Back to top

The Answer Quhilk Schir David Lindesay Maid to the Kingis Flyting

The Answer Quhilk Schir David Lindesay Maid to the Kingis Flyting: FOOTNOTES

1 Formidable king, I have read your lengthy discourse

2 The powerful Devil may not withstand your composition

3 And do not waste it unless you are certain you know exactly where you are [i.e., whom you are with]

4 For many a one hastens their own death knell

5 Such substance (i.e., semen) cannot be bought again afterwards (see note)

6 Lines 45–46: Suffering you to run shooting from target to target, / Wasting your body, letting time overrun

7 Drenched with dregs, whimpering with many squeals

8 Lines 65–66: And even if I could, I would not be worthy of praise / if I were to compose [lines] against your ornate verse

The Answer Quhilk Schir David Lindesay Maid to the Kingis Flyting: EXPLANATORY NOTES

ABBREVIATIONS: Acts of Council (Public Affairs): Acts of the Lords of Council in Public Affairs; AND: Anglo-Norman Dictionary; Cal. State Papers (Venice): Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts relating to English Affairs; CT: Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; EETS: Early English Text Society; ER: The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland; Hadley Williams: Lyndsay, Sir David Lyndsay: Selected Poems, ed. Hadley Williams; Hamer: Lyndsay, The Works of Sir David Lindsay, ed. Hamer; LP Henry VIII: Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII; MdnE: Modern English; ME: Middle English; MED: Middle English Dictionary; NIMEV: New Index of Middle English Verse; NLS: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland; ODNB: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; OE: Old English; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; Poems: Dunbar, Poems of William Dunbar, ed. Bawcutt; Reg. Mag. Sig.: Registrum Magni Sigilii Regum Scotorum (Register of the Great Seal of Scotland); Reg. Sec. Sig.: Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum (Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland); SP Henry VIII: State Papers Published under the Authority of His Majesty’s Commission: King Henry VIII; STC: A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland and Ireland and English Books Printed Abroad 1473–1640, ed. Pollard and Redgrave; STS: Scottish Text Society; TA: Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, ed. Dickson and Paul; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Sayings from English Writings Before 1500; Wing: Wing, Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland and Ireland, Wales and British America and of English Books Printed in Other Countries 1641–1700.

3 flyting. See the Answer Introduction for a discussion of this term.

7 Venus court. In medieval and early modern writings Venus, the Roman goddess of love, was used metaphorically to represent human sexuality, sensuality, and love, while in astrological terms, the planet Venus was understood to govern heat and moisture, the qualities associated with sexual desire (see Tinkle, Medieval Venuses and Cupids, pp. 1–8 and 144–46). The court of Venus was thus, as the narrator of Gavin Douglas’ Palis of Honoure describes it, “the court so variabill / Of erdly luf” (“the changeable court of earthly love”; ed. Parkinson, lines 484–85) and was peopled by those whose love was pure and noble as well as those consumed by lust. It is here that James I, as the imprisoned narrator of the earlier fifteenth-century Kingis Quair, imagines bringing his petition to Venus after he has fallen in love with the lady in the garden (ed. Mooney and Arn, lines 530 ff.) This honorable version of the court of Venus is what Lyndsay has in mind in a later poem when, after the tragic death of James V’s first queen — the French princess Madeleine de Valois — only a few months into their marriage, he imagines the royal pair reunited there: there:

O Venus, with thy blynd sone, Cupido,
Fy on yow baith, that maid no resistance!
In to your court ye never had sic two,                                                                              such
So leill luffaris, without dissimulance,                                                                 loyal lovers
As James the Fift and Magdalene of France.
(“The Deploratioun of the Deith of Quene Magdalene,” ed. Hadley Williams, lines 36–40)
Venus’ court governed not only ennobling earthly love, however, but everything down to prosaic lust, and this latter end of the scale is clearly what Lyndsay intends in the present line: the phrase “Venus werkis,” used at lines 26 and 30, was more often a euphemism for sexual activity (see DOST Venus (n.) sense 2). Lyndsay is here lamenting that his reputation has been so badly damaged by James’ skillful insults that he has been utterly rejected by the court ladies.

8 your libellis lukis. Hamer and Hadley Williams emend to on your libellis lukis, or “look upon your letters” (Hadley Williams on metrical grounds), but none of the early modern prints emend this line (see for example Charteris’ re-issued prints of 1569, 1582, and 1592, or Bassandyne of 1574), and DOST records a well-established transitive sense of the verb (with no preposition) meaning to “view, inspect, examine, consult” (see luke (v.), sense 6).

10 beir cumpanie to the cukis. Kitchens would normally be staffed entirely by men and boys, thus a good place to exile oneself from female company, and they were hot, dark, noisy, smelly, and messy, lending themselves to comparisons with hell (see Henisch, Medieval Cook, pp. 9–15). In the late-medieval Chester Mystery Cycle, the play of the Harrowing of Hell is given to the Cooks’ guild (ed. Lumiansky and Mills, play 17 “The Cookes Playe,” 1:325). The temptation to relate this association of Lyndsay with the cooks to the idea of “roasting” or ridiculing someone is quelled by the fact that the OED offers no instances of such a usage until 1710 (see roast (v.), sense 5b) and the sense is not recorded at all by DOST (rost (v.)), MED (rosten (v.)), nor by the AND for Anglo-Norman rostir.

20 cor mundum crea in me. From Psalm 50, in which David repents quando intravit ad Bethsabee (“after he had sinned with Bathsheba,” 50:2): Cor mundum crea in me, Deus, et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis (“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within my bowels,” 50:12). This penitential psalm was a central text in the devotional catechesis of the late Middle Ages, translated several times into Middle English. See Sutherland, English Psalms in the Middle Ages, pp. 35–43. Hadley Williams notes that the cor mundum formula also occurs in the famous Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie, in which Kennedy sneers “I sall ger crop thy tong [I’ll have the tip of your tongue cut off] / And thou sall cry cor mundum on thy kneis” (Poems, 1:213, lines 393–94). Confirming its place in literary flyting tradition, it appears again in Montgomerie’s later sixteenth-century flyting with Polwart: “cor mundum þow cryd, / Condempnit to be dryd and hung vp fra hand” (Invectives 1, lines 11–12 [Alexander Montgomerie: Poems, 1:141]). See Bawcutt, “The Art of Flyting,” p. 10. See the Answer Introduction on how Lyndsay inverts this trope.

21 prince of poetry. Hadley Williams notes that this epithet is more often associated with Virgil, as it is in Lyndsay’s later Dialog betwix Experience and ane Courteour: “Famous Virgill, the prince of poetrie” (line 571). Gavin Douglas, in translating the Aeneid, worries (with slightly unconvincing modesty) that he “dyd perchance pervert / Thys maist renownyt prynce of poetry” (Eneados, ed. Coldwell, 3:171, Prol. 9, lines 74–75).

26, 30 Venus werkis. See note to line 7 above.

28 draw at laiser with your feiris. DOST’s sense II.10 for draw (v.) is “put in writing, compose,” which conjures up a delightful — but probably mistaken — notion of Lyndsay imagining literary soirées presided over by a sober middle-aged James V. The general sense is certainly that James’ wild days will soon be over, but the specific sense of “draw” may be one recorded by the OED from the sixteenth century onwards (draw (v.), sense 2b), a figurative sense of pulling together like draught beasts, thus “to be in like case with.” Compare Shakespeare’s Othello 4.1.66, “Think every bearded fellow that’s but yok’d, / May draw with you.” Lines 27–28 might thus be translated: “The day will come, and that within a few years, / that you will find yourself at leisure, in the same boat as your [less vigorous] peers.” Compare also Chaucer’s sketch of the rueful horse Bayard in Troilus and Criseyde: “Yet am I but an hors, and horses lawe / I moot endure, and with my feres drawe” (1.223–24).

31 artailyeit. This means “furnished with artillery” (see DOST artailȝeit, ppl. adj.). The term “artillery” relates primarily to projectiles and the weapons that discharge them — spears, bows and arrows, guns, and siege-engines. In medieval and early modern allegories of love and seduction, imagery of hunting and battle is common, whether the bows and arrows of a predatory Cupid or Venus, a lover “jousting” (see note to line 67 below) or shooting at targets (see note to line 37 below), or a siege of the beloved’s castle. In Dunbar’s Goldyn Targe — a poem which Lyndsay certainly knew since he cites it by name in his Testament of the Papyngo (line 18) — Venus’ female archers fire arrows at the narrator, himself cowering beneath the shield or “targe” of Reason, “quhill wastit was thair artilye” (until their artillery was exhausted, Poems, 1:189, line 179). Spearing has observed of this line that the word “artilye” “may also suggest the feminine artfulness allegorized by Venus’ weapons” (Medieval Poet as Voyeur, p. 243): Lyndsay’s assertion that he was once better “artailyeit” may exploit a similar pun on artillery and “art,” i.e., the arts of love and poetry, since the latter art is explicitly addressed in literary flytings and often — as here — confounded with the former.

The most influential representation of love as a siege is in the thirteenth-century French Romance of the Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, where Jealousy imprisons the sought-after Rose in her castle along with Fair Welcoming, who had unwisely allowed the Lover to kiss the Rose. At first all seems lost, but Venus, enraged, fires a burning brand through a suggestively narrow aperture situated at the front of the castle, between two fair pillars, and sets the whole castle aflame, freeing Fair Welcoming who in turn allows the Lover to “pluck” the Rose (Romance of the Rose, trans. Dahlberg, pp. 347–54 [lines 21251 ff.]). Lyndsay’s double-entendres are subtle by comparison.

33 mouth thankles. The depiction of a woman’s vagina as a greedy “mouth” was a well-established convention. See Whiting M763 and the entries for “mouth” in Whiting, “Proverbs . . . Scottish Writings Before 1600,” and Williams, Dictionary of Sexual Language. In the fifteenth-century Older Scots fabliau The Freiris of Berwik, an unfaithful wife prepares herself for her lover’s visit thus:
Scho pullit hir cunt and gaif hit buffetis tway                                                 gave; two slaps
Upoun the cheikis, syne till it cowd scho say,                               cheeks; then to it she said
“Ye sowld be blyth and glaid at my requeist:
Thir mullis of youris ar callit to ane feist.                                                     These lips; feast
(Ten Bourdes, ed. Furrow, lines 139–42)
Lyndsay’s use of the specific phrase “mouth thankles” (ungrateful mouth) may have been directly inspired by Walter Kennedy’s brief poem from the first decade of the sixteenth century, “Ane aigit man twyss fourty ȝeiris” (Poems of Walter Kennedy, ed. Meier, pp. 2–5; this poem is in fact the only citation for Whiting’s M763). In it, a bitter and decrepit friar regrets “That evir I serwit mowth thankles!” since the ungrateful women will not even look at him now. Variations of this line form the refrain for all six stanzas. Kennedy is little known now but was one of the Scottish poets praised in Lyndsay’s Testament of the Papyngo: “quho can, now, the workis cuntrafait / Of Kennedie, with termes aureait?” (lines 15–16). Kennedy was also, of course, Dunbar’s opponent in the famous Flyting (see the Answer Introduction). The longevity of Kennedy’s poem is demonstrated by the fact that it survives in two later sixteenth-century manuscripts, the Bannatyne MS of c. 1568 (NLS Advocates MS 1.1.6) and the Maitland Folio of c. 1570–86 (Cambridge, Magdalene College, MS Pepys 2553) — manuscripts which also contain copies of the Freiris of Berwik. Kennedy’s poem is the earliest citation given by DOST for mouth (n.), sense 5: “To serve, persew or mell with, mouth thankles, to go whoring.” On the vagina dentata trope more generally, see Miller, "Monstrous Sexuality."

34 your fyne powder spair. I.e., “don’t waste your gunpowder.” DOST records only this line for the figurative sense of (gun) powder as “semen” (pouder (n.), sense 4) and MED and OED do not record it at all. On martial imagery in relation to love and sex, see note to line 31 above.

37 Schutand your bolt at mony sindrie schellis. Literally, “shooting your bolt at many different targets,” but the expression is used elsewhere as a euphemism for sex. See DOST s(c)hell (n.), sense 2. The OED indicates that both the figurative sense of a “target” (from its resemblance to a seashell) and the transferred sense of “vagina” are early Modern Scottish usages. The expression recurs at line 45. See the notes to line 31 above on martial imagery associated with love and sex, and to lines 40–42 below on the apparent physical consequences of this behavior. On James’ numerous mistresses and illegitimate children, see the Answer Introduction and note to line 57 below.

In The Complaynt, when Lyndsay writes of the period during the earl of Angus’ ascendency when he was effectively exiled from court (see the Answer Introduction) he imagines a series of sycophantic courtiers tempting the teenaged king with a girl at every royal palace: “ane of the lusteast wantoun lassis” (line 239) in Fife (presumably Falkland Palace), another “lusty las” in Linlithgow (line 244), a “dayis derlyng” (line 248) in Stirling, and finally an offer to visit the “hie boirdall” (line 250), i.e., “great brothel.” Hadley Williams speculates the last might be a reference to Edinburgh (p. 233n250). The number of illegitimate children fathered by James in his youth — at least eight of high birth, with the eldest born when James was just seventeen — suggests this picture is not entirely inaccurate. See Thomas, Princelie Majestie, pp. 41–43, and ODNB, “James V, mistresses and children of.”

39 dowbling of the bellis. Bells were rung to strike the hours and mark the passing of time, to summon people to worship, or to give other kinds of public notice, all of which are relevant here, although the primary sense must be that James’ youth is nearly spent, and Lyndsay is pushing him to think of the serious matters of marriage and the royal succession.

40-42 For many . . . . sic stufe to by. These lines seem to imply that wild promiscuity could hasten a man’s death (“haist thair awin saule knellis”), or cause him to run out of semen (“the well gois dry”) so that, when he needs it — in this case, when James needs to father a legitimate heir — he may find there is no more to be had (“Syne can nocht get again sic stufe to by,” i.e., such “stuff” cannot be got again, even for money). The sentiments and imagery are remarkably similar to those found in an obscure poem “My hart is quhyt” — i.e., “My heart is released” — in the Bannatyne manuscript of c. 1568 (the poem’s actual date of composition is unknown). In it, the aged male narrator explains that he is finished with women and suggests that his addressee, “my Io” (Jo) would do well to heed his example. He says the man is “vnnaturall” who “hes but small / stufe corporall / Syne schutis at þat schell” (i.e., who has little bodily “stuff” but nevertheless engages in sex), because when he has expended everything — from his “principall” (i.e., main capital, presumably his ability to reproduce) and “materiall” to his very “natur” (desire, potency or actual semen — see below) — “Than be the wall / he lyis our thrall / gar bring him the hand bell.” To “lie at the wall” is to succumb in conflict (see DOST wal(l (n.), sense 5d); the hand-bell was used in towns to announce deaths, among other things. He concludes: “the suth Is [s]o / quhen dry my Io / of natur growis the well / To seik our all na stufe thow sall / ffor no gold get to sell” (It’s the truth: when the well runs dry of semen, my Jo, you won’t find any such stuff for sale for any gold! [see DOST natur(e (n.), sense 3c and sel(l (v.), sense 5]). See The Bannatyne Manuscript, ed. Ritchie, 4:19, lines 29–31. The general notion that excess promiscuity can lead to impotence also underpins the complaint of one of Dunbar’s married women in Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo that her husband “has bene lychour so lang quhill lost is his natur” (“has been a lecher for so long, his potency is lost”; Poems, 1:45, line 174).

43-44 your counsale . . . . That wald nocht of ane princes yow provide. On the lengthy process of finding a bride for James, see the Answer Introduction. It is not clear whether Lyndsay is serious in this criticism of James’ advisers, or if it is a way of avoiding any direct criticism of a wayward king. If it is a genuine objection, it may be a general one to the drawn-out marriage negotiations on James’ behalf, or a more particular concern that they had not yet succeeded in contracting marriage with a French princess. Matters were evidently not helped by James, who continued to father illegitimate children on the noblewomen of his own realm. See note to lines 37, 57, and 68–69.

45-46 Tholand yow rin . . . . the tyme overslyde. See note to lines 40–42 above.

49 Ay fukkand lyke ane furious furnicatour. “Forever fucking like a furious fornicator.” It is worth observing that the earliest examples of fuck recorded by the OED are in Older Scots works — Dunbar’s “In secreit place” (“he wald have fukkit,” Poems, 1:106, line 13) and this line from Lyndsay, to which may be added another example from Lyndsay’s Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis supplied by DOST, and the splendid participial adjective wanfukkit, literally “misfucked” from Kennedy’s part of the Flyting with Dunbar (Poems, 1:201, line 38). This is almost certainly because Older Scots writers were just more willing to write the word than their English counterparts. Conlee notes that there may be an earlier occurrence in a collection of proverbs and sayings contained in the English fifteenth-century manuscript National Library of Wales, Peniarth 356B, fol. 149v, in which angry women swear “That thay owyles fuc ne men” (“that they fuck neither owls nor men”); owls were often used to represent extreme ugliness or evil (see MED oule (n.), sense 2b). See note to line 13 of “In a Secret Place” (Dunbar: The Complete Works, ed. Conlee, p. 367).

Although Charteris’ 1568 edition clearly reads fukkand, his 1582 edition reads sukkand, as does Bassandyne, while Charteris’ 1592 print reads tukkand. Charteris reinstated fukkand only in his 1597 prints. Laing, similarly anxious to avoid the offending word on behalf of his Victorian readers, prints lukkand. Chalmers had printed the original fukkand without comment.

51 caribaldis. The term “car(r)ybald” occurs twice in Dunbar (in the Flyting with Kennedy [Poems, 1:206, line 184], and The tua mariit wemen and the wedo, [1:43, line 94]), in both cases describing men. Andrew Breeze suggests an origin in the Gaelic term carbad (“hard palate, jaw, gums”), and he points to Modern Irish derivatives carbadán (“toothless person”) and carbóg (“woman with large gums and gap teeth”). See Breeze, “Dunbar’s Brylyoun, Carrybald, Cawanderis, Slawsy, Strekouris, and Traikit,” p. 126, with Irish terms taken from Dinneen, Foclóir Gaedhilge agus Béarla. Although Breeze does not mention Lyndsay’s use of the term, the gap-toothed element is reminiscent of Chaucer’s description of the Wife of Bath as “gat-tothed,” carrying suggestions of boldness, receptiveness, and irreverence (CT I[A]468 and note): such a feature would be quite appropriate for James’ casual lovers. Such a derivation remains speculative, however. Hamer had glossed “caribald” as “cannibal” without explanation, but MacKenzie, discussing the use of “carrybald” in Dunbar and Kennedy’s Flyting, relates it to “‘Caribal,’ a native of the ‘Carib’ or Carribee Islands, a people reputed by their discoverers — the Spaniards — to eat human flesh, hence=monster” (Poems of William Dunbar, ed. MacKenzie, p. 199). This connection to “cannibal” had appeared in the first edition of DOST and seems to be the root of this and other glosses such as “monster” (e.g., by Hadley Williams). However, the OED lists no citation for caribal (n.) earlier than the nineteenth century and the most recent edition of DOST now describes caribald as “an abusive term of doubtful origin and meaning,” adding a little shamefacedly that “the suggestion that it is an early variant of cannibal is not clearly supported by the evidence.”
corinoch. This term likewise has a Gaelic origin in corranach, “outcry” (see DOST corenoch (n.)).

52-56 masking fat. A masking fat or mask-fat is a vat in which the malt is mashed in the process of brewing ale and beer, one of the few businesses in which women played a significant role in medieval and early modern Scotland (see Spence, Women, Credit and Debt in Early Modern Scotland, pp. 102–27, and Ewan, “‘For Whatever Ales Ye’”). The “draf” and “juggis” are the sodden grains of malt and the dregs left over from brewing. James is cavorting in the brew-house with the ale-wives and wenches. The vat itself might suggest a well-used vagina (or not); see John Heywood’s play, Johan Johan, where the husband is stuck with filling a leaky pail while the priest enjoys the real thing.

54 fuffilling of hir roistit hoch. The “hoch” is the hough or the back of the thigh. The woman is either bending over, or on her back with her legs in the air. The general sense of what is being described is clear, but “fuffilling” and “roistit” are less so. Hadley Williams (and Hamer in his Glossary, 4:395) relate “roistit” to early modern English roist (compare OED roist (v.), meaning “delight or revel in”) and roister (“to behave uproariously”). Although roist is not recorded as transitive verb and thus does not seem to lend itself to forming a participial adjective roistit, this derivation is plausibly supported by her suggestion that “fuffilling” may be an error for “ruffilling,” because “ruffle” can be found paired with “roist” and its derivatives elsewhere, for example in Arthur Dent’s 1601 Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven: “Many profane serving men also do falsely suppose that they were born only to game, riot, swear, whore, ruffle it, and roist it out, and to spend their time in mere idleness” (Dent, p. 138).

Without emendation, the OED offers only two citations for the verb fuffle, meaning “to jerk about, hustle” (this line, and another doubtful occurrence of 1635) although a related verb curfuffle occurs in Scots writer Robert Sempill’s works of 1583, and the more widespread colloquial modern noun kerfuffle derives from this. If the present example is a copying error, this might at least explain how it came about. For roistit, DOST offers a figurative sense of rostit — i.e., modern “roasted” — as “Overheated (by sexual intercourse),” sense 2c) Given the medieval and early modern association of male sexual potency with heat, this notion of “roasting” the woman would make sense, but this line is the only citation. On the importance of heat and moisture for sexual performance and fertility, see for example the discussion in Constantine the African’s brief treatise De coitu (“On Sexual Intercourse”) in Medieval Medicine, ed. Wallis, pp. 511–23.

57 the lady that luffit yow best. This coy reference is probably to James’ favorite mistress Margaret Erskine, daughter of John, fifth Lord Erskine and captain of Stirling Castle. She was already the wife of Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven by the time of their liaison (she had married him in 1527. See Lee, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, p. 17). In 1531 Margaret bore James a son, James Stewart, his second illegitimate son to be so named (the first was by Elizabeth Shaw in 1529, when the king himself was only seventeen). Despite a number of different mistresses and further illegitimate children after the birth of the second James Stewart, Margaret apparently remained his favorite, and in 1536 James seems to have interrupted advanced marriage negotiations for the hand of Marie Bourbon of Vendôme (on which see the Answer Introduction) to try to arrange a divorce for Margaret so he could marry her instead. As Lord Howard wrote to King Henry VIII on 25 April 1536:
Syr, I here, bothe by the Qwens Grace your susster, and dyvers other, that the maryage ys brokyn bytwyxt the Kynges Grace your nephewe and Monsr de Vaindom, and that He wyll marye a gentyllwoman in Scottland, the Lord of Arskynes douhter, who was with Your Grace the last somer at Thornbery; by whom He hath had a chyld, havyng a hosband; and Hys Grace hathe found the means to devorse them. And ther ys grett lamentation made for yt yn thys contre, as farr as men dare.
(“Correspondence relative to Scotland and the Borders,” SP Henry VIII, 5.4:41, no. 290).
63 gut . . . grandgore. Gout (“gut”) was conflated with venereal disease (“grandgore”) or used as a euphemism for it in the medieval and early modern periods: see “gout” in Williams, Dictionary of Sexual Language. “Grand gore” is syphilis: the term “grandgore” first appears in Scottish records from the 1490s and was clearly considered to be a new kind of epidemic at the time, although it is now thought to have been present in the population before this. By 1497, the burgh council of Aberdeen was vainly trying to halt its spread by banning prostitution, while Edinburgh’s burgh council ordered all infected persons to present themselves to the harbor of Leith for shipment to the island of Inchkeith, there to remain unless they recovered (with what degree of compliance is unclear). See Oram, “Disease, Death and the Hereafter,” p. 214.

Hadley Williams suggests that the 1568 print reads gtandgore (corrected in later editions) but the cleaner Winchester College copy of the 1568 Warkis clearly reads grandgore. The 1592 Warkis spells it grangoir.

67 lawbouring of your lance. The scarcely veiled innuendo of “working your lance” was a long-lived euphemism for sex; in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman romance of Ipomédon by Hue de Rotelande, the narrator remarks that love’s main delight is le juster enz el lit “jousting in bed” (ed. Holden, line 4314). See note to line 31 above on martial imagery in relation to love and sex more generally.

68-69 ane bukler furth of France. The“shield out of France” who might withstand James’ “dintis” (blows) is a reference to the expectation that James would take a French bride, and probably dates this poem to 1535–35; see the Answer Introduction. The vagueness of Lyndsay’s reference here, preceded with the circumspect “sum sayis,” suggests that the poem was written when it was not certain which, if any, potential French bride James would win (and see note to line 57 above for another potential spanner in the marriage works).
















Redoutit roy, your ragment I have red,1
Quhilk dois perturb my dull intendement:
From your flyting, wald God that I wer fred,
Or ellis sum tygerris toung wer to me lent.
Schir, pardone me thocht I be impacient,
Quhilk bene so with your prunyeand pen detractit,
And rude report, from Venus court dejectit.

Lustie ladyis, that your libellis lukis
My cumpanie dois hald abhominable,
Commandand me beir cumpanie to the cukis;
Moist lyke ane devill, thay hald me detestable.
Thay banis me, sayand I am nocht able
Thame to compleis, or preis to thare presence.
Apon your pen I cry ane loud vengeance!

Wer I ane poeit, I suld preis with my pen
To wreik me on your vennemous wryting.
Bot I man do as dog dois in his den —
Fald baith my feit, or fle fast frome your flyting.
The mekle devil may nocht indure your dyting.2
Quharefor cor mundum crea in me I cry,
Proclamand yow the prince of poetry.

Schir, with my prince pertenit me nocht to pley.
Bot sen your grace hes gevin me sic command
To mak answer, it must neidis me obey.
Thocht ye be now strang lyke ane elephand,
And in till Venus werkis maist vailyeand,
The day wyll cum, and that within few yeiris,
That ye wyll draw at laiser with your feiris.

Quhat can ye say forther, bot I am failyeit
In Venus werkis, I grant schir, that is trew;
The tyme hes bene, I wes better artailyeit
Nor I am now, bot yit full sair I rew
That ever I did mouth thankles so persew.
Quharefor tak tent and your fyne powder spair,
And waist it nocht bot gyf ye wit weill quhair.3

Thocht ye rin rudelie, lyke ane restles ram,
Schutand your bolt at mony sindrie schellis,
Beleif richt weill, it is ane bydand gam.
Quharefore bewar with dowbling of the bellis,
For many ane dois haist thair awin saule knellis,4
And speciallie quhen that the well gois dry,
Syne can nocht get agane sic stufe to by.5

I give your counsale to the feynd of hell
That wald nocht of ane princes yow provide,
Tholand yow rin schutand frome schell to schell,
Waistand your corps, lettand the tyme overslyde.6
For lyke ane boisteous bull ye rin and ryde
Royatouslie, lyke ane rude rubeatour,
Ay fukkand lyke ane furious fornicatour.

On ladronis for to loip ye wyll nocht lat,
Howbeit the caribaldis cry the corinoch.
Remember how, besyde the masking fat,
Ye caist ane quene overthort ane stinking troch?
That feynd, with fuffilling of hir roistit hoch,
Caist doun the fat, quharthrow drink, draf and juggis
Come rudely rinnand doun about your luggis.

Wald God the lady that luffit yow best
Had sene yow thair ly swetterand lyke twa swyne!
Bot to indyte how that duddroun wes drest —
Drowkit with dreggis, quhimperand with mony quhryne —7
That proces to report, it wer ane pyne.
On your behalf, I thank God tymes ten score
That yow preservit from gut and frome grandgore.

Now schir, fairwell, because I can nocht flyte,
And thocht I could, I wer nocht tyll avance
Aganis your ornate meter to indyte.8

Bot yit, be war with lawbouring of your lance:
Sum sayis thar cummis ane bukler furth of France,
Quhilk wyll indure your dintis, thocht thay be dour.
Fairweill, of flowand rethorik the flour!

Quod Lindesay in his flyting
Aganis the Kingis dyting.

Which; understanding
would God; rescued; 
(see note)

if (though)
Who; piercing; disparaged
harsh; cast out; 
(see note)

Lovely; letters consult; (see note)

keep company with cooks; 
(see note)
satisfy; advance

avenge myself; venemous
Fold both

(see note)
(see note)

it is not for me
I must
Although; strong
(see note)

(see note)

except that; impaired [by age]
(see note)
armed; (see note)
Than; I greatly regret
(see note)
heed; (see note)

Although you run about wildly
Shooting; various targets; 
(see note)
Believe you me; waiting game
So beware; 
(see note)

spring dries up
(see note)

Council; fiend
(see note)

(see note)
violent; run
Wildly; rough scoundrel
(see note)

common women; leap; cease
Although; (see note)
mashing vat
cast a wench across; trough
fiend; (see note)
vat, so that; grains; dregs
gushing; ears; 
(see note)

Would God; loved; (see note)
wallowing; swine
tell; slut

Those events; would be an effort

gout; syphilis; 
(see note)

even if; to be praised
verse; compose

working your lance; 
(see note)
shield out of
Which; strokes; hard; 
(see note)
flowing eloquence; flower (i.e., the best)

Go To Introduction to the Squyer Meldrum Poems