Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland
Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland: FOOTNOTES
1 Here begins the complaint of the lord Dauphin of France for the death of his wife, the said Margaret
2 Who regularly rotates the spherical heavenly realms
3 Whom distressing Death has taken to his dwelling
4 Lines 14–15: And bathe my heart that suffers in endless woe, / [one] that does not shrink back before the severity and contempt of Death
5 I who, without a doubt, daily die on account of distress
6 Lines 27–28: And help to mourn this sorrow on behalf of my lady, / And [for the] sorrowful Fate, which has banished from France
7 Which Death has stolen, without pity or repentance
8 And [which with] all the freshness of their fair forms
9 Make all the people that formerly were true in love
10 [Rubric]: But notwithstanding there are eighteen more stanzas of this complaint and as many of Reason’s answer, this may suffice for the complaint is but a fictional (or deceitful) thing. But because the other part, which is Reason’s answer, is the very truthfulness, it is good to put more of it, which follows hereafter. (see note)
11 Lines 63–66: Why do you rave, reasonable man, / [you who are] superior in form as gold is to lead, / of wit and wisdom, counsel and reason, / [compared to] bestial nature? This is no fictitious statement
12 Lines 87–90: As to [our] inheritance, [we are] only pilgrims or guests; / we are made altogether of the lowest slime of the earth, / and in order to achieve pardon [and] bring the soul to rest / after this life, of necessity we must die
13 Mankind does not gain heaven by dancing, singing, and playing
14 (Earthly) pleasure is fleeting, (heavenly) joy is everlasting
15 Lines 153–54: Wicked people are victorious, [and then] with utter ruin pass away; / Good men are brought to destruction, wicked people are well known
16 Lines 158–60: Those who have the most goods have here simply a name [i.e. reputation] / and deceive themselves so that they do not prepare / to make a way for themselves towards their longest home [i.e. heaven]
17 She showed well that she was [like (i.e., superior to)] no [lady] of high nobility
18 Happy would be the man that could come to the same good fortune
19 Here ends the consolation of reason to the complainer
Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland: EXPLANATORY NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: B: Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 7397, fols. 229ra–30va; BKA: Hay, Buik of King Alexander the Conqueror, ed. Cartwright; Complainte: “Complainte pour la Mort de Madame Marguerite d’Escosse, Daulphine de Viennoys,” ed. Thiry, trans. Graham-Goering; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; F: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Fairfax 8, fols. 188ra–89va; Henryson: Henryson, Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. Fox; LP: Liber Pluscardensis, ed. Skene; MED: Middle English Dictionary; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; Poems: Dunbar, Poems of William Dunbar, ed. Bawcutt.
Incipit In chapter 7 of the Liber Pluscardensis, the Scottish chronicler reports Margaret’s death. He then introduces the Scots adaptation of the French Complainte which follows in chapter 8: Cujus epithapium sequitur consequenter hic, quod super ejus tumbam positum fuit post mortem in lingua Gallicana; modo hic in lingua Scoticana translata, ad præceptum inclitæ memoriæ regis Jacobi secundi, fratris ejusdem dominæ (“Here follows her epitaph, which was placed upon her tomb after her death, in the French tongue; only it is here translated into the Scottish tongue, by command of that lady’s brother, King James II, of famous memory,” LP, 1:382; 2:288). The incipit comes immediately after.
1-3 Thee myti Makar . . . . be mocioune circuler. The Scots poet here expands upon the opening line of the original French: Dieu qui tant estes à priser (“God, you who are to be so esteemed,” Complainte, line 1).
2 hevinly regions round. Compare Henryson’s Orpheus which refers similarly to the “rollyng of the speris [spheres] round” (Henryson, p. 139, line 222).
6 Baith of salt sey, of burne, well and revere. The French poet states, Faictes aux nues espuiser / Toutes les mers pour plourer lermes / Avecques mes yeulx (“Make the clouds empty / all the seas so as to cry tears / alongside my eyes,” Complainte, lines 2–4). The Scots poet expands to include additional features of a notably Scottish landscape.
10 dulfull Deed. The adjective dulfull frequently appears with the alliterating noun deed in Older Scots literature. Compare, for instance, 20.256 of Barbour’s Bruce (ed. McDiarmid and Stevenson): “dulfull dede approchit fast” and line 17 of Dunbar’s poem on the death of Bernard Stewart (“Illuster Lodouick, of France most cristin king”): “O duilfull death” (Poems, 1:100). The French Complainte has a more expansive description of Death and its actions: Quant la mort par ses crueulx termes, / Plus murtris que coups de gisermes, / A esvanouy de noz yeulx / La plus du monde soubz les cieulx (“When by its cruel dictates Death / more grievous than the blow of guisarmes [pole weapons], / made vanish from our eyes / the greatest woman of the earth under heaven,” Complainte, lines 7–10).
11-12 Fill burnis, wellis . . . . valeis of montayns. The second stanza of the French Complainte refers to the weeping of Lacz (lakes), Fleuves (rivers), montaignes (mountains), plains (plains), a Deluge (flood), Riviere (river) and Fontaine (fountain) (lines 12–14, 17–19). As in stanza 1, the Scots poet here Scotticizes the natural landscape.
13 cloudis of sorow, of angger and distres. Compare The Lufaris Complaynt in which the poet — complaining against Love — states that “The blak, cloudy thochtis of dispaire / Ar enterit In myn hert, cald and wod” (lines 22–23).
14 payns. This verb, meaning “to suffer pain or grief,” describes the action of the poet’s heart. In the original French, the poet requests Baignés mon cueur (“Bathe my heart,” Complainte, line 15).
18-20 In quhome regnyt . . . . dreid I dee. Margaret is not described as the flower of nobility at this point in the original French, nor does the speaker of the Complainte refer to his own figurative death. The concluding comment (“for diseis dayly but dreid I dee”) might be compared to the grief of Alexander the Great’s people upon his death in Sir Gilbert Hay’s Buik of King Alexander the Conqueror. They cry out: “Our lyife salbe bot deing evirie day” (BKA, 3.18595).
21-30 Ger all the . . . . reuth or rapentance. Although relatively close to the original French Complainte the Scots poet doubles the reference to the winds and birds in this stanza and makes unique reference to their singing on account of love. Birds similarly sing of love in James I’s Kingis Quair (ed. Norton-Smith, lines 225–38).
28 wary Weird. This is simply mort in the original French (line 27). “Weird” or Fate is referred to again at line 172.
30 Quhilk Deed has reft, but reuth or rapentance. This final line is a loose adaptation of the French: Encontre la mort ne peut rien (“Nothing can be done against Death,” Complainte, line 30).
31-50 God of nature . . . . leife heire gladly. As Priscilla Bawcutt (“Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 9) has noted, these two stanzas, addressed to Nature, “are a free rendering of the Complainte, 91–120.” Here the French poet also addresses Nature and asks it to exchange its colorful garments for mourning garb: Je vous pry qu’effaciez à l’ueil / Sur terre toute couleur verte / Et porter en lieu de couverte / Couleur noire en signe de dueil (“I beseech you to wipe from the eye / every green color on earth / and to bring in as a covering / the color black, in sign of mourning,” Complainte, lines 113–116). As Bawcutt (“Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 9) further notes, there is no equivalent in the Scots to stanzas 4 to 7 of the original French which address Noblesse royale excellante (“Excellent royal nobility,” lines 31–40), Princes (“Princes,” lines 41–50), Princessse[s] de l’ostel de France (“Princesses of the house of France,” lines 51–60), and Escosse, maison triumphant (“Scotland, triumphant house,” lines 61–70), and call for them to mourn, and no equivalent to stanza 8 (lines 71–80) which catalogues Margaret’s virtues such as her Bonté, doulceur, grace et humblesse (“Goodness, sweetness, grace and humility,” Complainte, line 71).
31-36 God of nature . . . . to thair Creatoure. The emphasis on flora here is an expansion of the original French which refers to [s]ur terre toute couleur verte (“every green color on earth,” Complainte, line 114).
41 Turn all in blak. The poet here imagines the natural world turning black and therefore adopting the color of mourning. Compare The Lay of Sorrow (line 54), where the female complainer describes her spirit as “All clede in sable and In non othir hewe.” As noted above, in the original French the poet requests that God porter en lieu de couverte / Couleur noire en signe de dueil (“bring in as a covering / the color black, in sign of mourning,” Complainte, lines 115–16).
42 And in murnyng all myrth, musik and glew. The poet’s wish that all music, mirth and game be turned into mourning parallels the command of Henryson’s Orpheus to his harp: “Turne all thi mirth and musik in murnyng” (Henryson, p. 136, line 135). Compare also Job 30:31 (“My harp is turned to mourning”).
43 Owresyle the sone. The French Complainte also asks the sun to adopt mourning garb: O soleil, avec moy te dueil / . . . / L’air soit de tenebres noircy, / Puisqu’en mort n’a point de mercy! (“O Sun, grieve with me / . . . / May the air be darkened with shadows / because there is no mercy in death!” lines 117–20). In a similar context of complaint, but with a different purpose, Henryson’s Orpheus asks Phebus for help and begs “Lat nocht thi face with clowdis be oursyld” (Henryson, p. 137, line 170). In Hay’s Buik of King Alexander, when Alexander died the sun “wes ouersyillit with ane selcouth hew” (BKA, 3.18581).
47 atis. Oats are most probably used here in a figurative sense as a symbol of health and prosperity. Compare their use as such in Wyntoun’s encomium on Alexander III in his Original Chronicle (MS Wemyss, book 7, chapter 135, 5.3539–42: “Be his vertu all his land / Off corne he gert be haboundand [made abundant]. / A boll of aitis for pennyis foure / Off his payment and nocht attour [over]”).
47-48 Turn . . . . in murnyng all myrth and melody. Compare lines 41–42. The complaint of Henryson’s Orpheus contains a direct parallel to both lines: “Turne all thi mirth and musik in murnyng” (line 135).
49 Quhill we have murnyt the dule of our mastres. Compare line 40. The repeated phrase acts as a quasi-refrain. The echo of line 40 in line 49 might account for the reversal of lines 49–50 in MS B. See the corresponding textual note.
50 Lat Nature thole na kyng leife heire gladly. After this point the Scots poet omits six stanzas of outcry in the original French. This may be a deliberate omission, or possibly the result of a defective exemplar. One manuscript of the original French (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS fr. 1952) lacks lines 95–140, for instance.
[Rubric] Bot nocht withstandyng . . . . folowis thus efterwarte. The French rubric reads, Cy après s’ensuit la responce et consolacion de la complainte cy dessus escripte (“Hereafter follows the response and consolation to the lament written above”), Complainte, after line 180. As noted in the Complaint Introduction, the original French Complainte is symmetrical in structure: eighteen stanzas of complaint are followed by eighteen stanzas of consolation.
fenyeit. This word in Older Scots could mean variously feigned, pretended, falsely assumed or displayed; invented to deceive or entertain; imaginary; fictitious [frequently with the word fabill]; and characterized by deceit; deceitful. When referring to documents it meant “forged or spurious” and of things, “counterfeit, imitation.” I here follow Bawcutt (“Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 7) in considering “fenyeit thing” as “poetic fiction” but I note connotations too of deceit. Parallels might be drawn with the reference to “feinȝeit fabils of ald poetre” in the opening line of Henryson’s Fables (Henryson, pp. 3, 188, line 1), or attempts made to prove that the preaching of St. James was but “fenȝet thinge” in the late fourteenth-century Scottish Legends of the Saints (ed. Metcalfe, 1:98, line 46). Compare also the reference to fictional statements at line 66.
51-52 Thou man that . . . . movyt to doloure. These lines are a close translation of the original Complainte (lines 181–82): Homme de trespouvre valeur, / Ligier à joye et à douleur (“Man of the poorest worth, / vassal bound to joy and grief”).
53-55 And thow knew . . . . crab thi Creatoure. Reason’s statement that man’s excessive grief offends God corresponds to similar statements at a slightly later point in the original French that such grief is displeasing to God (moult à Dieu desplaisans; “very displeasing to God,” line 217) and against His law (à sa loy contredisans; “contrary to His law,” line 218).
57 Thou art subject till all humain passioun. This line corresponds to line 183 of the original French where man is described as Serf à humaine passïoun (“slave to human passions”).
58 Sic is thi det, sic is thi dwyté. This line — in sense and structure — echoes line 236 of the original French. Here, speaking of the ineluctability and commonality of death, the French poet writes: C’est son devoir, c’est sa nature (“It is its duty, it is its nature”). 61 dualinys of Deed. Compare OED, dwale, (n.1): “Error, delusion, deceit, fraud.” Alasdair Macdonald has suggested to me in private correspondence that this word, which does not appear in DOST, may have been a loan word from Dutch where dwaling is still a current word for “error.” Loan words from Middle Dutch into Older Scots were by no means rare.
62 Quhare na reuth is quhy sekis thou remed. Compare line 30. Death is portrayed as a tyrannical ruler offering neither mercy or legal redress. Elsewhere in the Older Scots advice to princes tradition, rulers are exhorted to temper justice with mercy. See, for instance, line 1468 of Henryson’s “Lion and the Mouse” (“In euerie iuge mercy and reuth suld be,” Henryson, p. 59) and line 106 of Dunbar’s Thrissil and the Rose (“Quhen Merche wes with variand windis past”): “Exerce iustice with mercy and conscience” (Poems, 1:166). Right royal justice is also a key theme in the poem which follows shortly after the Complaint in MS F, the De Regimine Principum. Here, the king is advised “in justice set al thi besy cure” (LP, 1:396) and provided with extensive practical and theoretical examples of how he might do so.
63-66 Quhy ravys thou . . . . Fra nature bestiall. The Scots poet here develops a simile already present slightly earlier in the original French (lines 184–86) where man is described as Purgié de divine chaleur / Comme l’or, pour estre meilleur / Que bestiale condicïon (“Refined from divine heat / like gold, to be better / than the condition of beasts”).
63-70 Quhy ravys thou . . . . best thou be. The extended comparison of rational man to beasts and contrasting of reason and sensuality corresponds closely to sentiments expressed throughout Henryson’s Fables. See for instance lines 50–56 and 397.
71 this regratit he princes. This phrase corresponds to the French regrectée princesse (“late-lamented princess,” Complainte, line 191). The remainder of the stanza only corresponds very loosely to the original French.
77 well in wo and weid. Compare Holland’s Buke of the Howlat: “The wyis quhar þe wicht went war in wa wellit” (Howlat, ed. Hanna, p. 72, line 499).
86-88 Bot nocht forthy . . . . maid ar we. People are here figured solely as temporary tenants of the world which must be left as inheritance for subsequent generations. There is no equivalent to this in the original French.
87 pilgryme. The notion of life as a pilgrimage also appears in the original French at line 323: Ce monde est ung pellerinaige (“This world is a pilgrimage”). Compare the description of life in the Scots Dicta Salomonis (Ratis Raving, ed. Girvan, p. 185, lines 310–12): “it is spedful to gouerne hyme wysly in this present pilgremage quhilk pasis as a schadow daily”; or The Contemplacioun of Synnaris (Devotional Pieces, ed. Bennett, p. 81, line 256): “we are pilgromes passing to and fro.”; or Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale: “we been pilgrymes, passynge to and fro” (CT I[A] 2848).
91-93 He maid this . . . . to lyff agan. These lines correspond to the notion of Nature’s Renovacïon successive (“successive renewal,” line 312) in the original French.
94 lufftenand. In the Meroure of Wyssdome by John Ireland, Man is described as God’s “louetennand jn his / realme” (ed. Macpherson, Quinn, and McDonald, 1:59, lines 24–25), whilst the late-fifteenth / early sixteenth-century advisory Buke of the Chess (ed. van Buuren, p. 38, lines 1108–10) notes: “And for ane king may nocht be aye present / In euery place to schaw thaim his entent, / Neidfull it is to haf his luftennend.” God is therefore depicted here as a ruler who delegates the completion of tasks to officers throughout his realm (compare “diligatis,” line 99). Contemporary readers might have been mindful of periods in Scotland’s recent history when the country was ruled not directly by the king but instead by a regent or governor, either when the king was incapacitated (Robert III), imprisoned (James I), or a minor (James II). The De Regimine Principum, which appears shortly after the Complaint in MS F, is particularly concerned with the good governance of royal officers, especially in the exercise of justice. See LP, 1:392–400.
94-98 He maid Nature . . . . thaire best sesoun. Nature and Death are similarly depicted as working together in the original French, the former forging life, the latter bringing it to an end: Nature n’est rien obligée/ De soustenir la vie au corps; / Quant elle a son euvre forgée, / C’est affin que soit desforgée / Par la mort: ce sont leurs accors (“Nature isn’t at all obliged / to keep life in the body / when she has forged her work, / it is in order that it be unforged / by Death: this is their agreement,” Complainte, lines 292–96).
101-10 Quhat mycht God . . . . to gud ranoun. This stanza on Margaret’s physical beauty is not matched in the original French. Instead, the Complainte touches more briefly on her grace et doulce manïere, / Sa façon, ses diz et ses faiz (“grace and sweet manner, / her bearing, her speech, and her acts,” lines 203–04), observing also that elle estoit plus parfaicte / Et de haulte maison extraicte (“she was more perfect, / and descended of a high house,” lines 211–12). The Scots poet praises God for endowing Margaret with three superlative physical attributes but reminds his readers firstly that such gifts are not designed to last and secondly that a good reputation is far more valuable than physical beauty. One might compare the advice Aristotle gives to Alexander in Hay’s Buik of King Alexander (c. 1460): “of all riches, gude name is þe sunne — / To gud name may be na comparisoun” (BKA, 3.10054–55). Contemporary accounts parallel the Scots poet in describing Margaret as belle et bien formée, pourvue et ornée de toutes bonnes conditions que noble et haute dame pouvoit avoir and as an excellement belle et prudente dame (“beautiful, wellformed, and gifted with all of the good attributes that such a noble and highborn lady could wish for” and as an “extremely beautiful and wise woman”). However, the sixteenth-century English chronicler, Richard Grafton, by contrast recorded that “The lady Margaret, maryed to the Dolphin, was of such nasty complexion and evill savored breath, that he abhorred her company as a cleane creature doth a caryon.” See du Fresne de Beaucourt, Histoire de Charles VII, pp. 89–90 (quotation on p. 90n1; he also cites Mathieu d’Escouchy, La Chronique Antonine and Grafton’s Chronicle at large and meere history of the affayres of Englande).
111-20 Fra we cum . . . . Lord mon ples. There is no equivalent in the original French to this stanza on the stark realities of the transience of earthly life and mankind’s inability to prepare for the next world.
121-30 Thair is nocht . . . . bryng hym doun. Whilst the original Complainte touches three times on the commonality of death to rich and poor (Puissance royal par droicture, / Par coustume et par escripture / E[s]t subgecte à mort necessaire; “Royal power, by right, / by custom, and by scripture / is subject to inevitable death,” lines 237–39; La mort monstre à tous sa fureur, / A ung roy comme ung laboureur; “Death shows its fury to all, / to a king as to a labourer,” lines 249–50; Drap de fin or et gros burel, / Hault prince et pouvre pasturel / Seront d’un poix à la despence; “Fine cloth-of-gold and coarse woollens, / high prince and poor shepherd / will be of the same weight for spending,” lines 287–89), only the Scots poem has a notably political stanza that functions both as a complaint against the times and warning about the fall of princes. See Complaint Introduction for further discussion.
133 the passage is rycht peralus. The theme of life as a journey or pilgrimage is continued here. Compare line 87 and note and also John Ireland’s Meroure of Wyssdome: “þe way of paradice js / wnknawin to us. And þus þe entre and passage to paradice / js precludit to us”(ed. Macpherson, Quinn, and McDonald, 1:79, lines 19–21).
135-36 we ordande ar . . . . sall be thus. There are numerous instances in the Bible of injunctions to be joyful and assurances that all will be well for the righteous. See, for instance: Psalms 31:11 (“Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye just, and glory, all ye right of heart”); Psalms 66:5 (“Let the nations be glad and rejoice: for thou judgest the people with justice, and directest the nations upon earth”); Psalms 67:4 (“And let the just feast, and rejoice before God: and be delighted with gladness”); Philippians 4:4 (“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice”); 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (“Always rejoice”).
137 Cryst scheu quhen He rasyt Lazarus. For Jesus’ raising of Lazarus see John 11. In this miracle account, Jesus brings his friend Lazarus (brother of Martha and Mary) back to life four days after death. It is the final ‘sign’ or revelation of God’s glory in John’s Gospel, and anticipates Jesus’ own death and resurrection. Reference to the miracle occurs in the Scots Legends of the Saints (ed. Metcalfe, 1:288, lines 125–30).
138-40 He grat oure . . . . war deide agayn. When Jesus witnesses the grief of those around Him He asks where Lazarus has been laid and, when invited to go and see, John reports: “And Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Much significance has been attached to this short verse. It has been interpreted as showing Christ’s humanity (his ability to feel human grief), His compassion for mankind, anger at death, and sorrow at others’ failure to understand that He was “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). The Scots poet here attributes Jesus’ grief to an awareness that Lazarus’ earthly life will never be as joyful as eternal life in heaven. The same sentiment is expressed in the original French, where Lazarus appears as ladre, defined variously as “leper” or “pauper” (line 265): Jesus weeps Non pas pour sa mort regreter / Mais pour ce, car ressuciter / Devoit de rechief habiter / En ceste misere mondaine (“Not to bemoan his death / but because he who came back to life / had to live again / in this worldly misery,” Complainte, lines 266–69).
141 na ceté permanent. The Scots poet is here continuing to privilege the joys of heaven over those of earthly life and emphasizes the transitory nature of the latter. For the idea of earth as only a temporary dwelling place compared to heaven, see also line 160. Compare, too, St. Augustine who in his City of God distinguished between the Earthly City (the City of Man) and the eternal, Heavenly City of God.
142-43 Oure saule . . . . war in presoun. The idea of the human body as a prison of the soul was commonplace in medieval thought, originating with the church fathers, although no reference to the concept is made in the original French. See MED prisoun (n.), sense 3. In Older Scots, ready examples appear in the poetry of Robert Henryson. See, for example, the “Preaching of the Swallow” — “Thairfoir our saull with sensualitie / So fetterit is in presoun corporall, / We may not cleirlie vnderstand nor se / God as he is, nor thingis celestiall; / Our mirk and deidlie corps materiale / Blindis the spirituall operatioun, / Lyke as ane man wer bundin in presoun” (Henryson, pp. 64–65, lines 1629–35) — and the Moralitas to “The Paddock and the Mouse”: “The lytill mous, heir knit thus be the schyn, / The saull of man betakin may in deid / Bundin, and fra the bodie may not twyn, / Quhill cruell deith cum brek of lyfe the threid” (Henryson, p. 109, lines 2948–51).
144-45 Ordant for to . . . . the dreidful Jugement. The Last Judgment is here figured uniquely as a parliament at which mankind will answer to a series of charges. For other such parliamentary or legal lexis see lines 94, 99, 156, 173, 196, and 207. Compare also (referring to the taking of prisoners in war) Sir Gilbert Hay, Buke of the Law of Armys (Prose Works, ed. Glenn, 2:152, lines 70–71): “gif thai do the contraire / thai ar behaldin till ansuere before god and the warld”; and also a stanza that appears in two later witnesses of the De Regimine Principum (but not in MS F): “Think on þat þow sall gif ane trew compt / and ansuer for thy iuges and thy sell / And wait nocht quhen thow salbe summont / ffor to compeir quhair þow sall langest duell” (Maitland Folio Manuscript, ed. Craigie, 1:117, lines 64–67).
145 dreidful Jugement. Sir Gilbert Hay also refers to the Last Judgment as the “dredefull jugement” in his Ordre of Knycthede (Prose Works, ed. Glenn, 3:3, line 39).
146 Thaire is oure rest, thaire is oure rycht sesoun. The structure of this line parallels that of line 58. Compare also line 98 for the figurative sense of mankind reaching its “rycht sesoun” (time of ripeness, maturity or fulfillment).
147 This warld is bot a permutacioun. In describing the world as a “permutacioun” — a place of constant change — the Scots poet echoes the original French: Pour nostre constitussïon / C’est belle permutacïon, / Repos pour tribulacïon (“For our ordination / it’s a beautiful transformation, / rest for trial,” Complainte, lines 336–38). Chaucer also uses the word to refer to the transitoriness of earthly life. See, for instance, “The world hath mad a permutacioun / Fro right to wrong, fro trouthe to fikelnesse, / That al is lost for lak of stedfastnesse” (Lack of Stedfastnesse, ed. Benson, lines 19–21) and his description of Fortune, “which that permutacioun / Of thynges hath,” in Troilus and Criseyde (ed. Benson, 5.1541–42).
149-50 Oure Lorde refusit . . . . it was Lucifere. Matthew 4 tells of how Satan tempted Jesus during his time in the wilderness. The Scots poet here refers uniquely to the third temptation (Matthew 4:8–10): “Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.” Satan/Lucifer is elsewhere described as the prince of earth in 2 Corinthians 4:4 (“the god of this world”) and Ephesians 2:2 (“the prince of the power of this air”).
154 Gud men ar lorn, the wykkyt weill ar kend. Compare line 127.
155-57 Mychtty man counpt . . . . lenth of clay. The message here is that rich and poor alike will receive just six feet of earth when buried (even if the rich own extensive territory in life). A similar message is delivered to Alexander the Great just prior to his death in Hay’s Buik of King Alexander:
Then said þe wise man, ‘Richt thus sal it be,160 To graith thaire gait. For To graith [one’s] gate or to make a way for oneself; compare The Contemplacioun of Synnaris (Devotional Pieces, ed. Bennett, p. 123, lines 859–60): “Eftir ȝour ordour, gree, and conditioun / ȝe graith ȝour gaitys for iugement generall.”
For all this warld mycht neuer suffice þe —
The mare þow had, mare was þi covatese;
Bot sen þi lenth of erde sall þe suffice —
Quhen þow art dede, þe erde þat cover sall þe,
Sall be no more bot of thai quantetie.’ (BKA, 3.17866–71)
171-73 Quhat proffyt is . . . . throu soverayn ordinance. The sentiment of these lines — in which death, fate, and fortune are seen to operate as part of a larger providential plan — is notably Boethian. Although there is no precise equivalent to these lines and the remainder of the stanza in the original French, they nevertheless broadly correspond to lines 271–80:
Harer la mort et accuser171 to flyt. Compare Walter Kennedy’s Passioun of Christ (Poems, ed. Meier, line 1009): “O Cruell ded, with þe I think to flite”; the Scots poet here imagines mankind “flyting” with Fortune. Although common to Middle English as well as Older Scots, the verb (meaning “to quarrel, wrangle, or contend in abuse, with another or others,” DOST flyt(e) (v.), sense 2) came to be particularly associated with the Scots literary tradition of flyting — a quarrel in verse. See for example Dunbar and Kennedy’s The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie (“Shir Iohine the Ros, ane thing thair is compild,” Poems, 1:200).
Ne pout n[ost]re vie excuser:
Vie tollier est son office.
Point n’y vanlt de [soy] refuser:
La mort peut de son droit user
Sans faire à nully prejudice.
Ce n’est que divine justice
Mise à naturelle police:
A toute heure — ainsi m’ait Dieux —
Aussi tost mourt jeune que vieux.
Harrying and accusing Death
cannot spare our life:
to take away life is its office.
There is no point at all in refusing it:
Death can exercise its right
without prejudice to anyone.
It is only divine justice
put to good natural order:
at any hour — so may God help me —
as soon may a youth die as an old man.
173 soverayn ordinance. The adjective “soverane” usually pertains to royalty or to things royal. God’s divine providence is therefore here figured as a kind of royal or kingly command.
181-90 Thow suld traist . . . . restis in paradis. The original French Complainte does not contain as many details of Margaret’s virtuous life or any mention of her virginity.
186 Tynt nocht hir madenheid for hir maritage. It is here suggested that Margaret retained her virginity despite her marriage to the dauphin. However, in the preceding chapter of the LP, the Scots chronicler reports that the marriage was in fact consummated “two and a half” years after the wedding ceremony: “though they were married and joined in matrimony, yet they did not seek the nuptial bed until two and a half years after, after the lapse of which they were of full marriageable age and were put to bed at Gien sur Loire; and thus the marriage was completely consummated in the name of Jesus Christ” (LP, 2:283); non tamen in thoro nupciali intraverunt usque post duos annos vel cum dimedio; quibus transactis, completi sunt in eis anni nubiles, et in lecto positi apud villam de Gien Surlaare; et sic matrimonium perfecte consummatum est, in nomine Jhesu Christi (LP, 1:375). In suggesting that Margaret retained her virginity through marriage, the author of the Scots complaint aligns her with the tradition of female saints and holy martyrs. Examples in the Scots Legends of the Saints include Margaret (of Antioch), Agnes, Agatha, Euphemia, Juliana, Tecla, and Catherine.
188 Scho mad gud end and deit with all gud devys. Despite the assertion here that Margaret made a good ending, she was in fact repeatedly pressed on her death-bed to forgive her caluminator, Jamet de Tillay (discussed further in the Complaint Introduction). Her final words are said to have been Fy de la vie de ce monde! Ne m’en parlez plus (“Out upon the life of this world! Let me hear no more about it,” Champion, La Daulphine, pp. 109–111; Barbé, Margaret of Scotland, pp. 162–65, quoted on p. 165 and p. 165n1). Alexander the Great’s wife, Roxanne, reminds him of the importance of making a good ending in Hay’s The Buik of King Alexander: “Now think on God, and dispone weill ȝour thing, / That all men say ȝe mak ane guide ending, / And pray that þai ane guide conclusioune send. / All thing is guide þat makis ane guidlie end — / Quhen end is guide, na man can find ane lak” (BKA, 3.18293–97).
194-95 Deed makis na . . . . of ryches he. That death makes no distinction of rank, beauty, or wealth is expressed at greater length at lines 241–50 of the original French: Death is here described as affecting even those of Plaisant jeunesse and bel atour (“Pleasing youth” and “fair disposition,” line 242), those in Fors chasteaulx and haultes torelles (“strong castles” and “high towers,” line 248); La mort monstre à tous sa fureur, / A ung roy comme ung laboureur (“Death shows its fury to all, / to a king as to a laborer,” lines 249–50).
201 Lat be thi mane. Compare line 61, “Lat be thi dull,” and also lines 351–52 of the original French: Je te pris, homme raisonnable, / Laisse ton dueil desraisonnable (“I pray you, reasonable man, / leave your unreasoned grief”).
206 brukyll alymentis. Although the poet most probably refers here to the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), there is a sense too in which mankind is envisaged as made up of weak or base elements, developing the imagery of metal deployed earlier in the poem. For instance, compare line 64.
207 Scho has assythit Deed of all his rentis. The image of Margaret paying her dues to Death occurs also in the original French: La bonne, debonnaire et gente / A paié la mort de sa rente (“The good woman, benevolent and gracious, / has paid Death its dues,” Complainte, lines 341–42). Death is also depicted slightly earlier in the original French as exacting a toll or peage (line 326).
211-16 In this mater . . . . for that legasy. In observing that “God sparyt nocht His awyn son fra the deid,” the Scots poet echoes the original French, Dieu son propre filz n’espargna (“God did not spare His own Son,” Complainte, line 251), but comments uniquely on the incarnation, Mary, and Christ’s unique ability to atone for the sins of mankind.
218-19 Sen mony thousand . . . . with tyrannis cruely. The reference to — and implicit comparison of Margaret with — virgin martyrs is unique to the Scots poem. Compare line 186 and note where is it suggested that Margaret maintained her virginity in marriage.
221-30 Tak gud confurte . . . . to gud end. There is no equivalent in the original French to the comparison here of ten thousand (see textual note) years to the space of an hour or dream (lines 224–26); instead the original French Complainte advises its audience to trust in God’s benevolence. As Bawcutt observes (“Medieval Scottish Elegy,” p. 11) the Scots poet also ends by transforming “the French poet’s final prayer to God for Margaret’s soul . . . into a more general prayer.”
223 luffit and lovit. Compare line 75.
Complaint for the Death of Margaret, Princess of Scotland: TEXTUAL NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: B: Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale, MS 7397, fols. 229ra–30va; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; F: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Fairfax 8 (base manuscript), fols. 188ra–89va; G: Glasgow, Mitchell Library, MS 308876, fol. 248v; LP: Liber Pluscardensis, ed. Skene.
1 Thee. So F. B: The. G: He. LP (1.382) adopts the reading of G, but I retain the reading of F and B since the opening address to God is clearly designed to be a direct prayer.
2 reuly rollis. So F. B: reuli reullis. G: reuli rollis.
12 stankis. So F. B: stagnis.
13 cloudis. So B. F: glowdis; this is a hapax legomenon of unknown meaning. I therefore here adopt the more likely reading of B’s cloudis, which corresponds to the “clouds” (nues) of line 2 of the original French Complainte.
angger. So F. B: angiris.
14 And baith. In F three letters are initially erroneously copied and then erased at the beginning of the line.
payns. So F. B: paynis.
15 fayns. So F. B: faynis.
16 as. B reads has but F’s as (retained here) is a known variant of the verb to have and appears throughout the witness.
19 Helpe me to murn. So B. F: Helpe to murn. Although the reading of B is here preferred on metrical grounds, F is closer to the original French: Aidés à plourer ma maistresse (“Help [me] to weep [for] my mistress,” Complainte, line 20).
22 amovis. So F. B: mufis.
28 as. So F. B: has. See note to line 16 above.
36 Yeildis. So F. B: Yeirldis.
37 Defaid. In F the word gyf is erased before defaid.
41 blak that. In F the word was is erased between blak and that.
43 Owresyle. B reads our fil and F owre fyle, but the f is in both cases most probably a mis-copying of long s.
44 Ger. So F. B: For.
45 Haif mynd. So B. F: Of mynd. B’s reading is preferred on grounds of sense.
47 all atis. So F. B: al latis. See the corresponding explanatory note.
49-50 Quhill we have . . . . leife heire gladly. So F. This couplet is mistakenly reversed in B; the order in F follows the regular rhyme scheme of other stanzas.
[Rubric] lamentacioun. F: lamentacoun. B: lamenacioune.
56 consideracioun. F: consideracoun. B: consideracion.
58 dwyté. B has vince before dewte and the same or a similar word appears to have been copied and then erased in F. It is likely that prior exempla of both manuscripts contained the word duite, which was at some stage mistakenly copied twice.
59 salvatioun. F: salvatoun. B: salvacioune.
61 ar. So B. F: as.
64 be the leid. So F. B: in the lede.
72 Quhilk our the laif. B’s reading is here preferred to F’s Quhill owre the laue.
78 availye. So F. B: avale.
80 travailye. So F. B: travale.
81 as. So F. B: has. Compare the notes to lines 16 and 28 above.
83 Nathyng. B: Na thing. F: Na thyng.
85-90 He ordand for . . . . we mon dee. The sense of these difficult lines is largely dependent on punctuation. I offer the readings given here after consultation with colleagues, but accept that alternative readings or ways of punctuating are possible.
86 allwais. F: all wais. B: ayway.
87 bot as pilgryme or gest. F: bot pilgryme or gest. I have here inserted “as” on grounds of meter and to aid sense.
88 Of lawest lyme of erd al maid ar we. So B. F begins Of lauwast lym to . . . but the second half of the line is deleted.
89 And to wyn. F: And wyn. B: To wyn. A combination of “And to” makes the best sense.
the. So B. F: hir. B’s reading is preferred on grounds of sense.
90 neydlings. B’s neydlings fits the sense better than F’s neydles.
96 Hymselfe. F: Hym selfe. B: Him self.
97 bayn. So B. F: vayn.
99 nathyng heire in vayn. F: na thyng h heire in bayn. B: na thing bayn. As with line 97 above, scribes seem to have confused the apperance of “vayn” and “bayn” within the stanza.
107 uterhis is deleted in F after passand and before the correctly copied utheris.
113 everilk. F. ever ilk. B: ilke.
116 ma never wyt. So F. B: may not wyt.
119 hevin. So B. F: evyn. B’s spelling, more familiar to modern readers, is here preferred.
126 efter hym another. F: eftir hym a nother. B: eftir this ane uther
127 Wyykkyt are welth. F: wyykkytare welth. B: wekkitar in welth. Welth is a known variant of the Older Scots adjective welthy (meaning “happy” or “wealthy”).
130 never ceiss. Se deleted before ceiss in F.
134 til we be brocht on beire. So B. F: will we be brocht on beire. B’s til is here preferred.
135 ordande. So F. B: ordanit.
136 we do weill, traist weill it sall be thus. So F. B: we do weil traste it sal be thus.
thus. F: thuss. The final s of lines 136, 137, and 139 is written as a double s, but I here follow B in printing only a single s.
140 agayn. So B. F: a gayn.
153 wraik. So B. F: braak. I follow DOST in preferring the reading of B. F’s braak is perhaps a scribal error for vraak.
154 Gud men. F: gudmen. B: gude men.
lorn. So B. F: loune.
155 counpt. F’s reading is a variant form of the Older Scots noun compt(e meaning “a monetary account” (DOST compt (n.1)). B: cownt.
158 Quha maist gud has, nocht heire has bot the name. So F. B: Quha maist gude has has not heir bot the name.
160 gait. So F. B: gate.
162 fyne. So B. F: syn. B’s reading is here adopted on grounds of sense; F’s reading is no doubt due to a miscopying of f for long s in the exemplar.
163 knalage. So F. B: knawlage.
166-69 detestable . . . . veriable . . . . lamentable. LP (1.387) transcribes the rhyming words as “detestabile,” “veriabile” and “lamentabile.” A tilde or otiose stroke does appear over the latter two words, but since it does not appear over all three (or necessarily suggest the need to supply an i) I do not here supply an additional i in any of the three words.
167 thi vertu. F: mak is deleted before vertu.
171 Quhat proffyt is it. So F. B: Quhat fo profit is.
172 nocht for to wyt. So F. B: not to wyte.
173 throu soverayn ordinance. So F. B: throu thar soverane ordinance.
174 bowté. So F. B: beuty.
176 al men gret cair and displesance. F: al men gret cair displesance. B. almen cair and displesance.
178 garris hir have sa. So F. B: gerris hir sa.
184 as seyn. So F. B: hes seyn.
186 maritage. So F. B: mariage.
187 nocht of parage. F: nocht parage. “of” has been inserted here to regularize meter and aid sense.
188 with all gud devys. So F. B: with al gudnes.
189 knalage. So F. B: knawlage.
192 Wenand that man is mair of micht than He. F: a word is interlined between of and than but it is now illegible. B: Weynand that man is mair of than He. Possibilities for the missing word might include “worth,” “heicht,” “micht,” or “richt.” I here suggest “micht.”
193 commandment. F and B both read commandmentis, but I have emended to the singular form to maintain the stanza’s rhyme scheme.
202 quhare now thou makis care. F: quhare now makis care; B: quhair now thou makis car.
211 feris no mare to pleid. F: feris no mare to
212 God sparyt. It took the scribe of F two attempts to write sparyt; the first erroneous version is crossed out.
218 mony thousand. So B. F: mony a thousand. I follow B’s reading to prevent the line becoming excessively hypermetric.
224 X M. So F and B. The reading X M is shared by both manuscripts. It most likely represents a ten and a thousand (M), as in the hymn Ten Thousand times Ten Thousand, where it is an abbreviated means of enumerating the saints. Compare Apocalypse 5:11 (“thousands of thousands”) and Daniel 7:10 (“ten thousand times a hundred thousand”). The comparison to one hour of a significant internal of time is unique to the Scots translation and so cannot be compared to the original French. A gloss of 10,000 is suggested to best represent the interval of time intended. However, the form of Roman numeral given in both manuscripts is not quite correct — the X should have a bar or tilde over it.
yeiris that wasse. So F. B: yeir that was.
225 Quhen it is gane. So F. B: Quhen that is gane.
227 have mynd on hir. So F. B: have mynde of hir.
228 thiselfe. F: thi selfe. B: thi self.
230 Amen. So F. Only F concludes with this word.
of Resoune als mekill, this ma suffyce for the complant is bot fenyeit thing. Bot becaus the tother part,
quhilk is the ansuere of Resoun, is verray suth-fastnes, me think it gud to put mare of it quhilk folowis thus efterwarte.10