakbytting
To gar me ryme and rais the feynd with flytting
And throw all cuntreis and kinrikis thame proclame."
           Quod Dumbar to Kennedy

"Dirtin Dumbar, quhome on blawis thow thy boist,
Pretendand thee to wryte sic skaldit skrowis,
Ramowd rebald, thow fall doun att the roist
My laureat lettres at thee and I lowis.
Mandrag mymmerkin, maid maister bot in mows,
Thrys scheild trumpir with ane threidbair goun,
Say 'Deo mercy' or I cry thee doun,
And leif thy ryming, rebald, and thy rowis.

"Dreid, dirtfast dearch, that thow hes dissobeyit
My cousing Quintene and my commissar.
Fantastik fule, trest weill thow sal be fleyit.
Ignorant elf, aip, owll irregular,
Skaldit skaitbird and commoun skamelar,
Wanfukkit funling that Natour maid ane yrle,
Baith Johine the Ros and thow sall squeill and skirle
And evir I heir ocht of your making mair.

"Heir I put sylence to thee in all pairtis.
Obey and ceis the play that thow pretendis,
Waik walidrag and werlot of the cairtis;
Se sone thow mak my commissar amendis,
And lat him lay sax leichis on thy lendis
Meikly in recompansing of thi scorne,
Or thow sall ban the tyme that thow wes borne:
For Kennedy to thee this cedull sendis."
           Quod Kennedy to Dumbar

   Juge in the nixt quha gat the war

"Iersche brybour baird, vyle beggar with thy brattis,
Cuntbittin crawdoun Kennedy, coward of kynd,
Evill-farit and dryit as Denseman on the rattis,
Lyk as the gleddis had on thy gulesnowt dynd,
Mismaid monstour, ilk mone owt of thy mynd,
Renunce, rebald, thy rymyng, thow bot royis.
Thy trechour tung hes tane ane Heland strynd,
Ane Lawland ers wald mak a bettir noyis.

"Revin raggit ruke, and full of rebaldrie,
Skitterand scorpioun, scauld in scurrilitie,
I se the haltane in thy harlotrie
And into uthir science nothing slie,
Of every vertew voyd, as men may sie.
Quytclame clergie and cleik to thee ane club,
Ane baird blasphemar in brybrie ay to be,
For wit and woisdome ane wisp fra thee may rub.

"Thow speiris, dastard, gif I dar with thee fecht.
Ye, Dagone dowbart, thairof haif thow no dowt.
Quhairevir we meit, thairto my hand I hecht,
To red thy rebald rymyng with a rowt.
Throw all Bretane it sal be blawin owt,
How that thow, poysonit pelour, gat thy paikis.
With ane doig leich I schepe to gar thee schowt
And nowther to thee tak knyfe, swerd, nor aix.

"Thow crop and rute of tratouris tressonable,
The fathir and moder of morthour and mischeif,
Dissaitfull tyrand with serpentis tung unstable,
Cukcald, cradoun cowart, and commoun theif,
Thow purpest for to undo our lordis chief
In Paislay with ane poysone that wes fell,
For quhilk, brybour, yit sall thow thoill a breif.
Pelour, on thee I sall it preif mysell.

"Thocht I wald lie, thy frawart phisnomy
Dois manifest thy malice to all men.
Fy, tratour theif, fy, glengoir loun, fy, fy!
Fy, feyndly front far fowlar than ane fen,
My freyindis thow reprovit with thy pen.
Thow leis, tratour, quhilk I sall on thee preif,
Suppois thy heid war armit tymis ten,
Thow sall recry it, or thy croun sall cleif.

"Or thow durst move thy mynd malitius,
Thow saw the saill abone my heid up draw.
Bot Eolus, full woid, and Neptunus,
Mirk and moneles us met with wind and waw,
And mony hundreth myll hyne cowd us blaw,
By Holland, Seland, Yetland, and Northway coist,
In sey desert quhair we wer famist aw.
Yit come I hame, fals baird, to lay thy boist.

"Thow callis thee rethore with thy goldin lippis.
Na, glowrand gaipand fule, thow art begyld.
Thow art bot gluntoch, with thy giltin hippis,
That for thy lounry mony a leisch hes fyld.
Wan-visaged widdefow, out of thy wit gane wyld,
Laithly and lowsy, als lauchtane as ane leik,
Sen thow with wirschep wald sa fane be styld,
Haill, soverane senyeour, thy bawis hingis throw thy breik.15

"Forworthin fule, of all the warld reffuse,
Quhat ferly is thocht thow rejoys to flyte?
Sic eloquence as thay in Erschry use,
In sic is sett thy thraward appetyte.
Thow hes full littill feill of fair indyte.
I tak on me ane pair of Lowthiane hippis
Sall fairar Inglis mak and mair parfyte
Than thow can blabbar with thy Carrik lippis.

"Bettir thow ganis to leid ane doig to skomer,
Pynit pykpuris pelour, than with thy maister pingill.
Thow lay full prydles in the peis this somer
And fane at evin for to bring hame a single,
Syne rubb it at aneuther auld wyvis ingle.
Bot now in winter for purteth thow art traikit,
Thow hes na breik to latt thy bellokis gyngill,
Beg thee ane bratt, for baird, thow sall go naikit.

"Lene, larbar loungeour, lowsy in lisk and longe,16
Fy, skolderit skyn, thow art bot skyre and skrumple:
For he that rostit Lawrance had thy grunye,
And he that hid Sanct Johnis ene with ane wimple,
And he that dang Sanct Augustyne with ane rumple
Thy fowll front had, and he that Bartilmo flaid.
The gallowis gaipis eftir thy graceles gruntill,
As thow wald for ane haggeis, hungry gled.

"Cummerwarld crawdoun, na man comptis thee ane kers.17
Sueir swappit swanky, swynekeper ay for swaittis,
Thy commissar, Quintyne, biddis thee cum kis his ers.
He luvis nocht sic ane forlane loun of laittis,
He sayis thow skaffis and beggis mair beir and aitis
Nor ony cripill in Karrik land abowt.
Uther pure beggaris and thow for wage debaittis,
Decrepit karlingis on Kennedy cryis owt.

"Mater annwche I haif, I bid not fenyie,
Thocht thow, fowll trumpour, thus upoun me leid.
Corrupt carioun, he sall I cry my senyie.
Thinkis thow nocht how thow come in grit neid,
Greitand in Galloway lyk to ane gallow breid,
Ramand and rolpand, beggand koy and ox.
I saw thee thair into thy wathemanis weid,
Quhilk wes nocht worth ane pair of auld gray sox.

"Ersch katherene, with thy polk breik and rilling,
Thow and thy quene as gredy gleddis ye gang
With polkis to mylne and beggis baith meill and schilling.
Thair is bot lys and lang nailis yow amang,
Fowll heggirbald, for henis thus will ye hang.
Thow hes ane perrellus face to play with lambis.
Ane thowsand kiddis, wer thay in faldis full strang,
Thy lymmair luke wald fle thame and thair damis.

"Intill ane glen thow hes, owt of repair,
Ane laithly luge that wes the lippir menis.
With thee ane sowtaris wyfe of blis als bair,
And lyk twa stalkaris steilis in cokis and henis.
Thow plukkis the pultré and scho pullis of the penis.
All Karrik cryis, 'God gif this dowsy be drownd!'
And quhen thow heiris ane guse cry in the glenis,
Thow thinkis it swetar than sacryne bell of sound.

"Thow Lazarus, thow laithly lene tramort,
To all the warld thow may example be,
To luk upoun thy gryslie, peteous port;
For hiddowis, haw, and holkit is thyne ee,
Thy cheikbane bair and blaiknit is thy ble.
Thy choip, thy choll garris men for to leif chest;
Thy gane, it garris us think that we mon de.
I conjure thee, thow hungert Heland gaist.

"The larbar linkis of thy lang lenye craig,
Thy pure pynit thrott, peilit and owt of ply,
Thy skolderit skin, hewd lyk ane saffrone bag,
Garris men dispyt thar flesche, thow spreit of Gy.
Fy, feyndly front, fy, tykis face, fy, fy!
Ay loungand lyk ane loikman on ane ledder
With hingit luik, ay wallowand upone wry,
Lyk to ane stark theif glowrand in ane tedder.

"Nyse nagus nipcaik with thy schulderis narrow,
Thow lukis lowsy, loun of lounis aw,
Hard hurcheoun hirpland, hippit as ane harrow,
Thy rigbane rattillis and thy ribbis on raw,
Thy hanchis hirklis with hukebanis harth and haw,
Thy laithly lymis ar lene as ony treis.
Obey, theif baird, or I sall brek thy gaw.
Fowll carrybald, cry mercy on thy kneis.

"Thow pure, pynhippit, ugly averill
With hurkland banis holkand throw thy hyd,
Reistit and crynit as hangit man on hill,
And oft beswakkit with ane ourhie tyd
Quhilk brewis mekle barret to thy bryd.
Hir cair is all to clenge thy cabroch howis,
Quhair thow lyis sawsy in saphron, bak and syd,
Powderit with prymros, savrand all with clowis.

"Forworthin wirling, I warne thee, it is wittin
How, skyttand skarth, thow hes the hurle behind.
Wan wraiglane wasp, ma wormis hes thow beschittin
Nor thair is gers on grund or leif on lind.
Thocht thow did first sic foly to me fynd,
Thow sall agane with ma witnes than I.
Thy gulsoch gane dois on thy bak it bind,
Thy hostand hippis lattis nevir thy hos go dry.

"Thow held the burch lang with ane borrowit goun
And ane caprowsy barkit all with sweit,
And quhen the laidis saw thee sa lyk a loun,
Thay bickerit thee with mony bae and bleit.
Now upaland thow leivis on rubbit quheit,
Oft for ane caus thy burdclaith neidis no spredding
For thow hes nowthir for to drink nor eit,
Bot lyk ane berdles baird that had no bedding.

"Strait Gibbonis air, that nevir ourstred ane hors,
Bla, berfute berne, in bair tyme wes thow borne.
Thow bringis the Carrik clay to Edinburgh Cors,
Upoun thy botingis hobland, hard as horne.
Stra wispis hingis owt quhair that the wattis ar worne.
Cum thow agane to skar us with thy strais,
We sall gar scale our sculis all thee to scorne
And stane thee up the calsay quhair thow gais.

"Of Edinburch the boyis as beis owt thrawis
And cryis owt, 'Hay, heir cumis our awin queir clerk!'
Than fleis thow lyk ane howlat chest with crawis
Quhill all the bichis at thy botingis dois bark.
Than carlingis cryis, 'Keip curches in the merk -
Our gallowis gaipis - lo, quhair ane greceles gais!'18
Aneuthir sayis, 'I se him want ane sark -
I reid yow, cummer, tak in your lynning clais.'

"Than rynis thow doun the gait with gild of boyis
And all the toun tykis hingand in thy heilis.
Of laidis and lownis thair rysis sic ane noyis
Quhill runsyis rynis away with cairt and quheilis
And cager aviris castis bayth coillis and creilis
For rerd of thee and rattling of thy butis.
Fische wyvis cryis 'Fy!' and castis doun skillis and skeilis,
Sum claschis thee, sum cloddis thee on the cutis.

"Loun lyk Mahoun, be boun me till obey,
Theif, or in greif mischeif sall thee betyd.
Cry grace, tykis-face, or I thee chece and fley,
Oule, rare and yowle, I sall defowll thy pryd,
Peilit gled, baith fed and bred of bichis syd
And lyk ane tyk, purspyk, quhat man settis by thee!
Forflittin, countbittin, beschittin, barkit hyd,
Clym ledder, fyle tedder, foule edder, I defy thee!19

"Mauch muttoun, byt buttoun, peilit gluttoun, air to Hilhous,
Rank beggar, ostir dregar, flay fleggar in the flet.20
Chittirlilling, ruch rilling, lik schilling in the milhous,
Baird rehator, theif of nator, fals tratour, feyindis gett,21
Filling of tauch, rak sauch - cry crauch, thow art oursett!
Muttoun dryver, girnall ryver, yadswyvar, fowll fell thee!22
Herretyk, lunatyk, purspyk, carlingis pet,
Rottin crok, dirtin dok - cry cok, or I sall quell thee!"
           Quod Dumbar to Kennedy

"Dathane, deivillis sone, and dragone dispitous,
Abironis birth and bred with Beliall,
Wod werwoif, worme, and scorpion vennemous,
Lucifers laid, fowll feyindis face infernall,
Sodomyt syphareit fra sanctis celestiall,
Put I nocht sylence to thee, schiphird knaif?
And thow of new begynis to ryme and raif.
Thow sal be maid blait, bleir eit bestiall.

"How thy forbear is come I haif a feill:
At Cokburnispeth, the writ makis me war,
Generit betuix ane scho-beir and a deill,
Sa wes he callit Dewlbeir and nocht Dumbar.
This Dewlbeir, generit on a meir of Mar,
Wes Corspatrik, erle of Merche, and be illusioun.
The first that evir put Scotland to confusioun
Wes that fals tratour, hardely say I dar.

"Quhen Bruce and Balioll differit for the croun,
Scottis lordis could nocht obey Inglis lawis.
This Corspatrik betrasit Berwik toun
And slew sevin thousand Scottismen within thay wawis.
The battall syne of Spottismuir he gart caus,
And come with Edwart Langschankis to the field
Quhair twelf thowsand trew Scottismen wer keild
And Wallace chest, as the carnicle schawis.

"Scottis lordis chiftanis he gart hald and chessone
In firmance fast quhill all the feild wes done,
Within Dumbar, that auld spelunk of tressoun.
Sa Inglis tykis in Scottland wes abone.
Than spulyeit thay the haly stane of Scone,
The croce of Halyrudhous, and uthir jowellis.
He birnis in Hell - body, banis, and bowellis -
This Corspatrik that Scotland hes undone.

"Wallace gart cry ane counsale into Pert
And callit Corspatrik tratour be his style.
That dampnit dragone drew him in disert
And sayd he kend bot Wallace, king in Kyle.
Out of Dumbar that theif he maid exyle
Unto Edward and Inglis grund agane.
Tigiris, serpentis, and taidis will remane
In Dumbar wallis, todis, wolffis, and beistis wyle.

"Na fowlis of effect amangis tha binkis
Biggis nor abydis, for nothing that may be.
Thay stanis of tressone as the bruntstane stinkis.
Dewlbeiris moder, cassin in by the se
The wariet apill of the forbiddin tre
That Adame eit quhen he tint Parradyce,
Scho eit, invennomit lyk a cokkatryce,
Syne merreit with the divill for dignité.

"Yit of new tressone I can tell thee tailis
That cumis on nycht in visioun in my sleip:
Archebauld Dumbar betrasd the hous of Hailis
Becaus the yung lord had Dumbar to keip;
Pretendand throw that to thair rowmis to creip,
Rycht crewaly his castell he persewit,
Brocht him furth boundin and the place reskewit,
Sett him in fetteris in ane dungeoun deip.

"It war aganis bayth natur and gud ressoun
That Dewlbeiris bairnis wer trew to God or man,
Quhilkis wer baith gottin, borne, and bred with tressoun,
Belgebubbis oyis and curst Corspatrikis clan.
Thow wes prestyt and ordanit be Sathan
For to be borne to do thy kin defame
And gar me schaw thy antecessouris schame.
Thy kin that leivis may wary thee and ban.

"Sen thow on me thus, lymmer, leis and trattillis,
And fyndis sentence foundit of invy,
Thy elderis banis ilk nycht rysis and rattillis:
Apon thy cors vengeance, vengeance thay cry -
Thow art the cause thay may not rest nor ly.
Thow sais for thame few psaltris, psalmis, or credis
Bot geris me tell thair trentalis of mysdedis
And thair ald sin wyth new schame certify.

"Insensuate sow, cesse, false Eustase air,
And knaw, kene scald, I hald of Alathya,
And cause me not the cause lang to declare
Of thy curst kyn, Deulber and his allya.
Cum to the Croce on kneis and mak a crya,
Confesse thy crime, hald Kenydy the king,
And wyth ane hauthorne scurge thyself and dyng.
Thus dree thy penaunce wyth deliquisti quia.

"Pas to my commissare and be confest,
Cour before him on kneis and cum in will,
And syne ger Stobo for thy lyf protest.
Renounce thy rymis, bath ban and birn thy bill,23
Heve to the hevyn thy handis ande hald thee still.
Do thou not thus, bogane, thou sal be brynt
Wyth pik, fire, ter, gun puldre, and lynt
On Arthuris Sete or on ane hyar hyll.

"I perambalit of Pernaso the montayn,
Enspirit wyth Mercury fra his goldyn spere,
And dulcely drank of eloquence the fontayne
Quhen it was purifit wyth frost and flowit clere.
And thou come, fule, in Marche or Februere
Thare till a pule and drank the padok rod
That gerris the ryme into thy termes glod
And blaberis that noyis mennis eris to here.

"Thou lufis nane Irische, elf, I understand,
Bot it suld be all trew Scottis mennis lede.
It was the gud langage of this land
And Scota it causit to multiply and sprede
Quhill Corspatrik, that we of tresoun rede,
Thy forefader, maid Irisch and Irisch men thin,
Throu his tresoun broght Inglise rumplis in.
Sa wald thyself, mycht thou to him succede.

"Ignorant fule, into thy mowis and mokis
It may be verifyit that thy wit is thin;
Quhare thou writis 'Densmen dryit apon the rattis,'
Densmen of Denmark ar of the kingis kyn.
The wit thou suld have had was castin in
Evyn at thyne ers bakwart wyth a staf slong.
Herefore, false harlot hursone, hald thy tong,
Deulbere, thou devis the devill thyne eme wyth dyn.

"Quhareas thou said that I stall hennis and lammys,
I latt thee witt I have land, store, and stakkis.
Thou wald be fayn to gnaw, lad, wyth thy gammys
Under my burd smoch banis behynd doggis bakkis.
Thou has a tome purs, I have stedis and takkis;
Thou tynt cultur, I have cultur and pleuch.
For substance and gere thou has a wedy teuch
On Mount Falcoun about thy crag to rax.

"And yit Mount Falcoun gallowis is our fair
For to be fylde wyth sik a fruteles face.
Cum hame and hyng on oure gallowis of Aire -
To erd thee undir it I sall purchas grace;
To ete thy flesch the doggis sall have na space,
The ravyns sall ryve nathing bot thy tong rutis.24
For thou sik malice of thy maister mutis,
It is wele sett that thou sik barat brace.

"Small fynance amang thy frendis thou beggit
To stanch the storm wyth haly muldis thou loste.
Thou sailit to get a dowcare for to dreg it,
It lyis closit in a clout on Seland cost.
Sik reule gerris thee be servit wyth cald rost
And sitt unsoupit oft beyond the sey
Criant "caritas," at duris, "amore Dei,"25
Barefut, brekeles, and all in duddis updost.

"Deulbere has not ado wyth a Dunbar.
The erlis of Murray bure that surname ryght,
That evyr trew to the king and constant ware,
And of that kyn come Dunbar of Westfelde knyght.
That successione is hardy, wyse, and wicht
And has nathing ado now wyth the Devile.
Bot Deulbere is thy kyn and kennis thee wele
And has in Hell for thee a chaumir dicht.

"Cursit croapand craw, I sall ger crop thy tong
And thou sall cry cor mundum on thy kneis.
Duerch, I sall dyng thee quhill thou dryte and dong,
And thou sal lik thy lippis and suere thou leis.
I sall degrade thee, graceles, of thy greis,
Scaile thee for scorne and shere thee of thy scule,
Ger round thy hede, transforme thee till a fule,
And syne for tresone trone thee to the treis.

"Raw-mowit ribald, renegate rehatour,
My linage and forebearis war ay lele.
It cumis of kynde to thee to be a traytoure,
To ryde on nycht, to rug, to reve and stele.
Quhare thou puttis poysoun to me, I appelle26
Thee in that part - preve it, pelour, wyth thy persone!
Clame not to clergy, I defy thee, gersone.
Thou sall by it dere wyth me, duerche, and thou dele.27

"In Ingland, oule, suld be thyne habitacione.
Homage to Edward Langschankis maid thy kyn,
In Dunbar thai ressavit hym, the false nacione:
Thay suld be exilde Scotland, mare and myn.
A stark gallowis, a wedy, and a pyn
The hede poynt of thyne elderis armes ar,
Wryttyn abone in poesi: "Hang Dunbar,
Quarter and draw, and mak that surname thin!"

"I am the kingis blude, his trew speciall clerk
That nevir yit ymaginit hym offense,
Constant in myn allegeance, word, and werk,
Onely dependand on his excellence,
Traistand to have of his magnificence
Guerdoun, reward, and benefice bedene
Quhen that the ravyns sal ryve out bath thine ene
And on the rattis sal be thy residence.

"Fra Etrike Forest furthward to Drumfrese
Thou beggit wyth a pardoun in all kirkis
Collapis, cruddis, mele, grotis, grisis, and geis,
And onder nycht quhile stall thou staggis and stirkis.
Because that Scotland of thy begging irkis,
Thou scapis in France to be a knycht of the felde;
Thou has thy clamschellis and thy burdoun kelde -
Unhonest wayis all, wolroun, that thou wirkis.

"Thou may not pas Mount Barnard for wilde bestis,
Nor wyn throu Mount Scarpre for the snawe;
Mount Nycholas, Mount Godart - thare arestis
Brigantis sik bois and blyndis thame wyth a blawe.
In Parise wyth the maister buriawe
Abyde, and be his prentice nere the bank,
And help to hang the pece for half a frank,
And at the last thyself sall thole the lawe.

"Haltane harlot, the devill have gude thou hais!
For fault of puissance, pelour, thou mon pak thee.
Thou drank thy thrift, sald and wedsett thy clais.
Thare is na lorde that will in service tak thee.
A pak of flaskynnis fynance for to mak thee
Thou sall ressave in Danskyn, of my tailye;
With De profundis fend thee, and that failye,28
And I sall send the blak devill for to bak thee.

"Into the Katryne thou maid a foule cahute,
For thou bedrate hir doun fra starn to stere.
Apon hir sydis was sene thou coud schute -
Thy dirt clevis till hir towis this twenty yere.
The firmament na firth was nevir cler
Quhill thou, Deulbere, devillis birth, was on the see.
The saulis had sonkyn throu the syn of thee
War not the peple maid sa grete prayere.

"Quhen that the schip was saynit and undir saile,
Foul brow, in holl thou preposit for to pas.
Thou schot and was not sekir of thy tayle,
Beschate the stere, the compas, and the glas.
The skippar bad ger land thee at the Bas.
Thou spewit and kest out mony a lathly lomp
Fastar than all the marynaris coud pomp,
And now thy wame is wers than evir it was.

"Had thai bene prouvait sa of schote of gune
By men of were, but perile thay had past.
As thou was louse and redy of thy bune,
Thay mycht have tane the collum at the last,
For thou wald cuk a cartfull at a cast.
Thare is na schip that wil thee now ressave,
Thou fylde faster than fyftenesum mycht lawe,
And myrit thaym wyth thy muk to the myd-mast.

"Throu Ingland, thef, and tak thee to thy fute,
And boun with thee to have a false botwand.
A horse marschall thou call thee at the mute
And with that craft convoy thee throu the land.
Be nathing argh, tak ferily on hand.
Happyn thou to be hangit in Northumbir,
Than all thy kyn ar wele quyte of thy cumbir,
And that mon be thy dome, I undirstand.

"Hye souverane lorde, lat nevir this synfull sot
Do schame fra hame unto your nacion!
Lat nevir nane sik ane be callit a Scot,
A rottyn crok, louse of the dok, thare doun!
Fra honest folk devoide this lathly lown
In sum desert quhare thare is na repaire;
For fylyng and infecking of the aire,
Cary this cankerit corrupt carioun.

"Thou was consavit in the grete eclips,
A monstir maid be god Mercurius,
Na hald agayn, na hoo is at thy hips.
Infortunate, false, and furius,
Evill-schryvin, wanthryvin, not clene na curius,
A myten full of flyting, flyrdom like,
A crabbit, scabbit, evill facit messan tyke,
A schit but wit, schir and injurius.

"Greit in the glaykis, gude maister Gilliam gukkis,
Our imperfyte in poetry or in prose.
All clocis undir cloud of nycht thou cukkis.
Rymis thou of me, of rethory the rose?
Lunatike lymare luschbald, louse thy hose
That I may touch thy tone wyth tribulation
In recompensing of thy conspiration,
Or turse thee out of Scotland - tak thy chose!

"Ane benefice quha wald gyve sic ane beste
Bot gif it war to gyngill Judas bellis?
Tak thee a fidill or a floyte, and geste!
Undought, thou art ordanyt to not ellis.
Thy cloutit cloke, thy skryp, and thy clamschellis
Cleke on thy cors, and fare on into France,
And cum thou nevir agayn but a mischance.
The Fend fare wyth thee forthward our the fellis.

"Cankrit Caym, tryit trowane Tutivillus,
Marmaidyn, mymerken, monstir of all men,
I sall ger bake thee to the lard of Hillhouse
To suelly thee in stede of a pullit hen.
Fowmart, fasert, fostirit in filth and fen,
Foule fond, flend fule, apon thy phisnom fy!
Thy dok of dirt drepis and will nevir dry,
To tume thy tone it has tyrit carlingis ten.

"Conspiratour, cursit cocatrice, hell caa,
Turk trumpour, traitour, tyran intemperate,
Thou irefull attircop, Pilate apostata,
Judas, Jow, juglour, Lollard laureate,
Sarazene, Symonyte provit, pagane pronunciate,
Machomete, manesuorne, bugrist abhominabile,
Devill, dampnit dog, sodomyte insatiable,
With Gog and Magog grete glorificate.

"Nero thy nevow, Golyas thy grantsire,
Pharao thy fader, Egiptia thy dame,
Deulbere, thir ar the causis that I conspire.
Termygantis tempise thee, and Vaspasius thine eme,
Belzebub, thy full brothir, will clame
To be thyne air, and Cayphas thy sectour,
Pluto thy hede of kyn and protectour,
To Hell to lede thee on lycht day and leme.

"Herode thyne othir eme, and grete Egeas,
Marciane, Machomete, and Maxencius,
Thy trew kynnismen Antenor and Eneas,
Throp thy nere nece, and austern Olibrius,
Puttidew, Baal, and Eyobulus -
Thir fendis ar the flour of thy four branchis,
Sterand the potis of Hell and nevir stanchis.
Dout not, Deulbere, tu es dyabolas!

"Deulbere, thy spere of were but feir thou yelde -29
Hangit, mangit, edir-stangit, strynde stultorum -
To me, maist hie Kenydie, and flee the felde.
Prikkit, wickit, conwickit lamp Lollardorum,
Defamyt, blamyt, schamyt primas paganorum,
Out, out, I schout, apon that snowt that snevillis!
Tale tellare, rebellare, induellar wyth the devillis,
Spynk, sink wyth stynk ad Tertera Termagorum."
           Quod Kennedy to Dumbar

   Juge ye now heir quha gat the war


84. The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo

   Apon the Midsummer Evin, mirriest of nichtis,
I muvit furth allane in meid as midnicht wes past
Besyd ane gudlie grein garth full of gay flouris,
Hegeit of ane huge hicht with hawthorne treis
Quhairon ane bird on ane bransche so birst out hir notis
That never ane blythfullar bird was on the beuche hard.
Quhat throw the sugarat sound of hir sang glaid
And throw the savour sanative of the sueit flouris,
I drew in derne to the dyk to dirkin efter mirthis.
The dew donkit the daill and dynnit the feulis.
I hard under ane holyn hevinlie grein hewit
Ane hie speiche at my hand with hautand wourdis.
With that in haist to the hege so hard I inthrang
That I was heildit with hawthorne and with heynd leveis.
Throw pykis of the plet thorne I presandlie luikit
Gif ony persoun wald approche within that plesand garding.

   I saw thre gay ladeis sit in ane grein arbeir
All grathit into garlandis of fresche gudlie flouris.
So glitterit as the gold wer thair glorius gilt tressis30
Quhill all the gressis did gleme of the glaid hewis.
Kemmit war thair clier hair and curiouslie sched
Attour thair schulderis doun schyre schyning full bricht
With curches cassin thair abone of kirsp cleir and thin.
Thair mantillis grein war as the gres that grew in May sessoun,
Fetrit with thair quhyt fingaris about thair fair sydis.
Of ferlifull fyne favour war thair faceis meik,
All full of flurist fairheid as flouris in June -
Quhyt, seimlie, and soft as the sweit lillies
Now upspred upon spray as new spynist rose,
Arrayit ryallie about with mony riche wardour
That Nature full nobillie annamalit with flouris,
Of alkin hewis under hevin that ony heynd knew,
Fragrant, all full of fresche odour fynest of smell.
Ane cumlie tabil coverit wes befoir tha clier ladeis
With ryalle cowpis apon rawis full of ryche wynis.
And of thir fair wlonkes tua weddit war with lordis,
Ane was ane wedow, iwis, wantoun of laitis.
And as thai talk at the tabill of mony taill sindry,
Thay wauchtit at the wicht wyne and waris out wourdis,
And syn thai spak more spedelie and sparit no matiris.

   "Bewrie," said the wedo, "ye woddit wemen ying,
Quhat mirth ye fand in maryage sen ye war menis wyffis.
Reveill gif ye rewit that rakles conditioun,
Or gif that ever ye luffit leyd upone lyf mair
Nor thame that ye your fayth hes festinit forever,
Or gif ye think, had ye chois, that ye wald cheis better.
Think ye it nocht ane blist band that bindis so fast
That none undo it a deill may bot the deith ane?"

   Than spak ane lusty belyf with lustie effeiris:
"It that ye call the blist band that bindis so fast
Is bair of blis and bailfull and greit barrat wirkis.
Ye speir, had I fre chois, gif I wald cheis bettir -
Chenyeis ay ar to eschew and changeis ar sueit.
Sic cursit chance till eschew, had I my chois anis,
Out of the cheinyeis of ane churle I chaip suld forevir.
God, gif matrimony wer made to mell for ane yeir!
It war bot merrens to be mair bot gif our myndis pleisit.
It is agane the law of luf, of kynd, and of nature
Togidder hartis to strene that stryveis with uther.
Birdis hes ane better law na bernis be meikill,
That ilk yeir, with new joy, joyis ane maik,
And fangis thame ane fresche feyr, unfulyeit and constant,
And lattis thair fulyeit feiris flie quhair thai pleis.
Cryst, gif sic ane consuetude war in this kith haldin,
Than weill war us wemen that evir we war born!
We suld have feiris as fresche to fang quhen us likit,
And gif all larbaris thair leveis quhen thai lak curage.31
Myself suld be full semlie in silkis arrayit,
Gymp, jolie, and gent, richt joyus and gent.
I suld at fairis be found new faceis to se,
At playis and at preichingis and pilgrimages greit,
To schaw my renone royaly quhair preis was of folk,
To manifest my makdome to multitude of pepill
And blaw my bewtie on breid quhair bernis war mony32
That I micht cheis and be chosin and change quhen me lykit.
Than suld I waill ane full weill our all the wyd realme
That suld my womanheid weild the lang winter nicht,
And quhen I gottin had ane grome, ganest of uther,
Yaip and ying, in the yok ane yeir for to draw,
Fra I had preveit his pitht the first plesand moneth,
Than suld I cast me to keik in kirk and in markat
And all the cuntré about, kyngis court and uther,
Quhair I ane galland micht get aganis the nixt yeir
For to perfurneis furth the werk quhen failyeit the tother -
A forky fure, ay furthwart, and forsy in draucht,33
Nother febill nor fant nor fulyeit in labour,
Bot als fresche of his forme as flouris in May.
For all the fruit suld I fang, thocht he the flour burgeoun.34

   "I have ane wallidrag, ane worme, ane auld wobat carle,35
A waistit wolroun na worth bot wourdis to clatter,
Ane bumbart, ane dronbee, ane bag full of flewme,
Ane scabbit skarth, ane scorpioun, ane scutarde behind.36
To se him scart his awin skyn grit scunner I think.
Quhen kissis me that carybald, than kyndillis all my sorow.
As birs of ane brym bair his berd is als stif,
Bot soft and soupill as the silk is his sary lume.
He may weill to the syn assent, bot sakles is his deidis.
With gor his tua grym ene ar gladderit all about
And gorgeit lyk tua gutaris that war with glar stoppit.
Bot quhen that glowrand gaist grippis me about,
Than think I hiddowus Mahowne hes me in armes.
Thair ma na sanyne me save fra that auld Sathane,
For thocht I croce me all cleine fra the croun doun,
He wil my corse all beclip and clap to his breist.
Quhen schaiffyn is that ald schaik with a scharp rasour,
He schowis on me his schevill mouth and schendis my lippis,37
And with his hard hurcheone scyn sa heklis he my chekis
That as a glemand gleyd glowis my chaftis.
I schrenk for the scharp stound bot schout dar I nought
For schore of that auld schrew, schame him betide.
The luf blenkis of that bogill fra his blerde ene
As Belzebub had on me blent, abasit my spreit.
And quhen the smy on me smyrkis with his smake smolet
He fepillis like a farcy aver that flyrit on a gillot.38
Quhen that the sound of his saw sinkis in my eris,
Than ay renewis my noy or he be neir cumand.
Quhen I heir nemmyt his name, than mak I nyne crocis
To keip me fra the cummerans of that carll mangit
That full of eldnyng is and anger and all evill thewis.
I dar nought luke to my luf for that lene gib.
He is sa full of jelusy and engyne fals,
Ever ymagynyng in mynd materis of evill,
Compasand and castand cacis a thousand
How he sall tak me with a trawe at trist of aneothir.
I dar nought keik to the knaip that the cop fillis
For eldnyng of that ald schrew that ever on evill thynkis,
For he is waistit and worne fra Venus werkis
And may nought beit worght a bene in bed of my mystirs.
He trowis that young folk I yerne yeild, for he gane is,39
Bot I may yuke all this yer or his yerd help.
Ay quhen that caribald carll wald clym on my wambe,
Than am I dangerus and daine and dour of my will.
Yit leit I nevir that larbar my leggis ga betuene
To fyle my flesche na fummyll me without a fee gret;
And thoght his pen purly me payis in bed,
His purse pays richely in recompense efter.
For or he clym on my corse, that carybald forlane,
I have condition of a curche of kersp all ther fynest,
A goun of engranyt claight right gaily furrit,
A ring with a ryall stane or other riche jowell,
Or rest of his rousty raid, thoght he wer rede wod.
For all the buddis of Johne Blunt, quhen he abone clymis,
Me think the baid deir aboucht, sa bawch ar his werkis.40
And thus I sell him solace thoght I it sour think.
Fra sic a syre God yow saif, my sueit sisteris deir!"

   Quhen that the semely had said hir sentence to end,
Than all thai leuch apon loft with latis full mery
And raucht the cop round about full of riche wynis,
And ralyeit lang or thai wald rest with ryatus speche.

   The wedo to the tothir wlonk warpit thir wordis:
"Now, fair sister, fallis yow but fenying to tell,
Sen man ferst with matrimony yow menskit in kirk,
How haif ye farne - be your faith, confese us the treuth! -
That band to blise or to ban, quhilk yow best thinkis;
Or how ye like lif to leid into lell spousage?
And syne myself ye exem on the samyn wise,
And I sall say furth the suth, dissymyland no word."

   The plesand said, "I protest, the treuth gif I schaw,
That of your toungis ye be traist." The tothir twa grantit.
With that sprang up hir spreit be a span hechar.
"To speik," quod scho, "I sall nought spar, ther is no spy neir.
I sall a ragment reveil fra rute of my hert,
A roust that is sa rankild quhill risis my stomok.
Now sall the byle all out brist that beild has so lang.
For it to beir on my breist wes berdin our hevy.
I sall the venome devoid with a vent large
And me assuage of the swalme that suellit wes gret.

   "My husband wes a hur maister, the hugeast in erd.
Tharfor I hait him with my hert, sa help me our Lord.
He is a young man ryght yaip, bot nought in youth flouris,
For he is fadit full far and feblit of strenth.
He wes as flurising fresche within this few yeris,
Bot he is falyeid full far and fulyeid in labour.
He has bene lychour so lang quhill lost is his natur,
His lume is waxit larbar and lyis into swoune.
Wes never sugeorne wer set na on that snaill tyrit,
For efter sevin oulkis rest it will nought rap anys.
He has bene waistit apon wemen or he me wif chesit,
And in adultré in my tyme I haif him tane oft.
And yit he is als brankand with bonet on syde,
And blenkand to the brichtest that in the burght duellis,
Alse curtly of his clething and kemmyng of his haris
As he that is mare valyeand in Venus chalmer.
He semis to be sumthing worth, that syphyr in bour,
He lukis as he wald luffit be, thoght he be litill of valour.
He dois as dotit dog that damys on all bussis
And liftis his leg apon loft thoght he nought list pische.
He has a luke without lust and lif without curage.
He has a forme without force and fesson but vertu,41
And fair wordis but effect, all fruster of dedis.
He is for ladyis in luf a right lusty schadow,
Bot into derne at the deid he sal be drup fundin.
He ralis and makes repet with ryatus wordis,
Ay rusing him of his radis and rageing in chalmer.
Bot God wait quhat I think quhen he so thra spekis
And how it settis him so syde to sege of sic materis.42
Bot gif himself of sum evin myght ane say amang thaim:
Bot he nought ane is bot nane of naturis possessoris.
Scho that has ane auld man nought all is begylit -
He is at Venus werkis na war na he semys.
I wend I josit a gem and I haif geit gottin;
He had the glemyng of gold and wes bot glase fundin.
Thought men be ferse, wele I fynd, fra falye ther curage,
Thar is bot eldnyng and anger ther hertis within.
Ye speik of berdis on bewch - of blise may thai sing,
That on Sanct Valentynis day ar vacandis ilk yer.
Hed I that plesand prevelege to part quhen me likit,
To change and ay to cheise agane, than chastité adew!
Than suld I haif a fresch feir to fang in myn armys;
To hald a freke quhill he faynt may foly be calit.
Apone sic materis I mus at mydnyght full oft
And murnys so in my mynd I murdris myselfin.
Than ly I walkand for wa and walteris about,
Wariand oft my wekit kyn that me away cast,
To sic a craudoune but curage that knyt my cler bewté,43
And ther so mony kene knyghtis this kenrik within.
Than think I on a semelyar, the suth for to tell,
Na is our syre be sic sevin; with that I syth oft.
Than he ful tenderly dois turne to me his tume person,
And with a yoldin yerd dois yolk me in armys
And sais, 'My soverane sueit thing, quhy sleip ye no betir?
Me think ther haldis yow a hete, as ye sum harme alyt.'
Quod I, 'My hony, hald abak and handill me nought sair,
A hache is happinnit hastely at my hert rut.'
With that I seme for to swoune thought I na swerf tak,
And thus beswik I that swane with my sueit wordis.
I cast on him a crabit e quhen cleir day is cummyn,
And lettis it is a luf blenk quhen he about glemys.
I turne it in a tender luke that I in tene warit
And him behaldis hamely with hertly smyling.

   "I wald a tender peronall that myght na put thole,
That hatit men with hard geir for hurting of flesch,
Had my gud man to hir gest, for I dar God suer,
Scho suld not stert for his straik a stray breid of erd.44
And syne I wald that ilk band that ye so blist call
Had bund him so to that bryght quhill his bak werkit;
And I wer in a beid broght with berne that me likit,
I trow that bird of my blis suld a bourd want."

   Onone quhen this amyable had endit hir speche,
Loud lauchand the laif allowit hir mekle.45
Thir gay wiffis maid gam amang the grene leiffis,
Thai drank and did away dule under derne bewis,
Thai swapit of the sueit wyne, thai swan quhit of hewis,46
Bot all the pertlyar in plane thai put out ther vocis.

   Than said the weido: "Iwis, ther is no way othir.
Now tydis me for to talk, my taill it is nixt.
God my spreit now inspir and my speche quykkin,
And send me sentence to say substantious and noble,
Sa that my preching may pers your perverst hertis
And mak yow mekar to men in maneris and conditiounis.

   "I schaw yow, sister, in schrift I wes a schrew ever,
Bot I wes schene in my schrowd and schew me innocent;
And thought I dour wes and dane, dispitois and bald,
I wes dissymblit suttelly in a sanctis liknes.
I semyt sober and sueit and sempill without fraud,
Bot I couth sexty dissaif that suttillar wer haldin.
Unto my lesson ye lyth and leir at me wit,
Gif you nought list be forleit with losingeris untrew.47
Be constant in your governance and counterfeit gud maneris,
Thought ye be kene, inconstant, and cruell of mynd.
Thought ye as tygris be terne, be tretable in luf,
And be as turtoris in your talk, thought ye haif talis brukill.
Be dragonis baitht and dovis ay in double forme,
And quhen it nedis yow, onone note baith ther stranthis.
Be amyable with humble face as angellis apperand,
And with a terrebill tail be stangand as edderis.
Be of your luke like innocentis, thoght ye haif evill myndis.
Be courtly ay in clething and costly arrayit -
That hurtis yow nought worth a hen, yowr husband pays for all.

   "Twa husbandis haif I had, thai held me baith deir.
Thought I dispytit thaim agane, thai spyt it na thing.
Ane wes a hair hogeart that hostit out flewme.
I hatit him like a hund thought I it hid prevé.
With kissing and with clapping I gert the carill fon;
Weil couth I claw his cruke bak and kemm his kewt noddill,
And with a bukky in my cheik bo on him behind,
And with a bek gang about and bler his ald e,48
And with a kyind contynance kys his crynd chekis,
Into my mynd makand mokis at that mad fader,
Trovand me with trew lufe to treit him so fair.
This cought I do without dule and na dises tak,
Bot ay be mery in my mynd and myrthfull of cher.

   "I had a lufsummar leid my lust for to slokyn
That couth be secrete and sure and ay saif my honour,
And sew bot at certane tymes and in sicir placis.
Ay quhen the ald did me anger with akword wordis,
Apon the galland for to goif it gladit me agane.
I had sic wit that for wo weipit I litill,
Bot leit the sueit ay the sour to gud sesone bring.
Quhen that the chuf wald me chid with girnand chaftis,
I wald him chuk, cheik and chyn, and cheris him so mekill
That his cheif chymys he had chevist to my sone,
Suppos the churll wes gane chaist or the child wes gottin.
As wis woman ay I wrought and not as wod fule,
For mar with wylis I wan na wichtnes of handis.

   "Syne maryt I a merchand myghti of gudis.
He wes a man of myd eld and of mene statur,
Bot we na fallowis wer in frendschip or blud,
In fredome na furth bering, na fairnes of persoune -49
Quhilk ay the fule did forget for febilnes of knawlege.
Bot I sa oft thoght him on quhill angrit his hert,
And quhilum I put furtht my voce and peddir him callit.
I wald ryght tuichandly talk be I wes tuyse maryit,
For endit wes my innocence with my ald husband.
I wes apperand to be pert within perfit eild:
Sa sais the curat of our kirk that knew me full ying.
He is our famous to be fals, that fair worthy prelot.
I sal be laith to lat him le quhill I may luke furtht.
I gert the buthman obey - ther wes no bute ellis -
He maid me ryght hie reverens fra he my rycht knew,
For, thocht I say it myself, the severance wes mekle
Betuix his bastard blude and my birth noble.
That page wes never of sic price for to presome anys50
Unto my persone to be peir, had peté nought grantit.
Bot mercy into womanheid is a mekle vertu,
For never bot in a gentill hert is generit ony ruth.
I held ay grene into his mynd that I of grace tuk him,
And that he couth ken himself I curtasly him lerit.
He durst not sit anys my summondis, for or the secund charge51
He wes ay redy for to ryn, so rad he wes for blame.
Bot ay my will wes the war of womanly natur:
The mair he loutit for my luf, the les of him I rakit,
And eik - this is a ferly thing - or I him faith gaif
I had sic favour to that freke and feid syne forever.
Quhen I the cure had all clene and him ourcummyn haill,
I crew abone that craudone as cok that wer victour.
Quhen I him saw subjeit and sett at myn bydding,
Than I him lichtlyit as a lowne and lathit his maneris.
Than woxe I sa unmerciable to martir him I thought,
For as a best I broddit him to all boyis laubour.
I wald haif riddin him to Rome with raip in his heid
Wer not ruffill of my renoune and rumour of pepill.52
And yit hatrent I hid within my hert all,
Bot quhilis it hepit so huge quhill it behud out.
Yit tuk I nevir the wosp clene out of my wyde throte
Quhill I oucht wantit of my will or quhat I wald desir.
Bot quhen I severit had that syre of substance in erd
And gottin his biggingis to my barne and hie burrow landis,
Than with a stew stert out the stoppell of my hals
That he all stunyst throu the stound as of a stele wappin.
Than wald I efter lang first sa fane haif bene wrokin
That I to flyte wes als fers as a fell dragoun.
I had for flattering of that fule fenyeit so lang,
Mi evidentis of heritagis or thai wer all selit,
My breist that wes gret beild bowdyn wes sa huge
That neir my baret out birst or the band makin.
Bot quhen my billis and my bauchles wes all braid selit,53
I wald na langar beir on bridill bot braid up my heid.
Thar myght na molet mak me moy na hald my mouth in.
I gert the renyeis rak and rif into sondir,
I maid that wif carll to werk all womenis werkis
And laid all manly materis and mensk in this eird.
Than said I to my cummaris in counsall about,
'Se how I cabeld yone cout with a kene brydill.
The cappill that the crelis kest in the caf mydding
Sa curtasly the cart drawis and kennis na plungeing,
He is nought skeich na yit sker na scippis nought on syd.'
And thus the scorne and the scaith scapit he nothir.

   "He wes no glaidsum gest for a gay lady,
Tharfor I gat him a gam that ganyt him bettir.
He wes a gret goldit man and of gudis riche;
I leit him be my lumbart to lous me all misteris,
And he wes fane for to fang fra me that fair office
And thoght my favoris to fynd throw his feill giftis.
He grathit me in a gay silk and gudly arrayis,
In gownis of engranyt claight and gret goldin chenyeis,
In ringis ryally set with riche ruby stonis,
Quhill hely raise my renoune amang the rude peple.
Bot I full craftely did keip thai courtly wedis
Quhill efter dede of that drupe that docht nought in chalmir. 54
Thought he of all my clathis maid cost and expense,
Aneothir sall the worschip haif that weildis me eftir.
And thoght I likit him bot litill, yit for luf of othris
I wald me prunya plesandly in precius wedis
That luffaris myght apon me luke and ying lusty gallandis
That I held more in daynté and derer be ful mekill
Ne him that dressit me so dink - full dotit wes his heyd!
Quhen he wes heryit out of hand to hie up my honoris,
And payntit me as pako, proudest of fedderis,
I him miskennyt, be Crist, and cukkald him maid.
I him forleit as a lad and lathlyit him mekle -
I thoght myself a papingay and him a plukit herle.
All thus enforsit he his fa and fortifyit in strenth
And maid a stalwart staff to strik himselfe doune.

   "Bot of ane bowrd into bed I sall yow breif yit:
Quhen he ane hal year wes hanyt and him behuffit rage,55
And I wes laith to be loppin with sic a lob avoir,
Alse lang as he wes on loft I lukit on him never
Na leit never enter in my thoght that he my thing persit;
Bot ay in mynd aneothir man ymagynit that I haid,
Or ellis had I never mery bene at that myrthles raid.
Quhen I that grome geldit had of gudis and of natur,
Me thoght him gracelese on to goif, sa me God help.
Quhen he had warit all on me his welth and his substance,
Me thoght his wit wes all went away with the laif.
And so I did him dispise; I spittit quhen I saw
That superspendit evill spreit spulyeit of all vertu.
For weill ye wait, wiffis, that he that wantis riches
And valyeandnes in Venus play is ful vile haldin.
Full fruster is his fresch array and fairnes of persoune,
All is bot frutlese his effeir and falyeis at the upwith.
I buskit up my barnis like baronis sonnies
And maid bot fulis of the fry of his first wif.
I banyst fra my boundis his brethir ilkane,
His frendis as my fais I heid at feid evir.
Be this ye beleif may, I luffit nought himself,
For never I likit a leid that langit till his blude.
And yit thir wismen, thai wait that all wiffis evill
Ar kend with ther conditionis and knawin with the samin.

   "Deid is now that dyvour and dollin in erd.
With him deit all my dule and my drery thoghtis.
Now done is my dolly nyght, my day is upsprungin.
Adew, dolour, adew, my daynté now begynis.
Now am I a wedow, iwise, and weill am at ese.
I weip as I wer woful, bot wel is me for ever.
I busk as I wer bailfull, bot blith is my hert.
My mouth it makis murnyng and my mynd lauchis.
My clokis thai ar caerfull in colour of sabill,
Bot courtly and ryght curyus my corse is ther undir.
I drup with a ded luke in my dule habit,
As with manis daill I had done for dayis of my lif. 56

   "Quhen that I go to the kirk cled in cair weid,
As foxe in a lambis fleise fenye I my cheir.
Than lay I furght my bright buke on breid on my kne
With mony lusty letter ellummynit with gold,
And drawis my clok forthwart our my face quhit
That I may spy unaspyit a space me beside.
Full oft I blenk by my buke and blynis of devotion
To se quhat berne is best brand or bredest in schulderis
Or forgeit is maist forcely to furnyse a bancat57
In Venus chalmer valyeandly withoutin vane ruse.
And as the new mone all pale oppressit with change
Kythis quhilis her cleir face throw cluddis of sable,
So keik I throw my clokis and castis kynd lukis
To knychtis and to cleirkis and cortly personis.
Quhen frendis of my husbandis behaldis me on fer,
I haif a watter spunge for wa within my wyde clokis,
Than wring I it full wylely and wetis my chekis.
With that watteris myn ene and welteris doune teris.
Than say thai all that sittis about, 'Se ye nought, allace,
Yone lustlese led, so lelely scho luffit hir husband.
Yone is a peté to enprent in a princis hert,
That sic a perle of plesance suld yone pane dre.'
I sane me as I war ane sanct and semys ane angell,
At langage of lichory I leit as I war crabit.
I sith without sair hert or seiknes in body,
According to my sable weid I mon haif sad maneris,
Or thai will se all the suth - for certis we wemen,
We set us all for the syght to syle men of treuth.58
We dule for na evill deid, sa it be derne haldin.

   "Wise wemen has wayis and wonderfull gydingis
With gret engyne to bejaip ther jolyus husbandis,
And quyetly with sic craft convoyis our materis
That under Crist no creatur kennis of our doingis.
Bot folk a cury may miscuke that knawlege wantis
And has na colouris for to cover ther awne kindly fautis,
As dois thir damysellis for derne dotit lufe
That dogonis haldis in dainté and delis with thaim so lang
Quhill al the cuntré knaw ther kyndnes and faith.
Faith has a fair name bot falsheid faris beittir -
Fy on hir that can nought feyne her fame for to saif!
Yit am I wise in sic werk and wes all my tyme.
Thoght I want wit in warldlynes I wylis haif in luf,
As ony happy woman has that is of hie blude.
Hutit be the halok lase a hunder yeir of eild!
I have ane secrete servand, rycht sobir of his toung,
That me supportis of sic nedis quhen I a syne mak.
Thoght he be sympill to the sicht, he has a tong sickir;
Full mony semelyar sege wer service dois mak.
Thoght I haif cair under cloke the cleir day quhill nyght,
Yit haif I solace under serk quhill the sone ryse -
Yit am I haldin a haly wif our all the haill schyre.
I am sa peteouse to the pur quhen ther person is mony.59
In passing of pilgrymage I pride me full mekle -
Mair for the prese of peple na ony pardon wynyng.

   "Bot yit me think the best bourd quhen baronis and knychtis
And othir bachilleris blith, blumyng in youth,
And all my luffaris lele my luging persewis,
And fyllis me wyne wantonly with weilfair and joy.
Sum rownis and sum ralyeis and sum redis ballatis,
Sum raiffis furght rudly with riatus speche,
Sum plenis and sum prayis, sum prasis mi bewté,
Sum kissis me, sum clappis me, sum kyndnes me proferis,
Sum kerffis to me curtasli, sum me the cop giffis,
Sum stalwardly steppis ben with a stout curage
And a stif standand thing staiffis in mi neiff,
And mony blenkis ben our that but full fer sittis,60
That mai for the thik thrang nought thrif as thai wald.
Bot with my fair calling I comfort thaim all:
For he that sittis me nixt, I nip on his finger;
I serf him on the tothir syde on the samin fasson;
And he that behind me sittis I hard on him lene;
And him befor, with my fut fast on his I stramp;
And to the bernis far, but sueit blenkis I cast.
To every man in speciall speke I sum wordis,
So wisly and so womanly quhill warmys ther hertis.
Thar is no liffand leid so law of degré
That sall me luf unluffit, I am so loik hertit.
And gif his lust so be lent into my lyre quhit
That he be lost or with me lak, his lif sall not danger.
I am so mercifull in mynd and menys all wichtis,
My sely saull sal be saif quhen Sabot all jugis.
Ladyis, leir thir lessonis and be no lassis fundin.
This is the legeand of my lif, thought Latyne it be nane."

   Quhen endit had hir ornat speche this eloquent wedow,
Lowd thai lewch all the laif and loffit hir mekle,
And said thai suld exampill tak of her soverane teching
And wirk efter hir wordis, that woman wes so prudent.
Than culit thai ther mouthis with confortable drinkis
And carpit full cummerlik with cop going round.

   Thus draif thai our that deir nyght with danceis full noble
Quhill that the day did up daw and dew donkit flouris.
The morow myld wes and meik the mavis did sing,
And all remuffit the myst and the meid smellit.
Silver schouris doune schuke as the schene cristall,
And berdis shoutit in schaw with ther schill notis.
The goldin glitterand gleme so gladit ther hertis,
Thai maid a glorius gle amang the grene bewis.
The soft sowch of the swyr and soune of the stremys,
The sueit savour of the sward and singing of foulis
Myght confort ony creatur of the kyn of Adam
And kindill agane his curage thoght it wer cald sloknyt.
Than rais thir ryall rosis in ther riche wedis
And rakit hame to ther rest throw the rise blumys.
And I all prevély past to a plesand arber,
And with my pen did report ther pastance most mery.

   Ye auditoris most honorable that eris has gevin
Onto this uncouth aventur quhilk airly me happinnit,
Of thir thre wanton wiffis that I haif writtin heir,
Quhilk wald ye waill to your wif gif ye suld wed one?



The other night; (see note)
told; wondrous
recently a fox; lamb; (see note)
flirted; (see note)
Then
mounted; ram; (see note)
an astonishing thing

embraced her lovely; (see note)
held; front feet
Then shook; whining
played; puppy; (see note)
crouched down flat; (see note)
all the while; (see note)


neither lean; scruffy; (see note)
red-haired sly creature; (see note)
large everywhere
innocent lamb/penis; too; (see note)
treble; bass; (see note)
well may she prosper; (see note)


red; white
(see note)
ewes; tough; skinny

rush
tried not at all to; (t-note)


waist
haste
had transgressed
Was pleased
let; lovely
grinding fangs she did not fear; (see note)
(t-note)

neck; (see note); (t-note)
though
Then; swore; by
touch her pincushion; (see note)
naive; believed
gave


falsehoods
these gossipers
injured; (see note)
doors were barred
if he showed her mercy
holes were; (see note)


float; (see note)
Soon comes; before
talking; these; intimately
surrounded
chase
squeaked; mouse; (see note)


Through hideous
crawled on the ground; (see note)

crept; get
very long time
ewes nearby; (see note)


heard no peep
wolf thought; asleep
when; struck; (see note); (t-note)
went
Claiming; (see note)







intended to ride; (see note); (t-note)
let; slip by; (see note)
But then; wives; (see note)
better now to remain; (see note); (t-note)
home; cure themselves of the pox; (see note)

since you remain here; (see note)
Of Venus' feast to take your fill; (see note)
field tested they no [fighting] cocks; (see note)



such sexual desire had
beset
doors; tore up
wench in a plaid (?); (see note)
have sex with them

were eager as rams; (see note)
any lambs
brought low; old ewes
such games


strong like giants; (see note)
made weak; pliant wands; (see note)
thin like distaffs; (see note)
holding their backs; (see note)
excessive

prostitutes
guide
lodged; (t-note)
brothel; stay away
Until they got the Spanish Pox; (see note)



whoever; yokes; (see note)
of that perilous play






Long have I written; white; (see note)
write
recent ships
How happily would
huge lips; (see note)

large-mouthed like an ape; (see note)
toad to grab onto
cat nose turns up; (see note)
shines like any soap; (see note); (t-note)



gleams; (see note)
sun suffered an eclipse; (see note)
night; fought; (see note)


Whoever; sake
Proves
embrace
from thenceforth


who; field; shame
loses; name
hips; (see note)
claim






the other night; (see note)
heard a young man say to a lady; (see note)
honey; hope; happiness; (see note)
devoted lover

treat me with disdain; (see note)
pretty one

beard; combed; clipped; (see note)
broth; besplattered
townish, bold; foolish; (see note)
embraced; kissed; fondled; (see note)
foolish desires; overcome
behavior; fucked her; (see note)


sweet as honey; (see note)
Since; mommy; (see note); (t-note)
wooed anyone
belly; so full; (see note)
ghost I stare; groan
believe


gave a guffaw; (see note)
tactile object; (see note)
weanling lamb
delight of my body
fellow; (see note)
lad I loved; week
Very dear to me is; ugly mug

clover; wild flower; (see note)
honey-soaked bread; spiced drink; (see note)
too rough; lover; (see note)
ill-willed
heels, white as whale's bone; (see note)
Makes rise aloft my willy-lilly; (see note)


clumsy fellow; unweaned giant
tummy; (see note)
belly-cover; impetuous fellow; (see note)
sweet fool; plump fellow (?); (see note)
(see note)
big-headed fellow


wood grouse (?); (see note)
babe; rough pudendum (?); (see note)
girlie; pretty flower (?)
female genitalia

stake stiffens; buttocks; (see note)
pretty one


fool from faerie land (?); (see note)
cherry; matchless darling; (see note)
suckler; onion; (see note)
stumbling bullock; being weaned
agreeable to your suit
face

ruby-red apple; (see note)
sweet fool
(see note)
(i.e., the dance of love)
joys
Where will you [go]; (see note)





These; are present
well-known; (see note)
more

(see note)
skill they have
know; (t-note)
complaints

difficulty; conduct
decisively
modest; quiet
evenings
wrong; if; kiss
[a] tête-à-tête; (see note)
Why does it matter; business


know well; ability; (see note)
solicit (entreat)
True as steel; (see note)
missed
These lords

bar (i.e., the judge's railing)
When; something to be done

advise, if you have [a] case
to litigate
To have success
decked out gaily


Although; unknown; (see note)
wealth/sexual apparatus; (see note)

if

perchance, achieve such success; (see note)
From the compositors

conclusively is ended
settlement
seals; attached

wholly; cost

endorsed
wholly; (t-note)
Such; wise; [be] prized
truth
Such [ladies]; devise; damage; (see note)
(see note)




moorland; highland kind; (see note)
home; neighbor
tidings, friend; war; (see note)
whispered
(see note)
lately alighted from my mare
(see note)




trusts another
wrong-doer
takes advantage of many; (see note)


whispers [to] him pleasing things; (see note)
bite off his nose
foe one man by the arm leads
One mutters; in prayer; (see note)
harmful actions
bows; low; bare heads; (see note)
act quite haughty were he not [at]

One whose case is pending; in mortgage; (see note)
One who is bankrupt
succeeds because; friends
Of favoritism
disliking and liking corrupts
dissembles
Such

rejects summons; objects; (see note)
has [a] little legal knowledge; (see note)
receives a continuance; loses
merry with wine
loses his property
is impoverished; lives on credit


swears to; forsakes
fox; (see note)
carries; (see note)
carves throats; cuts purses
goes
blesses the Court; (see note)


from various communities; (see note)
Come there to woo
Franciscans; (see note)
generate; recruit friars
custom
from the older learns; (see note)


hot; (see note)
devout; love
subdues; (see note)
fatherly; gasps
humble; (see note)






Why; high standing
Allow
lack of improvement
good injure and defame (abuse); (see note)
Are you not ashamed; (see note)
any other
Might with insult tarnish; (t-note)

pass through; gates; (see note)
skates (fish); (see note)
old women; arguments
foul hurling of insults; (t-note)
(see note)
social ranks


Stinking Passageway; dark; (see note); (t-note)
Blocks; parish church
forestairs; dark; (see note); (t-note)
no country

So few improvements to make; (t-note)


High Cross where; (see note)
Should; curds
the public weighing beam; shellfish; (see note)
Tripe, haggis; (see note); (t-note)

Since the world says the same; (t-note)


minstrels; tunes (songs); (see note)
dawns; June
More skillful; must; St. Clown (?); (see note); (t-note)
lay claim
(t-note)
keep such mockers at the moon; (see note)


Tailors, cobblers; vile; (see note)
defile; (t-note)
Stinking Passageway; (see note); (t-note)
crammed into a honeycomb

neither wit nor will


beggars; (see note)
those scoundrels

clamor; (t-note)

been provided



virtuous deeds

crippled

such


Since to; (see note)
attendance
ready

avoid; (t-note)
If they (the Court and Session) are moved to
be diminished

lieges (subjects) welcome
Do not overcharge for their food
make; reasonable
To prevent extortions, denounce; (t-note)
shameful conduct
assist


Personal gain; (see note)
general welfare
[a] remedy; (t-note)
died in; (see note)
cause
govern; (see note)
restore; (see note); (t-note)




Last night; dawn
Saint; (see note)
habit
clothe; [as] my servant
Renounce; must

By; was startled
ghost was frightened
laid it over me; (see note)
floor quickly
leaped; come near

Why scares; garment
Clothe; wear
taught Venus' laws; (see note)
habit
must; without [a] doubt; (see note)


thanked must; for
generous
(see note)
(see note)

have I heard indeed; (see note)
More saints than; by seven
very; have read
Therefore; gown
If; soul went

brethren; to you; (see note)
letters; reports
habit
Without further delay; (t-note)
evasions put aside; excuses; (t-note)

If
date (time); year
lively; manor house
Calais; (see note)
gone cheerfully

flattered

also; (see note)
over
there; taught

friar's title
knows; trick
falsehood; person
cleansed; (see note)
always


fiend; (see note)
(see note)
wall; (t-note)
awoke as one who was perturbed




In; fifteenth night; (see note)
(see note)

(see note)
cruel fiends
Muhammad (i.e., Satan) proclaimed; (see note)
sinners that were unconfessed; (see note)
In preparation for the feast of Fastern's Eve; (see note)

ordered gallants to go and prepare a masquerade; (see note)
throw up wild cavortings; (see note)
recently came from

who shall begin
foul Seven Deadly Sins; (see note)
Began to leap at once
Pride; (see note)
spread across his back (?); (see note); (t-note)
cause wasted dwellings
like a wheel; (see note)
Hung all in pleats to the heels
His surcoat (?) for the occasion
trumpeters (i.e., musicians); danced; (see note)
Through burning fire
growled; groans

Proud rogues in haughty fashion; (see note)
sundry costumes
But yet the Devil never laughed; (see note)
Until priests; bare shaven necks; (see note)
Then; laughed and made gestures
(i.e., two of the demons)

Wrath; quarreling and strife; (see note)

made gestures like a bear; (see note)
Boasters, braggarts, and arguers
(t-note)
All equipped in anticipation of war
padded jerkins; metal splints; helmets; (see note)
legs were chained at the heels; (see note)
Hostile was their demeanor
others; swords beat
stabbed others; haft
knives that sharply could slice

Envy; (see note)
hatred and cruelty
Hidden; resentment
secret hatred; trembled
deceitful men
false white words; (see note)

back-biters (i.e., slanderers); (t-note)
lie
whisperers; lies
Alas
free; (see note)

dance; Covetise
Root; [the] foundation of vice
could
Villains, misers, and usurers
Skinflints, hoarders, and gatherers; (see note)
evil being
spewed on the others; (see note)
Hot molten; a cartload
Like a lightning flash most intense
emptied themselves of shot
Fiends filled; throat
every kind stamped [into coins]; (see note)

Then Sloth; (see note)
dungheap
grunting
lazy, fat-bellied idlers; (see note)
sluttish slatterns; sleepy slovens
reluctance
into a set of chains
bridle reins; (see note)
lashed them; loins; (see note)
slow of foot; (see note)

dance; (see note)

Lechery; loathsome creature; (see note)
Came moving like a pregnant horse; (t-note)
Wantonness; lead; (t-note)
assortment
stinking foul corpses
had died in sin; (see note)

strange in facial appearance; (see note)
Like a smith's tongs burning red
genitals
Although they fidgeted with their arses
It could not be helped

foul monster Gluttony; (see note)
belly insatiable
make ready
drunkards
tankard, cup

waistless slob
flabby bellies
creases [of fat]; (t-note)
gaping mouth
gave them hot lead to lap
allowance was no less; (see note)

without [a] doubt; (see note)
entertainers; held out
also

heritage he won; (see note)
was entered by "brief of right"

the Devil; Highland pageant; (see note)
Then; fetch Macfaydyane; (see note)
nook; (see note)
By [the time] he had shouted the summons; (t-note)
Highlanders (Gaelic folk); gathered; (see note)

Those fiends, in rags and tatters; (see note)
in Gaelic began; (see note)
croaked like ravens and rooks; (see note)
so deafened
pit; (see note)
smothered

attempted; (see note)
announced
(i.e., Satan)
Between a tailor and a shoemaker
louse-stabber; a boot-mender; (see note)
lists were made ready
(see note)

rascally rogues
seam-biters; basting thread snappers; (see note)
stomach-steelers; cloth-tackers; (t-note)
set of defenders

carried; (see note)
Wherein were pieces of cloth
Each one of different color
stolen from various larger cloths
For while the Greek Sea ebbs and flows; (see note); (t-note)

lists gazed
Alas, he lost all courage
fear he blanched
(see note); (t-note)
No wonder though his heart was light
such; received

pledged strongly; (t-note)
knock the cobbler down
strong as [a ship's] mast
lists gazed; (see note)
shrank; (t-note)
turn gray
shoemaker approach; (t-note)
such words
afraid
took such a fright; (t-note)
A series; thunder


shoemaker; readied; (see note)


Even though; noble attendant
lice-ridden rogues
running
tanned hide
(see note)
rascally rabble
cobbler-like; in manner

oil burst out; (see note)

(see note); (t-note)
faintness took
Scarcely; (t-note)
Within; such a stirring
dinner; dearly; (t-note)
(t-note)
before he rode farther
of knighthood gave
(t-note)

blacking
repaid


cobbler; fearfully
sought
equipped with their spears
sense of their fear
hearts; a-flutter
toward the other side; (t-note)

(t-note)
not at all well seated; (t-note)



armor; clatter; (see note); (t-note)
was startled; racket
did cavort
badly frightened

(see note)
avoided
expected; vomited upon; (t-note)
valiant; in armor; (t-note)
defend himself
arse; befouled
All over from the neck to the heels; (t-note)

fired it off with such a roar
(t-note)
farted in such a fashion; (t-note)
repaid
(t-note)
renounce; (t-note)
sent them to the dungeon; (see note)
did strip
Banning them from warfare
lowlifes; (t-note)
to remain they greatly preferred


I would have more; deeds; (t-note)


so good a jest
Such joy; made
laughing I nearly burst
Through which I awakened
(i.e., to record this tale); (t-note)
prevent
relate; (t-note)
lord (heir); (see note)
Sirs, believe it if you choose; (see note); (t-note)





(i.e., about midnight); (see note)
(see note)
pleasing voice saying on high
Tailors and shoemakers; (see note)

Heaven high ordained; (see note)
Above all saints in great joy



not unknown; (see note)
That which God mis-makes
By; great skill; (see note)
(t-note)

shoes; fitting
flaws; ill-made feet
Therefore; souls will fly


fair (i.e., world); deformed person; (see note)
a corn
Arthritic toes nor chilblains
hide; (see note); (t-note)

clothes
goes



Though; mis-fashioned fellow; (t-note)
shape
fashion; by three times



[If] he has a good tailor, so what; (t-note)
cover with [his] subtle skill; (see note)


From; claim
deformity and lameness
Curing flaws; assistance


On earth you work such miracles here

Even though you are servants; (see note)






distressed; (see note)
tempting; (see note)
violent oaths
through the market
(see note)

through
priest swore by the true God; (see note)
Which he received at the altar
cleric; did say; (see note)


courtier great of pride; (see note)
By Christ's wounds
arms [who] was torn on the Cross
close beside him


goods
(see note)
may
shall be; for me
(t-note)

pure; (see note)
lose
take me if I lie
Reflect on [the fact]


tailor
well-made
give myself
Great thanks; (i.e., the Devil); (see note)


shoemaker; In truth
May I; by the neck
If better boots of leather may be
smell of blacking
cleanse; clean

baker
(i.e., completely); (see note)
If better provisions are required
laughed; did look; (t-note)


butcher; (see note)

meat; eye
Retain those thoughts


malt-maker says; (see note)

If
kiln I have [any] deficiency


brewer; (see note)
discolored and smoke-tainted in the kiln
produce no ale
One measure [of that malt]; six gallons make


By cross and rope; (see note)
Upon; may I gape
If; won three pennies
contend


pierce; (see note)
anything except drink and copulate
Thus must it be
Practice


dicer; words of anger; (see note)

Unless he fairly threw three sixes



escape; (see note)
a strong withy (rope) makes me gape
Hell's possessions
to a rope


fish sellers scolded; groans; (see note)
bones
loud shout
at once


pitch
Entreating were as thick as bees; (see note)
Always; sly methods
Whispering; (see note)





Master Andrew; (see note); (t-note)
I run when I am called; (see note)
Begotten by some demon; (see note)
by a lusty friar
readily
By whom or where I was conceived
believe
That I am a fiend in human form

Since nothing is more certain than death; (see note)
must all die; a certainty
We do not know when or by what chance
No [more than]; knows of the moon
Therefore I suffer in my breast

[Although] I lie sick in body; (see note)


Now I make my testament; (see note)
(see note)
By almighty God
(see note)
Always to remain there
Until the Day of Judgment; departing
Good wine to drink
sweet; loved; (see note)

He is sweet for loving
curse me with his words
Let him just give me something to drink
hatred and wrath
Since in the cellar with beer
I would rather lie, both early and late
Naked except for my shirt
Than; (see note)

stopper always; (see note)
desire
My drunken body
town of Ayr; (see note)
dunghill
So that I may be buried there
Where; dregs; every
Be thrown over my face

leave; constant; (see note)
But was always fickle
always would waver or flicker
Toward my companion Jacob
Even though I would; wicker
I denied the true God; (see note)
But if I promised to empty a cup; (t-note)
This promise I always kept

best thing I own; (see note)
Which is Latin for "caupe"; (see note)
(i.e., the head of the family); know not; (see note)
Who he is, than I would curse my scalp
without concealment; (see note)
But no others said this
were as related as sieve and strainer
That grew in one forest

All my pleasures; (see note)
false things
With every fraud and deceit
leave to the master of St. Anthony's
without gratitude
cousin, as I think
Who never makes up lies
Except when the holly is green

deceit; dishonest profits; (see note)
I leave to the false friars

He distributed, he gave to the poor; (see note)

Lying [in exchange] for gifts
(t-note)
For their wicked deeds

Jock Fool; foolishness freely; (see note)
I bequeath after my body is buried; (t-note)

Although he shows a good face
livestock; goods
He himself has a great deal
eye; (see note)
By pretending to be a fool

next; (see note)
I do give and bequeath secretly
curse
He himself is the cause of my death; (see note)

Many might wonder at me
make that villain squeal
By writing teeth without a "d" (?); (see note)

The remainder of all my goods; (see note)
dispose
With the wardship of my children
rest
rant; (see note)
I will arrange for my burial
In the new fashion
Not after the usual custom

On the day of my burial
own gang
And two country peasants
Carrying; pole
chug-a-lugging; (see note)
As I myself was accustomed to do
weeping with high voices
I mixed my drinking with tears; (see note); (t-note)

desire no priests
That day, the day of wrath; (see note)

As is always the custom to be done
tune
And one ale wisp before me; (see note)

Four flagons of beer
grave
In the manner of the Cross next to me

Out of earth thou hast made me; (see note)




here (i.e., Edinburgh)

in a hearty manner; (see note)
mean

Stirling; (see note)
neither
Out of pity; letter writes
anchorites; (see note)

eat no meat

ale, except what is thin
(t-note)
Without [the] fellowship of
excellent people
Walking alone by yourself
stumps and stones; (see note)



shall begin a sorrowful song
A dirge devout and mild; (see note)
beseeching
discomfort




First reading


blessed Mary; (see note)
nine orders; (see note)

from the pain and woe
Stirling; (t-note)

Where honor; prosperity
Entertainment, pleasure also, and honor
charity (i.e., love); (see note)
Do Thou, oh Lord [have mercy on us]; (see note)







Give, oh Lord [Thy blessing]

ready

Second reading; (t-note)

beloved; (see note)
Saints; shining martyrs
celestial assembly; (t-note)
Devoutly
cruel pains
here
eat; partridge; plover
swims

Rhine river

Anjou; Orleans; (see note)
great delicacy





St. Giles bring you here; (see note)
soon and safely
abundance and prosperity



cruel pains
may

Third reading

saints
are above the seven spheres; (see note)



without [a] doubt
describe
see you soon
Not in [a] desert
(see note)



give them
show them when
shall
no one deserves; sweetness; (see note)
tasted
(t-note)
come hither
Unless
sore pains


before








From hideous
Where; spurlings



(see note); (t-note)










(see note)












Quite early on Ash Wednesday; (see note)
two gossips; (see note)
one did to the other
Groaning and sipping
Lenten season; lean; (see note)

On [a] couch
God knows if; (see note)
pretend
let's prove [the truth] of that; (see note)


sweet friend (gossip)
inherit your slenderness from your mother
All wine; disdain; (see note)
Except Malmsey; never




you must refrain; (see note)
endure; (t-note)


(t-note)
All I do is cause him to suffer; (t-note)
not worth a bean; (see note); (t-note)
Fill [at] once; (see note); (t-note)


half-pint stoup
sip after sip
Of thirst such an excess; afflict
By which to compensate they had high hopes; (see note)
(see note)




has been written; (see note)
In general [terms] by
above the stars exalted
If they had made; any threat; (see note)
should arise without end
Although with pride; swollen; (see note)
fell from heaven
heads from receiving harms

earth; heavens; shake; (see note)
venom suddenly
fear quake
hear what
if I debate, some man
sea; burn; moon; suffer; (see note)
Rocks would crumble; fall apart
loud of warning; ring; (see note)

very loath were; bard; (see note)
To engage in flyting; am ashamed; (t-note)
In it is neither
worthless trappings

slanderous remarks
cause me to rhyme
countries; kingdoms


Beshitten; (see note)
scabrous scrolls
Foul-mouthed rascal; banquet
worthy writings; if I loosed; (t-note)
Mandrake dwarf; in scorn; (see note)
Thrice-exposed trickster; (see note)
'Mercy to God' before
cease; rascal; rolls

besmirched dwarf
cousin; deputy
fool, trust; put to flight
ape, misshapen owl; (see note)
Scabby scavenger; sponger; (see note)
Misconceived foundling; dwarf; (see note)
shriek
If; hear anything more; poetry

command; in all regions; (see note)
cease the game
Weak wastrel and cart-varlet; (see note)
See [that] you soon; assistant
six leeches on your loins
Meekly as recompense
curse
document; (t-note)




Gaelic vagabond; rags; (see note)
Impotent craven; by nature; (see note)
Ill-treated; dried; Danishman; wheel; (see note); (t-note)
kites had dined on your nose
Misshapen; like a lunatic
raves; (t-note)
has assumed a Highland manner
A Lowland arse would; (see note)

Torn ragged rook
Befouling; scold; (t-note)
haughtiness
learning not at all skilled
see
Renounce learning; snatch
A blasphemous bard; beggary
a wisp [of straw]; (see note)

ask, villain, if; fight; (see note)
Yes, vile Dagon dimwit; doubt; (see note)
meet; pledge
get rid of; blow; (t-note)
Throughout Britain; announced
envenomed thief, got whipped
dog leash I intend to make you shout; (see note)
neither

(i.e., extreme example); (see note)
murder and wrongdoing
Deceitful tyrant
Cuckold, craven coward; (see note); (t-note)
attempted; (see note)
poison; deadly
vagabond; be summoned
Robber; prove myself

(I.e., even if I'm lying); vile body; (see note)
reveal your maliciousness
syphilitic ruffian; (see note); (t-note)
fiendish face; fouler; midden; (see note)
friends; accused; (see note)
lie; prove
Even if; head; ten times
retract; head shall be split; (t-note)

Before you dared speak; malicious; (see note)
sail above; was raised; (see note)
quite fierce; (see note)
Dark and moonless; wave; (t-note)
miles hence did us blow
Zeeland, Shetland; Norway; (see note)
[the] wild sea; all famished; (t-note)
to put an end to

yourself a rhetorician; (see note); (t-note)
staring gaping fool; deceived
knobby-kneed (?); kilted hips (?); (see note)
villainy; lash has received
Dark-faced corpse
lice-ridden; loathsome; leek; (t-note)
Since; would so happily; styled
(see note)

Deformed fool; rejected
What a marvel it is; (see note); (t-note)
Gaelic-speaking areas
perverse
sense of good writing
I suggest that; Lothian
Shall; English
(i.e., Ayrshire); (see note)

are suited; dog to poop; (see note)
Starved thief; strive; (t-note)
peas; summer; (see note)
small bundle
hearth
poverty; wasted
breeches; testicles jingle; (t-note)
cloak; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)
sunburned; creased; wrinkled
roasted St. Lawrence; snout; (see note); (t-note)
eyes
struck; fish tail
foul face; St. Bartholomew
nose
haggis; kite; (see note)

(see note); (t-note)
Lazy drunken lout; beer
assistant; arse; (see note)
useless uncouth fool
scrounge; beg; beer and oats; (t-note)
Than; Carrick
poor; (t-note)
old women

enough; I need not pretend
vile trickster; have lied
loudly; my war-cry; (t-note)
Have you forgotten
Weeping; gallows bred; (see note)
Yelling and croaking; cow
poacher's garb; (see note)


Gaelic robber; bag; shoes; (see note)
wench like greedy kites you travel
bags to mill; husks
lice; (see note)
hedgebreaking thief (?); hens; (see note)
scary; (see note)
young goats; pens (folds)
awful gaze; scare; mothers; (t-note)

(see note)
loathly lodge; lepers; (see note)
cobbler's; (see note)
steal cocks and hens
poultry; she pulls off; feathers
God grant; slut to be; (see note)
a goose; glens
sacred; (see note); (t-note)

lean corpse; (see note)

grisly, pitiful face
dark, and hollow; eye
cheekbones; darkened; complexion
jaw; jowls cause; live chastely
face; reminds us that we must die
summon; famished Highland ghost

feeble bones; lean neck; (t-note)
skinny; pealed and crooked
sunburnt; colored; yellow; (see note)
Makes; despise their; ghost of Gy; (see note)
fiendish face; cur's
waiting; hangman; ladder
hanged look; moving crookedly; (t-note)
staring; noose

Foolish stingy cheapskate (miser); (see note)
look lice-ridden, fool of all fools
hobbling hedgehog, [with] hips; (see note)
backbone; [show] in rows
hipbones rough and coarse
loathly limbs; trees
spirit
monster; knees; (see note)

pitiful, thin-hipped; nag; (see note); (t-note)
moving bones poking through
Dried and shriveled
drenched; high tide
causes much distress; bride
cleanse; scraggy hocks
lie coated in yellow; (see note)
scented; cloves

Misshapen wretch (?); known; (see note)
befouled monster; diarrhea
wriggling; more
Than there is grass on ground; leaf on tree
such filth attribute to me; (t-note)
more witnesses; (see note)
jaundiced face proves it
spewing hips; hose

remained in the burgh; (see note); (t-note)
garment darkened by sweat
lads; rascal
heckled; baa and bleat
live on rubbed wheat; (see note)
tablecloth
nothing
beardless bard

heir; rode upon; (see note)
Bluish, barefoot man; bleak
Cross; (see note)
hobbling boots
welts; (see note)
scare; straws
dismiss; schools
stone; street; goes

boys like bees; throng; (t-note)
strange; (t-note)
owlet chased by crows; (see note)
dogs; skin-boots; (see note)
(see note)

shirt
advise; friend; linens

road; cries; (see note)
dogs clinging to; heels
lads and wastrels
horses run; wheels
horses; coals; baskets
clamor; boots
baskets; tubs; (t-note)
strikes; pelts; ankles

Fiendish rascal; prepared; (see note)

dog-face, before I chase you and skin
Owl, roar and howl
Plucked kite; from a dog; (t-note)
cur, pickpurse; values you
(see note)
(see note)

(see note); (t-note)



(see note)

old woman's fart; (see note)
ewe, befouled arse; kill


Dathan; cruel; (see note)
Abiron's child
Insane werewolf, reptile; (t-note)
lad
separated from celestial saints
shepherd's knave; (see note)
anew; rhyme and rave; (see note)
meek (sheep-like), bleary-eyed beast

forebear was born; notion; (see note); (t-note)
Cockburnspath; aware; (see note)
Engendered by a she-bear; devil; (see note)
Devil-bear
mare of Mar; (see note); (t-note)
Patrick, Earl of March; by; (see note)

boldly I dare to say

disputed; (see note)
English laws
betrayed; (see note)
those walls
afterward; caused; (see note)
Edward Longshanks; (see note)
Where
chased; chronicle

held and accused
custody
den
dogs; were in charge
stole; holy stone; (see note)
cross; other jewels
burns; bones


summoned; Perth; (see note); (t-note)
by his title
damned; approached; desert; (t-note)
knew only
exiled

tigers; toads; remain; (see note)
foxes; wily beasts

birds of value; those mounds; (t-note)
Builds or dwells; (t-note)
Those stones; brimstone
Devil-bear's mother, cast; sea; (see note)
accursed apple
ate when he lost Paradise
She ate, poisonous; (see note)
Then married

tales
come at night
betrayed; (see note); (t-note)
protect
Pretending through; rooms
cruelly; attacked
recovered


was against
Devil-bear's children
begotten
Beelzebub's offspring
made a priest; ordained by; (see note)
disgrace
cause me to show
lives; curse

rascal, lies; chatters; (see note)
invent statements stemming from envy
banished elders each; cry
body; (t-note)

say
make; trental masses; (see note)


Unfeeling sow, cease; heir; (see note)
bold liar; hold with
long list
Devil-bear; allies
Cross; knees; public statement; (see note); (t-note)

strike
suffer; because you have sinned

deputy; confessed; (t-note)
Cower; be humble
then make; (see note)
(see note); (t-note)
Raise
If you do not do this, fellow; burnt
pitch; tar; flax; (t-note)
Arthur's Seat; higher hill; (see note)

walked upon; mountain; (see note)
Inspired by; sphere
sweetly; fountain

fool
pool; toad spawn
makes; gluey figures (?); (see note)
blabs what annoys men's ears

You have no love for Gaelic; (see note)
language

Scota (a woman); (see note)
Until; speak

English rumps (fish tails); (see note)


fool; foolery and mocking

Danes dried upon the wheel; (see note)
(see note)

Totally; arse; sling staff; (see note)
Therefore; whoreson
deafens; uncle; noise

Whereas; stole hens; lambs; (see note)
know; stores, and stacks
happy; jaws; (see note)
table smashed bones (?)
empty; farms and holdings; (see note)
lack [a] plowshare; the whole plow
property; hangman's noose; (see note); (t-note)
neck to stretch; (see note)

too good
defiled by such a worthless
hang; (see note)
bury; permission


mutters
fitting; such agony embrace


calm; holy ashes; (see note)
tried; diver; dredge
lies enclosed; cloth; coast
conduct caused; cold roast
unfed; sea
(see note)
pantsless; tattered clothes

nothing to do; (see note)
earls; bore; properly; (t-note)

(t-note)
brave; (t-note)


chamber readied; (t-note)

Cursed croaking crow; snip
clean heart; knees; (see note)
Dwarf; hit; until; poop; (t-note)
lick; swear; lies
take from you, villain; degrees; (see note)
Strip; remove; learning; (t-note)
Shave around; fool; (see note); (t-note)
tie you to the gallows (?); (t-note)

Foul-mouthed ruffian, villainous renegade
were always loyal
comes naturally for
grab; take
(see note)
prove it, thief; (see note)
benefit of clergy; fellow
(t-note)

owl
made
people
exiled [from]; each and all
rope; peg; (see note)
coat of arms are
above in verse
few in number


imagined offending him


Trusting
Recompense; benefice wholly
peck; eyes
wheel of execution

Ettrick Forest; Dumfries; (see note)
churches
Meat, curds, meal, grain, herbs; geese
at night stole; livestock
grows weary; (see note)
escape into; (see note)
clamshells; staff; (see note)
rascal (?)

beasts; (see note)

captures
Robbers such lads [as you]; blow
Paris; hangman; (see note)
apprentice near
each one
suffer

Haughty rogue; have the goods
lack of money, thief; flee
earnings, sold; pawned; clothes; (see note); (t-note)

flea-skins
Danzig; reckoning; (see note)
(see note)
support

Katherine (a ship); made a foul cabin; (see note)
befouled her from stem to stern
did "shoot" (excrete)
excrement adheres; ropes
sky nor estuary
spawn; sea
souls; (see note)
Had not

signed (blessed); (see note)
face; ship's hold; intended
vomited; firmer of your behind
Befouled the helm
ordered you off at Bass Rock; (see note)
cast out; loathly lump
mariners could pump
belly

provided
war, without equal; surpassed
loose; rear-end
captured the ship (?); (see note)
excrete
receive
defiled; fifteen; clean up
soiled; muck; mid-mast; (t-note)

[Go] through England; feet; (see note)
prepare; riding-crop (?); (see note)
law-court

not hesitant, go briskly
If it happens that you are hanged
Then; kin will be well rid; encumbrance
must be your fate

fool; (see note)
at home
such [a] one; (t-note)
diseased ewe, loose of the bowels; (see note)
cast out this loathsome rascal
from which there is no escape
defiling and infecting
Take away

conceived during; (see note)
by; (see note)
Nor held; no halt
Ill-fortuned; violent
Unforgiven, undergrown; nor skilled
A quarrelsome dwarf, an object of scorn
crabby, scabby, ugly lapdog
A shit without wit, vacant (?); harmful

trickery; William the fool; (see note)
Overly flawed
Enclosed; defecates
Do you write about me; rhetoric; (see note)
Crazy drunken fool (?), loose
bottom; affliction
conspiracy
take yourself

who would give to such a beast; (see note)
Unless; jingle Judas' bells
flute; play
worthless fellow; nothing else
patched; pilgrim's wallet; (t-note)
Put on thy body; go
without misfortune; (t-note)
The Devil; over the hills

Poisonous Cain; truant fiend; (see note)
Mermaid, dwarf; (see note)
have you baked for the lord; (see note)
swallow; plucked
Polecat, coward; midden
Vile fool; face
arse drips with excrement
scrub your bottom; tired out ten old women; (t-note)

hellish jackdaw; (see note)
Fiendish deceiver (Infidel)
angry spider; misbeliever; (see note)
Jew, conjurer, chief heretic; (see note)
Saracen, Simonite; declared pagan; (see note)
Devil, perjurer, buggerer; (see note); (t-note)

worshiper of demons; (see note)

descendant, Goliath; (see note)
father; mother; (see note); (t-note)
these are charges I allege
Fiends incite; uncle; (see note)
claim
heir; executor; (see note)
head of family; (see note)
by daylight or by torchlight

uncle; (see note)
(see note)
kinsmen; (see note)
niece; stern; (see note)
(see note)
These fiends are
Stirring; ceases
Doubt; you are a devil!

(see note)
silly, adder-stung; offspring of fools; (see note)
high
Stabbed; convicted lamp of Lollards; (see note); (t-note)
first of pagans
snivels
(see note)
to the hell of the Termagi (devils); (see note)







Midsummer's Eve; (see note); (t-note)
[a] meadow; (t-note)
enclosed garden
Hedged; height; (see note)
Where; notes; (see note)
happier; bough heard
Because of; sweet
wholesome fragrance
in secret; wall; seek; (see note)
moistened; the birds sang; (see note)
heard; holly; hued; (see note)
lofty conversation; haughty
Then; into the hedge; thrust
hidden; pleasant; (see note)
spikes; woven; looked


green (fresh); (see note)
bedecked with garlands; (t-note)


Combed; artfully arranged; (see note)
Above; clearly
kerchiefs cast above; gauze
season
Held by; white fingers
wondrously lovely; gentle
flourishing beauty; (see note)
White, lovely
opened; (t-note)
royally; greenery; (t-note)
adorned; (see note)
every color; person

those bright; (see note)
cups in rows
these lovely ladies; (see note); (t-note)
indeed, merry in manner; (see note)
of various things
quaffed; poured; (see note)
vigorously; (t-note)

Reveal; wedded; young

if; regretted; reckless
loved another man more; (see note)
Than the one that
choice; choose
blessed bond; (see note)
a bit; except death alone; (t-note)

lovely lady soon; lively manner; (see note)

painful; trouble produces
You ask
Chains; changes; sweet; (see note)
Such cursed fortune; once
escape
God, if [only]; last; year; (see note)
[a] vexation; unless
against; nature; (see note)
hearts to constrain
than man by far
each year; enjoy a mate
take; mate, unworn; (t-note)
used up companions
custom was; land held

companions; embrace; (t-note)
(see note)

Graceful; elegant; (see note)
(see note)

high repute; press
display my loveliness


choose; [from] over
enjoy
fellow, better than the others
Eager and young; yoke one year; (see note)
After; tested his virility; (see note)
apply myself to look about; (see note)

handsome suitor
perform; used up
(see note)
exhausted by
shape; (see note)


(see note); (t-note)
used up swine worth nothing; (see note)
An idler; phlegm; (see note)
(see note)
scratch; disgust I feel
monster; (see note)
bristles; fierce boar
sorry instrument
harmless; (see note)
rheum; eyes; (t-note)
clogged; gutters; slime
glowering incubus
(i.e., Lucifer); (see note)
There may no sign
cross myself entirely
body embrace and hold; (t-note)
shaven; fellow; (see note)
(t-note)
hedgehog skin; scratches; (see note)
burning coal; jaws
cower; sharp pain
fear
love-looks; goblin; bleary eyes
As [if]; looked, depressed; (see note)
wretch; vile smile (?); (see note)
(see note)
voice sinks into my ears
annoyance before he comes near; (t-note)
named; nine crosses
annoyance; crazy fellow
jealousy; habits
lean tom-cat; (see note)
evil designs

Imagining and devising situations
trick (?); (t-note)
glance at the lad; cup
jealousy
(see note); (t-note)
(see note)

itch; year before his rod helps
monster; climb; (see note)
standoffish; haughty
impotent fool
defile; fumble
though his penis poorly; (see note)

before; useless beast
require a kerchief of sheer fabric
gown of scarlet-dyed cloth; fur-trimmed

clumsy attack; furious with anger; (see note); (t-note)
bribes; climbs on top; (see note)


such a man; (see note)

lovely [lady]
laughed loudly; behavior; (see note)
passed
jested; before; (t-note)

lady spoke these words; (t-note)
it falls [to] you without deceit
Since; honored; (t-note)
have you fared
bond; pain
to lead in loyal marriage
then myself you may examine; (t-note)
truth, faking; (t-note)

lovely [lady]; if I reveal
trustworthy
spirit; higher
(see note)
list; root; (see note)
rancor so bitter; swells
burst; built up; (see note)
burden too great
pour forth; discharge
swelling

whoremaster; on earth; (see note)
hate
active

(t-note)
enfeebled; exhausted
lecher; until
sexual instrument; useless; (t-note)
rest; tired slug
weeks; tap once
before; [for] wife chose
caught often
prancing
glancing
courtly; combing; (t-note)
more valiant; (see note)
cipher in the bedroom; (t-note)
(see note)
foolish; pees; bushes; (see note); (t-note)
need to piss; (t-note)
sexual desire

worthless of deeds; (t-note)
shadow (i.e., fake)
in the dark; deed; droopy be found; (t-note)
jokes; noise; jovial
Ever boasting; prowess
knows; boldly; (see note)

some evening; (see note)

is not entirely deceived; (t-note)
no worse than he appears
thought I enjoyed; jet; (see note)
found to be glass; (see note)
fierce; afterwards fails; (see note)
jealousy; (t-note)
birds on [a] bough
are free [to mate] each year; (see note)


mate to embrace; (t-note)
man; is weak
muse
mourn; (t-note)
waking for woe; toss
Cursing; my wicked kin

bold; realm
handsomer [one]
Than; by seven times
flaccid (empty)
pliant rod; hold
(t-note)
fever; suffered

An ache; heart's root
do not faint
deceive; that man
crabby look
let on; love look; glances
glance what I in anger feel
kindly

young girl; not wish to suffer
instruments; (see note)
good man (i.e., lover); swear; (t-note)
(see note)

young lady till his back ached; (see note); (t-note)
bed; [a] man
girl; would not be amused; (see note)

Then when; pleasant [woman]
(t-note)
These
sorrow; secret boughs

more boldly in complaint; (t-note)

(see note)
it befalls; tale; next
spirit; enliven; (see note)
wisdom; weighty
pierce; wicked; (t-note)
(see note)

assure you, sisters; truth
lovely in my clothing; (t-note)
though I disdainful; haughty
subtly; saints

could sixty deceive; more subtle
listen and learn; (see note)

behavior; (t-note)
Though; bold; (see note)
ferocious; compliant
doves; frail sexual parts; (see note)
both; (see note)
then practice; strengths

stinging as adders


(see note); (t-note)

(see note)
despised; spied
hoary fellow; coughed up phlegm
dog; secretly; (see note)
made the fellow fawn; (see note)
(see note); (t-note)

(see note)
winkled cheeks
making scornful faces
Trusting
could; pain; discomfort
disposition

more lovable lad; slake; (see note)
(see note)
engage; safe

gaze
such; wept
(see note)
boor; snarling jaws
kiss, cheek and chin; (see note)
chief manor house; bequeathed; (t-note)
Although; impotent before
crazy fool
more; won than strength

Then married; goods; (see note); (t-note)
middle age; medium
(see note)


reminded him, which
sometimes; peddler
sharply; because; twice; (t-note)

mature age; (see note)
says
too respectable; (see note)
tell lies; look around
made the shopkeeper; remedy; (see note)
after; just deserts
difference; great


equal
(t-note)
never except (i.e., always); pity; (see note)
always fresh
recognize; taught; (t-note)
(see note)
run; afraid
desire; the worst; (see note)
fawned; cared for
also; wondrous; before; (see note)
man; hated afterward
control; overcome wholly; (t-note)
crowed over; coward
submissive; (t-note)
despised; rascal; hated
grew
beast; goaded
rope; head; (see note)
(see note)
hatred; entirely
But sometimes; until it was forced out
plug
While I anything lacked

buildings; child; (see note); (t-note)
stink jerked; stopper from my throat
was stunned; shock; weapon
afterwards; gladly; avenged
scold; cruel
fool pretended
lineage documents; sealed; (see note); (t-note)
was so greatly swollen; (t-note)
(t-note)
(see note); (t-note)
endure; tossed
bridle bit; meek
made the reins rip and tear
effeminate fellow to perform; (see note)
[I] conducted; dignity; earth
gossips
tied; colt
horse; baskets cast; dungheap; (see note)

spirited; skittish; skips
humiliation escaped

cheerful lover
made him a game; suited
i.e., wealthy
banker; free me of need; (see note); (t-note)
happy to take
receive; many gifts; (t-note)
dressed
dyed cloth; chains

Which greatly raised; (t-note)
those fancy dresses; (t-note)

(t-note)
possesses

preen myself; (t-note)

delight; dearer by far
Than; finely; (t-note)
plundered; raise
peacock; feathers; (see note)
ignored; cuckold
abandoned; despised
parrot; plucked heron; (see note)
Thus strengthened; foe
sturdy; (see note)

trick; tell

mounted by such a clumsy old horse
aroused
"thing" penetrated; (see note)

ride
castrated fellow
ugly to look at
spent
rest
(t-note)
used up; deprived
wives; lacks
valiance; held
worthless
implement; failure at climax
dressed my children
fools; spawn; (see note)
banished; lands; brethren each one
foes; feud; (see note)
By
person who belonged
these wisemen; know; (see note); (t-note)
Are known by these actions; (t-note)

debtor; buried in earth; (see note); (t-note)
died; sorrow
mournful; (see note)
pleasure
certainly
weep as [if]; (see note)
dress as if I were in mourning
laughs; (t-note)
mournful
beautiful; body
droop; sad; mournful
(t-note)

(i.e., widow's clothing)
I fake my mood; (see note)
forth; book open; (see note)
illuminated
over; white

glance from; cease
(see note)
(see note); (t-note)
vain boast
moon
Shows awhile; through; (see note); (t-note)
peek; looks; (t-note)
(t-note)
behold me from afar
sponge for woe; (see note)
cleverly
eyes; flows

joyless person; loyally
sorrow
pearl of delight; experience such pain; (see note)
I cross myself; saint; (see note)
lechery I pretend to be angry
sigh
I must have
certainly

suffer; deed; held secret

ways [of acting]; (t-note)
stratagems; fool; (see note)
achieve our ends; (t-note)
under Christ (i.e., on earth); knows
dish; mis-cook
devices; faults; (t-note)
secret foolish love
worthless men; (t-note)

(see note)
pretend; good name

wiles have
high blood; (see note); (t-note)
Shamed be the foolish lass; (see note)
(t-note)
such; sign make
sight; reliable
man worse; (t-note)
until
chemise; (see note)



praise; than [for] any

trick; (see note)
blooming
loyal lovers my home frequent
pours; playfully; happiness; (see note)
whisper; joke; read poems; (t-note)
rave wildly; riotous
complain; praise
embrace; affection
carves [choice pieces]; cup offers; (see note)
inside; (see note)
thrusts; fist

not succeed
warm welcome; (see note)
(t-note)
same fashion; (t-note)
lean; (t-note)
foot hard; stamp
men far off, only
(t-note)
which
living lad so low; (see note)
warm-hearted; (see note)
if; desire; given; white skin
if he does not have me; (see note)
take pity on all men; (see note)
innocent soul; (i.e., God); judges; (see note)
girls proved
Latin; (see note)


laughed; others; loved
(see note); (t-note)

cooled
spoke quite intimately; cup; (t-note)

passed
Until; dawned; bathed; (see note)
mild; blackbirds
gone was; meadow [was] fragrant
bright crystal; (see note)
birds sang; wood; (see note); (t-note)

music; boughs; (t-note)
murmuring; vale
flowers; (t-note)

quenched; (see note)
these royal roses; garments; (see note); (t-note)
went home; blooming bushes; (t-note)
privately; garden; (see note)
pastime; (see note)

ear has given; (see note)
strange; which early
(t-note)
choose for; if