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The Talis of the Fyve Bestes

The Talis of the Fyve Bestes: FOOTNOTES

1 Only because of innate fondness for his blood (i.e., because we are related)

2 He that would not be ruled by reason

3 Lines 43–44: Speaking more specifically about this matter, I find that / These two brothers appear in every man

4 Against subjection by [those] of Saxon blood (i.e., the English)

5 Therefore I maintain that his soul reached heaven

6 Lines 123–24: And how much grace the blessed soul gains / though just battle, whoever dies in that way

7 But of that he has had no training in his degree

8 For [his] gown and hood were all of a green cloth made at Lincoln

9 And, failing this (i.e., if I am absent), the benefice goes to another

10 You have only nine miles by the best road [to travel]

11 The night passed by, [but] the friends thought it was not long

12 Don’t you know very well that this clerk should ride from home

13 And so everything they work for is in vain

14 You know little about when my leg was bleeding

15 Lines 238–39: It would be a wonder, madam, if I were to crow / for although my leg appears healed from the outside

16 And saw that the aforementioned church and its dignity would quickly be gone

17 [But which] was utterly destroyed and razed to the ground

18 Lines 299–30: [In response] to this request, and what they would do, / the worthy folk [of Lapsat] were soon advised

19 And with such a cost that no one else could bear

20 To ensure that they recognize his exalted estate

21 He was at that time the best of all worthy clerks

22 Said, “Master, stop, I know why you are here

23 And work with all my power to do the opposite

24 But to stick to the purpose you came for

25 To offer no mercy in razing down the walls

26 In tranquility and peace with freedom still they [the people of Lapsat] maintain sovereignty

27 Better not to speak than speak and then repent

28 His face was in such a bad condition even from a distance

29 Planning to remove this council (i.e., the four other beasts) from the king

30 To these estates of the realm he properly bestowed their titles

31 Lines 379–80: It is impossible to find a sheep for your dinner within ten miles in this country

32 Lines 391–92: No, never at all, even if by doing so I die, / then (i.e., if I did) who would remain and be in my council

33 And through these means is justice bought and sold

The Talis of the Fyve Bestes: EXPLANATORY NOTES

ABBREVIATIONS: A: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland MS 16500 olim Acc. 4243, fols. 229r–35v (the Asloan Manuscript); BKA: Hay, The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour, ed. Cartwright; CT: Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, ed. Benson; DOST: Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue; Gesta Romanorum: Gesta Romanorum, ed. Herrtage; Henryson: Henryson, The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. Fox; Kratzmann: Colkelbie Sow and The Talis of the Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann; Poems: Dunbar, Poems of William Dunbar, ed. Bawcutt; Speculum Stultorum: Speculum Stultorum, ed. Mozley and Raymo; Hary’s Wallace: Hary, The Wallace, ed. McDiarmid; Whiting: Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences, and Proverbial Phrases.

[Prologue] A, the sole surviving manuscript witness is defective, and we therefore lack the poem’s beginning. It is likely that the poem opened with a prologue (perhaps in the form of a dream vision) in which a lion-king holds court at some kind of beast-parliament; four royal counselors (a horse, heart, unicorn, and boar) come to offer advice, which they give in the form of a tale. Their tales are followed by the speech of a fifth beast, a wolf. The now acephalous poem begins so far through “The Horsis Tale” — a version of a popular exemplum of two traveling brothers, a wise man and fool, who are deciding between them which of two paths to take to reach their destination. We begin with the words of the wise brother.

The Horsis Tale See Fyve Bestes Introduction for summary.

1-6 And in this . . . . fule furth went. In the Alphabet of Tales (ed. Banks, 2:483–44), the choice between the roads is reversed; the wise man wishes to take the pleasant way, the fool a stony and thorny way.

8 verray effectioun; carnale. Such words and phrases, and others below, including “affectioun naturale” (line 22), “your effectioun . . . Has blyndit us” (lines 31–32), and “effectioun naturale” (line 38) are repeatedly set in opposition to others such as “ressoun” (line 25) and “wit” (line 37). Strikingly similar lexical sets are found in Henryson’s poetry, particularly in the moralitas to Orpheus and Eurydice, where “affection,” linked to “wardly lust” and offered (as here) as an allegory of the body, is repeatedly set against “reson” (passim), or man’s soul (Henryson, p. 153, lines 623–27).
brother. The two travelers are not always brothers. In the Gesta Romanorum they are unrelated knights; in the Meroure of Wyssdome pilgrims.

11 the kingis justice. How the brothers are brought to justice differs across each analogue. In the Gesta Romanorum, for instance, a “domys-man” (p. 21) comes to sit in judgment, whereas no judge is mentioned at all in the Speculum Morale; in some other versions the brothers/travelers are brought before a justice system, including a king in the Alphabet of Tales, and in others still the brothers/travelers are harmed instead by their captors (See Kratzmann, pp. 125–26n11; Mapstone, “Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 243). As Mapstone notes (“Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 218–19): “In the horse’s tale it is specifically the ‘kingis Iustice’ who deals with them, and they are not brought before him — he comes, apprehends, and brings them to justice . . . Thus, whereas in most versions where justice is pronounced, it is carried out either by the king or a justice figure, in the horse’s tale judge and king are both included . . . , and there is a strong sense of the justice figure actively bringing criminals to law.”

Although we must be cautious about drawing direct connections to contemporary events, the presentation here of a king actively effecting justice throughout his realm might reflect something of the justice-ayre system in fifteenth-century Scotland (the circuit court of the sovereign’s Justice), and particularly the repeated parliamentary calls for James III to engage in this practice. In 1473, for instance, Parliament exhorted James III to “travel throw his realme and put sic justice and polycy in his awne realme, that the brute and the fame of him mycht pas in uthiris contreis and that he mycht optene the name of sa just a prince and sa vertewsis and sa wele reuland his awne realm in justice, policy and peax, that uthiris princis mycht tak exemple of him and gif him credence” (Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, 1473/7/9) whilst in 1485 “the lordis forsaid that for the encres of justice and tranquilité in the realme, that oure souveran lord cause his justice airis to be haldin universaly in al partis of his realme” (Records of the Parliaments of Scotland, 1485/5/10).

27 wit. Although here glossed as wisdom — or reason — this word might also bear connotations of the free will bestowed on mankind by God’s grace (compare line 37). In the subsequent judgment, the wise man is punished for allowing instinct and emotion to triumph over his reason and free will.

31-32 your effectioun . . . Has blyndit us. The metaphorical description of reason (or the soul, in the subsequent moralitas) being “blinded” by the will (or body or appetite) appears commonly throughout Middle English and Older Scots poetry. Compare, for instance, Henryson’s Fables (Henryson, pp. 53, 64, 65, 74, lines 1305, 1606, 1634, 1906) and Orpheus and Eurydice (Henryson, pp. 145, 147, lines 388, 454) and Dunbar’s Goldyn Targe (Poems, 1:190, line 214).

41 deidis. As Kratzmann observes (p. 126n41), this word can mean both “deaths” and “deeds.” Whereas Kratzmann prefers the latter, I here allow both meanings to remain in play in my suggested glosses.

42 straik of baith thar heidis. Mapstone notes (“Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 219; “Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 243, citing Irvine Smith, “Criminal Procedure,” p. 20) that the beheading is a specifically Scottish detail. In all other accounts the travelers are put to death by hanging, but in medieval Scotland beheading was a set punishment for habitual thieves.

43-56 Moralitas fabule. The exemplum of the two brothers is here allegorized, as elsewhere, to illustrate the dangers the body poses to the soul. This allegory is also represented, as already noted, in Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice, and in his “The Paddock and the Mouse.” The ultimate Biblical source of this and other medieval body/soul debates is Galatians 5:17 (“For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would”). As Kratzmann notes (p. 127n49, citing Owst, Literature and Pulpit, p. 106), the figure of thieves as sins occurs frequently in medieval sermons, whilst the allegorization of the difficult way as penance occurs also in the Gesta Romanorum and the Speculum Morale.

58 gentilly commendit. Throughout Chaucer’s CT the pilgrims similarly commend (or criticize) each other’s tales. The same is true of the tale tellers in the Scots The Thre Prestis of Peblis, which also appears in MS A. See The Thre Prestis of Peblis, lines 445–46, 1005–06.

60 polist gold and silver birnist bricht. All of the four beasts are described in this highly visual, stylized manner. As discussed in the Fyve Bestes Introduction, such descriptions are reminiscent of medieval heraldry and may have held some symbolic value now lost to us, rather like the heraldic imagery found in The Buke of the Howlat (lines 334–631), which precedes The Fyve Bestes in MS A.

The Hartis Tale See Fyve Bestes Introduction for summary.

65 William Wallace. William Wallace (d. 1305) was a famous patriot and guardian of Scotland who repeatedly led the Scots to victory against the English during the Wars of Independence. His exploits are recounted in Blind Hary’s The Wallace (c. 1476–78), as well as in Bower’s earlier Scotichronicon. See further ODNB, “Wallace, Sir William (d. 1305).”

66 Saif reverence of the. Compare Hary’s Wallace (12.1208): “sauff reuerence off the croun.”

68-70 He wan all . . . . be rich[t resoun]. Compare Hary’s Wallace (12.1235–37):
Scotland he fred and brocht it off thrillage;
And now in hewin he has his heretage,
As It prewyt be gud experians.
In his Scotichronicon, Bower also depicts Wallace as pro fidelitate et patria sua usque ad mortem legitime decertantis, qui numqaum Anglis se submisit vel homagium prestitit (“rightly striving until his death for faithfulness and his native land, a man who never submitted to the English or offered homage”), book 12, chapter 8. 69 Tharfor in hevin is his . . . Compare Hary’s Wallace (12.1288): “Tharfor in hewyn he sall that honour hawe.”

71 sutheren [seid]. Compare “Saxonis blud” (line 114). As Kratzmann notes, “This is more moderate than Hary’s ‘fals Sotherun’ (Wallace XII, 1305)” (p. 127n71).

74 Sanct Edmond and Sanct [Thomas]. Wallace is similarly aligned with Saints Edmund and Thomas (and presented as a martyr) by Hary in Hary’s Wallace (12.1308). St. Edmund (d. 869), king of the Angles, was venerated soon after his death at the hands of the Vikings; St. Thomas is Thomas Becket (?1120–70), archbishop of Canterbury, murdered in his cathedral church by several of Henry II’s knights. In the centuries after his death in 1170, the martyr Thomas Becket was increasingly associated with miracles and prophecies, and venerated on both sides of the Border. For Scottish devotion to Becket see: Wilson, “Scottish Canterbury Pilgrims” and Penman, “The Bruce Dynasty.”

75 haly heremed. The vision in Hary’s Wallace involves two monks rather than a hermit; there a “monk of Bery” (intriguingly reminiscent of the label used for the poet, John Lydgate, 12.1239) makes a pact with a younger monk to return after death and tell of his experiences of the afterlife. The sanctus heremita of Bower’s Scotichronicon (6:316, book 12, chapter 8) is closer.

76 in autentik writ. It is not clear what source the author has in mind here, and it is possible that the allusion functions as an authorizing device, rather like Chaucer’s use of “Lollius” in Troilus and Criseyde (1:394), Henryson’s “vther quair” in The Testament of Cresseid (Henryson, p. 113, line 61) or Hary’s allusion to his (most probably fictional source) — a “Latyne buk” by one Maister John Blair, written with the assistance of Thomas Gray, “persone off Libertoune” (Hary’s Wallace, 5.540–42); Hary also begins his account of Wallace’s ascent by referring to “Wys clerkys ȝeit It kepis in Remembrans” (12.1238). Nevertheless, as Kratzmann (p. 29) points out, by the beginning of the sixteenth century the story of Wallace’s ascent to heaven was well known. He cites the following example from John Major’s History of Greater Britain:
Our chroniclers here tell a story of how an English hermit was witness of several souls taking their flight from purgatory to heaven, and how one of these was Wallace; and as he marvelled much how this could be, seeing that Wallace had shed man’s blood, he got for answer that it was in a just cause, and when fighting for his country’s freedom, that he had slain others. And indeed I do not forget that it may be lawful to fight when the cause is just . . . (Major, A History of Greater Britain, p. 204).
78 Goddis grace. Compare this reference to God’s grace to that in line 37.

79 ane angell. As noted above, the angel does not appear in Hary’s Wallace, although Bower does refer to the removal of souls (along with Wallace’s) per ministerium Angelorum, (“with the help of angels,” 6:316–17, book 12, chapter 8). As McDiarmid (Hary’s Wallace, 2:277n1238–1301) and Mapstone (“Advice to Princes Tradition,” pp. 224–25) further observe, an angel and hermit both appear in the aforementioned fourteenth-century Spanish Libro de Patronio, by Don Juan Manuel. Here a dying hermit is told by an angel that he will be accompanied on his journey to heaven by the soul of Richard I, and — as in the moralization to this tale — the hermit is told by the angel that Richard’s place in heaven is justified, despite his having killed so many, since those he killed were infidels. Mapstone cites too (“Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 225) an exemplum (in British Library, Arundel MS 506, fol. 57r) in which a hermit is visited by an angel who explains that he has been accompanying the soul of Thomas Becket (mentioned at line 74) to heaven. Although it is unlikely that the author of The Fyve Bestes had direct recourse to either tale, especially the Spanish, he may have come across the angel, hermit, and ‘justified war’ argument in other collections of exempla and supplied these features to the story of Wallace found in Bower and Hary.

79-102 Sa come ane . . . . hevin thai wyn. Literary visions of heaven, hell, and purgatory abound in medieval literature. See Easting, Visions of the Other World in Middle English, and Patch, The Other World. Gavin Douglas aligns the third part of his Palis of Honoure with this literary tradition but his dreamer is only afforded a brief glimpse of Honor (described as “a god armypotent,” line 1921) and then again denied a vision of the judgment or punishment of sinning souls. See Shorter Poems of Gavin Douglas, ed. Bawcutt, p. 119.

89 multitud innomerable. McDiarmid (Hary’s Wallace, 2:277–78n1238–1301) and Kratzmann (p. 127n89) both compare this phrase to Bower’s innumeras animas (“countless souls,” 6:316–17, book 12, chapter 8). However, as Mapstone notes (“Advice to Princes Tradition,” p. 221), the state of the souls in Bower’s account is more favorable than in “The Hart’s Tale”: the hermit vidit quasi innumeras animas de penis purgatorii liberatas, quasi prestolantes aditum regni celestis (“saw practically countless souls freed from the pains of purgatory, who seemed to be awaiting entrance into the kingdom of Heaven,” 6:316–17, book 12, chapter 8).

103-07 [The first that] . . . . for his regioun. Drawing on Craigie, ed. The Asloan Manuscript: A Miscellany in Prose and Verse and The Wallace, McDiarmid (Hary’s Wallace, 2:277–78) reconstructs these lines as follows:
[A haly fad]re to hevyn wp ran,
[Had led a l]yf of religioun.
[A pres]t was the tothir man,
[For d]aly mes and confessioun;
[The t]hrid a lord for his regioun . . .
In Hary’s Wallace the three souls seen are Wallace, “a pure preist” (12.1289), and the monk himself.

106 mess and confessioun. Compare Hary’s Wallace (12.1291): “For dayly mes and heryng off confessioun.”

109-10 Wallace with his . . . . at Londoun toune. Wallace’s gruesome (but there pain-free death) is described in Hary’s Wallace, 12.1310–1409.

114 Saxonis. Hary similarly refers to the English as Saxons throughout Hary’s Wallace.

116 to his deid was bocht and sauld. In Hary’s Wallace, Wallace is betrayed by Sir John Menteith for “Thre thowsand pundys off fyn gold” (12.822) and Hary also uses the word “sauld” at 12.1076. Compare also lines 415–16 of Kratzmann where justice is described as “sauld and bocht” by “covatis.”

119-26 Moralitas fabule. Although we still have an eight-line stanza here, the rhyme scheme changes to irregularly decasyllabic couplets. The value of fighting for a just cause is similarly asserted by Douglas in The Palis of Honoure, where the dreamer sees those who “in iust battell wer fundyn maist of name” (line 1968, London text). See also quotation by Major in note to line 76 above.

123 sely saull. Compare line 46 above.

126 gud of pece. Compare line 351 below.

The Unicornis Tale See Fyve Bestes Introduction for summary.

129 so sweit unto my sicht. The narrator says he is present at the court or parliament of beasts, witnessing the tales as they are told.

135 Kentschire. The original story in the Speculum Stultorum, titled “Narratio Arnoldi de filio presbyteri et pullo gallinae,” is set in Apulia. That the setting here is England rather than Scotland ensures that any potential political messages remain non-specific. See Mapstone, “Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 245. Kratzmann (Anglo-Scottish Literary Relations, pp. 95–96) also compares these opening lines to those beginning Chaucer’s The Summoner’s Tale (CT III[D] 1709–12). Both authors lead their audience into the narrative “by a mixture of precision and indefiniteness” (p. 96).

136 A bonde. In the Speculum Stultorum (lines 1257–64) the boy is the son of a priest rather than a peasant or serf.

142 litill. As Kratzmann (p. 129n142) notes: “The repetition of litill in lines 145 and 146 and the associated bathos are reminiscent of The Prioress’ Tale (CT VII, 503, 509, 516, etc.), and have no counterpart in [Speculum Stultorum].” DOST also records a relevant definition for the adjective: “Used pregnantly to imply modest depreciation, affection, affectionate or amused disparagement, or the like” (sense 4).

145 litill stone. In the Speculum Stultorum the cock is hurt with a rod (virga) and the boy is mad with anger (line 1281). The change of instrument makes it ironic that Gundulfus later (line 249) meets his downfall after his horse trips on a stone.

149 slane. For gloss as “struck down,” compare the note to line 776 of the Historie of Squyer Meldrum elsewhere in this volume.

150 wepit all the hennis. The weeping of the hens is mock-heroic, recalling the grief of the hens at the capture of Chauntecleer in Chaucer’s Nuns’s Priest’s Tale (CT VII[B2] 3355–73) and also Pertok’s lamentation in Henryson’s “Cock and the Fox” (Henryson, p. 23, lines 495–508).

151-52 in a garding led / Amang thir herbes. The herb garden might be designed to recall in mock-heroic fashion the traditional locus amoenus of medieval love poetry.

157 And Gundulfus with his frendis assent. Kratzmann (p. 130n157) suggests that this line implies Gundulfus received financial support from friends so that he could attend Oxford, adding that this was not uncommon. In the General Prologue of CT, Chaucer’s Clerk (CT I[A]299–300) and Nicholas in The Miller’s Tale (CT I[A]3220) are given such assistance.

158 Oxinfurd. Kratzmann (Anglo-Scottish Literary Relations, pp. 94–99) suggests that the English setting of the poem — and additional Chaucerian allusions — are designed to advertise “The Unicornis Tale” as an alternative CT.

162 cruellest of all the cokis. Chaucer similarly describes Chauntecleer in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale as a bird who “looketh as it were a grym leoun” (CT VII[B2] 3179).

163 Copok. The hen is named Coppa in the Speculum Stultorum (line 1378). Hens named Coppok appear in Henryson’s “Cock and the Fox” and in the Older Scots Colkelbie Sow (in Kratzmann, line 925).

163-66 he had Copok . . . . ony erdly wicht. The vows exchanged here between the cock and Copok may be a parody of medieval marriage vows.

167-68 apon his perke . . . . nixt him sat. Chauntecleer and Pertelote similarly sit side-by-side in Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale (CT VII[B2] 2883–85).

171-74 So weile he . . . . threttene yeris space. That the cock is here depicted as a kind of ruler fits in with the wider concern of The Fyve Bestes with good governance (both self- and public).

174 threttene yeris. The space of time in the Speculum Stultorum is six years (line 1311).

176-77 Craigie (ed., The Asloan Manuscript: A Miscellany in Prose and Verse, 2:280) and Kratzmann (p. 130n176) both observe that several lines must be missing here, perhaps focusing on Gundulfus’ time at Oxford and announcing his return home.

177 was na master in divinité. The first of many ironic statements about Gundulfus’ skills (or lack thereof). Given that he has been away for thirteen years, Kratzmann (p. 131n177–90) explains that Gundulfus can only have obtained the degree of Master of Arts and not the subsequent Bachelor of Decrees where he would have acquired such theological knowledge. Gundulfus nevertheless pretends (line 178) to be more skilled than he in fact is.

179-80 Weile couth he . . . . of his greis. Gundulfus claims to have knowledge of canon law (the “bukis of decres” are Gratian’s Decretals, a collection on canon law compiled in the twelfth century), but he actually does not have any training in this area. As Kratzmann (Anglo-Scottish Literary Relations, p. 99) notes, the phrase “Weile couth he cast” is another Chaucerian echo of the description of the Physician in the General Prologue (CT I[A]417–18).

182 He was a richt gud syngar in the quir. Gundulfus’ singing may recall that of Nicholas in The Miller’s Tale (CT I[A]3216–18). His singing might also form an ironic counterpart to the crowing of the cock, described at line 161 as “Clerast of voce.”

183 sumpart write and dyte. That Gundulfus can only write “a little” calls his education and literacy into serious question.

184 in his gramer was he wele perfyte. As Kratzmann notes (p. 131n177–90, citing Durkan, “Education in the Century of the Reformation,” p. 151) “perfect grammar” meant only mastery of spoken Latin, a requirement for University entrance.

186 nygramansy. This was a synonym for sorcery, which Helen Cooper (English Romance in Time, p. 161) defines as “magic on the edge of acceptability” deriving from “sources other than God.”

187-88 Of phesik he . . . . seike or hale. Gundulfus’ knowledge of and ability to practice medicine is likely to be as limited as his knowledge of theology and law. Despite such lack of skills we might remember, as Kratzmann observes (p. 131n177–90, citing H. Rashdall, Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, 3:329, 353) that “only about a third of matriculants ever actually took out a degree” and “that benefices were frequently held by young men who had no university training at all.”

192 that noble man. The ironic description of Gundulfus as “noble” recalls Chaucer’s mock praise of his flawed pilgrims in the General Prologue in CT. The narrator says of the monk, for instance, “Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat” (CT I[A]204) and the Friar is described as a “worthy lymytour” (CT I[A]269).

206 ony orlage richt. Of Chauntecleer’s crowing, Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest states: “Wel sikerer was his crowyng in his logge / Than is a clokke or an abbey orlogge” (CT VII[B2] 2853–54). The Cock in Henryson’s “Cock and Fox” is also described as “our orlege bell” (Henryson, p. 23, line 498).

209 the farest way. Within the wider context of the poem as a whole this recalls the “fair” and “plesant way” of “The Horsis Tale” (lines 1, 3).

210 Rochister. Rochester is a town in Kent, England and it is in the latter country that the “Unicornis Tale” as a whole is set. Gundulfus’ mother indicates (line 209) that their home is just nine miles away from Rochester. In the Prologue to Chaucer’s Monk’s Tale, the host Harry Bailey exclaims, “Loo, Rouchestre stant heer faste by!” (CT VII[B2] 1926). Interestingly, this tale occurs in Fragment VII/B2 which also contains the Nun’s Priest’s Tale. This adds further support to our sense that the FB author was more widely familiar with the Canterbury Tales as a whole.

214-15 Thai gat to rest . . . . nycht yeid our. The Fyve Bestes author omits the dream of the Speculum Stultorum where Gundulfus has a vision of the Mass celebrated after his ordination in which the cock plays the role of cantor (lines 1385–98).

219-20 And on the . . . . he had none. As Kratzmann (p. 133n219–20) observes, the “And” at the beginning of this line is awkward; the “sense is that the Cock had mynd of his own injury rather than of the clerk’s aspirations.”

222 the cok he held him clos. The cock’s silence in the original Speculum Stultorum has been discussed by Jill Mann (From Aesop to Reynard, pp. 116–21). The cock’s silence, and attempt to silence his wife, contrast with his earlier proud singing and the singing of Gundulfus. It also forms part of the poem’s wider metatextual exploration of the values and ethics of speech and tale-telling, discussed more fully in the Fyve Bestes Introduction.

223 Coppok putis on hir maike. In the Speculum Stultorum, Coppok attempts to wake up the human sleepers herself. See lines 1361–84 for this and the subsequent exchange between the birds.

224-40 Slepe ye schir . . . . at my hart. The rapid and often ill-tempered nature of the exchange between the cock and Coppok recalls that between Chauntecleer and Pertelote in Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest’s Tale. There, the cock and hen also address each other as “Madame” and “Schir” and Pertelote similarly scolds her husband (CT VII[B2] 2908–21, 2970, 3122, 3158). Furthermore, in Henryson’s “Tale of the Cock and the Fox,” Coppok is the most sanctimonious of the three hens, believing that Chantecleir is damned for his sins.

231 of the tynsall ye sall haf the blame. Coppok suggests that the cock will bear the blame for Gundulfus’ losing his benefice. Her logic is reminiscent of the wise man’s attempt to blame his foolish brother in “The Horsis Tale.” Like the wise man, even though the cock did fail to wake up Gundulfus, the latter is himself to blame for the error of his ways since, in drinking heavily the night before his promotion, he displayed a signal lack of self-governance.

243-44 birdis with ane voce . . . . the dayis sky. Dunbar’s dreaming narrator is similarly awoken by loud birdsong at the end of his Thrissil and the Rose (Poems, 1:168, lines 183–84).

246 Said kirk and worschip fastly war away. My gloss comes from Kratzmann, p. 133. He there suggests that it is also possible “that the line should be direct speech; viz., Said, ‘Kirk and worschipe fastly war away!’ [. . .] If this reading is adopted, war must be an unorthodox spelling of weir, ‘to waste,’ ‘go.’”

246-47 Said kirk and . . . . toune he raid. The Speculum Stultorum contains an account, omitted here, of Gundulfus’ rapid attempt to find his clothes (lines 1425–30).

249 at ane stone. See the note to line 145 above.

251 This hors gat up. The horse is another member of the animal kingdom deserting Gundulfus in his hour of need.

252-62 worthy clerk lay . . . . his legis pane. In the Speculum Stultorum Gundulfus’ parents die and he is subsequently reduced to abject poverty (lines 1495–98). This detail is omitted from Fyve Bestes.

262 quyt. This term runs throughout the fabliaux of Chaucer’s CT, especially in the Miller’s and Reeve’s Tales where the pilgrim-narrators and characters within the tales attempt to better or get revenge on each other.

269-80 Moralitas fabule. The moralitas is surprising for a number of reasons. It differs from its source and the apportioning of blame is somewhat troubling. See Fyve Bestes Introduction for further discussion.

273-74 The tyme may . . . . sic mennis handis. This warning parallels the situation in Henryson’s “Lion and Mouse” where the lion finds himself in need of the assistance of a troop of mice he earlier tyrannized.

284 scheldis. DOST, s(c)held, s(c)heild(e), (n.), sense 7 defines this word as “The thick, tough skin on the sides and flanks of the boar.”

288 I coppyt it. The narrator here presents himself as working with a written source. Compare line 76 and note above.

The Baris Tale See Fyve Bestes Introduction for summary.

289 Gret Alexander, king of Massedoun. Alexander the Great (356–23 BCE) was king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia and famed for a career of conquests that led to the creation of an exceptionally large empire. Legends of Alexander were particularly common in the medieval period and two separate fifteenth-century Older Scots romances about him survive: the Buik of Alexander or Octosyllabic Alexander (a translation of two French Alexander texts, Le Fuerre de Gadres and Les Voeux du Paon, completed by an anonymous Scottish author c. 1438) and Sir Gilbert Hay’s BKA. Three Scottish monarchs were also named Alexander in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It has been suggested that the popularity of Alexander the Great in Older Scots culture was due in no small part to his being Greek, and thus of the same stock as Scotland’s mythological founding father, Gaythelos. See Edington, “Paragons and Patriots,” and also Caughey and Wingfield, “Conquest and Imperialism.” For discussion of the wider Alexander tradition see Cary, The Medieval Alexander, and Stone, From Tyrant to Philosopher-King.

290 nyne nobillis. This detail is unique to “The Baris Tale.” The Nine Worthies comprised of three pagans (Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar); three Jews (Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus); and three Christians (King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon). First formulated in Les Voeux du Paon, an originally independent poem composed c. 1310–12 by Jacques de Longuyon, the Nine Worthies tradition subsequently became increasingly popular across medieval art, drama, and literature, and was used either to represent a chivalric or monarchical ideal, or alternatively as an exemplum of the vanity of all earthly things. For more discussion of the Nine Worthies tradition, see the Fyve Bestes Introduction.

292 Lapsat. The town appears as “Lapsare” and in Caxton and “Lampsascus” in Valerius’ Dictorum et Factorum Memorabilium, but as Lapsat here and also in MS A’s Buke of the Chess (ed. van Buuren, p. 14, line 359) and Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes (line 2304). The spelling in Valerius suggests that the town intended was indeed Lampsacus, an ancient Greek city located on the eastern side of the Hellespont. The former city’s name is echoed in the nearby modern town of Lapseki, Turkey. See further Fyve Bestes Introduction.

294-95 To knaw him . . . . his hie empyr. Alexander demands that the people of Lapsat recognize him as overlord.

296 Tyr. Alexander’s conquest of Tyre is related in several medieval Alexander texts, including the BKA (2.2869–3298), but it is not referred to in any other version of the Lapsat exemplum.

299-308 To this desyr . . . . defend this toune. The response of the citizens is a further unique feature of “The Baris Tale.” In its use of terms such as “fredome,” “subjectioun,” and “querell” it recalls the nationalistic focus of “The Hartis Tale” (with the latter two words recalling lines 114 and 120 of that tale). See further Fyve Bestes Introduction.

309-11 This riall prince . . . . agane is gone. Alexander’s anger and sudden return to the town after it has denied him sovereignty are signs of his tyrannical, intractable behavior, reminiscent of Arthur’s insatiable desire to besiege Golagros’ castle in Golagros and Gawane (ed. Hanna, lines 267–73), such that he hastily completes the pilgrimage he had previously planned to undertake.

312 riallest. Alexander’s host appears to be made up of fellow kings and princes. The horse is similarly described as “riall” (line 57).

320 Ane worthy clerke. Within the context of Older Scots romance, the anonymous clerk who appears to advise Alexander recalls Aristotle in Hay’s BKA and Amytans in Lancelot of the Laik. See further Fyve Bestes Introduction.

325-27 So or this . . . . clerk he saw. The clerk’s approach and Alexander’s cautious recognition of him recalls the approach of Amytans in Lancelot of the Laik (although Arthur’s reception of Amytans is far warmer):
So was he [Arthur] ware thar cummyne to the ost
O clerk, with whome he was aqwynt befor —
[. . . . ]
The King befor his palyoune one the gren,
That knew hyme well and haith his cummyn senn
Uelcummyt hyme and maid hyme rycht gud chere.
(ed. Lupack, lines 1294–95, 1305–07).
333-34 A kingis word . . . . of lawar degré. The importance of a king’s word was proverbial. See Whiting K48. The clerk’s moral is repeated using almost exactly the same words in the subsequent moralitas (line 354).

342 tyne the cost. The option of losing money rather than ‘face’ does not appear in other versions of the tale.

345 To counsall yeid. Contemporary advice to princes literature recommended that monarchs regularly seek counsel. That Alexander here does so is a redeeming feature and the same is true of the lion in “The Wolfis Tale.” For further discussion of the poem’s alignment with the advice to princes tradition, see Fyve Bestes Introduction.

348 wald nocht tak the lak. Several characters throughout The Fyve Bestes are keen to avoid taking blame, including the wise man and the cock.

354-56 Ane kyngis word . . . . ony wallit toune. This moral echoes the lesson given to Alexander in the main body of the tale (lines 333–34). It is strikingly similar to the lesson given to Arthur by Amytans in Lancelot of the Laik. See further Fyve Bestes Introduction.

357-59 Richt sad of . . . . in his entent. For the value of remaining silent compare Proverbs 17:28: “Even a fool, if he will hold his peace shall be counted wise: and if he close his lips, a man of understanding.”

359 entent. This is a key term, repeated on several occasions throughout the poem. Compare lines 30, 35, 161, 256, and 315. See further Fyve Bestes Introduction.

361-64 gif a kyng . . . . to be obstinat. These lines — in which the poet places a caveat on the importance of a king sticking to his word — are unique to The Fyve Bestes. See further Fyve Bestes Introduction.

The Wolfis Tale Unlike the other four tales, this is not so much an exemplum as an example of tale-telling for false ends.

369 This wretchit wolf neir by this lyoun lay. Whereas the other beasts approach the lion-king in a respectful manner, the wolf is already lurking nearby in a decidedly threatening manner.

370 habit. This word may — but not necessarily — refer to a clerical garment. Grey habits were worn by Franciscan friars (compare, for instance, “Freir Volff Waitskaith” who wears a “russet coull off gray” in Henryson’s “Fox and the Wolf,” pp. 29–30, lines 667, 679).

371-72 And so evill . . . . than thai war. The wolf’s loathsome appearance makes the other beasts look even fairer by comparison. In the medieval period the practice of physiognomy held that a person’s character or personality could be judged by his or her outer appearance, especially the face. The wolf’s “evill favorit” face is therefore a hint of his inner moral corruption. Compare Henryson’s “Fox and the Wolf” (p. 30, line 680) where the wolf is described as having a “lene cheik” and “paill and pietious face.”

373-74 Thinkand to put . . . . the court inbring. The wolf and his allies represent an alternative faction, a rival to the king’s current body of counselors.

376 staitis. The wolf is here deliberately obsequious. The word “staitis” may refer simply to “ranks” or “conditions of men” or to “estates of the realm” in parliament. I follow Kratzmann (p. 137n376) in adopting the latter reading.

377 fabillis fene. The wolf claims that he will speak truthfully, but his choice of phrase is notably metatextual, disparaging the literal tale-telling of the other beasts.

378 commoun proffet. The wolf claims to be speaking on behalf of the public good, no doubt the commons. Throughout the medieval period, in England and in Scotland, those appealing to, and even rebelling against, the king would frequently claim that they had in mind the “commoun proffet.” As Mapstone (“Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 248) notes, “The protection of the people and the nation has of course featured as a theme in the other tales.”

379-86 In all this . . . . for a yeir. There is the potential for contradiction here. As Kratzmann (p. 137n379–81) observes: “The schepe and nolt are presumably the commons, but the king is hardly to be imagined as eating them: rather, the image expresses the traditional medieval view of the commons as the providers of food for the other orders of society . . . The literal sense of the wolf’s advice would seem to be that the king is to turn his attention away from the commons so that they will be more vulnerable to his own assaults.”

383 store. See DOST store(e, stoir (v.), sense 2a.

385-86 Of venysoun and . . . . for a yeir. The wolf advises in effect that the king should not ‘consume’ his own counselors: the hart and boar are the “venysoun” and “wyld meit,” the horse and unicorn the “gret bestis.”

393-94 Bot with my . . . . nolt ar deid. As with Alexander in the previous tale, it should be seen as a sign of good governance that the lion-king seeks the advice of his counselors.

394-96 Fynd how my . . . . all the land. The king and his counselors here discover that the wolf and his allies are responsible for the destruction of the sheep and cattle. Wolves are depicted as bringing similar destruction in David Lyndsay’s Dreme (Selected Poems, ed. Hadley Williams, pp. 32–33, lines 890–96).

403 That all was gone in twynkling of an E. This phrase appears in Dunbar’s Goldyn Targe (Poems, 1:191, line 235) and Thrissil and the Rose (Poems, 1:165, line 85), suggesting that The Fyve Bestes might itself have been a dream vision.

404 And so gois all this warldis rialté. This reminder of earthly mortality, even for royalty, is reminiscent of the closing lines of the previous moralitas from the “The Baris Tale.”

406 covatis. Given the appearance in “The Hartis Tale” of William Wallace it is interesting to note that Menteith’s betrayal of Wallace in Hary’s poem is blamed on this vice (Hary’s Wallace, 12.835–48).

408-10 The vertuis four . . . . content to be. After the individual moralitates of each tale, the four beasts are here again allegorized as the four Cardinal Virtues which should inhere in a monarch. As Mapstone (“Talis of the Fyve Bestes,” p. 241) observes, “the final rather clever effect is that the beasts who have told the tales and given counsel are allegorized into aspects of the monarch’s wisdom. Thus while the necessity for giving advice has been well established, the image of the monarch as containing all virtue within himself has also been preserved. This is a delicate sleight of hand, and a distinctly diplomatic way of giving advice.” Kratzmann (pp. 33–34) suggests that the individual morals of the “Horsis,” “Hartis,” and “Baris” tales prepare us for their allegorization but he has to work harder (and perhaps less convincingly) to explain the link between the moral of “The Unicornis Tale” and allegorization of the unicorn as magnanimity: “the tale of the cock’s victory over the negligent clerk may be seen as an ingenious definition of magnanimity in terms of its opposite” (p. 34). In Lyndsay’s aforementioned Dreme (Selected Poems, ed. Hadley Williams, p. 38, lines 1065–67), James V is encouraged to follow the Four Virtues.

411-16 The vertew no . . . . sauld and bocht. On the dangers of covetousness compare 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows.” The sheep also refers to the “cursit syn of couetice” at line 1300 of Henryson’s “Sheep and the Dog” (Henryson, p. 53).

414 Or yit content had he the hale empyr. The reference to a covetous man’s inability to be satisfied even with a large empire recalls Alexander’s greed in the first half of the “Baris Tale.”

416 sauld and bocht. Compare line 116 and note.

420-22 And for the joye . . . . of every gud. The poem concludes with an appeal to God, as did the moralitas to “The Horsis Tale,” “The Unicornis Tale,” and “The Baris Tale.”


The Talis of the Fyve Bestes: TEXTUAL NOTES

ABBREVIATIONS: A: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland MS 16500 olim Acc. 4243, fols. 229r–35v (the Asloan Manuscript; base manuscript); Craigie: The Asloan Manuscript: A Miscellany in Prose and Verse, ed. Craigie; Kratzmann: Colkelbie Sow and The Talis of the Fyve Bestes, ed. Kratzmann.

Prologue A’s beginning of Fyve Bestes is defective. See the corresponding explanatory note.

7 Richt so. A: Richtso.

14 himself. A: him self.

43-44 In . . . . Thir. The initial I of line 43 is flourished and extends for two lines; the start of line 44 is indented.

48 fleschis. So K. A: flesche. I follow Kratzmann in amending here on grounds of sense and meter.

63-102 I hald in . . . . hevin thai wyn. A number of lines are here missing due to a significant tear that resulted in the loss of much of the top half of fol. 230. I follow Kratzmann in supplying within square brackets words suggested by Craigie to reconstruct the lost text.

63-64 I . . . . That. A two-line gap, with guide letter, is left for the initial I of line 63; line 64 is indented.

112 warldly. A: wardly.

118-19 [Moralitas fabule]. The start of the moral is not signaled in A as it is for the first tale. I have inserted it.

125 quhatever. A: quhat ever.

135-36 Befor . . . . A. A two-line gap, with guide letter, is left for the initial B at the start of line 135; line 136 is indented.

144 grange. A: grangis. The singular form agrees better with “grange” in line 140 above and works better metrically.

163 Copok. A: copyng. “Copok” is the form used for the remainder of the tale and so that is adopted here too.

170 craw. A: crav.

176-77 Craigie and Kratzmann both observe that, based on sense, several lines must be missing here, but neither attempt to reconstruct them. Laing supplies two lines from the Speculum Stultorum (lines 1313–14) as his text’s lines 178–79 (Select Remains, ed. Laing, p. 286n1), but given the changes the Scots poet made to this source it is difficult to be sure how closely he might have followed it at this point. I do not attempt to reconstruct missing material but do discuss what information the missing lines may have contained in the corresponding explanatory note.

185 ane. A: na. I follow Craigie in suggesting that Asloan’s “na” be emended to “ane” since being able to practice sophistry well is in fact a criticism; Gundulfus is by contrast able to practice virtuous pursuits and admirable skills less well.

206 Alswele. A: Als wele.

235 deid. Asloan originally wrote “deidis” (perhaps mistakenly echoing the -is ending of the previous word, “wyfis”) but crossed out the final -is abbreviation upon realizing it did not fit the poem’s rhyme scheme. The plural form, however, interestingly makes better sense.

268-69 [Moralitas fabule]. The start of the moral is not signaled in A. I have inserted it.

269-70 Nowe . . . . Gif. A two-line gap, with guide letter, is left for the initial N of line 269; line 270 is indented.

273 tyme may. A: tymemay.

281-82 It . . . . Of. A two-line gap, with guide letter, is left for the initial I of line 281; line 282 is indented.

282 bur. Asloan miscopies and then deletes the word “bair” before “bur.”

330 I. Asloan miscopies and then deletes “ye” before “I.”

352-53 [Moralitas fabule]. The start of the moral is not signaled by a heading, nor separated spatially from the preceding tale.

353-54 Nowe . . . . Ane. A two-line gap, with guide letter, is left for the initial N at the start of line 353; line 354 is indented.

362 That. Asloan miscopies and then deletes “In” before “That” at the start of the line.

369-70 This . . . . His. A two-line gap, with guide-letter, is left for the initial T of line 369; line 370 is indented.

371 evill. A: weile. This is likely to be an instance of metathesis, a miscopying of “evill” where the scribe has accidentally reversed the letters ew and we.

401-02 [Moralitas fabule]. The concluding moralitas is not distinguished in any way from “The Wolfis Tale” in A.






















































































[ . . . .]

[The Horsis Tale]

“ . . . . And in this fair way persaif I wele a thing,
To no gud rest this nycht it sall us bring.
This plesant way, the way is of dissait,
And in this firth ar thevis in our gait.”
But nevertheles, for ony argument,
This plesand streit this verray fule furth went;
Richt so this wysman did and left the tother
For verray effectioun of his carnale brother.
So has this waye tham to the brigantis brocht,
Takin thai war and with thaim went and wrocht.
So come the kingis justice of the land
And tuke thaim all and to law gart thaim stand.
So quhen thir theifis all war justifyed
Than everilk brother for himself replyid.
This wysman said, “Of all this gret trespas
Herof the quhilk that I accusit was,
This verray fule my brother had the wyte,
That tuke the way of plesance and delyte
And left the way that suld us bring to rest,
And brocht us baith unto the thefis nest.
And with him furth the samyn way I yud
Bot for affectioun naturale of his blud.1
So sen this fule was causar of this scaith,
Richt so suld he be punist for us baith,
That with no ressoun rewlit wald he be.”2
“Nay,” said this fule, “the falt was nocht in me
Bot all in you that God has gevin to wit
To rewle us baith and nocht disponit it.
For quha wald trow a wysman wald assent,
And I a fule so sone to myne entent?
Bot your effectioun, se I weile be this,
Has blyndit us and gart us boith go mys.
Thus in this mater all the falt ye haf.”
And so furthwith this juge the sentens gaf,
And sen this wysman left his awne entent
And to this fulis deid gaf his assent,
And left the wit that God gaf him of grace
For the effectioun naturale that he has,
And for this fule he wald nocht rewlit be
Be this sentence he jugit baith to de.
And in remembrans evir of thar deidis
Gart thaim sit doune and straik of baith thar heidis.

Moralitas fabule

In more effect of this mater I mene,
Thir brethir two in every man thai bene.3
The wantone flesche it is the foly brothir,
The sely saull forsuth it is the tothir.
So quhen the saull affermes the delyte
Off the foule fleschis lust and appetit,
Alson with dedly synnis ar thai wrocht,
Takin and slane and to confusioun brocht.
Forbere this way of lust that ye se heir,
And take the way of buskis, thorne and brer.
That is the way of pennance and of grace
To bring our saulis to that joyfull place
Of paradis and of perfectioun richt.
Now Jhesus bring us to that blisfull sicht.

So quhen this riall hors his tale had endit,
This ryall hart richt gentilly commendit,
His statly hed with tyndis set on hicht
Of polist gold and silver birnist bricht.
Befor this kyng he laid his tyndis law,
And in this wys his tale began to schawe.

The Hart[is Tale]

I hald in bretta[ne] . . .
That ever was . . .
William Wallace worth . . .
Saif reverence of the . . .
He tuke fro no man t . . .
He wan all Scotland in . . .
Tharfor in hevin is his . . .
And that I trowe be rich[t resoun].

The samyn day the sutheren [seid]
Had wrocht thar will apon W[allace],
As thai had done befor in d[eid]
With Sanct Edmond and Sanct [Thomas].
Ane haly heremed quhar he [was],
As in autentik writ we reid,
The staitis of this warld but dreid
Desyrit to see throu Goddis grace.

Sa come ane angell fra the hicht
And schew him baith of hevin and hell,
The joye amang thir angellis bricht,
The fyre amang thir fendis fell,
Of purgatory thus hard I tell;
And of thaim all he had a sicht
That deit as that day and nicht,
And quhar thar saulis thaim schupe to duell.

And so he saw in colour sabill
Of saulis doune to hell declyne,
Ane multitud innomerable
Perpetually to suffer pyne.
To purgatory he saw pas syne
                                            . . . le
                                            . . . tin fable
                                            . . . fra hyne

                                            . . . thre
                                            . . . ais in
                                            . . . degre
                                            . . . [d]edly syn
                                            . . . thai begyn
                                            . . . may se
                                            . . . ace fulfillit be
                                            . . . of hevin thai wyn

[The first that tha]re to hevyn up ran,
[Levit ane l]yf of religioun.
[Ane heremei]t was the tothir man,
[Luvit h]aly mess and confessioun.
[The th]rid a lord for his regioun,
In his defence deit as than
Wallace with his woundis wan
That day tholit deid at Londoun toune.

Thar was na force mycht gar him fald,
Na yit reward of warldly gud,
Bot Scotland ay defend he wald
Fra subjectioun of Saxonis blud.4
Thus for his realme stedfast he stud
And to his deid was bocht and sauld.
Therefor in hevin his saull I hald5
Or he was cald. Thus I conclude.

[Moralitas fabule]

Now be this tale I wald ye understud,
Movand avert to haf ane querell gud,
Quhat corage in a mannis hart it bringis,
The fame of it how lovably it ryngis,
And quhat of grace the sely saull encresis
Thro just batle, quho so tharin decesis.6
Bot nevertheles, quhatever the pepill deme,
The gud of pece thar can no man expreme.

On fut than gat this gentill unicorne,
This gentill best this king he come beforne.
So fair a best, so sweit unto my sicht,
Was never sene with ony erdly wicht.
The onely tynd that on his hed he bair
A kyngis ransoun it was worth and mair.
To luke on him it did me sic delyte,
And on this wys he tald his tale perfyte.

The Unicornis Tale

Befor this tyme in Kentschire it befell
A bonde thar was, his name I can nocht tell;
Gundulfus was his sonis name I ges,
Of tender age of nyne yeris ald he wes,
And wele he usit for to rys at mornys
To kepe the grange and his faderis cornis
Fra cokis, crawis and uther foulis wyld.
So on a day this litill prety child
Seand thir birdis lukand our the wall,
Toward the grange Gundulfus gois withall,
And with the casting of a litill stone
Of ane litill bird the theis bone
Brokin he has in sounder at a cast,
And sone the fowlis flokit about him fast.
Quhat will ye mar? He was bot slane or schent.
Sore for him wepit all the hennis of Kent.
Up was he takin and in a garding led
Amang thir herbes thai haf maid him a bed,
And quhat throu comfort and throu medecyne,
Within the space of days viii or nyne
This bird was mendit hale and sound
Of all the panys of his bludy wound.
And Gundulfus with his frendis assent
To Oxinfurd to study is he went.
Sone efter this bird wox a cok,
The gudliest and farest of the floke,
Clerast of voce and wyest in his entent,
The cruellest of all the cokis of Kent.
And he had Copok to be his wyf,
And he had chosyn hir for terme of lyf,
And scho agane till him hir treuth plicht,
To luf him best of ony erdly wicht.
And so at evyne apon his perke he gat,
On his richt hand dame Copok nixt him sat.
And quhill he clapit durst thar no cok craw,
Quhen he had clapit than craw thai all on raw.
So weile he had the housis observance
That of the flok he bair the governans.
Thus was he cheif cok of the bondis place,
And bair the rewle threttene yeris space.
And all this tyme he had this child in thocht
That brak his leg quhen he trespassit nocht.
[ . . . . ]
He was na master in divinité
But he wald preche in to that science hie.
Weile couth he cast the bukis of decres.
Bot tharin no thing he had of his greis.7
Prentis in court he had bene for a yer,
He was a richt gud syngar in the quir.
He couth wele reid and sumpart write and dyte,
And in his gramer was he wele perfyte.
He was ane gret bachillar in sophistry,
With part of pratik of nygramansy.
Of phesik he bair ane urynale
To se thir folk gif thai war seike or hale,
And in his clething was he wele besene,
For goune and hude was all of Lyncome grene.8
Gret was the joy that in the place was than
To se the meting of that noble man.
In come his frendis till him fast anone,
And nochtwithstanding that the day was gone,
“Fader,” he said, “I can nocht byde this nycht;
To Rochister I mon thir wayis richt,
To-morne is the day of my promotioun
Of holy ordour to resaif the croune,
And tharin standis myne avansing hale
Unto ane benefice perpetuale.
And, falye this, the kirk gais to ane nother.”9
Than spak our dame that was the childis modir,
“Son, for my blissing, this nycht with us abyde
And all at eis to-morne son sall ye ryd.
Our hous cok sall the houris of the nycht
Alswele devyde as ony orlage richt,
And at the first cok walkinnit sall ye be
And at your hors sone by the hour of thre.
Ye have bot nyne myle of the farest way,10
At Rochister ye sall be sone be day
And haf your tonsour be the hour of nyne.”
And so he baid and drank with thaim the wyne.
Quhen thai war full of michti ale and wyne
Thai gat to rest and slepis as ony swyne.
The nycht yeid our, the freindis thocht nocht lang,11
For all thar trast was on the cokis sang.
And all this sawe the cok apon the balk
And quhen he hard the mater of thar talk
And on the breking of his theis bone,
This cok had mynd; Gundulfus he had none.
Sone come the tyme that he suld say his voce,
The hour yeid our, the cok he held him clos.
With that dame Coppok putis on hir maike,
Said, “Slepe ye schir? Get up for Cristis saik!
Your hour is gone. Quhy syng ye nocht, for schame?
Wait ye nocht weile yone clerk suld ryde fra hame,12
And all thar trast apon your sang thai lay?
Schir, syng ye nocht, yone clerk sall slepe quhill day
And so in vane is all thing that thai wirk.13
It war gret pete he suld tyne his kirk
And of the tynsall ye sall haf the blame.”
Syng wald he nocht bot schrewitly said, “Madame,
Wysest ye ar quhen that ye hald you still,
And yit ye wyfis evir speike ye will.
Dame, intromet you in your wyfis deid,
Lytill ye wist quhen that my leg couth bleid,14
And yone is he that brak my leg in sounder.
Gif I suld crawe, madame, it war gret wounder
For thocht my leg be verray haile outwart,15
Quhen I him se it bledis at my hart.”
As thai war talkand this fer thaim amang,
Lang efter that the cok tuke up a sang,
And all the birdis with ane voce thai cry,
“Get up, get up, we se the dayis sky!”
And up he gat and saw that it was day,
Said kirk and worschip fastly war away.16
On hors he gat, fast throw the toune he raid,
And all the doggis in till his tale he had,
Quhill at ane stone he styntit with sic fors
That to the erd yeid baith man and hors.
This hors gat up and ran our to the hill,
And in the myr this worthy clerk lay still.
And still he lay quhill it was tyme of none,
The kirk disponit and all the service done.
Than up he gat and hame agane is went,
Ane hevy man forsuth in his entent.
His garment grene that was of colour gud
Was so mismaide in the myre and mude,
And quhat for schame he was so pale of hewe,
Quhen he come hame thar was no man him knewe.
So quhen this clerk with schame come hame agane,
Than was this cok quyt of his legis pane,
And said, “Madame Coppok, mak gud cheir,
Now wepis he that leuch this hender yeir
Quhen with ane stone my thees bone he brak
Bot for I lukit till his faderis stak,
And quhen I bled he said the feild was his.
Now God I loif this day has send us this.”

[Moralitas fabule]

Nowe be this tale ye sall wele understand,
Gif ye be lord and rewlar of this land,
Ye schape you nocht for till oppres the pure,
For, and ye do, forsuth I you assure
The tyme may cum that your aventour standis
Paraventur in to sic mennis handis.
Quha schapis him the pure for to oppres
At Goddis hand the mater has to addres.
Quhil that ye haf space tharfor ye suld amend,
Byde nocht the straik of vengeans at your end,
For till amend als oft as ye do mys,
And we beseke Jhesu of His blis. Amen.
It was ane blyth sicht of this bair,
Of reid gold was the birsis he bur,
Of reid gold schynand was his hair,
His scheldis war richt sad and sure,
His tuskis scharpe that he with schur,
Of stele thai war baith stark and stur.
This was the tale that he tald thar,
I coppyt it with all my cure.

The Baris Taile

Gret Alexander, king of Massedoun,
The quhilk of the nyne nobillis was one,
Of his conquest tyme ner by the end,
To the cite of Lapsat in Araby he send
And of the folk desyrit sic a thing
To knaw him for thar soverane lord and king,
And to be subject to his hie empyr,
And tak example at the toune of Tyr,
That was so strang and for rebellioun
Was utterly distroyit and castyn doun.17
To this desyr and quhat thai wald haf done
Thir worthy folk war avysit sone,18
And in thir termes answer have thai send:
“That quhill we leif we will this toune defend
In sic fredome as our antecessouris
Has left till us and till this toune of ouris.
Erar we cheis with worschipe for to de
Than for to leif in subjectioun to be.”
And in this querell maid thaim ilkone boune
With ane assent to defend this toune.
This riall prince he was amovit so
Quhen he this herd he micht no forder go,
Bot to this toune this king agane is gone,
And with ane ost the riallest of one,
Of kyngis and princis and worthy men of weir
And with the cost nane uther man mycht beir,19
And in entent to cast the cité doun
And put yone pepill to confusioun
Bot hope of grace for trety and debait,
Into remembering of his hie estait.20
In to this toune thar was a noble man,
Ane worthy clerke the best of ane was than,21
And had bene master to this riall kyng
In his scoling quhen at this prince was ying.
And our all thing this toune he lufit best,
And of this prince he trastit grace of rest.
So or this ost was cummyn to this toune
This clerk on kneis before this king fell doune.
The king was war and wele this clerk he saw,
Said, “Master, ces, your erand weile I knawe.22
Desyre na thing at me this daye for quhy
Quhat evir ye ask that thing I will deny
And in the contrar wirk at all my micht.”23
Than spak this clerk and set his word on hicht,
“A kingis word in more effect suld be
Than ony of lawar degré.
Excellent, hie and mychti prince but peir,
Now of this grace that ye haf grantit heir
I thank your hienes and I ask no more
Bot hold the purpos that ye ar cummyn for,24
To sla yone folk and to distroye yone toune,
To do no grace to cast yone wallis doune.25
Now may ye cheis to lat your wordis stand
And tyne the cost or tak this toune on hand
And brek your word before this riall rowte.”
The king was wo and to remuf that dowt
To counsall yeid and quhen he was degest
To tyne this cost erar he thocht it best,
Than for to breke the wordis that he spak,
And left this towne and wald nocht tak the lak.
So throw the wit of his philosophouris
And the gret worschipe of his conquerouris
In rest and pece with fredome yit thai ryng,26
And boith ar deid, this gret clerk and this king.

[Moralitas fabule]

Nowe be this taile it may richt wele be sene
Ane kyngis word in till effect suld bene
More precious in worschipe of his crowne
Than gud or gold or ony wallit toune.
Richt sad of langage suld he be ane kyng
And weile avysit or he said the thing
That suld him greif or muf in his entent:
Erar speike nocht than speike and syne repent.27
Or gif a kyng has said or done amys
That to justice oucht grevand is,
It is more worschipe till his hie estait
For to revoke than to be obstinat.
And to forbeir sic lust and sic delyte
And tak tharfor everlestand lyf perfyte,
Unto the quhilk the Lord of lyf but end
Quhen we depart mot all our sawlis send.

The Wolfis Tale

This wretchit wolf neir by this lyoun lay,
His habit was, me thocht, of cottoun gray,
And so evill favorit was his face on far28
That laif semed far farer than thai war.
Thinkand to put this counsall fra that king,29
And his allya to the court inbring,
He umbethocht him gretly of his wylis,
And to thir staitis gaif he weile thar stylis.30
Said, “Soverane lord, I can nocht fabillis fene,
Bot for the commoun proffet I complene:
In all this land thar is no schepe to get
Within ten myle a mutone to your meit,31
Bot schepe and nolt distroyit ar and deid
And for the quhilk, schir, this is the remeid,
To lat tham stand still that thai may store
And multiply as thai war of before,
Of venysoun and wyld meit mak gud cheir,
And of gret bestis feid yow for a yeir.
Schir, tak gud heid and understand me wele.”
Than said the king, “Be your complant I feile
That for I haf na mutoun to my mete
My cosingis of my counsall I suld ete.
Na, never more, thocht in defalt I de,
Than quha wald byde and of my counsall be?32
Bot with my counsall will I seike remeid,
Fynd how my schepe and how my nolt ar deid.
So quhill this wolf was in this court thai fand
That his allya forrayd all the land.
And so this lyoun sentence gaf he plane:
No beist of reif suld in his court remane,
Nor of invy nor yit of covatis.
So was this wolf with all thar hale avys
Exild the court and fled with all his micht.

[Moralitas fabule]

So sodanely this court went out of sicht
That all was gone in twynkling of an E,
And so gois all this warldis rialté.
Now be this wolf schortly be myne avys
Is understand the syn of covatis,
And be thir four of counsall to the king
The vertuis four that in a king suld ryng,
Prudence, justice and magnanimité
And continence that is content to be.
The vertew no tyme suthly lestis
In no persone that covatis in restis.
Quha ma be prudent with that desyre
Or yit content had he the hale empyr?
Curage throw covatis is set at nocht
And be that mayn is justice sauld and bocht.33
Now mak this vyce exild for to be;
Tak lawe and luf and leif in cherité
And think quhat suld this warldis fals vanglor.
And for the joye that lestis evermore
Beseike we Him that bocht us with His blud,
Eternale God the ground of every gud.


Heir endis The Talis of the Fyve Bestes Per M. Io. Asloan.
(see note); (t-note)

(see note)

pleasant; perceive
night; it will not bring us
wood; thieves; way (path)
in spite of this argument
path; utter fool; took; (see note)
wise man; other (i.e., path); (t-note)
true love; fleshly (i.e., blood); (see note)
brought them to the robbers
and were ruined
came; king’s justice; (see note)
face the law
each; (t-note)
of which I am accused
is at fault
[He] that; worldly pleasure
(eternal) rest
both; thieves’
same; went

since; perpetrator; harm
should; both

does not reside with me
to whom God has given wisdom; (see note)
you did not use it
who would believe; agree
a fool so quickly in my intentions?
[loving] inclination; I see well by
blinded; made; go astray; (see note)
you bear all the blame
gave the sentence
That since; put aside; plan
act; agreed
wisdom (or free will); by grace
On account of brotherly affection
since; would not be ruled
sentenced both to death
perpetual; deeds (or deaths); (see note)
struck off; heads; (see note)

The moral of the tale

wanton; foolish
blessed (or innocent); forswear; other
foul flesh’s; (t-note)
At once; deadly sins; ruined
Abstain from; you see here
bushes, thorn; briar

Which will bring
sight; (see note)

royal horse
commended it in a courteous manner; (see note)
splendid head; horns (tines); on high
polished; burnished bright; (see note)
way; reveal (tell)

(see note)

believe that in Britain
(see note)
With due respect to; (see note)
took from
won all of

is quite justified; (see note)

same; southern seed (i.e., men); (see note)
wrought their will upon

(see note)
holy hermit where; (see note)
[a] trustworthy account; (see note)
conditions; world without fear
Desired; through God’s; (see note)

So; from on high; (see note)
showed; heaven
foul fiends
[And] of; heard
[Those] that died that
made themselves ready to dwell

innumerable; (see note)

(see note)(t-note)

first [person]
Lived a religious life
hermit; other
[Who] loved holy mass; (see note)
third; in his region; (see note)
died defending himself just as
bloody wounds
suffered death; (see note)

make him lose courage
Nor; (t-note)
he would always defend
(see note)
[fighting] for
purchased and sold; (see note)

before he (i.e., his body) was cold


understand [how]
Proceeding prudently; just quarrel
What courage; man's heart
honorably; reigns
(see note)

whatever; people judge; (t-note)
benefit of peace; express; (see note)(see note)

foot; goes
beast; came before
sweet; (see note)
by any earthly person
one horn; bore
king's ranson
in this way; perfect

(see note)

(see note)
peasant (i.e., bondsman); (see note)(t-note)
he was accustomed; in the morning
granary; father's corn
cocks; crows; other wild birds
small comely child; (see note)
Seeing the; watching over
as well; (t-note)
throwing; (see note)
thigh bone
into two in one throw
quickly; birds flocked
only struck down or injured; (see note)
hens; (see note)
led into a garden
herbs (or grasses); (see note)
on account of
healed completely
friends' agreement; (see note)
Oxford; (see note)
became; cockerel
most distinguished; flock
clearest; wisest in his intentions
fiercest; (see note)
(see note)(t-note)
for his entire lifetime
she had pledged her truth to him
love; above all earthly men; (see note)
upon his perch he went
next; (see note)
made a noise; crow
in succession; (t-note)
respect of the house
was in charge
ruled for thirteen years; (see note)(see note)
thought about
when he had not sinned
(see note)(t-note)
He (i.e., Gundulfus); divinity; (see note)
high science
consider; Gretian's Decretals
(see note)
An apprentice
very good singer in the choir; (see note)
read well; a little; indite; (see note)
perfect; (see note)
bachelor; fallacious reasoning; (t-note)
some knowledge of sorcery; (see note)
medicine; carried a vessel for holding urine
see if people; (see note)
well dressed

encounter with (i.e., return); (see note)

stay tonight
Rochester I must make my way
receive the tonsure
permanent benefice

child's mother
at ease; soon

separate; clock; (see note)(t-note)
cock-[crow] wakened shall
(i.e., 3am)
(see note)
by the start of day; (see note)
went; slept like swine
(see note)
their trust
[sitting] on the wooden beam
heard; subject
about; thigh bone
thought about; (see note)
try out his voice
passed by; kept quiet; (see note)
pushes her mate; (see note)
sir; Christ's sake
Why; not; shame

their trust
[if] you don't sing; until

great pity; lose his benefice
loss; will be to blame; (see note)
keep quiet
you wives will always speak
occupy yourself with wifely deeds; (t-note)

in two

When; my heart bleeds; (see note)
speaking among themselves
Long after

(see note)
he (i.e., Gundulfus)
(see note)
mounted; rode; (see note)
at his tail
Until; halted; such force; (see note)
earth; were thrown
over; (see note)
swampy ground
until; midday
disposed of; complete
went home again
dejected; indeed in his spirits

disordered; muck; mud
indeed; shame; in color
no one knew him

revenged for his leg injury; (see note)(see note)
be cheerful
laughed; past year
thigh bone
Just because; looked over his father's fence
he owned the field
I glorify God who has; sent us


If; ruler; (t-note)
Do not plan to; poor
if you do, indeed; promise
fate; (t-note)
Perhaps; men's; (see note)

face the matter in front of God
While; time; amend (or repent)
Do not wait for the stroke
But repent as often as you sin
ask Jesus for his bliss; (see note)
a pleasant sight [to see] this boar
his bristles were of red gold; (t-note)(t-note)
shields [of skin]; steadfast; strong; (see note)
cut with
steel; powerful; fierce
copied it carefully; (see note)

(see note)

Macedonia; (see note)
one of the nine worthies; (see note)
near the end of his conquests
Arabia; sent; (see note)
[That they] recognize him as
great empire; (see note)
look to the example of; Tyre; (see note)

in these words
while we live
to; ours
We would rather choose to die with honor
Than to live in subjection
they each made ready
common consent; (see note)
royal; angered
could not go any further
to the town; returns; (see note)
the most royal of hosts (armies); (see note)
[Made up] of; war

intending to raze the city to the ground
bring the people down
Without any hope; treaty

In this town
(see note)
education; young
aboval all else; loved
expected the favor of peace
before; arrived at
cautious; looked closely at; (see note)

Ask nothing of me today since
Whatever you ask; (t-note)

should be of more worth
Than any of lower degree; (see note)
peerless prince
favor; you have granted here
your highness


choose to let you words stand
lose the expense; capture; (see note)
in front of this royal army
dispel the difficulty of deciding
went; settled; (see note)
Better to lose the expense

not be blamed; (see note)
through; its
honor; its

And [now] both are dead


should be of value; (t-note)
goods; walled town; (see note)
sober of speech
well-advised before saying anything
he would regret; make him change his mind; (see note)(see note)

if; wrong
Anything that; at all grievous; (t-note)

rescind [his speech]; stubborn; (see note)
refrain from such
thereby receive
Unto which; without end
may convey all our souls

(see note)

wretched; lay near; (see note)
clothing; grey cotton; (see note)(t-note)
[the] rest; fairer; (see note)

allies; bring in; (see note)
carefully considered his tricks
(see note)
tell lies; (see note)
public good; complain; (see note)

sheep; cattle; slaughtered
remain; breed; (see note)

feast on venison and game
on large beasts feed; (see note)(see note)

because; to eat
my cousins in my council

a remedy
[And] discover how; (see note)
ravaged; (see note)
animal of prey; remain
envy; covetousness
based on their sound advice
Exiled [from]; might


eye; (see note)
thus passes; world's royalty; (see note)
in short my opinion
covetousness; (see note)
these four counselors
[Are understood] the four virtues; reign
generosity of spirit
temperance; satisfied; (see note)
virtue in truth does not last
any person who is covetous

even if he had a whole empire; (see note)
courage because of; valued at nought
(see note)(see note)
exile this vice
Furnish oneself with law; love; live
what should [mean]; vainglory
Beseech; blood
(see note)

By M[aister] Jo[hn]

Go To Biography of Sir David Lyndsay