The Historie of ane Nobil and Vailyeand Squyer, William Meldrum, Umquhyle Laird of Cleische and Bynnis
Sir David Lyndsay, THE HISTORIE OF SQUYER MELDRUM: FOOTNOTES
1 “In that case,” said she, “if you will not take a spouse”
2 I couldn’t care less about your loud boasts
3 Where splendid arrangements were made and space cleared
4 They pressed (assailed) boldly to prove their vigor
5 That round jousting area was used to the utmost
6 Lines 535–36: And through the bridle hand [he] bore [it] / And in [his] breast more than a span
7 And said: “This is just the fortunes of war”
8 The Southern (i.e., English) were always five (Englishmen) to one (Scotsman)
9 It was all (i.e., there was nothing else except) capturing and killing
10 Lines 659–60: No man ever gave better support; / There might (be) no shield (able to) withstand his sword
11 Had not the Frenchmen come to separate them
12 At Dieppe he prepared himself for a journey by sea
13 Lines 717–18: And cried: “I see no other option, by God, / But that we must either fight or flee”
14 That many missiles flew over her [i.e., the ship]
15 That none might stay on their feet for the slipperiness
16 They laid on banquets for him from one place to another
17 With excellent sweetmeats, meat (brawn) and jelly
18 Lines 1014–15: “I tell you, I wouldn’t have tired of it / Even if I’d dawdled there until noon”
19 For as long as he had military strength at his command
20 Lines 1164–65: Then the squire resolved, / In preparation for the merry season of May
21 If it [i.e., the dispensation] had come from abroad, he would have enjoyed possession of her [i.e., in marriage]
22 On account of which he fought in many a battle
23 For you have never been so hard-pressed
24 But hand-to-hand, without anyone separating us
25 Lines 1335–36: On the point of raging so [much] / that no man might calm his anger
26 Should he escape, we’ll be dishonored
27 On account of which she cursed her fate daily
28 The cruel men prevailed in their violence
29 Of meat (“brawn”) and jelly there was no lack
Sir David Lyndsay, THE HISTORIE OF SQUYER MELDRUM: EXPLANATORY NOTES
ABBREVIATIONS: A: Edinburgh, Heir of Andrew Anderson, 1683 (Wing L2322); Acts of Council (Public Affairs): Acts of the Lords of Council in Public Affairs; AN: Anglo-Norman; AND: Anglo- Norman Dictionary; Bawcutt and Riddy: Longer Scottish Poems Vol. 1, ed. Bawcutt and Riddy; Bruce: Barbour, The Bruce, ed. McDiarmid and Stevenson; C: Edinburgh: Henrie Charteris, 1594 (STC [2nd ed.] 15679); Cal. State Papers (Venice): Calendar of State Papers and Manuscripts relating to English Affairs; Clariodus: Clariodus; A Metrical Romance, ed. Irving; CT: Chaucer, The 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; Hary’s Wallace: Hary, The Wallace, ed. McDiarmid; L: Edinburgh: Richard Lawson, 1610 (STC [2nd ed.] 15680); 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; NRS: National Records of Scotland; ODNB: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; OE: Old English; OED: Oxford English Dictionary; OF: Old French; PH: Douglas, Palis of Honoure, ed. Parkinson; Poems: Dunbar, Poems of William Dunbar, ed. Bawcutt; Reg. Mag. Sig.: Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum (Register of the Great Seal of Scotland); Reg. Sec. Sig.: Registrum Secreti Sigilli Regum Scotorum (Register of the Privy Seal of Scotland); RPS: Records of the Parliament of Scotland; S: Glasgow: Robert Sanders, 1683 (Wing L2322); 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; TC: Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, ed. Benson; Testament: Testament of Squyer Meldrum; 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.
Textual notes are so few that they have been included here rather than listed separately. All translations are mine unless otherwise specified.
4 Quhilk suld to us be richt mirrouris. The injunction to emulate the noble deeds of ancestors is a common way to open any romance, epic, or chivalry biography which purports to tell of historical personages, as with these lines from Florimond of Albany:
Quha blythlie will of elderris reid
And tak exemple of þair gude deid,
He may greitlie avansit be
Give he will follov þair bounte
(ed. Purdie, lines 5–9, p. 87)
or the more admonitory opening lines of Hary’s Wallace:
Our antecessowris that we suld of reide
And hald in mynde, thar nobille worthi deid
We lat ourslide throw werray sleuthfulnes,
And castis ws euir till vthir besynes.
“To make a mirror of the falling of another,” meanwhile, was proverbial (see Whiting M581). “Now maik ȝour merour be me, all maner of man” laments the shamed owl in Richard Holland’s fifteenth-century Scots Buke of the Howlat (line 970). A variant of this sentiment is the injunction to look into one’s own mirror for the self-knowledge that might help to avoid sin, as when the hideous ghost of Guinevere’s mother warns her daughter to “Muse on þi mirrour” in the Awntyrs off Arthure at the Terne Wathelyn (line 167). The use of the phrase by the heroic leader Golagros after he has been defeated by Gawain combines the strength to be derived from self-reflection with the warning example of his own misfortune:
Ilk man my kyth be his cure [“recognise through his study”]
Baith knyght, king, and empriour,
And muse in his myrrour,
And mater maist mine is. [“and mine is the greatest example”]
Meldrum, too, will eventually suffer a terrible reversal of fortune in battle.
13–22 Sum wryt of . . . . in weirlie weidis. The types of hero are listed in careful order of precedence: conquerors, emperors; kings, champions, and knights; and finally unknighted squires such as Meldrum. Although this might seem to belittle Meldrum’s status, the later Middle Ages saw more than one squire who was greatly respected for his martial prowess but nevertheless remained unknighted, whether to avoid the considerable expense involved or simply because they saw the title of squire as sufficiently prestigious (see Keen, Chivalry, pp. 144–45). Stevenson gives the Scottish example of Patrick Crichton of Cranstonriddel, who became keeper of Edinburgh Castle in 1495, held a number of royal offices, and sat in parliament in 1513 (Chivalry and Knighthood in Scotland, p. 39). Wyntoun’s Original Chronicle, describing the siege of Norham in 1355, notes:
Twa gud sqwyaris, for suyth I heicht,
Off Scottis men deit in þat feicht:
Ane was Iohun of Haliburtone,
A nobil sqwyar of gret ranowne;
Iames Turnbuyl þe toþir wes.
Þar saulis to Paradise mot passe.
(Cotton MS, 6:209, 8.6571–76)
On the other hand, it was still quite common practice for kings or military leaders to knight followers who had performed the kind of exemplary military service that Meldrum apparently did in France. It is also unusual for a romance — the literary paradigm followed in this passage — to have a squire rather than a knight as its hero, although one famous example is the late fifteenth-century English romance The Squire of Low Degree: for later allusions to this romance, see notes to lines 907–26 below.
24–26 As Chauceir wrait . . . . and of Medea. Lyndsay follows in the tradition of Scottish poets such as Henryson, Dunbar, and Douglas with this implicit invitation to compare his poetry to Chaucer’s, which was held up as the gold standard of elegant “Inglis” verse: see Henryson, Testament of Cresseid, line 41; Dunbar, Goldyn Targe, lines 253–61; PH, lines 919–20. Troilus and Criseyde was Chaucer’s most admired work in the late medieval period.
Neither of the pairs of lovers cited here bodes well: Troilus is forsaken by his love Cressida, while Jason abandons Medea after using her to win the golden fleece. Chaucer stops his version of the tale there in his “Legend of Medea” (Legend of Good Women, ed. Benson, lines 1580–1679) but Gower’s more gripping version includes Medea’s terrible revenge of burning Jason’s new wife Creusa to death and murdering the two sons of their own union (Confessio Amantis, ed. Peck, 5.3247–4222).
27 Cleo. Clio is the muse of History and is therefore appropriate here: she was famously invoked by Chaucer in TC (2.8–14). Douglas writes in the Palis of Honoure of “Lady Cleo, quhilk craftely dois set / Historiis ald lyk as thay wer present” (lines 854–55), but Dunbar associates her with the writing of poetry more generally: “My Lady Cleo, that help of makaris bene” (Goldyn Targe, Poems, 1:186, line 77). In another poem roughly contemporary with the Historie, Lyndsay — no longer in playful mode — rejects all classical gods or muses as sources of inspiration in favor of God alone. He promises to write:
Withoute ony vaine inuocatioun
To Minerua or to Melpominee.
Nor ȝitt wyll I mak supplicatioun,
For help, to Cleo nor Caliopee:
Sick marde Musis may mak me no supplee [confounded; assistance]
(Ane Dialogue betuix Experience and ane Courteour, ed. Hamer, 1:204, lines 216–20)
28 Minerve. Minerva is the goddess of wisdom. In James I’s Kingis Quair, the narrator is led to her by the personification “Good Hope” after he has visited Venus (lines 778 ff.). In Douglas’ Palis of Honoure, the first procession seen by the narrator is that of Minerva, surrounded by mainly classical and biblical figures of prophecy, learning, and wisdom: “Yone is the Quene of Sapience, but dout, / Lady Minerve” (lines 241–42).
30–34 Quhais douchtines during . . . . did me schaw. Lyndsay’s assurance that he can personally attest to the squire’s levels of valor is combined with the revelation that Meldrum himself has supplied all the details that Lyndsay “did not knaw.” On the one hand, this invokes the great authority of eyewitness testimony. On the other, Lyndsay thereby reveals that, for at least some of this history, there is no authority other than Meldrum’s own word. Meldrum’s tendency to sing his own praises will be vividly dramatized in the Testament.
36 Descryve the deidis and the man. A glancing allusion to the opening phrase of Virgil’s Aeneid, Arma virumque cano (“I sing of arms and the man . . .”), translated by Gavin Douglas in his Eneados of 1513 as “The batalis and the man I wil discrive” (2:19, line 1). This reference to the empire-founding Aeneas (and indirectly also to the brilliance of Virgil’s poetry) makes lines 37–38 something of an anti-climax: Meldrum “spent his youth in love most pleasantly, without [incurring] disgrace,” although Lyndsay does then add that he performed “douchtie deidis” too (line 39). See note to lines 875–80 below for a more direct comparison of Meldrum to Aeneas.
48–64 Sir Lancelote du Lake . . . . cum na gude. The story of Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair was clearly well known in Lyndsay’s Scotland. The Complaynt of Scotland of c. 1550 cites a “lancelot du lac” (ed. Stewart, p. 50 [fol. 50v]) which may or may not refer to the fifteenth-century Older Scots Lancelot of the Laik. This romance, incomplete in its only extant copy, is based on material from the OF non-cyclical Lancelot du Lac and it recounts some of Lancelot’s youthful exploits and the early stages of his affair with Guinevere — appropriately enough for this comparison to the young Meldrum. Although Lancelot is a positive figure in the Older Scots Lancelot, Cooper argues that the relative dearth of Lancelot material in medieval English literature before Malory may indicate a populace for whom “Lancelot, if they had heard of him at all, was merely one of the minor knights; and to whom any ideas of Arthur’s incest and Lancelot’s adultery with Guinevere were either unknown, or else regarded as slanderous French fictions” (“The Lancelot-Grail Cycle in England,” p. 153). Lyndsay’s dig at Lancelot foreshadows Roger Ascham’s famous condemnation of Malory’s Morte Darthur as a danger to the young and the gullible (though an appropriate source of amusement for the wise): “the whole pleasure of which booke standeth in two speciall poyntes, in open mans slaughter, and bold bawdrye: In which booke those be counted the noblest Knightes, that do kill most men without any quarell, and commit fowlest aduoulteries by subtlest shiftes: as Sir Launcelote, with the wife of king Arthure his master . . . This is good stuffe, for wise men to laughe at, or honest men to take pleasure at” (The Scholemaster, ed. Wright, p. 231).
50 sword nor knyfe. See lines 156–60 where Meldrum dispatches his opponent with a dagger once his sword has shattered. The phrase itself is conventional and recurs here at lines 795, 1300, 1363, 1402, 1511. Compare the Bruce: “Yai seruyt yaim on sa gret wane / With scherand swerdis and with knyffis / Yat weile ner all left ye lyvys” (“They served them so plentifully with slicing swords and with knives that almost all lost their lives”; 16.458–60).
67–69 Ane gentilman of . . . . nobilnes lineallie discendit. Hamer notes that “the marriage of Meldrum daughters with nobility was not uncommon throughout their history” (3:189). In his History of Greater Britain of 1521, the Scottish Unionist scholar John Major remarked of the Scots that “they take inordinate pleasure in noble birth, and . . . delight in hearing themselves spoken of as come of noble blood” (p. 45). Nevertheless, while late medieval English society tended to distinguish between nobility and mere gentry, social demarcations in Scotland seem to have been less rigid (see Wormald, “Lords and Lairds in Fifteenth-Century Scotland,” pp. 181–200). See further note to line 1566 below.
75 Cleische and Bynnis. On squire Meldrum’s estates, see the Introduction, “Squire of Cleish and Binns.”
79 Proportionat weill; of mid stature. Compare Barbour’s description of Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray: “He wes off mesurabill [medium] statur / And weile porturat at mesur [fashioned proportionately]” (Bruce, 10.285–86). The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour attributed to Gilbert Hay includes a lengthy disquisition on “phisnomye,” or how to assess men by the details of their appearance (ed. Cartwright, 3:22–31, lines 10108–483), and it speaks approvingly of the man who “haldis gude mesure in all his proportioun, / Off hede, of body, of lymmes vp and doun” and is “Nor hie nor law, nor fatt nor lene alsua,” because “In mydlin way þe wertew is evir neist [most present]” (ed. Cartwright, 3:29–30, lines 10408–09, 10421, and 10433).
Nevertheless, it is more common for heroes to be described as tall and broad. Hary says of Wallace that “Ix quartaris large he was in lenth indeid. / Thryd part that lenth in schuldrys braid was he” (Hary’s Wallace, 10.1224–25: McDiarmid notes that this would make Wallace about seven feet tall, 2:256n1224).
88 In Ingland first. It is not entirely clear whether this reference to Meldrum’s exercise of prowess “[i]n Ingland first” is meant to refer to the raid on Carrickfergus (an English-held town in Ireland, see lines 91 ff.), or if Lyndsay is alluding to events in Meldrum’s past which are not narrated here. The latter is implied by Meldrum’s extravagant farewell to the “lustie ladies cleir” of London in the Testament, line 216, but Meldrum’s reliability as a “witness” to his own life has been called into question by that point.
90 ff. the kingis greit admirall. James Hamilton, first earl of Arran (1475?–1529) was made commander of the Scottish fleet — thus “the kingis greit admirall” — in July 1513; he is named as the earl of Arran here in line 216 (see ODNB, “Hamilton, James, first earl of Arran (1475?–1529)” for details). The Scottish Navy left Leith on 25 July 1513 to sail for France in order to assist the French against Henry VIII, who had sailed for Calais in June 1513 (Macdougall, James IV, pp. 268–69). They took the longer route counter-clockwise around the island of Britain, apparently stopping in Ireland to bombard the English stronghold of Carrickfergus (“Craigfergus,” line 95). It is not clear whether James IV had intended them to attack Carrickfergus along the way (Pitscottie assumed Arran was disobeying orders in hopes of private gain; Historie and Cronicles, ed. Mackay, 1:256–58, but see discussion in Macdougall, James IV, pp. 268–69), or if they were simply taking the longer route to avoid the English navy, who were lying in wait for them off the coast of Kent. Certainly the English navy had hoped to intercept them: Hall’s Chronicle, a contemporary English chronicle written in the 1530s, records the English admiral Howard’s disappointment that “he hadde soughte the Scottyshe Nauye, then beynge on the sea, but he coulde not mete with theim, because they were fledde into Fraunce, be the coste of Irelande” (p. 558).
102–03 Savit all wemen . . . . all preistis and freiris. A chivalric obligation to protect women is cited in numerous manuals of chivalry, implied in numerous romances, and given explicit expression by Malory in the “Pentecostal oath” sworn by the knights of the Round Table at the end of “The Wedding of King Arthur”: “allwayes to do ladyes, damesels, and jantilwomen and wydowes soccour, strengthe hem in hir ryghtes, and never to enforce them, uppon payne of dethe” (Le Morte Darthur, ed. Field, 1:97, lines 31–33). Malory shows little concern for protecting men of the Church, but the fifteenth-century Scottish translator of various chivalric treatises, Sir Gilbert Hay, is careful to include them in his Buke of the Ordre of Knychthede (a translation of a French version of Ramon Llull’s Llibre de l’orde de cavalleria):
Alssua be vertu of fayth and gude custumes / knychtis defendis the clerkis and kirk men fra wikkit tyrane men / the quhilk agaynis the faith / and for default of faith schapis thame to derob and our’thraw bathe clerkis and kirkmen. (Chapter 7, Prose Works, ed. Glenn, 3:40, lines 32–36)
The immediate model for Lyndsay may be Hary’s Wallace, who similarly refuses to slay “wemen and barnys” or “preystis als that war nocht in the feild [i.e., who did not fight]” when skirmishing in France (Hary’s Wallace, 9.647–52).
109 naikit as scho was borne. The squire’s later demand that the soldiers return her “sark” shows that this is meant literally (see note to line 119 below).
119 sark. This is a “chemise.” That the men have taken her “sark” is proof that she really is naked (line 109), since this is the item worn next to the skin, over top of which would go a “kirtill” (line 121). Compare Henryson’s The Garmont of Gud Ladeis: “Hir sark suld be hir body nixt / Of chestetie so quhyt” (ed. Fox, p. 162, lines 9–10).
120 And tak to yow all uther wark. As Hamer notes, Meldrum here “allows the men their proper share of plunder,” taking “wark” in the sense of “pieces of workmanship,” i.e., the lady’s costly outer clothing and jewelry (see DOST wark (n.), sense 7).
122 ane garland of hir heid. L’s “ane garland on her head” seems at first glance to be the sensible reading here, but the maiden is at this point “naikit as scho was borne” (line 109), so the enameled gold garland “of” (i.e., “from”) her head is evidently amongst the spoils that her attackers have stolen from her.
128 quhyte as milk. The tradition of describing a beautiful woman’s skin as “white as milk” goes back at least as far as Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s influential early thirteenth-century guide to writing elegant poetry, the Poetria Nova (trans. Nims, p. 37). See note to lines 944–49 below.
131 Sanct Fillane. St. Fáelán was an early Scottish confessor-saint whom an early Irish martyrology connects with Strathearn, the area of Perthshire to which Meldrum himself will return in triumph after his career in France. Although his legend became conflated with Irish saints of the same name, St. Fillan’s cult was well established in western Perthshire by the ninth century and his popularity was greatly enhanced in later medieval Scotland through Robert Bruce’s devotion to him: later generations of Scots could evoke the spirit of Robert Bruce by swearing by him. See Taylor, “The Cult of St Fillan in Scotland.” The fact that the maiden’s attackers swear by St. Fillan indicates that they are not, in fact, enemy English soldiers, but Irish or (most probably) some of Meldrum’s fellow Scots.
142 from his harnes flew the fyre. The image of blows so ferocious that they strike sparks from weapons or armor was conventional and presumably also realistic. See line 462 and MED “fir” (n.), sense 4b, for further examples.
195–96 Ane lufe taking, / Ane riche rubie set in ane ring. Rings as love tokens are a staple of medieval romance, often (though not always) magical. In Ywain and Gawain, the Middle English version of Chrétien’s Yvain, Alundyne presents Ywain with a magical ring which he later loses (ed. Braswell, lines 1527–44); in Perceval of Galles the hero helps himself to a ring as love-token from the maiden in the tent (ed. Braswell, lines 471–76); in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Gawain refuses a ruby ring pressed upon him by Bertilak’s amorous wife (ed. Tolkien and Gordon, lines 1817–23). Meldrum himself will accept another ruby ring love-token from the Lady of Gleneagles. See lines 1002–06.
205–06 Suld I not . . . . and my honour. It is hardly necessary to comment on the irony of the lady’s wish to become Meldrum’s lover (to “lufe him paramour”) out of gratitude for his saving her “honour.” The trope of an insistent maiden disappointed in her pursuit of the hero is a commonplace of romance: it will be repeated after the squire's military triumphs in France (lines 685–91) and once again invites comparison of Meldrum to Lancelot, although the unattached Meldrum has no particular reason for refusing these ladies. This creates a build-up for his great affair with the lady of Gleneagles, whose advances he will not refuse, but the implied parallel with Guinevere also hints at her part in his tragic fall. See note to lines 863–65 below.
216 erle of Arrane. See note to line 90 ff.
233 munyeoun. “darling, favourite, lover.” From the French mignon, it is not recorded until the very end of the fifteenth century by DOST or the OED. The term is (though not always) used in a derogatory sense, whence ME “minion.”
234 Meik . . . lyk ane lame. The description of a martial hero as being “meek like a lamb” off of the battlefield, contrasted with the ferocity of a lion on it (as at line 236), is more conventional than it might first appear. In the earlier twelfth century it was applied by St. Bernard of Clairvaux to the fledgling order of the Knights Templar in his In Praise of the New Knighthood (De laude novae militae), addressed to one of the order’s founders, Hugh de Payens:
Thus in a wondrous and unique manner they appear gentler than lambs, yet fiercer than lions. I do not know if it would be more appropriate to refer to them as monks or as soldiers, unless perhaps it would be better to recognize them as being both. (Clairvaux, In Praise of the New Knighthood, p. 48)
243 pruifit. C: pruift. L: proued. Although this word may well have been pronounced as a single syllable as Charteris spells it, the weak participial ending is otherwise spelled -it as if it were syllabic (as in the rhyme-pair “luifit,” line 244) so this is almost certainly a simple error on Charteris’ part.
245–53 Hary the aught . . . . was daylie skirmishing. Henry VIII had landed at Calais on 30 June 1513, but the Scottish fleet only arrived off the French coast in mid-September. Henry celebrated his capture of the town of Thérouanne in late August and Tournai in late September of that year. He apparently received news of the English victory at Flodden while at Tournai before returning to Dover in late October 1513, undisturbed by the Franco-Scottish navy which meant to intercept him. This allows for a window of perhaps a month for Meldrum to have performed the “douchtie deidis” (line 230) that establish his reputation, up to and including his great battle against the English champion Talbart. On Henry’s movements, see Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, pp. 35–38; the diary of John Taylor, clerk of the Parliament (LP Henry VIII, 1:626–27). On Scottish preparations for war, see Macdougall, James IV, pp. 264–76. On the Franco-Scottish navy, see Spont, Letters and Papers, pp. xliv, 185–89.
249 The King of France his greit armie. The king of France is Louis XII (d. 1 Jan 1514/15). For the grammar of this phrase, see DOST he (pron.), sense 3c, his “substituted for the inflection -is.”
265–71 Thair was into . . . . for to avance. Hamer suggests that “Maister Talbart” might be one Sir Humphrey Talbot, eldest son of Sir Gilbert Talbot who was then lieutenant or deputy of Calais, adding that “[h]is eldest son, Sir Humphrey, is not recorded in the State Papers, but he was known as “the Giant.” He died on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.” Hadley Williams, uneasily registering Hamer’s lack of support for this statement, points to the episode’s similarity to the common romance trope of a fight with a giant, as does Kinsley. An outstanding example of giant-slaying on behalf of one’s country is Guy of Warwick’s defeat of the Danish giant Colbrand for the grateful King Athelstan of England. In addition to the Middle English versions of Guy of Warwick, a separate ballad of Guy and Colebrande was in existence by the fifteenth century (see Purdie, Anglicising Romance, pp. 193–94).
Hamer’s unreferenced label of “the giant” for Sir Humphrey Talbot appears to derive from a 1569 visitation of officers of the College of Arms to Worcestershire. The section on “Talbot of Lacock” lists “Sir Gilbart Talbott . . . Lord Deputy of Callis” as having three children, the eldest of whom is listed as “Henrey Talbott fils ob. s.p. [i.e., “died without issue”] (Sir Humphrey Talbott surnamed the Giant died in the Holy Land)” (The Visitation, ed. Phillimore, pp. 133–34). While this must be Hamer’s source, it does not in itself cite any source for the information and there is no other record of this Henry or Humphrey Talbot’s service in France. There are occasional references in LP Henry VIII to a son of Sir Gilbert Talbot serving in France, but they do not give a forename and seem likely to refer instead to his son Sir Gilbert “of Grafton” (see for example no. 1692, LP Henry VIII 1:775–76), who may be the “Sir Gilbert Talbot the younger” listed amongst the captains of the vanguard led by the earl of Shrewsbury (LP Henry VIII, 1:608, no. 4253 [16 June 1513]).
The most famous Talbot fighting in France is of course the earl of Shrewsbury himself, George Talbot. As well as being lieutenant of the vanguard in France in 1513, Shrewsbury was steward or master of the king’s house, and was therefore occasionally referred to as “master Talbot,” as for example in a blackletter pamphlet describing the meeting of Henry VIII with the French king Francis I at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in June 1520 (LP Henry VIII 3:303–06, no. 869 [11 June 1520]). The chivalric prestige of George, and of the Talbot earls of Shrewsbury more generally, is indicated by the Venetian ambassador Andrea Badoer in a letter of 1512 in which he describes him as being “of a noble and ancient family named Talbot, and to this day in France they still their babes by threatening them when they cry with the coming of the Talbots” (Cal. State Papers (Venice), 2:75, no. 185). If either Meldrum or Lyndsay himself wished to exaggerate Meldrum’s record of fighting in France, this “master Talbot” would be an ideal choice.
273–74 And on his bonnet usit to beir / Of silver fyne takinnis of weir. A “bonnet” often referred to a steel hat in this period: see Dunbar’s description of the followers of Ire dressed “In iakkis and stryppis and bonettis of steill” (“in padded leather jerkins, steel splints and steel hats”; “Off Februar the fyiftene nycht,” line 37, Poems, 1:150), or a 1539 certificate of the muster for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which lists dozens of men equipped with “a steill bonnet,” variously spelled, sometimes along with a “cot of playt” (Welford, History of Newcastle and Gateshead, pp. 174–94 [see pp. 186–92]). But it is difficult to imagine how such a bonnet might have borne silver “takinnis of weir,” and Hadley Williams argues that Talbart is instead wearing “a fashionable bonnet decorated with jewels or Italian-inspired cap badges.” A contemporary portrait of Sir Nicholas Carew in full jousting armor by Hans Holbein the Younger (1532–33) shows him wearing just such an elaborate cloth bonnet, complete with decorative pin (Hans, Younger Holbein, “Portrait”), and it might be noted that Meldrum sets out the next day wearing only “ane velvot cap” (line 377).
It is not clear what the silver “takinnis of weir” themselves are; they may be badges of his own arms and/or of St. George’s cross (on the use of St. George’s cross in the English army, see note to lines 424–45). Hadley Williams suggests they are the “spoils of war, or badges appropriate to his martial calling”; Hamer (3:195n271) notes only that they imply high status.
294 Your crakkis I count thame not ane cute. “I couldn’t care less about your loud boasts.” DOST traces the common expression “not ane cute” to the Middle Dutch cote (“ankle bone”) as used in playing games, and notes that Dutch also uses the phrase niet ene cote.
297 My gude chyld. DOST cites this line under sense 2 of child (n.), “A lad or boy, a young fellow.” The OED entry for child includes a more specific sense of “A young man of noble or gentle birth” (sense 3), and some of the citations from DOST’s sense 2 are listed there. Talbart’s condescension is nevertheless clear from his use of the familiar “thow” where Meldrum had used the formal “ye,” and it is underlined at line 307 when he addresses Meldrum unambiguously as “my barne” (my child).
311–14 David . . . . Golias. The Biblical David’s defeat of the Philistine Goliath (1 Kings 17:4–51) inspired his inclusion in the list of those models of chivalric virtue known collectively as the Nine Worthies. See the Balletis of the Nine Nobles in the present volume, “David slew michti Golias” (line 25), and the Introduction to that poem. The boastful coward “Fynlaw of the Fute Band” in Lyndsay’s “Proclamatioun maid in Cowpar of Fyffe” (a preface to a 1552 performance in Cupar of his Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, written especially for this local audience) also claims that “War golias in to this steid / I dowt nocht to stryk of his heid” (Hamer 2:30, lines 240–41).
317 Gowmakmorne. Goll mac Morna was one of the fearsome mythical warriors of the Ulster Fenian Cycle, and an enemy of the hero Fionn mac Cumhaill (see MacKillop, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, pp. 228–29). Both figures were well known in the late medieval Scots-speaking world. In Barbour’s Bruce, when Bruce and his small retinue escape from the superior forces of the Lord of Lorne, the latter resentfully observes, “Rycht as Golmakmorn was wone / To haiff fra [Fyn] all his megne, / Rycht swa all his fra ws has he” (3.68–70: “Just as Goll mac Morna used to get all his retinue away from Finn, so he [Bruce] got his away from us”). The narrator of Gavin Douglas’ c. 1501 Palis of Honoure sees “Gret Gowmakmorne and Fyn Makcoull, and how / Thay suld be goddis in Ireland, as thay say” (lines 1715–16). The boastful Fynlaw of Lyndsay’s Proclamatioun maid in Cowpar of Fyffe” is put to flight by what he believes to be “grit Gowmakmorne” (line 257). See note to lines 311–14 above.
319 Montruill. Kinsley thinks Lyndsay refers to Montreuil-sur-Mer in the Pas-de-Calais; Hamer thinks Montreuil-sur-Seine near Paris, over 200 km to the south (presumably because we are told that Henry’s troops are in Picardie [line 250]). Montreuil-sur-Mer seems the most likely, given its proximity to Calais (see line 246) and the towns of Thérouanne and Tournai, which Henry VIII captured in August and September.
337 See note to line 294 above.
343 Monsour de Obenie. Robert Stewart (c. 1470–1544), latterly “d’Aubigny,” was a younger son of the tenth or first earl of Lennox who served in Louis XII’s army under his Franko-Scottish cousin, the Sir “Barnard Stewart” eulogized by Dunbar (Poems 1:177, and see note to the Testament, line 64). Robert inherited Bernard’s seigneurie of Aubigny upon the latter’s death in 1508, and was made captain of Louis XII’s Scots guards in October 1512 (ODNB).
353 it givis me in my hart. DOST cites this line mistakenly under the basic sense of “give,” but “to have misgivings” is clearly the sense intended, for which the MED offers two examples (y‘ven [v.], sense 26a). Kinsley notes a similar usage in Bruce, 19.97–98: “Myne hart giffis me no mor to be / With ȝow duelland in this cuntre.”
373–74 He lap upon . . . his stirroppis richt. A hero who leaps fully armed into the saddle is a common romance trope: see Bevis of Hampton, “Into the sadel a lippte, / That no stirop he ne drippte” (ed. Herzman et al., lines 1945–46) or, for a Scottish example, Florimond of Albany, “he but sturep on him sprang” (ed. Purdie, p. 102, line 474). Talbart does likewise at line 420: Meldrum will do it again at lines 472–76, explicitly “without support” and to the great delight of the Scottish spectators. It may not be a mere romance exaggeration; the biography of Jean le Maingre, marechal of France (d. 1421), records that as part of Jean’s knightly training he would leap sanz mettre le pié en l’estrief sus un coursier, armé de toutes pieces (“fully armed onto a warhorse, without putting his foot in the stirrup”) (Jehan le Maingre, ed. Lalande, p. 25).
DOST does not record this reflexive sense of the verb richt, “sit/stand up straight,” but see MED righten (v.), sense 1b.
384 Ane otter in ane silver feild. “An otter on a silver background.” Meldrum’s arms are also mentioned at lines 548–51 (when Meldrum and Talbart meet in battle) and — slightly different in detail — in the Testament (line 107). The silver background or “field” described at lines 384 and 548 may also be implied in Talbart’s dream of a large black otter coming “fra the see” (line 403): the late fifteenth-century heraldic manual The Deidis of Armorie describes heraldic silver or white as being “lik to þe wattir, quhilk is ane of þe clerast and quhittast / and mast clene elementis þat is” (ed. Houwen, 1:11). McAndrew notes that the family of Meldrum of Fyvie (Aberdeenshire) are “surprisingly little researched genealogically and agreeably varied heraldically,” and arms are also recorded for a branch of the family from Seggie in Fife (Scotland’s Historic Heraldry, p. 449). All show some variant of a black otter, or otters, on a silver background, sometimes emerging from the sea. Closest to the squire’s arms in the Historie are those of Meldrum of Fyvie: “Argent, a demi-otter sable issuant from a fess wavy azure, or Argent, a demi-otter sable issuant from the waves of the sea” (i.e., a silver background on which a black otter emerges either from a wavy blue bar across the middle of the shield — the “fess wavy azure” — or from blue and white wavy lines representing the sea; Scotland’s Historic Heraldry, p. 449). These arms are recorded for the Meldrums of Fyvie by Sir David Lyndsay himself in the Armorial he compiled in 1542 as Lyon King of Arms (see McAndrew, Scotland's Historic Heraldry, p. 272). Meanwhile, the banner of “Of silver schene, thrie otteris into sabill” that Meldrum describes for himself in the Testament (line 107) is closest to that recorded elsewhere for the Meldrums of Seggie in Fife: “Argent, three otters (2,1) passant sable” (i.e., a silver background with three horizontal black otters, two above one; McAndrew, Scotland’s Historic Heraldry, p. 449).
390 Lyke Mars the god armipotent. I.e., “powerful in arms.” See also the Testament, line 76. The earliest recorded English example of this particular epithet for Mars, the god of war, is in Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale” (CT 1[A]1982, 2441), but it seems to have been popular amongst Older Scots poets when writing in an aureate style: see Dunbar’s The Goldyn Targe, lines 112 and 152; Gavin Douglas’ description of the kingly figure in the Palis of Honoure, line 1921, and see Parkinson’s note on manuscript variants here; the eponymous hero of the sixteenth-century romance Clariodus is frequently compared to Mars and once described as “armipotent”(ed. Irving, 5.2262). Meldrum will be compared to Mars again at line 1074, and Meldrum associates himself with Mars in the Testament lines 69–70, 94–97, 126, 132, 187.
401–10 This nicht I saw . . . . in sic ane fray. The animal imagery in this prophetic dream echoes King Arthur’s terrifying dream of a dragon defeating a bear on the eve of his battle against the giant of Mont Saint-Michel, although in this case it is the giant-like Talbart himself (see note to lines 311–14) whose dream foretells his defeat by the young Meldrum. The dragon-bear dream occurs in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain and its immediate derivatives (Wace’s Roman de Brut, Layamon’s Brut), as well as in the Middle English Alliterative Morte Arthure (lines 760–806), a text almost certainly known in Scotland. See Purdie, “Search for Scottishness,” p. 99.
420 lap upon his hors. See Meldrum’s parallel feat and note to lines 373–74 above.
424–25 Sanct Georges croce . . . . all his geir. The English army had worn the cross of St. George since the fourteenth century. Richard II’s Ordinances of War of 1385 decreed that everyone of whatever estate should wear a large cross of St. George on their front and back. See Keen, “Richard II’s Ordinances of War of 1385,” pp. 39–41. The sixteenth-century chronicler Edward Hall notes that when Henry VIII was received at Calais in June 1513, “ouer his riuett [light armor] he had a garment of white cloth of gold with a redde cross,” and when the Emperor Maximilian joined Henry’s forces, “Themperour as the kynges soldiours ware a Crosse of sayncte George with a Rose” (Hall’s Chronicle, p. 539).
437–38 The heraldis put thame . . . . within the bordour. By the later Middle Ages, heralds played an important part in both tournaments and genuine battles. They organized the pageantry of tournaments; they had “neutral” status in battle and so performed a vital role as messengers and diplomats, as well as being able to identify opponents by their arms. In both tournament and battle, they judged and recorded feats of prowess. See Keen, Chivalry, pp. 134–42.
444 accowterit. “equipped.” C has accownterit, L accountered and A accounted, all errors for accowterit from the French accoutrer. DOST records a similar spelling error of accomptirit in the 1552 Register of the Privy Council (accouterit [p.p.]).
445 burdounis. The basic meaning of burdoun is “staff,” as in a pilgrim’s staff, or cudgel, but here and at line 531 it is clearly used as a synonym for “lance” or “spear.” See OED bourdon (n.1), sense 2, which cites this line and Douglas’ Eneados, ed. Coldwell, 3:95, lines 69–70: “He with a burdon of ane lang stif tre, / The poynt scharpit and brynt a litill we [a little bit].”
448 God shaw the richt. “May God reveal [who has] the just cause.” The phrase recurs at line 1262. This was part of the ritual of judicial combat, and Kinsley notes its appearance in Alexander Scott’s roughly contemporary comic poem The Justing and Debait up at the Drum: “The harraldis cryd: ‘God schaw the rycht!’” (line 63, ed. Bawcutt and Riddy, pp. 269–78).
472–76 on he lap . . . . hors sa galyeardlie. See note to lines 373–74 above.
483–84 And cryit gif . . . . for his ladies saik. The notion that a knight was improved by fighting in the name of (or in hopes of impressing) his lady was ingrained in the ideology of chivalry, and Talbart has already offered to fight “for his ladies saik” at line 276. For a review of medieval literature on the idea, see Jaeger, Ennobling Love, pp. 198–213. The ultimate model of the knight who performs great feats “for his ladies saik” is Lancelot, on whom see Lyndsay’s disparaging remarks at lines 48–64 and note above. Meldrum will nevertheless promise the Lady of Gleneagles to do at least as much for her as ever Lancelot did for Guinevere (lines 1079–82).
504 Pertlie to preif their pith thay preist. Compare the fifteenth-century Scots romance Ralph the Collier: “Thay preis furth properly thair pithis to prufe” (line 863, Three Middle English Charlemagne Romances, ed. Lupack).
507 He outterit. L: He vttered. A: Vttered. DOST, citing this line, defines “outer” as “to swerve aside or refuse the encounter” (outer [v.1]). The OED is more specific in defining it as “to go out of the lists or course at a tournament” (again citing the line, and identifying it as a rare Scots usage: utter [v.1], sense 4). Both also cite Pitscottie: “Schir Patrickis horse wtterit witht him and wald on nowayis reconter his marrow” (i.e., “Sir Patrick’s horse carried him out of the lists and refused to meet his opponent”; Historie and Cronicles, ed. Mackay, 1:234, lines 26–27). This is clearly what has happened to Talbart, who demands a new mount and tests it carefully before resuming the tournament (lines 515–23): this time, “name of thame thair marrow mist” (line 529).
556 cunnand. C: cunning. L: cunning. A: cuning. Charteris’ cunning is listed in DOST as an error unique to this poem for cunnand, itself a reduced form of convenant, “agreement.” Neither the MED nor OED list this variant at all, so the text has been emended here.
577 This bene bot chance of armes. “This is just the fortunes of war.” Meldrum will repeat a version of this remark to another opponent later. See note to line 832–34.
577–78 armes . . . . armes. A rare example of rime riche in Lyndsay, pairing armes (warfare) with armes (arms, in the literal sense of limbs).
585–88 Sum sayis . . . . never wes sene into Ingland. This description would fit with Hamer’s identification of “Talbart” with the Sir Humphrey Talbot who was reputed to have died in the Holy Land, although see note to lines 265–71 above on the problems with this. Alternatively, it could explain why no one else has heard of this supposedly famous champion. Or again, if George Talbot earl of Shrewsbury were jokingly meant (i.e., if Meldrum has exaggerated his own exploits somewhat), the claim that he “never wes sene into Ingland” would be amusingly ironic for the original Scottish audience: Shrewsbury was later appointed lieutenant-general in the turbulent Scottish borders (ODNB, “Talbot, George”).
589–90 Bot our squyer did still remane / Efter the weir, quhill peice was tane. Lyndsay’s (or Meldrum’s) chronology becomes vague here. Louis XII of France agreed a preliminary truce with Henry VIII in March 1514 (which included his allies the Scots, although they had not actually been consulted), and a formal peace treaty was signed in August 1514 (Scarisbrick, Henry VIII, pp. 50–56; Emond, “Minority of King James V,” pp. 12–13). This would indicate that Meldrum remained in France in 1514, but at lines 599–600 we are told that “the navie of Scotland / Wes still upon the coist lyand.” In October 1513, the combined Franco-Scottish fleet was meant to intercept Henry VIII on his return to England, but they were scattered by storm and most of the Scottish fleet limped home at the beginning of November 1513, leaving only the largest ships behind in French pay (Governor Albany eventually sold the flagship St Michael to Louis XII in April 1514 [see ER 14:cxxxvi]). On 13 November 1513, Lord Dacre reported to Henry that “Th’ Erl of Aren, admirall of Scotland, is commen home with the shippes of Scotland . . . which hath brought writings and credence from the French king and the Duke of Albany . . . The Scottische soldiours which be commen home make ill reaport of the French king, sayng thei were not well entreated there” (Spont, Letters and Papers, pp. 188–89, nos. 95, 96; see also pp. xliv–xlvi). This contrasts markedly with markedly with Meldrum’s reported experience at the French court.
Lyndsay could conceivably have intended the “peice” of line 590 to refer to the lull following Henry’s capture of Tournai and the simultaneous disastrous news from Flodden (i.e., late September until the end of October 1513), but the description of ambassadors crowding the court of Louis XII at lines 614–18 suggests rather the formal peace negotiations of 1514. Lyndsay (or Meldrum) seems thus to be telescoping events from late 1513 and 1514.
591 the kingis gairdis. This refers to Louis XII’s Scots Guards, led by D’Aubigny. See note to line 343 above.
597–600 From Pycardie . . . .the coist lyand. On dating the Scottish fleet’s movements (and therefore Meldrum’s) see note to lines 589–90 above.
608 hakbut, culvering, pik and speir. Hackbuts and culverins were early portable guns, used in early sixteenth-century warfare alongside the pikes and spears listed here.
619 ane ambassadour. None of the candidates for this description are entirely satisfactory, and Lyndsay’s vagueness here may be deliberate. Hamer suggests John Stewart, Duke of Albany, the French-born acting regent of Scotland who was detained by the French crown until 1515 (Hamer, see also note to lines 1380–87 below). The official Scottish ambassador was Andrew Forman, Bishop of Moray, but his later reputation in some quarters as the architect of James IV’s ruin would seem to preclude seeing him as the “man of greit honour” here (line 620, see Macdougall, James IV, pp. 297–98). Yet another candidate is Antoine d’Arces, Seigneur de la Bastie, who would later become acting regent of Scotland. See note to lines 1395–1406 below.
629 lyke wyld lyounis furious. The villainous English setting upon the Scots “lyke wyld lyounis furious” is a caution against seeing Meldrum’s earlier description, “Rampand lyke ane wyld lyoun” (line 236), as an allusion to the lion rampant on the royal arms of Scotland.
633 Sutheroun. The sudden introduction of this term, literally “Southerners,” for the people Lyndsay has so far described merely as “Inglis” (see lines 265, 428, 567, 572), is reminiscent of the diction of Hary’s Wallace, where the term is frequent.
661 sevin quarter lang. A “quarter” was a fourth of an ell: the OED gives a Scottish ell as 37.2 inches (ell [n.1], sense 1.a). This would make Meldrum’s sword about five and half feet long, a substantial weapon. He is later described as wielding a formidable two-handed sword (see note to line 1254 below).
691–98 Thocht Frenche ladies . . . . did thame noy. The lamenting at Meldrum’s departure is vaguely reminiscent of Wallace’s departure from France, where “Lordys and ladyis wepyt wondyr fast” (Hary’s Wallace, 12.319). But where Meldrum departs simply because “he in France wald not remane” (line 689), Wallace is anxious to return and defend his beleaguered country: “Till help his awn he had a mar plesance / Than thar to byd with all the welth off France” (Hary’s Wallace, 12.299–300).
710–848 Ane day . . . . payit thair ransoun. This sea-battle has distinct echoes of the “Red Reiver” episode of Hary’s Wallace, 9.184–391, and fainter ones of Wallace’s second sea-battle with John of Lynn, 11.809–906.
730 monie gunnis out ovir hir flaw. “many missiles flew right over her [i.e., the ship].” DOST does not record examples of gun used in reference to the missiles fired, but the OED lists two, from Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women and the Avowing of King Arthur: see gun (n.) sense 4. The Scottish ship is so much smaller and lower in the water that the English guns are finding it difficult to aim low enough to hit her, whereas the Scottish guns are finding the tall English ship an easy target. In Hary’s Wallace, the ship of the English pirate John of Lynn is far better armed and similarly “mar off hycht” than Wallace’s (11.893–94).
749 halbert. The halberd was a variant of the pole-axe, with an axe-blade and pick on either side of the shaft and a spear-head at the tip. The OED records references to them from the very end of the fifteenth century, but DOST only from the sixteenth, so Lyndsay is describing modern weaponry.
751 Out of the top. The “top” or “top-castle” was a platform at the head of a mast in fighting ships, often used by archers (see OED top [n.], sense 3.9a).
758 Swyith yeild, yow doggis, or ye sall die. Compare the Red Reiver episode in Hary’s Wallace: “On loude he cryit, ‘Stryk, doggis! ȝe sall de!’” (9.263).
762 tratour tavernar. Hamer thought this was intended as a slur on the English captain's social class; Kinsley thought he was calling him a “brawling tippler.” Both are possible, but Hadley Williams’ suggestion that this alludes to a proverb about empty boasts made in a tavern (Whiting T49) is the most convincing. Whiting’s entry is based on the following lines from Richard Coer de Lyon:
Whenne they sytten at the taverne,
There they ben stoute and sterne, brave and daring
Bostfyl wurdes for to crake, speak
And of here dedes, yelpyng to make. boasting
Lytyl wurth they are and misprowde; haughty (arrogant)
Fyghte they cunne with wurdes lowde, are able
And telle no man is here pere; proclaim; equal
But whene they comen to the mystere, time of peril (show-down)
And see men begynne strokes dele, deliver
Anon they gynne to turne here hele . . .
(ed. Larkin, lines 3853–62)
776 And sone wes all the Sutheroun slane. Hamer takes “slane” in its usual sense of “killed” and describes this line as “a slight exaggeration, since two hundred men, we are told later [lines 840–41], were put ashore on the coast of Kent.” Hadley Williams objects that “The sense seems to be ‘defeated,’ given following events” and indeed there are men alive and begging for mercy at lines 779–80. DOST offers three examples of sla in this weaker sense of “to strike down” (sla, [v.], sense 1.1) and, although they speculate that these might actually belong to the more usual sense of “kill by striking” (sense 1.3), the MED actually records non-fatal striking as the first, well-evidenced sense for sl‘n (v.). It is possible that Lyndsay is using deliberately archaic terminology here, since the three DOST examples in question are from Barbour’s Bruce (c. 1375) and Wyntoun’s Original Chronicle (c. 1420). Another non-fatal sense of “slay” occurs at line 1134 below, and see line 149 of “The Unicornis Tale” elsewhere in this volume.
781–88 Yit wes . . . . ane thowsand syse. Either Lyndsay (or his informant, Meldrum) forgot that the squire had knocked the captain into “ane deidlie swoun” a moment earlier (line 770), or the squire’s blow was less deadly than originally implied.
790 Thrie thowsand nobillis of the rois. The “rose noble” was the most valuable of the various types of English noble — a gold coin — in circulation. They were introduced by Edward IV in 1464 and stamped with the York rose, hence the name. An act of the Scottish Parliament of 12 October 1467, under James III, ordered the valuation of “the Eduarde with the rose to xxxij s[hillings] of our mone.” In the squire’s own era, an act of Parliament of 20 August 1524 valued the various English nobles thus: “The Ros noble of Weiht for xliiij s the Hary noble of Weiht for xl s, the Angell noble for xxx s.” (Cochran-Patrick, Records of the Coinage of Scotland, 1:32 and 1:54).
803 ran and red. Kinsley refers back to “the redding” (i.e. the physical separation of combatants in a fight) of line 671, which fits the general sense here, but compare the phrase “[h]is erandis for to ryne and red” in Dunbar’s “Complane I wald, wist I quhome till” (Poems 1:68, line 44) where it simply means to “go and do.” Lyndsay might then be paraphrased “then both the captains did so,” i.e., arranged for the fighting to cease, rather than wading back into the thick of it themselves.
832–34 It wes but chance . . . . hapnit siclike adventure. This is similar to what Meldrum says earlier to the defeated Talbart, assuring him it was “bot chance of armes” (line 577), but it is closer still to the words of Wallace to the Red Reiver: “For chans off wer thou suld no murnyng mak. / As werd will wyrk thi fortoun mon thou tak” (Hary’s Wallace, 9.371–72).
844 the Blaknes. The well fortified Blackness Castle, on the south side of the Firth of Forth near Linlithgow, was often used as a prison. Its earliest mention in the Records of the Parliaments of Scotland in this capacity is from 1467 (Judicial Proceedings for 17 October), in reference to an Andro Johnson: “And for the contemption done to the kingis hienes, that his persoune be enterit in ward in the castel of the Blaknes lyk as wes decretit be the lordis of counsale of before” (RPS 1467/10/35).
848 ransoun. It was common practice to ransom such prisoners of war as seemed likely to be able to afford it; presumably this is the basis on which some of the English were “waillit furth” (“picked out,” line 839). See Ambühl, Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War.
856 Straitherne. Strathearn is a valley in Perthshire (along the river Earn) where it meets northwest Fife. Either Meldrum has traveled overland through Fife or sailed north and into the river Tay, past Dundee — either route is logical enough for a man with lands in Cleish, northwest Fife. In her note to this line, Hadley Williams notes that “Meldrum’s route recalls Wallace’s,” at least as described in Hary’s poem. If so, it makes an interesting contrast: where the squire is feasted everywhere, Wallace must sneak back into the country, evading capture by the English. Strathearn is not specifically named, though he does enter it: “Wallace the land has tane / At Ernys mouth and is till Elchok gane” (i.e., Elcho Castle on the river Tay, near the mouth of the river Earn) (Hary’s Wallace, 12.329–30).
858 ane castell. This is Gleneagles Castle is in southeast Perthshire. The ruins of its grand fifteenth-century tower, just south of the famous modern golf course, are still standing (see https://canmore.org.uk/site/25906/gleneaglescastle).
863–65 Ane lustie ladie . . . . wes the moir. So much effort has gone into establishing who this “ladie” was in real life and what happened between her and Meldrum that it is easy now to miss the fact that Lyndsay himself never names her, nor tells us anything more than that she lives in a castle somewhere in Strathearn (line 856, and compare “Sterne of Stratherne” in the Testament, line 230); she owns another castle somewhere in the Lennox (see note to line 1057); her former husband was a relation of Meldrum’s (line 966); and eventually, that “scho aganis hir will wes maryit” to a man who is likewise unnamed (line 1465). This anonymity helps to highlight instead the literary allusions to Virgil’s Aeneid and the Squire of Low Degree (see notes to lines 875–80 below) as well as to invite the audience to compare and contrast the couple with Lancelot and Guinevere (see note to lines 205–06 above) although she is not married, she will be the unintentional cause of Meldrum’s doom. Perhaps the anonymity was also intended to help Lyndsay avoid accusations of slander, should his poem reach a wider audience than that for which it was originally intended. Identification of the lady and her two husbands was unnecessary for Lyndsay’s original private audience in Fife, who were already familiar with the dramatic story of Meldrum’s affair with Marjorie Lawson, Lady of Gleneagles. See the Introduction, “The Historie and History” for discussion.
875–80 Eneas . . . . put in vers. The squire’s storytelling is likened to that of Aeneas at Carthage in book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid. Dido, a young widow like Marjorie, falls helplessly in love with Aeneas as he recounts the harrowing story of the fall of Troy and his escape from it. Gavin Douglas completed his translation of the Aeneid into Scots (the Eneados) in 1513, so it was readily accessible to a sixteenth-century Scottish audience. The implicit comparison does not bode well for the squire and the lady: Aeneas resumes his quest to found a new empire while the abandoned Dido commits suicide. In fact, however, Meldrum’s lady will go on to re-marry and indeed outlive the squire, while Meldrum will be permanently crippled in the vicious ambush described (lines 1211–1380). It is difficult to gauge how much irony Lyndsay intends here, or in his aside that the rest of the squire’s tale was, unlike Aeneas’, “langsum for to put in vers.” The parallels with the Aeneid are again hinted at with Meldrum’s otherwise conventional prayer to Venus at lines 906–16. Venus was Aeneas’ mother and the instigator of his disastrous affair with Dido.
900 ff. Bot still did on the ladie think . . . . Bawcutt and Riddy observe: “It is difficult to tell how far this episode is to be taken seriously and how far it contains elements of burlesque.” C. S. Lewis insisted that “the humour is not burlesque,” referring instead to its “wholesome sensuality” and “homely realism” (English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, p. 103). Bawcutt and Riddy point to James I’s Kingis Quair (at lines 274–350, 435–41, 470–97) for examples of the serious deployment of many of the conventions touched on here, including the May setting, the lover’s torments, the lover as the lady’s prisoner and thrall, the lady’s dawn walk, and the elaborate description of her beauty (on which see further note to lines 944–49 below).
901 Cupido with his fyrie dart. Ovid depicts Cupid, the god of Love, as a vengeful youngster who fires arrows tipped with gold or lead — causing love and revulsion respectively — in the tale of Apollo and Daphne (Metamorphoses 1.452–74). But the thirteenth-century French poem The Romance of the Rose by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun offered probably the most detailed and influential version of this extended metaphor for falling in and out of love: see trans. Dahlberg, pp. 42–44 (lines 865–984), for the arrows and pp. 54–69 (lines 1681–2764) for the narrator and the God of Love, here portrayed as an adult lord (ed. Langlois, lines 865–984 and 1681–2764). Chaucer, who made his own translation of a portion of The Romance of the Rose, imagines Troilus being shot by “the God of Love” in TC 1.206–10. In book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid, Venus sends her son Cupid to cause Dido to burn with love for Aeneas. See note to lines 875–80 above on other allusions to the Aeneid.
907–26 Ladie . . . . be my paramour. The overheard lover’s complaint is a common trope of medieval courtly poetry. Famous examples include Pandarus overhearing Troilus’ lament (TC 1.547–50 and 2.519–60) or Chaucer’s narrator overhearing the Black Knight in The Book of the Duchess (ed. Benson, lines 458 ff.), but the closest analogue here is the late fifteenth-century English romance The Squire of Low Degree, a semi-comical romance extremely popular throughout the sixteenth century in England and told in the same racy octosyllabic couplets as Lyndsay’s Historie (see further the notes to lines 923–24, 934, and 962 below). The eponymous squire falls in love with a princess of Hungary (neither lover is ever named) but feels unworthy of her: he laments his plight in a beautiful garden (ed. Kooper, lines 68–88), where the princess overhears him from her room and decides to take pity on him (see the suggestively similar lines below, note to lines 923–24). She gives him a list of instructions of how to win her father’s consent, but a jealous steward — compare Lyndsay’s unnamed “cruell knicht” of line 1191 — is determined to keep the couple apart, first by telling the king about their liaison (who, however, is comically unperturbed) and then by ambushing the unarmed squire with a large party of men when he tries to visit the princess. Here the stories diverge: the squire of low degree slays the steward despite the desperate odds and his lack of armor; a series of misunderstandings keeps the squire either in prison or in exile for seven years while the faithful princess mourns his apparent death. Rather gruesomely, she has the mutilated body of what she believes to be the squire embalmed and kept at her bedhead this whole time. Eventually the deception is revealed, the couple are married, and the squire is made the king’s heir. The Hungarian princess’ fierce loyalty to what she believes to be the mutilated body of her squire contrasts with the way the lady of Gleneagles will drop abruptly out of Meldrum’s life after his own disfigurement in the ambush that ends their affair.
The Squire of Low Degree had been printed by Wynkyn de Worde as early as c. 1520 under the title Undo Youre Dore (see STC [2nd ed.] 23111.5). It had certainly found a market in Scotland by 1586, when a Scottish ship homeward bound from London was found to be carrying 50 copies of “Squire of low degre, Eng.,” twice as many as any of the other 26 books listed on the inventory (see Robertson, “A Packet of Books for Scotland,” p. 52).
923–24 Howbeit . . . . agane. Compare Squire of Low Degree: “Though I for thee should be slayne, / Squyer, I shall thee love agayne” (ed. Kooper, lines 153–54).
934, 962 squyeris dure unlok; bar the dure. This focus on the locking and unlocking of the squire’s door is again reminiscent of the Squire of Low Degree, whose alternative title in some prints was Vndo Your Dore (see STC [2nd ed.] 23111.5, “Here begynneth vndo your dore” [London: Wynkyn de Worde, ?1520]). The squire, believing himself to be unobserved, creeps up to the princess’ door: “‘Your dore undo! / Undo,’ he sayde, ‘nowe, fayre lady!’”; “Undo thy dore, my worthy wyfe”; “Undo your dore, my lady swete”; “Undo thy dore, my frely floure” (ed. Kooper, lines 534–35, 539, 541, 545). The lady, not recognizing his voice, retorts: “I wyll not my dore undo / For no man that cometh therto” (lines 551–52). Eventually she realizes who he is and makes a fulsome speech of welcome, but this only serves to give the jealous steward’s men enough time to attack. The squire kills the steward but is hauled away, while the steward’s disfigured body is left for the lady to find (and mistake for the squire’s) when she undoes her door at last. Meldrum’s affair runs in almost inverse parallel to that in the Squire of Low Degree, with the lady creeping up to his door but finding the lock already undone; Meldrum locking the door himself with her on the inside, and finally — tragically — Meldrum himself being horribly mutilated by the “cruell knicht” who wants to separate the lovers (see lines 1215 ff.).
944–49 His goldin traissis . . . . withouttin hois. The early thirteenth-century writer Geoffrey of Vinsauf provided a much imitated (and satirized) model for how to describe a beautiful woman, recommending among other things that a poet should “let the colour of gold give a glow to her hair;” that her skin be so white that “lilies bloom high on her brow;” that “her breast, the image of snow, show side by side its twin virginal gems,” and that “the border of her robe gleam with fine linen” (Poetria Nova, trans. Nims, pp. 36–37).
951 vailye quod vailye. This translates as “come what may” (from Latin valeo, “prevail”), a common expression that Lyndsay assigns elsewhere to a fat, overconfident parrot who is determined to climb to the top of a tree in Testament of the Papyngo: “‘I wyll,’ said scho, ‘ascend, vailye quod vailye’” (line 161; she then falls and is fatally injured). For a more dignified example of the phrase in battle, see Barbour’s Bruce 9.148. This scene evidently made a strong impression on at least one early eighteenth-century reader. George, 1st Earl of Cromartie, wrote to the Earl of Mar in 1707 that if he is forced to wait any longer for his salary, “I will study for as much to borrow as will cary [sic] my old bones up to complain, vale que vale, as Squire Meldrum said”; and again in 1708, to the same correspondent, “I now come to act in another scene, and to intreat for my freends, vale que vale, as old Squire Meldrum did sing in the dayes of yore” (Fraser, The Earls of Cromartie, 2:45 and 2:57, letters of 25 September 1707 and 17 January 1708).
953 courtlyke. C: courlyke. L: curtlike. The OED records adj. courtlike from the later sixteenth century, but no spellings without medial t. DOST cites only this line — likewise emended — for its entry for cour[t]lyk (adj.). A corrects to “courtly.”
955–64 Madame, gude morne . . . . my womanheid to spill. If the squire’s earlier lament recalled serious works in the courtly love tradition, this scene is far more reminiscent of fabliaux such as Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale in which — in a spoof of these same courtly conventions — the crafty young student Nicholas approaches his landlord’s wife Alison:
And prively he caughte hire by the queynte [private parts]
And seyde, “Ywis, but if ich have me wille,
For deerne [secret] love of thee, lemman, I spille [die].
After a brief and unconvincing protest — “Do wey youre handes, for youre curteisye!” — Alison “hir love hym graunted atte laste” (CT 1[A]3287–90). Meldrum’s lady is at least widowed when she makes her equally token objection.
963–66 Contemporary canon law imposed an extremely restrictive set of impediments to marriage based on kinship of either consanguinity or affinity, extending both to the fourth degree. This meant that marriage was prohibited, not only to a blood relative to within the fourth degree (i.e., someone with whom one shared a great-great-grandparent), but also to someone within four degrees of relation to one’s former spouse (see Sellar, “The Family,” pp. 98–99). The latter is clearly the case for Meldrum, although his relationship to the lady’s former husband is never spelled out. The solution was to seek a dispensation from the Pope, but this was an expensive business and was often ignored by couples. The Archbishop of St Andrews protested to the Pope in a letter of 1 September 1554 that “such was the connexion between families in Scotland, that it was scarce possible to match two persons of good birth who should not come within the forbidden degrees; and on that account . . . many married without dispensation, promising to obtain it subsequent to marriage; but afterwards instead of doing so, sought for divorce, or put away their wives on the pretext of the want of dispensation and of the expense of procuring one” (Liber Officialis Sancti Andree, ed. Forbes and Innes, pp. xxv–xxvi and 164–65).
No blood connection between the Meldrums and the Haldanes can be traced in the scant surviving historical records, but we do not know the name of William Meldrum’s mother or of his great-grandmother on his father’s side (see the conjectural Meldrum family tree in the Introduction, “Squire of Cleish and Binns”), so there is plenty of scope for the connection to have been a close one, whether with the Haldanes directly, or via the family of Sir John Haldane’s mother, Christian Grahame (named in a 1481 charter by his grandfather John, NRS GD198/16), or that of his grandmother, Agnes of Menteth (named in an instrument of resignation from 1472, NRS GD198/45, and a protest against a precept of chancery of 1473, NRS GD198/49).
987 Cupido. See note to line 901 above.
990–99 Nor ane . . . . I hard sane. Although references to sex are normally more coy than this in romances, such directness is not unknown. In the fifteenth-century Middle English Partonope of Blois, the heroine Melior has — like the lady here — engineered things so that she and her beloved are alone in a bedroom. When he puts an arm around her, she raises only a feeble objection, and:
. . . . a-none ganne he
In hys armes her faste to hym brase.
And fulle softely þen sho sayde: “Allas!”
And her legges sho gan to knytte,
And wyth hys knees he gan hem on-shote.
And þer-wyth-all she sayde: “Syr, mercy!”
He wolde not lefe ne be þer-by;
For of her wordes toke he no hede;
But þys a-way her maydenhede
Haþe he þen rafte and geffe her hys.
(ed. Bödtker, lines 1562–71)
The narrator’s disingenuous claim to be unsure what happened is entirely traditional.
991 wodbind. This can refer to ivy or similar green climbing plants, or to climbing honeysuckle. Either way it is a common metaphor for lovers clinging to each other. See Marie de France’s brief lai of Chievrefoil, telling of a secret tryst between Tristram and Isolde; chievrefoil translates as “goatleaf,” or honeysuckle (Lais, ed. Rychner, pp. 151–54). See also Chaucer’s description of Troilus and Criseyde when they finally get together:
And as aboute a tree, with many a twiste,
Bytrent and writh the swote wodebynde,
Gan ech of hem in armes other wynde.
996 And with hir hair scho dicht hir ene. Hamer, Kinsley: “and with her hair she covered her eyes.” Bawcutt and Riddy object that “there seems to be no parallel for dicht in this sense,” and they translate as “wiped” based on DOST dicht, (v.), sense 3b: “the lady may be wiping away a (false) tear or even feigning surprise by rubbing her eyes.” But compare MED dighten (v.), sense 1b.b, which offers several examples of the sense “clothe, cover”; the exceptionally poor survival rate for Older Scots texts means that many usages attested in ME are likely to apply to Scots also, though they do not happen to be exemplified in the surviving corpus. Either way she is clearly feigning shame, much like the equally unrepentant Melior when she makes the token gestures of sighing “Allace!” and crossing her legs after luring Partonope into bed with her (see note to lines 990–99 above).
1002–06 he gaif her . . . . thir twa dissever. On the ruby ring love-token see note to lines 195–96.
1008 lammer. Although the OE plural form of “lamb” was lambru, lambur, and the description of sleeping maidens as being ‘as sweet as lambs’ would be appropriate (“lambs” is Hadley Williams’, Bawcutt, and Riddy’s preferred gloss), DOST (lam, lamb(e (n.)) notes that “The regular and only plur. forms known to Sc. are in -is, -es, unless we count some place-names in Lammer-.” Lyndsay twice uses the expression “sweiter nor/than the lamber/lammer” elsewhere to describe women, in both cases rhymed with “chalmer” as here (Ane Satyre, line 531 and “Proclamatioun” line 152) and seeming to refer to “ambergris” as used in perfume. The terms amber/lamber/lammer were used interchangeably for ambergris and for the gemstone amber; see OED amber (n.1), sense A.I, and DOST lammer (n.).
1019 be him that deir Jesus sauld. Bawcutt and Riddy quip that “It is appropriate that in glibly lying to her maids the lady should swear by Judas” (i.e., Judas Iscariot).
1048 the futeball. Although not considered a noble pastime, football (or soccer) was enormously popular from the later Middle Ages onwards, not to mention violent (see Reeves, Pleasures and Pastimes, pp. 91–92.) It was banned by successive Scottish kings throughout the fifteenth century, evidently without the slightest success (see RPS James I, 1424/19; James II, 1458/3/7; James III, 1471/5/6; James IV, 1491/4/17). In 1497, students at the University of St Andrews were banned from playing ad pilam pedalem on pain of excommunication (Dunlop, Acta Facultatis, pp. 265–66). Meanwhile, however, the Treasurer’s Accounts for that same year record a payment “to Jame Dog to by fut ballis to the King” (TA 1:330). The footballing students of rival colleges of St Andrews would go on to cause a serious breach of the peace in 1537 (Acta Facultatis, pp. cxxxii, 380–81 [19 February 1537]). I am grateful to Professor Roger Mason for drawing these records to my attention.
1054 the Lennox. See note to line 1057 below.
1055 Makfagon. So C and L. S: Mackfarlon. Bawcutt and Riddy emend to Makfaron to rhyme with baron (line 1066), although they admit that this is not otherwise recorded as a variant of the name otherwise rendered consistently as Makferland or MacFarland at lines 1097, 1108, 1120, 1135, and 1143. (On the MacFarlanes, see note to line 1057 below.) If Makfagon is Charteris’ error, he may — as Hadley Williams notes — have been thinking of Hary’s wicked (albeit fictional) Highlander Makfadȝan in Hary’s Wallace (7.623–868) who led a band of supposedly savage Irish and Hebridean men in a raid on Argyll, to be defeated by the combined forces of Wallace and Lord Campbell of Loch Awe (possibly inspired by the attack of a real Maurice MacFadyane on the bishop of Argyll in 1452). As Boardman remarks: “Hary visualised the confrontation between Wallace and Campbell’s forces and MacFadzan’s men as a straightforward struggle between ‘civilisation’ and ‘savagery’” (The Campbells, p. 212). That the name “MacFadyan” became synonymous with Highland savagery for Lowland audiences is suggested by Dunbar’s inclusion of a Makfadȝane and his “Ersche” (i.e., Gaelic) followers in an infernal dance of the Seven Deadly Sins (Poems 1:152, lines 110, 116).
As for what stood in Lyndsay’s original text, neither Makferlan(d) nor Makfagon rhyme with line 1056’s baron, so it may be that the lines originally rhymed Makferland with brigand or tyran(d), which a distracted later copyist altered to the more common collocation of “bold baron.” Compare lines 1420 and 1493, where tyrane, tyrannis is used in the general sense of “villain.”
1057 Hir castell. This would seem to be Boturich Castle on the southeast bank of Loch Lomond in the Lennox, a region taking in much of present-day Dunbartonshire and west Stirlingshire. The current Boturich Castle is nineteenth-century country house built upon the ruins of the fifteenth-century castle. A charter of January 1508/9 includes “duas le Bothurches” — i.e., Boturich — among the lands consolidated into the barony of Haldane for John Haldane and Marjorie Lawson, who are both named in the charter (Reg. Mag. Sig. 2:702–03, no. 3288). On Haldane’s involvement in the disputed inheritance of the lands and title of the earldom of Lennox, see Napier, History of the Partition of the Lennox, pp. 77–79. Although Fraser describes a raid on Boturich Castle by “the Macfarlanes of Arrochar,” the only source he gives is Lyndsay’s poem (Fraser, Lennox 1:155). James MacFarlane likewise highlights the MacFarlanes’ general reputation as cattle-raiders and allies of the outlawed MacGregors and he likewise mentions this raid on the Haldane property of Boturich, but once again, Lyndsay’s poem is the only cited source (History of Clan MacFarlane, p. 52). Doubts over the truth of this particular episode notwithstanding, the general unruliness of the MacFarlanes is a matter of historical record; Hadley Williams (in her note to line 1143) cites a statement in the Acts of the Lords of Council for 21 July 1518: “‘the lardis of Bucquhannane and McFerlane wer takin and putt in warde for gret misreul maid be thaim in the cuntre,’” and the Council intended to consider how to deal with them so that the whole area including the Lennox “‘may be putt to peax’” (Acts of Council in (Public Affairs), p. 126).
1064 Dunbartane and Argyle. “Dumbarton and Argyll” in the west of Scotland. See note to line 1057 above on the extent of the lady’s lands in the Lennox (which included Dumbarton), and note to line 1055 above on the association of the MakFadyans — here conflated with MacFarlanes — with Argyll.
1076–77 scho gaif him . . . . his basnet bure. On the practice of bearing a lady’s token into tournament or battle, and the inspiration such practices drew from literary romance, see Keen, Chivalry, pp. 212–16.
1077–81 That worthie Lancelot . . . . I sall do. On Lancelot, about whom Lyndsay was earlier quite disparaging, see note to lines 48–64 above.
1088–92 Than . . . . at his command. From tournament and battlefield vows to more personal ones, vowing played a major part in chivalric culture. An influential literary precedent is the Voeux du Paon or “Vows upon the Peacock,” an early fourteenth-century text incorporated into the Old French Alexander cycle which would be translated into Scots twice over the course of the fifteenth century, first as part of the Buik of Alexander and then as part of the Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour, associated with Gilbert Hay. Meldrum’s vow that “he suld never in hart be glaid” recalls one in the Older Scots romance King Orphius (a version of the Middle English Sir Orfeo): when the regent-nephew is told that King Orphius lies dead and unburied somewhere, he exclaims: “I sall never gleid be / Quhill [until] þat body buryit be, / Nor ever ane horss ane [f]it [one foot] to ryd” (ed. Purdie, Laing text, lines 60–62). On the culture of chivalric vows generally, see Keen, Chivalry, pp. 212–15.
1107 culvering, hakbut. See note to line 608 above.
1116 braid arrowis. See DOST brade (adj.), sense 2.b.1, for other examples of this epithet applied to arrows. MacFarlane’s troops do not appear to have any artillery with which to answer the squire’s “hakbute” or “culveryne” fire.
1134 tak and slay. On the sense of “slay” as to “strike down” rather than to kill, see note to line 776 above.
1143 In fre waird . . . . was Makferland seisit. I.e., he is technically Meldrum’s prisoner, but will not actually be imprisoned; see DOST ward (n.1), sense 4b.
1155–58 Gif uther thing . . . . in that art. Lyndsay makes the same claims to ignorance about love (perhaps equally tongue in cheek) in the Answer to the Kingis Flyting, lines 12–13. An influential model is Chaucer’s narrator in TC 1.15–21; 2.12–21 (as well as the narrators of his Book of the Duchess and The Parliament of Fowls).
1162 Ane douchter to the squyer bair. Pitscottie says she bore him two children (Historie and Cronicles, ed. Mackay, 1:299), although it is hard to see how he would know more about it than Lyndsay (Mackay gives Pitscottie’s approximate date of birth as 1532, decades after the events in question). The historical record offers no other hint of any children from the union, but Marjorie did have two sons with her first husband, Sir John Haldane, so it is possible that there is some conflation here. See further discussion in the Introduction, “The Historie and History.”
1167–68 In scarlot fyne . . . . sicht to sene. Bawcutt and Riddy note that “scarlot” was a rich cloth but not necessarily red in color; in this case, it is green. See OED scarlet (n.), sense 1a. On the distribution of green liveries for “Maying” celebrations, see Crane, The Performance of Self, pp. 39–72.
1169–70 The gentilmen . . . . mak ane band. This sounds like the bond of “manrent,” a practice common in late-medieval Scotland in which the bonded man offered life-long service in return for a lord’s protection, without any exchange of land-rights. See Wormald, Lords and Men in Scotland, pp. 14–33.
1178 dispensatioun. See note to lines 966–68 above.
1183–84 Of warldlie joy . . . . the fatall end. A very common proverbial saying. For English examples see Whiting J58; for Older Scots ones, see Whiting, “Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings from Scottish Writings,” Part 1:194–95, “Joy.”
1189–90 Quhairthrow he stude . . . . defendit his honour. This passing allusion to more widespread friction caused by the squire’s liaison with the lady of Gleneagles (leading him to fight in “monie ane stour”) is, unlike some other aspects of Lyndsay’s tale, borne out by the historical record; see Introduction, “The Historie and History.”
1197 not in blude. Although all early prints read thus, Pinkerton (and following him Chalmers and Laing), emended to “neir in blude” in order to align the story more closely with the version recounted by Pitscottie, in which the “cruell knicht” (line 1191) is identified as Sir John Stirling of Keir, and is held to have organized the ambush on behalf of his uncle Luke Stirling (Historie and Cronicles, ed. Mackay, 1:299). Records show that Marjorie Lawson did marry Luke Stirling, but other aspects of both Lyndsay’s and Pitscottie’s account of this ambush are difficult to square with the few historical documents relating to it. See the Introduction, “The Historie and History.”
1221 tuik his licence from his oist. “[O]ist” can be translated either as “armed company” (as Hadley Williams glosses it) or “landlord, host.” But the more domestic scene of paying the bill at their inn seems more likely. Had they felt the need to travel with an armed host in the first place, it seems unlikely that they would dismiss it for the journey home.
1224 ovir the ferrie. There were various ferry-points across the Firth of Forth, but this is almost certainly referring to south Queensferry near Edinburgh. DOST (ferry (n.), sense a) notes that the name Queneferie occurs from c. 1295.
1241 kend. The usual sense of this word is “known,” as Bawcutt and Riddy gloss it; taken thus, she could be reassuring the squire that she is too well known to come to harm if she continues on alone. Another shade of meaning is “guided, shown the way” (see DOST ken (v.), sense 4b), the sense in which Kinsley takes it in order to paraphrase the line as “I shall be helped home.”
1244 no. C is generally a very accurate copy, but in this line the letter u was substituted for n. It has been corrected in L.
1254 ane lang twa-handit sword. The sixteenth-century Italian writer Giacomo de Grassi writes of the powerful two-handed sword:
One may with it, as a Galleon among many Gallies, resist many swords and other weapons . . . And because its weight and bigness require great strength, therefore those only are allotted to the handling thereof which are mighty and big to behold, great and strong in body and of stout and valiant courage (quoted in Oakeshott, European Weapons and Armour, p. 148).
Compare lines 1351–53, where Meldrum is described as “sweipand his sword round about . . . Durst nane approche within his boundis.”
1259 be Goddis corce. This probably means “by the body of God,” although as Bawcutt and Riddy point out, “by God’s cross” (with metathesis of r) is also possible. The latter is certainly what L understood, since he printed “be Gods Croce,” followed by A with “by God his Cross.”
1262 shaw the richt. Meldrum uses the language of judicial combat here (see note to line 448 above) to underscore the injustice of the “cruell knicht[’s]” attack.
1281–82 Gaudefer . . . . At Gadderis Ferrie. Gaudifer is one of the main heroes of one of the branches of the OF Alexander cycle known as the Fuerre de Gadres, or “Foray of Gaza.” It was translated into Scots as part of the early fifteenth-century Buik of Alexander and again in the mid-fifteenth century Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour associated with Gilbert Hay. Gaudifer, fighting against Alexander’s men, earned their profound admiration when he defended the retreat of Duke Betys of Gaza’s forces against terrible odds. His name became a by-word for extreme courage and prowess, and Barbour accordingly likens Robert Bruce to him when he defends his own followers’ escape from the far more numerous forces of John of Lorne (Bruce 3.67–92). Hamer, Kinsley, and Bawcutt and Riddy all describe line 1282’s “Gadderis Ferrie” as Lyndsay’s own mistranscription of The Forray of Gadderis, but it seems unlikely that Scotland’s chief herald would not recognize such an element of chivalric vocabulary. If it is an error, it seems more likely to be a scribe’s or printer’s (both L and A retain “Ferrie/Ferry”). Otherwise, it might be noted that the MED records a late-medieval spelling of ferray in the Towneley Plays for “foray” (see forrai (n.)), while Anglo-Norman offers the related term fereis, “attack” (see AND).
1295, 1298 Thome; Thomas Giffard. Thomas Giffard, or Gifford, is named twice here although so many other characters go unnamed, including the “cruell knicht” leading the attack. This may be the “Thomas Giffert,” messenger-atarms, who is listed among several colleagues called to account for fermes [land rents] of barony of Strathavane (Strathaven, Lanarkshire) on 24 May 1530 (ER 16, p. 524); he may or may not be the same “late Thomas Giffert” whose Dalkeith lands are the subject of an instrument of sasine of 28 May 1546 (Cal. Laing Charters, pp. 135–36, no. 517). The messengers-at-arms were official couriers who also acted as “sheriffs in that part” — executing royal summonses and other writs, and issuing (and collecting) fines and other penalties, a potentially dangerous job in early modern Scotland which would have required robust officers. Thomas Giffert was thus exactly the kind of person whom Lyndsay’s “cruell knicht” was likely to have called upon to assist in his ambush of the squire. More importantly, the messengers-at-arms were under the control of the Lyon King of Arms by 1510 at the latest (see DOST messinger (n.), sense 1b). David Lyndsay would not hold this office until later in the 1530s (see Biography of Sir David Lyndsay); he was a herald by 1530 and is thus likely to have known Giffert personally.
1310–12 Tydeus . . . . fyftie knichtis. A hero of the OF Roman de Thèbes (itself based on Statius’ Latin Thebaid), Tydeus was another medieval by-word for displays of courage and prowess against terrible odds. While traveling alone as a messenger for Polynices, he fought his way out of a 50-man ambush arranged by Polynices’ brother and rival Ethiocles (Roman de Thèbes, ed. Petit, lines 1483–1820; Statius, Thebaid, book 2). Barbour engages in a bit of one-upmanship by disingenuously comparing Tydeus’ solo defeat of 50 men to Bruce’s defense of a narrow pass against 200 comers (Bruce, 6.181–270). The “richtis” which Lyndsay describes Tydeus as defending may, as Hadley Williams notes, refer simply to “those of just conditions of combat,” since Tydeus was in fact representing Polynices’ claim to the Theban throne.
1313 Rolland with Brandwell. Roland was the most famous of Charlemagne’s douzeperes — the Frankish equivalent of the knights of the Round Table — alongside Oliver (on whom see note to line 1316 below). In the OF Chanson de Roland of c. 1100, Roland dies fighting the Saracens at Roncevaux, too proud to call for reinforcements until it is too late. When he realizes he is about to die, he addresses a eulogy to his sword Durendal and tries to break it to prevent it from falling into enemy hands, but it slices the rocks instead (ed. Bédier, lines 2300–54 [laisses 171–73]). In the OF Otinel and its ME descendants (Otuel and Roland, Otuel a Knight, and Duke Rowland and Sir Ottuel of Spayne), Roland battles with — and eventually brings about the conversion of — the noble Saracen champion Otinel/Otuel. An uncharacteristically restrained Roland also features in the fifteenth-century Older Scots comic romance Rauf Coilyear.
Roland’s sword is still named Durendal, Durindale, or Durnedale in the ME romances of Otuel a Knight, Roland and Vernagu, and The Sowdone of Babylone respectively, so Lyndsay’s “Brandwell” remains unexplained. In his Additional Notes (Hamer, 3:495–96), Hamer tries to argue that “Brandwell” is instead the name of Roland’s opponent. Finding no one of such a name in the tales of Charlemagne, he suggests rather wildly that it might be a corruption of “Brandelis,” a character who fights Gawain in the entirely unrelated thirteenth-century OF Lancelot-Grail Cycle. In fact Brandelis first appears in the First Continuation of Perceval, which coincidentally supplied the raw material for Golagros and Gawane (on which see note to line 1315 below). “Brandwell” remains unexplained.
1315 Gawin aganis Golibras. This refers to the fifteenth-century Older Scots romance Golagros and Gawane (or The Knightly Tale of Gologras and Gawain in Hahn’s METS edition) in which Arthur sends Gawain into battle against the proudly independent Golagros, who has refused Arthur’s demands for homage. Gawain is victorious, but gallantly feigns defeat so that Golagros can consult his own followers over whether to die (his preference) or submit to Arthur, and whether they would like to be released from his service first if so. His men refuse to either abandon their lord or see him die, and Arthur in turn is so impressed by Golagros’ prowess and nobility of conduct that he releases him from all feudal obligations. Much of the narrative has been culled from the OF First Continuation of Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, but the name “Golagros” is unique to the Older Scots romance.
1316 Olyver wyth Pharambras. Oliver was the most famous of Charlemagne’s douzeperes after Roland (see note to line 1313 above). In the OF Fierabras, the AN Fierenbras, and the ME derivatives Sir Firumbras and Sir Ferumbras, Oliver converts the eponymous Saracen champion by defeating him in single combat. That the story was well known in Scotland is demonstrated by the fact that Barbour has Bruce cheer his men up during their flight across Loch Lomond by recounting the tale of “Ferambrace” (Bruce, 3.435–62).
1318 Sir Gryme aganis Graysteille. This refers to the Older Scots romance of Eger and Grime, in which Grime avenges the defeat of his friend Eger by the mysterious and terrifying Graysteill. Some version of it was in existence by 1497, when a payment was recorded in James IV’s Treasurer’s Accounts for two fiddlers “that sang Graysteil to the King” (TA 1:330, 19 April 1497). Its continued popularity in Lyndsay’s day is demonstrated by the inclusion of “syr egeir and syr gryme” in a list of contemporary romances and tales given in the c. 1550 Complaynt of Scotland (p. 50). The earliest extant texts, however, date from the seventeenth century.
1320 As onie knicht of the Round Tabill. Meldrum has of course been compared to (or rather contrasted with) Lancelot, one of the chief knights of Arthur’s Round Table, earlier in the poem. See note to lines 48–64 above.
1325–27 Amang thay knichts . . . . cum no mo. This clearly does not apply to the men attacking the squire, who are presumably not all knights in any case. It seems instead to refer to the knights “of the Round Tabill,” regarding whom Bawcutt and Riddy quote the “Pentecostal oath” described in Malory’s Morte Darthur:
the kynge . . . charged them never to do outerage nothir mourthir, and allwayes to fle treson, and to gyff mercy unto hym that askith mercy, uppon payne of forfiture of theire worship . . . . Also that no man take no batayles in a wrongefull quarell for no love ne for no worldis goodis. (ed. Field, 1:97, lines 27–35)
1347 hochis and theis. Houghs are the “backs of the knees and thighs.” See OED hough (n.), sense 2. To “hoch” someone is to hamstring them. Hamer (thanking earlier editors) notes the similarity to the fate of Wetherington in the sixteenth-century ballad The Hunting of the Cheviot: “For when both his leggis were hewyne in to, / yet he knyled and fought on hys kny” (stanza 54), or the more flippant account in the seventeenth-century Percy Folio ballad of Chevy Chase: “For Witherington needs must I wayle / as one in dolefull dumps, / For when his leggs were smitten of, / he fought vpon his stumpes” (stanza 50). For both texts, see English and Scottish Popular Ballads, ed. Child, 3:303–15 (ballad 162). Another parallel can be found in the brawl-scene of the Older Scots comic poem Chrystis Kirk of the Grene. The miller is a powerful, well-built man whom even ten men fear to take on: nevertheless, “Syne tratourly behind his bak / They hewit him on the howis / behind” (ed. Ritchie, 3:262–68, lines 160–61). See the Introduction, “The Historie and History,” for Pitscottie’s even more graphic description of Meldrum’s injuries.
1375–76 Sall never man . . . . have mair plesour. The real “ladie,” Marjorie Lawson, went on to marry again at least once, possibly twice (see Introduction, “The Historie and History”), although Lyndsay does claim at line 1465 that this was “aganis hir will.”
1381–88 the regent . . . . of all Scotland governour. The regent of Scotland in 1517 was John Stewart, Duke of Albany. Son of Alexander Stewart, the rebellious younger brother of James III, Albany had been brought up in exile in France and built a career serving the French king, but he was sent for by the General Council of Scotland in September 1513 after the loss of James IV at Flodden. Louis XII was reluctant to release him, however, so Albany sent Antoine d’Arces (“Sir Anthonie Darsie”), Seigneur de la Bastie, to the Scottish Council in his stead in October 1513. Albany would not come to Scotland in person until May 1515 (Emond, “Minority of James V,” pp. 4–6). On de la Bastie, see note to lines 1395–1406 below.
1389–90 Our king . . . . wes the outrage. James V was born 10 April 1512 and crowned 21 September 1513, so these events took place during his minority in 1517. See note to lines 1484–85, below, on de la Bastie’s murder that same year, which would have dated Meldrum’s ambush readily for a contemporary audience even without this additional clue. Here, and again at lines 1492–94, Lyndsay is careful to stress that the lawlessness of this period was not the young king James’ fault.
1391 this gude knicht. I.e., Antoine D’Arces, Seigneur de la Bastie.
1395–1406 Wald God . . . . to the ground. Previous editors are divided over whether this is a reference to Meldrum’s rescue of the besieged Scots at Amiens as described at lines 619–79. Hadley Williams assumes it is (p. 293n619–22); Hamer thinks “probably”; Kinsley “perhaps,” while Bawcutt and Riddy state firmly that “the incident to which de la Bastie refers is not included by Lindsay in the earlier part of the poem.” De la Bastie’s reference to the “sutheroun” attackers (line 1406) certainly helps to recall this incident (see note to line 633 above), but there is no mention of the famous de la Bastie or any other Frenchman in that earlier account; see note to line 619, above, on the difficulties of identifying the unnamed “ambassador” with the Scots at Amiens.
If the historical accuracy of this tale cannot be ascertained, the intended effect of this enthusiastic praise for the squire from de la Bastie is clear. Long before he was appointed Albany’s lieutenant regent in Scotland, de la Bastie (as he was most commonly called in Scottish records) was celebrated as an international star of the jousting lists and battlefields of Europe. Sometimes glamorously nicknamed “the White Knight” (see for example the 1514 letter from the Florentine ambassador in France [Cal. State Papers (Venice), 2:157, no. 370]), he was also “the Franch knight” whose lavish jousting contest with “the Lord Hamiltoun” was recorded in the Scottish Treasurer’s Accounts for 26 November 1506 (TA 3:xli–xlii). This “Lord Hamiltoun” is the earl of Arran who was admiral of the Scottish fleet in 1513. De la Bastie is thus the kind of real-life chivalric icon whom Meldrum aspires to be. His status as lieutenant Regent for Albany at the time of Meldrum’s attack makes his involvement in bringing Meldrum’s attackers to justice entirely plausible.
1403 Hercules. This figure was clearly well known in Lyndsay’s Scotland. In The Sex Werkdays and Agis, a brief “universal history” copied into the Asloan manuscript c. 1513–30, there is mentioned “Hercules þat slewe and wencust [vanquished] / þe monyest giandis and cruellest monstouris of ony / þat evir we reid” (ed. Houwen, p. 40, lines 316–18). The c. 1550 Complaynt of Scotland lists “the tayl quhou Hercules sleu the serpent hidra that hed vij heydis” (“the tale [of] how Hercules slew the serpent Hydra that had seven heads”; ed. Stewart, p. 50).
1422 Dumbar. Dunbar Castle was used as prison in this period. More importantly, it was held by de la Bastie on behalf of the Duke of Albany, to whom it had been returned as an inducement to bring him back to Scotland. See Acts of Council (Public Affairs), pp. 27–28, 20 November 1514.
1443–46Bot he . . . . art of medicyne. Bawcutt and Riddy note that “[t]he former knight who gives up combat to become a doctor is familiar in chivalric romance,” and they point to the example of Malory’s Sir Baldwin of Brittany in “The Fair Maiden of Ascolat” (Le Morte Darthur, ed. Field, 1:812–25). For a historical example see the life of John of Arderne, who served with Henry Plantagenet and John of Gaunt in battle, then learned how to repair wounds and wrote medical treatises. See ODNB, “Arderne, John (b. 1307/8, d. in or after 1377)” and Peck, “Gower and Science,” p. 193n54.
1455–62 Yit sum thing . . . . scho did so. See the Introduction, “The Historie and History.” on the disparity between at least one contemporary document and Lyndsay’s description of the lady staying and doting on Meldrum as he recovers, before finally being persuaded by friends to give up.
1471 Penelope for Ulisses. Penelope’s chaste twenty-year wait for Ulysses’ return from the siege of Troy made her one of the medieval ideals of wifehood. The first letter of Ovid’s widely circulated and translated Heroides was from Penelope to Ulysses, begging him to return. Lydgate highlights Penelope’s tears and distress in his Troy Book:
For his absence, bothe eve and morwe,
Was deth to hir and inportable sorwe. unbearable
And ay in sothe for joie or any game, truth in all circumstances
Whan it fel she herd Hectoris name, happened
In any place anoon she fil aswowne at once; in a faint
And gan hirsilf al in teris drowne . . .
(ed. Edwards, 5.2173–78)
One contemporary reader of a late fifteenth or early sixteenth-century manuscript containing Lydgate’s Troy Book and fragments of the Scottish Troy Book (Cambridge, University Library MS KK.5.30) quotes lines 5–6 from the Heroides 1 in the margin (fol. 274v: see Wingfield, Trojan Legend, p. 117).
1473 Cresseid for trew Troylus. Cresseid, with her famous betrayal of “trew Troylus,” is an ambiguous figure with whom to compare the lady of Gleneagles. On the other hand, both Chaucer and Henryson highlight her distress in Troilus and Criseyde and the Testament of Cresseid, and sympathy for her is implied by the reference to her “saikles slander” in the earlier sixteenth-century Scottish romance of Clariodus, ed. Irving, 5.70. Hadley Williams suggests that “the underlying sense is that the lady’s subsequent actions were not wholly within her own control,” as is also the case for Helen of Troy (p. 305n1477–78; see also note for lines 1475–77 below).
1475 it wes. C: is wes. C’s rare typo is corrected in L.
1477–78 Helene . . . . brocht to Troy. Helen of Troy, the wife of Menelaus whose abduction by (and adultery with) Paris sparked the Trojan war, is another potentially ambiguous comparison, although Bawcutt and Riddy note that Guido delle Colonne’s influential Historia destructionis Troiae portrays her grief as genuine and bitter (ed. Griffin, p. 76). See also the reference to the “teeris of Eleyne” in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Prologue (CT II[B1]70).
1484–85 Bot he . . . . David Hume of Wedderburne. Antoine d’Arces, Seigneur de la Bastie, was murdered by David Home of Wedderburn on 17 September 1517, an event shocking enough to be noted in the Treasurer’s Accounts with the note “obiit Labastye” (TA 5:149). For a detailed discussion of the murder, Home’s motives, and the aftermath, see Emond, “Minority of King James V,” pp. 172–81 and 192.
1496–99 On Striviling brig . . . . the young squyar. On this allusion to the much later murder of Meldrum’s enemy, and the assumption that he was Sir John Stirling of Keir, see the Introduction, “The Historie and History.”
1504–05 Quha ever straikis . . . . ane sword slane. Compare Matthew 26:52 as quoted from two contemporary English translations: “For all that take the swerde, shal perish with the swerde,” in Miles Coverdale’s Biblia, the Bible, STC (2nd ed.) 2063; or “For all that ley hond on the swearde shall perisshe with the swearde,” in William Tyndale’s New Testament, STC (2nd ed.) 2828a.
1519 ane agit lord. This is Patrick, fourth Lord Lindsay of the Byres, who served as sheriff of Fife from 1514 (see Dickinson, Sheriff Court Book of Fife, p. 205). Upon his death in 1526 he was succeeded by his grandson John, fifth Lord Lindsay of the Byres, for whom Meldrum continued to work. A retour of 8 March 1525–26 confirms “John Lindesay” as heir to his late father “Sir John Lindesay of Pitcruvy,” with frank-tenement of the lands reserved “to Patrick, Lord Lindesay, grandfather of John Lindesay” (Fraser, Memorials of the Earls of Haddington, 2:250); an instrument of sasine of 10 February 1526/27 for lands in Calder is made in favor of “John, Lord Lindsay of the Byres” (NRS GD1/1088/5).
1538 Tchyref depute. Sheriff-deputes were appointed by the county sheriff — in Meldrum’s case, Patrick Lord Lindsay of the Byres — to serve under them and act in their stead in the sheriff courts: Meldrum seems to have been one of two Fife sheriff-deputes in 1522, with Thomas Grundistoun the other (Dickinson, Sheriff Court Book of Fife, pp. 250, 255, 258, etc.) and they were still in post as of March of 1527–28 (Reg. Mag. Sig. 3:125, no. 565 [21 March]). “All schireffs sall have gud and sufficient deputes or baillies, for quhom thay sall answere . . . and generallie it is trew that ilk scheriff and uther ordinar judge salbe halden to answer for their deputes, as themselves,” writes Skene in De Verborum Significatione (quoted in Dickinson, p. lv). Evidently it was a position of trust. Dickinson notes that while some fought for the right to be a sheriff-depute, others complained of the expenses incurred (p. liv note 3). There was no salary attached to the post, so a depute “probably looked to his ‘perquisites’ to bring him in no inconsiderable return.” In other words, his income would be very much dependent on his honesty and decency (pp. lviii–lix). This offers some context for the many comments Lyndsay makes about the squire’s lack of interest in riches or payment (lines 1548–54), and Meldrum’s own insistence on the same in the Testament (lines 38–42) although he goes on to order a fantastically lavish funeral for himself.
1552 regaird. C: regaitd. L, S: regard(e). For the definition, DOST hazards a guess of “? A payment” (regard (n.), sense 7) though it cites only this example and another from the sixteenth-century works of Alexander Scott. In fact, support for DOST’s suggestion can be found in Anglo-Norman usage; the AND offers several examples of the sense “remuneration” or “reward” for regard (n.), sense 9.
1559–60 the Sonday . . . . Asch Wednisday. This is Quinquagesima, the last Sunday before the lean season of Lent begins and a day on which last-minute feasting might be expected.
1562 flaun. C: flam. L, S: flame. A “flaun” is a kind of custard or cheese cake, see OED flawn (n.); see also MED and AND flaun (n.). The dishes of this feast in the lady’s honor recall the supper she laid out for him when he first arrived at her castle (lines 885–87). This line is the only example recorded by DOST (flam (n.2)) of any reference to this item in Older Scots, and they label the prints’ spelling here a “var. of (or error for) ME. flaun.” None of the MED, OED, or AND offer examples of spellings with -m, so it has been treated as a typo and corrected here.
1566 Lordis and lairdis. Both terms derive from OE hl~ford and they were initially interchangeable, but from the earlier fifteenth century in Scotland, “laird” came to refer to “the ‘smaller barons’ or smaller landowners generally, as opposed to the greater or titled barons or ‘lords’” (quoting from DOST lard (n.), sense 3). All lords and lairds were landowners, but over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the titles held by many lords became gradually dissociated from actual territories. The term lord came to denote a peer or a “parliamentary lord” who claimed a status similar to that of a peer and could expect to be personally summoned to parliament (such as Meldrum’s employers, the Lords Lindsay of the Byres). See Grant, “The Development of the Scottish Peerage.” “By contrast,” writes Wormald, “it was still their landed estates which gave the lairds their dignity and title; a laird had to be laird of somewhere” (“Lords and Lairds in Fifteenth-Century Scotland,” p. 187).
1589 the Struther into Fyfe. Struthers castle — “the Struther” or sometimes “Ochterotherstruther” in contemporary documents (see Fraser, Memorials of the Earls of Haddington, 2:261, no. 363) — was in northeast Fife, just west of Ceres and south of Cupar, within five miles of Sir David Lyndsay’s own estate at the Mount.