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“The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man,” Ascribed to Robert Henryson (DIMEV 4000)

The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man, Ascribed to Robert Henryson: FOOTNOTES

1 Lines 5–6: Although they may be in their royal and lofty [social] estate, / [They] may not put up a fight when I please to shoot the dart

2 [But he] may put himself wholly by force under my care (see note)




The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man, Ascribed to Robert Henryson: EXPLANATORY NOTES

ABBREVIATIONS: A version: Lydgate, Dance of Death (Selden); B version: Lydgate, Dance of Death (Lansdowne); CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson; D: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 322 (SC 21896); DMF: Dictionnaire du Moyen Français (1330–1500); DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; FP: Lydgate, Fall of Princes, ed. Bergen; Gray: “Two Songs of Death,” ed. Gray; Hassell: Hassell, Middle French Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases; MED: Middle English Dictionary; ODNB: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases.

This short poem, composed in Middle Scots (the Anglic language used in the Scottish Lowlands between 1400 and 1700, as distinct from the Gaelic language of the Scottish Highlands), presents the narrator’s dialogue with a personified figure of death. The poem appears in two places in the famous Bannatyne Manuscript; in one of these, the poem is scribally attributed to Robert Henryson (c. 1430–1500), one of the most well-known poets writing in Middle Scots. The language of this work and its attribution to a Scottish poet highlights the spread of death poetry in the British Isles. The Bannatyne Manuscript (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 1.1.6) is a massive, nearly 400-folio sixteenth-century anthology of works by, among others, Henryson and Dunbar and some Chauceriana, copied by George Bannatyne (1545–1606). The manuscript is divided into two parts: the Draft, itself comprised of several individual manuscripts dated 1565–67, and the much longer Main, internally dated 1568, in which the works from the Draft are recopied and greatly augmented with new ones (see MacDonald, “The Bannatyne Manuscript”). In the Main, the poem is ascribed to “Hendersone,” which is understood to be “Henryson” due to the other Henryson poems copied around it; given the uniqueness of the copy, however, the attribution is considered weak. Although it appears twice in one manuscript copied by a single scribe, the two versions in Bannatyne seem to be copied from different exemplars (see Textual Notes).

In terms of its contents, the work intersects in several ways with other late medieval death poetry. In keeping with the danse macabre tradition, the work is organized as a dialogue between Death and an Everyman figure. It similarly offers a diverse catalogue of representatives of social strata, who will all become equal in their death, from the pope and the emperor onwards (lines 4–5). Like other poems on similar themes, this poem also characterizes Death as violent force, here inflicting damage with a dart (line 6), Furthermore, like the “Three Messengers of Death” (DIMEV 5387), it relies on architectural imagery to emphasize Death’s all-consuming power (lines 7–8), which speaks to the presence of death imagery on numerous architectural structures in the late medieval period. Like Signs of Death poetry, it also briefly reminds the reader of the body’s imminent decomposition and consumption by vermin (line 38).

Title The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man. That is, the discussion between Death and Man. See MED resoun (n.2), sense 8: “speech, talk, discourse.”

2 Quhilk sowld thy myrrour be. Compare Lydgate’s verba translatoris to the Dance of Death (A text, lines 31, 637 and B text, line 565) where he counsels his audience to have his words as a mirror before their mind. The same image reappears in this poem at line 10.

24 The subject of this line (“he” in the gloss) is “nane” (no one) in line 21.







The Ressoning Betuix Deth and Man, Ascribed to Robert Henryson: TEXTUAL NOTES

Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 1.1.6 (Bannatyne MS Draft), pp. 43–44
Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 1.1.6 (Bannatyne MS Main), fols. 56r–57r (basis for this edition)
Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ 18.5.14, fol. ii (fragment)

Dalrymple, Sir David, ed. “The Ressoning betwixt Deth and Man.” Ancient Scottish Poems. Published from the MS. of George Bannatyne. Edinburgh: A. Murray and J. Cochran for John Blafour, 1770. Pp. 134–35.
Laing, David, ed. “The Ressoning betwixt Deth and Man.” In The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson: Now First Collected with Notes, and a Memoir of his Life. Edinburgh: William Paterson, 1865. Pp. 27–29.
Murdoch, James Barclay, ed. “The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man.” In The Bannatyne Manuscript. 4 vols. in 11 parts, paged continuously. Glasgow: Anderson, 1873–96: 2.153–55.
Smith, G. Gregory, ed. “The Ressoning betwixt Deth and Man.” In The Poems of Robert Henryson. 3 vols. STS 1st series 55, 58, 64. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1906–14. Rpt. New York, 1968: 3.134–38.
Ritchie, W. Tod, ed. “The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man.” In The Bannatyne Manuscript Written in Tyme of Pest, 1568, by George Bannatyne. 4 vols. STS 3rd series 5; 2nd series 22, 23, 26. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Sons, 1928–34. 1:71–73; 2:139–41.
Wood, Henry Harvey, ed. “The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man.” In The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson. 2nd Edition. Edinburgh, London: Oliver and Boyd, 1933; Rpt., 1958: 211–12.
Fox, Denton, and William A. Ringler, eds. “The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man.” The Bannatyne Manuscript: National Library of Scotland Advocates’ MS. 1.1.6. London: Scolar Press, in Association with The National Library of Scotland, 1980. Pp. 43–44. Fols. 56r–57r.
Parkinson, David J., ed. “The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man.” In Robert Henryson, The Complete Works. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2010. Pp. 155–56.

ABBREVIATIONS: A1: London, British Library Additional 37049 fols. 31v–32r (basis for “Dawnce of Makabre”); A2: London, British Library Additional 15225, fols. 15r–16r (basis for “Shaking of the Sheets”); BD: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ 1.1.6 (Bannatyne MS Draft), pp. 43r–44r; BM: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ 1.1.6 (Bannatyne MS Main), fols. 56r–57r (basis for “Resoning betuix Death and Man”); Brown: Religious Lyrics of the XVth Century, ed. Brown, p. 241; Brunner: “Mittelenglische Todesgedichte,” ed. Brunner, pp. 27–28, 30; C: Cambridge, Cambridge University Library Ff.5.45, fols. 13r–14r; Cov: Coventry, Coventry Archives Acc. 325/1, fols. 70rb–74vb; Cutler: Cutler, John L. “A Middle English Acrostic,” p. 88; D: Oxford, Bodleian Library Douce 322 (SC 21896), fols. 19vb–20ra (basis for “Death’s Warning to the World”); Doty: “An Edition of British Museum MS Additional 37049: a Religious Miscellany,” ed. Doty, pp. 206–11; Dufour: La dance macabre peinte sous les charniers des Saints Innocents de Paris, ed. Dufour; F: Bibliothèque nationale de France fonds français 14989, fols. 1r–12v (basis for French Danse macabre); Fein: The Danse Macabre Printed by Guyot Marchant, ed. Fein; Furnivall: “Of Þre Messagers of Deeth,” ed. Furnivall, 2:443–48; H1: London, British Library Harley 1706, fols. 19v–20r; H2: London, British Library, Harley 116, fols. 128r–v (basis for “A Mirror for Young Ladies at their Toilet”); Horstmann: “Nachträge zu den Legenden 5: The Messengers of Death,” ed. Horstmann, pp. on 432–34; L: British Library MS Lansdowne 669, fols. 41v–50v (basis for Lydgate, Dance of Death, B version), fols. 41v–50v; Lincy: “La danse macabre reproduite textuellement d’apres l’unique exemplaire connu de l’édition princeps de Guyot Marchant,” ed. Le Roux de Lincy, pp. 291–317; N: New Haven, Beinecke Library MS 493, fols. 51v–60v; P: Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library, Pepys Ballads 2.62; R: Oxford, Bodleian Library 4o Rawl. 566 (203); RV: Rome, Venerable English College (AVCAU) MS 1405, fols. 111r–21r; S: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Selden Supra 53, fols. 148r–58v (basis for Lydgate, Dance of Death, A version); Saugnieux: “La danse macabre française de Guyot Marchant (1486),” ed. Saugnieux, pp. 143–64; Silverstein: “Cest le Myrroure pur les Iofenes Dames,” ed. Silverstein, pp. 121–22; Sim: London, British Library Addit. 22283 [Simeon MS], fols. 88vb–89ra; V: Oxford, Bodleian Library Eng. poet. a.1 (SC 3938) [Vernon MS], fols. 297vc–98rb (basis for “Three Messengers of Death”); Warren: The Dance of Death, ed. Warren and White; W1: Oxford, Bodleian Library Wood 401 (60) (Wing H2013A); W2: Oxford, Bodleian Library Wood 402 (48) (Wing H2013B).

Title The Ressoning betuix Deth and Man. So BM. Omitted in BD.

Before 1 Deth. So BM. BD: Mors. (Death.) Mors appears as a speaker for the remainder of the text.

2 sowld. So BM. BD: sall.

5 stait. So BM. BD: estait.

6 not. So BM. BD: nocht.
the. So BM. BD: this.

7 castelis and towris. So BM. BD: castells towiris.
wicht. So BM. BD: hicht wicht.

Before 9 The man. So BM. BD: Homo. (Man.) Homo appears as a speaker for the remainder of the text.

12 that thuw sall sone. So BM. BD: that that thow sall.

14 outhir. So BM. BD: owyr.

15 wicht or stark. So BM. BD: wicht so stark.

16 But. So BM. BD: Nor.

17 forsuith. So BD. BM: forswth.
speiris. So BM. BD: speirs.

18 Thay. So BM. BD: Tha.

19 thair. So BM. BD: ther.
beiris. So BM. BD: beirs.

23 owthir. So BM. BD: ouyr be it.

26 awld with riche. So BM. BD: auld riche.

29 deids. So BM. BD: deidis.

30 ay yowtheid wold with me. So BM. BD: youtheid wald with me ay.

34 wordis. So BM. BD: wirds.

35 full. So BM. BD: wofull.

36 sall richt deir. So BM. BD: sall deir.

37 thy self. So BM. BD: for the.
in hye. So BM. BD: and fre.

43 thee Deid to lurk. So BM. BD: to deid to luke.

44 humly. So BM. BD: humily.

45 Beseiking. So BM. BD: Beseikand.

Explicit Finis quod Hendersone. So BM. BD: Finis.

















O mortall man, behold, tak tent to me,
Quhilk sowld thy myrrour be baith day and nicht.
All erdly thing that evir tuik lyfe mon die.
Paip, empeirur, king, barroun, and knycht,
Thocht thay be in thair riall stait and hicht,
May not ganestaind quhen I pleiss schute the derte.1
Waltownis, castelis and towris nevir so wicht
May nocht risist quhill it be at his herte.

Now quhat art thow that biddis me thus tak tent
And mak ane mirrour day and nicht of thee,
Or with thy dert I sowld richt soir repent?
I trest trewly of that thuw sall sone lie.
Quhat freik on fold sa bald dar manniss me
Or with me fecht outhir on fute or horss?
Is non so wicht or stark, in this cuntré,
But I sall gar him bow to me on forss.

My name at me forsuith, sen that thow speiris,
Thay call me Deid, suthly I thee declair,
Calland all man and woman to thair beiris
Quhenevir I pleiss, quhat tyme, quhat place, or quhair.
Is nane sa stowt, sa fresche, nor yit sa fair,
Sa yung, sa ald, sa riche, nor yit sa peur,
Quhairevir I pass, owthir lait or air,
Mon put thame haill on forss undir my cure.2

Sen it is so that nature can so wirk
That yung and awld with riche and peure mon die,
In my yowtheid allace I wes full irk.
Cuwld not tak tent to gyd and governe me,
Ay gude to do, fra evill deids to fle,
Trestand ay yowtheid wold with me abyde,
Fulfilland evir my sensualitie
In deidly syn and specialy in pryd.

Thairfoir repent and remord thy conscience.
Think on thir wordis I now upoun thee cry:
O wrechit man, O full of ignorance,
All thi plesance thow sall richt deir aby.
Dispone thy self and cum with me in hy
Adderis, askis, wormis meit for to be.
Cum quhen I call, thow ma me not denny,
Thocht thow war paip, empriour, and king al thre.

Sen it is swa fra thee I may nocht chaip,
This wrechit warld for me heir I defy
And to thee, Deid, to lurk under thi caip,
I offer me with hairt rycht humly,
Beseiking God the divill myne ennemy
No power haif my sawill till assay.
Jesus, on thee with peteous voce I cry
Mercy un me to haif on Domisday.

Finis quod Hendersone
(see note); (t-note)(t-note)
pay heed
Which should; both; night; (see note)(t-note)
earthly; was alive may die
Pope; baron
Walled towns; towers; sturdy; (t-note)
while; heart

what; bids; pay heed
a mirror
Lest; should deeply
about that you shall readily be lying; (t-note)
person on earth so bold dare threaten
fight whether; foot; (t-note)
no one; brave; fierce; region; (t-note)
shall make; by force; (t-note)

to me in truth, since; ask; (t-note)
They; Death, truthfully; (t-note)
Calling; their biers; (t-note)
please; where
no one; so mighty; youthful
old; poor
Wherever; whether late; early; (t-note)
(see note)

Since; true; work
old; poor; may; (t-note)
youth alas; stubborn
Could not pay heed; guide
Always good; from; deeds; flee; (t-note)
Trusting always; would; abide; (t-note)
mortal; especially; pride

fill with remorse
these words; (t-note)
wretched; (t-note)
delight; purchase at a great price; (t-note)
Make arrangements for; quickly; (t-note)
Adders’, lizards’, worms’ meat
may; deny
Though; were pope; all three

Since; so from; escape
wretched world; here I disavow
Death; cower; cape; (t-note)
offer myself; heartfelt; humbly; (t-note)
Beseeching; [that] the devil; (t-note)
has my soul to attack
on; have; Judgment Day

The end. By Henryson; (t-note)


Go to “The Dawnce of Makabre” (DIMEV 4104)