Poems Devotional and Moral

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 Devotional and Moral

1. On the Nativity of Christ [Et nobis puer est]
2. Of the Passion of Christ
3. On the Resurrection of Christ [Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro]
4. A Ballad of Our Lady [Ave Maria, gracia plena]
5. In Praise of Women
6. The Manner of Going to Confession
7. The Table of Confession
8. All Earthly Joy Returns to Pain
9. Of Man's Mortality [Quoad tu in cinerem revertis]
10. An Orison
11. Of the World's Vanity [Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas]
12. Of Life
13. Of the Changes of Life
14. The Lament for the Makars [Timor mortis conturbat me]
15. A Meditation in Winter
16. None May Assure in This World
17. Best to Be Blithe
18. Of Content
19. Without Gladness No Treasure Avails
20. His Own Enemy
21. Spend Thine Own Goods [Thyne awin gude spend quhill thow hes space]
22. Of Covetise [And all for caus of cuvetice]
23. Of Deeming
24. How Should I Conduct Myself [Lord God, how sould I governe me]
25. Rule of Oneself [He rewllis weill that weill himself can gyd]
26. Discretion in Asking [In asking sowld discretioun be]
27. Discretion in Giving [In geving sowld discretioun be]
28. Discretion in Taking [In taking sowld discretioun be]
29. Dunbar at Oxford [Ane peralous seiknes is vane prosperite]







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

Rorate, celi, desuper!
Hevins distill your balmy schouris,
For now is rissin the brycht day ster
Fro the ros Mary, flour of flouris.
The cleir sone quhome no clud devouris,
Surminting Phebus in the est
Is cumin of His hevinly touris;
Et nobis puer natus est.

Archangellis, angellis, and dompnationis,
Tronis, potestatis, and marteiris seir,
And all ye hevinly operationis,
Ster, planeit, firmament, and speir,
Fyre, erd, air, and watter cleir,
To Him gife loving, most and lest,
That come into so meik maneir;
Et nobis puer natus est.

Synnaris be glaid and pennance do,
And thank your Makar hairtfully,
For He that ye mycht nocht cum to,
To yow is cumin full humly,
Your saulis with His blud to by,
And lous yow of the feindis arrest,
And only of His awin mercy;
Pro nobis puer natus est.

All clergy do to him inclyne,
And bow unto that barne benyng,
And do your observance devyne
To Him that is of kingis King;
Ensence His altar, reid and sing
In haly kirk, with mynd degest,
Him honouring attour all thing,
Qui nobis puer natus est.

Celestiall fowlis in the are,
Sing with your nottis upoun hicht;
In firthis and in forrestis fair
Be myrthfull now at all your mycht,
For passit is your dully nycht.
Aurora hes the cluddis perst,
The son is rissin with glaidsum lycht,
Et nobis puer natus est.

Now spring up, flouris, fra the rute,
Revert yow upwart naturaly,
In honour of the blissit frute
That rais up fro the rose Mary.
Lay out your levis lustely,
Fro deid tak lyfe now at the lest
In wirschip of that Prince wirthy,
Qui nobis puer natus est.

Syng, hevin imperiall, most of hicht,
Regions of air mak armony;
All fische in flud and foull of flicht
Be myrthfull and mak melody.
All Gloria in excelsis cry -
Hevin, erd, se, man, bird, and best -
He that is crownit abone the sky
Pro nobis puer natus est.


2. Of the Passion of Christ

Amang thir freiris, within ane cloister,
I enterit in ane oritorie,
And knelit doun with ane Pater Noster
Befoir the michtie King of Glorie,
Haveing His Passioun in memorie;
Syn to His mother I did inclyne,
Hir halsing with ane gaude flore;
And sudandlie I sleipit syne.

Methocht Judas with mony ane Jow
Tuik blissit Jesu, our Salvatour,
And schot Him furth with mony ane schow,
With schamefull wourdis of dishonour,
And lyk ane theif or ane tratour
Thay leid that hevinlie Prince most hie
With manassing attour messour,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Falslie condamnit befoir ane juge
Thay spittit in His visage fayr;
And as lyounis with awfull ruge,
In yre thay hurlit Him heir and thair,
And gaif Him mony buffat sair
That it wes sorow for to se.
Of all His claythis thay tirvit Him bair,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Thay terandis, to revenge thair tein,
For scorne thai cled Him into quhyt,
And hid His blythfull glorious ene
To se quham angellis had delyt;
Dispituouslie syn did Him smyt
Saying, "Gif sone of God Thow be,
Quha straik Thee now, Thow tell us tyt?"
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

In tene thay tirvit Him agane,
And till ane pillar thai Him band;
Quhill blude birst out at everie vane,
Thay scurgit Him bayth fut and hand;
At everie straik ran furth ane strand
Quhilk mycht have ransonit warldis thre;
He baid in stour quhill He mycht stand,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Nixt all in purpyr thay Him cled,
And syne with thornis scharp and kene
His saikles blude agane thay sched,
Persing His heid with pykis grene;
Unneis with lyf He micht sustene
That croune on thrungin with crueltie,
Quhill flude of blude blindit His ene,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Ane croce that wes bayth large and lang
To beir thay gaif this blissit Lord;
Syn fullelie, as theif to hang,
Thay harlit Him furth with raip and corde;
With bluid and sweit was all deflorde
His face, the fude of angellis fre;
His feit with stanis was revin and scorde,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Agane thay tirvit Him bak and syd,
Als brim as ony baris woid;
The clayth that claif to His cleir hyd
Thay raif away with ruggis rude,
Quhill fersly followit flesche and blude
That it was pietie for to se.
Na kynd of torment He ganestude,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

On to the Crose of breid and lenth
To gar His lymmis langar wax,
Thay straitit Him with all thair strenth,
Quhill to the Rude thay gart Him rax,
Syn tyit Him on with greit irne takkis;
And Him all nakit on the Tre
Thay raissit on loft be houris sax,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Quhen He was bendit so on breid,
Quhill all His vanis brist and brak,
To gar His cruell pane exceid
Thay leit Him fall doun with ane swak
Quhill cors and corps and all did crak.
Agane thay rasit Him on hie,
Reddie may turmentis for to mak,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Betuix tuo theiffis the spreit He gaif
Onto the Fader most of micht.
The erde did trimmill, the stanis claif,
The sone obscurit of his licht,
The day wox dirk as ony nicht,
Deid bodies rais in the cité.
Goddis deir Sone all thus was dicht,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

In weir that He wes yit on lyf,
Thay rane ane rude speir in His syde
And did His precious body ryff,
Quhill blude and watter did furth glyde.
Thus Jesus with His woundis wyde
As martir sufferit for to de
And tholit to be crucifyid,
O mankynd, for the luif of thee.

Methocht Compassioun, vode of feiris,
Than straik at me with mony ane stound,
And soir Contritioun, bathit in teiris,
My visage all in watter drownit;
And Reuth into my eir ay rounde,
"For schame, allace, behald, man, how
Beft is with mony ane bludy wound
Thy blissit Salvatour Jesu!"

Than rudelie come Remembrance
Ay rugging me withouttin rest,
Quhilk Crose and nalis, scharp scurge and lance
And bludy crowne befoir me kest;
Than Pane with passioun me opprest,
And evir did Petie on me pow,
Saying, "Behald how Jowis hes drest
Thy blissit Salvatour, Chryst Jesu!"

With greiting glaid be than come Grace
With wourdis sweit saying to me,
"Ordane for Him ane resting place,
That is so werie wrocht for thee:
The Lord within thir dayis thre
Sall law undir thy lyntell bow;
And in thy hous sall herbrit be
Thy blissit Salvatour, Chryst Jesu."

Than swyth Contritioun wes on steir,
And did eftir Confessioun ryn;
And Conscience me accusit heir
And kest out mony cankerit syn;
To rys Repentence did begin
And out at the gettis did schow.
Pennance did walk the hous within,
Byding our Salvitour, Chryst Jesu.

Grace become gyd and governour,
To keip the hous in sicker stait
Ay reddie till our Salvatour,
Quhill that He come, air or lait;
Repentence ay with cheikis wait
No pane nor pennence did eschew
The hous within evir to debait,
Onlie for luif of sweit Jesu.

For grit terrour of Chrystis deid
The erde did trymmill quhair I lay,
Quhairthrow I waiknit in that steid
With spreit halflingis in effray.
Than wrayt I all without delay,
Richt heir as I have schawin to yow,
Quhat me befell on Gud Fryday
Befoir the Crose of sweit Jesu.


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

Done is a battell on the dragon blak,
Our campioun Chryst confountit hes his force;
The gettis of Hell ar brokin with a crak,
The signe triumphall rasit is of the Croce,
The divillis trymmillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis ar borrowit and to the blis can go,
Chryst with His blud our ransonis dois indoce:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

Dungin is the deidly dragon Lucifer,
The crewall serpent with the mortall stang,
The auld kene tegir with his teith on char,
Quhilk in a wait hes lyne for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clowis strang;
The merciful Lord wald nocht that it wer so,
He maid him for to felye of that fang:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that sufferit to be slane,
And lyk a lamb in sacrifice wes dicht,
Is lyk a lyone rissin up agane,
And as a gyane raxit Him on hicht;
Sprungin is Aurora, radius and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorius Appollo,
The blisfull day depairtit fro the nycht:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The grit Victour agane is rissin on hicht
That for our querrell to the deth wes woundit;
The sone that wox all paill now schynis bricht,
And dirknes clerit, our fayth is now refoundit.
The knell of mercy fra the hevin is soundit,
The Cristin ar deliverit of thair wo,
The Jowis and thair errour ar confoundit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.

The fo is chasit, the battell is done ceis,
The presone brokin, the jevellouris fleit and flemit;
The weir is gon, confermit is the peis,
The fetteris lowsit and the dungeoun temit,
The ransoun maid, the presoneris redemit,
The feild is win, ourcumin is the fo,
Dispulit of the tresur that he yemit:
Surrexit Dominus de sepulchro.


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

Hale, sterne superne, hale in eterne,
   In Godis sicht to schyne!
Lucerne in derne for to discerne
   Be glory and grace devyne;
Hodiern, modern, sempitern,
   Angelicall regyne!
Our tern inferne for to dispern,
   Helpe, rialest rosyne.
       Ave Maria, gracia plena!
   Haile, fresche floure femynyne!
Yerne us guberne, virgin matern,
   Of reuth baith rute and ryne.

Haile, yhyng, benyng, fresche flurising!
   Haile, Alphais habitakle!
Thy dyng ofspring maid us to syng
   Befor His tabernakle.
All thing maling we doune thring
   Be sicht of His signakle,
Quhilk King us bring unto His ryng
   Fro dethis dirk umbrakle.
Ave Maria, gracia plena!
   Haile, moder and maide but makle!
Bricht syng, gladyng our languissing
   Be micht of thi mirakle.

Haile, bricht be sicht in Hevyn on hicht!
   Haile, day sterne orientale!
Our licht most richt in clud of nycht
   Our dirknes for to scale.
Hale, wicht in ficht, puttar to flicht
   Of fendis in battale!
Haile, plicht but sicht! Hale, mekle of mycht!
   Haile, glorius Virgin, hale!
       Ave Maria, gracia plena!
   Haile, gentill nychttingale!
Way stricht, cler dicht, to wilsome wicht
   That irke bene in travale.

Hale, qwene serene! Hale, most amene!
   Haile, hevinlie hie emprys!
Haile, schene unseyne with carnale eyne!
   Haile, ros of Paradys!
Haile, clene bedene ay till conteyne!
   Haile, fair fresche flour delyce!
Haile, grene daseyne! Hale, fro the splene,
   Of Jhesu genitrice!
       Ave Maria, gracia plena!
   Thow baire the Prince of Prys;
Our teyne to meyne and ga betweyne
   As humile oratrice.

Hale, more decore than of before,
   And swetar be sic sevyne,
Our glore forlore for to restore
   Sen thow art qwene of Hevyn!
Memore of sore, stern in aurore,
   Lovit with angellis stevyne;
Implore, adore, thow indeflore,
   To mak our oddis evyne.
       Ave Maria, gracia plena!
   With lovingis lowde ellevyn.
Quhill store and hore my youth devore,
   Thy name I sall ay nevyne.

Empryce of prys, imperatrice,
   Bricht polist precious stane;
Victrice of vyce, hie genitrice
   Of Jhesu, Lord Soverayne:
Our wys pavys fro enemys
   Agane the Feyndis trayne;
Oratrice, mediatrice, salvatrice,
   To God gret suffragane!
       Ave Maria, gracia plena!
Haile, sterne meridiane!
Spyce, flour delice of Paradys
   That baire the gloryus grayne.

Imperiall wall, place palestrall,
   Of peirles pulcritud;
Tryumphale hall, hie trone regall
   Of Godis celsitud;
Hospitall riall, the Lord of all
   Thy closet did include;
Bricht ball cristall, ros virginall,
   Fulfillit of angell fude.
       Ave Maria, gracia plena!
   Thy birth has with His blude
Fra fall mortal originall
   Us raunsound on the Rude.


5. In Praise of Women

Now of wemen this I say for me,
Of erthly thingis nane may bettir be.
Thay suld haif wirschep and grit honoring
Of men aboif all uthir erthly thing.
Rycht grit dishonour upoun himself he takkis
In word or deid quhaevir wemen lakkis,
Sen that of wemen cumin all ar we;
Wemen ar wemen and sa will end and de.
Wo wirth the fruct wald put the tre to nocht,
And wo wirth him rycht so that sayis ocht
Of womanheid that may be ony lak,
Or sic grit schame upone him for to tak.
Thay us consaif with pane, and be thame fed
Within thair breistis thair we be boun to bed;
Grit pane and wo and murnyng mervellus
Into thair birth thay suffir sair for us;
Than meit and drynk to feid us get we nane
Bot that we sowk out of thair breistis bane.
Thay ar the confort that we all haif heir -
Thair may no man be till us half so deir;
Thay ar our verry nest of nurissing.
In lak of thame quha can say ony thing,
That fowll his nest he fylis, and for thy
Exylit he suld be of all gud cumpany;
Thair suld na wyis man gif audience
To sic ane without intelligence.
Chryst to His fader He had nocht ane man;
Se quhat wirschep wemen suld haif than.
That Sone is Lord, that Sone is King of Kingis,
In Hevin and erth His majestie ay ringis.
Sen scho hes borne Him in hir halines,
And He is well and grund of all gudnes,
All wemen of us suld haif honoring,
Service and luve, aboif all uthir thing.


6. The Manner of Going to Confession

O synfull man, thir ar the fourty dayis
That every man sulde wilfull pennence dre.
Oure Lorde Jhesu, as haly writ sayis,
Fastit Himself, oure exampill to be.
Sen sic ane mychty king and lorde as He
To fast and pray was so obedient,
We synfull folk sulde be more deligent.
I reid thee, man, of thi transgressioun,
With all thi hert that thou be penitent.
Thow schrive thee clene and mak confessioun,
And se thairto that thou be deligent,
With all thi synnes into thi mynde presente,
That every syn be theselfe be schawin,
To thyne confessour it ma be kend and knawin.

Apon thi body gif thou hes ane wounde
That caussis thee gret panis for to feill,
Thair is no leiche ma mak thee haill and sounde
Quhill it be sene and clengit every deill;
Rycht sua thi schrift, bot it be schawin weill,
Thow art not abill remissioun for to get
Wittandlie, and thou ane syn forget.

Of tuenty wonddis and ane be left unhelit,
Quhat avalis the leiching of the laif?
Rycht sua thi schrift, and thair be oucht conselit,
It avalis not thi sely saule to saif,
Nor yit of God remissioun for to have.
Of syn gif thou wald have deliverance,
Thow sulde it tell with all the circumstance.

Se that thi confessour be wys and discreit,
Than can thee discharge of every doute and weir,
And power hes of thi synnes compleit.
Gif thou cannot schaw furth thi synnes perqueir,
And he be blinde and cannot at thee speir,
Thow ma rycht weill in thi mynde consydder
Than ane blynde man is led furth be aneuther.

And sa I halde that ye ar baith begylde:
He cannot speir nor thou cannot him tell
Quhen nor how thi conscience thou hes fylde.
Thairfor I reid that thou excuse thisell,
And rype thi mynde how everything befell -
The tyme, the place, and how and in quhat wys,
Sa that thi confessioun ma thi synnes pryce.
Avys thee weill or thou cum to the preist
Of all thi synnes, and namelie of the maist,
That thai be reddy prentit in thi breist;
Thow sulde not cum to schryfe thee in haist
And syne sit doun abasit as ane beist:
With humyll hert and sad contrycioun
Thow suld cum to thine confessioun.

With thine awin mouth thi synnes thou suld tell;
Bot sit and heir the preist hes not ado.
Quha kennes thi synnes better na thisell?
Thairfor I reid thee, tak gude tent thairto;
Thow knawis best quhair bindis thee thi scho;
Thairfor be wys afor or thou thair cum,
That thou schaw furth thi synnes, all and sum.

Quhair seldin compt is tane and hes a hevy charge,
And syne is rekles in his governance
And on his conscience he takis all to large,
And on the end hes no rememberance -
That man is abill to fall ane gret mischance.
The synfull man that all the yeir oursettis
Fra Pasche to Pasche, rycht mony a thing forgettis.

I reid thee, man, quhill thou art stark and young,
With pith and strenth into thi yeris grene,
Quhill thou art abill baith in mynde and toung,
Repent thee, man, and kepe thi conscience clen.
Till byde till age is mony perrell sene:
Small merit is of synnes for to irke
Quhen thou art ald and ma na wrangis wyrke.


7. The Table of Confession

To Thee, O marcifull Salviour myn, Jhesus,
My King, my Lord, and my Redemer sueit,
Befor Thy bludy figour dolorus
I schryve me cleyne, with humile spreit and meike,
That ever I did unto this hour compleit,
Baith in word, in wark, and in entent.
Falling on face full law befor Thy feit,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

To Thee, my meik sueit Salviour, I me schrife,
And dois me in Thy marcy maist excelling,
Of the wrang spending of my wittis fyve -
In hering, seing, tuiching, gusting, smelling -
Ganestanding, greving, offending, and rebelling
Aganis my lord God omnipotent;
With teris of sorrow fra myn ene distelling,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

I, wrachit synnar, vile and full of vice,
Of the sevin deidly synnis dois me schrif:
Of prid, invy, of ire, and covatice,
Of lichory, gluttony, with sleuth ay till ourdrife,1
Exercing vicis ever in all my life,
For quhilk, allace, I servit to be schent.
Rew on me, Jhesu, for Thy woundis five;
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

I schrif me, Lord, that I abusit have
The sevin deidis of marcy corporall:
The hungry meit, nor thristy drink I gaif,
Vesyit the seik, nor redemit the thrall,
Herberit the wilsum, nor nakit cled at all,
Nor yit the deid to bery tuke I tent.
Thow that put marcy abone Thi werkis all,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

In the sevin deidis of marcy spirituall:
To the ignorant nocht gaif I my teching,
Synneris correctioun, nor distitud consall,
Nor unto wofull wrachis conforting,
Nor unto saulis support of my preching,
Nor wes to ask forgevinnes pacient,
Nor to forgif my nychtburis offending:
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

Lord, I have done full littill reverence
Unto the sacramentis sevin of gret renoun:
To that hie Eucarist moist of exellence,
Baptasing, Pennence, and Confirmacioun,
Matremony, Ordour, and Extreme uncioun.
Heirof sa fer as I wes necligent,
With hert contrit and teris falling doun,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

Thy ten conmandmentis: a God for to honour,
Nocht tane in vane, na manslaar to be,
Fader and moder to worschip at all houre,
To be no theif, the haly day to uphie,
Nychtburis to luf, fals witnes for to fle,
To leif adultré, to covat no manis rent:
In all thir, Lord, culpabill knaw I me.
I cry Thee marcy and laser ro repent.

In the twelf artickillis of the treuth: a God to trow -
The Fader that all wrocht and comprehendit,
And in His only Sone, blissit Jhesu,
Of Mary borne, on Croce deid, and discendit,
The thrid day rais, to the Faderis rycht hand ascendit,
Of quik and ded to cum and hald jugement:
Into thir pointis, O Lord, quhare I have offendit,
I cry Thee marcy and lasere to repent.

I trow into the blissit Haly Spreit,
And in the Kirk, to do as it commandis,
And in the Day of Dome that we sall ris compleit
And tak oure flesche agane, baith feit and handis,
All to be saif into the stait of grace that standis.
Plane I revoik in thir quhair I myswent
Befoir Thee, Juge and Lord of sey and landis:
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

I synnit, Lord, nocht being strang as wall
In hope, faith, and fervent cherité,
Nocht with the fair foure vertuis cardinall
Agins vicis sure anarmyng me:
With fortitud, prudence, and temporance, thir thre,
With Justice ever in word, werk, and in entent:
To Thee, Crist Jesu, casting up myn ee,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

In the sevin commandis of the Kirk, that is to say,
Thy teind to pay, and cursing to eschew,
To keipe the festuall and the fasting day,
The Mes on Sonday, the parroche kirk persew,
To proper curat to mak confessioun trew,
Anis in the yer to tak the sacrament:
Into thir pointis quhair I have offendit, sair I rew.
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.
Of syn also into the Haly Spreit,
Of schrift postponit, of syn aganis natour,
Of incontricioun, of confessour undiscreit,
Of ressait synfull of my Salviour,
Of undone pennence and satisfactioun sure,
Of the sevin giftis the Haly Gaist me sent,
Of Pater Noster and sevin peticionis pure:
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

Nocht thankand Thee of gratitud and grace
That Thou me wrocht and bocht me with Thi ded;
Of this schort tyme remembring nocht the space,
The Hevinnis blis, the Hellis hiddous feid,
But mor trespas, my synnis to remeid,
Concluding never all throu myn entent,
Quhois blud on Rude for me ran reid,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

I knaw me vicius, Lord, and rycht culpabill
In aithis, swering, lessingis, and blasflemyng,
Of frustrat speiking in court, in kirk, in tabill,
In word, in will, in wantones expremyng,
Prising myself and evill my nychtburis demyng;
And so in idilnes my dais I have myspent:
To Thee wes rent on Rude for my redeming,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

I have synnit in discimilit thochtis joly,
Up to the Hevin extollit in myn entencioun
In hie exaltit arrogance and folly,
Imprudence, derisioun, scorne, and vilipencioun,
Presumpcioun, inobedience, and contempcioun,
In fals vanglore and deidis necligent:
O Thow that deit for my redempcioun,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

I have synnit also in reif and in opprecioun,
In wrangus gudis taking and posceding
Contrar gud ressoun, conscience, and discrecioun,
In prodigall spending but reuth of pure folkis neding,
In foule descepcioun, in fals invencionis bredyng,
To conqueir honour, tresour, land, or rent,
In fleschely lust abone messour exceding:
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

Of mynd dissimilit, Lord, I me confes,
Of feid under ane freindlie continance,
Of parsiall juging and perverst wilfulnes,
Of flattering wordis for finyng of substance,
Of fals seling for wrang deliverance
At Counsall, Sessioun, and at Perliament:
Of everilk gilt and wicket governance
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

I schrif me of all cursit cumpany
In all tyme witting and unwiting me;
Of cryminall caus and deid of fellony,
Of ded or slauchter culpabill knaw I me,
Of tiranny, or vengabill cruelté,
In ony wise, deid, counsall, or consent:
O deir Jhesu that for me deit on Tre,
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

Thoucht I have nocht Thi precius feit to kis
As had the Magdalyn quhen scho did marcy craife,
I sall, as scho, weipe teris for my mys,
And every morrow seik Thee at Thi graife,
That seis my hert; as Thou hir forgaife,
Thairfor forgife me as synner penitent.
Thy precius body in honour I ressave;
I cry Thee Marcy and laser to repent.

Thow mak me, Jhesu, unto Thee to remember.
I ask Thy passioun in me so to abound
Quhill nocht in me unmannyit be a member,
Bot felling wo with Thee of every wound.
At every straik mak throu my hart a stound
That ever did strenye Thi fair flesche innocent,
Sa at na part be of my body sound:
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.

Of all thir synnis that I heir expreme,
And hes foryet, to Thee, Lord, I me schrife,
Appelling fra Thy justice court extreme
Unto Thi court of marcy exultive;
Thou mak my schip in blissit port arrive
That sailis heir in stormes violent,
And saife me, Jhesu, for Thy woundis five:
I cry Thee marcy and laser to repent.


8. All Earthly Joy Returns to Pain

Of Lentren in the first mornyng,
Airly as did the day up spring,
Thus sang ane bird with voce upplane:
"All erdly joy returnis in pane.

"O man, haif mynd that thow mon pas;
Remembir that thow art bot as
And sall in as return agane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane.

"Haif mynd that eild ay followis yowth;
Deth followis lyfe with gaipand mowth,
Devoring fruct and flowring grane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane.

"Welth, warldly gloir, and riche array
Ar all bot thornis laid in thy way,
Ourcoverd with flouris laid in ane trane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane

"Come nevir yit May so fresche and grene
Bot Januar come als wod and kene;
Wes nevir sic drowth bot anis come rane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane.

"Evirmair unto this warldis joy
As nerrest air succeidis noy;
Thairfoir, quhen joy ma nocht remane,
His verry air succeidis pane.

"Heir helth returnis in seiknes,
And mirth returnis in havines,
Toun in desert, forrest in plane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane.

"Fredome returnis in wrechitnes,
And trewth returnis in dowbilnes
With fenyeit wirdis to mak men fane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane.

"Vertew returnis into vyce,
And honour into avaryce;
With cuvatyce is consciens slane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane.

"Sen erdly joy abydis nevir,
Wirk for the joy that lestis evir;
For uder joy is all bot vane:
All erdly joy returnis in pane."


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

Memento, homo, quod cinis es:
Think, man, thow art bot erd and as;
Lang heir to dwell nathing thow pres,
For as thow come sa sall thow pas.
Lyk as ane schaddow in ane glas
Hyne glydis all thy tyme that heir is;
Think, thocht thy bodye ware of bras,
Quod tu in cinerem reverteris.

Worthye Hector and Hercules,
Forcye Achill and strong Sampsone,
Alexander of grit nobilnes,
Meik David and fair Absolone
Hes playit thair pairtis, and all are gone
At will of God that all thing steiris:
Think, man, exceptioun thair is none,
Sed tu in cinerem reverteris.

Thocht now thow be maist glaid of cheir,
Fairest and plesandest of port,
Yit may thow be within ane yeir
Ane ugsum, uglye tramort.
And sen thow knawis thy tyme is schort
And in all houre thy lyfe in weir is,
Think, man, amang all uthir sport,
Quod tu in cinerem reverteris.

Thy lustye bewté and thy youth
Sall feid as dois the somer flouris;
Syne sall thee swallow with his mouth
The dragone death that all devouris.
No castell sall thee keip, nor touris,
Bot he sall seik thee with thy feiris.
Thairfore remembir at all houris
Quod tu in cinerem reverteris.

Thocht all this warld thow did posseid,
Nocht eftir death thow sall posses,
Nor with thee tak bot thy guid deid
Quhen thow dois fro this warld thee dres.
So speid thee, man, and thee confes
With humill hart and sobir teiris,
And sadlye in thy hart inpres
Quod tu in cinerem reverteris.

Thocht thow be taklit nevir so sure,
Thow sall in deathis port arryve,
Quhair nocht for tempest may indure
Bot ferslye all to speiris dryve.
Thy Ransonner with woundis fyve
Mak thy plycht anker and thy steiris
To hald thy saule with Him on lyve,
Cum tu in cinerem reverteris.


10. An Orison

Salviour, suppois my sensualité
Subject to syn hes maid my saule of sys,
Sum spark of lycht and spiritualité
Walkynnis my witt, and ressoun biddis me rys.
My corrupt conscience askis, clips, and cryis
First grace, syne space for to amend my mys,
Substance with honour, doing none suppryis,
Freyndis, prosperité, heir peax, syne Hevynis blys.2


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

O wreche, be war, this warld will wend thee fro,
Quhilk hes begylit mony greit estait.
Turne to thy freynd, beleif nocht in thy fo.
Sen thow mon go, be grathing to thy gait;
Remeid in tyme and rew nocht all to lait;
Provyd thy place, for thow away man pas
Out of this vaill of trubbill and dissait:
Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Walk furth, pilgrame, quhill thow hes dayis licht,
Dres fra desert, draw to thy duelling place;
Speid home, for quhy anone cummis the nicht
Quhilk dois thee follow with ane ythand chaise.
Bend up thy saill and win thy port of grace,
For and the deith ourtak thee in trespas,
Than may thow say thir wourdis with "allace":
Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.

Heir nocht abydis, heir standis nothing stabill.
This fals warld ay flittis to and fro:
Now day up bricht, now nycht als blak as sabill,
Now eb, now flude, now freynd, now cruell fo,
Now glaid, now said, now weill, now into wo,
Now cled in gold, dissolvit now in as.
So dois this warld transitorie go:
Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas.


12. Of Life

Quhat is this lyfe bot ane straucht way to deid,
Quhilk hes a tyme to pas and nane to duell,
A slyding quheill us lent to seik remeid,
A fre chois gevin to Paradice or Hell,
A pray to deid, quhome vane is to repell,
A schoirt torment for infineit glaidnes,
Als schort ane joy for lestand hevynes.


13. Of the Changes of Life

I seik about this warld unstabille
To find ane sentence convenabille,
Bot I can nocht in all my wit
Sa trew ane sentence fynd of it,
As say, it is dessaveabille.

For yisterday I did declair
Quhow that the seasoun soft and fair
Com in als fresche as pako fedder;
This day it stangis lyk ane edder,
Concluding all in my contrair.

Yisterday fair up sprang the flouris;
This day thai ar all slane with schouris,
And fowllis in forrest that sang cleir
Now walkis with a drery cheir,
Full caild ar baith thair beddis and bouris.

So nixt to symmer wyntir bene,
Nixt efter confort, cairis kene,
Nixt dirk mednycht the mirthefull morrow,
Nixt efter joy aye cumis sorrow.
So is this warld and ay hes bene.


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

I that in heill wes and gladnes
Am trublit now with gret seiknes
And feblit with infermité:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Our plesance heir is all vane glory,
This fals warld is bot transitory,
The flesche is brukle, the Fend is sle:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The stait of man dois change and vary,
Now sound, now seik, now blith, now sary,
Now dansand mery, now like to dee:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

No stait in erd heir standis sickir;
As with the wynd wavis the wickir
Wavis this warldis vanité:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Onto the ded gois all estatis,
Princis, prelotis, and potestatis,
Baith riche and pur of al degré:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He takis the knychtis into field
Anarmyt undir helme and scheild,
Victour he is at all mellé:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

That strang unmercifull tyrand
Takis on the moderis breist sowkand
The bab full of benignité:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He takis the campion in the stour,
The capitane closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewté:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He sparis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His awfull strak may no man fle:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Art magicianis and astrologgis,
Rethoris, logicianis, and theologgis,
Thame helpis no conclusionis sle:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

In medicyne the most practicianis,
Lechis, surrigianis, and phisicianis,
Thameself fra ded may not supplé:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

I se that makaris amang the laif
Playis heir ther pageant, syne gois to graif;
Sparit is nought ther faculté:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He hes done petuously devour
The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
The monk of Bery, and Gower, all thre:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The gud Syr Hew of Eglintoun,
And eik Heryot and Wyntoun
He hes tane out of this cuntré:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

That scorpion fell has done infek
Maister Johne Clerk and James Afflek
Fra balat making and trigidé:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Holland and Barbour he has berevit;
Allace, that he nought with us levit
Schir Mungo Lokert of the Le:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Clerk of Tranent eik he has tane
That maid the anteris of Gawane;
Schir Gilbert Hay endit has he:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has Blind Hary and Sandy Traill
Slaine with his schour of mortall haill,
Quhilk Patrik Johnestoun myght nought fle:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has reft Merseir his endite
That did in luf so lifly write,
So schort, so quyk, of sentence hie:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has tane Roull of Aberdene
And gentill Roull of Corstorphin -
Two bettir fallowis did no man se:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

In Dumfermelyne he hes done roune
With Maister Robert Henrisoun.
Schir Johne the Ros enbrast has he:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

And he has now tane, last of aw,
Gud gentill Stobo and Quintyne Schaw,
Of quham all wichtis has peté:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Gud Maister Walter Kennedy
In poynt of dede lyis veraly -
Gret reuth it wer that so suld be:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Sen he has all my brether tane,
He will naught lat me lif alane;
On forse I man his nyxt pray be:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Sen for the ded remeid is none,
Best is that we for dede dispone,
Eftir our deid that lif may we:
Timor mortis conturbat me.


15. A Meditation in Winter

Into thir dirk and drublie dayis
Quhone sabill all the hevin arrayis
With mystie vapouris, cluddis, and skyis,
Nature all curage me denyis
Of sangis, ballattis, and of playis.

Quhone that the nycht dois lenthin houris
With wind, with haill, and havy schouris,
My dule spreit dois lurk for schoir;
My hairt for langour dois forloir
For laik of Symmer with his flouris.

I walk, I turne, sleip may I nocht,
I vexit am with havie thocht.
This warld all ovir I cast about,
And ay the mair I am in dout,
The mair that I remeid have socht.

I am assayit on everie syde.
Despair sayis ay, "In tyme provyde
And get sumthing quhairon to leif,
Or with grit trouble and mischeif
Thow sall into this court abyd."

Than Patience sayis, "Be not agast;
Hald Hoip and Treuthe within thee fast,
And lat Fortoun wirk furthe hir rage,
Quhome that no rasoun may assuage
Quhill that hir glas be run and past."

And Prudence in my eir sayis ay,
"Quhy wald thow hald that will away?
Or craif that thow may have no space,
Thow tending to aneuther place,
A journay going everie day?"

And than sayis Age, "My freind, cum neir,
And be not strange, I thee requeir:
Cum, brodir, by the hand me tak.
Remember thow hes compt to mak
Of all thi tyme thow spendit heir."

Syne Deid castis upe his gettis wyd
Saying, "Thir oppin sall thee abyd;
Albeid that thow wer never sa stout,
Undir this lyntall sall thow lowt -
Thair is nane uther way besyde."

For feir of this all day I drowp.
No gold in kist nor wyne in cowp,
No ladeis bewtie nor luiffis blys
May lat me to remember this,
How glaid that ever I dyne or sowp.

Yit quhone the nycht begynnis to schort,
It dois my spreit sum pairt confort
Of thocht oppressit with the schowris.
Cum, lustie Symmer, with thi flowris,
That I may leif in sum disport.


16. None May Assure in This World

Quhome to sall I complene my wo
And kyth my kairis, on or mo?
I knaw nocht amang riche nor pure
Quha is my freynd, quha is my fo,
For in this warld may none assure.

Lord, how sall I my dayis dispone?
For lang service rewarde is none,
And schort my lyfe may heir indure,
And lossit is my tyme bygone:
Into this warld may none assure.

Oft falsett rydis with ane rowt
Quhen trewth gois on his fute abowt,
And lak of spending dois him spur;
Thus quhat to do I am in dowt:
Into this warld may none assure.

Nane heir bot riche men hes renoun,
And bot pure men ar pluckit doun,
And nane bot just men tholis injure;
Sa wit is blindit and ressoun:
Into this warld may none assure.

Vertew the court hes done dispyis;
Ane rebald to renoun dois ryis,
And cairlis of nobillis hes the cure,
And bumbardis brukis the benifyis:
Into this warld may none assure.

All gentrice and nobilité
Ar passit out of he degré;
On fredome is laid foirfaltour;
In princis is thair no pety:
For in this warld may none assure.

Is non so armit into plait
That can fra truble him debait;
May no man lang in welth indure
For wo that evir lyis at the wait:
Into this warld may none assure.

Flattry weiris ane furrit goun,
And Falsett with the lordis dois roun,
And Trewthe standis barrit at the dure,
And exul is Honour of the toun:
Into this warld may none assure.

Fra everilk mowth fair wirdis proceidis;
In every hairt disceptioun breidis;
Fra everylk e gois lukis demure,
Bot fra the handis gois few gud deidis:
Into this warld may none assure.

Toungis now ar maid of quhyte quhaill bone,
And hairtis ar maid of hard flynt stone,
And ene ar maid of blew asure,
And handis of adamant laith to dispone:
Into this warld may none assure.

Yit hairt with hand and body all
Mon anser Deth quhen he dois call
To compt befoir the Juge future;
Sen all ar deid or than de sall,
Quha suld into this warld assure?

Nothing bot deth this schortly cravis,
Quhair Fortoun evir as fo dissavis
With freyndly smylingis of ane hure,
Quhais fals behechtis as wind hyne wavis:
Into this warld may none assure.

O, quha sall weild the wrang possessioun,
Or the gold gatherit with oppressioun,
Quhen the angell blawis his bugill sture,
Quhilk unrestorit helpis no confessioun?
Into this warld may none assure.

Quhat help is thair in lordschippis sevin,
Quhen na hous is bot Hell and Hevin,
Palice of licht or pitt obscure,
Quhair youlis ar hard with horreble stevin?
Into this warld may none assure.

Ubi ardentes anime,
Semper dicentes sunt, Ve Ve!3
Sall cry "allace" that wemen thame bure,
O quante sunt iste tenebre!
Into this warld may none assure.

Than quho sall wirk for warldis wrak
Quhen flude and fyre sall our it frak,
And frely fruster feild and fure
With tempest kene and hiddous crak?
Into this warld may none assure.

Lord, sen in tyme sa sone to cum
De terra surrectourus sum,
Rewarde me with non erdly cure -
Tu regni da imperium:
Into this warld may non assure.


17. Best to Be Blithe

Full oft I mus and hes in thocht
How this fals warld is ay on flocht,
Quhair nothing ferme is nor degest;
And quhen I haif my mynd all socht,
For to be blyth me think it best.

This warld evir dois flicht and vary;
Fortoun sa fast hir quheill dois cary,
Na tyme bot turne can it tak rest,
For quhois fals change suld none be sary;
For to be blyth me thynk it best.

Wald man considdir in mynd rycht weill,
Or Fortoun on him turn hir quheill,
That erdly honour may nocht lest,
His fall les panefull he suld feill;
For to be blyth me think it best.

Quha with this warld dois warsill and stryfe,
And dois his dayis in dolour dryfe,
Thocht he in lordschip be possest,
He levis bot ane wrechit lyfe;
For to be blyth me think it best.

Of wardlis gud and grit riches,
Quhat fruct hes man but mirines?
Thocht he this warld had eist and west,
All wer povertie but glaidnes;
For to be blyth me thynk it best.

Quho suld for tynsall drowp or de
For thyng that is bot vanitie,
Sen to the lyfe that evir dois lest
Heir is bot twynklyng of ane ee?
For to be blyth me think it best.

Had I for warldis unkyndnes
In hairt tane ony havines,
Or fro my plesans bene opprest,
I had bene deid lang syne, dowtles;
For to be blyth me think it best.

How evir this warld do change and vary,
Lat us in hairt nevirmoir be sary,
Bot evir be reddy and addrest
To pas out of this frawdfull fary;
For to be blyth me think it best.


18. Of Content

Quho thinkis that he hes sufficence
Of gudis hes no indigence,
Thocht he have nowder land nor rent,
Grit mycht nor hie magnificence,
He hes anewch that is content.

Quho had all riches unto Ynd
And wer not satefeit in mynd,
With povertie I hald him schent -
Of covatyce sic is the kynd.
He hes anewch that is content.

Thairfor I pray yow, bredir deir,
Not to delyt in daynteis seir;
Thank God of it is to thee sent,
And of it glaidlie mak gud cheir.
Anewch he hes that is content.

Defy the warld, feynyeit and fals,
Withe gall in hart and hunyit hals;
Quha maist it servis maist sall repent:
Of quhais subchettis sour is the sals.
He hes anewch that is content.

Giff thow hes mycht, be gentill and fre,
And gif thow standis in povertie,
Of thine awin will to it consent,
And riches sall returne to thee.
He hes aneuch that is content.

And ye and I, my bredir all,
That in this lyfe hes lordschip small,
Lat langour not in us imprent;
Gif we not clym, we tak no fall.
He hes aneuch that is content.

For quho in warld moist covatus is
In warld is purast man, iwis,
And moist nedy of his intent;
For of all gudis nothing he hes,
That of nothing can be content.


19. Without Gladness No Treasure Avails

Be mery, man, and tak nocht fer in mynd
The wavering of this wrechit vale of sorrow.
To God be hummle and to thi frend be kyind,
And with thi nichtbour glaidlie len and borow -
His chance this nycht, it may be thine tomorow.
Be mery, man, for any aventure,
For be wismen it has bene said afforow:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.

Mak gude cheir of it God thee sendis,
For warldis wrak but weilfar nocht avalis;
Nothing is thine sauf onlie that thow spendis -
The ramanent of all thow brukis with balis.
Seik to solace quhen saidnes thee assalis;
Thy lyfe in dolour ma nocht lang indure,
Quharfor of confurt set up all thi salis:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.

Follow pece, flie trubill and debait,
With famous folkis hald thi cumpany.
Be cheritable and hummle of estait,
For warldis honour lestis bot ane cry.
For truble in erd tak no malancholy.
Be rich in patiens, gife thoue in gudis be pur.
Quha levis mery, he levis michtely:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresur.

Thow seis the wrechis set with sorow and care
To gaddir gudis all thar liffis spaice;
And quhen thar baggis ar full thar self ar bar
And of thar riches bot the keping hes,
Quhill uthiris cum to spend it that hes grace,
Quhilk of the wynning no labour hed na cur.
Tak thow example and spend with mirrines:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.

Thocht all the wrak that evir hed levand wicht
War onlie thine, no mor thi part dois fall
Bot met and clacht, and of the laif ane sicht,
Yet to the Juge thow sall mak compt of all.
Ane raknyng richt cummis of ane ragment small;
Be just and joyus and do to none injur,
And treuth sall mak thee strang as ony wall:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.


20. His Own Enemy

He that hes gold and grit riches
And may be into mirrynes,
And dois glaidnes fra him expell
And levis into wrechitnes,
He wirkis sorrow to himsell.

He that may be but sturt or stryfe
And leif ane lusty plesand lyfe,
And syne with mariege dois him mell
And bindis him with ane wicket wyfe,
He wirkis sorrow to himsell.

He that hes for his awin genyie
Ane plesand prop, but mank or menyie,
And schuttis syne at ane uncow schell,
And is forfairn with the fleis of Spenyie,
He wirkis sorrow to himsell.

And he that with gud lyfe and trewth,
But varians or uder slewth,
Dois evirmair with ane maister dwell,
That nevir of him will haif no rewth,
He wirkis sorrow to himsell.

Now all this tyme lat us be mirry,
And sett nocht by this warld a chirry.
Now quhill thair is gude wyne to sell,
He that dois on dry breid wirry,
I gif him to the Devill of Hell!


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

Man, sen thy lyfe is ay in weir,
And deid is evir drawand neir,
The tyme unsicker and the place,
Thyne awin gude spend quhill thow hes space.

Gif it be thyne, thyself it usis;
Gif it be nocht, thee it refusis -
Aneuthir of it the proffeit hes:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes spais.

Thow may today haif gude to spend
And hestely to morne fra it wend
And leif aneuthir thy baggis to brais:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes space.

Quhill thow hes space, se thow dispone
That for thy geir, quhen thow art gone,
No wicht aneuder slay nor chace:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes space.

Sum all his dayis dryvis our in vane,
Ay gadderand geir with sorrow and pane,
And nevir is glaid at Yule nor Pais:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes space.

Syne cumis aneuder glaid of his sorrow,
That for him prayit nowdir evin nor morrow,
And fangis it all with mirrynais:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes space.

Sum grit gud gadderis and ay it spairis,
And eftir him thair cumis yung airis
That his auld thrift settis on ane es:
Thyne awin gud spend quill thow hes space.

It is all thyne that thow heir spendis,
And nocht all that on thee dependis,
Bot his to spend it that hes grace:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes spais.

Trest nocht aneuthir will do thee to
It that thyself wald nevir do,
For gife thow dois, strenge is thy cace:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes space.

Luke how the bairne dois to the muder,
And tak example be nane udder
That it nocht eftir be thy cace:
Thyne awin gud spend quhill thow hes space.


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

Fredome, honour, and nobilnes,
Meid, manheid, mirth, and gentilnes,
Ar now in cowrt reput as vyce,
And all for caus of cuvetice.

All weilfair, welth, and wantones
Ar chengit into wretchitnes,
And play is sett at littill price,
And all for caus of covetyce.

Halking, hunting, and swift hors rynning
Ar chengit all in wrangus wynnyng;
Thair is no play bot cartis and dyce,
And all for caus of covetyce.

Honorable houshaldis ar all laid doun.
Ane laird hes with him bot a loun
That leidis him eftir his devyce,
And all for caus of covetyce.

In burghis, to landwart and to sie,
Quhair was plesour and grit plentie,
Vennesoun, wyld fowill, wyne, and spyce,
Ar now decayid thruch covetyce.

Husbandis that grangis had full grete,
Cattell and corne to sell and ete,
Hes now no beist bot cattis and myce,
And all thruch caus of covettyce.

Honest yemen in every toun,
War wont to weir baith reid and broun,
Ar now arrayit in raggis with lyce,
And all for caus of covetyce.

And lairdis in silk harlis to the heill,
For quhilk thair tennents sald somer meill
And leivis on rutis undir the ryce,
And all for caus of covetyce.

Quha that dois deidis of petie
And leivis in pece and cheretie
Is haldin a fule, and that full nyce,
And all for caus of covetyce.

And quha can reive uthir menis rowmis
And upoun peur men gadderis sowmis
Is now ane active man, and wyice,
And all for caus of covetyce.

Man, pleis thy Makar and be mirry,
And sett not by this warld a chirry.
Wirk for the place of Paradyce,
For thairin ringis na covettyce.


23. Of Deeming

Musing allone this hinder nicht
Of mirry day quhen gone was licht,
Within ane garth undir a tre,
I hard ane voce that said on hicht,
"May na man now undemit be.

"For thocht I be ane crownit king,
Yit sall I not eschew deming.
Sum callis me guid, sum sayis thai lie,
Sum cravis of God to end my ring,
So sall I not undemit be.

"Be I ane lord and not lord lyk,
Than every pelour and purspyk
Sayis, 'Land war bettir warit on me.'
Thocht he dow not to leid a tyk,
Yit can he not lat deming be.

"Be I ane lady fresche and fair,
With gentillmen makand repair,
Than will thay say, baith scho and he,
That I am jaipit, lait and air.
Thus sall I not undemit be.

"Be I ane courtman or ane knycht,
Honestly cled, that cumis me richt,
Ane prydfull man than call thay me.
Bot God send thame a widdy wicht
That cannot lat sic demyng be.

"Be I bot littill of stature,
Thay call me catyve createure,
And be I grit of quantetie,
Thay call me monstrowis of nature.
Thus can I not undemit be.

"And be I ornat in my speiche,
Than Towsy sayis I am sa streiche,
I speik not lyk thair hous menyie.
Suppois hir mowth misteris a leiche,
Yit can I not undemit be.

"Bot wist thir folkis that uthir demis
How that thair sawis to uthir semis,
Thair vicious wordis and vanité,
Thair tratling tungis that all furth temis,
Sum tyme wald lat thair demying be.

"War nocht the mater wald grow mair
To wirk vengeance on ane demair,
But dout I wald cause mony de
And mony catif end in cair,
Or sum tyme lat thair deming be.

"Gude James the Ferd, our nobill king,
Quhen that he was of yeiris ying
In sentens said full subtillie,
'Do weill, and sett not by demying,
For no man sall undemit be.'"

And so I sall, with Goddis grace,
Keip His command into that cace,
Beseiking ay the Trinitie
In hevin that I may haif ane place -
For thair sall no man demit be.


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

How sould I rewill me or in quhat wys
I wald sum wyse man wald devys,
Sen I can leif in no degré
Bot sum my maneris will dispys:
Lord God, how sould I governe me?

Giff I be lustye, galland, and blythe,
Than will thai say on me full swythe,
"Yon man, out of his mynd is he,
Or sum hes done him confort kythe":
Lord God, how sould I governe me?

Giff I be sorrowfull and sad,
Than will thai say that I am mad;
I do bot drowpe as I wald de,
So will thai deyme, bayth man and lad:
Lord God, how sall I governe me?

Giff I be lustie in myne array,
Than lufe I paramoris, say thai,
Or in my mynd is proud and he,
Or ellis I haif it sum wrang way:
Lord God, how sall I governe me?

And gif I be not wele besene,
Than twa and twa sayis thame betwene,
"Evill gydit is yon man, pardé -
Be his clething it may be sene":
Lord God, how sould I governe me?

Gif I be sene in court our lang,
Than will thai quhispir thame amang,
My freindis ar not worthe ane fle
That I sa lang but gwerdon gang:
Lord God, how sould I governe me?

In court rewaird gif purches I,
Than have thai malice and invy
And secreitlie on me thai lie
And dois me sklandir privaly:
Lord God, how sould I governe me?

How sould my gyding be devysit?
Giff I spend litle I am dispysit;
Be I courtas, nobill, and fre,
A prodigall man than am I prysit
Lord God, how sould I governe me?

Sen all is jugit, bayth gud and ill,
And no mannis toung I may had still,
To do the best my mynd sal be.
Lat everie man say quhat he will,
The gratious God mot governe me.


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

To dwell in court, my freind, gife that thow list,
For gift of fortoun invy thow no degré.
Behold and heir, and lat thy tung tak rest -
In mekle speiche is pairt of vanitie;
And for no malyce preis thee nevir to lie.
Als trubill nevir thyself, sone, be no tyd
Uthiris to reiwll that will not rewlit be:
He rewlis weill that weill himself can gyd.

Be war quhome to thy counsale thow discure,
For trewth dwellis nocht ay for that trewth appeiris.
Put not thyne honour into aventeure -
Ane freind may be thy fo, as fortoun steiris.
In cumpany cheis honorable feiris,
And fra vyle folkis draw thee far on syd.
The Psalme sayis, Cum sancto sanctus eiris:4
He rewlis weill that weill himself can gyd.

Haif pacience thocht thow no lordschip posseid,
For hie vertew may stand in law estait.
Be thow content, of mair thow hes no neid;
And be thow nocht, desyre sall mak debait
Evirmoir, till Deth say to thee than "Chakmait!"
Thocht all war thyne this warld within so wyd,
Quha can resist the serpent of dispyt?
He rewlis weill that weill himself can gyd.

Fle frome the fallowschip of sic as ar defamit,
And fra all fals tungis fulfild with flattry,
Als fra all schrewis, or ellis thow art eschamit.
Sic art thow callit as is thy cumpany.
Fle parrellus taillis foundit of invy.
With wilfull men, son, argown thow no tyd,
Quhome no ressone may seis nor pacify:
He rewlis weill that weill himself can gyd.

And be thow not ane roundar in the nuke,
For gif thow be, men will hald thee suspect.
Be nocht in countenance ane skornar, nor by luke,
Bot dowt siclyk sall stryk thee in the neck.
Be war also to counsall or coreck
Him that extold hes far himself in pryd,
Quhair parrell is but proffeit or effect:
He rewlis weill that weill himself can gyd.

And sen thow seyis mony thingis variand,
With all thy hart treit bissines and cure.
Hald God thy freind, evir stabill be Him stand;
He will thee confort in all misaventeur.
And be no wayis dispytfull to the peure,
Nor to no man do wrang at ony tyd.
Quhoso dois this, sickir I yow asseure,
He rewlis weill that sa weill him can gyd.


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

Of every asking followis nocht
Rewaird, bot gif sum caus war wrocht;
And quhair caus is, men weill ma sie,
And quhair nane is, it wil be thocht:
In asking sowld discretioun be.

Ane fule, thocht he haif cause or nane,
Cryis ay, "Gif me," into a rane;
And he that dronis ay as ane bee
Sowld haif ane heirar dull as stane.
In asking sowld discretioun be.

Sum askis mair than he deservis,
Sum askis far les than he servis,
Sum schames to ask (as braidis of me)
And all withowt reward he stervis.
In asking sowld discretioun be.

To ask but service hurtis gud fame,
To ask for service is not to blame,
To serve and leif in beggartie
To man and maistir is baith schame.
In asking sowld discretion be.

He that dois all his best servyis
May spill it all with crakkis and cryis,
Be fowll inoportunitie.
Few wordis may serve the wyis.
In asking sowld discretioun be.

Nocht neidfull is men sowld be dum,
Nathing is gottin but wordis sum;
Nocht sped but diligence we se,
For nathing it allane will cum.
In asking sowld discretioun be.

Asking wald haif convenient place,
Convenient tyme, lasar, and space,
But haist, or preis of grit menyie,
But hairt abasit, but toung rekles.
In asking sowld discretioun be.

Sum micht haif "Ye" with littill cure,
That hes oft "Nay" with grit labour;
All for that tyme not byd can he,
He tynis baith eirand and honour.
In asking sowld discretioun be.

Suppois the servand be lang unquit,
The lord sumtyme rewaird will it.
Gife he dois not, quhat remedy?
To fecht with Fortoun is no wit:
In asking sowld descretioun be.


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

To speik of gift or almous deidis:
Sum gevis for mereit and for meidis,
Sum, warldly honour to uphie,
Gevis to thame that nothing neidis.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum gevis for pryd and glory vane,
Sum gevis with grugeing and with pane,
Sum gevis, in practik, for supplé,
Sum gevis for twyis als gud agane.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum gevis for thank and sum for threit,
Sum gevis money and sum gevis meit,
Sum gevis wordis fair and sle,
Giftis fra sum ma na man treit.
In giving sowld discretioun be.

Sum is for gift sa lang requyrd,
Quhill that the crevar be so tyrd
That, or the gift deliverit be,
The thank is frustrat and expyrd.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum gevis to littill full wretchitly,
That his giftis ar not set by,
And for a huidpyk haldin is he
That all the warld cryis on him, "Fy!"
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum in his geving is so large
That all ourlaidin is his berge.
Than vyce and prodigalité
Thairof his honour dois dischairge.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum to the riche gevis geir
That micht his giftis weill forbeir;
And thocht the peur for falt sowld de,
His cry nocht enteris in his eir.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum givis to strangeris with faces new,
That yisterday fra Flanderis flew,
And to awld servandis list not se,
War thay nevir of sa grit vertew.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum gevis to thame can ask and plenyie,
Sum gevis to thame can flattir and fenyie,
Sum gevis to men of honestie
And haldis all janglaris at disdenyie.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum gettis giftis and riche arrayis,
To sweir all that his maister sayis,
Thocht all the contrair weill knawis he -
Ar mony sic now in thir dayis.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum gevis gudmen for thair thewis,
Sum gevis to trumpouris and to schrewis,
Sum gevis to knaiffis awtoritie,
Bot in thair office gude fundin few is.
In geving sowld discretioun be.

Sum givis parrochynnis full wyd,
Kirkis of Sanct Barnard and Sanct Bryd,
To teiche, to rewill, and to ouirsie,
That hes na wit thamselffe to gyd.
In geving sowld discretioun be.


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

Eftir geving I speik of taking,
Bot littill of ony gud forsaiking.
Sum takkis our littill awtoritie,
And sum our mekle, and that is glaiking.
In taking sowld discretioun be.

The clerkis takis beneficis with brawlis,
Sum of Sanct Petir and sum of Sanct Pawlis.
Tak he the rentis, no cair hes he,
Suppois the divill tak all thair sawlis.
In taking sowld discretioun be.

Barronis takis fra the tennentis peure
All fruct that growis on the feure,
In mailis and gersomes rasit ouirhie,
And garris thame beg fra dur to dure.
In taking sowld discretioun be.

Sum takis uthir mens takkis
And on the peure oppressioun makkis,
And nevir remembris that he mon die
Quhill that the gallowis gar him rax.
In taking sowld discretioun be.

Sum takis be sie and sum be land,
And nevir fra taking can hald thair hand
Quhill he be tit up to ane tre;
And syne thay gar him undirstand
In taking sowld discretioun be.

Sum wald tak all his nychbouris geir.
Had he of man als littill feir
As he hes dreid that God him see,
To tak than sowld he nevir forbeir.
In taking sowld discretioun be.

Sum wald tak all this warldis breid,
And yit not satisfeit of thair neid,
Throw hairt unsatiable and gredie.
Sum wald tak littill and can not speid.
In taking sowld discretioun be.

Grit men for taking and oppressioun
Ar sett full famous at the Sessioun,
And peur takaris ar hangit hie,
Schamit forevir and thair successioun.
In taking sowld discretioun be.


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

To speik of science, craft, or sapience,
Of vertew, morall cunnyng, or doctryne,
Of jure, of wisdome, or intelligence,
Of every study, lair, or disciplyne -
All is bot tynt or reddy for to tyne,
Nocht using it as it suld usit be,
The craft excersing, considering nocht the fyne.
Ane peralous seiknes is vane prosperité.

The curius probatcioun logicall,
The eloquence of ornat rethorye,
The naturall science filosophicall,
The dirk apirance of astronomy,
The theologgis sermon, the fablis of poetrye -
Without guid lyff, all in the selfe dois de,
As Mayis flouris dois in September drye.
Ane peralows lyff is vane prosperité.

Quhairfoir, ye clerkis grytast of constance,
Fullest off science and of knaleging,
To us be mirrouris in yowr governance,
And in owr dirknes be lampis in schining,
Or thane in frustar is yowr lang lerning;
Gyff to yowr sawis your deidis contrar be,
Yowr maist accusar is your awin cuning.
Ane peralows seiknes is vane prosperitie.



Drop down dew, you heavens, from above; (see note)
heavens let fall; fragrant showers
(see note)
rose; flower
sun/son whom no cloud
Surpassing
from; tower
And for us a boy was born; (see note); (t-note)

dominations; (see note)
Thrones, powers; martyrs many

sphere; (see note)
earth
the greatest and the least (i.e., everyone)
[He] who has come; meek


Sinners; (see note)
full-heartedly
not
humbly
buy
free; fiend's
own
For us . . . ; (t-note)

learned people; (see note)
child gracious

(see note)
read
holy church; sober
above
Who . . .

birds; air; (see note); (t-note)
notes; high
woods
joyful now with
dismal night
Daybreak; clouds pierced; (see note)
joyful


root

fruit; (see note)
arose
Spread; leaves; (t-note)
death; last
worthy; (see note)


height; (see note)

fishes; flood; fowls; flight; (see note); (t-note)

Glory in the highest; (see note)
earth, sea; beast
above





these friars

Our Father; (see note); (t-note)
mighty

Then
hailing; rejoice in the flower; (see note)
then

a Jew
Savior
hurled; shove


led; high
menacing beyond measure
love; (see note)

condemned; judge

lions; roaring; (see note); (t-note)
anger; violently threw; here
blows sore
see
clothes; stripped


Those villains; anger
clothed; white; (see note)
eyes
see which
Cruelly then; smite; (see note)
If
Who struck; at once


pain; stripped
to; bound
While
both foot
stroke; stream
Which; ransomed; (see note)
endured the conflict


purple; clad
then; (t-note)
innocent; shed
Piercing; thorns fresh
Scarcely
thrust on
eyes


A cross; both
bear they gave
Then foully; [a] thief; (t-note)
hurled; rope
sweat; disfigured
food; noble; (see note)
feet by stones; torn; cut


stripped; (t-note)
fierce; mad boars
cloth; cleaved; bright skin; (see note); (t-note)
tore; rips harsh
While fiercely went with it

All varieties; withstood


breadth
make; limbs grow longer (i.e., hyperextend)
stretched; strength
Rood (Cross); made; stretch
Then tied; iron clasps
(t-note)
at the sixth hour; (see note)


stretched; in breadth
sinews burst; (see note)
make; pain increase
crash
flesh; body; crack; (t-note)
high
Ready


Between two thieves; spirit; gave up; (see note)
Unto; might
earth; tremble; stones split; (see note)
sun
dark
Dead; rose; (see note)
treated


fear; alive; (see note)
rough
tear
While

die; (t-note)
suffered
(t-note)

void of manners; (see note)
Then struck; a wound
sore; bathed; tears
countenance
Pity; ear ever whispered
alas
Beaten; (t-note)
(see note)

harshly comes
Ever pulling; (see note)
Which Cross; nails
cast
Pain; (see note)
Pity; pull
Jews have treated


greeting
words sweet
Prepare; (see note)
weary made
these; (see note); (t-note)
Shall low
sheltered; (see note)


at once; in a stir; (see note)
run
here; (see note)
cast; corrupting sins
arise
gates; shove

Awaiting

guide; (t-note)
a secure condition
ready for; (see note)
When; early or late
cheeks wet
avoid
(i.e., the soul); defend
Only

great; death
earth trembled where; (see note)
Through which I awakened; place; (t-note)
spirit creatures; alarm; (see note)
wrote; everything
shown
What






(see note)
champion; has; (see note); (t-note)
gates; (see note)
raised; Cross; (see note)
devils tremble; hideous voices
redeemed; (see note)
has repaid; (see note)
The Lord has arisen from the grave (Luke 24:34); (see note)

Defeated; (see note)

fierce tiger; teeth ajar (i.e., bared); (see note); (t-note)
Who has lain in wait (ambush)
claws; (t-note)
did not wish
caused him to fail; prey
(t-note)

sake
prepared; (see note)
lion; (see note)
giant raised Himself aloft; (see note); (t-note)
Dawn, radiant; (see note)
Aloft has; Sun
has been separated from


great; again; high

sun; (see note)
has cleared; re-established
(see note)
Christians
Jews


foe is put to flight; over; (see note)
prison; jailers fled; banished
war; over; peace; (see note)
loosened; emptied
ransom made; redeemed
field is won, overcome
Despoiled; guarded; (see note)






Hail, heavenly star; eternity; (see note)
God's sight
Lantern; darkness to be seen
Through
Today, now, [and] forever; (see note)
queen; (see note)
infernal darkness; disperse
most royal rose; (see note)
Hail Mary, full of grace; (see note)

Swiftly guide us; maternal; (see note); (t-note)
pity (ruth) both root; rind

young, gentle; flourishing
Alpha's (God's) habitation; (see note)
worthy; made
(see note)
malign; throw
By; sign (i.e., the Cross)
kingdom
death's shadowy place

without stain; (see note)
sign, making glad
By [the] power

by sight; high
star in the east; (see note)

scatter
strong; (see note)

anchor unseen; great; (see note)


nightingale; (see note)
straight; prepared; erring ones
weary are; (t-note)

pleasant
high
fair [one] unseen with physical eyes; (see note)
(see note)
pure complete; continue
fleur-de-lis; (see note)
living daisy; from the heart; (see note)
mother

gave birth to; Great Wealth
pain; relieve; (see note)
humble intercessor

beautiful
sweeter by seven times
lost; (see note)
Since
Reminder; pain, star; [the] dawn
voice
pray; undefiled
odds even; (see note)

praises loud eleven
While pains; age; devour; (see note)
always name (declare)

Empress; imperatrix
stone
Victress; high mother; (t-note)

wise shield; (see note)
Against the Fiend's deceits
Intercessor; savior
helper

midday
fleur-de-lis
carried; seed

palatial; (see note)
peerless beauty; (see note)
throne
majesty
Royal hospice
enclose
(see note)
Filled with; food; (see note)

(see note)

ransomed; Cross





earthly; none
should; worship; great
From; above all other; (see note)
takes
deed whoever; disparages
Since; come (born); (see note)
die
Ill betide
anything (aught)
womanliness; lack
such
conceive; by; (see note)
breasts where; are
pain; sorrow
In; child-bearing; greatly
food; feed; none
what; suck; bone
have here
There; to; dear
true; nurturing
blame; who does; (see note)
bird; fouls; therefore
Exiled
wise; listen (lit., give audience)
such a one
not a; (see note)
See what; then
(see note)

Since; holiness
[the] well; foundation; goodness

above




these are; (see note)
should; endure; (see note)
holy; (see note)
Fasted
Since such a

should
advise; (see note); (t-note)
heart

see; (t-note)

by yourself be shown; (see note)
may be acknowledged; (t-note)

if; have any; (see note)
feel
doctor [who] may; healthy
Until; seen; cleansed; bit
Likewise; confession, unless; revealed; (t-note)
able
Consciously, if; any

wounds if one; unhealed
What avails; curing; rest
Likewise; if; anything concealed
blessed soul; save

if; would
should; (see note)

Make sure; is; (see note)
Then; doubt; fear
have
perfectly
spear (i.e., probe)
may
a; another; (see note)

hold; beguiled
ask
When; fouled (defiled)
thyself
search
fashion
may; account for
Interrogate yourself; before
especially; greatest
clearly; heart
haste
then; thoughtless; beast
(see note); (t-note)


own; (see note)
hear [so that] the priest has no difficulty
Who knows; than yourself
advise; heed
where pinches; shoe; (see note)
before; there
show; one and all

seldom reckoning; taken; burden; (see note)
then is careless
too much
in; (see note)
able; befall; misfortune
neglects
Easter

advise; while; strong; (see note)

tongue

To wait until; peril
bemoan
wrong deeds do




(see note)
sweet
pitiful; (see note)
spirit; meek; (t-note)

(see note)
low; feet; (t-note)
an opportunity (leisure); (see note)

sweet; confess
surpassing; (t-note)
five wits; (see note)
hearing; tasting
Opposing, vexing

tears; eyes falling


wretched sinner; (see note)
(t-note)


Practicing
alas; deserve; punished
Take pity; (see note)


neglected; (see note)
deeds; physical
food; gave; (t-note)
Visited; sick; freed; captive
Sheltered; stranger; clothed the naked
dead; took; heed; (t-note)
above


(see note); (t-note)
I did not give; (t-note)
(t-note)
wretches
souls; (t-note)

neighbor's


very little

high Eucharist (i.e., Holy Communion); (see note); (t-note)
(t-note)
Ordination; (t-note)
Of this
tears


of; (see note)
Not taken; murderer

uphold
flee
avoid
these


in; believe; (see note)
made; created

Cross died; descended
rose; right
living; dead; hold
Unto these; (t-note)


I believe in; Spirit

Judgment; rise complete

saved; state
Fully; repent; these where; (t-note)
sea; (t-note)


not; (see note)

Not; Virtues
vices securely arming; (see note)
these

eyes


(see note)
tithe; avoid
festival
Mass; parish; [to] attend
(t-note)
Once
these; sorely I regret

unto; (see note)
confession; nature; (see note)
undiscerning; (see note)
receiving sinfully the Sacrament; (see note)

(see note)
Our Father; (see note)


thanking
made; bought; death
(t-note)
hate; (t-note)
greater; remedy
Resolving
Whose blood; Cross


(see note)
oaths; lying
needless; at meals
speaking
judging

[who] was; (t-note)


feigned; (see note)

high
vilification
contempt

died


theft; (see note)
wrongful goods; seizing; (t-note)
Against; (t-note)
without pity on poor
deception; tales devising; (t-note)
gain
beyond moderation


deceitful; (see note); (t-note)
hatred; countenance
biased; perverse
gaining
attesting; decisions
(see note)
every sin



known; unknown to me
deed
death; murder blameworthy; (see note)
(t-note)
deed
died


not; feet; (see note)
when; pray for
shall; weep tears; sins; (t-note)
grave
says

receive


(see note)

Although; uninjured; (t-note)
feeling; (t-note)
stroke; a pain; (t-note)
stain
So that no


these; express
[others I] have forgotten; confess
Appealing; (see note)

(see note)
sails here; (t-note)
save
(t-note)




Lent
Early
a; voice quite clear
earthly; turns into pain; (see note)

must pass on; (see note)
ash
shall to ash
(t-note)

Have; old age always
gaping; (see note)
fruit; grain


glory

Covered over; as a trap; (see note)


(see note)
[just] as wild; sharp
such a drought; once [again]; rain; (see note)


(see note)
closest heir follows distress
when; may not remain
true heir

Here; turns into
heaviness
into; plain


Generosity turns into poverty; (see note)
duplicity
pretended words; glad



(t-note)
covetousness


Since; is impermanent; (see note)
lasts forever
other






Remember, man, that you are ashes; (see note)
but earth and ash
here; avails; (see note)
so shall you pass; (see note)
a mirror
Away glides
though; were made
That you will return to ash

(see note)
Powerful
(see note)
Modest
Have; (see note)
things guides
there
But you will return to ashes

Though; (see note)
demeanor

loathsome; decaying corpse
since
doubt
pleasures


fair beauty
Shall fade
Then; (see note)
(t-note)
save; (see note)
But; companions



Though; had possessed; (see note)
Nothing
good deeds
go
hurry; (see note)
tears
soberly


Though; rigged; (see note)
shall; death's
Where nothing
fiercely; fragments drive; (t-note)
(see note)
Makes; main anchor; rudder; (see note)
keep; in [eternal] life
When you return to ashes




Savior, even if; (see note)
Obedient to sin; made; at times
Some; light
Awakens my mind; (see note)
corrupted; begs, grasps
then time; sins; (see note)
Wealth; harm to no one






wretch; turn [away] from you; (see note)
Which; beguiled; estates; (see note)
friend, believe not; (see note)
Since; must; preparing for; journey
Redress; repent not too late; (see note)
Ready; abode; must pass; (see note)
vale of trouble; deceit; (see note)
Vanity of vanities and all is vanity; (see note)

(see note)
Go; dwelling; (see note)
Hurry; because soon
constant pursuit
Draw; (see note)
if death; sin
Then; these; "alas"


Here nought remains; (see note)
always wavers

ebb; flood; friend
sad
clothed; ash; (t-note)






What; straight path; death; (see note)
Which; go; none; stay
turning wheel; seek a remedy; (see note)

victim; death, who impossible; (see note)
infinite
As short a joy; lasting grief




seek; (t-note)
meaning convincing
not; understanding
So
Except to say; untrustworthy

observe; (see note)
How; (t-note)
Came; peacock feather; (see note)
stings; adder
Ending all to the contrary


slain; showers (hail)
birds
dreary mood; (see note)
cold; bowers

next; is; (see note); (t-note)
cares sharp; (t-note)
midnight; cheerful
always comes
always has been





health; (see note)
troubled; sickness; (see note)
weakened; (see note)
The fear of death distresses me; (see note)

joy here; (see note)
(see note)
fragile; Fiend; sly
(t-note)

condition; (t-note)
sick; sad; (see note)
dancing; die


on earth; secure; (see note)
willow
(t-note)


Unto death; (see note); (t-note)
rulers
poor; ranks


knights; [the] field; (see note); (t-note)
Unarmed
conflicts


tyrant
mother's; sucking; (t-note)
babe


champion; battle
enclosed; tower
bower


strength
Nor; (t-note)
blow


astrologers; (see note)
Rhetoricians
wise


best; (see note)




see; rest; (see note)
here; then go; grave; (see note); (t-note)



has sadly devoured; (see note); (t-note)
the flower of poets
Bury St. Edmunds (i.e., Lydgate)


good; (see note)
also
taken from; (see note)


cruel; poisoned; (see note)
(see note)
balade; tragedy; (see note)


taken away; (see note)
Alas; left; (t-note)
(see note)


(see note)
made; adventures
(see note)


(see note)
shower; (see note); (t-note)
Which; (see note); (t-note)


ended; composing; (see note)
of love so lively
vivid; meaning high; (see note)


(see note)

see


had whispered speech; (see note)

embraced; (see note)


taken; all
(see note)
whom; men; pity


(see note)
On the brink of death truly lies
pity; should


Since; taken; (see note)
not let me live alone; (see note)
Perforce; must; next prey


Since; death remedy; (see note)
prepare; (see note)
death





these dark; overcast; (see note)
When darkness; heaven; (see note)
clouds
pleasure; (see note)
songs, poems; (t-note)

When; lengthen; (see note); (t-note)

sad spirit; cower
heart; sadness becomes forlorn
lack; Summer

not; (see note)
heavy
think

remedy; sought

assailed
soon; (see note)
on which to live

shall

(see note)
Keep Hope
her desires
Whom; reason; prevent
Until; hourglass

ear; (see note)
Why would; hold that which
crave; length of time



then; Old Age; (see note)
aloof

has [a] reckoning; (see note)
here

Then Death; gates wide; (see note)
These open; await
Although; bold
lintel; bow down; (see note)


droop
chest; cup
lady's beauty; love's; (t-note)
stop me from thinking
However well; dine; sup

when; (see note)
spirit
(see note)
joyful; (see note)
live; enjoyment




To whom shall; (see note)
voice my cares, one; more
not; poor
Who
no one be certain

dispose (use); (see note)

here
lost; gone by
(t-note)

Often falsehood rides; a retinue
When; foot
money; prod
what; doubt
(t-note)

here only
only poor; pulled
suffers; (see note)
Thus wit and reason are blind


has scorned
A rascal; rise
peasants from; receive offices; (see note)
laggards enjoy; benefices


gentility; (see note); (t-note)
high
generosity; forfeiture
princes is there no compassion


in armor plate
defend
remain



wears; furred; (see note)
Falsehood; whisper; (t-note)
barred outside the door; (t-note)
exiled; from; (t-note)


From every; words
breeds
eye; looks inviting; (t-note)
good deeds; (see note)


Tongues; made; white whale; (see note)
hearts; (t-note)
eyes are made; azure; (t-note)
are unwilling; give away


(see note)
Must answer
make account
Since; dead or else shall die
(see note)

soon
deceives; (see note)
whore
Whose; promises; ever varies


who shall bear; wrongful
by
bugle loud; (see note)
Which unreturned


(see note)


Where yells; heard; voices


(see note)
(t-note)
Shall; alas; them bore; (see note)
Oh how great is that darkness!; (see note)


worldly goods; (see note)
flood; over; sweep
destroy field; furrow
crack of thunder


since; so
I shall rise from the earth
earthly office
Grant me power of your kingdom; (t-note)





Quite often I ponder; have; (see note)
always in flux
Where; firm; settled
have; searched
cheerful; (see note)

flutter; (see note)
wheel
(t-note)
whose; should


Would; (t-note)
wheel
earthly; not last
should feel
(t-note)

Who; wrestle; (t-note)
worry spend
Though
lives


worldly goods; great
fruit; without merriness

without


Who should; depravation droop or die; (see note)

Since; (see note)
eye


(see note)
taken

since, doubtless



nevermore; sorry
prepared
false vision; (see note); (t-note)





Who; has enough
goods; shortage
Though; neither
high
enough; (see note)

Who; India; (see note)
satisfied
think him punished
such; nature


brother; (see note)
luxuries many
for what is; (see note)



Repudiate; deceitful; false
bitterness; heart; honeyed throat; (see note)
Who most; shall; (see note); (t-note)
whose second serving; sauce; (see note)


If; might; noble; generous; (see note)

own



If; brothers
has little property
misery; be imprinted; (t-note)
If; climb; (see note)


covetous; (see note)
poorest; indeed
needy of mind
Despite; [his] goods





merry; far in mind (i.e., do not dwell on it); (see note)
fluctuations
humble; (see note)
lend
opportunity; (see note); (t-note)

before
avails

Enjoy; what
worldly good without cheerfulness
save only what; (see note)
possesses; misery
delight
sadness may; survive; (see note)
Therefore; sails


peace, flee conflict; argument
respected
humble
lasts; (see note)
on earth
goods; poor
Who lives happily; mightily; (see note); (t-note)


see; wretches
their
themselves are bare
guarding have; (see note); (t-note)
While others; (t-note)
had nor concern
(t-note)


Though; wealth; living person; (see note)
Was only; more; share; belong
food; clothing; rest a glimpse
account
A reckoning; short list; (t-note)

(see note); (t-note)





has; great; (see note)
cheerfulness

lives in
brings; upon himself

without quarrel; (see note)
lives a carefree pleasing
then; marriage; himself involve
to; wicked


own arrow; (see note)
target, without flaw; blemish; (see note)
shoots then; unfamiliar target; (see note)
done in; fleas of Spain; (see note)
(t-note)

(see note)
Without discord or other vice

on; have no pity



value not; cherry
while; good; buy
does; bread gnaw
give; (see note)





since; always in doubt; (see note)
death; drawing
uncertain
own good; while; [a] chance; (see note)

If
If it be not [used], it deserts you
Another; (t-note)
(t-note)

(see note)
from [you] it goes
leaves; money-bags to embrace
(t-note)

While; time, see that you dispose; (see note)
goods, when
person another; pursue


Someone; spends in vain; (see note)
Always gathering possessions
Easter


Then comes another
neither
takes; cheerfulness


saves
heirs
ace; (see note)


[will] spend
not; those that
the opportunity


Trust not; (see note)
What; would
if; hard; situation


Look; child; mother; (see note)
by none other
not; case






Generosity; (see note)
Reward, courage; gentility
court considered
because; (see note)

good-cheer, well-being; playfulness
misery
delight


Hawking; (see note)
changed; wrongful gaining
cards; dice
(t-note)

decayed
lord; rascal
leads; design


cities; at sea (i.e., everywhere)
Where
Venison; fowl
(t-note)

Farmers who farms

beasts except
because

yeomen
Who used; wear; red



[that] trails; heel; (see note); (t-note)
sold summer meal; (t-note)
live; roots [from] under the bushes


Who; deeds; mercy; (see note)
lives; peace
held; fool; stupid


take; property
poor; collect accounts
wise


please; Maker; (see note)
do not value; cherry; (see note)

reigns; (see note)




the other night; (see note)

garden; (see note)
heard; voice; high
no; unjudged

though; (see note)
avoid judgment
good; (t-note)
reign



robber; pickpurse
were; used
Though; does nothing; control a puppy; (see note)
refrain from criticizing


making visits
(see note); (t-note)
deceived (japed), late and early; (see note)


(t-note)
as properly suits me
then
them; withy (i.e., rope) strong; (see note)
such

(see note)
[a] wretched
great



speech
proper; (see note); (t-note)
servants
Even if; requires; doctor; (see note)


knew these; others judge
sayings; seem

chattering; empties
(t-note)

Were it not that
judger
Without [a] doubt; [to] die
many [a] wretch
(I.e., before they stopped their judging)

Fourth; (see note)
years young
[a] statement; (see note)
do not be concerned with censure
unjudged

(see note)
in; regard
Beseeching







should; rule myself; what fashion
wish; would inform me
Since; live not at all; (t-note)
Without someone deriding my manners


If; lively; cheerful; (t-note)
immediately

has given him comfort (sex?); (see note)




droop; as [if] I would die
deem (judge); man and lad (i.e., everyone); (t-note)


(t-note)
Then they say I love amorously; (see note)
high
somehow gone wrong; (t-note)


pleasingly attired

Ill-behaved; by God
By


too long
whisper
a fly; (see note)
without reward go


if I receive; (t-note)





conduct be prescribed


considered


Since everyone is judged; (see note)
hold
shall be

must





if; wish; (see note)
not at all
Watch; listen; (see note)
much speech; (t-note)
force
Also; at no time
Others to govern
well; guide; (see note)

wary to whom; disclose; (see note)
(t-note)
at risk
goes
choose; companions
away; (t-note)
(see note)


Have; though you; possess; (see note)
high; low
more; (see note)
If you are not; strife
Death says; then "Checkmate!"; (see note)
Though; were
Who; animosity


Flee; such; disgraced; (see note)

Also; will be shamed
Such
Flee perilous tales based on
argue; at no time
Whom; stop


whisperer; nook; (see note)
if
not; face; look; (see note)
Without [a] doubt in such a way
wary
elevated
Where peril; without worth
(t-note)

since; sees; changing; (see note)
welcome diligence; responsibility
firm by
adversity
not at all scornful; poor
time; (t-note)
certainly






not; (see note)
unless; produced
where; well may see
none
should

A fool, though; (see note)
always; in a rant; (t-note)
drones (buzzes)
a hearer (listener)


more; (see note)

are ashamed; as applies to me
dies
(t-note)

without [doing]; (see note); (t-note)

live



(see note)
waste; boasts; shouts; (see note)
By foul begging (importuning)
wise; (see note); (t-note)


should be silent; (see note)
without; some
speed
(see note)


requires; (see note)
leisure
Without haste; press of great company; (t-note)
heart dismayed; tongue careless


effort; (see note); (t-note)

wait; (see note); (t-note)
loses both errand; honor


unrewarded; (see note)

If; what; (t-note)
fight; not wise; (t-note)






alms deeds; (see note)
rewards
exalt
needs



complaining; pain
help; (see note)
twice as good


threat; (t-note)
food
subtle
may; entreat; (see note)
(t-note)

(see note)
petitioner
before
useless


too; (see note)
worth anything
miser held; (t-note)



free; (see note)
overladen; barge
Then
dissipate


goods; (see note); (t-note)

though; poor; lack should die
ear; (t-note)


(see note); (t-note)
rushed
servants wishes; see; (t-note)
Were


complain; (see note)
feign

chatterers in disdain


(see note)

Though; (t-note)
[There] are many such; these


virtues; (t-note)
triflers; villains
knaves authority; (t-note)



parishes; wide; (see note)
Churches; (see note)
teach; rule; oversee
guide; (t-note)






(see note)
(see note)
Some; too little authority; (see note)
too much; folly


noisy disputes; (see note)


Although; devil; souls


tenants poor
furrow
rents and fees raised too high; (see note)
makes; door
(see note)

other; goods; (see note); (t-note)

must
Until; make; stretch; (t-note)
(t-note)

by sea; (t-note)

Until; tied
then; make


goods
fear; (see note)
dread



bread; (see note)
satisfy; (t-note)
insatiable; greedy
thrive


(see note)
Court of Justice; (t-note)
high; (t-note)
Shamed; descendants






knowledge, skill, or wisdom; (see note)
precepts; dogma
law
subject
lost; be lost
Not; should
not; result; (see note)
A perilous sickness; empty; (see note); (t-note)

subtle logical proof; (see note)
rhetoric; (t-note)
(t-note)
dark; (see note); (t-note)
theologian's; (t-note)
does die; (t-note)
(t-note)


Wherefore; steadfastness; (see note)

(see note)
(see note); (t-note)
then; vain; (t-note)
If; teachings; deeds; (see note)
greatest; intelligence