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Robert Henryson, Shorter Poems: Weaker Attributions


1 May not withstand when I choose to shoot this dart

2 Must suffer the death and die who has taken on life


Abbreviations: DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; Gray: Gray, Robert Henryson; NIMEV: Boffey and Edwards, eds., New Index of Middle English Verse; Testament: Henryson, The Testament of Cresseid.

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 (W. S. 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.

The Abbey Walk (NIMEV 265)

ababbcbC4; seven eight-line stanzas

A moral ballade with refrain: consolation in adversity is to be gained by giving thanks to God; scriptural examples are adduced (Job, Tobit); adversity is the working of God’s justice, and pity is his mercy; all comes from God. The penultimate line, “Quha hyis law and lawis he” is key: inversion is the proper working of divine will.

1–5 The setting gives moral point to the opening gambit of reading an inscription (Sandison, Chanson, 121); Kelly comments on the value of this “an open-ended or unfinished framework” as a precedent for The Testament of Cresseid: here, “the inscription forms not only the body but also the end of the poem” (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 226).

8, etc. “Bi a Way Wandryng as I Went,” a moral ballade in the Vernon Manuscript, has a comparable refrain, “Evir to thonke God of al.”

17–24 The paired examples of Job and Tobit present two “tightly interlaced” sorts of adversity: this stanza is “stylistically the poem’s high point” in Ramson’s opinion, and “the best pointer to the poem’s art: its balance which spreads into the two sets of three stanzas, is carried through to the level of single lines, the prominent caesura, in the first four stanzas particularly, giving the lines a formal poise which is part of the poem’s meaning but is also part of its decorative patterning” (“'Lettres,'” pp. 44, 45).

25–32 Compare “Bi a Way Wandryng as I Went” (lines 9–11): “Thaugh thou waxe blynd or lome / Or eny seknesse on the be set, / With such grace God hath the gret.”

30 The “lipper lady” used this saying to give point to her remonstrance to Cresseid (line 475n); in the present poem, fuller use is made of a Chaucerian precedent, Truth, which contains not only this saying (lines 11–12) but also the proverb that lies behind Henryson’s refrain, in Chaucer’s words, “Know thy contree, look up, thank God of all” (Truth, line 19).

33–40 Kelly notes the centrality to Testament of the theme that “natural afflictions are temptations, which must be endured in patience. At other times, to be sure, adversity is recognized as deserved, but it is also corrective, and serves to save as well as to punish” (Chaucerian Tragedy, p. 238).

35 Compare Fables, lines 1190, 1194, 2689.

41 The moralizing phrase “change and vary” crops up in Dunbar’s Timor mortis conturbat me (line 9).

51 For the emergence in the sixteenth century of a pejorative connotation to pelf, see Fables, line 2042n.

Ane Prayer for the Pest (NIMEV 2420)

The rhyme scheme is ababbcbC5; eleven ballade stanzas, the three last with internal rhyme (lines 65–72 completing each of the first, second, and third feet; lines 73–80 and 81–88 completing the second and third feet). Ane Prayer for the Pest is a penitential ballade with the refrain “Preserve us fra this perrelus pestilens”: God most powerful and perfect, have mercy on us in punishing us for our offenses, save us from the plague; hear our lament, because unless you mercifully restore us, we will die; we would gladly submit to any other punishment, but is it your will that we die like beasts, so that we dare not live together? Choose famine, but remove your plague because our deaths will not make up for our sins; have mercy, without which we are defenseless; you redeemed us dearly on the cross, so now take pity on your likeness; give us grace to atone for our sins, for without atonement the only justice is death; rulers, who should punish wrongdoers, are wholly corrupt, so that God will not heed their appeals; diminish this plague — if we were contrite, our sorrows would cease — none who seeks grace is destroyed; without your aid, we are in a deathtrap — no one can overlook our greed but you; calm your hostility — we can expect no relief — soon we will all be dead — do not let what you so dearly bought be lost. Bengt Ellenberger notes the exceptionally “high style, the intricate rhyme scheme, and the non-technical character of the words” that differentiate Ane Prayer for the Pest from Henryson’s attested styles (Latin Element, p. 63). Drexler notes that the Draft portion of the Bannatyne Manuscript presents Ane Prayer as two poems: after line 64 appears the colophon Finis; and the ensuing stanzas have a new refrain (“Henryson’s ‘Prayer for the Pest’”; compare Textual Notes 64an).

17–22 The theme of plague as punishment is scriptural (Numbers 14:11–12; 2 Samuel 24:13–17); compare Conscience’s sermon, in which he “preved that thise pestilences were for pure synne” (Langland, Piers Plowman, B.5.13).

29 The term pungetyfe appears to be Henryson’s own Latinism (DOST pungitive 1a); compare Testament, line 229, where the adjective refers to the hostility shown by Venus.

65–72 Dunbar’s “Ane Ballat of Our Lady” (lines 1–3) also features the aureate terms superne and lucerne.

81–82 In their edition of the poem, Robert L. Kindrick and Kristie A. Bixby suggest that Sen should be interpreted to mean “As for”: “As for our sins, which justice must correct, O King most high, now pacify your anger” (Poems of Robert Henryson, p. 265).

The Ressoning Betwix Deth and Man (NIMEV 2520)

A dialogue in six alternating ballade stanzas (ababbcbc5): Death demands man’s attention and asserts that no creature, regardless of earthly station, can resist death; Man, incredulous and uncomprehending, wants to know his challenger’s identity and asserts that he will defeat anyone who challenges him; Death identifies himself and repeats that he cannot be resisted by anyone; realizing the imminence of death, Man admits to a sinful youth; Death calls for repentance in readiness for the inevitable; Man repents submissively and appeals to God for mercy. While skeptical about any connection between this poem and the Dance of Death, Gray detects “echoes of an earlier type of poem, the Vado mori (‘I go to die’) in which a number of ‘estates’ are confronted by Death and overcome by him. . . . Here he is an awesome and mysterious figure” (Selected Poems of Henryson and Dunbar, p. 380).

4 The formula "reges pontifices imperatores" (“kings, popes, emperors”) commonly refers to the highmost ranks of power in the world, especially in relation to their vulnerability to death.

33–40 Compare the Moralitas to “The Fox and the Wolf” (lines 789–95), in which “gude folke” are warned to “feir this suddane schoit” and “remord your conscience.”

The Thre Deid Pollis (NIMEV 2551)

In eight ballade stanzas (ababbcbc5), this is a moral ballade in which the reader, “sinfull man,” is addressed by three skulls (reminiscent of the theme of the Three Living and the Three Dead; Fox, ed., p. 487): they invite him to look at them and realize that as he is now, so they were once; everyone must suffer death and therefore should keep it in mind in order to avoid sin; the young man is to think of his head in the same state; finely dressed ladies will turn out thus; the proud must seek mercy because all ranks of society will turn to dust; no scholar can distinguished between the skulls in terms of beauty, nobility, or learning; the aged should learn from the skulls to request mercy for himself and also for their souls; everyone should seek mercy in order to reign forever with the Trinity.

The copy of this poem in the Bannatyne Manuscript has an ascription to Patrick Johnston (d. 1495), “a notary, land-owner, and official receiver of revenues from Crown lands in West Lothian [who] produced court entertainments” (Bawcutt, Poems of William Dunbar, 2:336).

4 The hollowed-out eye sockets of the skulls find their way into Dunbar’s insulting depiction of Walter Kennedie, his opponent in The Flyting (line 164).

14–16 The memento mori; compare The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie (lines162–67).

17–24 Compare The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth, lines 41–48 and 59–64.


Abbreviations: B: the Bannatyne Manuscript; Bd: the Bannatyne Manuscript Draft; Fox: Denton Fox, ed., The Poems of Robert Henryson; Mf: the Maitland Folio.

The following four poems have been deemed to be more weakly attributed than those included in the previous group: for each of these, the evidence for Henryson’s author-ship in the manuscript witnesses is late or in dispute. For The Abbey Walk, Ane Prayer for the Pest, and The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man, the Bannatyne Draft does not confirm the mention of Henryson in the colophons in the manuscript proper; in the case of Ane Prayer for the Pest, the ascription appears to have been added later than the inscription of the poem, a detail which has been taken to weaken further its credibility. In the case of The Thre Deid Pollis, Bannatyne’s ascription to Patrick Johnston seems a fairly decisive stroke against Henryson’s authorship, despite his being named as the author in the Maitland Folio. As if in a neat reversal of that disagreement, it is the Maitland Folio that beclouds the authorship of The Abbey Walk by appending to it the note authore incerto (author unknown). Admittedly, any attempt to determine authorship by means of the evidence of the Bannatyne Manuscript rests on shaky ground: Fox concludes that “the attributions in B, while not worthless, are not completely trustworthy” (ed., pp. cxvii–cxxi). Some significance may be attachable to discrepancies between the draft and the manuscript proper: with regard to The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man, for instance, “It is perhaps suspicious that [this poem] lacks an ascription in Bd, unlike the poems which immediately precede and follow it, and it is possible that in B the scribe took the poem to be a companion piece to The Ressoning betwix Aige and Yowth (which it follows), and so gave it a similar title and ascription” (Fox, ed., p. 467).

The Abbey Walk: Bd (base text), B, Mf; Fox

title Bd, B, Mf omit.

7 estait. Bd: stait.
that. Bd: that evir.

10 Thy. Bd: In.
nor. Bd: nor in.

15 Bd: Sen thow sic examplis seyis ilk day. Mf: Sen thir but dout thow man assay.

43 Cumis nocht throw casualtie and chance. Mf: Cumis nowdir throw fortoun nor chance.

51 warldlie. Bd, B: warldis.

53 on the. Bd, B: deit on.

54 gustit. Bd, B: taistit the.

56a Bd: Finis. B: Quod Mr Robert Henrysone. Mf: Finis authore incerto.

Ane Prayer for the Pest: Bd (base text), B; Fox

title Bd omits.

6 Thow. Bd: That.

10 regrait. Bd: degrait.

27 perreist. Bd: preist.

64a Bd: Finis. According to Fox, this marginal notation is “probably in a later hand” (ed., p. 169).

76 and thame. Bd: falsly and.

77 mend this. Bd: win us fra that.

87 be. Bd: be our.

88a Bd: Finis. B: Finis quod Henrysone (the latter two words in a later hand).

The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man: Bd (base text), B; Fox

title Bd omits.

Mors B: Deth (and so forth for the remainder of the poem).

Homo B: Man (and so forth for the remainder of the poem).

30 ay youtheid wald with me. Bd: youtheid wald with me ay.

43 the deid to lurk. Bd: deid to luke.

48a Bd: Finis. B: Finis quod Hendersone.

The Thre Deid Pollis: B (base text), Mf; Fox

10 thole the. B: suffer.

24 Example. B: Thy example.

27 so. B omits.

33 wilfull. B: wofull.

45 expert. B: excellent.

47 still. B omits.
ly. B: be.

49 ay. B omits.

52 and. B omits.

55 And. B: Now.

56 to rew and glorife. B: quhen he sall call and cry.

59 mercy cry and. B: our saulis to.

64a B: Finis quod Patrik Johnistoun. Mf: Quod Mr. Robert Henrysoun.























































The Abbey Walk

Allone as I went up and doun
In ane abbay wes fair to se
Thinkand quhat consolatioun
Wes best into adversitie,
On cais I kest on syd myne e
And saw this writtin upoun a wall,
“Of quhat estait, man, that thow be,
Obey and thank thi God of all.”

Thy kindome and thy grit empyre,
Thy ryeltie nor rich array
Sall nocht indure at thi desyre
Bot as the wind will wend away.
Thy gold and all thi gudis gay
Quhen Fortoun list will fra thee fall.
Sen thow sic sampillis seis ilk day,
Obey and thank thi God of all.

Job was moist riche, in writ we find,
Thobe moist full of cheretie.
Job wox peur and Thoby blynd,
Baith temptit with adversitie.
Sen blindnes wes infirmitie
And povertie was naturall,
Thairfoir in patience baith he and he
Obeid and thankit God of all.

Thocht thow be blind or haif ane halt
Or in thy face deformit ill,
Sa it cum nocht throw thy defalt,
Na man sowld thee repreif by skill.
Blame nocht thy Lord sa is his will.
Spur nocht thy fute aganis the wall
Bot with meik hairt and prayar still
Obey and thank thy God of all.

God of his justice mon correct
And of his mercy petie haif.
He is ane juge to nane suspect
To puneis synffull man and saif.
Thocht thow be lord attouir the laif
And eftirwart maid bund and thrall,
Ane peure begger with skrip and staif,
Obey and thank thy God of all.

This changeing and grit variance
Of erdly staitis up and doun
Cumis nocht throw casualtie and chance
As sum men sayis without ressoun,
Bot be the grit provisioun
Of God aboif that rewill thee sall.
Thairfoir evir thow mak thee boun
To obey and thank thy God of all.

In welth be meik, heiche not thyself,
Be glaid in wilfull povertie.
Thy power and thy warldlie pelf
Is nocht bot verry vanitie.
Remembir him that on the tre
For thy saik gustit bittir gall
Quha hyis law and lawis he.
Obey and thank thy God of all.”

Ane Prayer for the Pest

O eterne God of power infinyt
To quhois hie knawlege nathink is obscure,
That is or wes or salbe is perfyt
Into thi sicht quhill that this warld indure,
Haif mercy of us, indigent and pure.
Thow dois no wrang to punis our offens.
O lord that is to mankynd haill succure,
Preserve us fra this perrelus pestilens.

We thee beseik, O lord of lordis all,
Thy eiris inclyne and heir our grit regrait.
We ask remeid of thee in generall
That is of help and confort dissolait.
Bot thow with rewth our hairtis recreate,
We ar bot deid but only thy clemens.
We thee exort on kneis law prostrait,
Preserve us from this perrellus pestilens.

We ar rycht glaid thow punis our trespas
Be ony kynd of udir tribulatioun,
Wer it thy will, O lord of hevin, allais,
That we suld thus be haistely put doun
And de as beistis without confessioun,
That nane dar mak with udir residens.
O blissit Jesu that wore the thorny croun
Preserve us from this perrelus pestilens.

Use derth, O lord, or seiknes and hungir soir
And slak thy plaig that is so penetryfe.
The pepill ar perreist quha may remeid thairfoir.
Bot thow, O lord, that for thame lost thy lyfe.
Suppois our syne be to thee pungetyfe,
Our deid ma nathing our synnis recompens.
Haif mercy, lord, we may nocht with thee stryfe,
Preserve us fra this perrelus pestilens.

Haif mercy, lord, haif mercy, hevins king,
Haif mercy of thy pepill penitent,
Haif mercy of our petous punissing,
Retreit the sentence and thy just jugement
Aganis us synnaris that servis to be schent.
Without mercy, we may mak no defens.
Thow that but rewth upoun the rud wes rent,
Preserve us frome this perrellus pestilens.

Remembir, lord, how deir thow hes us bocht
That for us synnaris sched thy pretius blude,
Now to redeme that thow hes maid of nocht,
That is of virtew barran and denude.
Haif rewth, lord, of thyn awin similitude.
Punis with pety and nocht with violens.
We knaw it is for our ingratitude
That we are punist with this pestillens.

Thow grant us grace for till amend our mis
And till evaid this crewall suddane deid.
We knaw our sin is all the caus of this.
For opin sin thair is set no remeid.
The justice of God mon punis than be deid
For by the law he will with nane dispens.
Quhair justice laikis, thair is eternall feid
Of God that suld preserf fra pestilens.

Bot wald the heidismen that suld keip the law
Punis the peple for thair transgressioun,
Thair wald na deid the peple than ourthraw,
Bot thay ar gevin sa plenly to oppressioun
That God will nocht heir thair intercessioun,
Bot all ar punist for inobediens
Be swerd or deid withouttin remissioun,
And hes just caus to send us pestilens.

Superne lucerne, guberne this pestilens
Preserve and serve that we nocht sterf thairin,
Declyne that pyne be thy devyne prudens,
For treuth, haif reuth, lat nocht our slewth us twyn.
Our syte full tyte, wer we contryt, wald blin.
Dissivir did nevir quha euir thee besocht
But grace with space for to arrace fra sin.
Lat nocht be tint that thow sa deir hes bocht.

O prince preclair, this cair quotidiane,
We thee exort, distort it in exyle.
Bot thow remeid, this deid is bot ane trane
For to dissaif the laif and thame begyle,
Bot thow sa wyse, devyse to mend this byle,
Of this mischeif quha may releif us ocht
For wrangus win, bot thow our sin oursyle?
Lat nocht be tint that thow sa deir hes bocht.

Sen for our vice that justice mon correct,
O king most he, now pacife thy feid.
Our sin is huge, refuge we nocht suspect.
And thow be juge, dislug us of this steid.
In tyme assent or we be schent with deid,
For we repent, all tyme mispent forthocht.
Thairfoir evirmor be gloir to thy godheid.
Lat nocht be tint that thow sa deir hes bocht.

The Ressoning betwix Deth and Man

O mortall man behald, tak tent to me
Quhilk sall thi myrrour be baith day and nycht.
All erdly thing that evir tuke lyfe mon de.
Paip, empriour, king, barroun, and knycht,
Thocht thai be in thair ryell estait and hicht,
May nocht ganestand quhen I pleis schote this derte.1
Waltownis, castellis, towiris nevir so wicht
May nocht resist quhill it be at his hart.

Now quhat art thow that biddis me thus tak tent
And mak ane myrrour day and nycht of thee
Or with thi dert I suld rycht sair repent?
I trest trewly of that that thow sall le.
Quhat freik on fold sa bald dar manniss me
Or with me fecht outhir on fute or hors?
Is none so wicht, so stark, in this cuntré
Nor I sall gar him bow to me on fors.

My name at me forsuth sen that thow speirs,
Tha call me Deid, suthly I thee declair,
Calland all man and woman to thair beirs
Quhenevir I pleis, quhat tyme, quhat plais, or quhair.
Is nane sa stowt, sa fresch, nor yit sa fair,
So yung, so auld, so riche, nor yit so pure,
Quhairevir I pas, outhir be it lait or air,
Man put thaim heill on fors under my cure.

Sen it is swa that natur can so wirk
That yung and auld, riche and pur man de,
Inn my youtheid allace I wes full irk,
Culd nocht tak tent to gyd and govern me,
Ay gud to do, fra evill deidis to fle,
Trestand ay youtheid wald with me abyd,
Fulfilland evir my sensualitie,
In deidly syn and speacialy in pryd.

Thairfoir repent and remord thi conscience,
Think on thir wirdis I now upoun thee cry:
O wrechit man, O full of ignorance,
All thi plesance thow sall deir aby.
Dispone for thee and cum with me in hy,
Edderis, askis, wirmes meit to be.
Cum quhen I call, thow may me nocht deny
Thocht thow wer 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 the deid to lurk undir thi caip
I offir me with hairt rycht hummilly,
Beseikand God the devill my enemy
Na power haif my saule till assay.
Jesus, on thee with peteous voce I cry
Mercy one me to haif on Domisday.

The Thre Deid Pollis

O sinfull man into this mortall se
Quhilk is the vaill of murnyng and of cair,
With gaistly sicht behold oure heidis thre,
Oure holkit ene, oure peilit pollis bair.
As ye ar now, into this warld we wair,
Als fresche, als fair, als lusty to behald.
Quhan thow lukis on this suth examplair,
Of thyself, man, thow may be richt unbald.

For suth it is that every man mortall
Mon thole the deid and de that lyfe hes tane.2
Na erdly stait aganis deid ma prevaill.
The hour of deth and place is uncertane
Quhilk is referrit to the hie God allane.
Heirfoir haif mynd of deth, that thow mon dy.
This sair exampill to se quotidiane
Sould caus all men fra wicket vycis fle.

O wantone youth, als fresche as lusty May,
Farest of flowris renewit, quhyt and reid,
Behald our heidis, O lusty gallandis gay.
Full laithly thus sall ly thy lusty heid,
Holkit and how and wallowit as the weid.
Thy crampand hair and eik thy cristall ene
Full cairfully conclud sall dulefull deid.
Example heir be us it may be sene.

O ladeis quhyt in claithis corruscant,
Poleist with perle and mony pretius stane,
With palpis quhyt and hals so elegant,
Sirculit with gold and sapheris mony ane,
Your finyearis small, quhyt as quhailis bane,
Arrayit with ringis and mony rubeis reid,
As we ly thus so sall ye ly ilk ane
With peilit pollis and holkit thus your heid.

O wilfull pryd, the rute of all distres,
With humill hairt upoun our pollis pens.
Man, for thy mis ask mercy with meiknes.
Aganis deid na man may mak defens.
The empriour for all his excellens,
King and quene and eik all erdly stait,
Peure and riche salbe but differens,
Turnit in as and thus in erd translait.

This questioun quha can obsolve, lat see,
Quhat phisnamour or perfyt palmester:
Quha was farest or fowlest of us thre
Or quhilk of us of kin was gentillar
Or maist expert in science or in lare,
In art musik or in astronomye?
Heir still sould ly your study and repair
And think as thus all your heidis mon be.

O febill aige, ay drawand neir the dait
Of dully deid and hes thy dayis compleit,
Behald our heidis with murning and regrait,
Fall on thy kneis, ask grace at God, and greit
With orisionis and haly salmes sweit,
Beseikand him on thee to haif mercy,
And of our saulis bydand the decreit
Of his godheid, to rew and glorife.

Als we exhort that every man mortall,
For his saik that maid of nocht all thing,
For mercy cry and pray in generall
To Jesus Chryst of hevin and erd the king,
Throuch your prayar that we and ye may ring
With the hie Fader be eternitie,
The Sone alswa, the Haly Gaist conding,
Thre knit in ane be perfyt unitie.


Alone; walked; (see note)
[that] was; see
Considering what
Was; in
By chance I directed my sight to one side
written on
Of whatever rank; you; (t-note)
your; for everything; (see note)

kingdom; great
royalty; clothing; (t-note)
Shall not endure
But; pass
your fine belongings
wishes; fall away from you
Since; such examples seest each; (t-note)

most; scripture; (see note)
Tobit; charity
became poor
Both provoked by
was a disability
Obeyed; thanked

Though you; have a limp; (see note)
[are] seriously deformed
If; through; fault
should condemn you according to reason
[that] his will is thus
Kick; against; (see note)
meek heart; continually

[because] of; must; (see note)
[must] have pity
a judge mistrusted by no one; (see note)
punish; save
Though; above the rest
made captive and enslaved
poor beggar; pouch; staff

great mutability; (see note)
worldly ranks
Happens not by accident; (t-note)

according to the great foresight
above who rule
make yourself ready

meek, do not exalt
glad; willing
worldly possessions; (see note); (t-note)
nothing; utter
cross; (t-note)
tasted bitter; (t-note)
Who exalts the low; lowers [the] high

Plague; (t-note)

eternal; infinite power
whose; nothing
Whatever; shall be; complete
In your sight as long as
Have; on; poor
wrong in punishing our offense; (t-note)
complete help
from; dangerous pestilence

beseech you
ears; hear; great distress; (t-note)
aid in general from you
Who are; destitute
Unless; pity; restore
merely dead without; mercy
beg; low in humility

very glad; punish; sins; (see note)
By any; other
If it were your intention; alas
should; quickly exterminated
die like beasts
no one dare live with another
blessed; crown of thorns

famine; sickness; keen hunger
diminish; plague; piercing
killed who could cure it; (t-note)
Except you; them; life
Granted; offensive to you; (see note)
death cannot; recompense
cannot strive against you

Have; heaven’s
on your penitent people
pitiful punishment
Commute; fitting judgment
Against; sinners; deserve; destroyed
can; defense
without pity upon; cross; torn

expensively; paid for us
shed; precious blood
what; made out of nothing
barren and naked of virtue
Have mercy; on; own likeness
Punish; pity; not

respite to; wickedness
to evade; cruel; death
the complete cause for
manifest; no redress assigned
must; therefore with death
make allowance for no one
is lacking, there; feud
who should preserve

chief men; should maintain
Punish; their
There; no death; then destroy
addicted so manifestly
not hear their entreaty
are punished; disobedience
By sword; forgiveness
has; (t-note)

Highest lamp, control; (see note)
Protect; aid; not die
Reduce; torment by
loyalty; pity; sloth part us
ills very soon; would cease
Perish; whoever begged you
Without [there being] grace with [sufficient] time
Let nothing; lost; dearly

illustrious; daily trouble
beg you; avert; exile
Unless; help; merely a trap
deceive the others; trick them; (t-note)
contrive; boil; (t-note)
From; who can relieve; at all
ill-gotten gains unless; cover

As for; must; (see note)
high; soothe your anger
we do not expect protection
If; remove; from this plight
Relent in time before; ruined by death
misused time regretted
glory be to your divine power; (t-note)

Dialogue between Death; (t-note)

Death; behold, pay attention; (t-note)
Who shall; both; night
earthly; came to life must die
Pope; knight; (see note)
Though; royal state; greatness

Walled towns; ever; strong
Cannot; until

Man; what; you; commands; pay heed; (t-note)

very bitterly regret
trust indeed; do lie
What man on earth so bold; threaten
fight with me either; foot
strong; powerful
That; not make; perforce

from; indeed since you ask
They; Death, truly
Calling; their biers
Whenever; please, place; where
none so strong; brisk; yet
young; old; poor
Wherever; go; whether; early
Must; themselves wholly; rule

Since; thus; work
must die
In; youth alas; stubborn
Could not; heed; myself
Always good; from; deeds; flee
Trusting always; would; stay; (t-note)
Indulging always
mortal; especially

examine your; (see note)
about these words
your pleasure; shall pay dearly for
Arrange; yourself; come; haste
Snakes’, newts’, worms’ food
when; cannot refuse me
Though; pope; all three

Since; so [that] from; escape
wretched; here; renounce
death; your cloak; (t-note)
myself; heart; very humbly
Beseeching; [that] the devil
Have no power; soul; attack
to you; pitiful voice
on me to have; Doomsday; (t-note)

Three Dead Skulls

in this earthly realm
Which; vale; sorrow; woe
fearful eyes; three heads
hollowed eyes; skinned; bare; (see note)
you are, in; world were we
As lively; attractive; see
When; looks; true example
For; very apprehensive

true; mortal man
No earthly; against; can win
Which; entrusted; high; alone
Thus have; must die; (see note)
painful; see each day
Should; from wicked; to flee

lascivious; lively; pleasant; (see note)
flowers fresh grown, white
Behold; heads; lusty, merry young men
Just as hideously shall lie
Eyeless; hollow; faded; weed
curly; also; crystal eyes
Very sadly woeful death shall bring to an end
here in us; seen; (t-note)

ladies white; glittering clothes
Shining; pearls; precious stone
breasts; throat; (t-note)
Encircled; sapphires many
slender fingers; whalebone
Arrayed; red rubies
lie; shall; each one
flayed skulls; hollowed

source; distress; (t-note)
humble heart about; meditate
wrongs; meekness
Against death; withstand

also every earthly rank
Poor; shall be without distinction
Turned into ash; transformed into earth

who; answer; may he adjudge
What face-reader; palmist
Who; prettiest; ugliest
which; of more noble a family
most; knowledge; learning; (t-note)
musical art
Here always; lie; destination; (t-note)
like this; heads must be

age, always approaching; date; (t-note)
dismal death; has; finished
mercy; from; weep; (t-note)
prayers; holy, sweet psalms
souls awaiting judgment; (t-note)
divine power; pity; exalt; (t-note)

sake who made everything from nothing
Cry for mercy; (t-note)
the king of heaven and earth
Through; reign
high; for eternity
son also; Holy Spirit of equal rank
Three; one by; (t-note)


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