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Robert Henryson, Shorter Poems: Stronger Attributions


Abbreviations: CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; Fox, ed.: The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. Fox; Gray: Gray, Robert Henryson; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NIMEV: Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse; PF: Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls; Romaunt: Chaucer, Romaunt of the Rose; TC: Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde.

The twelve remaining poems ascribed to Henryson in one or more of the early manuscripts and prints are presented here in two groups, Stronger and Weaker Attributions; in each of these groups, the poems are arranged alphabetically by their first lines. Among the whole group of twelve, moral ballades predominate, with seven poems in this stanza and with a clear lesson to expound: The Abbey Walk, Against Hasty Credence, Ane Prayer for the Pest, The Praise of Age, The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth, The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man, and The Thre Deid Pollis. Of these seven ballades, the last five concern the imminence of death and the timeliness of repentance, while The Abbey Walk upholds the need for humility and gratitude in the face of the changing circumstances of life. Against Hasty Credence stands apart from the other moral ballades in that its theme, the imperative that lords behave judiciously with regard to accusations, is expounded without reference to God until the penultimate line. Refrains feature in five of the moral ballades (and in the Moralitas to “The Two Mice,” also in this form): The Abbey Walk, Against Hasty Credence, Ane Prayer for the Pest, The Praise of Age, and The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth, the last of which has two refrains, one for each of the competing speakers.

The competitive element in The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth also associates it with the group of dialogues and debates, which, though formally diverse, constitute a subgroup. Together with The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth deserve to be grouped Robene and Makyne and probably Sum Practysis of Medecyne: Robene and Makyne because it is made up mostly of dialogue between two fictional characters; and Sum Practysis because of its use of a dramatic persona, an apothecary, who addresses an opponent (who remains silent). Unlike the first group of moral ballades, the thematic associations of these dialogue/debates are diverse, as are the verse forms, with Robene and Makyne in eight-line stanzas in alternating four- and three-stress lines and alternating a and b rhymes, and Sum Practysis in the alliterative thirteen-line stanza, a form that remained in specialized use in Scotland well into the sixteenth century.

Remaining are three quite diverse poems: The Annunciation, The Bludy Serk, and The Garmont of Gud Ladeis, the first of these a devotional poem in an innovative refinement of the Middle English twelve-line stanza form, the second an exemplary tale with Moralitas in the same stanza form as Robene and Makyne, and the third — the nearest approach to a love-lyric among the poems ascribed to Henryson — a sumptuary allegory in a quatrain that is essentially the Robene stanza divided in half.

As is often the case with shorter poems that are associated with a named poet of repute in a particular literary culture, the authorship of each of the above poems is open to debate. Perhaps the doubt is greatest with regard to The Thre Deid Pollis, ascribed to Henryson in the Maitland Folio but to Patrick Johnston in the Bannatyne Manuscript. Bannatyne is the sole witness for The Bludy Serk, The Garmont of Gud Ladeis, Ane Prayer for the Pest, and The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man (both in the Draft Manuscript as well as the main manuscript), Robene and Makyne, and Sum Practysis of Medecyne; and though The Abbey Walk, The Praise of Age, and The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth appear elsewhere, Bannatyne is alone in ascribing these poems to Henryson. In fact, for only Against Hasty Credence of all the shorter poems is Henryson’s authorship attested by more than one witness. The one Henrysonian poem not found in the Bannatyne Manuscript, The Annunciation (the unique copy of which is in the Gray Manuscript) does not shed much light on the problem, since it is generically and formally anomalous. The fact that moral ballades predominate among the shorter poems ascribed to Henryson does not strengthen the evidence for authorship of any one of them; indeed, his reputation for writing just such poems, often with refrains, might well have drawn extra items into the orbit of his name: suspicion lingers over the particularly weak attributions for The Abbey Walk, Ane Prayer for the Pest, The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man, and The Thre Deid Pollis.

In the shorter poems, Henryson draws on a fair range of sources. The Annunciation, as MacDonald has shown, is a translation of a Latin hymn, Fortis ut mors dilectio. The Abbey Walk has strong affinities to a poem in the Vernon Manuscript (Ramson, “'Lettres',” p. 44). Against Hasty Credence has affinities to passages in Lydgate’s Fall of Princes and “The Churl and the Bird.” Some of these poems allude to, but are not confined by, specific generic conventions: thus Robene and Makyne reveals “a distinct air of familiarity with the genre” of the pastourelle, the medieval dialogue of pastoral courtship (Petrina, “Deviations,” p. 113; Jamieson, “Poetry,” p. 297); likewise, the chanson d’aventure, a medieval genre in which (as in “The Preaching of the Swallow”) the poet goes out one spring morning and hears a wondrous speech or dialogue, provides only the opening gambit for The Praise of Age and The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth. In fact, the same inventiveness with respect to sources that has been noted in the longer poems can also be traced here. Alessandra Petrina comments perceptively that these shorter poems exemplify Henryson’s “constant reflection on the tools of his trade” and show that fine rhetoric can be “Rycht plesand” (Fables, line 4), “provided the reader was aware of the presence of fiction, and of the interpreting problems this would create” (“Deviations,” p. 107). For the reader who is becoming acquainted with Henryson’s poems, insight into his stylistic and thematic concerns can be found in the brief compass of The Bludy Serk, Against Hasty Credence, and, of course, Robene and Makyne: the play with levels of style, the elegant turn of phrase, the memorable cadences, and the sure moral sense that calls for no heavy emphasis.

Against Hasty Credence (NIMEV 758)

ababbcbC5; seven ballade stanzas

A moral ballade with refrain: rumormongers are springing up like weeds around lords, so that lords are advised to evaluate information in terms of the motives of its provider and subject, and then call the parties to speak on their own behalf; for a lord to do otherwise is to lose honor; heeding slander produces disorder and violence (stanza 5 essentially repeats stanza 2, about the lord’s responsibility to summon and judge the parties); an exclamation on “wicked tongue” follows; the backbiter damages himself, his victim, and the lord who hears his slander; the poem ends with the arresting images of the double face and the bloody tongue. The theme of corruptive slander is well attested in Middle English verse (e.g., Sandison, "Chanson", pp. 121–23; Lydgate, Fall of Princes, 1.4243–4844, and “The Churl and the Bird,” lines 197–203 [Lydgate, Minor Poems, 2:468–85]); Henryson shapes this theme towards an emphasis on the need for lords to proceed according to legal principles in their search for the truth.

30 Compare Lydgate: “For there is noon mor dreedful pestilence / Than a tunge that can flatre and fage” (Fall of Princes I.4621–22)

36–40 While defamation was an ongoing irritant in fifteenth-century Scotland (Ewan, “'Many Injurious Words'”), perjury was punishable by the church; given the crucial importance of oaths in testimony, it was “a question whether perjury was a mortal sin” (Walker, Legal History, p. 543); to bring an accusation to court, therefore, was to make it a matter of gravity with heavy consequences to the false accuser. Compare Lydgate: “Leve no talis nor yive no credence, / Till that the parti may come to audience” (Fall of Princes I.4584–85).

The Annunciation (NIMEV 856)

The twelve-line stanza in which this poem is cast has an ambitious rhyme scheme: a4b3a4bb3aa4bb3aa4b3. “[I]n recognizing that both William Dunbar [in “Ane Ballat of Our Lady”] and Robert Henryson created idiosyncratic twelve-line stanzas for hymns of praise to the Virgin, one must consider the possibility that there was a tradition of or devotional reason for Marian adulation in twelve-line songs” (Fein, “Twelve-Line Stanza Forms,” p. 385). The Annunciation is a devotional lyric: the power of love is epitomized by Gabriel’s message from God to Mary; without sin, Mary will bear a child, who will be Christ; glad of the news, Mary is exalted by the honor of giving birth to the son of God; love, like a river or an unquenchable flame, brings continued miracles to pass, with Gabriel’s annunciation fulfilling the coming into leaf of Aaron’s staff and the dew of Gideon’s fleece; as God protected Mary, so he submitted to degradation and even death for us, moistening us with the blood of his passion and manifesting his love in the resurrection; Mary, avert my sins and hasten my soul to heaven. As MacDonald reveals, The Annunciation is a close translation of a Latin lyric that “enjoyed a certain popularity in the late fifteenth century”(“Latin Original,” p. 54), Fortis ut mors dilectio; MacDonald provides an edition and translation of this poem (pp. 55–60). Four manuscript copies of Fortis ut mors dilectio are extant, one in a book (National Library of Scotland, MS 10270, at fols. 61–62) owned by James Brown, “student at St Andrews in the 1470s, and dean of Aberdeen from 1484 until his death in 1505” (MacDonald, “Latin Original,” p. 51).

5–6 Punctuating these lines as part of one sentence bestows a clear grammatical function to the conjunction “Quhen” and draws attention to the typology of present existence given precedent and meaning by the Annunciation; alternations between tenses continue to feature in the telling of the scriptural event.

15–18 Henryson translates pudicam as “maid infild”; the original emphasis on modesty has been intensified into one of lack of pollutive sin; a more striking adjustment occurs in “fra sin exild,” for which no precedent exists in the Latin poem.

37–40 Adding the image of the running river, Henryson renders concrete the Latin verb manant. In comparing the translation to the original at this juncture, MacDonald comments that “Though the number of syllables remains the same, the number of words, and thus the possibility of alliteration, is considerably increased; this contributes to the lapidary style of the Scottish version” (“Latin Original,” p. 62).

43–46 As Fox notes, three typological figures for Mary follow: the burning bush, the flourishing rod, and “the most famous of all the symbols of the virginity of Mary,” Gideon’s fleece (Exodus 3:2, Numbers 17:8, Judges 6:37; Raby, History of Christian-Latin Poetry, p. 371, qtd. Fox, ed., p. 431).

68 As MacDonald notes, “A change typical of the vernacular is that of ‘demon’ . . . to ‘Termigant’” (“Latin Original,” p. 61); this common name for a false god was firmly established in Middle Scots as a devil’s name (DOST termigant).

71–72 Henryson’s allusion to the coronation of the Virgin is not present in the Latin original.

Sum Practysis of Medecyne (NIMEV 1021)

In seven thirteen-line alliterative stanzas (rhyme scheme ababababc4ddd3c2), this is an invective in the person of an apothecary; Fox compares it to the French herberies, “parodies of a quack’s promotional speech” (ed., p. 475); mock prescriptions also feature in Middle English verse (Jamieson, “Minor Poems,” pp. 140–41; Gray, pp. 244–45). The first stanza announces the speaker’s readiness to counter the boasts and insults of a competitor; in the second, the speaker contrasts his rival’s incompetence to his own incomparable skill in preparing medicines, some examples of which he will provide in order to heal his rival of “malis”; four grotesque prescriptions follow, one per stanza — for digestive upset (“Dia Culcakit”), for impotence (or insomnia, “Dia Longum”), for folly (“Dia Glaconicon”), and for a cough (“Dia Custrum”); the final stanza offers an assurance of the efficacy of the preceding medicines and ends with a coarse gibe.

Reviewing the whole performance, Jamieson observes that “the irregularity of the metre serves to illustrate the confusion of the speaker’s mind, confusion shown also by the studied difficulty of the diction” (“Minor Poems,” p. 141). The alliterative thirteen-line stanza already had an association with flyting and grotesquery in Sir Richard Holland’s Buke of the Howlat. It may be that Scots poets continued to have recourse to alliterative forms (e.g., Dunbar’s Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo) as a way of distinguishing their handling of comic and satiric material from that of a recurrent exemplar in these genres, the notably non-alliterative Chaucer.

1 So cry the worm-fowls in frustration — “‘Kek, kek!’ ‘Kukkow!’ ‘Quek quek!’” — after which the goose declares “I can shape hereof a remedye” (PF lines 499, 502).

44 Gray enjoys the “mad precision” of fyve unce (p. 248).

85 “To blis or ban,” to bless or curse: a conventional pairing, as in Wallace 2.292 or Dunbar, Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, line 154.

The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth (NIMEV 3942)

The rhyme scheme is ababbcbC5. A debate in nine alternating stanzas witnessed by the poet between two speakers, Age and Youth, each of whom has his own refrain, Youth’s addressed delightedly to himself (“O youth, be glaid into thi flouris grene”) and Age’s addressed warningly to Youth (“O youth, thi flouris fedis ferly sone”); the last stanza brings the encounter to a close and restates the two refrains.

A synopsis follows: walking outdoors after rain one spring morning, I met a merry man who sang “O youth . . .”; towards us, an ugly old wretch was approaching with a sign on his chest that read, “O youth . . .”; stirred up by this admonition, which he considers erroneous, the young man declared that he was strong and handsome; the old man retorts that he was too, sixty years ago; the young man announces that he intends to enjoy love as long as possible; irritated, the old man points out that age will cost him his virility and attractiveness; the young man declares that he is healthy; the old man tells him that he will lose his health and vitality; upset, the young man departs, as does the old, leaving me with their conflicting messages.

Citing John W. Conlee (Middle English Debate Poetry), Priscilla Bawcutt notes that “This particular structure, with an alternating refrain, and a stanza rhyming ababbcbC, occurs in several late medieval debate poems” (Poems of William Dunbar, 2:340); in Middle Scots verse, see, for example, Dunbar’s debate between the Merle and the Nichtingall, “In May as that Aurora did upspring.” MacDonald places this poem alongside other debates in Scots, among them The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man (see Weaker Attributions) and Walter Kennedy’s “At matyne houre, in midis of the nicht” (“Lyrics” 255–56).

8, 16, etc. Scripture subordinates flowering youth to the superior wisdom of age: likened to a flower, youth is emphatically brief and insubstantial (Job 14:2; compare Pricke of Conscience, lines 704–17).

10–12 Henryson’s description of Aige differs from that in a Middle English debate between the ages of man, the alliterative Parlement of the Thre Ages, in which the figure of old age is described in markedly pejorative terms — his grotesque ugliness (“ballede and blynde and alle babirlippede,” line 158) seems of a piece with his low rank — which rather compromises his religious fervor (“And ever he momelide and ment and mercy he askede,” line 160).

38 This line might be taken as the seed for the grotesque clandestine wooing depicted in Dunbar’s “In Secreit Place.”

Robene and Makyne (NIMEV 2831)

Robene and Makyne is a dialogue of love in sixteen eight-line ballad-meter stanzas (a4b3a4b3a4b3a4b3) in which the two speakers, “Robene” the shepherd and “Mirry Makyne,” speak by alternating stanzas until the seventh stanza, in the last two lines of which Robene retorts curtly to Makyne’s appeal; the eighth stanza involves a rapid exchange of two-line speeches; the ninth stanza shifts into third-person narration until the last two lines, in which Makyne utters a brief lament; the tenth stanza likewise proceeds in the third person, but with the attention turning to Robene, who now begins to feel love stir; the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth stanzas revert to the alternation of voices that predominated in the earlier part of the poem, though now Robene is trying to persuade Makyne; the fifteenth stanza mirrors the seventh, with Robene making his last appeal for six lines and Makyne replying curtly in the last two; the final stanza, like the tenth, contrasts the positions of the two, only this time the contrasts proceed rapidly, with two lines to Makyne’s departure, the third and fourth contrasting his mood to hers, the fifth and sixth to the plight Makyne has left Robene in, and the seventh and eighth to a final picture of Robene alone, keeping his sheep “under a huche.”

Robene and Makyne alludes to various generic associations without quite being drawn into their orbit. Associations with the ballad have been adduced (e.g., Gray, p. 265; Fox, ed., p. 470), but, as Alessandra Petrina has noted, the poem lacks the “incremental repetition of motifs” characteristic of ballads, so that “the popular patina we seem to detect is the result of Henryson’s craftsmanship rather than a clue to the spontaneous folk origin of the poem” (“Deviations,” p. 110). Connections have also been sought between this poem and the medieval pastourelle, typically a wooing of a shepherdess by a courtly lover, but, again, Henryson conveys “a distinct air of familiarity with the genre” without having a specific source therein (Petrina, “Deviations,” p. 113). Though Robene and Makyne has been described as a burlesque (e.g., Cornelius, “Robert Henryson’s Pastoral Burlesque”), its blend of elegance and rusticity contrasts sharply with Dunbar’s far more outrageous “In Secreit Place.” The Bannatyne Manuscript, sole witness for Henryson’s poem, contains a group of so-called “erotic dialogues,” of widely varying tone: for example, “Jok and Jinny” (fol. 137), “In somer quhen flowris will smell” (fol. 141), and “The Commonyng betwix the mester [scholar] and the heure [prostitute]” (fol. 264).

1–3 The names are typical of medieval depictions of rustic wooing, Makyne (the diminutive of Matilda) in particular often given a coarsely pejorative cast (TC 5.1174; CT II[B1]30; MED malkin, “a. Woman’s name, often used as jocular or contemptuous term for a servant woman . . . [b] a mop or bundle of rags used for cleaning; esp. for cleaning ovens; [c] an impotent man”). Henryson has Robin live down to his boorish associations, while Makyne rises decisively above hers.

17–24 The enduring theme of advice to lovers takes definitive form in the Romance of the Rose (Chaucer, Romaunt, lines 2175–20; Neilson, Origins and Sources, pp. 168–212); instances in Middle Scots verse include Dunbar’s “Be ye ane luvar.”

37–40 Fox (ed., p. 473) notes a parallel between this desperate appeal and one uttered by a similar female protagonist in the Middle Scots poem The Murning Maiden: “I may not mend bot murning mo / Quhill God send sum remeid / Throw destany or deid” (Craigie, Maitland Folio, 1:360–61, lines 31–33).

89–96 This “unsentimental evaluative view of love,” Mapstone observes, “invites . . . consideration — not often attempted — alongside Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid, another of his poems in which a female figure comes to dispense a new appraisal of things amatory” (“Older Scots,” p. 10). From a contrasting perspective, Greentree points out that Makyne’s “sharpest lesson” has homiletic associations: “The warning to mend one’s ways while time remained was a familiar one . . . enforced through the genre of memento mori” (“Literate,” pp. 68–69).

The Bludy Serk (NIMEV 3599)

The rhyme scheme is a4b3a4b3a4b3a4b3; twelve eight-line ballad-meter stanzas in the narrative, three in the Moralitas. An exemplary tale with Moralitas: an old king had a lovely young daughter; heir to the kingdom, she had many noble suitors; nearby dwelt a hideous giant, who abducted the princess and cast her into a dungeon; he was formidably powerful and violent; the only possible relief would be for the king to find a knight willing to fight to the death with the giant; a wide search produced a peerless prince who loved the princess and was willing to fight the giant; the prince defeated the giant and threw him in his own dungeon; the prince rescued the princess but was fatally wounded, his shirt soaked with blood; grief-stricken, the princess would rather have died than see the prince thus, or she would rather have lived the life of a beggar if she could have lived it with him; ready to die, the prince gave the princess his shirt and bade her to keep it in her view and her thoughts when other men came to court her; she did so, recollecting her rescue from the dungeon; henceforth she remained true to the prince, and so should we remain to God who died for our sins. In the Moralitas, the king is likened to the Trinity, the princess to the soul, the giant to the devil, the prince to Christ, the dungeon to hell, and the other wooers to the temptations of sin; as the princess refused her suitors, so should we avert sin — may Christ protect us on the Day of Judgment; because the soul, God’s daughter, betrayed by the devil, was rescued from hell by Christ, who paid dearly to redeem us, think about the bloody shirt.

The Bludy Serk is a version of the “extremely widespread” story of Christ as a knight who fights for his lady the soul, but dies of his wounds (Woolf, “Theme of Christ the Lover-Knight,” p. 14; qtd. Fox, ed., p. 437); a version is found in the Gesta Romanorum, a collection of “entertaining moralized stories,” drawn on by Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate as well as Henryson (Salisbury, Trials and Joys of Marriage, p. 16). This poem may be related to a traditional song with the same title among “the chief amusements of the old people” in late eighteenth-century Dumfries and Galloway (Heron, Observations Made in a Journey, 2.226).

28 The giant’s nails are an ell and a quarter long; an ell is about forty-five inches, so these talons measure almost five feet!

62 The arresting, memorable image of the bloody shirt functions traditionally as a reminder to uphold loyalty; it is produced to incite kin and followers to support a family cause in a feud (Brown, Bloodfeud, p. 29; compare Malory, Le Morte Darthur [Caxton's version], Book 10, chapter 34; Njal's Saga, chapter 116). As befits an advocate of mercy and civility (e.g., Fables, line 1598n) Henryson wrests the image away from these retaliatory associations and reorients it towards the devotional tradition of the Image of Pity, the depiction of the tortured Christ (Gray, Themes and Images, pp. 124–34).

103 As Fox notes, this line does not rhyme: “It is possible that the line is corrupt: B wrote gyane, then cancelled it and wrote pit” (ed., p. 441).

119 The phrase bocht us [or so] deir regularly features in allusions to the Passion of Christ: Fables, line 1901; Ane Prayer for the Pest, line 41; also Dunbar’s lament for Bernard Stewart, “Illuster Ludovick,” line 27.

The Garmont of Gud Ladeis (NIMEV 4237)

The rhyme scheme is 4b3a4b3; ten four-line ballad-meter stanzas. A synopsis follows: The poet declares, “If my beloved would love me the best and obey me, I would make her the finest clothing: a hood of honor, a chemise of chastity, a petticoat of faithfulness, a gown of virtue, a belt of kindness, and a cloak of humility; (in the next three stanzas, hat, cape, bodice, ribbon, sleeves, gloves, shoes, stockings all are moralized thus); were she to put on this outfit, it would suit her better than anything she ever wore.” Gray succinctly comments that “in this case in a very real sense, ‘clothes make the woman’” (p. 262).

In fifteenth-century Scotland as elsewhere in late medieval Europe, sumptuary laws were passed, restricting the kinds of clothing people below the nobility were allowed to wear. In 1458, for example, the Scottish Parliament issued sumptuary legislation “which defined the permissible kinds of dress for daughters as well as wives”; a standard justification for such laws was that the waste of money on fine clothes was impoverishing the realm (Walker, Legal History, p. 187; compare Fables, lines 2598–2601n).

The allegory of a good person’s clothing derives from scripture, Paul’s epistles containing an itemized list of the accoutrements in the armor a Christian is to wear in the battle with the devil (Ephesians 6:11–17), as well as a decree about the modest dress proper to devout women (2 Timothy 2:9–10). Henryson adapts these concepts: the garments he lists are to be bestowed on his “gud lady” as a reward for the best sort of love, namely, obedience (lines 1–2).

1 While gud lady can mean “virtuous woman” (as in the scriptural source) or “beautiful” or “noble” woman, it is also a standard idiom for “wife” (MED ladi(e 1, 9; DOST lady); as well, this is the strong woman beyond price of scripture (Proverbs 31:10). In the Bannatyne Manuscript a poem appears on the same theme that echoes Henryson’s: “Wald my gud ladye that I luif / Luiff me best for ay / I suld gar mak for hir behuif / Ane garmond gude and gay” (lines 1–4; Ritchie, Bannatyne Manuscript, 3.295).

29 Sleeves were commonly separate garments, laced onto a dress when it was to be worn; compare TC 5.1043 for an instance of the bestowal of a sleeve as a sign of inconstancy.

39 The line might be translated, “That she never dressed in either gaudy or muted colors” (compare Fox, ed., p. 445).

The Praise of Age (NIMEV 1598)

The rhyme scheme is ababbcbC5; four ballade stanzas. In a summer garden, the poet listens to an old man singing: growing old, one approaches heaven; in this wicked world, the rulers in their greed have exiled generosity; the delights of youth pass away without leaving a trace; in this unstable world, God’s grace is all we can have, by which we draw near to heaven. Thematically related to this poem is “Honour with Age” (NIMEV 429) by Henryson’s younger compatriot Walter Kennedy.

11–14 The allegory of the vices ousting the virtues from a kingdom; compare Chaucer, Lak of Stedfastnesse, lines 15–21; also Fables, lines 1300–03.


Abbreviations: B: the Bannatyne Manuscript; Bd: the Bannatyne Manuscript Draft; Cm: the Chepman and Myllar Prints; Fox: Denton Fox, ed., The Poems of Robert Henryson; G: The Gray Manuscript; Mf: the Maitland Folio; Mk: the Makculloch Manuscript.

In this edition, the shorter poems are arranged in two groups, each organized alpha­betically by the first line. The first of these groups, for which the textual notes follow immediately here, consists of nine poems for which Henryson’s authorship is attested in the Bannatyne Manuscript or (in the case of The Annunciation) the Gray Manuscript. Of these nine, the case is weakest for The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth, the Maitland Folio's text of which lacks an ascription to Henryson. Many of these poems (The Bludy Serk, The Garmont of Gud Ladeis, Robene and Makyne, Sum Practysis of Medecyne) are preserved only in the Bannatyne Manuscript; some appear there twice, in both the manuscript proper and the so-called Draft Manuscript (The Abbey Walk, The Praise of Age, The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth; see also The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man and Ane Prayer for the Pest, in the next section).

Against Hasty Credence: B (base text), Mf; Fox

title B, Mf omit.

5 and. B: I.

12 weill avow it. B: abyd at it he.

15 Thus. B: Than.

17–32 These stanzas are transposed in Mf.

18 fals. B: the fals.

23 thairin. B: thair.

28 withowtin. B: without.

33 that. B: cumis.

46 thair eirris. B: his eir.

50 planlie curst. B: excommunicat.
everie. B: all.

56a B: Finis quod Mr Robert Hendersone. Mf: Quod Mr Robert Henryson.

The Annunciation: G (base text); Fox

title G omits.

2 swet is. G: suetis.

12 decret is. G: decretis.

24 cround is. G: croundis.

28 applid is. G: applidis.

40 brinnis. G: birnis.

72a G: Finis quod R. Henrisoun.

Sum Practysis of Medecyne: B (base text); Fox

36 sett in. B: sottin.

45 sleiffull. B: sleis full (?).

64 fon. B: son (?).

70 gufe. B: guse (?).

72 Annoynt it. B, Fox: Annoyntit.

91a Quod Mr. Robert Henrysone.

The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth: Mk (lines 1–40 only), Bd (Lines 1–24, 33–40, 25–32, 41–72), B (base text), Mf (Lines 1–32, 49–52, 54–64, 33–48, 65–72); Fox

title Bd, Mk, Mf omit.

headings Mk, Bd, Mf omit.

7 this. Bd, B: the.
richt sweitly. Bd: sweitly. Mf, Fox: suttellie. “Fox prefers the reading of the Maitland Folio (Mf), which as he says is ‘distinctly the most erratic witness,’ to that of the Bannatyne Draft (Bd), his copy text. ‘Singing this song that sweetly was set’ (Bd) seems as appropriate as ‘suttelie was set’ (Mf), if not more so, and it is supported by the Bannatyne manuscript (B) and the Makculloch manuscript (MK)” (Ridley, Review of Fox, Poems of Henryson, p. 627).

10 I. Mk, B: And.

11 lene. B: clene.

13 richt wan. Bd, Mf, Fox: and wan.

16 fellone. Mf, Fox: ferly.

18 misdome. Mk: misdum. Bd, B, Mf: makdome.

22 of wirth. Bd: half wirth. Mk, Mf, Fox: wirth half.

28 als frak, forsy, and fre. Mf, Fox: bayth frak, forsy, and. Mk: als fair frech als. Bd: als fors and. B: als fors and als.

29 ye. B: yie.

31 laithly luking. Bd: laikly lykyne. B: laikly luking. Mk, Mf, Fox: laythly lycome.

32 fadis fellone sone. Bd: etc. Mk, Mf, Fox: fadis ferly sone.

33 yit this. Mk, Mf, Fox: this.
cowth. Mk, Bd, Mf, Fox: yit cowth.

37 mowis. Bd, B: mouthis. Mf: our mouthis.

38 secreit place. Mk, Fox: secretnes. Bd: secreit nes. Mf: sacreit wyse.

40 B: O youth be glaid etc. Bd: O youth etc. Mk, Mf: O yowth be glaid etc.

41 awstrene man gaif answer. Bd, B: awstrene greif answerit. Mf: anciant man gaif answer. Fox: This austryne man gaif answer.

42 cramping. Bd, Mf, Fox: crampyn.
baith. Mf omits.

43 Thy. Bd, Fox: And thy. Mf: And all.
salt also. Bd, Mf, Fox: sall.

44 Mf: Quhen pane sall the depryve for paramouris.

45 be blyth of thee. Mf: of the be blyth.

46 mynnis. Bd: move. B: wendin.

47 Thow. Mf: Than.
assay. Mf: thow say.
be soure. Mf: before.

48 B: fedis fellone sone. Bd: etc. Mf, Fox: fadis farlie sone.

51 sound but. Mf: sauf fra.
or but. Mf: and fra. Fox: and but.

55 ressoun. Bd, B: no ressoun.

56 be glaid into thy flowris grene. Bd: be glaid etc. B: etc.

58 obey. Mf: abyd.

59 stait, thy strenth. Mf: strenth thy stait.
it be stark and. Mf: Johne be never so.

62 helth. Bd, Mf, Fox: heill.
bot. B: but.

63 wane. Bd, B: vanes.

64 flowris. Mf: yeiris.
fedis fellone sone. Bd: fadis fellone sone. B: etc.

65 galyart grutchit and. Bd, B: gowand grathit.
began to. B: with sic greit.

66 He. Bd, Mf, Fox: And.
wrethly went. Bd: wrechitly he went. Mf: he went his wayis. Fox: wrethly he went.

67 awld. Bd, Mf, Fox omit.
B: luche not. Bd, Mf, Fox: leuch na thing.

69 Of the sedullis, the suthe. Mf: That takkin suthlie.
quhen. Bd omits. Mf: fra that.

70 On. B: Of. Mf: In.
trevist. Bd: tremesit. B: triumphit.

72 fellone. Mf, Fox: ferlie.
72a Bd: Finis quod Mr. Robert Henrysone. B: Finis quod Mr. Robert Hendersone. Mf: Finis.

Robene and Makyne: B (base text); Fox

title B omits. “The title comes from Allan Ramsay’s The Ever Green (1724)” (Gray, p. 363).

27 in certane. B: incertane.

75 ful fair. B: fulfair.

125 wewche. B: wrewche.

128a B: Quod Mr. Robert Henrysone.

The Bludy Serk: B (base text); Fox

title B, in the margin, in a later hand.

24 wane. B: wame [or waine].

73–74 B: the line break comes between I and de.

96 And. B: With.

108 breist is. B: breistis.

120a B: Finis quod Mr R. Henrici.

The Garmont of Gud Ladeis: B (base text); Fox

title B omits, but see the colophon at line 40a.

19 Purfillit. B may read Furfillit or Pursillit.

28 ribbane. B may read ribband.

40a B: Finis of the Garmont of Gud Ladeis. Quod Mr. Robert Henrysoun.

The Praise of Age: Cm (base text), Mk, Bd, B; Fox

title Cm, Mk, Bd, B omit.

32a Cm, Mk omit. Bd: Finis quod Mr. R. Henrisoune. B: Finis quod Hendersone.

























































































































Against Hasty Credence

Fals titlaris now growis up full rank,
Nocht ympit in the stok of cheretie,
Howping at thair lord to gett grit thank,
Thay haif no dreid on thair nybouris to lie.
Than sowld ane lord avyse him weill and se
Quhen ony taill is brocht to his presence
Gif it be groundit into veretie
Or he thairto gif haistely creddence.

Ane worthy lord sould wey ane taill wyslie,
The taill-tellar and quhome of it is tald,
Gif it be said for luve or for invy,
And gif the tailisman weill avow it wald.
Than eftirwart the pairteis sould be cald
For thair excuse to mak lawfull defence.
Thus sowld ane lord the ballance evinly hald
And gif not at the first haistie creddence.

It is no wirschep for ane nobill lord
For fals tailis to put ane trew man doun,
And gevand creddence to the first recoird,
He will not heir his excusatioun.
The tittillaris so in his heir can roun
The innocent may get no awdience.
Ryme as it may, thairin is na ressoun
To gif till taillis hestely creddence

Thir teltellaris oft tymes dois grit skaith
And raissis mortall feid and discrepance
And makis lordis with thair servandis wreith
And baneist be withowtin cryme perchance.
It is the grund of stryfe and all distance.
Moir perrellus than ony pestillence,
Ane lord in flatterreris to haif plesance
Or to gif lyaris hestely creddence.

O thow wyse lord, quhen that a flatterrer
Thee for to pleis and hurt the innocent
Will tell ane taill of thy familiar,
Thow sowld the pairteis call incontinent
And sitt doun sadly into jugement
And serche the caus weill or thow gif sentence,
Or ellis heireftir in cais thow may repent
That thow to tailis gaif so grit creddence.

O wicket tung sawand dissentioun,
Of fals taillis to tell that will not tyre,
Moir perrellus than ony fell pusoun,
The pane of hell thow sall haif to thi hyre.
Richt swa sall thay that hes joy or desyre
To gife thair eirris to heird with patience,
For of discord it kendillis mony fyre
Throuch geving talis hestely creddence.

Bakbyttaris to heir it is no bourd
For thay ar planlie curst in everie place.
Thre personis severall he slayis with ane wowrd:
Himself, the heirar, and the man saiklace.
Within ane hude he hes ane doubill face,
Ane bludy tung undir a fair pretence,
I say no moir bot “God grant lordis grace
To gife to taillis nocht hestely creddence.”

The Annunciation

Forcy as deith is likand lufe
Throuch quhom al bittir swet is.
Nothing is hard, as writ can pruf,
Till him in lufe that letis.
Luf us fra barret betis
Quhen fra the hevinly sete abufe
In message Gabriell couth muf
And with myld Mary metis
And said, “God wele thee gretis.
In thee he will tak rest and rufe
But hurt of syn or yit reprufe.
In him sett thi decret is.”

This message mervale gert that myld
And silence held but soundis
As weill aferit a maid infild.
The angell it expoundis,
How that hir wame but woundis
Consave it suld, fra syn exild,
And quhen this carpin wes compilit,
Brichtnes fra bufe aboundis.
Than fell that gay to groundis,
Of Goddis grace na thing begild,
Wox in hir chaumer chaist with child,
With Crist our kyng that cround is.

Thir tithingis tauld, the messinger
Till hevin agane he glidis.
That princes pure withoutyn peir
Full plesandly applid is
And blith with barne abidis.
O wirthy wirschip singuler
To be moder and madyn meir
As Cristin faith confidis,
That borne was of hir sidis
Our makar, Goddis sone so deir,
Quhilk erd, wattir, and hevinnis cleir
Throw grace and virtu gidis.

The miraclis ar mekle and meit
Fra luffis ryver rynnis.
The low of luf haldand the hete
Unbrynt full blithlie brinnis.
Quhen Gabriell beginnis
With mouth that gudely may to grete,
The wand of Aaron, dry, but wete,
To burioun nocht blynnis.
The flesch all donk within is,
Upon the erd na drop couth fleit.
Sa was that may maid moder swete
And sakeles of all synnis.

Hir mervalus haill madinhede
God in hir bosum bracis
And his divinité fra dreid
Hir kepit in all casis.
The hie God of his gracis
Himself dispisit us to speid
And dowtit nocht to dee on deid.
He panit for our peacis
And with his blude us bacis
Bot quhen he ras up, as we rede,
The cherité of his godhede
Was plane in every placis.

O lady lele and lusumest,
Thy face moist fair and schene is.
O blosum blith and bowsumest
Fra carnale cryme that clene is,
This prayer fra my splene is
That all my werkis wikkitest
Thow put away and make me chaist,
Fra Termigant that teyn is
And fra his cluke that kene is,
And syn till hevin my saule thou haist
Quhair thi makar of michtis mast
Is kyng and thow thair quene is.

Sum Practysis of Medecyne

Guk guk, gud day schir, gaip quhill ye get it,
Sic greting may gane weill — gud laik in your hude.
Ye wald deir me, I trow, becaus I am dottit,
To ruffill me with a ryme — na schir, be the rude.
Your saying I haif sene and on syd set it
As geir of all gaddering, glaikit, nocht gude,
Als your medicyne by mesour I haif meit met it,
The quhilk I stand ford ye nocht understude
Bot wrett on as ye culd to gar folk wene
For feir my longis wes flaft
Or I wes dottit or daft.
Gife I can ocht of the craft,
Heir be it sene.

Becaus I ken your cunnyng into cure
Is clowtit and clampit and nocht weill cleird,
My prectik in pottingary ye trow be als pure
And lyk to your lawitnes. I schrew thame that leid.
Is nowdir fevir nor fell that our the feild fure,
Seiknes nor sairnes in tyme gif I seid,
Bot I can lib thame and leiche thame fra lame and lesure,
With sawis thame sound mak. On your saule beid
That ye be sicker of this sedull I send yow
With the suthfast seggis
That glean all egeis
With dia and dreggis
Of malis to mend yow.

Dia Culcakit
Cape cuk maid and crop the colleraige —
Ane medecyne for the maw, and ye cowth mak it —
With sweit satlingis and sowrokis, the sop of the sege,
The crud of my culome (with your teith crak it),
Lawrean and linget seid and the luffage,
The hair of the hurcheoun nocht half deill hakkit
With the snout of ane selch ane swelling to swage.
This cure is callit in our craft Dia Culcakkit.
Put all thir in ane pan with pepper and pik,
Syne sett in to this,
The count of ane cow kis.
Is nocht bettir iwis
For the collik.

Dia Longum
Recipe thre ruggis of the reid ruke,
The gant of ane gray meir, the claik of ane gus,
The dram of ane drekters, the douk of ane duke,
The gaw of ane grene dow, the leg of ane lous,
Fyve unce of ane fle wing, the fyn of ane fluke,
With ane sleiffull of slak that growis in the slus.
Myng all thir in ane mas with the mone cruke.
This untment is rycht ganand for your awin us
With reid nettill seid in strang wesche to steip
For to bath your ba cod
Quhen ye wald nop and nod.
Is nocht bettir, be God,
To latt yow to sleip.

Dia Glaconicon
This dia is rycht deir and denteit in daill
Caus it is trest and trew. Thairfoir that ye tak
Sevin sobbis of ane selche, the quhidder of ane quhaill,
The lug of ane lempet is nocht to forsaik,
The harnis of ane haddok hakkit or haill
With ane bustfull of blude of the scho bak
With ane brewing caldrun full of hait caill
For it wil be the softar and sweittar of the smak.
Thair is nocht sic ane lechecraft fra Laudian to Lundin.
It is clippit in our cannon
Dia Glecolicon
For till fle awaye fon
Quhair fulis ar fundin

Dia Custrum
The ferd feisik is fyne and of ane felloun pryce,
Gud for haising and hosting or heit at the hairt.
Recipe thre sponfull of the blak spyce
With ane grit gowpene of the gowk fart,
The lug of ane lyoun, the gufe of ane gryce,
Ane unce of ane oster poik at the nethir parte
Annoynt it with nurice doung, for it is rycht nyce,
Myng it with mysdirt and with mustart.
Ye may clamp to this cure, and ye will mak cost,
Bayth the bellox of ane brok
With thre crawis of the cok,
The schadow of ane Yule stok:
Is gud for the host.

Gud nycht, guk guk, for sa I began.
I haif no come at this tyme langer to tary,
Bot luk on this lettir and leird gif ye can,
The prectik and poyntis of this pottingary.
Schir, minister this medecyne at evin to sum man
And or pryme be past, my powder I pary,
Thay sall blis yow or ellis bittirly yow ban
For it sall fle thame, in faith, out of the fary.
Bot luk quhen ye gadder thir gressis and gers,
Outhir savrand or sour,
That it be in ane gude oure.
It is ane mirk mirrour,
Ane uthir manis ers.

The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth

Yowth   Quhen fair Flora the godes of the flowris
Baith firth and feildis freschely had ourfret
And perly droppis of the balmy schowris
Thir widdis grene had with thair water wet,
Movand allone in mornyng myld I met
A mirry man that all of mirth cowth mene,
Singand this sang that richt sweitly wes sett.
“O yowth, be glaid into thy flouris grene.”

Aige   I lukit furth a litill me befoir.
I saw a cative on a club cumand
With cheikis lene and lyart lokis hoir,
His ene was how, his voce was hes hostand,
Wallowit richt wan and waik as ony wand.
Ane bill he beure upoun his breist abone
In letteris leill but lyis with this legand,
“O yowth, thy flowris fedis fellone sone.”

Yowth   This yungman lap upoun the land full licht
And marvellit mekle of his misdome maid.
“Waldin I am,” quod he, “and woundir wicht
With bran as bair and breist burly and braid
Na growme on ground my gairdone may degraid
Nor of my pith may pair of wirth a prene.
My face is fair, my fegour will not faid.
O yowith, be glaid into thy flowris grene.”

Aige   This senyeour sang bot with a sobir stevin.
Schakand his berd he said, “My bairne, lat be.
I wes within thir sextie yeiris and sevin
Ane freik on fold als frak, forsy, and fre,
Als glaid, als gay, als ying, als yaip as ye
Bot now tha dayis ourdrevin ar and done.
Luke thow my laithly luking gif I le.
O yowth, thy flowris fadis fellone sone.”

Yowth   Ane uthir vers yit this yungman cowth sing,
“At luvis law a quhyle I think to leit,
In court to cramp clenely in my clething
And luke amangis thir lusty ladeis sweit
Of mariage to mell with mowis meit
In secreit place quhair we ma not be sene
And so with birdis blythly my baillis beit,
O yowth, be glaid into thi flowris grene.”

Aige   This awstrene man gaif answer angirly.
“For thy cramping thow salt baith cruke and cowre,
Thy fleschely lust thow salt also defy
And pane thee sall put fra paramour.
Than will no bird be blyth of thee in bouir.
Quhen thy manheid sall mynnis as the mone,
Thow sall assay gif that my sang be soure.
O yowth, thy flowris fadis fellone sone.”

Yowth   This mirry man of mirth yit movit moir.
“My corps is clene withowt corruptioun,
My self is sound but seiknes or but soir,
My wittis fyve in dew proportioun,
My curage is of clene complexioun,
My hairt is haill, my levar and my splene,
Thairfoir to reid this roll I haif ressoun,
O yowth, be glaid into thy flowris grene.”

Aige   The bevir hair said to this berly berne,
“This breif thow sall obey sone, be thow bald,
Thy stait, thy strenth thocht it be stark and sterne,
The feveris fell and eild sall gar thee fald,
Thy corps sall clyng, thy curage sall wax cald,
Thy helth sall hynk and tak a hurt bot hone,
Thy wittis fyve sall wane thocht thow not wald.
O yowth, thy flowris fedis fellone sone.”

This galyart grutchit and began to greif,
He on his wayis wrethly went but wene
This lene awld man luche not bot tuk his leif
And I abaid undir the levis grene.
Of the sedullis, the suthe quhen I had sene,
On trewth me thocht thay trevist in thair tone:
“O yowth, be glaid into thy flowris grene.”
“O yowth, thy flowris faidis fellone sone.”

Robene and Makyne

Robene sat on gud grene hill
Kepand a flok of fe.
Mirry Makyne said him till,
“Robene, thow rew on me!
I haif thee lovit loud and still
Thir yeiris two or thre.
My dule in dern bot gif thow dill
Doutles but dreid I de.”

Robene answerit, “Be the rude,
Nathing of lufe I knaw
Bot keipis my scheip undir yone wid,
Lo quhair thay raik on raw.
Quhat hes marrit thee in thy mude,
Makyne, to me thow schaw,
Or quhat is lufe or to be lude?
Fane wald I leir that law.”

“At luvis lair gife thow will leir,
Tak thair ane A B C:
Be heynd, courtas, and fair of feir,
Wyse, hardy, and fre,
So that no denger do thee deir.
Quhat dule in dern thow dre,
Preis thee with pane at all poweir,
Be patient and previe.”

Robene answerit hir agane,
“I wait nocht quhat is luve
Bot I haif mervell in certane
Quhat makis thee this wanrufe.
The weddir is fair and I am fane,
My scheip gois haill aboif,
And we wald play us in this plane
Thay wald us bayth reproif.”

“Robene, tak tent unto my taill
And wirk all as I reid
And thow sall haif my hairt all haill,
Eik and my madinheid.
Sen God sendis bute for baill
And for murning remeid,
I dern with thee bot gif I daill
Doutles I am bot deid.”

“Makyne, to-morne this ilk a tyde
And ye will meit me heir,
Peraventure my scheip ma gang besyd
Quhill we haif liggit full neir,
Bot mawgre haif I and I byd
Fra thay begin to steir.
Quhat lyis on hairt I will nocht hyd.
Makyn, than, mak gud cheir.”

“Robene, thow reivis me roif and rest.
I luve bot thee allone.”
“Makyne, adew, the sone gois west,
The day is neirhand gone.”
“Robene, in dule I am so drest
That lufe wilbe my bone.”
“Ga lufe, Makyne, quhairevir thow list
For lemman I bid none.”

“Robene, I stand in sic a styll
I sicht and that full sair.”
“Makyne, I haif bene heir this quhyle,
At hame God gif I wair.”
“My huny Robene, talk ane quhyll
Gif thow will do na mair.”
“Makyne, sum uthir man begyle
For hamewart I will fair.”

Robene on his wayis went
Als licht as leif of tre.
Mawkin murnit in hir intent
And trowd him nevir to se.
Robene brayd attour the bent,
Than Mawkyne cryit on hie,
“Now ma thow sing for I am schent,
‘Quhat alis lufe at me!’”

Mawkyne went hame withouttin faill
Full wery eftir cowth weip,
Than Robene in a ful fair daill
Assemblit all his scheip.
Be that sum pairte of Mawkynis aill
Outthrow his hairt cowd creip.
He fallowit hir fast thair till assaill
And till hir tuke gude keip.

“Abyd, abyd thow fair Makyne!
A word for ony thing!
For all my luve it salbe thyne
Withowttin depairting.
All haill thy harte for till haif myne
Is all my cuvating.
My scheip to-morne quhill houris nyne
Will neid of no keping.”

“Robene, thow hes hard soung and say
In gestis and storeis auld,
The man that will nocht quhen he may
Sall haif nocht quhen he wald.
I pray to Jesu every day
Mot eik thair cairis cauld
That first preisis with thee to play
Be firth, forrest, or fauld.”

“Makyne, the nicht is soft and dry,
The wedder is warme and fair
And the grene woid rycht neir us by
To walk attour all quhair.
Thair ma na janglour us espy
That is to lufe contrair,
Thairin Makyne, bath ye and I
Unsene we ma repair.”

“Robene, that warld is all away
And quyt brocht till ane end,
And nevir agane thairto perfay
Sall it be as thow wend,
For of my pane thow maid it play
And all in vane I spend.
As thow hes done sa sall I say,
‘Murne on’; I think to mend.”

“Mawkyne, the houp of all my heill,
My hairt on thee is sett
And evirmair to thee be leill
Quhill I may leif but lett,
Nevir to faill as uthiris feill,
Quhat grace that evir I gett.”
“Robene with thee I will nocht deill.
Adew, for thus we mett.”

Malkyne went hame blyth anneuche
Attour the holttis hair
Robene murnit and Malkyne lewche,
Scho sang, he sichit sair,
And so left him bayth wo and wewche
In dolour and in cair
Kepand his hird under a huche
Amangis the holtis hair.

The Bludy Serk

This hindir yeir, I hard be tald,
Thair was a worthy king.
Dukis, erlis, and barronis bald
He had at his bidding.
The lord was anceane and ald
And sexty yeiris cowth ring.
He had a dochter fair to fald,
A lusty lady ying.

Of all fairheid scho bur the flour
And eik hir faderis air,
Of lusty laitis and he honour
Meik bot and debonair.
Scho wynnit in a bigly bour,
On fold wes none so fair.
Princis luvit hir paramour
In cuntreis our allquhair.

Thair dwelt a lyt besyde the king
A fowll gyane of ane.
Stollin he hes the lady ying,
Away with hir is gane
And kest hir in his dungering
Quhair licht scho micht se nane.
Hungir and cauld and grit thristing
Scho fand into hir wane.

He wes the laithliest on to luk
That on the grund mycht gang
His nailis wes lyk ane hellis cruk,
Thairwith fyve quarteris lang.
Thair wes nane that he ourtuk
In rycht or yit in wrang
Bot all in schondir he thame schuke,
The gyane wes so strang.

He held the lady day and nycht
Within his deip dungeoun.
He wald nocht gif of hir a sicht
For gold nor yit ransoun
Bot gife the king mycht get a knycht
To fecht with his persoun,
To fecht with him both day and nycht
Quhill ane wer dungin doun.

The king gart seik baith fer and neir,
Beth be se and land,
Of ony knycht gife he micht heir
Wald fecht with that gyand.
A worthy prince that had no peir
Hes tane the deid on hand
For the luve of the lady cleir,
And held full trew cunnand.

That prince come prowdly to the toun
Of that gyane to heir
And fawcht with him his awin persoun
And tuke him presoneir
And kest him in his awin dungeoun,
Allane withouttin feir,
With hungir, cauld, and confusioun
As full weill worthy weir.

Syne brak the bour, had hame the bricht
Unto hir fadir deir.
Sa evill wondit was the knycht
That he behuvit to de,
Unlusum was his likame dicht,
His sark was all bludy.
In all the warld was thair a wicht
So peteous for to sy?

The lady murnyt and maid grit mone
With all hir mekle micht,
“I luvit nevir lufe bot one,
That dulfully now is dicht.
God sen my lyfe wer fra me tone
Or I had sene yone sicht
Or ellis in begging evir to gone
Furth with yone curtas knycht.”

He said, “Fair lady, now mone I de,
Trestly ye me trow.
Tak ye my sark that is bludy
And hing it forrow yow.
First think on it and syne on me
Quhen men cumis yow to wow.”
The lady said, “Be Mary fre,
Thairto I mak a vow.”

Quhen that scho lukit to the serk,
Scho thocht on the persoun
And prayit for him with all hir harte
That lowsd hir of bandoun,
Quhair scho was wont to sit full merk
In that deip dungeoun,
And evir quhill scho wes in quert
That was hir a lessoun.

Sa weill the lady luvit the knycht
That no man wald scho tak.
Sa suld we do our God of micht
That did all for us mak,
Quhilk fullely to deid wes dicht
For sinfull manis saik,
Sa suld we do both day and nycht
And prayaris to him mak.

This king is lyke the Trinitie
Baith in hevin and heir,
The manis saule to the lady,
The gyane to Lucefeir,
The knycht to Chryst that deit on tre
And coft our synnis deir,
The pit to hell with panis fell,
The syn to the woweir.

The lady was wowd bot scho said nay
With men that wald hir wed,
Sa suld we wryth all syn away
That in our breist is bred.
I pray to Jesu Chryst verrey
For us his blud that bled
To be our help on Domysday
Quhair lawis ar straitly led.

The saule is Godis dochtir deir
And eik his handewerk
That was betrasit with Lucifeir
Quha sittis in hell full merk
Borrowit with Chrystis angell cleir.
Hend men will ye nocht herk,
For his lufe that bocht us deir.
Think on the bludy serk.

The Garmont of Gud Ladeis

Wald my gud lady lufe me best
And wirk eftir my will,
I suld ane garmond gudliest
Gar mak hir body till.

Of he honour suld be hir hud
Upoun hir heid to weir.
Garneist with govirnance so gud,
Na demyng suld hir deir.

Hir sark suld be hir body nixt
Of chestetie so quhyt
With schame and dreid togidder mixt,
The same suld be perfyt.

Hir kirtill suld be of clene constance
Lasit with lesum lufe,
The mailyeis of continuance
For nevir to remufe.

Hir gown suld be of gudlines
Weill ribband with renowne
Purfillit with plesour in ilk place,
Furrit with fyne fassoun.

Hir belt suld be of benignitie
Abowt hir middill meit,
Hir mantill of humilitie
To tholl bayth wind and weit.

Hir hat suld be of fair having
And hir tepat of trewth,
Hir patelet of gud pansing,
Hir hals ribbane of rewth.

Hir slevis suld be of esperance
To keip hir fra dispair,
Hir gluvis of gud govirnance
To hyd hir fynyearis fair.

Hir schone suld be of sickernes
In syne that scho nocht slyd
Hir hois of honestie, I ges,
I suld for hir provyd.

Wald scho put on this garmond gay,
I durst sweir by my seill
That scho woir nevir grene nor gray
That set hir half so weill.

The Praise of Age

Wythin a garth under a rede rosere
Ane ald man and decrepit herd I syng.
Gay was the note, swete was the voce and clere,
It was grete joy to here of sik a thing,
And to my dome he said in his dytyng
“For to be yong, I wald not, for my wis,
Of all this warld to mak me lord and king.
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blis.

False is this warld and full of variance
Besoucht with syn and othir sytis mo.
Treuth is all tynt, gyle has the gouvernance,
Wrechitnes has wroht all welthis wele to wo,
Fredome is tynt and flemyt the lordis fro,
And covatise is all the cause of this.
I am content that youthede is ago.
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blisse.

The state of youth I repute for na gude
For in that state sik perilis now I see
Bot full smal grace. The regeing of his blude
Can none gaynstand quhill that he agit be,
Syne of the thing that tofore joyit he
Nothing remaynis for to be callit his,
For quhy it were bot veray vanitee.
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blisse

Suld no man traist this wrechit warld, for quhy
Of erdly joy ay sorow is the end,
The state of it can no man certify,
This day a king, tomorne na gude to spend.
Quhat have we here bot grace us to defend
The quhilk God grant us for to mend oure mys
That to his glore he may oure saulis send.
The more of age, the nerar hevynnis blisse.

False tattlers; abundantly
Not grafted onto; trunk; charity
Hoping from; earn great
have; fear about; neighbors
should; bethink himself well; (t-note)
When; tale; brought
If; based in fact
Before; rashly accept as true

A; should weigh; wisely
tale-teller; of whom; told
If; love; envy
tale-teller will well affirm it; (t-note)
persons involved; summoned
plea; make
maintain the balance evenly; (t-note)
not give at the first [hearing]

cause of honor; (t-note)
Because of; crush a true man; (t-note)
giving; statement
hear [the true man’s] excuse
tattlers; ear can whisper
can; hearing
there is no reason in it; (t-note)
give to tales

These tale-tellers often do great harm
stir up deadly feud; dispute
angry with their servants
be banished without; perhaps; (t-note)
basis for; estrangement
More dangerous; plague; (see note)
take pleasure in flatterers
give liars

when; (t-note)
To please you
about; close associate
call the persons at once; (see note)
down; solemnly
investigate; before you give
else later perchance

wicked; sowing discord
About false; speak; tire
deadly poison
torment; have for your reward
Just so shall; who have
commit; ears; hear it; (t-note)
kindles many a fire

To listen to slanderers is no joke
publicly cursed; (t-note)
Three different people; word
hearer; innocent man
one hood; a double
bloodthirsty tongue under
more except; grace to lords
Not to give to tales; (t-note)


Powerful; death; pleasing love
Through whom; sweet; (t-note)
scripture does prove
To; love; lingers
us from trouble relieves; (see note)
When from; throne above
Bearing a message; did go
Without; sin; disgrace
your destiny is firm; (t-note)

to wonder made; mild one
maintained without
well suited; undefiled; (see note)
declares it
her womb without
Conceive; should; exiled
when; message; finished
Light from above
lovely one to the ground
not at all deprived
Grew; chaste chamber
crowned; (t-note)

These tidings told
To heaven again; flies
pure princess; equal
is compliant; (t-note)
with child joyously waits
worthy unique honor
mother and maiden too
Christian; trusts
from her loins
maker; son; dear
Who earth, water; bright
Through; virtue guides

are great and gentle; (see note)
[That] from love’s; flow
flame; withholding; heat
Unburnt; burns; (t-note)
worthy maid; greet
staff; without moisture; (see note)
Does not cease to bud
fleece that is all damp inside
[Though] no drop fell on the earth
maiden made a sweet mother
innocent; sins

intact virginity
divine power from fear
Kept her; circumstances
mighty God in his grace
abased to advance us
feared not; die indeed
suffered; peace
blood washes us
But when; rose; read
charity; divine power
apparent everywhere

loyal and most lovable
most; bright
blossom; most gracious
From fleshly; who is cleansed
comes from my heart
all the most evil of my deeds
purge; chaste
[Away] from; is fierce; (see note)
claw; is sharp
afterwards to; hasten
Where your; greatest in power; (see note)
there; (t-note)

Some Procedures

Cuckoo, good; sir, gape until; (see note)
Such; be very suitable; fun; hood
would scorn; guess; crazed
upset; no sir, by; cross
discourse; have seen; aside
stuff; borrowing, idiotic, not
And; measure; well measured
which; aver; misunderstood
wrote; could; make; think
fear; lungs were panting
crazed; stupid
If; know anything about
Let it be revealed here

know; skill at curing
cobbled; patched; polished
skill; pharmacy; as poor
like; ignorance; curse; lied
neither fever; accident(?); across; came
Disease; pain; if; see it
cure them; heal; from; injury
salves; make; soul be it
sure; prescription; you
trustworthy men
smear; eggs
medicine; drugs
malaise; fix you

Befouled-Rectum Prescription
Take fresh dung; cut; pepper
stomach, if; could make
sweet dregs; sorrel; sap; sage
dirt; anus; teeth crack
Laurel; flax seed; lovage
hedgehog; not; part chopped
seal; a; soothe
called; profession
these; tar
Then sit; (t-note)
Kiss the cunt of a cow
nothing; indeed

Long Prescription
Take three pulls; red rook
yawn; mare; cluck; goose
drake’s penis; dive; duck
gall; dove; louse
ounces; fly’s wing; fin; flounder; (see note)
sleeve-full; algae; on the weir; (t-note)
Mix; these; mass; crescent moon
ointment; suitable; own use
red nettle seed; stale urine; steep
bathe; scrotum
When; want to nap
nothing; by
allow; sleep

Pennyroyal (?) Prescription
very dear; precious; portions
dependable; true; take
sobs; seal; twitter; quail
ear; limpet; not to leave out
brains; chopped; whole
boxful; blood; female bat
kettle; hot cabbage
gentler; sweeter; flavor
such; remedy; Lundin (in Fife)
called; medical canon

to chase; folly; (t-note)
Wherever fools are found

Cough Medicine
fourth medicine; great cost
Good; rasping; coughing; heartburn
Take three; black pepper
big double handful; cuckoo
ear; lion; grunt; pig; (t-note)
oyster stomach; lower part
a wet nurse’s excrement; (t-note)
Mix; mouse droppings
add; if; pay the extra cost
Both; testicles; badger
crows; rooster
shadow; Yule log
good; cough

Goodnight, cuckoo; thus
have not come; stay longer
look at; letter; learn it if
method; details; pharmacy
Sir, administer; evening
before; I bet my medicine
shall bless; else; curse you; (see note)
chase them; a daze
watch when; grasses; herbs
Either savory
good hour
dark mirror
Another man’s rump; (t-note)

Dialogue between Age and Youth; (t-note)

When; goddess; flowers; (t-note)
Both forest; ornamented
pearly; fragrant showers
These woods; their; wetted
Going by myself; on a; met
merry; was all about mirth did speak
Singing; very; was set [to music]; (t-note)
glad; your flourishing flowers; (see note)

looked out; little ahead of me
wretch; stick approaching; (see note); (t-note)
thin cheeks; frosty gray locks; (t-note)
eyes were sunken; hoarsely coughing
Withered; pale; weak; sapling; (t-note)
document; carried; above
correct without mistake; inscription
flowers fade shockingly soon; (t-note)

leapt; very nimbly
puzzled greatly over the error made [by Age]; (t-note)
Limber; said; very strong
brawn like a boar; big; thick
man on earth; gifts; belittle
vigor; diminish in value [by even] a pin; (t-note)
figure; not worsen

senior; stern voice
Shaking; child, desist
these sixty-seven years
man; earth both keen, strong; (t-note)
As; young; eager; (t-note)
passed over
Regard; loathsome expression [to see] if I am lying; (t-note)

Another verse; still did sing; (t-note)
Under love’s rule; while; remain
prance adeptly; clothing
seek amongst these lovely ladies
talk; suitable jests; (t-note)
private where; cannot; seen; (see note); (t-note)
young women; ease my pains

stern; gave; angrily; (t-note)
prancing; shall both bend; shake; (t-note)
renounce; (t-note)
pain shall stop you from lovemaking; (t-note)
no young woman; glad; you; bedchamber; (t-note)
your manhood; dwindle like; moon; (t-note)
find out if; song is; (t-note)

still spoke more about mirth
body; clean
without sickness; sores; (t-note)
five senses; due
vigor; healthy constitution
healthy; liver; spleen
read; scroll; have good reason; (t-note)

old gray dodderer; burly lad
writ; soon; bold; (t-note)
state; though; strong; keen; (t-note)
cruel fevers; age; make you yield
wither; vigor; grow cold
stagger; without delay; (t-note)
do not want [them] to; (t-note)

fine fellow resented; grumble; (t-note)
angrily without delay; (t-note)
did not laugh; took; leave; (t-note)
documents; indeed when; (t-note)
In truth; clashed; tunes; (t-note)



good; (see note)
Keeping; flock; sheep
Merry; to him
Robin, take pity
have loved; quiet
These years; three
longing in secret unless; soothe
Doubtless without doubt I will die

By the cross
about love; know
But keep; sheep under the shelter of that wood
where they wander together
What; upset; mood
reveal to me
what; love; loved
Eagerly do I wish to learn

the study of love if; learn; (see note)
Study in it
kind, courteous; manners
determined; generous
rebuff cause you harm
Whatever pain; secret; suffer
Exert yourself; effort; strength

do not understand what
I cannot understand indeed; (t-note)
What causes you; turmoil
weather; happy
go safely above
If; were to make love; valley
rebuke us both

pay attention; tale
do exactly; advise
shall have; heart entirely
As well as; virginity
Since; relief; suffering; (see note)
help for sorrow
In secret; you unless; deal
Doubtless; just dead

tomorrow; same time
If; meet; here
Perhaps; might go astray
Until; have lain very close
I [will] have blame if; stay
Once; move away
What is sincere I will not hide
then, make the best of it

deprive; [of] peace
only you alone
farewell; sun goes
nearly over
sorrow; placed
love will be; cause of death
Go and love; wherever; wish
lover; seek

exist; such a state
sigh; very bitterly
have been here; [long] while
God grant I were at home
honey; awhile
Even if; nothing more
beguile some other man
homeward; go

As light; leaf; tree
grieved; mind
expected never to see him
hurried over the field
Then; cried out loud
can; because; ruined
How love troubles me

Very tired after after [she] wept
valley; (t-note)
By then some; ailment
Throughout; heart did creep
followed; to accost [her]
paid close attention to her

for any price
shall be
Without separation
whole; heart; have as mine
my whole desire
until nine o’clock tomorrow

heard; sung; told; (see note)
old tales and stories
does not want; he has the chance
Shall not have; may wish

[That] their bitter cares must increase
Who; tries
By wood, forest; field

greenwood [is] very close beside us
in it everywhere
No tale-teller can see us there
Who; hostile to love
Into there; both
Unseen; can go

completely brought to
to that point indeed
Shall; supposed
pain; made it a jest
I made an effort all in vain
have; so shall
Whine away; plan to get better

guarantee; well-being
is fixed on you
hereafter to be true to you
As long as; without hindrance
others fell
Whatever favor I receive
not have dealings
Farewell, since we have met in this way

happy enough
Across; gray woods
mourned; laughed
sighed bitterly
both sorrow and injury; (t-note)
misery; sorrow
flock; cliff
Among; (t-note)

Bloodstained Shirt; (t-note)

last year; heard it told
There; honorable
Dukes, earls; bold barons
ancient; old
sixty years did reign
daughter; embrace
lovely young lady

beauty she bore; flower
And [was] also; father’s heir
charming manners; high
But meek; gracious
dwelt; imposing dwelling
In the world was
loved her in amorous attraction
countries everywhere around

short distance near
one surpassingly horrible giant
Abducted; has; young
has gone
threw; dungeon
Where light she could; none
cold; great thirst
discovered; accommodation; (t-note)

most loathsome to look on
ground could walk
were like a hook from hell
At that, an ell and a quarter; (see note)
no one; captured
right; yet; wrong
into pieces he shook them
giant; strong

would not allow; a glimpse
Unless; could; knight
fight; himself

Until one [of them] were struck down

ordered to seek both far
Both by sea
Of any; if; could hear
[Who] would fight; giant
Has taken; deed in
love; lovely lady
kept most loyally [his] vow

came proudly; town
To learn about that giant
fought; [in] his own person
took him prisoner
Alone without companion
deserving were

Then broke into the chamber; returned; maid
father dear
sorely wounded
was bound to die
Horrible; body made
shirt; bloodstained; (see note)
there; person
pitiful; see

mourned; made great lament
great strength
loved; a love except one
sorrowfully; mistreated
if only; were taken from me
Before; seen that sight
else; forever; go
From hence; that courteous

must; die; (t-note)
Believe you me completely
Take my shirt
hang; in front of you
When; come to court you
By gracious Mary

When; she looked; shirt
thought about; person
prayed; heart
freed her from captivity
Where she; used; dark

while she was in health
for her; lesson

So well; loved; knight
would she accept
So should; our mighty God
Who; everything; create
Who foully was put to death
So should

like; Trinity
Both; here
soul of man
giant; Lucifer
died; cross
paid for; costly sins
dungeon; dreadful torments; (see note)
sin; wooer

To; wanted to marry her
As we should deflect
breast; (t-note)
truly Christ
who gave his blood
the Day of Judgment
On which; strictly applied

dear daughter
also; creation
betrayed by
Who sits; dark
Rescued by; bright angel
Kind; not pay heed
who redeemed us dearly; (see note)

Clothing; Good Ladies; (t-note)

If my beloved were to show me the best kind of love; (see note)
act according to my wishes
would a most noble garment
Have made for her body

Of high; should; her hood
To wear on her head
Arrayed; self-command
suspicion; threaten her

chemise; nearest to her body
chastity; white
modesty; fear together

petticoat; pure faithfulness
Laced; lawful love
eyelets; perseverance

Well ribboned; reputation
Bordered; pleasure; each; (t-note)
Furred; exquisite style

Around; waist well-fitting
withstand both; wet

fine behavior
short cape; constancy
bodice; meditation
throat-ribbon; pity; (t-note)

sleeves; hope; (see note)
protect her from despair
gloves; discipline
conceal her fair fingers

shoes; stability
sin so that; not slide
stockings; suppose
provide for her

If she would; fine clothing
dare swear; salvation
never wore green; (see note)
suited; well; (t-note)


closed garden; red rosebush
A feeble old man I heard sing
Pleasant; tune; voice
hear such
understanding; song
young; would not want; wish
make myself
nearer heaven’s bliss

world; inconstancy
Beset; sin; many other ills
utterly lost, guile; control; (see note)
Miserliness; turned; benefit
Generosity; banished
covetousness; entirely
youth; past

consider to be no good
such perils
very little; raging; blood
withstand until; be aged
Then; previously he enjoyed
remains; called his own
Because; was only utter

No one should trust; because
earthly; always
tomorrow no wealth
What; without
which; pay for our crimes
glory; send our souls


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