http://northernrenaissance.org | ISSN: 1759-3085

Creative Commons License

Published under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License.

You are free to share, copy and transmit this work under the following conditions:

Archive for the ‘Issue 4 (2012) – Natio Scota’ Category:

Editorial: Natio Scota

Editorial: Natio Scota

Alessandra Petrina

[1] Natio Scota was the name chosen for the Thirteenth International Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Language and Literature, which took place in Padua in July 2011. It was the first time that the ‘Scottish Conference’ had migrated to Italy; by an interesting coincidence it was hosted by the first university to admit, in 1534, the existence of a Natio Scota, a group of students sharing the same Scottish national identity – even if this birth was only the result of chance, or political calculation, as a recent study has made clear (Piovan, forthcoming). This coincidence suggested the opportunity to study the meeting of two strands in medieval and early modern Scottish literature: the definition of a literary canon, and the definition of the Scottish nation. Attempting an assessment of Scottish literature means above all dealing with a definition of this literature within a strongly defined national context: literature and nation grow together, and each contributes to the other’s definition. This was what we asked conference participants to consider in the papers that were presented, and in the lively discussions that took place over those five days.

[2] With sixty papers being presented, the themes and discussions ranged widely, and the conference offered an opportunity to assess the state of critical enquiry into Medieval and Renaissance cultural production in Scotland; the theme of the existence, formation and vindication of a Scottish nation remained present throughout, and was translated into literary terms through discussions of the Scottish canon, an issue that has been the object of critical discussion since Roderick J. Lyall’s seminal study in 1991. Here Lyall contended that the Scottish literary canon had erred on the side of nationalism, ‘privileging works which foreground their Scottishness at the expense of texts which are more universal in their style and/or content’ (Lyall 1991: 2). The issue involved not simply style and theme, but also language, as poetry and prose in Older Scots tended to occupy a dominant position in critical studies, incidentally giving priority to the debate on Anglo-Scottish literary relations over a possibly more propitious setting of Scottish literature (in one of its many languages) in a wider European context. The risk, clearly envisaged by Lyall, was that of a ‘coalescence, not to say complicity, in the canon-forming processes of English and Scottish literature’ (Lyall 1991: 15), while it was certainly time to envisage medieval Scottish literature as one more vernacular contribution to the European Middle Ages.

[3] In the twenty years between Lyall’s exhortation and the Padua conference, there has been a radical change in attitude on the part of scholars and critics dealing with late medieval and early modern Scottish works, a change reflected in the papers presented here. The present issue of JNR includes a small selection of the conference papers, but even within this range it will be seen that many of the issues under discussion in Padua are being re-presented here, allowing us to gauge the progress of Scottish studies since, and partly thanks to, Lyall’s own work. The early modern period in particular has benefited from attentive study and from an increase in scholarly editions, starting with the impressive work undertaken by the Scottish Text Society and drawing on earlier, epoch-making studies such as Helena Mennie Shire’s work on the relation between politics, poetry and music at the court of James VI (Shire 1969): the conference constituted also an opportunity to present much work in progress on editions of the works of John Stewart of Baldynneis, the Maitland Quarto, the satirical literature of the Reformation, and a corpus of comic and parodic poems; at the same time scholarly research has brought about the re-discovery of late sixteenth-century poets such as Elizabeth Melville, while electronic publication offers dazzling new opportunities in the editing and analysis of texts. The relation between literature and religion has been reconsidered in a recent collection of essays studying Scottish works across the divide between Middle Ages and Renaissance (Houwen 2012); literature composed at the court of James VI has been newly assessed in the articles collected and edited by David Parkinson (Parkinson 2012), while the study of Scottish literature in Latin has received new impulse thanks to forthcoming volumes and projects (Johnson and Petrina, forthcoming; see also the ‘New Vistas’ project directed by Alasdair A. MacDonald and John Flood). More comprehensive works such as the 2012 Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature include an evaluation of the appearance and progress of Scottish studies (Carruthers and McIlvanney 2013: 248-60), while the forthcoming International Companion to Scottish Poetry promises equal attention to works in Gaelic, Norse and Latin, as well as in English and Scots (Sassi, forthcoming). Above all, we are asked to reconsider the positioning of Scottish literature within its European context, by reflecting not only on the cultural exchanges between Scotland and its close or less close neighbours, but also on the role played by politics and religion in the creation and implementation of a new literary language, thanks to its influence on collective imagery and modes of thought.

[4] Aptly enough, the present collection opens with Michael Bath’s study of the celebrations accompanying the baptism of Prince Henry in Stirling in 1594. Bath’s study draws on the description of the event written by William Fowler, who supervised the celebration and organized the entertainments in his role as Secretary to the Queen (interestingly, his description was printed, shortly after the baptism, in slightly different versions in Edinburgh and London), as well as on a tradition of studies on festivities and trionfi that has hitherto privileged English celebrations over Scottish ones (Anglo 1969; Orgel and Strong 1973). The Stirling entertainment, however, is set even more firmly in an international context by focusing on its analogies with contemporary French celebrations, especially as concerns the use of emblems and the marine pageantry. All this shows the strength of ‘the cultural commerce between Scotland and France in the sixteenth century’, and suggests a sharing of mythological symbols and of humanist iconography that offers a new setting for Scotland’s display of power in a propagandistic context in the late sixteenth century.

[5] If Bath uses a long-forgotten text by William Fowler to study the role of symbolism at the court of James VI, the contributions that follow show equal attention to works that a few decades ago would have been considered minor, but that offer a unique and novel approach to literary culture, revealing unexplored facets of Scottish early modern imagination. We go back to more traditional literary texts in Janet Hadley Williams’s contribution, dedicated to comic verse in Older Scots, and especially to the ‘Quha doutis?’ poem appearing in the Bannatyne miscellany. Through her analysis, Hadley Williams also offers an exemplary instance of the modern editor at work on a medieval Scottish text. Her close reading and use of analogies ranging from Aristides and Columella to Sacrobosco and Gavin Douglas offer useful clues for an identification of the time and cultural setting in which the poem was composed. The contribution thus welcomes back a long-forgotten poem within the canonical folds of early modern literature, highlighting at the same time the universality of some of its themes (the dream vision, the moralitas) and the peculiar Scottishness of some of its modes. Curious sounds, strange smells, fantastic shapes connote the dream atmosphere of this poem; dream-like classifications and eldritch sounds appear in another little-studied text, the ‘Monologue recreative’ set at the centre of the fifteenth-century Complaynt of Scotland and studied here by Luuk Houwen, who examines the animal catalogues contained in the monologue in the light of his knowledge of medieval bestiaries and the Scottish heraldic tradition. Houwen brings this text back into a wider European tradition by showing the influence of ars grammatica on this text through a close analysis of its rhetorical and stylistic traits, and identifying in Alain Chartier’s Quadrilogue invective a possible source. Houwen’s conclusions (‘here we have an author who is not only heavily indebted to medieval traditions but also one who is innovative enough to develop these traditions into something new and special’) appear to insist once again on the theme of the relation between tradition and innovation, which in the case of Scottish literature is profoundly embedded in the relation between local and international culture.

[6] The observation of nature and the use of literature to investigate the natural world is also the object of Karen Jillings’s study, dedicated to late-sixteenth- and early-seventeenth-century literature on healing waters. As in the case of the previous contributions, the choice of generally overlooked texts allows Jillings to explore areas often considered only tangential to literary criticism, such as the use of vernacular in scientific writing; the impact of medicine on Renaissance humanism in Scotland; the development of medical education in Scottish universities, and the international models these universities followed. In her study we also see the progress that is made in early modern Scottish culture between a medieval, ‘gnostic’, authority-based approach to scientific issues and more modern, empirical attitudes, reflecting an international trend but at the same time forcing the scientist to concentrate on national, even local features through observation and experimentation. In this case, too, the scholar’s conclusion is that, by focussing on topical traits, these writers entered the ‘dynamic picture’ of European medical writing.

[7] The contribution that follows, on the other hand, concentrates on a poem that proclaims its European outlook in its very subject. Robert Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice represents a fascinating mixture of classical tradition and medieval interpretation of the myth, and Beatrice Mameli reads the poem proposing first an outline of the impact of the Orpheus myth in the British Isles, both in literary and in iconographic terms. In following the Boethius-Trivet reading of the myth, Henryson never forgets concomitant literary interpretations of the story, and Mameli posits the analysis of Henryson’s mediation between various sources (both classical and medieval) as a key to understanding the relation between author and intended audience. Through her analysis of the various characters of the poems, Mameli highlights the contradictions inherent in their representations – contradictions that morph into an ironic commentary on the mutable nature of the myth, an attitude that could evidently be appreciated by an erudite and sophisticated audience.

[8] Another romance, set in comparison with the tradition it is supposed to derive from, is discussed in the contribution that follows. Rhiannon Purdie reads Roswall and Lillian in relation with the early modern ballad ‘The Lord of Learne’, re-positioning such a relation through the proposal of a new chronology for the two texts, and highlighting the structural and thematic differences between the two texts. In this way what is challenged is the very ‘medieval nature’ of Roswall and Lillian, and, by extension, of chivalric romance, or indeed, the separateness in time of romance and ballad. It is a welcome reminder that the often re-proposed divide between medieval and early modern, already successfully challenged in the English context (as briefly but persuasively shown in Cooper 2006), is even less meaningful in Scottish literary history. 

[9] This issue of JNR offers one last exploration of obscure, un-canonical corners in its last contribution, in which Jamie Reid Baxter discusses Francis Hamilton’s religious verse. The essay offers also an exploration of the nature of the sonnet in seventeenth-century religious poetry in Scotland: Reid Baxter carefully disentangles Biblical echoes, Calvinist overtones, and personal and political allusions, uncovering a complex autobiographical background that constantly informs Hamilton’s poetry. At the same time as this early modern versifier is reclaimed into the literary canon, the critic asks us to reconsider our own attitudes as modern readers when approaching a medieval or early modern text. What we discover at the end of this variegated, polyphonic journey into Natio Scota is that the construction of a canon may indeed tell us more about modern reading attitudes than about the formation of a cultural tradition.

Università di Padova, Italy


Anglo, Sydney. 1969. Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Carruthers, Gerald, and Liam McIlvanney (eds). 2013. The Cambridge Companion to Scottish Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Cooper, Helen. 2006. Shakespeare and the Middle Ages. An Inaugural Lecture Delivered at the University of Cambridge, 29 April 2005 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Houwen, Luuk (ed.). 2012. Literature and Religion in Late Medieval and Early Modern Scotland. Essays in Honour of Alasdair A. MacDonald (Leuven: Peeters)

Johnson, Ian, and Alessandra Petrina (eds). Forthcoming. Scottish Latinitas.

Lyall, Roderick J.. 1991. ‘“A New Maid Channoun”? Redefining the Canonical in Medieval and Renaissance Scottish Literature’, Studies in Scottish Literature, 26: 1-18.

Mennie Shire, Helena. 1969. Song, Dance and Poetry of the Court of Scotland under King James VI (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Orgel, Stephen, and Roy Strong. 1973. Inigo Jones: The Theatre of the Stuart Court (London: Sotheby Parke Bernet)

Parkinson, David J. (ed.). 2012. James VI and I, Literature and Scotland. Tides of Change, 1567-1625 (Leuven: Peeters)

Piovan, Francesco. Forthcoming. ‘Autonomy by Imposition. The Birth of the Natio Scota in the Law Faculty of the University of Padua (1534)’, in The Italian University in the Renaissance, special issue of Renaissance Studies, ed. by David Rundle and Alessandra Petrina

Sassi, Carla (ed.). Forthcoming. The International Companion to Scottish Poetry (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies)

‘Rare shewes and singular inventions’: The Stirling Baptism of Prince Henry

‘Rare shewes and singular inventions’: The Stirling Baptism of Prince Henry

Michael Bath

[1] In an article on the celebrations surrounding the baptism of James VI at Stirling in 1566, Michael Lynch reached the rather challenging conclusion that ‘Stirling in 1566 deserves to be restored to its proper place as the venue of what was by most yardsticks the first truly Renaissance festival which Great Britain had ever witnessed’ (Lynch 1990: 21). The claim seems challenging, if only because students of English literature have been led to think that what Stephen Orgel and Roy Strong (1973) called The Theatre of the Stuart Court only began in England after the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Students of architecture have, likewise, been encouraged to think that English, if not British, architecture in this period was holding its breath for the belated arrival of Inigo Jones.[1] Yet we should surely remember that, as I have argued elsewhere, ‘the Stuart/Stewart dynasty that assumed power in England only in 1603 had already reigned in Scotland for more than two hundred years in a court which had its own culture – its own musical, literary and dramatic entertainments’ (Bath 2001: 183). Those entertainments have not remained completely unknown or unstudied, of course, even if Clare MacManus was right to claim, as recently as 2000, that ‘Early modern Scottish courtly performance has long suffered from neglect in favour of investigations into that of England and the major European nations’ (McManus 2000: 178). However if Lynch is right about the 1566 baptism then clearly students of the ‘Stuart’ court in England need to take account of the considerable body of work that has been done – by scholars such as Helen Mennie Shire, Andrea Thomas, and Michael Lynch himself – on the culture of the Stewart Court in Scotland. In the light of wider studies of court festivals by scholars such as Sydney Anglo, Margaret McGowan, Victor Graham and W. McAllister Johnson, J. R. Mulryne, Helen Watenabe-O’Kelly, or Robert J. Knecht, the time has surely come for us to insist on the internationalism of court culture and court festivals throughout Europe in this period.[2] It is, after all, not surprising that these should be international since all royal families depend for their succession on inter-dynastic marriages.

[2] If we are to place the Scottish festivals in context, however, we need to identify those features and conventions which they share with their English and continental equivalents. If those can be shown to have anticipated, or even influenced, the seventeenth-century Jacobean court in England we shall have made at least some progress with challenging what Rick Bowers has called the ‘prevalent Anglocentric bias that dates Stuart culture from 1603, when James succeeded to the English throne’ (Bowers 2005: 3). What Michael Lynch shows, in his study of the 1566 baptism (Lynch 1990), is that Mary Queen of Scots’ celebrations were closely modelled on the Valois magnificences organised by Catherine de Medicis in France, a year or two earlier, in which Mary’s mother-in-law had sought to reconcile the religious differences that were tearing her country apart. In a later article on ‘Court Ceremony and Ritual’, however, Lynch suggests that the 1594 baptism was more influenced by English rather than by French models. The opening tournament, he writes, ‘was a straightforward copy of what by the 1580s had become a regular spectacle in England, the Accession Day tilts, where a Protestant ethic was grafted on to a revived tradition of Burgundian chivalry’ (Lynch 2000: 89). This reading of the 1594 Baptism, in which French (Catholic) ceremonial models were overtaken by English (Protestant) ones has been further developed by Lynch himself in 2003. It has also been pursued by Rick Bowers, who argues that William Fowler’s 1594 True Reportarie of the 1594 ceremonies in Stirling, ‘represents a new form of political announcement, a reformed Protestant communiqué that breaks with a Catholic past, balances Scottish nationalism with British union, and asserts the cultural complexities of James’s future power’ (Bowers 2005: 4).

[3] The 1594 Baptism has the advantage over its 1566 predecessor in that we have a fairly full and official description of its ceremonial, whereas everything that we know about its 1566 predecessor has to be built up from fragmentary entries in The Treasurer’s Accounts and other state papers, or from contemporary eye-witness accounts. The political situation surrounding both ceremonies had certainly changed, with Queen Mary’s first-hand experience of the French court being overtaken by James’s preoccupation with his infant son’s succession to the English throne. What I want to do in this paper, however, is to question that contrast between French and English influences, whilst welcoming and insisting on the internationalism of the models and precedents for both celebrations. The continuities between the Scottish 1566 baptism of James VI and the 1594 baptism of his son and heir-apparent are stronger, I want to suggest, than Lynch’s distinction between French and English models might suggest. There remain many elements of the 1594 Baptism that go back directly to French roots, and if we want to see where it is coming from we need to reach not just for our copy of Sidney Anglo (1969) but also our copy of Victor Graham and McAllister Johnson (1979). The use of emblems in the 1594 ceremonies is – I shall suggest – an important part of that internationalism, albeit something that it undoubtedly shares with the English Accession Day tilts.

[4] The printing of William Fowler’s True Reportarie of the Baptism of the Prince of Scotland might itself be a sign of such French influence.[3] The publication of more-or-less official accounts of such ceremonies began in France in the 1550s as a way of capitalising on their huge costs by publicising more widely the magnificence of the occasion and its message. Subsequent French court festivals and royal entries had been commemorated in albums written by such authors as Maurice Scève; Jean Martin, Charles Chappuys, Joachim du Bellay, and emblematist Barthelemy Aneau. In following suit in Edinburgh in 1594, Fowler was therefore following some notable predecessors. It is, however, important to remember that two versions of the True Reportarie were published, one in Edinburgh and the other in London, so that, as Clare McManus says, ‘Despite its rushed and improvised air, Fowler’s festival was designed to signal the magnificence of the Scottish court and to advance James VI’s succession to the English throne; significantly, both Scots and anglicised contemporary variants of the text exist’ (McManus 2000: 185). It was evidently important to King James that his future English subjects noticed what had been performed in Stirling.

[5] Nevertheless, as Roy Strong says, the Valois court festivals, and particularly the magnificences that took place in Fontainebleau in 1564, formed a pattern for those to follow both in France and elsewhere (Strong 1973: 105). Lasting over two or three days, they included two different types of spectacle, outdoors and indoors, the first being predominantly chivalrous, with tournaments such as barriers and running at the ring, or the storming of a fortress. The indoor entertainments included pageant cars, feasting, singing and dancing, and a number of theatrical forms which outlasted these occasions – the Stuart court masque, the French ballet de cour, and the opera. This scenario might tempt us to distinguish the outdoor tournaments from the more theatrical indoor entertainments, but this would be a mistake, for the outdoor martial arts were no less theatrical than the indoor festivities, with the combatants dressed up in costume and often assuming fictitious roles and identities: these are tournaments in fancy dress. Scottish indebtedness to this format is clear when Fowler explains at the start of his description that the Stirling Baptism festivities were ‘devided both in Feeld pastimes, with Martiall and heroicall exploites, and in household, with rare shewes and singular inventions’ (Fowler 1936: 172).

[6] The 1594 Baptism of Prince Henry opened with Running at the Ring ‘in the valley near the castle’ by three Christian Knights of Malta, three Turks ‘verie gorgiouslie attired’, and three Amazons ‘in women’s attire, very sumptuously clad’. All nine of these costumed participants were, of course, courtiers: the three Christian knights were King James himself plus the Earl of Mar and Thomas Erskine; the three Turks were the Duke of Lennox, Lord Home, and Sir Robert Kerr; the three Amazons ‘in women’s attire’ were the Abbot of Holyroodhouse, Lord Buccleuch and Lord Lindores. The taste for cross-dressing of tournament combatants, which seems so odd to us, goes back directly to Valois precedents. The portrait of Francois I as a composite trans-gendered deity combining the features of Mars/Mercury/Minerva/Diana may not illustrate any actual masquing costume, though it surely reflects such disguising.

Fig. 1   François I as a transgendered, composite deity combining the attributes of  Minerva, Mars, Mercury and Diana. Parchment pasted on panel, c. 1545 (Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Na 255 Rés.)

Fig. 1 François I as a transgendered, composite deity combining the attributes of Minerva, Mars, Mercury and Diana. Parchment pasted on panel, c. 1545 (Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Na 255 Rés.)

In 1576 Henri III certainly gave a masqued ball in Paris at which he appeared as a woman, with his hair dressed and powdered, his gown cut low décolleté, and wearing brocade, lace and ten ropes of pearls. The most notable appearance of a costumed Amazon in the tiltyard, however, was in the 1565 Bayonne magnificence when Charles IX appeared in the first day’s tournament dressed as a Trojan, whilst his brother Henri – future Henri III – was dressed as an Amazon, wearing a skirt (Strong 1984: 108). If we want to know just what such a cross-dressing Amazon might have looked like, we have only to look at Antoine Caron’s drawing of the Bayonne tournament.

Fig. 2The Bayonne magnificences, 1565, opening tournament showing Charles IX tilting at the quintain whilst his brother Henri follows, dressed as an Amazon. Antoine Caron, attrib., drawing. (Courtauld Institute, University of London.)

Fig. 2   The Bayonne magnificences, 1565, opening tournament showing Charles IX tilting at the quintain whilst his brother Henri follows, dressed as an Amazon. Antoine Caron, attrib., drawing. (Courtauld Institute, University of London.)

This was not the last time that Amazons appeared in Valois court tournaments, for in 1573 Charles with his brothers and the Duc de Guise appeared as Amazons in the magnificence mounted in Paris to celebrate the marriage of Henri de Navarre to Marguerite de Valois. And in a notable prefiguration of the Stirling Baptism, their opponents in this running at the ring were dressed as Turks (Strong 1984: 113).

[7] The taste for Turkish disguising seems to have begun in France at the 1533 celebrations of the wedding of Prince Henry II to Catherine de Medicis in Marseilles, when Catherine’s cousin, Ippolito, recently returned from Hungary, arrived with an escort of Magyars and pages dressed as Turks, wearing turbans and wielding scimitars. French attitudes towards the Islamic empire remained more open-minded than most of its European neighbours, indeed under Henry III the Sultan became France’s ally in opposition to the territorial ambitions of the Empire: the opposition of Turks and Christians in these continental antecedents to the Stirling Baptism does not necessarily imply any foregone preference or advantage therefore for the latter. This was not the first time that Scotland had used such disguising since in 1561 we learn that the French ambassador, de Foys, with his followers, ran at the ring ‘dysguised and apparelled thone half lyke women, and thither lyke strayngers, in strange maskynge garments’ (Calendar of State Papers, ed. Bain, I: 467). For Clare McManus ‘The close approximation of the feminine and the foreign’ in these disguisings needs to be read ‘as symbolic markers of difference’ which underline the gendered rhetoric of ‘a festival which defines Queen Anna as the passive prize of King James’s romance quest’. As she says,

The performance of blackness is not unknown in Scottish entertainments. The first recorded presence of black performers in Scotland dates from 1505 and the court of James IV; however, its perhaps most significant appearance is found in the same king’s tournament of the Black Lady (1507 and 1508) in which a black woman, celebrated in Dunbar’s ‘parodic blazon’ ‘Ane Blak Moir’ as the ‘ladye with the meckle lippis’, performed. (McManus 2000: 189).

There are later Scottish examples, and in 1596 – two years after the Stirling baptism – Moorish and Turkish disguises were adopted in the Danish tournament for the coronation of Christian IV (McManus 2000: 191, citing Lausund 1992). And in England these precedents undoubtedly foreshadow the Stuart court masques of Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones, notably The Masque of Blackness in which Queen Anna actually participated in 1605.

[8] We should not perhaps be surprised to find French antecedents for these Turks and Amazons in Stirling, but it might be more surprising to discover that the wild highlandmen who attacked the burning fortress in the 1566 mock-siege at Stirling had already put in an appearance the year before in France, where the Bayonne magnificences included a pageant of Knights of seven different Nations, at which a group of six knights accompanied the Duc de Guise, all dressed as wild Scotsmen ‘à l’Escossaise sauvage’ (Lynch 1990: 9; Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979: 337). These French Highlanders were admittedly more richly dressed than their Scottish successors: rather than goat skins they wore shirts of white satin, made with embroidery and cloth-of-gold, and coats of yellow velvet whose base was pleated ‘selon la coustume des sauvages’. It was almost certainly the Guise connection with Mary Queen of Scots through her mother that motivated this choice of costume (Bath 2009: 58).

[9]  The internationalism of William Fowler’s designs for the Stirling baptism certainly extends to its prominent use of emblems. Fowler himself had a wider interest in these, for his papers (which were preserved by his son-in-law, poet William Drummond, amongst the Hawthornden Papers now in the National Library of Scotland) include details of the devices embroidered by Mary Queen of Scots for her bed of state, extracts from Italian writers on the art of the impresa, and a note suggesting that he himself had written such a treatise.[4] Fowler tells us that the combatants in the first day’s Running at the Ring in Stirling rode on horses bearing their master’s impresa.

So al the persons being present and at their entrye making their reverence to the queen, embassadours, and ladyes, having their pages ryding upon their led horses and on their left armes bering their maisters Imprese or devyse. (Reportarie, p.175)

This certainly supports Michael Lynch’s contention that the 1594 Scottish Baptism was influenced by the English Accession Day tilts, where imprese were similarly used, indeed Alan Young has shown that the pasteboard shields that were presented as the combatants entered the tiltyard in England were subsequently put on display in an impresa gallery in Whitehall Palace (Young 1987; the devices are fully listed in Young 1988). Fowler would have had the opportunity to witness the Accession Day tilts during his time in England, 1581-1583, since tilts took place in both these years. The precedents for such presentations had been established, however, not in England but in France where, in the Bayonne Magnificence of 1565, for instance, the Arthurian knights of Britain and Ireland presented gold medallions bearing the devices displayed on their shields to the ladies observing their tournament in the tilt gallery. As Roy Strong notes, ‘The official Recueil of these events contains engravings of them’ (Strong 1984: 107; cf Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979: 49, and figs.27-44).

Fig. 3   Device of Filisson de Diques, monseigneur le duc de Longueville. Recueil des choses notables qui ont esté faites à Bayonne, à l'entreueuë du roy treschrestien neufieme de ce nom, [et] la royne sa treshonoree mere, auec la royne catholique sa soeur. Paris: Michel de Vascosan, 1566, p. 77.

Fig. 3 Device of Filisson de Diques, monseigneur le duc de Longueville. Recueil des choses notables qui ont esté faites à Bayonne, à l’entreueuë du roy treschrestien neufieme de ce nom, [et] la royne sa treshonoree mere, auec la royne catholique sa soeur. Paris: Michel de Vascosan, 1566: 77.

[10]  As we begin to unpack the iconography and meaning of these Scottish tiltyard imprese, it becomes clear that – like most emblems – they go back to diverse sources, combining conventional motifs and commonplace mottoes in new ways or, more often than not, inventing new emblems in a bricolage of received ideas. King James, for instance, led the group of three Christian Knights bearing the device of a lion’s head with open eyes ‘which signifieth after a mystique & Hieroglyphique sense Fortitude and Vigilance’. Fowler might seem to be overplaying the ‘mystique and Hieroglyphic’ sense of what might otherwise seem a pretty straightforward heraldic device here, but the King’s motto certainly gives it a more abstruse and pointed application. The motto Timeat et primus et ultimus orbis (He strikes fear into both nearby and distant worlds) comes from Ovid (Fasti, I: 717-18), ‘Horreat Aeneadas et primus et ultimus orbis: Si qua parum Romam terra timebit, amet’. The contrast between local and distant worlds has a long history, going back to Virgil’s description of Britain as an island almost totally cut off from the known world, ‘penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos’ (Ecl. 1, 67), but the distinction had been drawn into imperial iconography most notably in the Plus oultre badge of emperor Charles V, with its two columns signifying the pillars of Hercules that separated the Old World from the new Americas (Bath 2009: 58-59). James’s voyage to Denmark to bring back his bride Anna may look to us somewhat less than transatlantic, but there can be no doubt that the Stirling festival was designed, as McManus (2000) demonstrates, to characterise his voyage as a romance quest, re-enacting Jason’s voyage to secure his bride Medea and the golden fleece. It was an outlandish adventure.

[11]  The Earl of Mar in the Stirling tournament displayed a dog-collar ‘all beset with iron pikes’ and the motto Offendit et defendit (He attacks and protects). The emblem has no exact antecedents, though the prickly iconography surely recalls the famous porcupine device of Louis XII, whose motto Cominus et eminus (Hand-to-hand and at a distance) signals the same two alternatives of proximity and distance. The porcupine, however, has the emblematic advantage over Fowler’s spiked dog-collar since it was reported to be able to shoot out its quills. The third of the Christian knights, Thomas Erskine, displayed ‘a windmill with her spokes unmoving and windes unblowing on every side’ and the motto Ni sperat immota (He expects nothing unmoved). Again the message seems to allude to the royal journey, though quite how a windmill could be depicted with the sails not turning, or the winds not blowing, is unclear: the emblem depends on its motto to make the point. Far from being becalmed, James’s Danish voyage in 1589 had been beset by storms, which is surely what this emblem refers to.

Fig. 4Emblem showing the Reformed church shining with the full light of revealed religion. Theodore de Beze, Icones, id est verae imagines virorum doctrina simul et pietate illustrium [...] quibus adiectae sunt nonnullae picturae quas Emblemata vocant, Geneva: Jean de Laon, 1580, no. 40.

Fig. 4 Emblem showing the Reformed church shining with the full light of revealed religion. Theodore de Beze, Icones, id est verae imagines virorum doctrina simul et pietate illustrium […] quibus adiectae sunt nonnullae picturae quas Emblemata vocant, Geneva: Jean de Laon, 1580, no. 40.

[12] Of the three Turks, the Earl of Lennox displayed a love emblem showing a heart with one side on fire, the other frozen with ‘on one side Cupid’s torch, on the other Cupid’s thunder’. This, and the motto, Hinc amor, inde metus (Here love, there fear), declares a conventional Petrarchan conceit which would not have been out of place in Fowler’s Tarantula of Love, and which reflects James VI’s stance in these ceremonies as ‘a questing romance hero’ which is well analysed by McManus (McManus 2000: 190-91; and for Tarantula of Love see Verweij 2007). Lord Home’s impresa showed ‘a zodiac with a moon opposite the sun, motto: Quo remotior, lucidior. That is to say, the further the fairer’. The device has no exact equivalent in emblem books, but something of its iconography can perhaps be illustrated by an untitled emblem from the 1580 Icones of Theodore de Bèze. Its emphasis on proximity and distance has to be read, once again, as alluding to the royal voyage.

Fig. 5   Emblem ‘In deprehensum’ (Caught!) illustrating the adage Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf). Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, Leiden: Plantin, 1591, p. 38.

Fig. 5   Emblem ‘In deprehensum’ (Caught!) illustrating the adage Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf). Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, Leiden: Plantin 1591: 38.

[13]  Of the three Amazons, all ‘in women’s attire’, the Lord of Buccleuch displayed an impresa showing a crown, an eye, and a portcullis ‘the crowne betokening the power of God, the Eye his providence, and the Portcullis his Protection’ with the motto Clausus tutus ero ‘which were composed in anagram of Walterus Scotus, the Laird of Buccleuch’s name’ (Fowler 1936: 174). Fowler’s taste for anagrams is amply documented in the National Library’s Hawthornden papers, and we should not doubt that he played a major role in devising these imprese for the noble participants in the joust. The second of the Amazons was his co-author of the 1594 Baptism, the Lord of Lindores, whose device was based on a familiar proverb that had already been turned into emblems. Lindores’ device is described as ‘an hand, holding an eel by the tail, alluding to the uncertainty of times, with these words: Ut frustra, sic pantienter’ (As in vain, so patiently). The classical proverbs Cauda tenes anguillam (You hold an eel by the tail) or Folio ficulno tenes anguillam (You hold an eel in a fig leaf) are recorded in Erasmus’s Adagia (1.4.95-96) and had been turned into an emblem by Alciato on capturing a slippery customer; the emblem had been imitated by Thomas Palmer and Geffrey Whitney among others at this date (Bath 1994: 63-64). Lindores’ device certainly goes back to one or other of these sources.

[14]  The actual baptism took place on the third day in the newly-built Chapel Royal which had been rebuilt especially for this baptism and at considerable cost. As Aonghus MacKechnie says, ‘The building looks Florentine, with paired round-arched windows … The doorway is a triumphal arch … originally more complex … but sufficiently intact to denote it as Scotland’s first known building based on formal “correct” use of classical Orders’ (MacKechnie 2000: 163). MacKechnie records that the chapel’s components and proportions were recognised as those of the Temple of Solomon and its design must be attributed to James’s architect, William Schaw, inventor – if David Stevenson is right – of modern Freemasonry (Stevenson 1988). In 1589 Schaw had, like Fowler, accompanied the king on his journey to Denmark to fetch home his bride, a voyage which the great model ship that became the most memorable feature of these indoor ceremonies was designed to commemorate (Stevenson 1997).

[15]  The proceedings then moved into the Great Hall for a ceremonial feast. After a sumptuous first course, a table carrying all sorts of delicacies was drawn into the hall on a large chariot. Six ladies, dressed in satin and tinsel and with loose hair dressed ‘Antica forma,’ stood round the table, presenting what Fowler calls ‘a silent comedy’. Each of these represented an allegorical figure, holding her defining attributes and with a Latin motto on her skirt. The overall theme is one of fertility, fruition and fecundity, thus Ceres appeared holding a sickle and sheaf of corn, with the motto Fundent uberes omnia campi, ‘which is to say the plenteous fields shall afford all things’. Similarly Fecundity appeared with some bushes of poppies ‘which under an hieroglyphic sense, representeth broodiness’ with the motto Felix prole divum, and on the other side of her dress Crescant in mille, ‘The first importing that this countrie is blessed by the child of the goddess, and the second alluding to the King and Queen’s majesties, that their generation may grow into thousands’ (Fowler 1936: 188). This chariot should have been drawn by the king’s tame lion, but because it was feared that this might frighten the company, or itself be frightened by the lights and torches, it was replaced by a blackamoor, who appeared to move it single-handed, though it was in fact moved ‘by secret convoy’ to the Prince’s table where Ceres, Fecundity, Faith, Concord and Perseverence delivered the whole dessert to the court servers.

[16]  It is only with the third course of this feast that we encounter the most elaborate and memorable of the ‘rare shows and singular inventions’ that characterised these festivities. After the chariot was removed there entered ‘a most sumptuous, artificial and well-proportioned ship’, 24 feet long, with a 40-foot mast and ‘the sea under her was lively counterfeit with all colours’ (Fowler 1936: 190). The ship was festooned with emblematic devices and was, we are told, his majesty’s ‘owne invention’ recalling and moralising the king’s voyage to Norway to fetch home his queen. This was by no means the first time that a large model ship had been used in such courtly pageants. Precedents include the Bayonne magnificences, which had featured actual pageant ships sailing on the river Ardour, and the Navarre-Valois wedding in 1572 featured marine chariots encrusted with coral and sea creatures, where Charles IX played the part of Neptune. In 1558 the allegorical ship that had been drawn through the streets of Brussels as part of the obsequies for the death of Emperor Charles V featured his twin pillars with the motto plus oultre and was specifically identified as the vessel of Jason and the Argonauts, who had brought back the golden fleece.

Fig. 6Allegorical ship for the obsequies of Charles V in Brussells, 1558. Engraving from J. and L. Duetecum, Magnifique et somptueuse Pompe funèbre faite aux obsequies et funerailles de tres victorieus emperor Charles V, Antwerp : Plantin, 1559 (Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, Inv.R.44.8).

Fig. 6   Allegorical ship for the obsequies of Charles V in Brussells, 1558. Engraving from J. and L. Duetecum, Magnifique et somptueuse Pompe funèbre faite aux obsequies et funerailles de tres victorieus emperor Charles V, Antwerp : Plantin, 1559 (Antwerp, Plantin-Moretus Museum, Inv.R.44.8).

Its relevance to James VI’s great ship in Stirling is signalled by Fowler’s own explanation, as he says:

But because this devise carried some morall meaning with it, it shall not be impertinent to this purpose, to discover what is meant thereby.

The Kings Maiestie, having undertaken in such a desperate time, to sayle to Norway, and like a new Jason, to bring his Queene our gracious Lady to this Kingdome … thought it very meet, to followe foorth this his owne invention, that as Neptunus (speaking poetically, and by such fictions, as the like Interludes and actions are accustomed to be decored withal) ioyned the King to the Queene. (Fowler 1936: 193)

[17]  If we are inclined to doubt whether Scotland could possibly have produced any model to compare with such predecessors, we might bear in mind the comment of a later visitor to Stirling who, in 1687, countered any doubt as to the ‘Wit, Learning and Delicacy of the Scottish court at so great a distance of time’ by appealing to ‘several pieces of workmanship used upon that signal occasion, And particularly the Ship yet extant, which I have lately seen in the apartment next to the Great Hall in the Castle of Stirling where that triumphant and royal entertainment was kept’ (Fowler 1940: 70).

[18]  The ship was piloted by an actor playing Neptune, with other actors impersonating classical marine deities Thetis and Triton and, as with the preceding pageant’s emblems of fertility, these were evidently treated as allegorical figures, each marked with a Latin motto to signal – for those who could read it – his or her ‘moral meaning’. Thus Neptune carried the inscription Iunxi atque reduxi (I have joined them and brought them back) to signal that it was the sea that united Scotland’s king and queen before bringing them back to their kingdom. The foresail of the ship bore the legend Quascunque per undas. ‘Which is to say, through quhatsoever seas, or waves, the King’s Majestie intendeth his course … Neptune as God of the sea, shal be favourable to his proceedings’. The marine pageantry at Stirling has clear French precedents. Fowler tells us, for instance, how the sea gods were surrounded by ‘Marine people, as Syrens (above the middle as women, and under as fishes)’ (Fowler 1936: 193). The 1563 ‘magnificences’ at Chenonceaux featured singing sirens and wood nymphs who were abducted by a group of lecherous Satyrs before being rescued by knights. As Roy Strong says, ‘These singing sirens were to be a standard ingredient of the mythology of every set of “magnificences” for the next twenty years’ (Strong 1984: 103).

Fig. 7   Medal of Mary Queen of Scots with the three crowns device, Aliamque moratur (And awaits another). (Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland).

Fig. 7 Medal of Mary Queen of Scots with the three crowns device, Aliamque moratur (And awaits another). (Edinburgh, National Museums of Scotland).

[19]  If such French precedents and influences remained quite important on the 1594 Stirling baptism we need to ask how they might have reached Scotland. The cultural commerce between Scotland and France in the sixteenth century was, of course, very strong and direct. The Latin Pompae deorum court masque for the 1566 Stirling baptism was written by George Buchanan, who had worked in Paris and Portugal before returning to Scotland with a European reputation. Another Scottish courtier who is much less well known but who had been active in both the Scottish and French courts and, indeed, played his part in designing at least one of the French court festivals was John Gordon, son of the last Catholic Bishop of Galloway. He had been recommended by Mary Queen of Scots to serve as Gentleman of the bedchamber to French kings Charles IX, Henri III and Henri IV, and in 1581 Henri III held a festival to celebrate the marriage of duc Anne de Joyeuse to Marguerite de Vaudémont. This consisted of five hours of entertainments dominated by the Balet comique de la Royne. Designed by Balthasar de Beaujoyeulx, born Italian Baltazarini Belgioioso, who came to France c.1550 as a virtuoso violinist, he was patronised by Henri II for whom he became valet de chambre (cf David Rizzio), a position he retained in the service successively of Catherine de Medicis and Marie Stuart, followed by Charles IX and Henri III. Gordon was friendly with Brantôme, Ronsard, and d’Aubigné, and moved in the circle of courtiers surrounding the duc d’Alençon. In 1582 he wrote the festival album explaining the meaning and allegorical symbolism of the Balet comique de la Royne, which became the prototype of what we now call opera. The importance of this work, with its mixture of mythology, music, poetry and painting, emblematics and iconography, to the history of European musicology and theatre has, indeed been widely recognised.[5] As Nuccio Ordine says, its innovations were quickly noted by foreign residents and ambassadors in Paris, whose descriptions ‘ne laissent aucun doute sur la curiosité que tels événements ont éveillée chez les souverains des royaumes voisins’ (Ordine 2011: 21). It certainly provided a precedent for the Edinburgh baptism in its marine iconography, for in Paris king Henri arrived in a ship and in the Ballet he is presented as rex nauta who has steered the ship of state through troubled waters of religious sectarianism. The king is characterised as a new Ulysses who has triumphed over the poisonous enchantments of Circe, whom the hero encounters, of course, on his voyage home at the end of the Trojan War. The collection marine deities who surrounded the great model ship in Stirling do not, for obvious reasons, include the evil temptress Circe, and McManus’s claim that ‘The queen consort [Anna] is a nexus of otherness: as a necessary threat and a potential bounty, her nature, the shifting quality of which aligns her with the transformative power of the mythological figure of Circe, is celebrated in the baptismal entertainments’ must be dismissed as a piece of feminist special pleading (McManus 2000: 183). The closing pages of the printed description of the Balet comique de la Royne contain an appendix of no fewer than four different explanations, by various authors, of the meaning of the Circe mythography, of which the last was written by John Gordon. Entitled Autre allegorie de la Circé, it tells us that it was written by sieur Gordon, escocois, Gentilhomme de la Chambre du Roy. I have not found evidence that John Gordon had any connection with the Stirling baptism, though he later became a firm favourite of James VI who recalled him to England in 1603 and made him Dean of Salisbury Cathedral. Gordon’s role as an intermediary for the transmission of ideas and images between the different courts is, however, suggested by the fact that Adrian d’Amboise, in his Devises royales (1621), tells us that it was a Scotsman named Gordon who had recommended the device of three crowns, with the motto Manet ultima caelo (The last remains in heaven) to Henri III of France. The device went back to a medal minted for Mary Queen of Scots in 1560 (Bath 2009: 60-63; Ordine 2011: 184-91).

Fig. 8   Triumphal arch for Henri II’s entry into Paris, 1549, showing Henry as Typhis, pilot of the Argonauts flanked by his guiding stars, Castor and Pollux. Woodcut, C’est l’ordre qui a este tenu à la nouvelle et joyeuse entrée… , Paris 1549 (Warburg Institute).

Fig. 8 Triumphal arch for Henri II’s entry into Paris, 1549, showing Henry as Typhis, pilot of the Argonauts flanked by his guiding stars, Castor and Pollux. Woodcut, C’est l’ordre qui a este tenu à la nouvelle et joyeuse entrée… , Paris 1549 (Warburg Institute).

Fig. 9Pinkie House, Musselburgh, emblem Sit Virtus Typhis (Let Typhis be Virtue) from painted ceiling of Long Gallery, c. 1613.

Fig. 9 Pinkie House, Musselburgh, emblem Sit Virtus Typhis (Let Typhis be Virtue) from painted ceiling of Long Gallery, c. 1613.

[20] Of course none of this confirms my claims for direct French influence on the Stirling baptism, even if it does suggest the knowledge which at least some Scots had of French court festivals at this time. The continuities between French, Scots and English court festivals are, indeed, suggested by the fact that Beaujoyeulx’s Balet comique based on the legend of Circe was adapted by Aurelian Townsend for the court masque Tempe Restored designed by Inigo Jones and performed at Whitehall Palace on Shrove Tuesday 1632. It is, however, worth recalling that the Balet comique celebrated the king as rex nauta, or second Jason, sailing the ship of the Argonauts safely out of the storms of religious and political conflict guided by the twin stars Castor and Pollux and their pilot Typhis. As McManus says, ‘The Ovidian [Argonauts] myth operates as a narrative archetype for many Renaissance court entertainments and their documentation … the test of Jason’s power against the forces of a distant enchanted land underlies James VI’s representation as the romantic questing hero’ (2000: 194). The same symbolism had been used, for instance, on a triumphal arch erected for Henri II’s entry into Paris in 1549, portraying Henry II as Typhis, along with Castor and Pollux. Scottish familiarity with this iconography is evidenced by one of the emblems which Chancellor Alexander Seton painted in his remarkable neo-Stoic gallery at Pinkie House in 1613, for here we see Typhis guiding the ship of state propelled by the Goddess Fortuna (Bath 2003, ch.4). None of this proves any direct influence of French iconography on the Scottish court, but we might remember that it was William Fowler who preserved the fullest records of Mary Stuart’s embroideries on her Bed of State, which was covered in emblems including the three-crowns Manet ultima caelo emblem (Bath 2007; Bath 2008: 42-47). And it was Fowler who left these records to his son-in-law, William Drummond, who eventually passed them on to Ben Jonson after Jonson had walked to Scotland to find out more about Scottish culture. It was Jonson who wrote the majority of the Stuart court masques, with Inigo Jones, in England – masques which make notable use of emblems. Jonson had, in fact, asked Fowler on his return to London to send him a description, not of the emblems on the embroideries but of these very inscriptions at Pinkie (Bath and Craig 2010). Alexander Seton, First Earl of Dunfermline, who built this gallery in 1613, had close connections with architect, William Schaw, the architect who built the new chapel royal for Prince Henry’s baptism in 1594. Indeed it was Seton who wrote the Latin epitaph for Schaw, praising his learning and skills in the art of architecture, which one can still read on his monument in Dunfermline Abbey.[6] Seton’s emblem of Typhis copies continental prints, and should not be seen as any direct reminiscence of the Stirling baptism, but the extent of shared iconography between this ceiling and the court festivals argues for a community of taste and humanist learning which defines the context in which both must have been invented and received at this period in Scotland.


[1]  This over simplification was challenged notably by the contributors to Gent 1995, see especially the articles by Lucy Gent, Deborah Howard, and Christy Anderson.[back to text]

[2]  The literature is extensive but see especially Anglo 1969; McGowan 1973; Graham and McAllister Johnson 1979; Mulryne, Watanabe-O’Kelly and Shewring 2004; Watanabe-O’Kelly 2000; Knecht 2008.[back to text]

[3]  Fowler 1594, printed in Edinburgh: Robert Waldegrave, 1594 (STC 11214.6), and in London: Peter Short, 1594 (STC 11214.7). Both versions were reprinted by the Scottish Text Society, The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, vol. 2, 1936 (Edinburgh: Blackwood): 169-95.[back to text]

[4] Details of these can be found in Fowler 1940, ‘Introduction’, xliv-xlv. For emblems on the royal bed of state see Bath 2008: 17-21, 147-57. For Fowler more generally see especially Petrina 2009.[back to text]

[5]  McGowan 1963. For Beaujoyeulx, Gordon, and the Balet comique de la Royne see Ordine 2011: 20-48, 184-91.[back to text]

[6]  As Michael Pearce has recently shown (Pearce 2012), William Schaw was responsible, as master of works, for organising the entertainments to which Ulric, duke of Holstein was treated on his visit to Scotland in 1598, when the duke was banqueted, with Alexander Seton in attendance, at the redecorated house of Ninian MacMorran in Riddle’s Court, Edinburgh, and on an extensive sightseeing tour of Scotland. The entertainments were designed to secure the influence of Denmark and other north German states in gaining imperial support for James’s accession to the English throne: the Riddle’s Court painted ceiling displays the double-headed imperial eagle and Scottish thistle to this end. As Pearce notes, ‘Schaw’s epitaph at Dunfermline Abbey describes him as “master of ceremony”’ (p. 21) – the close association of architecture with court ceremonial was by no means unique to the work of Inigo Jones. Schaw, together with Fowler, had accompanied James on the king’s marital voyage to Denmark in 1589.[back to text]



Anglo, Sydney. 1969. Spectacle, Pageantry, and Early Tudor Policy (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Bath, Michael. 1994. Speaking Pictures: English Emblem Books and Renaissance Culture (London: Longman)

_____. 2003. Renaissance Decorative Painting in Scotland (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland Publishing)

_____. 2007. ‘Ben Jonson, William Fowler and the Pinkie Ceiling’. Architectural Heritage, 18: 73-86.

_____. 2008. Emblems for a Queen: The Needlework of Mary Queen of Scots (London: Archetype), 17-21, 147-57.

_____. 2009. ‘Symbols of Sovereignty: Political Emblems of Mary Queen of Scots’, in Guiseppe Gascione and S. Mansueto, ed. Immagine e Potere nel Rinascimento europeo (Milan: Ennerre), 53-67

Bath, Michael and Jennifer Craig. 2010. ‘What Happened to Mary Stuart’s Bed of State?’ Emblematica, 18: 279-88

Bowers, Rick. 2005. ‘James VI, Prince Henry, and A True Reportarie of the Baptism at Stirling’. Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, 29, 4: 3-22   <http://jps.library.utoronto.ca/index.php/renref/article/view/9056/6021>, accessed 25/02/12.

Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland and Mary, Queen of Scots, 1547-1603, ed. Joseph Bain (Edinburgh 1898)

Fowler, William. 1594. A True Reportarie of the Most Triumphant, and Royal Accomplishment of the Baptisme of the Most Excellent. Right High, and Mightie Prince, Frederick Henry; By the Grace of God. Prince of  Scotland. Solemnized the 30 Day of August, 1594 (Edinburgh: Robert Waldegrave, 1594, STC 11214.6) and (London: Peter Short. 1594, STC 11214.7)

_____. 1936. The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, vol. 2 (Edinburgh: Blackwood)

_____. 1940. The Works of William Fowler, ed. Henry W. Meikle, vol. 3 (Edinburgh: Blackwood)

Gent, Lucy ed. 1995. Albion’s Classicism: The Visual Art in Britain 1550-1660 (New-Haven: Yale UP)

Graham, Victor E. and W. McAllister Johnson. 1979. The Royal tour of France by Charles IX and Catherine de’ Medici: Festivals and Entries, 1564-6 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press)

Knecht, Robert J. 2008. The French Renaissance Court (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Lausund, Olav. 1992. ‘Splendour at the Danish Court: The Coronation of Christian IV’, in J. R. Mulryne and Margaret Shewring, ed. Italian Renaissance Festivals and their European Influence (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen), 289-310

Lynch, Michael. 1990. ‘Queen Mary’s Triumph: the Baptismal Celebrations at Stirling in December 1566. The Scottish Historical Review, 69: 1-21

_____. 2000. ‘Court ceremony and ritual during the personal reign of James VI’, in Julian Goodare and Lynch, ed. The Reign of James VI (E Linton: Tuckwell), 71-92

_____. 2003. ‘The Reassertion of Princely Power in Scotland: The reigns of Mary Queen of Scots and King James VI’ in Princes and Princely Culture 1450-1650, ed Gosman, MacDonald and Vanderjagd (Leiden: Brill), 199-238

MacKechnie, Aonghus. 2000. ‘James VI’s architects and their architecture’, in Goodare and Lynch, ed. The Reign of James VI. (E Linton: Tuckwell), 154-169

McGowan, Margaret M. 1963. L’art du ballet de cour en France (Paris: Éditions CNRS)

_____. 1973. L’entrée de Henri II à Rouen, 1555 (Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum)

McManus, Clare. 2000. ‘Marriage and the Performance of the Romance Quest: Anne of Denmark and the Stirling Baptismal Celebrations for Prince Henry’, in A Palace in the Wild: Essays of Vernacular Culture and Humanism in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Scotland, ed. L. R.J. R. Houwen, A. A. MacDonald, and S. L. Mapstone (Leuven: Peeters, 2000), 175-98.

Mennie Shire, Helena. 1969. Song, Dance and Poetry of the Court of Scotland under King James VI (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Mulryne, J.R., Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly, Margaret Shewring, eds. 2004.  Europa Triumphans: Court and Civic Festivals in Early Modern Europe (London: Ashgate)

Ordine, Nuccio. 2011. Trois couronnes pour un roi; la devise d’Henri III et ses mystères. (Paris: Les Belles Lettres)

Pearce, Michael. 2012. ‘Riddle’s Court: the Banquet, the Renaissance Painted Ceiling and Diplomacy in 1598’. History Scotland 12, 4 (July/August): 20-27.

Petrina, Alessandra. 2009. Machiavelli in the British Isles: Two Early Modern Translations of  The Prince (London: Ashgate)

Stevenson, David. 1988. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland’s Century 1590-1710 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

_____. 1997. Scotland’s Last Royal Wedding: The Marriage of James VI and Anne of Denmark (Edinburgh: John Donald)

Strong, Roy. 1984. Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals 1450-1650 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)

Thomas, Andrea. 2004. Princelie Majestie: the Court of James V of Scotland, 1528-1542 (Edinburgh: Tuckwell)

Verweij, Sebastiaan. 2007. ‘The Manuscripts of William Fowler: A Revaluation of The Tarantula of Love, A Sonnet Sequence, and Of Death’. Scottish Studies Review 8: 9-23

Watanabe-O’Kelly, Helen. 2000. Festivals and Ceremonies: A Bibliography of Works Relating to Court, Civic and Religious Festivals in Europe, 1500-1800 (London: Mansell)

Whitney, Geffrey. 1586. A Choice of Emblemes (Leiden: Plantin)

Young, Alan. 1987. Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments (London: George Philip)

_____. 1988. The English Tournament Imprese (New York: AMS Press)

The ‘Silkin Schakillis’ of Lichtoun’s Dream

The ‘Silkin Schakillis’ of Lichtoun’s Dream

Janet Hadley Williams

[1]  The poem in Older Scots beginning with the engaging question, ‘Quha doutis dremis is bot phantasye?’, has been neglected but not ignored altogether by literary scholars. Hughes and Ramson (1982: 122–33) discuss the poem and how its place in Bannatyne’s miscellany helps to explain, they argue, the medieval and Renaissance uses of poetry revealed by the five-part ordering of manuscript contents. More often, critics mention ‘Quha doutis?’ with other comic verse described as ‘eldritch’ or as ‘elrich fantasyis’, as in, for instance, C. S. Lewis’s overview (1954: 69–72); Priscilla Bawcutt’s studies identifying these poems’ differences, in tone and control, from those of Dunbar (1989: 162–78; 1992: 257–92); and Keely Fisher’s more detailed commentary, again within a survey of such verse (2005: 292–313).

[2]  Though somewhat sparse, this critical notice has advanced our understanding of ‘Quha doutis?’ It has meant, for example, recognition of the poem’s place in a Scottish tradition of ‘grotesque invention’ (Lewis 1954: 72), and the distinguishing of ‘Quha doutis?’ from those early comic poems (such as ‘The Wyf of Auchtirmwchty’ Ritchie 1928–34: 320–24), written in a ‘basically realistic’ and ‘rational’ mode (Hughes and Ramson 1982: 124; Aitken 1983: 23; Bawcutt 1989: 163). It has also drawn brief attention (from the poem’s inclusion among Bannatyne’s ‘ballettis mirry’) to the difficult investigation of what was considered comic in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Yet other aspects of the poem—including matters of witness authority and language, of authorship and first-person narrative, title, and genre—have been partly obscured or inadequately considered. The present discussion, based on a fresh edition of ‘Quha doutis’ for the Scottish Text Society, attempts to bring several of these areas of study into sharper focus.

[3]  ‘Quha doutis?’ exists in two versions, both in manuscript miscellanies of the later sixteenth century: Edinburgh, NLS Adv. MS 1.1.6 (Bannatyne = B), folios 101r–102r, and Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library, MS 2553 (Maitland = MF), pp. 152–55 (For diplomatic printed editions, see Ritchie 1928–34: II.268-71, and Craigie 1919–27: I.173-75). The versions are similar, each with ninety lines of predominantly five-stress rhyming couplets and a comparably-ordered narrative content. There are, however, many differences in the two texts that cannot always be explained as evidence of scribal inattention or corruption. These differences can concern one or two words: in the opening line, for example, B’s ‘bot phantasye’ is replaced in MF by ‘greit fantasye’; in line 35, ‘pullit up sailis’ (B) becomes ‘wand vp saill’ (MF). Yet while these changes in sense and word choice are substantive they do not offer guidance on which manuscript has greater authority. The same conclusion may be drawn from more extensive differences, such as those in line 29. B’s ‘In Burgonye, Burdeaux and in Bethleem’ has only Bethlehem and alliteration in common with MF’s ‘In Bulloun, Burges and Bethleem [In Boulogne, Bruges…]’, and does not permit one or the other witness to have over-riding authority.

[4]  Such examples are joined by more problematic differences. The nonsense of B’s ‘know [knoll]’ of cream, for instance, becomes a reasonable association in MF’s ‘kirne [churn]’ of cream; yet it could be argued that B makes better sense in the illogical context of a poem in which the dreamer, having asserted, ‘I brak my heid vpoun ane know of reme’, then says he ‘[d]rank of ane well that wes gane drye sevin ȝeir’ (23). Changes through editorial intervention cannot be ruled out (Bawcutt 1998: 13–15), nor can they be proven, except in instances such as that at line 59, where B has ‘in ane fair medow’ and MF ‘on ane fair medow’. None is to do with re-writing in conformity with Protestant dogma, a type of interference elsewhere associated with Bannatyne.[1]

[5]  Changes that appear to modernize older linguistic usage require caution. The example of B’s use of ‘Bot than’ where MF has ‘Bot syn’ (52) is a case in point, since B’s word, although now better understood than MF’s, was no modern substitution (See DOST, Than, Then, adv. B and MF both use syne at line 84). Although differing word choices might reveal a later scribal  preference, the information about the two exemplars (if indeed there were two) of B and MF that is necessary to establish the exact relationship between them, the copyists and, at best, the author’s own copy, is not available.

[6]  Gathered together, however, the differences noted here admit the possibility that the versions were not copied from the same exemplar. Yet if the existence of more than one exemplar would support an argument, implied by the poem’s occurrence in two late manuscripts, for its circulation in the sixteenth-century, and thus its composition before then, a more precise determination of the composition date is difficult. Following Bawcutt (1992: 258), the late fifteenth- or early sixteenth century therefore is provisionally suggested.

[7]  Authorship of ‘Quha doutis?’, with the potential to assist in establishing a documented context for the poem, is of immediate interest. Unattributed in MF, the poem in B has the colophon, ‘Explicit quod Lichtoun monicus [The end said Lichtoun monk]’. Bannatyne also attributes a second poem to ‘Lichtoun monicus’ (on folio 48r), ‘O mortall man remembir nycht and day’, a work of six eight-line ballade stanzas. Its sobering refrain, ‘Memento homo quod cinis es’, linked to penitential Lenten observance, is also chosen by Dunbar (Bawcutt 1998: 359). The existence of this poem by Lichtoun adds support to the suggestion that, if the same Lichtoun was the author of both, he was indeed a cleric.

[8]  Within ‘Quha doutis?’ there are a few potential clues to the author. The poem’s wittily impossible words, ‘raip of sand’ (8) belong to the world of the scholar or churchman. Variations on the phrase had been used in classical times—for instance, by Aristides in De quattuor and Columella in Res Rustica—and had reappeared at the time of renewed humanist interest in biblical and classical studies; as, for example, in the Adages of Erasmus, I, iv, 78 (‘Ex arena funiculum nectis [You are twisting a rope of sand]’).[2] Another tiny hint of the clerical appears nine lines later, when the poet describes his escape from a delusory imprisonment: ‘[I] kest my self… / Outthruch the volt and percit nocht the pend’ (17–18). In the allusion to a vaulted ceiling and an arch, there is, fleetingly, a possible monastic image.

[9]  Evidence of the poet’s education might be found in the poem’s opening question, recalling the university practice of formal disputation. The comparable challenge of Douglas’s opening to Eneados VIII Prol. 1, ‘Of dreflyng and dremys quhat dow it to endyte [Of disturbance and dreams, is it of value to record]?’ (1957–64: III.117), is instructive. Did the poet Lichtoun, like Douglas (who was a St Andrews University Arts graduate), have training in logic and disputation (Bawcutt 1976: 26, 173; Durkan and Kirk 1977: 88–91; Macfarlane 1985: 362–72; Broadie 1990: 1–91; Evans 2004: 2–5)? Further possible evidence of university training is found in the poem’s reference to the conjunction of moon and sun and the resultant solar eclipse (48–53). This points to a familiarity with the astronomical concepts, which were introduced to quadrivium-stage university students in textbooks such as Sacro Bosco’s De Sphaera Mundi.

[10]  Clues to the poet’s circumstances might also be found in the use of biblical themes and persons: the poem contains direct allusions to Paradise, Adam, Enoch, Elijah, Noah and, through the references to the whales’ voracious hunting, indirect allusion to the story of Jonah. These places, persons and stories were familiar to late medieval society as a whole, but could suggest the milieu of a churchman more particularly. Fisher (2005: 299–301) has also drawn attention to the poet’s possible knowledge of the early Irish genre of the immram, or ‘voyage-tale’, written in Gaelic and Latin, and long known by the learned (See also Gillies 2005: 57–8). In The Voyage of Máel Dúin, a man-eating monster and a supernatural herdsmen play prominent parts—these perhaps recalled in the threatening whales and the figure of the ‘pundlar’ in ‘Quha doutis?’—and in another, The Voyage of Snedgus, voyagers encounter Enoch and Elijah on paradisal islands (Fisher 2005: 300–301). The presence in ‘Quha doutis’ of these two, rapturously removed from earth before mortal death to dwell in the Earthly Paradise until the time when they would oppose Antichrist, links the poem to biblically-derived, imaginative and humorous traditions of allusion to the pair (See, for example, Land of Cokaygne, 13–14; Chaucer, House of Fame, 588; Lyndsay, Ane Dialog, 5184–5).

[11]  Equally, however, the poet of ‘Quha doutis?’ is aware of secular literary traditions, as is shown for example in the poem’s references to the ‘king of farye’.[3] These traditions also underlie the depiction of a strange otherworld, a place where there is disorientation and absurdity, yet also the seemingly familiar or homely (where, for instance, it is possible to see whales secured by tethers made ‘grit to graip’ of ‘sowlis of quhyte saip [swivels of white soap]’ (63–4). In this example and in the sense of the comic thus conveyed, the poet of ‘Quha doutis?’ demonstrates affinities with the authors of several (probably) contemporary examples also collected by Bannatyne, including ‘In Tiberus tyme the trew Imperiour’ (fols 136v–137r) and ‘Sym of Lyntoun’ (fols 142v–143r) and, more distantly, to those he calls ‘ballattis of impossibiliteis’, including ‘I ȝeid the gait wes nevir gane’ (fols 155v–156r) and ‘Quhen phebus in to the west rysis at morrow’ (fols 266v–267r). Dunbar and Douglas, both churchmen, were similarly knowledgeable. (See, for example, Dunbar 1998, ‘In secreit place this hyndir nycht’ (B 25), 51; and Douglas 1967; rev. ed. 2003, Palice of Honour, 1711–28).

[12]  For this period far fewer historical records remain than might be desired. From what survives, the monk-author of ‘Quha doutis?’could be Sir David Lichtone (d. 1503), clerk of the king’s treasury and archdeacon of Ross, who became abbot of Arbroath in 1484 (Innes and Chalmers 1848–56: II.xii, nos. 240 and 242; Watt and Shead 2001: 7; Macdougall 1982: 103, 254). His poem’s connection to the Bannatyne family might have been through the ‘Johnne Lichtoune burges of Edinburgh’, who was listed, with ‘Mr James Kincragy Dene of Abirdene’, as godfather to George Bannatyne’s father, James, born in 1512 (Ritchie 1934: I.cxlii). Nonetheless, there is here nothing of real substance. ‘Lichtoun’, in its various early forms ‘Lectun’, ‘Lighton’, ‘Lychtoun’, ‘Lichtoune’, ‘Leighton’, is not an unusual name (Black 1946); no references to Sir David as poet are known, and no light thereby is shed on the poem’s inclusion in MF.

[13]  Untitled in both manuscripts, the poem was referred to as Lichtoun’s Dreme by David Laing in the early nineteenth century (1822, 1826). This was continued by Hazlitt (Laing and Hazlitt 1895) and, shortened to Lichtoun’s Dreme, by later critics, but there is no evidence that either was the title given to the poem by its author. (Lewis 1954: 71 speaks of ‘the Dreme of “Lichtoun Monicus” ’; Fisher 2005: 292 of ‘Lichtoun’s Dreme’). The two words, together with the colophon, raise expectations of a spiritually enlightening vision, but this is far from the bathetic tendency of the poem. A first-line ‘title’ is preferable.

[14]  By the opening question, ‘Quha doutis dremis is bot phantasye?’, the poem indirectly establishes its own status as ‘phantasye’, a word then (as now) understood to mean a product of the imagination; an illusion; something close to a dream.[4] The poet’s opening might allude to Chaucer’s series of questions in the ‘Proem’ to his enigmatic dream vision, The House of Fame, but in its peremptoriness ‘Quha doutis?’ is at some distance from this more considered pondering of the causes and nature of dreams, and especially from the self-deprecatory comment (14–15)—‘I certeinly / Ne kan hem noght’ (Chaucer 1988: 348). Like Douglas’s ‘Of dreflyng and dremys quhat dow it to endyte?’, the opening line of ‘Quha doutis?’ sets up a challenge, distinguishing auditor from poet, who then moves, without preamble, from the waking state in which he issues the challenge to an exalted and extreme condition, the dreamer’s very being torn from him, his whole body prostrate, his waking wits departed: ‘My spreit was reft and had in extasye / My heid lay laich [low] in to this dreme but dout’ (2–3). These lines echo those of earlier and perhaps contemporary Scottish poets: Henryson, for example, describes Cresseid similarly in the Testament (Henryson 1981: 115), ‘…doun in ane extasie, / Rauischit in spreit, intill ane dreame scho fell’ (141–2). So, too, Douglas describes his (less energetic) response to a dazzling ‘impressioun’ (1967; rev. ed. 2003: 15) in the Prologue to The Palice of Honour: ‘…in extasie or swoun / … / As feminine so feblit fell I doun’ (106, 108). In his Direction at the end of the Eneados, he uses a very similar collocation to express to his patron Henry Sinclair the great impact that the subtlety of Virgil’s writing has had upon him, ‘My spreit was reft half deill in extasy’ (1957–64: IV.190, 106). The seriousness of the description in ‘Quha doutis?’ is called into question by the much less grand comment that follows, ‘At my foirtop my fyve wittis flew out’ (4). The dreamer has lost all his faculties, ‘outwert and inwert’ as John Ireland noted, ‘sycht, heryne, memore, fantasy, ymaginacioune, estymacioune and the laif’ (1926: I.64, 14–15). From this point, there is an ambivalence about whether the meaning and style of the earlier writers of dream visions are to be those of the poet of ‘Quha doutis?’ or to be points of departure.

[15]  Once introduced, this uncertainty is reinforced by the appearance of a figure, the ‘king of farye’, who has authority but does not offer guidance. True, his capture and imprisonment of the dreamer might have introduced a dream that contained a moral lesson, perhaps as a Macrobian somnium, an enigmatic dream concealing a truth requiring interpretation (Spearing 1976: 10) or, as it was for Cresseid, a sentence ‘[p]articipant of deuyne sapience’ (289), but this is not so in ‘Quha doutis?’ Uncertainty, often humorous, pervades narrative details: the dreamer tells how he is ‘band…fute and hand, / Withoutin reuth [pity]’, an insurmountable difficulty quickly undermined, since the means used for the cruel binding is an ineffective ‘lang raip of sand’ (8). The dreamer’s obstacles thereafter, and how he escapes them, are correspondingly ridiculous, although, because of some brilliant wordplay (to be considered later), for the brief space of his desperate struggles, almost persuasive.

[16]  The dream is made up of travels through non-linear time and many kinds of space—airy, solid, liquid—beginning with the unorthodox exit from prison (16–18):

I tuke my lytill tae into my mouth
And kest my self, rycht with ane mychtie bend,
Outthruch the volt and percit not the pend.

The subsequent journey everywhere hints at an educative experience, but what it delivers is closer to burlesque. There is, for instance, a seemingly symbolic use of numbers—the dreamer drinks from ‘ane well…drye sevin ȝeir’ (23); he is ‘sevin ȝeir tynt’ (57); to return to health he leaps three ‘lowpis’ (24); sees ‘thre quhyte quhailis’ in a meadow (60)—but their significance is cloudy. The full itinerary includes the otherworld as well as a choice of foreign, local, and biblical places, but they seem random (if often alliterating), non-systematic and discontinuous. A penitential journey is faintly suggested in the reference to ‘Portiafe [Port Jaffa]’, embarkation point for those on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, including Jonah, eaten by a whale (Boardman 1987: 77). A strange and exotic journey (after Alexander, or Mandeville) is signalled by the reference to that marvellous place, ‘Cowpland fellis’, ‘Quhair clokkis clekkis crawburdis in cokkill schellis [where beetles hatch crows in scallop shells]’ (31–2), which nonetheless is found in not far distant Cumberland, close to the monastic home of Cistercian monks (Wilson 1905: 174–8). Transition from one place, time, or state to another, effortlessly achieved, exposes the dreamer to apparent threats or injuries, but irrationally also to almost instant good health, youth, and wonders. Similarly dreamlike are the near-encounters (never quite interactions) with figures known by repute (Enoch, Elijah), or those unknown yet memorably distinctive (the poundkeeper with his griddle-feet cloak, ant skin coat, mill hopper hose, red copper shoes and club from a Noah’s ark plank). The late revelation of the dreamer’s inebriated state, far from belatedly excluding the poem from the vision genre, simply identifies the dream type, of which Trevisa provides a good description in his translation of Bartholomeus Anglicus’s De Proprietatibus Rerum—the kind of dream caused by ‘to moche replecioun’, as opposed to the ‘to grete fastinge’ associated with a hermit’s vision (1975–88, I: 336–37).

[17]  Yet ‘Quha doutis?’ is also a proposition for disputation. The poem’s structure reflects this: the main content (the dream), although inventively illogical, is the basis of the concluding proof, or authoritative determination, of the opening question. This sober solution is insecure, for it does not come from the expected learned source, such as a university master, or the kind of ‘cunning clark’ employed to answer the king’s questions in The Thre Prestis of Peblis (Robb 1920: 25.358, Charteris text), merely from ‘auld carlingis clames’ (89). Nonetheless the legal term ‘clames’ is in keeping with the idea of the poem as (mock) disputation (See DOST, clame, n. and, on the late medieval context, Durkan and Kirk 1977: 84-9).

[18]  ‘Quha doutis?’ has yet another mode, as the dream-type hints, that of a celebration of the role that drinking can have in the creative process. There is no testamentary lament as in King Hart (919), ‘My wyttis hes he [Rere Supper] waistit oft with wyne’ (Douglas 1967; rev. ed. 2003: 169); the poem jestingly charts the effects of drink, through the various stages of inebriation to the aftermath. As he sinks into stupor-‘extasye’ the dreamer describes how he ‘murnit’ and ‘maid a felloun mane’ (5); how he ‘flychterit vp with ane feddrem of leid [fluttered upwards with a plumage of lead]’, these few ineffective flappings belying the dreamer’s boast of a state of youthful vigour. There is his painful head, despite the soft obstacle; the requited yet unrequited thirst (the dry well) (23); the sea of brewer’s waste (34), negotiated without navigational aids; arrival at the earthly Paradise, yet hesitation to get deeply involved (43); the overbearing nearness of the moon (48); the clumsy attempt to catch and climb an illusory sunbeam (52–3); the fall and ‘seven-year’ sleep near the mint bush (54–5);[5] the psychedelic encounter with the threatening pundlar and man-eating whales (58–82); his flight and second fall (83–5); the unbecoming position in which he wakes (85–6), in symmetry with the poem’s beginning of ‘heid lay laich [low]’ (3); the genial command to the auditor, also neatly opposing the high seriousness of the opening question, to ‘gar fill the cop’ (89). A contemporary quatrain gathered by Bannatyne (fol. 145r), punning on the meaning of wit (as either blame or mental powers), looks (wittily) at a similar situation:

And thow be drunkin thow suld nocht think
To sett the wytt vpoun the drynk
Nor sett nocht the blame vpoun the wyne
Gif thow it drinkis the wytt is thyne

In ‘Quha doutis?’ it is consumption—of ale, but also of a ‘lytill tae’, water from a dry well, snow-roasted strawberries, the poundkeeper, and limpets—that is vital. Consumption is the source and contributes to the content of a particularly vivid dream; it is the means by which the role of ‘wytt’ or ‘wittis’ (absent or present) in literary creation is emphasized.

[19]  The poet’s imagination is indeed cause for celebration; ‘Quha doutis?’ is full of unexpected and equivocal images. Critics have noted the wintry Christmas-eve ‘fyre of snaw’ (42) at which Enoch and Elijah roast spring strawberries (see, for example, Hughes and Ramson 1982: 125; Bawcutt 1992: 258); other images, too, have an inventive oddness or changeability that calls to mind the modern-day hologram. One such is the image of the dreamer, having narrowly avoided hitting his head on the moon, taking a sunbeam in his fist and attempting to climb in, but being prevented from doing so because the sun is ‘in ane clips’ (52–3). Filled with both light and its absence, the image, especially the place of the dreamer within it, is difficult to ‘see’, yet striking.[6] The image of whales tethered ‘in ane medow grene’ (59) has a familiar quality, yet also elements of some bizarre magic, reminiscent of the ‘castis and…cawtelis’ (771) of the entertaining jay in Richard Holland’s Buke of the Howlat (Bawcutt and Riddy 1987). In that poem the jay magician is able to make the emperor ‘trowe and trewly behald’ (781), that the pound keeper has impounded the imperial horses because ‘thai ete of the corne in the kirkland’ (784). Lichtoun’s forbidding pundler outdoes this. He blows an ‘elrich horne’ and produces whales tethered, laughably, with the hair of green grasshoppers to the shin bones of midges (‘mige schankis’, 60–2). These teasing images stretch the imagination, but they also have credible explanations. The terrestrial paradise, known (theologically) to be high yet protected from changeable weather, with luxuriant, continuously fruiting plants, could be the only location for the strawberry/snow image; in turn this anomaly becomes confirmation that the dreamer has against all odds reached the Garden of Eden. (The Earthly Paradise in Hay’s Buik (1986-90: 176, III.16198-213) might be compared.) When the sun and moon are in conjunction, a solar eclipse is the result. The reported morning mist affects the tone of the pundlar’s horn and its eerie swirls produce white whale phantasms.

[20]  Sounds and smells also contribute to the special quality of ‘Quha doutis?’ There are moans, a storm, a horn blast, and the cacophonic noise of the pundlar’s metallic heavy garments and shoes. The modish antskin coat, made ‘in courtly wyse’ (69) with many folds or layers [‘plyis’], might smell of formic acid (See DOST, ply, n.1a). The poet perhaps also hints here at a delusory experience of the sense of touch—the fiendish torment of crawling insects—associated with what is now known as delirium tremens (See OED, n., delirium tremens). Sea smells percolate through the poem: mussels, whales, scallop shells, limpets, and there is as well a whole ocean of brewer’s waste.

[21]  The poet also delights in word play, proverbs and puns. In the description of the pundler’s cloak, ‘Of ganand graith of gude gray girdill feit’, there is a possible instance of grammatical play. If the girdill is an adjective, and feit a noun, then the cloak is said to be of a suitable kind of good cloth, made from the iron feet of a girdill, a griddle or circular baking plate. This is absurd, yet in keeping with the rest of the pundlar’s unconventional metallic dress. With alternative punctuation and syntax, girdill becomes the noun ‘girdle’, ‘waist-belt’; the word feit, an adjective with the sense ‘fitting’, ‘suitable’. Feit is not recorded in Scots use until the later sixteenth century, but it existed much earlier in Old French and Middle English (See OED, feat, adj. and adv).

[22]  By other kinds of wordplay the strange and humorous nature of the dream is further delineated. The walls of the dreamer’s prison are ‘mingit and maid with mussill teith’ (10), an impossibility of soft flesh; yet the hinged halves of the external shell do ‘bite’ when their internal ligaments contract and, packed together, the bi-valves could be a formidable barrier.[7] The ‘myir of flynt’ (11) and the ‘feddrem of leid’ (14), juxtaposing the swampily shapeless with the sharp, and the almost weightless with the indisputably heavy, are impossibilities that depict with economy the obstacles as they appear to be—to drunken vision and much-reduced agility. (Elsewhere, as has been noted, the binding of opposites produces absurdities and incongruities, as in ‘fyre of snaw’, ‘sowlis of…saip’.) The dreamer’s exit from prison by putting his little toe in his mouth (16) is a clue to the poem’s topsy-turvy logic, recalling a proverb (used often in varied forms by Gower and Lydgate): ‘The foot is not the head’ (Tilley 1950: F562; Whiting 1968: F465, 466). A slippery pun occurs near the end of the poem, within the throwaway line, ‘God and the rude mot turn it all to good’ (88), for rude in Older Scots could mean not only the cross as religious symbol, but a unit of measurement for wine (DOST, Rud(e), Ruid, n.1, and Rud, n.2). Alliteration is not strict in ‘Quha doutis?’ but the patterning is used frequently for emphasis, as in the prison description, the list of many disparate places visited, or in unexpected couplings such as ‘silkin schakillis’ and ‘quhyte quhailis’. It also acts as a loose continuous threading through the poem, contributing to the impression of incoherence: ‘foirtop’, ‘fyve wittis’, ‘farye’ ‘fute’, ‘flynt’, ‘feddrem’, for example.

[23]  ‘Quha doutis?’ is not a poem that has profound moral significance (unless the emphasis on the positive side of drinking to excess can be so classified). Comic in intent, the poem nevertheless makes adroit use of the traditions of serious dream literature and lightly draws on aspects of higher learning. The poem has a well-defined structure although the narrative is seemingly chaotic and disorienting: it opens with a question and has provided an answer, or perhaps an evasion of an answer, at its end. Where the poem makes its mark is in its invention—the poet’s skill in presenting the incredible as credible and the coherent as incoherent.

Australian National University


[1] Cf., for example, the changes made to the Bannatyne version of ‘the cursing of Schir Johine Rowlis’ at lines 77–9 with the MF version at lines 82–5, where the word ‘schryf’ is retained. (I am grateful to Priscilla Bawcutt who first noted the significance of this difference in a paper given at Leicester, 2008.) [back to text]

[2] See OED, rope, Phrases, 2, rope of sand and Erasmus 1982: I.371, no. 78 and notes. (Prof. A. A. MacDonald kindly drew my attention to this adage.) [back to text]

[3] References to the king and queen of farye are found, for example, in Henryson, Orpheus and Eurydice, 125–6; ‘Sym of Lyntoun’ (B, folios 142v–143r), 29–30; Dunbar, ‘Now lythis off ane gentill knycht’, 4–5; Lyndsay, Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis (1552), 3247–8. On Enoch and Elijah, see 2 Kings 2.11 (Elijah); Gen. 5.24 (Enoch) and Patch 1918; Lascelles 1936: 32–3.[back to text]

[4] See DOST, Phantasie, n. and cf. Douglas 1957–64: Eneados III, iii.47, ‘For this wes nowthir dreym nor fantasy’; and VI Prol. 17, 21, ‘ “All is bot gaistis and elrich fantasyis, /… / Lyke dremys or dotage in the monys cruke” ’. [back to text]

[5] DOST, Mint, Mynt, n.2, notes Lichtoun’s among early Scottish allusions; another is the entry in a glossary found in the Makculloch MS (Edinburgh University Library, MS Laing III.149), begun in 1477 with additions including the glossary in the early sixteenth century. [back to text]

[6] The image recalls the shifts in scale that occur when Philosophy appears (sometimes small, sometimes touching the heaven), Boece, Prosa I (Chaucer 1988: 398).[back to text]

[7] Mussels were objects of fantasy: Douglas’s list of magicians’ feats in his Palice of Honour includes the turning of a mussel into an ape (1967; rev. ed. 2003: 109, 1727); Stewart’s poem of impossibilities, ‘Furth ouer the mold’ also plays with mussels (B, fol. 266r, 41). [back to text]


Aitken, A. J. 1983. ‘The Language of Older Scots Poetry’, in Scotland and the Lowland Tongue. Studies in the language and literature of Lowland Scotland in honour of David D. Murison, ed. by J. Derrick McClure (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press), 18–49

Bannatyne, George, comp. c. 1568. Edinburgh, NLS Adv. MS 1.1.6

Bawcutt, Priscilla. 1976. Gavin Douglas. A Critical Study (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

—. 1989. ‘Elrich Fantasyis in Dunbar and Other Poets’, in Bryght Lanternis: Essays on the Language of Medieval and Renaissance England, ed. by J. Derrick McClure and Michael R. G. Spiller (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press), 162–78

—. 1992. Dunbar the Makar (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Bawcutt, Priscilla and Felicity Riddy (eds). 1987. Longer Scottish Poems. Volume One. 1375–1650 (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press)

Black, George F. 1946. The Surnames of Scotland. Their Origin, Meaning, and History (New York: New York Public Library)

Boardman, John. 1987. ‘ “Very Like a Whale”—Classical Sea Monsters’, in Monsters and Demons in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Papers presented in Honour of Edith Porada, ed. by Ane E. Farkas et al. (Mainz on Rhine: Philipp von Zabern), 73–84 and pl. XXI–XXVI

Broadie, Alexander. 1990. The Tradition of Scottish Philosophy. A New Perspective on the Enlightenment (Edinburgh: Polygon)

Chaucer, Geoffrey. 1988. The Riverside Chaucer, ed. by Larry D. Benson et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Craigie, W. A. (ed.). 1919–37. The Maitland Folio Manuscript, 2 vols, STS 2nd Series, 7, 20 (Edinburgh and London: Blackwood)

Douglas, Gavin. 1967; rev. ed. 2003. The Shorter Poems of Gavin Douglas, ed. by Priscilla Bawcutt, STS 5th Series, 2 (Edinburgh: The Scottish Text Society)

—. 1957–64. Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ translated into Scottish Verse by Gavin Douglas, ed. by David F. C. Coldwell, 4 vols, STS 3rd Series, 25, 27, 28, 30 (Edinburgh and London: Blackwood)

Dunbar, William. 1998. The Poems of William Dunbar, ed. by Priscilla Bawcutt, 2 vols. (Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies)

Durkan, John and James Kirk. 1977. The University of Glasgow 1451–1577 (Glasgow: Glasgow University Press)

Erasmus, Desiderius. 1982. The Collected Works of Erasmus [Volume 31]. Adages Ii1 to Iv100, trans. Margaret Mann Phillips; annot. R. A. B. Mynors (Toronto: University of Toronto Press)

Evans, G. R. 2004. Breaking the Bounds. An Inaugural Lecture given in the University of Cambridge 16 February 2004 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Fisher, Keely. 2005. ‘Eldritch Comic Verse in Older Scots’, in Older Scots Literature, ed. by Sally Mapstone (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers), 292–313

Gillies, William. 2005. ‘The Land of the Little People in Medieval Gaelic Literary Tradition’, in Rhetoric, Royalty and Reality: Essays on the Literary Culture of Medieval and Early Modern Scotland, ed. by Alasdair A. MacDonald and Kees Dekker (Leuven: Peeters, 2005), 51–68.

Hay, Gilbert. 1986–1990. The Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour, ed. by John Cartwright, 2 vols (II and III), STS 4th Series, 16, 18 (Edinburgh and Aberdeen: STS and Aberdeen University Press)

Henryson, Robert. 1981. The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. by Denton Fox (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Holland, Richard see Bawcutt and Riddy, 1987

Hughes, Joan and W. S. Ramson. 1982. The Poetry of the Stewart Court (Canberra: Australian National University Press)

Innes, Cosmo and Patrick Chalmers. (eds). 1848–56. Liber S. Thome de Aberbrothoc, 2 vols. (Edinburgh: Bannatyne Club)

Ireland, John. 1926, 1965, 1990. The Meroure of Wyssdome by Johannes de Irlandia, ed. by Charles Macpherson, Craig McDonald and F. Quinn, 3 vols, STS 2nd Series, 19; 4th Series 2, 19 (Edinburgh, London and Aberdeen: Blackwood and Aberdeen University Press)

King Hart, see Douglas 1967; rev. ed. 2003

Laing, David. (ed.). 1822. Select Remains of the Ancient Popular Poetry of Scotland (Edinburgh: W. & D. Laing)

—. (ed.). 1826. Early Metrical Tales; including the History of Sir Egeir, Sir Gryme, and Sir Gray-Steill (Edinburgh: W. & D. Laing)

Laing, David and W. C. Hazlitt (eds). 1895. Early Popular Poetry of Scotland and the Northern Border, 2 vols. (London: Reeves and Turner)

Lascelles, Mary. 1936. ‘Alexander and the Earthly Paradise in Mediæval English Writing’, Medium Ævum, 5, 31–47, 79–104, 173–88.

Lewis, C. S. 1954. English Literature in the Sixteenth Century excluding Drama (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Macdougall, Norman. 1982. James III. A Political Study (Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers)

Macfarlane, Leslie J. 1985. William Elphinstone and The Kingdom of Scotland 1431–1514. The Struggle for Order (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press)

Maitland Folio. c. 1570. Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys Library, MS 2553

Patch, Howard Rollin. 1918. ‘Some Elements in Mediæval Descriptions of the Otherworld’, Publications of the Modern Language Association, 33.4: 601–43.

Ritchie, W. Tod. (ed.) 1928–34. The Bannatyne Manuscript, 4 vols, STS 2nd Series, 22, 23, 26; 3rd Series, 5 (Edinburgh and London: Blackwood)

Robb, T. D. (ed.) 1920. The Thre Prestis of Peblis how thai told thar talis, STS 2nd Series, 8 (Edinburgh and London: Blackwood)

Sacro Bosco, Johannes de. 1482. Sphaera Mundi (Venice: Erhardt Ratdolt)

Spearing, A. C. 1976. Medieval Dream-Poetry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Tilley, Morris Palmer. 1950. A Dictionary of the Proverbs in England in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press)

Trevisa, John. 1975–88. On the Properties of Things: John Trevisa’s Translation of Bartholomeus Anglicus’ “De Proprietatibus Rerum”: A Critical Text, ed. by M. C. Seymour et al., 3 vols (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Watt, D. E. R. and N. F. Shead. (eds). 2001. The Heads of Religious Houses in Scotland from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Centuries (Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society)

Whiting, Bartlett Jere and Helen Wescott Whiting. 1968. Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly Before 1500 (Cambridge, MA: Bellknap Press of Harvard University Press)

Wilson, James. 1905. A History of the County of Cumberland. Volume II. (Westminster: Archibald Constable for London University Institute of Historical Research)

Cacophonous Catalogues: The Complaynt of Scotland and the ‘Monologue Recreative’

Cacophonous Catalogues: The Complaynt of Scotland and the ‘Monologue Recreative’

L.A.J.R. Houwen

vehicles, such as the omnibus, the phaeton, the hackney, the landau, the coupé, the cabriolet, the sulky, the stagecoach, the Etruscan chariot, the Roman biga, the elephant tower, the carroche, the berlin, the palanquin, the litter, the sleigh, the curricle, and the oxcart (Eco 2004:110).

[1]  A pivotal passage that nevertheless does not immediately participate in the larger debate that lies at the heart of the Complaynt of Scotland (c. 1449–50) is the so-called ‘Monologue recreative’ (chapter 6). The Complaynt is not easy to characterise; it is a piece of political propaganda modelled on Alain Chartier’s Quadriloque Invectif as well as a sermon on the desperate state of Scotland; a historical work as well as a defence of the use of the vernacular, and in the middle of it all there is a pastoral section in which the author conducts an encyclopedic tour de force in which astronomy, cosmography and meteorology are some of the broader topics discussed.[1] This core encyclopaedic part is embedded in a conventional pastoral framework which in poetry is often the precursor to a dream-vision, and this section is characterised by its catalogues devoted to such topics as bird and animal sounds, technical terms, dairy products, stories, songs, dances and musical instruments. At first sight the arbitrariness of the selection makes them somewhat reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges’s fictional ancient Chinese encyclopaedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, on whose ‘remote pages’ all animals are classified as follows:

(a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance (Borges 1964: 103).

Yet, this amusing classification raises some serious questions about taxonomy, and it is no surprise it has been reproduced again and again, from Foucault’s Les mots et les choses (1966) to Lakoff’s Women, Fire, and Other Dangerous Things (1990). In what follows the taxonomy of the catalogues and more specifically those that deal with sounds will be the focus of attention. I will argue that the author’s main interest is not an encyclopaedic but a rhetorical one and that he uses lists to display his powers as a writer, while at the same time underscoring his fascination with music and sound.

[2]  One of the vexing problems of the ‘Monologue’ is that we do not know much about its sources. As Michael Twomey noted recently in his discussion of the cosmographical and meteorological sections of the ‘Monologue’, the problem is that ‘[i]n Chartier’s Quadrilogue we have a model for the Complaynt as a whole, but we lack a model for the “Monologue”’ (2012: 98), so an examination of the source of the catalogue of sounds is a prerequisite for an evaluation of its function.

The Catalogue(s)
[3]  The ‘Monologue’ starts with the narrator or ‘Actor’ who — weary from his work on the Complaynt — resolves to revive body and spirit by going for a walk in the countryside which leads him in Dantesque fashion into a dark forest. Once dawn breaks he emerges from this selva oscura and is struck by the noise the birds and beasts make while foraging on verdant banks. He describes how the sound reverberates off the cliffs and crags and creates an echo. Following a brief reference to Narcissus the catalogue truly begins and the next half page or so records a great many beasts and birds and the sounds they make, from the lowing of cattle, the neighing of horses and mares and the snickering noise produced by foals, to the great tit crying ‘tweet’ and the screeching of the herons:

for fyrst furtht on the fresche feildis, the nolt maid noyis vitht mony loud lou. baytht horse & meyris did fast nee, & the folis nechyr, the bullis began to bullir quhen the scheip began to blait, be cause the calfis began tyl mo, quhen the doggis berkit. than the suyne began to quhryne quhen thai herd the asse tair, quhilk gart the hennis kekkyl quhen the cokis creu, the chekyns began to peu, quhen the gled quhissillit the fox follouit the fed geise & gart them cry claik. the gayslingis cryit quhilk quhilk, & the dukis cryit quaik. the ropeen of the rauynis gart the crans crope the huddit crauis cryit varrok varrok, quhen the suannis murnit. be cause the gray goul mau pronosticat ane storme. the turtil began for to greit quhen the cuschet ȝoulit. the titlene follouit the goilk ande gart hyr sing guk guk. the dou croutit hyr sad sang that soundit lyik sorrou. robeen and the litil vran var hamely in vyntir. the iargolyne of the suallou, gart the iay iangil than the maueis maid myrtht, for to mok the merle. the lauerok maid melody, vp hie in the skyis. the nychtingal al the nycht sang sueit notis, the tuechitis cryit theuis nek, quhen the piettis clattrit. the garruling of the stirlene gart the sparrou cheip the lyntquhit sang cuntirpoint quhen the osȝil ȝelpit. the grene serene sang sueit quhen the gold spynk chantit. the rede schank cryit my fut, my fut, & the ox ee cryit tueit. the herrons gaif ane vyild skrech as the kyl hed bene in fyir, quhilk gart the quhapis for fleyitnes fle far fra hame (30-31).

[4] This list is remarkable in several respects. First, there is the clear division made between beasts and birds, with only one exception, namely the fox, who appears among the birds. In the context this is inevitable since he is said to pursue the geese which causes their honking. The fox’s pursuit of the geese also demonstrates one of the more unusual aspects of this list of animal sounds, namely the introduction of causal connections between the different animals. Other examples of this abound, in fact the great majority of the animals are linked in one way or another. One of the most complex associations has the braying of the ass make the pigs squeal, which in turn makes the hens cluck, the cocks crow and the chickens cry out. Not only does the narrator here causally connect five different species, he also elegantly bridges the divide between the animals of the land and those of the air.

[5]  Second, when we examine the nature of the different causes and their effects they turn out to be a bit of a mixed bag, but in many cases the association is traditional. As we shall see, this is certainly the case for the domestic animals with which the lists starts. In a few other instances the notion of antipathy determines the connection,[2] as between the fox and the geese, and possibly the kite and the chickens.[3] A few others are based on sympathy or shared characteristics, like the robin and the little wren both of which are ‘domesticated’ in winter and are not only often found together in medieval literature, but also in art,[4] the crane and the raven (corvus) who, a fable tells us, had a deal whereby the latter with its prophetic powers would warn the former of any impending danger (Rodríguez Adrados 1999: III, 426, 657 (not.-H. 78 and M. 182), or the linnet who sings counterpoint to the blackbird. For others no clear raison d’être can be found.

[6]  It is also remarkable how very ordinary the animals are; they are all native to the British Isles and most of them are either domestic or must have been a familiar sight. None of the more exotic species that are commonly found in such catalogues are present here. There are no lions, elephants or parrots, no lynxes, leopards or wolves. As we shall see later, this is most unusual and sets this catalogue apart from others. Finally, we should note the discrepancy in numbers between beasts and birds with only 10 animals being listed against some 38 birds.

[7]  One might have thought that the clamour produced by all these birds and beasts would have made the narrator stop his ears with wax, but he seems to be enjoying the tumult and when he continues his melancholic perambulation he finds himself on a beach where he is struck by yet another sound, that of the pebbles which are moved to and fro by the rolling of the waves. It is on the shore that he spots a war-galley that has dropped anchor far off at sea. He overhears the words of the mariners but ‘vist nocht quhat thai menit’:

there i beheld ane galiasse gayly grathit for the veyr. lyand fast at ane ankir, and hyr salis in hou. i herd mony vordis amang the marynalis bot i vist nocht quhat thai menit. ȝit i sal reherse and report ther crying and ther cals (31).

What follows is an interesting, if somewhat confusing, report of what he hears and sees. With both senses involved it is not always easy to distinguish between what he (thinks he) hears and what he (thinks he) sees happening out at sea. In fact the author confuses senses more often, as when he observes that he cannot see the war-ships any longer for the stench of the gunpowder: ‘and the stink of the gun puldir fylit al the ayr … quihilk generit sik mirknes & myst that i culd nocht see my lyntht about me’ (33). Facts mingle freely with interpretation as when he describes how the captain (‘master’) of the war-ship orders the boatswain to climb the mast to survey for other ships in the vicinity. When he does spot a white sail, he cries out that he saw a great ship, at which point pandemonium ensues, both on board and on paper. Whilst the war-ship is rigged in a hurry and prepared for battle, the frenzied cries of the sailors follow each other in quick succession. The fact that their exclamations fluctuate between incomprehensible gibberish, words and phrases that sound more or less intelligible and proper Scots only makes the whole scene more frantic:

Than quhen the ankyr vas halit vp abufe the vattir, ane marynel cryit and al the laif follouit in that sam tune. caupon caupona, caupon caupona. caupun hola, caupun hola caupon holt, caupon holt, sarrabossa, sarrabossa. … than ane of the marynalis began to hail and to cry and al the marynalis ansuert of that samyn sound. hou, hou. pulpela, pulpela. boulena, boulena. darta, darta. hard out steif, hard out steif. afoir the vynd, afoir the vynd, god send, god send, fayr vedthir/fayr vedthir. mony pricis, mony pricis. god foir lend. god foir lend. stou, stou. mak fast & belay. Than the master cryit and bald renȝe ane bonet vire the trossis, nou heise. than the marynalis began to heis vp the sail, cryand, heisau, heisau. vorsa, vorsa. vou, vou. ane lang draucht, ane lang draucht. mair maucht, mair maucht. ȝong blude, ȝong blude. mair mude, mair mude. false flasche, false flasche. ly a bak, ly a bak. lang suak, lang suak. that that, that that, thair thair, thair thair. ȝallou hayr, ȝallou hayr. hips bayr, hips bayr. til hym al, til hym al. viddefullis al. viddefuls al. grit and smal, grit and smal. ane and al, and ane al. heisau heisau. nou mak fast the theyrs (32).

The tumult reaches a crescendo in the actual naval battle when the war-ship with billowing sails and a hundred oars on either side fires all it has got:

than quhar i sat i hard the cannons and gunnis mak mony hiddeus crak duf, duf, duf, duf, duf, duf, the barsis and falcons cryit tirduf, tirduf, tirduf, tirduf, tirduf, tirduf, than the smal artailȝe cryit, tik tak tik tak tik tak tik tak (33).

And it has quite a lot. Murray, the nineteenth-century editor of the Complaynt, notes that the artillery ‘seem to comprise most of the various kinds of guns then known’ and compares it to the artillery found on the Great Michael built by James IV (Wedderburn 1872: lxxi). There were canon, bastard culverins, culverins-moyen and many others, which the narrator dutifully lists together with an array of hand-held weapons:

mak reddy ȝour cannons, culuerene moyens, culuerene bastardis, falcons, saikyrs, half saikyrs, and half falcons, slangis, & half slangis, quartar slangis, hede stikkis, murdresaris, pasuolans, bersis, doggis, doubil bersis, hagbutis of croche, half haggis, culuerenis ande hail schot. ande ȝe soldartis & conpangȝons of veyr, mak reddy ȝour corsbollis, hand bollis, fyir speyris, hail schot, lancis, pikkis, halbardis, rondellis, tua handit sourdis and tairgis (33).

It hardly needs mentioning that even James’s Great Michael did not have all this weaponry on board, just as it is not very likely that the narrator could have encountered all the animals listed earlier. In fact, mimesis does not appear to be high on his rhetorical agenda. If anything, the whole episode is more akin to a dream-vision, and that includes a conclusion to match: the use of gun-powder created such a murky atmosphere that he was unable to see anything anymore, so he leaves the shore and returns to the sweet fields. Indeed, the parallels with the Prologue to Sir David Lyndsay’s Dreme which antedates the Complaynt (1549–50) by some twenty-five years are quite striking. Lyndsay’s narrator, in good Chaucerian fashion, is unable to sleep and like our narrator goes for a walk and ends up on the beach; on his way the lark complains about the season (Winter). Resting in a cave, he decides to pass the time by writing but the weltering of the waves sends him to sleep. The dream ends shortly after ‘The Complaynt of the Comoun Weill of Scotland’ when the dreamer is startled by a ship that fires all its canons and its sailors who did so ‘youte and yell / That haistalie I stert out of my drame’ (Lyndsay 2000: 37, ll. 1027-28).

[8]  As will be clear from the examples already given, catalogues feature prominently in our author’s literary toolkit. In addition to the ones discussed already we should not overlook the list of maritime terms that has been artfully woven into the nautical tableau vivant which we have been presented with here. Nor is this the end of the lists either. After the naval battle the narrator returns to the fresh fields where he meets a group of shepherds. Following the principal shepherd’s cosmographical and meteorological ‘sermon’, further catalogues of tales (> 40), songs (some 40), musical instruments (8) and dances (30) follow; and even after the narrator bids the shepherds farewell he cannot stop himself from naming the herbs he encounters in a meadow, together with their medicinal properties. It is not just that the narrator has a taste for cataloguing, but his fondness for catalogues seems to be increasing as he goes along, so much so that he even feels called upon to list the different types of milk the shepherds drink as part of their breakfast; something that quickly develops into a small catalogue of milk products that would not be out of place in a commercial for a dairy farm:

[…] quhar thai maid grit cheir of euyrie sort of mylk baytht of ky mylk & ȝoue mylk, sueit mylk and sour mylk curdis and quhaye, sourkittis, fresche buttir ande salt buttir, reyme, flot quhaye, grene cheis kyrn mylk (33-34)

[9]  But what purpose do these lists serve? Alasdair Stewart bravely attempts to link them to the main theme of the Complaynt and argues that they do not just add to the readers’ knowledge of the (Natural) world, but also serve to demonstrate the divine character of creation:

Classification into categories is the expression of a conviction that categories give insight into the divine plan. This view of an ordered universe reveals the confusing troubles of the time as being symptoms of a spiritual disease which can be cured only by a spiritual remedy which deals not only with accidental manifestations, but eradicates the basic causes and restores the order of things. (Stewart 1979: xli. See also Stewart 1981: 94)

This may be true for the cosmographical and meteorological section (and I have some reservations about these too), but I do not think this holds true for the musings of our author, if only because of the haphazard nature of the catalogues under review, which do not attempt in any way to be either systematic or anywhere near comprehensive.

[10]  Although the immediate sources for the ‘Monologue’ are not known, the catalogue of animal sounds does not appear out of the blue. It emerges that our author participates in a rich, learned tradition of discourse that has its roots in ancient Greece (the first recorded catalogue in western literature may well be the list of ships in the Iliad II, 484 ff.) (Klenner 1958: 6). Examples of such catalogues from classical Latin are rare but medieval Latin lists survive in large numbers, both in prose and in verse. Even when some are embedded in works on natural history, like Reifferscheid’s Suetonius fragment 161, De naturis animantium (Suetonius 1860; cf. Benediktson 2000: 71), their main purpose, it has been argued, is a grammatical and/or lexical one (Klenner 1958: 7, 30, 43). This helps to explain why in some catalogues the animals appear in the nominative singular with the verbs in the third person singular indicative, whereas others give animals in the nominative plural with the verbs in the third person plural. Lists that use the accusative plural for the animals with the verbs in the infinitive, treating such lists as an indirect statement, are also found, as are those that use the dative or the genitive (Benediktson 2000: 71).

[11]  Goetz (1923: I, 91–93) has divided the various catalogues, which he mistakenly derives from Suetonius (or  Hugutio of Pisa, see Benediktson 2000: 72), into three different classes to which Marcovich (1971: 399-400) has added a fourth:

  1. Class I: the two-list catalogues, first birds’ voices, then quadrupeds’ sounds, or vice versa (sounds of men and noises of inanimate objects are excluded). Main representative: the fifth century grammarian Phocas (?) in Liber Glossarum (between 690 and 750).
  2. Class II: various versified catalogues, the most important among them being the eighth century (?) Carmen de Philomela (70 lines).
  3. Class III: mixed catalogues (sounds of birds, animals, men, and inanimates). Main representative: Aldhelm of Malmesbury (ca. 640­–709), a huge alphabetical catalogue consisting of 77 lemmata, very popular in the Middle Ages.
  4. Class IV: a small catalogue of 25 mixed items, as, for instance, in Polemius Silvius, Laterculus anni 449.

[12]  Our author appears to be indebted to several of these classes: like some of the above-mentioned lists he places such domestic animals as cattle, horses, and dogs in prime position (Klenner 1958: 19). His intermingling of human and other sounds in the sea-side scene suggests he may have been inspired by catalogues of the third class in which both animate and inanimate sounds appear, but such mixtures are also found in the much smaller list of Polemius Silvius, which lists quadrupeds first, followed by birds, the frog, humans, natural forces and ends with two man-made objects (‘iron grates’ and ‘copper rings’). The list is short enough to be given here in full:

Voces uariae animantium:
Ouis balat, canis latrat, lupus ululat, sus grunnit, bos
mugit, equus hinnit, asinus rudit, ursus saeuit, leo
fremit, elefans barrit, coruus croccit, merulus frindit,
turtur gemit, turdus trucilat, anser clingit, grus gruuit,
miluus linguit, apis bobit, hirundo minurrit, rana coaxat,
populus strepit, ignis crepitat, cursus aquarum
murmurat, ferrum stridit, aes tinnit (Reconstructed in Benediktson 2000: 74).

[The sounds of different animals:
Sheep bleat, dogs bark, wolves howl, pigs grunt, oxen low, horses whinny, ass bray, bears growl, lions roar, elephants barr, ravens croak, blackbirds warble, turtledove cry plaintively, thrushes whistle, geese cackle, cranes crunk, kites shriek, bees hum, swallows twitter, frogs croak, poplars rustle, fire crackles, streams murmur, iron hisses, money tinkles.]

The distinction between beasts and birds, not found in Aldhelm’s alphabetical list, is also typical for catalogues of the first class.[5] Even if we cannot assign a specific class to our catalogue, it observably partakes of the same tradition, not only in that it places domestic animals first but also in the choice of animals. However, there are also some important differences that might help to shed some light on the author’s intentions. Three differences stand out. To state the obvious first, unlike the texts mentioned so far ours is in the vernacular. Moreover, if we take Polemius’s list as an example, we shall also quickly see that unlike the Scottish one it contains several exotic animals and this also holds true for Aldhelm’s much larger list. Finally, there is no attempt in the Latin catalogues to connect the different items in any logical fashion.

The Sounds
[13]  There are several grounds for thinking that the grammatical and/or lexical aspects of the lists do not play a prominent part in the Scottish text. First, there is the fact that the list appears in the vernacular, which would seem to rule out a possible grammatical purpose. One might argue that this still leaves its lexical function unimpaired, but against that speaks the choice of animals, all of which are of the common farm or garden type and would therefore have been well known and not deserve any special attention. Moreover, by connecting the various animals the author also diminishes their possible mnemonic and therefore pedagogic impact, because the resulting bare-bones narrative destroys the iterative aspect of the list, which would have facilitated the learning of it by heart.[6]

[14]  Nevertheless, I would argue that our author did not stray that far from the ars grammatica in that his interest appears to be not so much grammatical or lexical but rhetorical. Apart from the negative evidence mentioned earlier there are many pointers that suggest the author’s main interest goes in this direction. One of the first things that strikes one are the at times highly ornate, aureate, passages in the ‘Monologue’. One example would be the description of the silvery fish with their vermillion red fins or the chronographiae that follow closely on its heels at the beginning of the ‘Monologue’:

there ran ane fresche reueir as cleir as berial quhar i beheld the pretty fîsche vantounly stertland vitht there rede vermeil fynnis, ande there skalis lyik the brycht siluyr (29)

in this glaidful recreatione i conteneuit quhil phebus vas discendit vndir the vest northt vest oblique oriszone, quhilk vas entrit that samyn daye in the xxv degre of the sing of gemini, distant fiue degreis, fra oure symmyr solstice, callit the borial tropic of cancer the quhilk be astrolog  supputatione, accordis vitht the sext daye of iune (29-30)

Ande als fayr dyana the lantern of the nycht, be cam dym ande pail, quhen titan hed extinct the lycht of hyr lamp on the cleir daye. for fra tyme that his lustrant beymis var eleuat. iiii degres abufe oure oblique oriszone, euery planeit of oure hemespeir be cam obscure, ande als al corrupit humiditeis ande caliginus fumis & infekkit vapours, that hed bene generit in the sycond regione of the ayr quhen titan vas visiand antepodos, thai consumit for sorrou quhen thai sau ane sycht of his goldin scheaip (30).

Passages such as these would not be out of place in some of the poetry by Henryson, Dunbar, Douglas and others.[7] Their narrative function is minimal and they do not offer much in terms of descriptive contents, yet they are high in what Scott with reference to Dunbar’s aureate diction called ‘sheer lovely verbal noise for its own sake’ (1977: 304).

[15]  It is this fascination with sound that informs much that ensues at different levels. The list of animal sounds and the sea soundscape that follows it bear witness to this, but so do the catalogues of songs, musical instruments and dances that come after the lengthy astronomical excursus. We have already seen that the author signals his interest in the topic right from the onset with his classical digression on the nature of sounds reverberating in caverns and hollows. He even goes into some detail when he observes that the resulting echo is weaker than the original (‘half ansueir’) and he may also suggest that its quality changes in frequency when he notes that the returning sound is of ‘ane hie not’:[8]

there eftir i herd the rumour of rammasche foulis ande of beystis that maid grite beir quhilk past besyde burnis & boggis on grene bankis to seik ther sustentatione. there brutal sound did redond to the hie skyis, quhil the depe hou cauernis of cleuchis & rotche craggis ansuert vitht ane hie not of that samyn sound as thay beystis hed blauen. it aperit be presumyng & presuposing, that blaberand eccho hed beene hid in ane houhole, cryand hyr half ansueir (30).

Nor does it stop there; the nature of the sounds these animals create is further described in (negative) musical terms when they are said to keep neither time nor tune: ‘ther syndry soundis hed nothir temperance nor tune’ (30). The combined effect of all these natural sounds is addressed through such terms as ‘rumour’, ‘beir’, ‘brutal sound’, and ‘dyn’ (30). One might be forgiven for thinking that these sounds create an unpleasant experience for the narrator, and if that were to be so, this would fit the narrator’s sad mood, but no such interpretation is necessary here, since all the terms used either just stress the loudness produced by the combined sounds or merely emphasise their confused, animal nature.[9] Moreover, they describe the sounds of animals and birds at dawn, when the din they create is at their loudest. That these same birds can produce a heavenly harmony that can stand comparison with man-made music had already been noted the day before in the sketch of the pleasant landscape at the foot of a hill with its river ‘cleir as berial’ that also harbours many a bird singing ‘melodius reportis of natural music in accordis of mesure of diapason prolations tripla ande dyatesseron’ (29). The bird-song trope associated with the landscapes of dream-visions is here raised to a higher rhetorical pitch that serves the aureate diction well with its technical references to musical time values and intervals.[10] The later musical references to the linnet singing ‘cuntirpoint’ and the goldfinch’s chanting (31) are mundane by comparison. The high number of song-birds in the catalogue proper provides further evidence of a musical interest. In fact, passerines dominate the bird section, where we find the pipit (if indeed this species rather than just any small bird is intended), robin, wren, swallow, jay, song thrush, blackbird (2x), lark, nightingale, starling, sparrow, linnet, greenfinch, goldfinch and great tit.

[16]  The musical effect is further reinforced by the use of assonance and alliteration. Alliteration is ubiquitous:

the grene feildis for grite droutht, drank vp the drops of the fresche deu quhilk of befor hed maid dikis & dailis verray donc (30)

nou to tel treutht of the beystis that maid sic beir & of the dyn that the foulis did, ther syndry soundis hed nothir temperance nor tune (30)

Examples of assonance and rhyme are less frequent but add to the total effect; they range from the ‘brutal sound’ that ‘did redound’ (30) and ‘hie skyis’ (30), to ‘swyne’ beginning to ‘quhryne’ (‘squeal’; 31). The use of onomatopoeia in the catalogue of sounds also contributes to the musicality of the whole with mooing calves, cackling hens and quacking ducks. Onomatopoeia merges into sound symbolism in such cases as the jangling of the jay, the bleating of sheep and the barking of dogs, where the verbs used suggest rather than imitate the cry of the animals in questions. In all these cases the sound is the meaning, but in a few cases the words or phrases used carry additional meaning such as when the goslings cry ‘quhilk quhilk’, the redshank cries ‘my fut, my fut’ or the lapwing is said to shriek ‘theuis nek.’ The last is also used in Holland’s Buke of the Howlat as a term of abuse (Bawcutt and Riddy 1987: 77 (l. 822)).

[17]  If the opening sections of the ‘Monologue’ still depend largely on alliteration, assonance and the occasional rhyme, by the time we reach the sea scene the repetition of relatively short and sonorous words and phrases, many of which have little or no meaning at all, creates a rhythm uniquely appropriate to the scene at hand. Sometimes their effect is further enhanced by the use of alliteration, as in:

veyra veyra, veyra veyra gentil gallandis, gentil gallawdis. veynde i see hym, veynd i see hym. pourbossa, pourbossa. hail al ande ane, hail al and ane. hail hym vp til vs, hail hym vp til vs. (32)

Rhyme also helps to ‘punctuate’ particular passages, as when the mariners are hoisting the sails:

heisau, heisau. vorsa, vorsa. vou, vou. ane lang draucht, ane lang draucht. mair maucht, mair maucht. ȝong blude, ȝong blude. mair mude, mair mude. false flasche, false flasche. ly a bak, ly a bak. lang suak, lang suak. that that, that that, thair thair, their thair. ȝallou hayr, ȝallou hayr. hips bayr, hips bayr. til hym al, til hym al. viddefullis al. viddefuls al. grit and smal, grit and smal. ane and al, and ane al. heisau heisau. nou mak fast the theyrs. (32)

Even when the passages make (some) sense, their inclusion, I would argue, is also motivated in part by the rhythm the repetition of short sonorous words and phrases imposes on the sentences, as when the master instructs the sailors on how to handle the various types of ropes (topinellis, scheitis, trossis, boulene, linche(?)):

Than the master cryit top ȝour topinellis, hail on ȝour top sail scheitis vire ȝour liftaris and ȝour top sail trossis, & heise the top sail hiear, hail out the top sail boulene, heise the mysȝen and change it ouer to leuart, hail the linche and the scheitis, hail the trosse to the ra (32).

The use of alliteration here also accentuates the rhythm of the episode. Obviously such passages also provide some much-needed structural coherence to what would otherwise have been little more than a cacophonous catalogue.

[18]  By the time the author commences on the catalogues that follow the astronomical excursus he seems to have run a little out of prosodic steam; but even here one gets the impression that in the list of stories (50), for example, many a tale is included not only for its fame and reputation but because of its acoustic properties. Here we have tales of ‘quhou Hercules sleu the serpent hidra that hed vij heydis’, of ‘the bald braband’, ‘roy Robert’ and of ‘the meruellis of mandiueil’. The list of songs (51) has less need for such devices as alliteration, assonance and rhyme because the tunes associated with the song-titles will suggest the music, but it is somewhat surprising that no attempt is made to liven up the list of instruments (51–52). Perhaps the brevity of the catalogue with only eight instruments plays a part here. However, the last two catalogues of dances and herbs are equally bare with the latter reading like a proper herbal except that it limits itself to the operationes that describe the efficacy of the herbs and omits the description of their qualities. Nevertheless, even without the additional help on the phonic level, lists, by their very nature, have a strong rhetorical impact, which is one reason why they are such a universal literary phenomenon (Brogan 1994: p. 34 (Catalog), and especially Eco 2009).[11] When a modern author provides his readers with a list of railway stations along a route he used to travel this list will be meaningless to all readers except those who are familiar with the journey, yet the shared knowledge of train journeys combined with the effect of the list of stations enables the author not just to evoke the illusion of an actual journey but also to create an enchanting rhetorical effect that receptive readers can easily enhance by projecting their own emotions associated with train journeys and travel in general onto. Other lists, like Eco’s catalogue of vehicles cited at the start of this article, are similarly efficacious.

[19]  Assonance, alliteration and rhyme are generally associated with poetry rather than prose. Yet such prosodic features can function very effectively in prose, as I have tried to show. Northrop Frye, inspired by Aristotle’s six elements of poetry among which melos with its connection to music is the pendant of opsis connected to the visual arts, calls this type of prose ‘rhetorical prose’ or ‘prose melos’ and it is worth quoting his characterisation here because it lends support to a number of issues discussed here as well:

A tendency to long sentences made up of short phrases and coordinate clauses, to emphatic repetition combined with a driving linear rhythm, to invective, to exhaustive catalogues, and to expressing the process or movement of thought instead of the logical word-order of achieved thought, are among the signs of prose melos (Frye 1957: 266).

Alliteration, assonance, rhyme, iteration, aureate diction, the use of technical musical terms, all emphasise the rhetorical nature of the lists in the Complaynt and help to set them apart from the rest.

Further analogues
[20]  Earlier the voces animantium tradition was adduced as an important source for the catalogue  of animal cries, but that was not the only influence that can be brought to bear on the ‘Monologue’. We saw that the idea of inserting a list of animal cries into a locus amoenus setting is one that can also be found in many a medieval dream-vision. Indeed, Matthew of Vendôme starts his Ars versificatori with a chapter devoted to the writing of descriptions. As an example of how to depict a locus amoenus he sketches such a place along topographical lines and includes a catalogue of bird sounds for good measure. He also draws an explicit parallel between bird song, poetry and music:

Still another of Nature’s gifts is the birds
Whose ardent chirping crowns the beauty of the place.
Crying out, ‘I perish,’ the sad nightingale sings
And bemoans her plight with melodious plaint.
Now there sounds forth the song of the wild blackbird,
Which when tamed is usually renowned for his harsh cry.
Now the parrot, a fit exhibit for Caesar’s triumph,
Exclaims in a tongue not its own, ‘Farewell.’
Next Tereus appears armed for crime or for conflict.
… No crow, no raven, no owl
Blasphemes this sacred place with harsh cries.
Here no eagle holds sway; no distinctions of rank
Trouble the songs of the multitude. Thus when
Each bird voices its complaint in moving notes, that song
Comes to the aid of the musician. (Vendôme 1980: 59 (§111))

But we do not only need to look back; it may also pay to consider the work of (near) contemporaries. Besides, an author who uses Alain Chartier’s Quadrilogue invective as an important source for the rest of the Complaynt may well have turned to other French sources for inspiration for the ‘Monologue’. And interesting analogues can indeed be found for both the voces animantium list as well as the sea-battle scene. Similar lists also appear in the work of the great master of the Renaissance catalogue, Rabelais. His great satirical work Gargantua and Pantagruel sports numerous catalogues, from lists of games (some 220), to lists of (useless) books at the Library of Saint Victor (c. 150), lists of words for Friar John’s or Panurge’s testicles (c. 160 each), and lists of adjectives describing Triboulet’s so-called virtues (200) (Sayre Schiffman 1995: 139; cf. Eco 2009: 249). Add to this numerous other lists ranging from a genealogical list of giants in the opening chapter of Book One, to a description of the internal and external parts of Quarêmeprenant that covers the best part of three chapters (30–32) in Book Four. Rabelais’s liberal use of lists even made Umberto Eco characterise them as ‘the beginning of a poetics of the list for the list, written for the love of lists, of the list by excess’ (Eco 2009: 251). In chapter thirteen of Book Three Rabelais, in good classical and medieval fashion, speculates on the nature of dreams and their possible prophetic power, and whether perchance it is better to dream such dreams on an empty or a full stomach. Pantagruel then cites the example of a philosopher whose need for solitude is disturbed by hunger:

They cite us the example of a philosopher who, the better to medi[t]ate, reason and write, persuades himself that he is in solitude, far from the crowd, yet all about him dogs are barking, wolves howling, lions roaring, horses whinnying, elephants trumpeting, snakes hissing, asses braying, grasshoppers stridulating, turtle-doves uttering their lamentations: that is to say, he is more disturbed than he would be at the fairs of Fontenay or Niort, because hunger is in his stomach: to remedy which, his stomach barks, his eyes are dazzled and his veins suck out some of the substance proper to the flesh-creating organs and draw down the wandering mind which is neglecting to look after its nurseling and natural host which is the body (Rabelais 2009: 459).

Although Rabelais enumerates fewer than a fifth of the animals described in the ‘Monologue’ the circumstances in which they are recounted are somewhat suggestive of those of the ‘Actor’ who also seeks the solitude required to revive his lagging spirit in the countryside, only to be confronted by the clamour of animals and birds.[12]

[21]  The second analogue appears in Book Four. Here the sounds associated with a sea-battle no longer accompany the battle itself but are heard long after the event by Pantagruel when they melt in his presence, having been deep-frozen when the battle took place:

When they had been all melted together we heard: Hing, hing, hing, hing: hisse; hickory, dickory, dock; brededing, brededac, frr, frrr, frrr, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou, bou. Ong, ong, ong, ong, ououououong, Gog, magog and who knows what other barbarous words; and the pilot said that they were vocables from battles joined and from horses neighing at the moment of the charge; and the we heard other ones, fat ones which made sounds when they melted, some of drum or fife; others of bugle and trumpet (Rabelais 2009: 830).[13]

In neither of these analogues are the parallels such that one must necessarily think in terms of a possible source, although the first analogue is suggestive. Were we to contemplate the influence of Rabelais on our author (the reverse seems less likely) we would run into a problem with the dates. Although the list of animal cries appears in Book Three of Gargantua and Pantagruel and this book was published a few years before the suggested date of composition of the Complaynt, the frozen battle cries appear in Book Four which did not appear until 1552, that is to say well after the date 1549–50 date proposed for the Complaynt. It is true that a shorter and unfinished version of Book Four was published at Lyon in 1548, but this version does not contain the relevant chapters.[14] The Lyon print does include the storm at sea scenes, which are rife with nautical terms. When the pilot foresees a storm he

struck the sails: mizzen-sail, mizzen-topsail, lugsail, mainsail, lower-after-square-sail and spritsail; he had the men furl in the topsails, foretop and maintop and lower the great storm-mizzen, leaving aloft none of the yards save the ratlings and the shrouds (Rabelais 2009: 719 (Ch. 18); for a brief discussion of Rabelais’s use of and sources for nautical terms, see Plattard 1910: 42–46).

The same chapter has several other lists of nautical terms and even ends in a few lines of otherwise meaningless sounds that Screech says are partially indebted to Greek tragedy: ‘I am messing myself from a frenzy of fear. Bou, bou, bou, bou. Otto to to to to ti. Otto to to to to ti. Bou, bou, bou, bou; ou, ou, ou; bou, bou, bous, bous. I’m drowning; drowning’ (These lines are only found in the 1552 edition; Rabelais 2009: 721 (Ch. 18)). Moreover, like our author, Rabelais includes a (brief) list of dances, but that appears in Book Five; herbs are discussed in Book Three (ch. 30), where they are classified according to their etymology into such groups as herbs that were given the name of those who first associated with them, or herbs named after the countries from which they were first exported. Only some eight herbs are named after their ‘operations.’ In none of these cases are there any verbal parallels. More interesting than the identification of a possible source is the fact that both our author and Rabelais seem to be participating in the same tradition that drives the medieval rhetorical concept of enumeratio to its limits and even beyond. Both authors are acutely aware of the acoustic dimensions of some of the lists they present, but only in the ‘Monologue’ is this foregrounded, whereas in Rabelais’s case this aspect is merely one of many others.[15]

[22]  In view of the above what can we conclude about the creation and use of lists in the ‘Monologue recreative’? It will be clear that here we have an author who is not only heavily indebted to medieval traditions but also one who is innovative enough to develop these traditions into something new and special. This special element is not to be sought in an attempt to show God’s divine plan by an encyclopedic listing of (related) terms derived from a variety of fields. Nor is it an attempt to ‘destroy the old picture of the world that had been formed in a dying epoch, and to create a new picture, at whose center we have the whole man, both body and soul,’ which Bakhtin alleged was the point of Rabelais’s lists (1981: 205). Rather, it would be much more likely that our author sets out to refresh his literary spirits by means of a rhetorical tour de force in which he shows his readers what he is capable of as a writer when he embeds his catalogues in a framework that borrows freely from earlier poets and genres, especially dream-visions with their loci amoeni, catalogues of birds and generally didactic contents.[16] However, by concentrating on the rhythmic and poetic qualities of language rather than on what it signifies he turns his language into a kind of rhetorical or poetic prose. It is the prosodic quality of the text that is foregrounded here and which creates the poetic prose that turns his excursus in the ‘Monologue’ into something more akin to a symphony than a homily on the wonders of God’s creation. It is the ‘quhilk, quhilk’ of the goslings, the ‘guk, guk’ of the cuckoo and the ‘tirduf, tirduf’ and ‘tik tak’ of the guns that stand out. In this he is not alone; other sixteenth-century authors also used catalogues to represent ‘acoustic impressions, depictions of Nature’ (Klenner 1958: 83). As we have seen, this musical effect is not limited to the sound-catalogues either as the catalogue of maritime terms demonstrates. Catalogues in general have a mesmerising effect; the mere iteration of items belonging to the same sphere of discourse creates a rhythm all its own, which in turn enchants as well as comforts the listeners and readers. In his wonderful book on the infinity of lists Eco argues that catalogues are an attempt to express the physical infinity of the items listed, and this, as he himself acknowledges, is indeed a theme he explores in many of his own novels, none more so than in The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana (2009: 17, 122). This book does not only teem with catalogues, it is a catalogue (of long-forgotten memories). But that is not why its protagonist Yambo at a very early age was so enchanted by the 1905 edition of the Nuovissimo Melzi. Its many illustrations may have had a lot to do with that, but so did its seventy-eight tables of illustrated nomenclature (2009: 107), among which the list of vehicles is one. Catalogues in their arbitrariness and inevitable incompleteness may hint at infinity, but first and foremost they enchant and this enchantment is founded on their prosodic qualities; they are veritable little verbal symphonies.[17]


[1] The Complaynt of Scotland is generally attributed to Robert Wedderburn (c. 1510–c.1553), but since it is no more than an attribution I would be loathe to help turn it into a fact by using it; I shall therefore only refer to him as ‘the/our author’. For a discussion of the Complaynt’s contents see Stewart 1979: xxix–xlvii. All references to the Complaynt, unless otherwise stated, are to this edition. [back to text]

[2] This concept goes back at least as far as Aristotle and proved to be instrumental in the organisation of Pliny’s encyclopedia of natural history. Cf. Houwen 2002: 26–29. [back to text]

[3] Others may be the crow and the swan where the enmity goes back to a fable in which the crow (corvus) is jealous of the swan’s purity and paints it black. The fable is attested in, for example, Esser and Blanke 2008: 204-07 (item 70); another may be the ‘titlene’ (small bird) who follows the cuckoo about, maybe because the latter deposited her egg in its nest. [back to text]

[4] These two birds are often found together in a love-context or even as the cock and the hen of the same species. For the former see for example Lydgate’s Floure of Curtesye and The Court of Love; cf. Wentersdorf 1977: 196–97; Rowland 1978: 150. In the visual arts they can for example be found together in the Sherborne Missal, for which see Backhouse 2001: 25. [back to text]

[5] Determining the precise genesis of our text is something that still requires some study, but it seems likely that Renaissance catalogues like ours adhere much less strictly to the medieval classification. This would also be in keeping with what our author does elsewhere in the ‘Monologue’. Twomey suggested that whatever the source of our author’s cosmography, he ‘did not copy it verbatim but re-worked it into a new form’ (2012: 105). [back to text]

[6] Mary Carruthers observes that ‘Ordered lists of this sort […] were deliberately memorized in order to serve as potential mnemonic heuristics, the seats (sedes) into which one could place the variety of diverse material one would acquire in one’s education and reading’ (2008: 138). [back to text]

[7] Stewart regards the use of aureate terms and catalogues as ‘common Renaissance aids to copiousness’ (1979: xxxi)  but neither is unique to the Renaissance as the works of Chaucer and many another medieval poet reveals. Cf. also the reference to Matthew of Vendôme, par. 20. [back to text]

[8] Sounds heard at a distance or echoed tend to lose some of their lower frequencies, which do not carry so well, and therefore the result may appear to be higher in pitch. DOST hie a., does not offer this sense and appears to favour the interpretation ‘loud sound’ (see Note n2. 3, where this line is cited), but compare MED heigh (adj.) 7. Available: http://www.dsl.ac.uk/ and http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/. Accessed 26 May 2012. Describing the echo as loud, though not impossible, seems to me somewhat less likely since even a casual observer will notice that an echo is less loud than the sounds that produced it. For a medieval scholarly perspective on echoes see, for example, Questio N 22 in Lawn (ed.) 1979: 293; Neckam 1863: 66–67 (ch. XX), and Nicholas Oresme’s De causis mirabilium (1985: 188–89 (ch. 2). [back to text]

[9] See DOST Rumo(u)r, n.: 3c. ‘The crying of birds; the roaring of animals’; Bere, Beir n.5: ‘Outcry, clamour, shouting; the sound or cry made by men, animals, or birds; noise or din’; Din, Dyn, n.: ‘1. A loud confused noise. Sometimes coupled with synonymous terms, as noyis, etc’; Brutal(l, Brutell, a. and n.: ‘3. Proceeding from, made by, beasts’; Temperance, n.: ‘2b Keeping of time in music.’. http://www.dsl.ac.uk/. Accessed 19 May 2012. [back to text]

[10] Bird song, sometimes combined with other sounds (and catalogues), also features prominently in The Cuckoo and the Nightingale for example where the noise of a river blends in harmoniously with the song of the birds resulting in the ‘best melodye / That might be herd of eny man’ (Scattergood (ed.) 1975: ll. 81–85. Cf. also Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess, ll. 295–96, The Parliament of Fowles, ll. 190–91 in Benson 1987, and The Flower and the Leaf, ll. 94–105 in Pearsall 1990). For a later example that borders on the dream-vision genre see Alexander Montgomerie’s Cherrie and the Slae (1597) and Burel’s inversion of that in his Passage of the Pilgremer. Montgomerie not only includes a reference to reverberating sounds but he also makes good use of the voces animantium and in the 1636 print even alludes to a dream vision in l. 14 (Parkinson 2000: 179). For Burel’s indebtedness to Montgomerie, see Reid-Baxter 1999: 233–35. [back to text]

[11] I owe the reference to Eco to my Ph.D. student Eva von Contzen. [back to text]

[12] Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty (1611–c.1660) in his translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel greatly expands Rabelais’s lists. Rabelais only mentions nine animals but Urquhart has seventy-one; and the sea-battle scene is almost twice as long (Urquhart and Motteaux 1904: II.103, III.150). Ian Ross may well have put his finger on it when in connection with Dunbar and the Scots ‘Flyting’ tradition he observed that this tradition of verbal fantasy not only extends into the work of Rabelais but also that ‘his Scots translator … exploits a rich store of native verbal fantasy’ (1981: 185 n. 40). [back to text]

[13] I owe this reference to Dr. Theo van Heijnsbergen. For other examples of catalogues in Gargantua and Pantagruel see Eco 2009: 256–271. [back to text]

[14] For an edition of Book Four and a detailed discussion of the contents, see Plattard 1910: 23–58. Book One was first published in 1531 or 1532; Books Two and Three appeared in 1534/35 and 1546 respectively. The authenticity of Book Five is disputed; it was published posthumously in 1564. For the dates see Screech in Rabelais 2009: xxvi–xxxvii. For the dates of the Complaynt, see Stewart (ed.) 1979: x–xi. [back to text]

[15] The use of a lamentation taken from Greek tragedy as part of an otherwise meaningless list of sounds made by a drowning man already shows that Rabelais has both an acoustic and a literary use in mind. [back to text]

[16] At the end of the ‘Monologue’ the author introduces Morpheus, ‘that slepye gode’, who assails his vital and animal spirits to such an extent that he becomes even more melancholic than he was at the beginning of the ‘Monologue’ whereupon he promptly falls asleep and has a vision (53–54). Consequently, the ‘Monologue’ should be read as a much-expanded version of a traditional introduction to a dream-vision as we encounter them in Chaucer and elsewhere. [back to text]

[17] We can only speculate what role the rhetorical fireworks of the ‘Monologue’ play in the Complaynt as a whole, but it is not unreasonable to assume it ties in with the author’s defence of the vernacular in the ‘Prolog to the Redar’. If that is accepted it would show what the vernacular is capable of in the hands of a skilled rhétoricien even if, as the author acknowledges, Scots cannot always compete with Latin or French (13). Cf. Stewart’s discussion of the Complaynt as ‘Defence and Illustration of the Vernacular’ (1979: xxix-xxxiii). [back to text]


Backhouse, Janet. 2001. Medieval Birds in the Sherborne Missal (London: British Library)

Bakhtin, M. M. 1981. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. by Michael Holquist, trans. by Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson (Austin: University of Texas Press)

Bawcutt, Priscilla and Felicity Riddy (eds). 1987. Longer Scottish Poems Volume One 1375–1650 (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press)

Benediktson, D. Thomas. 2000. ‘Polemius Silvius’s Voces Varie Animancium and Related Catalogues of Animal Sounds’, Mnemosyne 53: 71–79

Benson, Larry D. (ed.). 1987. The Riverside Chaucer, (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Borges, Jorge Luis. 1964. Other Inquisitions, 1937–1952, trans. by Ruth L. C. Simms (Austin: University of Texas Press)

Brogan, T. V. F. (ed.). 1994. The New Princeton Handbook of Poetic Terms (Princeton: Princeton University Press

Carruthers, Mary J. 2008. The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature, 2nd edn. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Eco, Umberto. 2005. La Misteriosa Fiamma della Regina Loana / The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, trans. by Geoffrey Brock. (London: Secker and Warburg)

Eco, Umberto. 2009. The Infinity of Lists (New York: Rizzoli)

Esser, Birgit and Hans-Jürgen Blanke (eds). 2008. Dialogus Creaturarum Moralisatus. Dialog Der Kreaturen Über Moralisches Handeln. Lateinisch-Deutsch (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann)

Frye, Northrop. 1957. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton: Princeton University Press)

Goetz, Georg. 1923. De glossariorum Latinorum origine et fatis, Corpus glossariorum Latinorum (Leipzig: Teubner)

Houwen, L. A. J. R. 2002. ‘Fear and Instinct in Chaucer’s “Nun’s Priest’s Tale”’, in Fear and Its Representations in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. by Anne Scott (Turnhout: Brepols), pp. 17-30

Klenner, Karl-Ernst. 1958. ‘Der Tierstimmen-Katalog als literarisches Phänomen’ Ph.D. thesis, Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität

Lawn, Brian (ed.(. 1979. The Prose Salernitan Questions. Edited From a Bodleian Manuscript (Auct. F. 3.10). An Anonymous Collection Dealing with Science and Medicine Written by An Englishman C. 1200. With An Appendix of Ten Related Collections (London: Oxford University Press for The British Academy)

Lyndsay, Sir David . 2000. Selected Poems, ed. by Janet Hadley Williams (Glasgow: ASLS)

Marcovich, M. 1971. ‘Voces animantium and Suetonius’, Ziva Antika. Antiquité vivante, 21: 399–416

Neckam, Alexander. 1863. De naturis rerum libri duo with the poem of the same author De Laudibus Divinæ Sapientiæ, ed. by Thomas Wright, Rolls Series (London: Longman)

Oresme, Nicholas. 1985. Nicole Oresme and the Marvels of Nature: A Study of his De causis mirabilium with Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary, ed. and trans. by Bert Hansen (Toronto: Pontifical Institute)

Parkinson, David (ed.). 2000. Alexander Montgomerie, Poems. STS 4th series 28, 29, 2 vol (Edinburgh: Scottish Text Society)

Pearsall, Derek (ed.). 1990. The Floure and the Leafe; The Assembly of Ladies; The Isle of Ladies, (Kalamazoo: Western Michigan University)

Plattard, Jean (ed.). 1910. Le quart livre de Pantagruel (Edition dite partielle, Lyon, 1548) (Paris: Honoré Champion)

Rabelais, François. 2009. Gargantua and Pantagruel, trans. by M. A. Screech, 2nd edn. (London: Penguin)

Reid-Baxter, Jamie. 1999. ‘Politics, Passion and Poetry in the Circle of James VI. John Burel and His Surviving Works’, in A Palace in the Wild. Essays on Vernacular Culture and Humanism in Late-Medieval and Renaissance Scotland, ed. by L. A. J. R. Houwen, A. A. MacDonald and S. L. Mapstone (Groningen: Forsten), pp. 199–248

Rodríguez Adrados, Francisco. 1999. History of the Graeco-Latin Fable, ed. by Gert-Jan van Dijk, trans. by Leslie A. Ray, 3 vols (Leiden: Brill)

Ross, Ian Simpson. 1981. William Dunbar, Medieval and Renaissance Authors (Leiden: Brill)

Rowland, Beryl. 1978. Birds with Human Souls (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press)

Sayre Schiffman, Zachary. 1995. ‘Rabelais, Renaissance, and Reformation: Recent French Works on the Renaissance’, Renaissance Quarterly 48: 129–140

Scattergood, V. J., (ed.). 1975. The Works of Sir John Clanvowe (Cambridge: Brewer)

Scott, Tom. 1977. Dunbar: A Critical Exposition of the Poems (Westport: Greenwood Press Publishers)

Stewart, A. M. (ed.). 1979. The Complaynt of Scotland, c. 1550. 4th ser. 11 (Edinburgh: Scottish Text Society)

Stewart, A. M. 1981. ‘Die europäische Wissensgemeinschaft um 1550 im Spiegel von Wedderburns The Complaynt of Scotland’, in Geschichtlichkeit und Neuanfang im sprachlichen Kunstwerk: Studien zur englischen Philologie zu Ehren von Fritz W. Schulze, ed. by Peter Erlebach, Wolfgang G. Muller and Klaus Reuter (Tübingen: Narr)

Suetonius. 1860. C. Suetoni Tranquilli praeter Caesarum libros reliquiae, ed. by August Reifferscheid and Friedrich Ritschl (Leipzig: Teubner)

Twomey, Michael W. 2012. ‘Pastoral Encyclopedism in The Complaynt of Scotland’s “Monologue Recreative”’, in Literature and Religion in Late Medieval and Early Modern Scotland, ed. by L. A. J. R. Houwen (Leuven: Peeters), pp. 93–112

Urquhart, Thomas and Peter Anthony Motteaux(trans.). 1904. Master Francis Rabelais: Five books of the Lives, Heroic Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua and His Son Pantagruel, 3 vols (London: Bullen)

Vendôme, Matthew of. 1980. The Art of Versification, trans. by Aubrey E. Galyon (Ames: Iowa State University Press)

Wedderburn, Robert . 1872. The Complaynt of Scotlande, wyth ane Exortatione to the Thre Estaits to be vigilante in the Deffens of their Public Veil. A.D. 1549. With an Appendix of Contemporary English Tracts, viz.: The Just Declaration of Henry of Henry VIII; the Exhortacion of James Harrysone, Scottisheman (1547); the Epistle of the Lord Protector Somerset (1548); the Epitome of Nicholas Bodrugan, alias Adams (1548), ed. by J. A. H. Murray, EETS, ES 17, 18, 2 vols (London: N. Trübner)

Wentersdorf, K. P. 1977. ‘The Folkloristic Significance of the Wren’, Journal of American Folklore, 90: 192–98

Scotland’s Early Literature on Healing Waters, 1580-1636

Scotland’s Early Literature on Healing Waters, 1580-1636

Karen Jillings

[1]  This essay offers a philological analysis of the five texts that comprise the extant early Scottish contribution to balneological literature, a new genre of medical writing in the later sixteenth century which discussed the composition and consequent medicinal benefits of various mineral wells, springs and spas throughout much of Europe. It will trace the ways in which physicians reflected through their writing their shifting alignment from the scholastic to the empiric scientific paradigm that characterised contemporary intellectual medicine. With this came an increasing emphasis on the value of observation and experience rather than theory in making therapeutic recommendations, and the concurrent preference for recent as opposed to classical or medieval authorities. The Scottish authors used a number of strategies identified by philologists as being employed in contemporary English medical writing to convey this — including the use of knowledge verbs and of the active voice in discussing experimentation — and in so doing they demonstrated their inclusion in the contemporary intellectual climate. Writers of hydrotherapeutic literature were challenged in their subject matter by a number of issues. The first of these was the evidently unpredictable effects of their chosen water source, which could operate at odds with Galenic humoural theory and which they explained through the introduction of an occult quality that, while inexplicable, was fundamental to the therapeutic efficacy of the waters’ mineral contents. The second was the necessity, for professional and confessional reasons, of distancing their chosen waters’ source from those spring and spas — over six hundred in late medieval Scotland (Todd 2000: 140) — that had a traditional reputation for healing grounded in the pre-Christian veneration of water, many of which had gained a subsequent association as a site of miraculous cures through the intervention of particular saints. It is contended that while the Reformation did not alter this fundamental belief in the therapeutic powers of Scotland’s healing waters, those medical professionals who authored promotional literature on certain spas, springs or wells sought to emphasise a site’s recent discovery or resurrection and in so doing distance it from former associations with the miraculous. This was no means a process of intentional secularisation of the waters, as God remained the agent of their curative properties. Rather, the advent of Protestantism propelled these writers to recast the waters’ healing powers as originating from the natural, as distinct from the supernatural, and their efforts in so doing ‘were by no means incompatible with a pious providentialist outlook’ (Walsham 2011: 432). Finally, the essay will also draw attention to the breadth of other written genres that this small, but significant body of early Scottish medical literature embraced.

[2]  In 1552 the Venetian publisher Tommaso Giunta had written to Francesco Frigimelica, professor of medicine at Padua, requesting a description of the therapeutic benefits of the baths at nearby Abano. Frigimelica had duly obliged and his contribution formed part of Giunta’s publication the following year of a ground-breaking encyclopaedic work detailing most of the surviving literature to date on the subject of medicinal waters. This compendium, entitled De balneis omnia quae extant, called for a renaissance in the regulated practice of hydrotherapy. Readers were urged, in the words of one contributor, ‘to confirm and perfect ancient medicine not only in words, but in use’ by restoring and visiting the baths so favoured by the ancients (Palmer 1990: 15). Treatises and pamphlets reflecting the continental revival of learned interest in the therapeutic benefits of mineral waters proliferated in the decades that followed, a period defined by the medical historian Roy Porter as a ‘chronological watershed’ in the perception and utilisation of water as therapy (Porter 1990: x). This new form of literature encompassed four intermeshed themes: it was at once topographical (in its discussion of the subterranean origins and physical location of water sources), medical (in its didactic explanation of their therapeutic efficacy), alchemical (in its description of the extraction and analysis of the waters’ mineral contents) and promotional (both of the writer and his successful appropriation of the waters’ curative properties, and of the town, locality or region in which the water source was situated).

[3]  Within the British Isles learned interest in mineral waters both at home and abroad was first articulated with the publication in 1562 of the second volume of the English botanist William Turner’s herbal, adjoined to which was his description of ‘the natures and properties | as well of the bathes in England as of other bathes in Germany and Italy | very necessary for all seik persones that can not be healed without the helpe of natural bathes’ (Turner 1562: title page). This was followed a decade later by separate texts discussing the waters of Buxton and Bath, both authored by the physician John Jones and both published in London for William Jones, making them the earliest waters texts to be printed in England (1572a; 1572b). Then in 1580 came Robert Lesse’s A brief view of all baths (1580), which was modelled on Gabriele Falloppio’s lectures on mineral waters given at Padua in 1556 and published posthumously in 1564.

[4]  Another balneological text was printed in 1580, probably by John Ross’s Edinburgh-based press, this one entitled Ane breif descriptioun of the qualiteis and effectis of the well of the woman hill besyde Abirdene ([Skene] 1580). Though unattributed, its author was Gilbert Skene, a physician and former mediciner (or professor of medicine) at King’s College, Aberdeen. Though he had been operating a private practice in Edinburgh since 1575, he clearly retained links with Aberdeen and did not relinquish the mediciner’s manse in the grounds of the university until over a decade later (Anderson, 1893: 35). His authorship of the short treatise can be inferred from a number of internal features including detailed firsthand testimony about the effects of the well’s waters observed during the preceding four years, and an obvious familiarity with both the city and the spa itself ([Skene] 1580: A2r-A2v, A3r-A3v). The Descriptioun of the well of the woman hill is significant as only the second vernacular medical text to be printed in Scotland, the first having been a plague treatise also written by Skene and published by Robert Lekpreuik in 1568 (Skene 1568). Indeed, aside from this plague handbook and a treatise on tobacco written by another waters author, William Barclay, and printed in 1614 (Barclay 1614), the five works on mineral waters discussed in this essay form the sum of Scotland’s early vernacular printed medical output. Not only are they therefore of considerable bibliographical importance, but also they provide an ideal corpus of literature by which to analyse the extent to which changing linguistic styles reflected the emerging scientific paradigm within Scotland’s early printed medical discourse community. In line with the exponential rise in the publication of vernacular waters texts in England from the early seventeenth century, the three waters treatises subsequent to Skene’s were issued in 1615 (William Barclay’s discussion of Aberdeen’s well (Barclay 1615)) and 1618 (during which year two texts were published in quick succession, both dealing with a spring at Kinghorn in Fife (Barclay 1618; Anderson 1618)). After a gap of almost two decades the heirs of Andro Hart printed a text on St Peter’s well at Peterhead by Andrew Mure, a medical student at Aberdeen’s King’s College (M[ure] 1636).

[5]  The therapeutic uses of water, whether hot or cold, were many — bathing in it, drinking it either on its own or as part of a herbal tincture, pouring it from a height on the patient or applying it topically to the afflicted body part, and the European medical literature on waters variously drew attention to these methods. The three Scottish waters sources were perceived to share a number of features: each produced cold water, whose curative benefits were gained through being drunk. Skene’s Descriptioun of the well of the woman hill followed his plague treatise and preceded other Scottish waters texts in being produced to meet the demand from an increasingly literate society for accessible information on personal healthcare. Readers wanted to be more knowledgeable when they discussed medical matters with their physician and vernacular medical literature made an important contribution to the relationship between practitioners and those they attended (Slack 1979: 260). While Latin retained its status as the ‘international language of scholarship’ (Wear 2000: 40), vernacular texts provided a more accessible alternative to the existing corpus of Latin copies of medical works by both Greek and Arabic authorities in circulation among the elite. Scotland’s early waters literature was produced in the aftermath of ‘an explosion’ in vernacular text production that occurred throughout England and Europe and, with regard to the field of science, ‘medicine was in the vanguard’ of this (Pahta & Taavitsainen 2004: 11). The following philological analysis indicates that the vernacular waters texts produced in Scotland during the later sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth century reflected, to varying extents, the shifting paradigms regarding science, medicine and investigation into the workings of nature taking place within the various European intellectual discourse communities.

[6]  A survey of the impact of humanism on medicine in Renaissance Scotland concluded that the movement arrived in the northern nation ‘relatively late’ and ‘was seasoned from the start with a certain relish of experience and a willingness to adopt continental novelty’ (Keller 1990: 98). This was arguably the case in terms of medical education, negligible as it was, with the curriculum of Aberdeen’s King’s College (for much of the sixteenth century the only Scottish university to provide foundational instruction in medicine) being modelled on that of Paris, where many of its personnel also studied. Humanist thought was becoming evident in medical faculties across Europe, manifested through a desire to shun medieval expositions of classical texts in favour of a return to the use in teaching of new, direct translations of the texts themselves (Jillings 2008: 33). The medical school at Paris was particularly notorious in this regard and by the later sixteenth century was a ‘stronghold of Galenism [which] viewed Hippocrates and Galen with quasi-religious fervour’ (Wear 1995: 254). The medical syllabus that Gilbert Skene followed at King’s in the 1540s ‘reflected elements of emerging humanist thought’ influenced by the then mediciner Robert Gray’s own education at Paris and Skene’s subsequent medical training at Louvain was undertaken at a time when the movement was a relatively recent arrival there (Jillings 2008: 35-36). As the earliest of the waters treatises to be written, and being published some thirty-five years before the next text, his Descriptioun of the well of the woman hill most clearly betrays the remnants of adherence to medieval interpretations of classical works, as well as the humanist resurrection of ancient texts themselves, in its discourse on the waters’ properties and therapeutic efficacy. Skene liberally cited the writings of ancient authorities, namely Celsus, Aetius, Galen and Hippocrates, as well as the medieval expositions of Avicenna, to support his assertions about the mineral and metallic contents of the Aberdeen well. Such deference to established authority has been identified in recent historical linguistic studies as a prominent feature of earlier medical texts, particularly the use of classical anecdotes which, it has been noted, ‘serve to lend an aura of learning to the writings’ (Taavitsainen 2011: 268). Skene’s references to specific chapters and passages both justified his assertions and demonstrated the extent of his knowledge of such varied works (e.g., ‘as wrytis Celsus lib. 2. Ca. 12’; ‘as sayis Auicen lib. 2. Tract. 2. Ca. 59’ (1580: A2v, A3r)).

[7]  Historical discourse studies have highlighted the dichotomy between the citation of ancient and medieval authorities, who represented ‘received knowledge from scholasticism’, and references to the ‘advocates of new knowledge by observation’ (Taavitsainen 2009c: 54). Developments in natural science and medicine during the sixteenth century by pioneers such as Paracelsus led to a shift from an emphasis on the second-hand theory garnered from classical authorities to a greater reliance on first-person experience based on personal observation. Those texts produced during the late medieval period have been defined as scholastic (typified by ‘authority-based knowledge’) and those of the early modern period as empiric (characterised by ‘observation-focused knowledge’) (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2009: 68). Recent historical linguistic analyses of medical writing published in England have demonstrated a clear change in textual features such as writing style and use of language in line with the evolution of the scientific methodologies underpinning them. Empiricism engendered a ‘different way of writing about science and medicine’ among the emerging discourse community, with the ‘crucial’ time in the evolvement of medical writing being the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century (Taavitsainen 2009b: 193). Each of the four authors, therefore, studied and/or taught and wrote during a seismic intellectual shift, one in which the Renaissance humanist reliance on classical authorities was being superseded by new ways of interpreting the human body that foreshadowed the scientific revolution of the later seventeenth century.

[8]  A significant changing feature of medical writing indicative of this new approach is discernible in references to knowledge, particularly concerning ancient authorities. Scholarly analysis of historical traditions of knowledge has defined that of the medieval period as gnostic, by which knowing is centred on the knower, and that of the early modern period as epistemic, by which the articulation of knowing is centred on the known (Bates 1995: 3). The gradual replacement of the gnostic tradition of knowledge with the epistemic represented ‘the first major shift of the scientific paradigm’ (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2009: 77), as the emphasis moved from an acceptance of the mere assertion of knowledge to demonstrable proof of that knowledge. The seventeenth-century Scottish waters texts reflect this changing approach. Each references classical authority, though with significant variance, and there is a far greater emphasis on personal experience than that asserted by Gilbert Skene in his discussion of Aberdeen’s well. In his own discussion of those waters the continentally-trained, north-east native William Barclay, who boasted that he had ‘spent many yeeres vnder the discipline of the most learned Physicians of France’ referred only twice to an established authority, namely Hippocrates, and conveyed his adherence to the importance of experience by citing numerous instances of his own observations both in Paris and elsewhere (1615: A8v, A4r, A6r, B2r). Furthermore, in his discourse on the spring at Kinghorn written three years later and printed by Andro Hart (who had also printed his previous two treatises), Barclay cited no particular authorities and again implicitly acknowledged the importance of his own experience in establishing the waters’ contents and effects (e.g., ‘this water is experimented to bee verie aperitiue’; ‘from the effectes I prooue it to be Tinne’ (1618: A6r, A5v).

[9]  The Edinburgh physician Patrick Anderson (whose own discussion of the Kinghorn spring was completed exactly two months later and issued by royal printer — and rival to Hart — Thomas Finlason) was explicit about his views on the importance of empiricism, subtitling his work ‘[the spring’s] admirable and new tryed properties, so far foorth as yet are found true by Experience’ (1618: title page). Anderson, an ‘old Parisien acquentance’ of Barclay (Anderson 1618: C3v), deliberately evinces the breadth of his knowledge: his citations, given in a number of languages, are extensive and detailed, and his references particularly varied. While he cites both classical and medieval authorities including Galen, Dioscorides and Avicenna, the majority of his references are to more recent or contemporary works, reflecting a familiarity with European exponents of empiricism including Jean Fernel, Peter Monau, Bernard George Penot and ‘that famous & learned Empyrick [Martinus] Rulandus’ (1618: D2r). The last of the writers under consideration is Andrew Mure, who composed his treatise on the well at Peterhead while a student of King’s College, Aberdeen during the ‘high point of medicine as a university subject’ there (French 1983: 140). Like Anderson, Mure also incorporated quotes in a variety of languages: these tended to be interspersed throughout his own commentary and were largely unattributed, though he did name-check a number of literary rather than medical writers (specifically Pliny and Guilliaume de Salluste Du Bartas, the Hugenot poet who visited James VI’s court in the 1580s). It is notable that Mure’s treatise above any other concentrated on specific alchemical experimentation and analysis, following the Paracelsian tradition. Moreover, he made very little reference to individual classical authorities: Pliny and Hippocrates are mentioned a handful of times and, on the few occasions others are acknowledged, this is done in collective terms (‘the ancients’; ‘the ancient Philosophers’ (M[ure], 1636: B4r, B6r)). This perhaps reflects the fact that his was the latest treatise to be written, at a time when empiricism was entrenched in some sectors of medical practice.

[10]  As a sub-genre of medical writing, texts discussing the therapeutic efficacy of mineral waters provide a particularly interesting case study for analysing the extent to which writers were influenced by the shifting scientific paradigm from the scholastic to the empiric tradition. This is because investigation into the medicinal benefits of such waters exposed the fallibility of the traditional preference for making therapeutic recommendations that were grounded in theory rather than observation and experience. All writers struggled with the unpredictable nature of the waters they wrote about. In common with other contributors to early hydrotherapeutic literature, the Scottish writers discussed the waters’ effects on the body in accordance with classical humoural theory, with the maintenance of humoural equilibrium essential to an individual’s wellbeing. Phlegm was the bodily humour believed to correspond to the element of water, as each typically shared the properties of being cold and wet. Those patients who had an excessively phlegmatic temperament were likely to be of a cold and moist disposition, and to be susceptible to such afflictions as rheumatism, poor digestion and rough skin. In his Callirhoe, or the nymph of Aberdeen rescusitat, William Barclay remarked that this was the case with inhabitants of the north-east of Scotland (where of course both Aberdeen and Peterhead are located), where ‘the ground which they labour, must be colde and moyst’, resulting in ‘Catarrhes, Grauels … Colickes … & such like’ (1615: A3v). In order to counterbalance an excess of cold and wet phlegm the patient was required to ingest a substance that possessed hot and dry qualities, such as the relatively novel and increasingly popular tobacco about which Barclay also wrote (1614). Typically, pure water would be of no use because it too was cold and wet. The mineral or metallic contents of certain waters, on the other hand, affected their qualities and, consequently, the way they operated. Established theoretical principles taught that certain metals or minerals could be expected to produce certain medicinal effects. In his discussion of The cold springe of Kinghorne Craig, Patrick Anderson listed these: vitriol cleansed the stomach, silver was cooling, brimstone healed palsy and scabs, copper cured breathlessness, brass was effective against diseases of the eyes and mouth, and iron and steel opened internal obstructions, particularly those caused by tough, viscous phlegm, and, he believed, it was to be expected that ‘the lyke effects are to bee vnderstude of all springing waters running through the same’ (1618: A3v-A4v).

[11]  To a certain extent such waters did indeed apparently act in accordance with theoretical principles, and in such cases writers keenly cited ancient authorities in explaining the perceived effects of certain minerals and metals on the body. The presence of substances such as iron, vitriol, brass, crystal and gypsum variously in all these waters were agreed by all writers to make each hot in temperament. The resultant health benefits were principally classified as being drying and purgative in accordance with received humoural theory. Gilbert Skene declared that ‘all naturall and pure sweit watter is slaw in passage’, lying heavy in the stomach, deadening the patient’s appetite and making digestion sluggish (1580: A2v). Both he and Barclay agreed that the metallic Aberdeen waters acted as an effective diuretic laxative, with their purgative effects expelling internal obstructions such as stones from the kidneys, abdomen, liver, stomach and bladder ([Skene] 1580: A2v; Barclay 1615: A7r, B1r). Not only could the Kinghorn waters be drunk to expel stones, but also their hot temperament prevented dropsy and had a drying effect on the body’s interior, eliminating ulcers and producing clear, wrinkle-free skin (Barclay 1618: A5v, A6v; Anderson 1618: Av-A2v). Drinking the waters of Peterhead and Aberdeen also produced an unblemished complexion and alleviated dermatological conditions ([Skene] 1580: A2v, A4r; M[ure] 1636: B3r, C4v).

[12]  But the waters posed a challenge to those seeking to explain and analyse their effects. Unlike normal water, mineral waters were seen to work in unexpected ways and have an impact on individuals that did not always fit received theoretical principles in terms of their temperature or putative composition. Skene and Barclay both asserted that although the Aberdeen water was manifestly of cold temperature it was actually hot in temperament due to the presence of iron; despite this, it mitigated the heat of the liver ([Skene] 1580: A2v, A3r, A3v; Barclay 1615: A5r). Anderson, meanwhile, noted that the Kinghorn spring was able to refresh and cool the patient despite containing what he called ‘saltish, nitrous faculties’ (1618: B4r-B4v). Classical writers, who had been frustratingly reticent about the very topic of balneology (Palmer 1990: 14), could clearly not be regarded as ‘absolute authorities in a thorough-going gnostic way’ (Bates 1995: 11; Wear 1995b). Indeed, during this crucial transitional period English medical texts increasingly cited classical writers in terms that drew attention to their ignorance or pointed out their mistakes (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2009: 80-81). Of the Scottish writers on waters Mure and Barclay both commented explicitly on the fallibility of ancient authority. Barclay noted in his discussion of The Nature and Effects of the New-Found Well at Kinghorne that learned writers of the past had promoted the regular drinking of typical water, ‘but now a dayes our queasie stomaches are become so tender … that if wee but ones in a yeere taiste water, wee are in danger to catch the Colick’ (1618: A6r). Likewise, Mure, the latest of the authors under consideration, noted Hippocrates’ ignorance of certain ‘violent’ substances, ‘for if he had known the use of cassia, manna, Rubarbe, syrup rosat, &c. he had never mentioned any danger in the canicular dayes’ (1636: C5v).

[13]  In order to explain the waters’ irrational effects all writers acknowledged the presence of some occult quality in the water itself that, although hidden from reason, was emphatically part of nature and fundamental to the way it worked. In line with the rise of the empirical approach in the later sixteenth century attempts were made by various experimental scientists to explain through observation and deduction the intractable workings of mineral waters and other materia medica, naturally-occurring substances with the ability to alleviate or cure ailments, based on the assumption that ‘nature teemed with hidden forces and powers that could be imitated, improved upon and exploited for human gain’ (Eamon 1994: 184-5). Minerals and metals could possess occult powers even though they were not technically alive, for as the pioneering physician and alchemist Paracelsus queried, ‘if they had not life, how could they help Diseases, and restore the decayed Members of the Body, by putting life … in them?’ (1655: 92-93). His contemporary the French physician and natural philosopher Jean Fernel believed hidden qualities to be self-generated, observing that ‘the total substance of a thing … has acquired special powers from itself alone’ (1542 [2005]: 49). These powers were also generated when certain substances such as minerals were combined, which could alter their effects in some insensible way. Patrick Anderson acknowledged that this helped to account for the ability of the salty Kinghorn spring to quench the drinker’s thirst: because ‘a thousand effects in natural causes, may also proceed of contrary qualities: for there be many exceptions even in natural rules, so that sometimes we see by experience … that simples, naturally hot & dry of themselves, by the company of others which cool and refresh, are sensibly felt to execute cold effects’ (1618: Dv). In endorsing and undertaking the experiential methodology that was gradually replacing the theoretical model, the writers contributed to the emergence of ‘a new kind of literature’, which included ‘eyewitness accounts of nature’ that were at odds with the assertions by classical authorities regarding how nature operated (Taavitsainen 2009b: 193).

[14]  To varying extents each of the authors of Scotland’s early waters literature attested to the importance of personal experience through observation and experimentation in corroborating many aspects of the waters, including appearance and taste. This personalised empirical approach tended to be conveyed in English medical accounts by the use of narrative discourse expressed through the first person singular subject (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2009: 81), a linguistic style which further conveyed the author’s personal intellect. Just as late medieval authors had used certain verbs to emphasise the infallible knowledge of classical authorities, Skene, Barclay, Anderson and Mure all liberally used phrases such as ‘I affirme’, ‘I prooue’, ‘I confirme’, ‘I think’, ‘I judge’, ‘I say’, ‘I conjecture’, ‘I perceiue’, ‘I find’, ‘I alledge’, ‘I mean’ and, of course, ‘I know’. Each of these was a lexical term employed by early modern medical writers to ‘evoke the concept of knowledge’ (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2009: 69). Sometimes the third person was also used, as in ‘for it is found by experience’ (Anderson 1618: A3r). Occasionally the writer used the first person plural (e.g., ‘by common experience in our days we have observed’ (Anderson, 1618: B4v)). This was a deliberate strategy of identification with the intended audience at that moment in the text. This could be the patient, as with the instructions for using the waters laid out by Anderson: ‘What wee shoud obserue, before wee goe to drinck of such Waters’ (1618: D3r). Alternatively the writer might appeal to the fellow professional practitioners who comprised a significant section of his readership, to further emphasise his standing among them.

[15]  The author’s professional credentials were further emphasised by his reporting of positive patient testimony, which attested the therapeutic efficacy of the waters and additionally served to bolster the credibility of the writer’s knowledge- and observation-based assertions. All of the writers were keen to convey the successful outcomes of therapy using the waters, particularly if they had carried out the treatment themselves. Phrases indicative of this include: ‘I haue obseruit in diuerse persounis quha had drunkin the [Aberdeen water] that it … hes cuirit sindrie Hydropicall persounis’ ([Skene] 1580: A3v); ‘I haue seene sundrie men and women cured of great and tedious diseases by vomiting after the drinking of this [Aberdeen] water’ (Barclay 1615: A8r); ‘I haue knowne [the Kinghorn spring] to helpe Sciatick dolours’ (Barclay 1618: A6r); ‘these bee the Physical properties of this fair Spring [at Kinghorn], so far foorth as the diseased haue as yet tryed by experience, & in whose companie I was somtimes present my selfe’ (Anderson 1618: A2v); ‘many gentlemen of good respect can testifie these things to be true, which in this booke, I have written, concerning the medicinall vertues of this fountain’ (M[ure], 1636: To the Reader). Writers further emphasised the infallibility of their assertions about the medicinal effects of the waters by deliberately anticipating objections to their statements and countering them assuredly, often through the use of a question-answer discourse pattern. This rhetorical device is commonly deployed in much English medical writing through the use of named characters that allows the author, in the guise of teacher, to clarify his instruction to his pupil who is, by extension, his reader (Taavitsainen 2009b: 199; Taavitsainen 2009a: 113). While none of the Scottish waters treatises contain this type of question-answer dialogue, both Anderson and Barclay extensively used a questioning format. For example, Barclay justified his assertions about the Aberdeen spa’s efficacy in this way: ‘the second question is, whether this water hath any virtue to cure the hydropsy or not. To which I answer, First that of all remedies this is the surest to prevent the dropsy’ (1615: A8v). Anderson used a similar style: ‘Now … the scaircetie of this metall (as appeareth) is not liklie to communicate such Physicall faculties to this water alone, without some more helpe than the metall. What then? I take it to bee rather a kynd of doulce Nitruse & semi-minerall mixture…’ (1618: Bv).

[16]  In considering the linguistic features of the early waters literature it is important not only to bear in mind that their contents were designed to publicise the therapeutic benefits of drinking the particular waters source, but also to consider the nature of the intended audience and how this information was to be conveyed to it. Waters treatises were of a manageable size (the texts under consideration were between five and twenty-two pages in length), intended as handy reference guides for consultation by both patients and the practitioners who attended them, including the authors themselves. Certain genres of medical text were designed to be read aloud, widening their accessibility beyond their most immediate, literate audience (Murray Jones 2011: 33). Various aspects of the composition of the waters literature indicates that these texts, too, were designed for a similar purpose. Firstly, in common with other didactic texts of the early modern period, they shared ‘the rhetoric of authoritative assertion’ (Glaisyer & Pennell 2003: 9), being written using direct language which often mirrored the scholastic environment, as if the writer (speaker) were orally lecturing the reader (listener). Mure, for example, wrote as if his discourse were to be read aloud, using phrases such as ‘truely I may speak of this source’ and ‘whereof now I have spoken’ (1636: B7v, ‘To the Reader’), while Barclay replaced the act of reading with that of listening: ‘[I will beseech] the Lector onely to heare mee patiently in few tearmes rander thankes to God’ (1615: B2v-B3r). A physician, perhaps even the author himself, could read aloud a waters treatise to a heterogeneous group, and the suitability of the text for this purpose was emphasised by the use of the first person plural as a deliberate strategy of identification. Secondly, the prescribed regimen for using the waters was reserved until the end of each treatise, and in some cases given its own section. This ensured that it could easily be located within the text during the consultative process and that it left an impression on the audience. It tended to be written in a concise, straightforward manner, often in a series of short sentences, providing a simple reference guide for the reader to consult easily, perhaps even at the source of the waters itself. Andrew Mure, however, was alone in following the typical stylistic convention of addressing his readers directly in advising how to take the waters (Taavitsainen 2011), though this section was initially imparted in the third person: ‘He who is to drink of this water … shall come to this Wel in a convenient tyme of the year…’, subsequently changing to direct advice: ‘dine with meats of good digestion’; ‘a day after you leave off the drinking of water, take some other good purgative medicine, resting a day after, then take journey to go whither you list’ (1636: C6r-C7r).

[17]  In prescribing the correct regimen to be used in hydrotherapy, each author emphasised certain important principles that appealed to both scholastic and empiric traditions. Emphasis was placed on the need for a holistic approach to the maintenance of wellbeing through consideration of the Galenic six non-naturals, as well as accounting for other external factors which influenced the patient’s physiology such as the season and time of day as well as gender, age and other considerations specific to each individual. The Scottish authors agreed that the best time to drink the waters was during the summer months between May and September. Medical theory aside, as the ‘fairest and hotest’ season (M[ure] 1636: C5r) this was the most pleasant time of the year to imbibe cold water. It also shows consistency with a tradition of folk custom and belief ‘rooted in pre-Christian veneration of water’ (Todd 2002: 205; Wood 1986), which ascribed healing powers to certain wells particularly at Beltane, or May Day, and throughout the month of May. The advent of Protestantism ‘made little dent in [the practice of] popular “superstitious” celebration’ until well into the seventeenth century (Todd 2000: 126), and the continued frequenting of wells, many of which retained pre-Reformation associations with particular saints, was criticised by Protestant Kirk elders and medical writers alike. The former were incensed by what they regarded as the idolatrous and superstitious practices of their parishioners, and session and presbytery records into the 1650s are littered with attempts to clamp down on such behaviour, albeit with varying degrees of conviction (Todd 2002: 204-209, 219-220). These efforts demonstrate the significance of the perceived origins of mineral waters’ healing powers for the credibility of their therapeutic efficacy. Belief in miraculous cures derived from offerings to Christ, the saints or ancient holy days was seen as superstitious and therefore condemned, whereas cures interpreted as arising from the waters’ divinely-ordained natural properties could be accepted, indeed celebrated, when supported by rational, learned medical interrogation and explanation.

[18]  Hence the authors of the early waters treatises were keen to distinguish their particular curative source from the sites of such miracles. Anderson stressed this most starkly, pointing out to his readers that the waters of Kinghorn differed from others in the region: they were ‘not lyk the superstitious or mud-earth Wells of Menteith, or Lady Well of Stratherne, and our Ladie Well of Ruthven, with a number of others in this cuntrie, all tapestried about with old rags, as certaine signes & sacraments wherwith [those who engage in such practices] arle the divell with an earls-pennie of their health’ (i.e., pay with their health to enter the service of the devil) (1618: B3v). Andrew Mure acknowledged that his forefathers had believed that St Peter had imbued the well at Peterhead with curative properties and used to visit it on his feast day, ‘but this is meer superstition, like that of the heathen, who … denominate[d] their rare and medicinall waters from diverse of there gods’ ( 1636: B2r). Instead, each of the authors sought to ascribe the therapeutic powers of their waters not to the supernatural intervention of saints or fairies but rather to the divinely-ordained, if obscure, workings of nature. As Alexandra Walsham has contended, Protestant popular culture sought to reproduce in other contexts the ritual and sacramental ways of alleviating illness undertaken before the Reformation (2008: 228), with the result that former holy wells underwent something of a ‘medical makeover’ through ‘more subtle forms of transmutation’ (2011: 401, 396). The agency of God remained central to the therapeutic efficacy of the wells; authors of waters literature were almost universally clear on this, with many texts structured around a scriptural frame of reference (Anderson being the only Scottish example of this), while Mure regarded the resurrection of St Peter’s well as evidence of God’s good governance in providing society with the resources necessary to enable them to flourish (Walsham 2011: 433).

[19]  Moreover, and rather more prosaically, a concern with emphasising the natural — as distinct from the supernatural — agency of waters may have been driven as much by a desire for professional credibility and control of their therapeutic potential as by the pursuit of a ‘distinctly anti-Catholic agenda’ which Walsham has identified as a fillip to the early promotion of English spas (Walsham, 2008: 216). Each writer emphasised the importance of taking the waters under professional medical supervision, as only a learned physician possessed the necessary knowledge to prescribe the conditions required to enable each patient, with his or her individual physiological constitution, to maximise the waters’ therapeutic potential. Hence medical writers, as a discourse community, ‘had a vested interest in regulating references to knowledge’ and sought to emphasise their possession of it (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2009: 68). Physicians’ self-promotion through their assertion of knowledge in this way also took on a commercial significance, because ‘the reader of a medical book was also a potential patient’ (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2011: 49). This claim to a professional and intellectual monopoly over the waters was clearly threatened by indiscriminate and unregulated visits by ill-informed members of the public, particularly when the impetus for such visits came from the continued association of the site with miraculous healing, rather than from seeking cures recast as being derived from divinely-ordained nature harnessed and directed by a learned medical practitioner.

[20]  In addition to taking the waters only during the summer months, patients were ideally to drink the prescribed amount in the morning, having first prepared the body with appropriate purgative medicines and a diet designed to prevent a melancholic temperament. The precise amount to be consumed depended on the nature of the ailment but was always to begin with a minimal quantity that could slowly be increased as required. Between drinking each cup the patient was advised to walk around, taking care not to work up a sweat. The therapeutic use of the waters could be continued for up to fifty days or, as Mure suggested, ‘so long as the disease requireth, or affaires can permit’ (M[ure] 1636: C7r). On returning home the patient was to continue modifying his lifestyle correctly to prevent the beneficial effects of the waters from being undone. ‘Live temperatly a long time’ advised Mure, ‘in a clean, pure, wholesome aire to breathe on: eating meats of good digestion to suffice nature, not greedie appetit’, and ‘flee perturbations of the minde’ (1636: C7r-C7v). The persuasive combination of first-person testimonies, sound theoretical principles and an acknowledgement of the waters’ occult yet powerful properties were intended to convince the reader of their therapeutic efficacy.

[21]  While the utility of the waters texts for most readers lay in the detailing of the waters’ medicinal benefits and instructions for their harnessing, this form of literature fulfilled a number of additional functions. Though none of the authors wrote at great length about experimental methodology for analysing the waters’ mineral contents, their almost incidental references to distillation, boiling and sediment analysis imparts a degree of alchemical knowledge, if not instruction. Scotland’s early waters literature reverses the paradigm of experiment description, wherein the passive voice became the favoured means by which to describe well-worn procedures of experimentation (Gotti 2011: 213). Skene, author of the earliest waters text, was alone in passively noting that ‘gif the watter of this notabill Fontaine be builzeit it becummis of mair blak cullour’ (1580: A3r). The later authors tended to use the active voice to describe their experiments, which would have helped to convince readers of the credibility of their observations. Of all the authors Mure, the latest writer under consideration, most consistently uses the active voice in reinforcing his own experimentation (e.g., ‘wee have used all kynd of tryalls for examination of the Petrean water; and have found (as we are able to demonstrate) that these waters carry with them the tincture of vitriol…’ (1636: B3v). In this particular case, his use of the third person would have further reinforced his own authority as well as his identification with the empiric tradition.

[22]  The waters literature also helped to promote the locality in which the particular source was situated. Through favourable comparisons with famous waters in Europe writers aimed to attract visitors to their own source and perhaps by extension to the area. The authors of waters texts tended to write as local specialists, as was the case with Skene and Barclay writing about the Aberdeen well, or at the behest of a local patron, as was the case with Barclay’s treatise on the spring at Kinghorn, which was written in the form of a letter addressed to the Earl of nearby Dunfermline. Skene identified much commonality between his Aberdeen waters and the Roman sulphur springs of Aachen, while Barclay likened them to the then-popular waters of Forges in Normandy both in mineral composition and curative effects ([Skene] 1580: A4r; Barclay 1615: A5r). Mindful of the usefulness for himself, his patron and the locality of garnering a favourable reputation for the well at Peterhead, Andrew Mure declared it to be comparable with the best German spa waters, and to far excel those English sites located at Knaresborough and Tunbridge Wells (1636: B2r). Skene described the Aberdeen spa as ‘ane ornament and ane publict utilitie to the Realme & Burgh’ (1580: A2v), while Barclay declared that it blessed not only the city itself but also the surrounding territory ‘with a treasure of health’ (1615: A4r). Inhabitants of each locality were also written about in glowing terms: Skene declared those living in Aberdeen, itself ‘ane of the maist ancient and renounit Burghis of this Realme’, to be ‘maist ciuile, honest, and politicall’ (1580: A2r), while Barclay believed them to be ‘more delicatly trained vp’ than those living in the Highlands (1615: A3v). Not only did such flattery help to curry favour with local readers, but it also made the area more attractive to farther-flung visitors. This was another of the many strategies that this essay has shown were used by the authors of Scotland’s early waters literature to persuade their audiences of the worth of both the writer himself and the waters he described.

[23]  The foregoing discussion has drawn attention to a number of features identified by historical linguistics as being indicative of an adherence within Scotland’s early medical discourse community to the shifting scientific paradigm from the scholastic to the empiric in the sixteenth and earlier seventeenth centuries. The linguistic features typical of scholasticism are ‘very different’ from those associated with empiricism, and reflective of ‘the underlying methodology and philosophy of science’ (Taavitsainen 2009b: 187). As with English medical writing during this liminal period, analysis of linguistic patterns within Scotland’s waters treatises reveals the changing nature of medicine. These include the diminishing recourse to classical authorities, particularly among the seventeenth-century authors, and a concurrent rise in assertions of knowledge based on first-hand testimony. An empirical approach is also evident in the use of the active rather than the passive voice, which reflects the way knowledge was increasingly evaluated in light of personal observations and methodology rather than through reliance on the established theory of a third party (Hiltunen & Tyrkkö 2009: 77).

[24]  Several of the authors used one final strategy to appeal to their audiences: namely, the incorporation into their treatises of other written genres aside from straightforward medical instruction, which situated their texts at the ‘interface of literary and non-literary writing’ (Taavitsainen, 2011: 256). Andrew Mure included a poetic eulogy on the well at Peterhead, with verses that name-checked mythological characters including Hebe, Jove and Hermes: ‘O holy, peerlesse, rich preservative! / Whether wert thou the strange restorative, / That suddenly did age with youth repaire? / And made old Aeson younger than his heir?’ (1636: B7v-B8r). His use of rhyming couplets, which were ‘easy to memorise and to follow when read aloud’ (Taavitsainen 2011: 269), would have helped his audience to appreciate the panacea-like efficacy of the waters he described. Seeking to connect with his readers through a familiar medium, Patrick Anderson incorporated biblical passages to emphasise God’s role in creating mineral springs for mankind’s benefit, including this from the Book of Wisdom: ‘When they were thirstie they called vpon thee, and thou gaue them water out of the high Rock, and their thirst was quenched out of the hard stone’ (1618). This inclusion of biblical verses forms ‘the best evidence for the fact that medical and scientific instruction was aimed at a wide and heterogeneous audience’ (Taavitsainen 2011: 268-9). Indeed, the influence of various literary styles confirms what Taavitsainen has described as the ‘dynamic picture’ of early modern medical writing (2011: 270), of which Scotland’s early literature on healing waters formed a small but significant part.

Massey University


Anderson, Patrick.  1618.  The cold springe of Kinghorne Craig (Edinburgh: Thomas Finlason)

Anderson, P.J. (ed.). 1893. Officers and Graduates of the University and King’s College of Aberdeen, 1495–1860 (Aberdeen: New Spalding Club)

Barclay, William. 1614. Nephenthes, or the vertues of tabacco (Edinburgh: Andro Hart)

Barclay, William. 1615. Callirhoe, or the nymph of Aberdeen rescusitat by William Barclay (Edinburgh: Andro Hart)

Barclay, William. 1618. The Nature and Effects of the New-Found Well at Kinghorne (Edinburgh: Andro Hart)

Bates, Don. 1995. ‘Scholarly ways of knowing: an introduction’, in Knowledge and the Scholarly Medical Traditions, ed. by Don Bates (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 122

Brockliss, L.W.B. 1990. ‘The development of the spa in seventeenth-century France’, in The Medical History of Waters and Spas, suppl. no. 10 of Medical History, ed. by Roy Porter (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine), 2347

Eamon, William. 1994. Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press)

Falloppio, Gabriele. 1564. De medicates aquis, atque de fossilibus tractatus pulcherrimus (Venice)

Fernel, Jean. 1542 [2005]. Jean Fernel’s, ‘On the Hidden Causes of Things’: Forms, Souls and Occult Diseases in Renaissance Medicine, ed. by John M. Forrester and John Henry (Leiden: Brill)

French, Roger. 1983. ‘Medical teaching in Aberdeen: from the foundation of the university to the middle of the seventeenth century’, History of Universities 3: 127157

Glaisyer, Natasha and Sara Pennell. 2003. ‘Introduction’, in Didactic Literature in England, 1500-1800: Expertise Constructed (Aldershot: Ashgate), 118

Gotti, Maurizio. 2011. ‘The development of specialised discourse in the Philosophical Transactions’, in Medical Writing in Early Modern English, ed. by Päivi Pahta and Irma Taavitsainen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 204220

Hiltunen, Turo and Jukka Tyrkkö. 2009. ‘Tis well known to barbers and laundresses: overt references to knowledge in English medical writing from the Middle Ages to the present day’ in Corpus Linguistics: Refinements and Reassessments, ed. by Antoinette Renouf and Andrew Kehoe (Amsterdam: Rodopi), 6786

Hiltunen, Turo and Jukka Tyrkkö. 2011. ‘Verbs of knowing: discursive practices in early modern vernacular medicine’, in Medical Writing in Early Modern English, ed. by Päivi Pahta and Irma Taavitsainen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 4473

Jillings, Karen. 2008. ‘Humanism and medicine in sixteenth-century Aberdeen’, Intellectual History Review 18: 3140

Jones, John. 1572a. The Benefit of the auncient bathes of Buckstones, which cureth most greeuous sicknesses, neuer before published (London: Tho[mas] East and Henry Myddleton for William Jones)

Jones, John. 1572b. The Bathes of Bathes Ayde: Wonderfull and most excellent, agaynst very many sicknesses approued by authoritie, confirmed by reason, and dayly tryed by experience (London: printed for William Jones)

Keller, Alex. 1990. ‘The physical nature of man: science, medicine, mathematics’, in Humanism in Renaissance Scotland, ed. by John MacQueen (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), 97122

Lesse, Robert. 1580. A brief view of all baths (London)

M[ure], A[ndrew]. 1636. Pidax Petreia, or, The disc[ov]erie of S. Peters well, [a]t Peter-head, in Scotland being in latitude 57.d.43.m. and in longitude 22.d.40.m. : shewing the admirable vertues thereof, against many deplorable diseases / by A.M. student in medicine (Edinburgh: printed by the heirs of Andro Hart)

Murray Jones, Peter. 2011. ‘Medical literacies and medical culture in early modern England’, in Medical Writing in Early Modern English, ed. by Päivi Pahta and Irma Taavitsainen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 3043

Pahta, Päivi and Irma Taavitsainen. 2004. ‘Vernacularisation of scientific and medical writing in its sociohistorical context’, in Medical and Scientific Writing in Late Medieval English, ed. by Päivi Pahta and Irma Taavitsainen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 122

Palmer, Richard. 1990. ‘“In this our lightye and learned tyme”: Italian baths in the era of the Renaissance’, in The Medical History of Waters and Spas, suppl. no. 10 of Medical History, ed. by Roy Porter (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine), 1422

Paracelsus. 1655. Of the supreme mysteries of nature.  Of the spirits of the planets.  Of occult philosophy.  The magical, sympathetical, and antipathetical cure of wounds and diseases. The mysteries of the twelve signs of the zodiack. Englished by R. Turner, philomathes (London)

Porter, Roy. 1990. ‘Introduction’, in The Medical History of Waters and Spas, suppl. no. 10 of Medical History, ed. by Roy Porter (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine), viixii

Skene, Gilbert. 1568. Ane breif descriptioun of the pest, quhairin the causis, signis and sum speciall preservatioun and cure thairof ar contenit (Edinburgh: Robert Lekpreuik)

[Skene], Gilbert. 1580. Ane breif descriptioun of the qualiteis and effectis of the well of the woman hill besyde Abirdene (Edinburgh: [John Ross])

Slack, Paul. 1979. ‘Mirrors of health and treasures of poor men: the uses of the vernacular medical literature of Tudor England’, in Health, Medicine and Mortality in the Sixteenth Century, ed. by Charles Webster (New York: Cambridge University Press), 237261

Taavitsainen, Irma. 2009a. ‘Authority and instruction in two sixteenth-century medical dialogues’, in Instructional Writing in English: Studies in Honour of Risto Hiltunen, ed. by Matti Peikola, Janne Skaffari and Sanna-Kaisa Tanskanen (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company), 105124

Taavitsainen, Irma. 2009b. ‘Early English scientific writing: new corpora, new approaches’, in Textual Healing: Studies in Medieval English Medical, Scientific and Technical Texts, ed. by Javier E. Diaz Vera and Rosario Cavallero (Bern: Peter Lang), 177201

Taavitsainen, Irma. 2009c. ‘The pragmatics of knowledge and meaning: corpus linguistic approaches to changing thought-styles in early modern medical discourse’, in Corpora: Pragmatics and Discourse, ed. by Andreas H. Jucker, Daniel Schreier and Marianne Hundt (Amsterdam: Rodopi), 3762

Taavitsainen, Irma. 2011. ‘Narratives as literary commonplaces in late medieval and early modern medical writings’, in Current Trends in Narratology, ed. by Greta Olson (Hamburg: de Gruyter), 254273

Todd, Margo. 2000. ‘Profane pastimes and the Reformed community: the persistence of popular festivities in early modern Scotland’, Journal of British Studies 39: 123156

Todd, Margo. 2002. The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Turner, William. 1562. A Booke of the natures and properties/ as well of the bathes in England as of other bathes in Germany and Italy/ very necessary for all seik persones that can not be healed without the helpe of natural bathes (Cologne: Arnold Birckman)

Walsham, Alexandra. 2008. ‘Sacred spas?  Healing springs and religion in post-Reformation Britain’, in The Impact of the European Reformation: Princes, Clergy and People, ed. by Bridget Heal and Ole Peter Grell (Aldershot: Ashgate), 209230

Walsham, Alexandra. 2011. The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Wear, Andrew. 1995a. ‘Early modern Europe, 1500-1700’, in The Western Medical Tradition, 800 BC to AD 1800, ed. by L.I. Conrad, M. Neve, V. Nutton, R. Porter and A. Wear (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 215361

Wear, Andrew. 1995b. ‘Epistemology and learned medicine in early modern England’, in Knowledge and the Scholarly Medical Traditions, ed. by Don Bates (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 151173

Wear, Andrew. 2000. Knowledge and Practice in English Medicine, 1550–1680 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Wood, Juliette. 1986. ‘Lakes and wells: mediation between the worlds in Scottish folklore’, in Scottish Language and Literature, Medieval and Renaissance: Fourth International Conference 1984 Proceedings, ed. by Dietrich Strauss and Horst W. Drescher (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1986), 525532

Robert Henryson and his Orpheus and Eurydice

Robert Henryson and his Orpheus and Eurydice

Beatrice Mameli

[1]  It has been noticed that Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice might create a sense of disappointment in its readers (Kindrick 1997: 187; Gray 1979: 209, 240). This sense of dissatisfaction could be partly due to the author’s confused and sometimes contradictory presentation of the characters and to the narrator’s ambiguous attitude towards the story; moreover, establishing the kind of readership to which the poem is targeted is problematic, since certain information about Henryson’s life is notoriously limited if not totally absent.

[2]  The fifteenth-century audience was likely to be familiar with a large number of sources concerning the myth of Orpheus; the adventures of the Thracian poet were popular both in Europe and in the British Isles (cf. Friedman 1970; Giaccherini 2002). Classical works containing the legend, like Virgil’s Georgics, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, were still read in Latin but also translated into vernacular languages. In addition, medieval scholars such as William De Conches and Nicholas Trivet provided detailed commentaries in which the moral value of the legend was underlined (Friedman 1970: 90-145; Nauta 1997: 41-42). Finally, Christian theologians saw in Orpheus a figura Christi, as his descent to Hades to rescue Eurydice was read as an anticipation of Christ’s advent to save mankind (Friedman 1970: 38-85, 125-27).

[3]  In Britain, knowledge of this myth dates back to the Roman conquest, and representations of Orpheus can be seen on the mosaic pavements of some Roman villas. (Examples of these mosaics can be seen in Brading Villa (Isle of Wight), in Barton Farm (Cirencester), in the mosaic of Dyer Street (Cirencester), in Horkstow Hall (Lincolnshire) and in Woodchester Roman Villa (Gloucestershire) (Vieillefon 2003 : 69).) The literary evidence demonstrates a continuous tradition. Apart from some translations and adaptations of the Latin texts, notably King Alfred’s translation of Boethius and Chaucer’s Boece, and the Middle English lay Sir Orfeo, there are several references to Orpheus – for example, in the Liber Monstrorum and in Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium – which suggests that medieval readers were quite familiar with the legend. Moreover, from this variety of texts belonging to different traditions one can infer that, by Henryson’s time, the figure of Orpheus was associated not only with philosophical reflection but also with courtly literature and romance.

[4]  In his poem, Henryson follows the Boethian version of the story, and Trivet’s commentary to it, or at least this is what it is claimed in the final moralitas. However, it is very likely that Henryson knew also other sources concerning the Orphic myth and that these might somehow have influenced his work. In this paper, I will try to analyse some possible sources of the poem through the problems and contradictions in the presentation of the characters, in order to try to understand  what kind of audience the poet was actually addressing and how Henryson managed to handle all the different extant traditions regarding the Thracian poet.

Orpheus: the disappointing perfect hero
[5]  As far as the hero of the poem is concerned, Henryson provides his readers with a good deal of information about Orpheus, and initially presents him as a perfect hero; however, in the end, the expectations the poet creates will be disappointed.

[6]  Henryson includes a description of the union of the hero’s ancestors – who are only vaguely mentioned in Sir Orfeo, where it is said that the hero was a descendant of ‘King Pluto’ and ‘King Juno,’ once believed to be gods because of their great deeds – and a long presentation of the Muses, something which in the other versions of the legend is generally absent (Bliss (ed.) 1966: ll. 43-6). Henryson seems here concerned to show clearly from the beginning his complete knowledge of what ‘out of Grew in Latyne translait is’ (Fox (ed.) 1981; l. 42 – all subsequent quotations from Sir Orfeo and from Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice use these two editions, and give line numbers only), even inviting his readers to ‘correct him’ if his rendition is wrong (l. 28). The aim of this long introduction – 64 lines – is to underline Orpheus’ ‘gentilnes’ of blood, which should somehow ensure a corresponding nobility of action. However, the sense of expectancy thus created will be frustrated in the end, as this noble hero fails in his quest.

[7]  Orpheus is said to be the son of the god Apollo and the muse Calliope. In the moralitas, they are identified with wisdom and eloquence respectively (ll. 425-6). The Thracian poet is the result of the union of these two virtues and therefore Henryson observes that “No wounder is thocht he was fair and wyse, gentill and full of liberalite” (ll. 65-6). So far, then, the poem seems to respect the canons of medieval romance, where the hero is usually endowed with all the noblest qualities. However, the narrator seems to focus more on the fact that Orpheus received these virtues from his ancestors rather than on the hero’s actual merits. Orpheus is up to this point depicted as a passive character; he will not be attributed any real action until he asks the maid what happened to Eurydice (l. 117). Until then, he is simply the object of the other characters’ actions.

[8]  Beauty, gentleness and generosity were at the time implicitly attributed to Orpheus, who, in Old French and Middle English literature, had become a hero of courtly love. In Sir Orfeo, which is with all probability one of the other sources for the Scottish poem, the protagonist is described as ‘A stalworth man and hardi bo; Large and curteys’, welcoming generously any minstrel who visits his court (ll. 41-2, 27-8). These elements are recalled in Henryson’s description of Orpheus as ‘of statur large, and farly fair of face’ (l. 72), just as the scene of Eurydice’s death, on a warm spring morning, is very similar to the setting of Dame Herodis’ abduction in Sir Orfeo. From the beginning of the poem, Henryson presents his Orpheus as dependant both on the classical sources concerning the myth, and on the medieval tradition of romance, which had appropriated the figure of the Thracian poet.

[9]  The hero’s physical characteristics and his ‘noble fame’ are the principal reasons Eurydice chooses Orpheus for a husband. His conduct, however, does not seem particularly wise, since he apparently accepts Eurydice only because he has been seduced by her kisses and loving glances (ll. 81-4). Furthermore, when the maid announces to Orpheus that his wife is dead, his reaction is far from the composed grief of a wise man, and very similar to madness. Henryson describes him as ‘inflammit all in ire, | And rampand as ane lyoun ravenus, | With awfull luke and ene glowand as fyre’ (ll. 120-22). Even the comparison with the lion here assumes a negative connotation. In medieval bestiaries, this animal was ambiguously renowned for its nobility and generosity, but also feared for its ferocity and aggressiveness (Ciccarese 2007: 13; Hast 1999: 3). King Orpheus is correctly compared to the king of animals, but Henryson unexpectedly mentions the most realistic and dangerous aspects of the lion and makes no reference to its symbolic virtues. Besides, it is remarkable that Orpheus, the tamer of wild beasts, should be  compared to a ravenous animal which is unable to control itself, and that he should display an attitude quite inappropriate for someone initially described as ‘wise’ and ‘gentill’. Henryson seems to recall traditional notions, only to reject them the next moment or to combine them in a surprising manner.

[10]  Moreover, where the protagonist of Sir Orfeo leaves his steward in charge of his reign (ll. 204-8) before starting a composed and almost religious retirement in the forest, Henryson’s Orpheus runs to the wood wringing his hands, without worrying about the future of the kingdom he had received through marrying Eurydice. Not only is Orpheus dependant on his wife for his power and riches in Thrace, but in his grief he forgets all his wisdom and nearly surrenders to insanity:

Quhen scho had said, the king sichit full sore:
His hert ner birst for werray dule and wo
Half out of mynd, he maid na tary more,
Bot tuke his harpe and to the wod can go
Wryngand his handis, walkand to and fro         (ll. 127-31)

The hero’s search for Eurydice here assumes the traits of a medieval quest; Henryson even expands the traditional journey to the otherworld, having his Orpheus visit the heavens before descending to Hades. The poet’s journey, however, seems to lack the sense of heroism one would expect. Orpheus, for instance, is said to start from ‘Wadlyng Strete’ (l. 188), which was another name for the Milky Way, but also a real road from London to Wroxeter (cf. ‘Watling Street’, OED). Whatever Henryson had in mind, the reference to the Milky Way as if it was a mere street diminishes the magnificence of the hero’s journey to the otherworld. Furthermore, Orpheus’ experience with celestial harmony proves to be rather odd: the marvellous secrets he is said to have learnt among the spheres are actually a catalogue of Pythagorean proportions and a series of corresponding intervals. It has been suggested that this passage might conceal a complicated symbolic structure deriving from different compositions of the figures implied by the musical proportions (MacQueen 2006: 255-60). Nevertheless, Orpheus’ discovery was probably something far from obscure or innovative to the readers of his time as music was an essential subject in the quadrivium (English 1994: 12), and intervals and proportions were widely studied by music theorists (Auda 1930: 47).

Thare lerit he tonys proportionate,
As duplar, triplar, and emetricus;
Emoleus and eke the quadruplate;
Epogdyus, rycht hard and curius;
And of thir sex, suete and dilicius,
Ryght consonant, fyve hevynly symphonyis
Componyt ar, as clerkis can deuise.
First dyatesseron, full suete i wis;
And dyapason, symple and duplate;
And dyapente, componyt with a dys;
This makis fyve, of thre multiplicate.
This mery musik and mellifluate,
Complete and full wyth nowmeris od and evyn,
Is causit be the moving of the hevyn.         (ll. 226-39)

It is possible that here Henryson, who dismisses the matter immediately after saying that he was never able to sing a note in his whole life (ll. 240-2), wanted to play with his readers by presenting a confusing list of simple concepts as an otherworldly revelation. Alternatively, he might have meant to deflate the figure of Orpheus by attributing to him a discovery which was simply part of everyday life. Moreover, this latter interpretation could imply that Henryson was writing more for an educated audience than for readers who were just at the beginning of their studies, as the traditional image of the poet as the schoolmaster of Dunfermline might suggest.

[11]  Orpheus’ only episode of ‘heroism’ seems to occur when he passes among the souls condemned to the tortures of hell and relieves their pain with the power of his music (ll. 275-302); nevertheless, the scene focuses more on the illustration of the torments of the damned souls, on a Dantesque inclusion of historical and mythological figures in hell, and on anti-clerical polemics, than on the hero’s courage or abilities. Henryson seems to use the hero’s descent to Hell more to insert an erudite digression on the destiny after death of great mythological figures, after the tradition of Chaucer’s Monk’s Tale and of Lydgate’s Fall of Princes, than to magnify the protagonist’s actions. Therefore, the poet is probably addressing an audience which was already so well acquainted with this specific aspect of the myth, and with the musical skills of the hero, that it was useless to spend extra lines exalting them. Similarly, in the wood scene, the traditional taming of animals and plants is nearly absent, but for a brief reference to trees dancing a merry melody to comfort the harper (ll. 144-47).

[12]  While in other versions of the legend the apex of the story is the wood scene or the descent to Hades, here these aspects are apparently unimportant or merely implied. Even the medieval vision of Orpheus as the personification of eloquence seems absent (Friedman 1970: 112): during his encounter with the Queen and King of Hell, he does not pronounce brave or persuasive speeches, as occurs, for instance, in Poliziano’s Fabula d’Orfeo (Gray 1979: 226). Apart from his address to Eurydice, he actually hardly speaks in Hell. Besides, in the moral explanation, Henryson indicates the harp, not Orpheus, as the symbol of eloquence, leaving the readers in doubt whether he meant to use a metonymy to indicate the player, or to suggest that the Thracian poet would not have succeeded in his quest without his instrument.

[13]  Moreover, while the poet of Sir Orfeo spends about thirteen lines (ll. 25-38) celebrating the musical skills of the protagonist and his dedication to the study of the harp, Henryson only mentions that his mother ‘gart him sowke of hir twa palpis quhyte the sweit licour of all musike parfyte’ (ll. 67-70). As Denton Fox observes, this could be a rendering of Boethius, who writes that Orpheus exploited “all that he drank with thirsty draught from his high mother’s chiefest spring” (Fox 1962: 395; Stewart (ed.) 1953: 294). However, Orpheus’s ability is something he has inherited from his ancestors, just like his noble blood and ‘gentilness’. His skill magically allows him to overcome any obstacle in his way but will prove useless when the resolution of the quest is centred on his own moral strength; not even the privilege of such an extraordinary musical gift will help Orpheus to fulfil the only condition imposed upon the return of his wife. Unlike most analogues, Henryson gives an explanation for Orpheus’ looking back; the Thracian poet is blinded by love and forgets the condition imposed by the infernal gods. The idea of blindness preventing Orpheus from rescuing his wife may recall the Boethian wish to behold the spring of eternal good, something which Orpheus and Eurydice, who celebrate their apparent victory by talking about earthly things such as ‘play and sport’ (l. 385), are evidently incapable of doing.

[14]  Finally, after failing in his quest, Orpheus is described as going back a sad widower, a definition which is rather unflattering for a hero who is traditionally considered the inventor of music, the best harpist in the ancient world, the king of Thrace, the personification of eloquence and, because of his katabasis, a figura Cristi. It is possible that Henryson wanted the conclusion of his story to focus on the grief of his hero, but he actually seems to have created a parable of progressive disillusionment from the initial celebration of the hero through his noble ancestors to the final definition of the Thracian poet as a common widower, in which the initial expectations about the hero are disappointed.

Eurydice, the earthly Thracian Queen
[15]  Even though not as complex as Orpheus, Eurydice is not much easier to define; above all, it is difficult to understand whether she is a positive figure – since she is the object and the reason for Orpheus’ quest – and something the readers presumably hope he will attain, or something negative and earthly which should be left behind in order to reach perfection, as is suggested in Boethius’s Consolation (Stewart (ed.) 1953: 296, ll.52-58).

[16]  All we know about her is that she is beautiful and rich, but nothing is said explicitly about her associations, unlike in Sir Orfeo, where Dame Herodis is described as beautiful, but also as virtuous. We can infer that when Henryson states that Eurydice thought it no shame to propose to Orpheus (l. 80), he might be implicitly condemning this conduct. On the other hand, in chivalric literature a lady proposing to the hero is not so unusual as one might expect, even though in these cases she is often described as a fairy, as can be seen in the Anglo-Norman lay Sir Lanval (Walter (ed.) 2000: 172). This may be an allusion to Eurydice’s portrait as a nymph in the classical sources, and could explain why Proserpine, here presented as a fairy queen, decides to summon the Thracian queen to her court as soon as death strikes her.

[17]  Furthermore, the poet describes Eurydice as directing ‘blenkis amorous’ to Orpheus (l. 81); as Denton Fox notes, the same expression can be found also in the description of Venus in the Testament (1962: 396), where the goddess is said to be full of provoking and loving glances and to become angry and hateful the next moment (ll. 226-28). The fact that Henryson attributed to Eurydice the same words he had used for his inconstant Venus suggests that an equally vain nature is to be attributed to Eurydice, or at least that the two characters have a common, earthly nature.  This impression is reinforced some lines later where the union between Orpheus and Eurydice is compared to a worldly joy, destined to vanish in a short time, like a flower. Orpheus’ fruitless quest for Eurydice in heaven is also rather indicative of Henryson’s moral judgement about the Thracian Queen. Fox argues that Orpheus’ adventure in the spheres could be a development of Trivet’s commentary, where Orpheus tries to convince the celestial gods to give him his wife back before going to look for her in Hades (1962: 399). Nevertheless, Henryson’s insistence on the fact that she cannot be found in heaven seems rather to qualify her in a negative way, especially when we consider that she is destined for what resembles a Christian Hell more than a pagan Hades.

[18]  In the moralitas, she is simply defined as the sensual part of the soul, and thus as something earthly which should be abandoned in order to reach more elevated goods, as in the traditional interpretation of the story. This is somehow in line with her general presentation in the poem, where all the information given regards her bodily and sensual nature. For example, during the scene of her death, Henryson focuses on her being ‘barfute with schankis quhytar than the snawe’ (l. 100), and on her shattered heart (l. 108). The detail of Eurydice walking barefoot is quite interesting, as it is not present in Ovid or Virgil or Boethius, the most popular Latin sources. Although this is useful to the plot in facilitating Eurydice’s being bitten by the snake, it is not essential: there are many illuminations showing Eurydice wearing a pair of boots and being bitten on her ankle (see, for instance, a manuscript of the Ovide Moralisé now at the Bibliothèque de la Ville, Lyon (Ms. 742. fol. 166r  )). Indeed, according to medieval bestiaries, snakes were believed to avoid naked men and women (Ciccarese 1999: 271). Henryson might be recalling here the Ovide Moralisé, where Eurydice is said to be walking barefoot on green fields (De Boer (ed.) 1915-38: 1). In this work, her walking barefoot in the green meadows is later compared to running without defence among earthly pleasures and vices (De Boer (ed.) 1915-38: 17, ll.212-21); it is not to be excluded that Henryson had a similar allegory in mind and that he considered the Thracian queen partly responsible for her own end because of her earthly and sinful nature.
Even Orpheus, when addressing his queen, seems concerned mostly with her altered external appearance.

Quhare is thy rude as rose wyth chekis quhite,
Thy cristall eyne with blenkis amorouse,
Thi lippis rede to kis diliciouse?         (ll. 354-56)

The celebration of the woman through the description of her body is of course not uncommon in love poetry, but here, as in the rest of the poem, Orpheus seems to focus only on the physical beauty of his wife, without even considering the moral aspects of her character.

[19]  The reader is thus disoriented. Orpheus is a hero who, according to the opening lines, should set an example. Yet while his love object does incarnate the ideal beauty of chivalric literature, she is far from embodying the inspiring virtue of courtly love heroines, who somehow guide the hero through a process of perfection. On the contrary, as Jill Mann suggests, she is the principal cause of Orpheus’ descent from Heaven to Hell (1990: 96). Henryson’s Eurydice exemplifies the contrast between the courtly tradition of Sir Orfeo, where the hero’s retirement in the wood and his subsequent quest for his wife represent a way to attain exceptional musical skills and to re-establish the initial positive situation, and the allegorical interpretation of the myth given by the commentaries, which present Eurydice as the negative, earthly part of the human soul (Friedman 1970: 107, 113).

Aristeus: a virtuous rapist
[20]  The most stunning contradiction between the narrative and the moralitas is probably the definition of Aristeus as the personification of human virtue; it has even been argued that the moralitas might not have been written by Henryson (MacQueen 1967: 27). Once again, this moral explanation squares with what can be read in Trivet’s commentary, which  reports Fulgentius’ etymological interpretation  of the characters (Fox 1962: 385). Aristeus there is interpreted as deriving from aristos, the superlative of the adjective meaning “good” (Helm 1970: 77). And yet here Aristeus can hardly be defined as virtuous. His only function in the story seems to be that of causing Eurydice’s escape in the meadow: the poet therefore does not even assign him a specific profession, simply calling him a ‘hird’ who keeps ‘beists’. He is present also in other versions of the story, such as Poliziano’s Fabula d’Orfeo; but while the Italian Aristeo behaves like a courtly lover, Henryson’s hird simply acts as a rapist who is unable to control his lust when he sees a ‘lady ying’ or a ‘lady solitar’ (Petrina 2002: 388-9). It is indeed quite surprising that Henryson’s example of perfect virtue should be a shepherd who hides among the bushes in order to attack lonely women, just like the fairies described in the tale of the Wife of Bath. Moreover, the parallel with Chaucer’s tale might be extended also to the Wife’s statement that in present days, the lecherous fairies are replaced by friars:

The elf-queene, with hir joly compaignye,
Daunced ful ofte in many a grene mede.
This was the olde opinion, as I rede;
I speke of manye hundred yeres ago.
But now kan no man se none elves mo,
For now the grete charitee and prayeres
of lymytour and othere hooly freres,
That serchen every lond and every streem
Wommen may go saufly up and doun.
In every bussh or under every tree
Ther is noon oother incubus but he,
And he ne wol doon hem but dishonour. (Benson 2008, 116-17; ll. 860-81)

Aristeus’ chase for Eurydice is traditionally interpreted as virtue trying to get hold of the sensual part of the soul and tame it. This is not far from the idea of a priest, the representative of the Church often symbolised as a ‘shepherd,’ who tries to bring the human soul to salvation. This description of Aristeus, together with the poem’s dissonant moral explanation, might be an indirect attack on contemporary clergy just like the Chaucerian tale. Some lines later, when Orpheus visits the underworld, Henryson explicitly condemns to hell many popes and bishops; the anti-clerical protest is therefore already present in his work.

[21]  The equivalence between Aristeus and human virtue could be applied to Poliziano’s character, who laments his impossible love for Eurydice in philosophical and abstract terms, according to the principle of Arcadian literature, where those who enjoyed a simple and rustic life, such as shepherds, could nevertheless be capable of refined and poetic feelings. This cannot be found in Henryson, who in Robene and Makyne rejects the possibility that courtly love might be accessible to simple people, such as the shepherd Robene (ll. 9-11; Fox 1962: 176).

[22]  Though present only for a few lines, Aristeus represents another example of an incongruity between how a character is initially presented and how he is then revealed to be. If we assume that Henryson wrote both the narrative and the moralitas, this could be the poet’s way of playing with his readers and affirming his awareness as an author, the only one who has the power to decide the real nature and meaning of his own creations, even against the reader’s expectations.

Pluto and Proserpine: the infernal elven gods
[23]  In this poem, the lords of Hades bear the names which can be found in the classical tradition. It is interesting to notice that, for the king of the underworld, Henryson uses the name ‘Rodomantus’ in line 308, and then the more traditional ‘Pluto’ from line 344. As Fox notes, this is probably a reference to Trivet’s commentary, where the lord of Hades is mistakenly identified with Radamantus, who can be found in Virgil’s Aeneid as the judge of souls (1962: 406). Henryson’s switch without explanation from Radamantus to Pluto suggests that he expected his readers to be acquainted with Trivet’s commentary.

[24]  The sovereigns of Hades are also presented as queen and king of the Fairies; Proserpina is indicated as the ‘quene of fary’ (l. 125) after Eurydice’s death, while Pluto explicitly defines himself as an elf (ll. 359-361) immediately before Orpheus’ performance in Hell. This could be the result of the convergence of the many traditions regarding the sovereigns of classical Hades, some of which were probably still popular in the Middle Ages, and the fairies, which became their equivalent in medieval folklore, as can be seen in Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale, and could help us understand further the complex pattern of sources behind the poem.

[25]  As far as the classical sources are concerned, the figure of Pluto is present in Boethius, even if he is not named. He and his wife are simply defined as the lords of the shadows (‘umbrarum dominos’ – l. 28; ‘arbiter umbrarum’ – ll. 40-41; De Boer 1953: 296). Ovid, on the other hand, uses the name Persephone (l. 15), the Greek variant of Proserpine, to designate the queen of Hell and a generic ‘the lord who there rules’ (‘regna tenentem’ l. 15) to indicate Pluto (Page (ed.) 1958: 64). Something similar occurs in Virgil, where Proserpine seems to be the one who imposes the condition of not looking back and Pluto is called ‘regem tremendum,’ ‘the fearful king’ (Goold (ed.) 1999: 252, l.469)). However, both names appear in the Ovide Moralisé, where a brief account of the rape of Proserpine is also given:

Amours fist faire la rapine
De vous deus et l’assemblement.
Se la renommee ne ment,
Pluto Proserpine ravit
Par amours, si tost qu’il la vit.         (De Boer (ed.) 1915-38: 13,  ll.78-82)

The legend of the abduction of Proserpine by the King of the otherworld probably reinforced the medieval identification of Pluto with the King of the Fairies, which can be found, as already mentioned, in The Merchant’s Tale, where Proserpine is also present as Pluto’s wife:

And so byfel, that brighte morwe-tyde
That in that gardyn, in the ferther syde,
Pluto, that is Kyng of the Fayerye,
And many a lady in his compaignye,
Folwynge his wyf, the queene Proserpyna,
Which that he ravyssed out of [Ethna]         (Benson (ed.) 2008: 166, ll. 2225-30)

[26]  In the presentation of the sovereigns of Hades, Henryson seems to be recalling above all Sir Orfeo. In the Middle English lay, Eurydice is abducted by the King of the Fairies – although we are not told his name – and disappears, as happens in Henryson’s poem. Furthermore, in both cases she is appointed a special member of the Fairy court: in the lay, she goes out hunting richly attired with the other elven ladies (ll. 303-322) and, in both poems, she dwells in what seems a privileged condition in the fairy world, since she does not undergo any kind of torment. Henryson apparently places her among the members of the court of Pluto and Proserpine, as Orpheus spots her ‘quare Pluto was’ (ll. 345-48). Finally, as in Sir Orfeo (ll. 447-452), in Henryson the sovereigns of Hades treat Orpheus as if he were a professional minstrel. After his performance they ask him how he shall be rewarded, and appear more moved by the sound of his harp than by his sad story (ll. 371-374).

[27]  However, unlike the fairy lords in Sir Orfeo, Pluto and Proserpine here keep their word without contesting the hero’s request: Pluto’s court might be a doleful and dark place, but justice is respected there. They are no real enemies to Orpheus, who has only himself to blame for his failure, for it is he who breaks the promise made to Proserpine to respect her condition.

[28]  The condition of not looking back is set by the queen of Hell, who justifies her request by saying that it is necessary because it was she who brought Eurydice there. After being bitten by the snake, Eurydice is said to fall into a deadly swoon and to disappear, since Proserpine had summoned her to the fairy court. It is not clear why Eurydice’s case requires Proserpine’s intervention. As has already been suggested, it may be because of Eurydice’s classical connection with the nymph world, or because of the medieval belief that fairies would kidnap people in their sleep, and keep them in a deathlike state, and Eurydice’s deadly swoon could be seen as a kind of sleep (Johnson & Williams (ed.) 1984: 14). However, Proserpine seems to include Eurydice in her court on rightful terms, unlike in Sir Orfeo, where the king of the fairies simply abducts the queen when the possibility arises.

[29]  In creating his Pluto and Proserpine, Henryson seems to assemble different traditions; he was certainly acquainted with the classical myth, or at least with the Boethian version, but he nevertheless decided to add the fairy element to his poem, either because of the popularity of this association, or to reinforce the parallel with some of his sources for the Orphic legend, or even to create a setting which would recall the typical adventures of romance literature.

[30]  In conclusion, Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice prompts many doubts regarding the delineation of the characters and the identification of their possible antecedents and sources. The hero presents evident contradictions; his wife is described in an extremely ambiguous manner; and Aristeus’ behaviour creates a comic contrast with the allegorical interpretation. What seems to begin as an epic quest ends with an embarrassing failure; similarly, the moralitas, which should provide the readership with the keys that will enable it to understand the allegorical messages contained in the poem, is not fully convincing.

[31]  The most evident outcome of these contradictions is an impression of irony and literary satire, which may be more present in this poem than one might expect. Henryson uses a great deal of irony elsewhere: for example, at the beginning of the Testament of Cresseid, where he describes himself as an old man incapable of celebrating the rites dedicated to Venus because of his age (ll. 22-42). An ironic approach is also present in the Moral Fabillis, in, for example ‘The Taill of the Cock, and the Jasp’ or ‘The Fox, the Wolf, and the Cadger,’ where narration and moralitas have a most unexpected correlation.

[32]  A comic intent can also be seen in the dialogue between Orpheus and Eurydice in Hell. When he finally finds his bride, Orpheus addresses her with loving but hackneyed questions, asking what happened to her beauty, which she seems to have lost with death. She answers in a concise and dismissive way that he shall learn the reason another day. And Pluto’s quickly adding that there is nothing wrong with Eurydice, that she is simply turning into an elf and that she will be well just as soon as she goes back to her land of Thrace – something both readers and author know to be impossible – definitely ridicules Orpheus’ rhetorical speech (ll. 352-365). Moreover, the scene focuses on Orpheus’ not knowing what has happened to his wife – something actually self-evident –  and it is odd that this should happen to a hero who is considered one of the founders of western knowledge.

[33]  As for the literary influences behind the work, the genealogy of the poem is certainly controversial and impossible to identify with any certainty. However, it is clear that what Henryson wanted to achieve is a balanced fusion of different traditions. The classic legends about Orpheus find their place here together with their translations and courtly adaptations. Some of these adaptations belonged to literary traditions which had already been over-exploited by his time, as in the case of medieval romance, and could therefore be looked at with irony, or could even appear incompatible with other sources. The figure of Eurydice is a case in point, since she cannot incarnate both the chivalric object of the hero’s love and the Boethian sensual part of the soul without creating a sense of ambiguity. Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice assembles much of what had been produced about the Orphic myth, the otherworld, music and planets; however, Henryson does not passively accept the literary authorities he depends on, but underlines their limits with an ironic approach and by showing their contradictions to a readership which was sufficiently acquainted with these traditions to appreciate his refined pattern of references and his irony.


Primary sources

Atkinson, J. K., and Anna Maria Babbi (eds). 2000. L’Orphée de Boèce au Moyen Âge: traductions françaises et commentaires latins, 12.-15. siècles (Verona : Fiorini)

Bennet, J.A. W. (ed.). 1985. Robert Henryson: Poems (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Benson, Larry D. (ed.). 2008. The Riverside Chaucer (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Benvenuti, Antonia Tassoni (ed.) 1986. L’Orfeo del Poliziano (con il testo critico dell’originale e delle successive forme teatrali) (Padova: Editrice Antenore)

Bergen, Henry (ed.). 1969. Lydgate’s Fall of Princes (London: Oxford University Press)

Bliss, A. J. (ed.) 1966. Sir Orfeo (London: Oxford University Press)

Bologna, Corrado (ed.). 1977. Liber Monstrorum de diversis generi bus (Milano: Bompiani)

Brooke, C. N. L., and R. A. B. Mynors (eds). 1983.Walter Map: De Nugis Curialium (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Bower, Calvin M., and Claude V. Palisca (eds). 1989. Boethius, Fundamentals of Music (New Haven: Yale University Press)

De Boer, C. (ed.). 1915-1938. Ovide Moralisé. Poème du commencement du quatorzième siècle, publié d’apreès tous les manuscripts connu (Amsterdam: N. V. Noord Hollandsche Uitgavers-Maatschapplt)

Fox, Denton (ed.). 1981. The Poems of Robert Henryson (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Goold, G. P. (ed.) 1999. Virgil: Eclogues, Georgics, Aeneid 1-6 (London: Harvard University Press)

Johnson, Lesley, and Elizabeth Williams (eds). 1984. Sir Orfeo and Sir Launfal (Leeds: The University of Leeds School of English)

Kindrick,  Robert L. (ed.). 1997. The Poems of Robert Henryson (Kalamazoo:  Medieval Institute Publications)

Neri, Moreno (ed.). 2007. Macrobio, Commento al sogno di Scipione (Milano: Bompiani)

Page, T. E. et al. (eds). 1958 (1916). Ovid: Metamorphoses (London: Harvard University Press)

Parkinson, David J. (ed.). 2010. Robert Henryson, The Complete Works (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications) <http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/pdrhoef.htm>

Reale, Giovanni (ed.). 2000. Platone, Timeo (Milano: Bompiani)

Stewart, H. F. (ed.). 1953 (1918). Boethius: The Theological Tractates and the Consolation of Philosophy (London: Harvard University Press)

Walsh, P. G. (ed.). 1999. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

Walter, Philippe (ed.). 2000. Marie de France, Lais (Saint-Amand: Gallimard)

Secondary Material

Babbi, Anna Maria (ed.), Le metamorfosi di Orfeo: convegno internazionale, Verona, 28-30 maggio 1998, (Verona : Fiorini, 1999)

Barbera, André (ed.), Music Theory and its Sources: Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame, 1990)

Bawcutt,  Priscilla. 1981. ‘Henryson’s “Poeit of the Auld Fassoun” ’, The Review of English Studies 32: 429-434.

Browne, William Hand. 1910. ‘The Transformations of a Legend’, The Sewanee Review 18: 404-413.

Ciccarese, Maria Pia (ed.). 2007. Animali Simbolici: alle origini del bestiario cristiano (Bologna: Centro editoriale dehoniano)

English, Brigitte. 1994. Die Artes Liberales in Frȕhen Mittelalter (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag)

Friedman, John Block. 1970. Orpheus in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press)

Fox, Denton. 1962. ‘Henryson’s Fables’, ELH 29: 337-356

Giaccherini, Enrico. 2002. Orfeo in Albione: tradizione colta e tradizione popolare della letteratura inglese medievale  (Pisa: Edizioni Plus)

Gray, Douglas, 1979. Robert Henryson (Leiden: Brill)

Gros Louis, Kenneth, R. R. 1966. ‘Robert Henryson’s  Orpheus and Eurydice and the Orpheus Traditions of the Middle Ages’, Speculum 41: 643-655

Guidorizzi, Giulio and Marxiano Melotti (eds.) 2005. Orfeo e le sue metamorfosi: mito, arte, poesia (Roma: Carocci)

Hassing, Debra (ed.) 1999. The Mark of the Beast: The Medieval Bestiary in Art, Life and Literature (London: Garland Publishing)

Heilman, Anja, 2007. Boethius Musiktheorie und das Quadrivium (Gȍttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht)

Hoenen,  M. J. F. M., and Lodi Nauta (eds.). 1997. Boethius in the Middle Ages, Latin and Vernacular Traditions of the Consolatio Philosophiae (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill)

Holsinger, Bruce W.. 2001. Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture (Stanford: Stanford University Press)

Mann, Jill. 1990.  ‘The Planetary Gods in Chaucer and Henryson’, in Chaucer Traditions: Studies in Honour of Derek Brewer, ed. by Ruth Morse & Barry Windeatt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 91-106

Martin, Joanna. 2008. Kingship and Love in Scottish Poetry, 1424-1540 (Aldershot: Ashgate)

McKim, Anne M., 2006. ‘Orpheus and Eurydice and The Testament of Cresseid: Robert Henryson’s Fine Poeticall Way’ in  A Companion to Medieval Scottish Poetry, ed. by Priscilla J. Bawcutt and Janet Hadley Williams (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer), 105-118

MacQueen, John. 1967. Robert Henryson: A Study of the Major Narrative Poems (Oxford: Clarendon Press)

_____.  2006. Complete and Full with Numbers: The Narrative Poetry of Robert Henryson (Amsterdam, Rodopi)

Petrina, Alessandra. 2002. ‘“Aristaeus Pastor Adamans”: the human setting in Henryson’s Orpheus and Eurydice and its kinship with Poliziano’s Fabula di Orpheo’, Forum for Modern Languages Studies 4: 382-395

_____. 2008. ‘Robert Henryson’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” and Its Sources’, Fifteenth-Century Studies 33: 198-217

Rossi, Sergio. 1955. Robert Henryson (Milano: Marzorati)

Stearns, Marshall W. 1944.  ‘A Note on Robert Henryson’s Allusions to Religion and Law’, Modern Language Notes 59: 257-264

_____. 1945. ‘A Note on Henryson and Lydgate’, Modern Language Notes 60: 101-103

_____. 1949. Robert Henryson (New York: Columbia University Press)

Strom, Reinhard, and Bonnie J. Blackburn (eds). 2001. Music as Concept and Practice in the Late Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Vieillefon, Laurence. 2003. La figure d’Orphée dans l’antiquité tardive: les mutations d’un mythe: du héros païen au chantre chrétien (Paris: De Boccard)

Wittig, Kurt. 1978. The Scottish Tradition in Literature (Edinburgh: The Mercat Press)

Roswall and Lillian, the ‘Lord of Learne’ and the Study of Medieval Romance and the Early-Modern Ballad

Roswall and Lillian, the ‘Lord of Learne’ and the Study of Medieval Romance and the Early-Modern Ballad

Rhiannon Purdie

[1]  The short attractive romance of Roswall and Lillian was first brought to wider scholarly attention in 1805 by George Ellis, who described (but did not edit) it for his Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances (Vol. III: 292-3). Before this, though, it had found an admirer in Sir Walter Scott, who acquired a copy of it as a boy (Corson, 1962: 203): Scott would go on to collect at least two more for his vast library at Abbotsford. The indefatigable nineteenth-century Edinburgh scholar David Laing was also very taken with this romance, publishing two editions in quick succession in 1822 and 1826 (details in Purdie, forthcoming 2013). Brief and charming, Roswall and Lillian is in many ways an exemplary medieval romance, following the exile and return of its modest princeling hero Roswall. After a testing period in which he appears to have been cheated of his birthright by a treacherous steward, he simultaneously wins his true love Lillian and regains his inheritance by fighting incognito in a three-day tournament. Its narrative pace is swift — the longest extant print is only 877 lines — and it adopts a plain diction unadorned by any displays of learned rhetoric. It is also written in the four-stress, or octosyllabic, rhyming couplet that was used regularly for romances and much other narrative material in Middle English, and latterly early Scots, throughout the fourteenth century (see for example Barbour’s Bruce of c. 1375), though its popularity waned in the face of other verse forms — including the five-stress or decasyllabic rhyming couplet — over the course of the fifteenth century.

[2]  It was recognised very early on that Roswall and Lillian was closely related to the early-modern ballad known as ‘The Lord of Learne’ or ‘The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward’ (Child 1965: vol. V, 42-58, Child ballad no. 271). The relationship between the two has accordingly been held up as a good example of either the presumed development of the early-modern narrative ballad genre from that of medieval metrical romance, or at least of a shift in literary taste that is assumed to have taken place between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, during which the ballad finally overtook its moribund sibling romance as the popular narrative vehicle of choice. The nature of the relationship between medieval romance and the narrative ballad remains an open question. It becomes even more open if we are forced to revise our view of the relationship between one particular romance and a ballad that is supposed to have developed from it: Roswall and Lillian and the ‘Lord of Learne’. This article presents a reconsideration of the evidence for the relative datings of Roswall and Lillian and the ‘Lord of Learne’ and a discussion of the consequences of this investigation, which finds that these texts are sixteenth-century contemporaries, with the ballad as likely to antedate the romance as the other way around.

[3]  Ironically, Ellis’s long-rejected suggestion that Roswall dated from the second half of the sixteenth century may well be correct (1805: III, 292-3). But David Laing, who edited Roswall from an Edinburgh black-letter print of 1663 (its earliest witness), knew that Ellis had only seen a poor eighteenth-century print of an abridged version of the text (D in Purdie, forthcoming 2013) and accordingly disagreed with him, stating that the text’s composition ‘must be referred to a still earlier age that that which [Ellis] specifies, as it might be difficult to prove that any tale of a similar description belonged to a period so recent as the sixteenth century’ (1895: vol. II, 240, italics mine). Sir Walter Scott commented in passing that ‘Within the memory of man, an old person used to perambulate the streets of Edinburgh, singing, in a monotonous cadence, the tale of Rosewal and Lilian, which is, in all the forms, a metrical romance of chivalry’ (1868: vol. V, 407; note to Fytt II, str 13 of Sir Tristrem [originally published 1804]: italics mine).

[4]  Although neither Scott nor Laing specify which aspects of Roswall they had in mind when they wrote of a ‘tale of similar description [to what Ellis had summarised]’ or a ‘metrical romance of chivalry’, it is manifestly the case that Roswall resembles other medieval metrical romances of chivalry in its content, sparse narrative style, and even in its verse form, as noted above. It is Roswall’s combination of features characteristic of the medieval ‘metrical romance of chivalry’ that Laing must have meant when he proposed that ‘any tale of a similar description’ could not have been composed as recently as the later sixteenth century. At any rate, Roswall and Lillian has ever since been accepted by modern scholarship as a late-medieval text, despite the fact that no copies or other evidence whatsoever for its existence survive from before its earliest witness, the 1663 Edinburgh print from which Laing had edited it.

[5]  Laing and other scholars also commented on its demonstrable connection to the ballad the ‘Lord of Learne’ or ‘The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward’. Although the texts are not so close as to share any actual lines, ‘The Lord of Learne’ consists of a simpler version of the plot of Roswall, and the two have some crucial correspondences. The young, exceptionally well-educated hero is sent from his native kingdom to another country (from Scotland to France in ‘Lord of Learne’; from Naples to  ‘Bealm’ – probably ‘Bohemia’ – in Roswall) in the company of a trusted steward. But when they stop for a drink at a stream, the steward threatens to drown him, steals his clothes and papers, swears him to silence, and continues to their original destination impersonating the hero. The unhappy hero also travels to France/Bealm and lives anonymously under the name of ‘Dissawar’ (in both texts) until his learning and innate nobility attracts attention. The daughter of the lord of the land falls in love with ‘Dissawar’ although she becomes engaged to the steward who is pretending to be the real Roswall/Lord of Learne’s son. The deception is revealed at the eleventh hour when messengers, who know Roswall/the Lord of Learne’s son by sight, arrive and bow to the incognito hero rather than to the steward-impostor; the wicked steward is hanged and the hero and heroine are wed.

[6]  A similar plot occurs in several otherwise unrelated folktales (Child 1965: vol. V, 45-8), but the elements that the ‘Lord of Learne’ and Roswall have in common – among them the hero’s learnedness, the traitor-steward, the threatened drowning and swearing to silence, the identity revealed by bowing messengers, and above all the fact that the hero takes the unusual name ‘Dissawar’ while penniless and in disguise – combine to indicate that there is a more direct relationship between these texts. The ‘Lord of Learne’ is, however, much shorter than the full version of Roswall – 432 lines in its longest version compared to the 880-odd lines that can be reconstructed from the extant prints of Roswall. The additional plot-elements in Roswall are:

  • that the hero has not been sent away on a whim, but banished for freeing three lords whom his father had imprisoned.
  • While working as the heroine’s chamberlain under the name of Dissawar (during which period they secretly fall in love), a three-day tournament is called to celebrate her impending marriage to the false steward impersonating Roswall.
  • Roswall does not intend to take part in the tournament, but while out in the woods hunting, he encounters a strange knight who gives him horse and armour and promises to hunt for him so that he can bring back game and keep his tourneying activities a secret. Each day brings a new mysterious knight bearing armour in the morning and victory at the tournament for Roswall by evening; he fights successively in white, red, and multi-coloured red, gold and green armour, escaping each time without claiming his prize, to the great frustration of the king.
  • The three forest knights reveal themselves to Roswall as the grateful lords whom he had once freed from his father’s prison. Lillian, meanwhile, desperately tries to persuade her father to allow her to marry Dissawar, who is stubbornly refusing to admit either to his tournament victories or to his noble birth, a fact of which she became convinced very early on (in the ‘Lord of Learne’, by contrast, she merely overhears Dissawar say that he is a lord, extracts his story from him, then writes directly to his parents in Scotland). The king says she cannot turn down a king’s son (as he takes the steward to be) so the marriage goes ahead. In the nick of time, however, the three knights appear at court and refuse to bow to ‘Roswall, prince of Naples’.

With its traditional tournament, its miniature scenes of love-longing and its structurally central theme of spontaneous generosity rewarded (Roswall is meticulous in rewarding all those who have helped him), Roswall and Lillian clearly deserves the label ‘a romance of chivalry’ and these elements are precisely what are missing from the cognate text the ‘Lord of Learne’.

[7]  It has always been assumed that the ‘Lord of Learne’ was a popularised ballad descendent of the older ‘metrical romance of chivalry’ Roswall and Lillian, one that was presumably created by jettisoning the more courtly elements of Roswall and recasting the whole in the looser four-line stanzas of early modern balladry. This assumption itself derives from certain wider beliefs about the relationship between the genres of medieval romance and the narrative ballad more generally. Holger Olof Nygard remarks: ‘It must be made clear […] that all scholars must perforce agree that a few ballads are derived from romances; the evidence is to all appearances too conclusive for anyone to think otherwise’ (1976: 2), and it has therefore — to quote Child — been ‘somewhat hastily assumed, that when romances and popular ballads have anything in common, priority belongs to the romances’ (vol. I, 98, in discussion of Child ballad no. 7, ‘Earl Brand’). Well known examples of such romance-ballad pairings are the Middle English romance of Sir Orfeo (extant by c.1330, the date of National Library of Scotland, Advocates MS 19.2.1), the fragmentary Older Scots King Orphius (National Archives of Scotland, RH 13/35, copied c.1582-6) and the nineteenth-century ballad King Orfeo (Child ballad no. 19; Lyle 2009; Stewart 1973); or Chaucer’s ‘Clerk’s Tale’ from the Canterbury Tales and the seventeenth-century Percy Folio ballad ‘Patient Grizzel’, a ballad of a mere 182 lines against Chaucer’s loquacious 1086 (Furnivall and Hales 1867: vol. III, 421-30). Another significant ballad-romance pairing, that of ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ and Thomas of Erceldoune, will be discussed further below. Child notes that although the nineteenth-century ballad ‘Hind Horn’ is clearly the same basic narrative as that found in the climax to the thirteenth-century Middle English romance of King Horn, and even closer to the fourteenth-century Horn Childe and Maiden Rimnild, none of these texts can be shown to have descended from any other or, for that matter, from the earlier Anglo-Norman Roman de Horn (Child ballad no. 17: vol. I, 193). He argues instead for oral tradition as the independent source for all four of these Horn narratives. The real question that has troubled many scholars of the history of balladry is, according to Nygard, whether the entire genre of the narrative ballad owes its origins to romance, or merely blends with it occasionally (1976). Nygard seems to favour the latter scenario, as does Child, but does not feel that there is enough evidence to make a definitive statement. Ballad historian David Fowler, on the other hand, seems to favour the romance-to-ballad theory of development: ‘The English and Scottish ballads originated in the fifteenth century when the metrical romance tradition of the later middle ages joined the mainstream of folksong to create a type of narrative song which we now call the ballad’ (1968: 18).

[8]  The evidence, such as it is, seems to demand a more complex view of the ballad-romance relationship than this. Dronke has argued strongly for a continuous (albeit difficult to trace) tradition of what can be called balladry throughout the middle ages, and furthermore one which drew constantly and copiously upon ‘higher’ literary art forms (1976). Richard Firth Green has mounted a more recent argument, from English evidence, for the deep medieval roots of narrative balladry (1997). As Thomas Garbáty puts it:

The idea of an “organic” evolution of oral literature, from epic to romance to ballad – commonly held and first suggested possibly by W. J. Courthope – is an enticing one, but in truth the only evolution we can vouch for is one of literary taste for a specific genre, not of the genre itself (1984: 285).

Nevertheless, the impression that the genre of medieval romance was succeeded, in the early modern period, by the now more vigorous tradition of narrative balladry remains even in Garbáty’s carefully nuanced account:

From the textual evidence, the romance can be seen as the big brother to the ballad, which expropriated romance vocabulary, tags, and clichés, until it finally supplanted its sibling in public taste by the end of the fifteenth century. […] After 1500 the floodgates of balladry were opened, and the springs of romance ran dry. […] We can but conjecture as to why this transfer of literary favor away from romances occurred, but, whatever the reason, these poetic dinosaurs died in the fifteenth century (Garbáty, 1984: 285).

Although he does not mean to suggest by this that romances immediately ceased to be read, the overriding impression remains one of a kind of evolutionary progression from romance to ballad.

[9]  It is this general understanding of the relationship between romance and ballad that tends to be transferred unthinkingly to that between Roswall and Lillian and the ‘Lord of Learne’, leading scholars to treat any information about the date of the ballad as an automatic terminus ad quem for the composition of the romance. Hales and Furnivall, who edit the ballad for their four-volume Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript, describe it straightforwardly as being ‘founded on the romance of Roswal and Lillian’. They note further that ‘it differs from its original in a manner characteristic of the change that had passed over the public taste’ (vol. I, 181), a description that would be echoed in more general terms by Garbáty. David Fowler conceives of the relationship between Roswall and ‘The Lord of Learne’ in similar terms to those of Hales and Furnivall:

‘The Lord of Lorn’ illustrates the achievement of the new minstrelsy, unhampered by melodic restrictions, in transforming late medieval romance into ballad form. (1968, 163: italics mine)

In the case of the other romance and ballad pairings cited above, however, at least one extant copy of the romance substantially predates the earliest known version of the ballad. This is not the case with Roswall and Lillian and ‘The Lord of Learne’. The only thing that seems to have prevented scholars from looking more closely at the evidence for the relative datings of these two texts, and at the implications of that evidence, is the strength of this conviction that a metrical romance – at least one that is as typically ‘medieval’ in content and poetic form as Roswall — must necessarily predate a related ballad. It is clearly time to reexamine the dating evidence for each text.

Roswall and Lillian: the witnesses
[10]  Roswall and Lillian comes down to us in two distinct versions, a long one of between 846 and 877 lines depending on which print is consulted (it is 884 in Lengert’s composite edition [1892] and 885 in the Scottish Text Society edition by Purdie, forthcoming 2013), and a short one of 412 lines. The five known extant copies of the Short Version — all from the second half of the eighteenth century — represent four separate prints, two certainly and a third probably from Scotland: textual variation between them is almost entirely confined to punctuation, occasional spelling variants and the odd missing line. Since almost every line of this Short Version is drawn verbatim from the Long Version, and those very few that are not have a distinctly modern feel to them (e.g. ‘Love warm’d her veins, and made her think / Him better worth than fill a drink’, lines 147-9), there is no reason to suppose that the Short Version is anything other than a later abridgement of the Long Version, probably designed to fit the twelve-page duodecimo format of so many of these cheap, popular eighteenth-century chapbook tales. It thus need not be considered further in this study of the origins of Roswall and Lillian.

[11]  There are five known printed copies of the Long Version surviving from before 1800, though they represent only two textual traditions:

1.  An 846-line black-letter print of 1663 from Edinburgh, by an unidentified ‘I. H.’ (now Edinburgh, NLS H.29.e.38)

2.  A closely related version represented by two eighteenth-century Newcastle copies extant in four copies:

a) A print of 877 lines by John White from c. 1711-60 (now Edinburgh, NLS L.C.2936).

b) A print of 873 lines by one T[homas] Saint of Newcastle from c. 1775-88, of which three copies are now known to exist: Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce PP173[6]; British Library Cup.408.i.47 (6),and item 9 of Vol. V of the six-volume Histories of John Bell of Newcastle in the Abbotsford Library of Sir Walter Scott. It is a paginary reprint — albeit with several errors introduced – of White.

Links between all three Long Version texts are readily explained. John White, who was working as a printer in Newcastle upon Tyne 1712-69, went into partnership with Thomas Saint from 1761 – from which date both names appear on their prints –and died in 1769 (Plomer 1922: 309-10; Hunt 1975: 95), after which Thomas Saint continued to print under his own name until his own death in 1788 (Hunt 1975: 81; Plomer, Bushnell, and Dix 1932: 221). John Feather describes Newcastle upon Tyne in the eighteenth century as the greatest English centre of chapbook printing outside London, a tradition which began in about 1712 with John White (1985: 101). He notes that not only do a large number of Newcastle chapbooks and ballads have a ‘distinctly Scottish flavour’, but many of the actual prints ‘especially the great output of chapbooks, are in types which appear to be of Scottish origin’ (1985: 101). Part of the incentive for Newcastle printers to produce so much Scottish material was doubtless the Scottish market. Roswall is by no means the only Scottish text to have ricocheted back and forth across the border.

[12]  Although the Edinburgh print by and large supplies the better text, corruption in it can sometimes be repaired by White’s text, demonstrating that the latter is not based directly on some copy of the former, and that both probably lie at a reasonable distance from their common printed (or manuscript) ancestor. On the other hand, Edinburgh, White and Saint all open with title-pages of virtually identical wording despite the century that lies between them, so the textual tradition of Roswall is more stable than the differing opening and closing sections of Edinburgh and White/Saint initially suggest. When might Roswall have been composed? Hornstein, in the ‘Romances’ volume of A Manual of Writings in Middle English, guesses ‘probably in the late fifteenth century’ (1967: 152), but on what basis? Neither physical witnesses nor indirect references to it predate the 1663 Edinburgh print. This is the point at which the ballad ‘The Lord of Learne’ gets drawn in and where arguments begin to get circular, so let us turn to ‘The Lord of Learne’for a moment.

The ‘Lord of Learne’: the witnesses
[13]  The earliest extant copy of ‘The Lord of Learne’ or ‘The Lord of Lorn and the False Steward’ is in the famous Percy Folio manuscript of c.1650 (British Library Addit. MS 27879, pp. 73-9). The ESTC records nine separate prints of this ballad, seven of which date from the second half of the seventeenth century and the earliest of which is roughly contemporary with the Percy Folio (‘A pretty ballad of the Lord of Lorn, and the fals steward’, [London]: Printed for F. Coles, T. Vere and W. Gilbertson, [1658-1664]). The latest print recorded by ESTC is, as it happens, by the same Thomas Saint of Newcastle upon Tyne [1761-88] who published one of the three known editions of the Long Version of Roswall and Lillian. Unlike Roswall, however, the evidence for the existence of this ballad pre-dates the extant witnesses. ‘The Lord of Lorne and the false Steward’ was entered in the Register of the Stationers’ Company to the London printer John Walley, 6 October, 1580 (Timperley 1839: 386-7). The Elizabethan writer Everard (or Edward) Guilpin (born c. 1562: Hobsbaum, ODNB) compares ‘th’ olde Ballad of the Lord of Lorne, / Whose last line in King Harries dayes was borne’ to his grandfather’s doublet and hose in his 1598 poem Skialetheia Or, A shadowe of Truth, in certaine Epigrams and Satyres (‘Satyra Prima’, lines 107-8): in other words, he believed the ballad to date from the reign of Henry VIII (1509-47). Both of these early citations are quoted by Hales and Furnivall (1867: vol. I, 180-98). This would date the ‘Lord of Learne’ to no later than the mid-sixteenth century.

[14]  The dating of Roswall has thus far depended on that of the ‘Lord of Learne’. The romance’s nineteenth-century editor Lengert showed (and he is not wrong) that its rhymes could not be earlier than the fifteenth century (1892b: 366-9), but since he assumed that the associated ballad ‘Lord of Learne’ had to derive from it, he dated Roswall to some time before c. 1547 at the latest (1892b: 356-7). Hornstein converts Lengert’s cautious summary of this evidence to a composition date ‘probably in the late fifteenth century’ for Roswall and Lillian. A late-fifteenth-century – and therefore medieval — dating accords nicely with Laing’s belief, quoted above, that ‘it might be difficult to prove that any tale of a similar description belonged to a period so recent as the sixteenth century.’

[15]  In my own examination of the language of Roswall, I have found ten separate examples of words, expressions or rhymes which, as far as DOST and the OED indicate, would seem to have been obsolete by seventeenth century and are therefore often mangled in the surviving prints (see further Purdie, forthcoming 2013: 74-78). Such items include eke ‘also’ line 73; sheen ‘beautiful’ rhymed with queen (lines 730, 788) and green (line 382); God you foryield  ‘May God repay you’, line 259; the rhyme in fear ‘together’: there, lines 79-80 in Edinburgh only, replaced by an inane defer: dinner in White/Saint; fay n. ‘faith’ rhymed with play, line 443 in Edinburgh but replaced by say: play in White/Saint (perhaps the end result of misreading f as long s in the by-then unfamiliar fay); deliverlie ‘nimbly’ at line 167 in Edinburgh, replaced by a nonsensical deliberately in White/Saint; the phrase ran lansand through the mied, ‘went bounding through the meadow’, reconstructed for line 432 out of Edinburgh’s ran lances… and White/Saint’s ran alane out…. On the other hand, staid ‘paused’ at line 37 (rhymed with pa.t. said) is recorded by DOST only from the 1540s (stay v.1).

[16]  One might be tempted to discount that final, post-fifteenth-century item as a later intrusion were it not for another bit of evidence missed by Lengert. Among the many names of romance heroes and heroines cited in Roswall and Lillian is ‘Clariodus’: its first occurrence  — as the gentle Clariadus — is in the White/Saint prints only (line 18a) but a second reference to the happiness of Meledas (White Velias, Saint Vebas) when she marries Claudias is present in all three Long Version prints, with Edinburgh having the least corrupt forms of the names (lines 779-80). These references are to Clariodus and his beloved Meliades from the Older Scots romance of Clariodus. Although Clariodus is based on the fifteenth-century Burgundian romance of Cleriadus et Meliadice, there is no evidence whatsoever that the author of Roswall knew works in French himself or expected his audience to do so: this must be a reference to the Older Scots Clariodus whose composition is securely dated between 1503-50 at the widest. Its terminus a quo is provided by the palpable influence of William Dunbar’s poetry on the Clariodus-poet’s diction throughout the romance, with recognisable borrowings from the ‘Goldyn Targe’ and ‘The Thrissill and the Rois’ in particular (Purdie, 2002). Borrowings from the latter provide the specific terminus a quo of c. 1503, since ‘The Thrissill and the Rois’ was written to celebrate the marriage that took place that year between James IV and Margaret Tudor (Bawcutt 1998: vol. II, 395). That Clariodus was not only extant but relatively famous by c. 1550 is shown by the citation of ‘claryades and maliades’ in the Complaynt of Scotland (Stewart 1979: x-xi and 50). The Complaynt-author’s keen advocacy of the Scottish vernacular makes it almost certain that the list of forty-seven tales ‘told’ by his fictional shepherds refer to Scottish and English narrative works available in Scotland at that time (he includes works by Chaucer and Lydgate), rather than in Latin or French (Stewart 1979: xxix-xxxiii). The window for the composition of Clariodus can thus be fairly safely narrowed to c. 1510-40. This means that Roswall cannot be placed any earlier than the second quarter of the sixteenth century: there would be no point in alluding to a Clariodus so new that half of Roswall’s audience would fail to get the reference.

[17]  The Complaynt of Scotland’s fulsome list of the secular vernacular works that were current in Scotland in c. 1550 has proved enormously useful to scholars in dating specific texts such as Clariodus. Roswall and Lillian is not among its forty-seven titles, however, and nor is the ‘Lord of Learne’. Is this because one, or perhaps both, had yet to become famous in Scotland — or even be composed — by 1550? It is normally a dangerous thing to place much weight on negative evidence such as this, but the comprehensiveness of the Complaynt’s lists (there are additional ones for dances and songs) gives the absence of Roswall and the ‘Lord of Learne’ a significance that it would not have in a more selective list.

[18]  To recap, then: Roswall must have been composed somewhere between the second quarter of the sixteenth century at the very earliest, and the end of that century at the latest: the negative evidence of the Complaynt of Scotland  may suggest, though it cannot prove, that it was in the latter half of the century. The ‘Lord of Learne’, meanwhile, was certainly in existence in England by 1580 when John Walley of London was granted a license to print it, and Guilpin’s description of it in the 1590s as a venerable old text suggests – though again it cannot prove — that it was composed several decades before this, perhaps even as early as the reign of Henry VIII, as Guilpin supposed. The absence of both texts from the comprehensive list in the c. 1550 Complaynt of Scotland may indicate that neither was yet known in Scotland by then. All of this combines to demonstrate that Roswall and Lillian is either the mid-sixteenth-century contemporary of the ‘Lord of Learne’ (without saying any more about which came first), or that it post-dates it by up to half a century. What we can now rule out, absolutely, is the scenario of a sixteenth-century balladeer constructing his populist new-fangled work out of a venerable medieval romance. The datings simply do not support it.

[19]  But we also cannot separate the ‘Lord of Learne’ and Roswall and Lillian and treat them as completely independent developments from the same pool of common narrative motifs: the heroes’ shared disguise-name of Dissawar, ‘deprived of wealth’ (see the MED entry for disawairre, n.), is unique in literature as far as I know, even if it follows the pattern of other disguise-names such as ‘Egaré’ for the lost heroine of Emare or ‘Sir Degaré’ in the eponymous early-fourteenth-century romance (both from OF e(s)garer, ‘to lose one’s way’), or ‘le pauvre perdu’ as used by the hero of the Old French Florimont (a 504-line fragment of a Scots translation, Florimond of Albany, survives), or ‘Le Despurveu’ (‘deprived’, cf. MdnF dépourvu) for the modest hero of The Three Kings’ Sons as translated from the French c. 1480 (Grinberg 1975: 521-2). The fact that this last name is used by a hero who would later (under yet another pseudonym) fight for heroine in a three-day tournament might make one wonder whether The Three Kings’ Sons provided the primary inspiration for both the tournament and the name ‘Dissawar’ in Roswall.  If so, this would in turn imply that the ‘Lord of Learne’ was indeed derived from Roswall as has always been assumed, since the ballad contains the disguise-name of Dissawar without the attendant tournament. However, this theory dissolves on closer inspection: the name ‘Dissawar’ is no more similar to ‘Le Despurveu’ than to the other possible sources of inspiration listed above, while Roswall’s tournament itself is a composite of several well-known romance tournaments, some of which offer parallels considerably closer than that of The Three Kings’ Sons. In Sir Degare itself, the disguised hero accidentally wins his own mother in a single day’s tournament: they marry but are saved from incest in an eleventh-hour recognition scene, a ‘mistaken marriage’ motif that recalls Lillian’s unwilling (and fortunately unconsummated) marriage to the false Roswall. Among other medieval romances featuring three-day tournaments — Chrétien de Troyes’ Old French Cligés, Richard Coeur de Lion and Partenopeus de Blois,for example — the closest parallel is with the romance of Ipomadon, a text whose Scottish circulation is confirmed by, amongst other things, its citation in the Complaynt of Scotland (ed. Stewart 1979: 50). The hero disguises himself as ‘Drew le Reine’ (the joke-lover of the Queen of Sicily) and he pretends to the bemused Sicilian court to have spent each day hunting in the forest rather than participating in the tournament for which the prize is his secret beloved (ed. Purdie 2001: lines 2990-5091). In fact, Ipomadon triumphs at the tournament in successive disguises of white, red and black arms while his faithful retainer brings back game from the forest each day, just as in Roswall. There is thus no reason to assume that the name Dissawar was inspired by The Three Kings’ Sons, used for Roswall and subsequently inherited by the ‘Lord of Learne’. Indeed, it is striking that the only proper name in the ‘Lord of Learne’ is ‘Dissawar’ itself: if a balladeer had based his text on the romance of Roswall and Lillian, it seems odd that he would have retained this temporary pseudonym while dropping both hero’s and heroine’s real names. This is not, after all, what happens with the romance-derived ballads of ‘Hind Horn’, ‘King Orfeo’ or ‘Patient Grizzel’. But someone expanding a ballad into a romance, with all the generic expectations that this will invoke, might well feel the need to give them proper names that could be added to the kinds of lists of famous lovers that Roswall itself so enjoys making. The same would apply if we were to complicate the proposed genesis of Roswall by positing a lost common source for both ballad and romance.

[20]  This is not the first time someone has claimed that a narrative ballad could predate the romance on which it was previously supposed to have been based. Emily Lyle has argued that the ballad ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ (Child ballad no. 37, vol. I, 317-28), though first recorded only at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, represents a survival (inevitably modified) of a genuine medieval text, and that the closely related late-medieval romance of Thomas of Erceldoune (or at least the c. 350 lines of romance narrative preceding the supposed prophecies of Thomas in that text) is not the source of this ballad but rather an ill-executed expansion of it (Lyle 1970, and see further Green 1997: 168-9). A parallel might be drawn with the way in which the fourteenth-century poet Thomas Chestre expands an earlier Middle English couplet romance Sir Landevale into his tail-rhyme romance Sir Launfal by interpolating episodes from other identifiable romances, although Chestre’s work involves no wholesale shift of literary genre. Lyle’s place-name evidence for the antiquity of ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ (1969) was strong enough to persuade David Fowler to retract his original argument that the ballad was ‘composed directly from the romance rather than from a generalized conception of the story’ (1968: 321, retracted 1980: 1803).

[21]  There are, however, some differences between the Rhymer-Erceldoune pairing and that of Roswall and the ‘Lord of Learne’. In the former case, the romance of Thomas of Erceldoune has a genuine medieval witness in Lincoln Cathedral MS 91 (the ‘Thornton’ manuscript, copied in the second quarter of the fifteenth century); it is already in ballad measure, something relatively unusual for the written texts of this period, and the ballad and romance are close enough to share recognisable lines. What it offers, with Lyle’s arguments for the medieval origins of ‘Thomas the Rhymer’, is evidence for the antiquity of the ballad genre, and evidence, too, for the likelihood that some medieval romances were indeed influenced by a largely oral (and therefore largely invisible to us) body of medieval narrative ballads. In the case of Roswall and Lillian and the ‘Lord of Learne’, on the other hand, the hard evidence for the existence of the ballad unequivocably predates that for the romance, but neither text is medieval. Roswall and Lillian is either the mid-sixteenth-century contemporary of the ‘Lord of Learne’ (perhaps from a lost common source) or it was composed later than – and perhaps then directly inspired by — the ballad. While Thomas of Erceldoune –whatever inspired it –was composed during the fourteenth century, the heyday of medieval English romance composition, the apparently medieval romance of Roswall and Lillian was actually composed during the sixteenth century. Roswall and Lillian has been mistaken so readily for a genuine medieval romance by modern scholars because there is nothing recognisably ‘renaissance’ in its content, form or style, something that sets it entirely apart from other Scottish early-modern romances such as John Stewart of Baldynneis’s Roland Furious, a partial translation (via a French intermediary) made in the 1580s of Ariosto’s Orlando furioso of 1532 (McDiarmid 1948: 17). But if, as in fact seems more likely, the ‘Lord of Learne’ predates Roswall and was therefore – given the direct links between the two – the inspiration for it, we are confronted with a situation in which a mid- to late-sixteenth-century poet has taken a contemporary narrative ballad and fashioned from it a brand-new text in the supposedly dead genre of medieval metrical romance. No one has denied that original medieval metrical romances continued to be published in inexpensive prints throughout the sixteenth century and beyond, as even a cursory search of ESTC will confirm, but fresh composition is something different. Was the creation of the archetypically ‘medieval’ romance of Roswall and Lillian a unique, quirky antiquarian impulse on the part of its author to revive this ‘poetic dinosaur’ of a genre? If not, rumours of the genre’s death by the end of the fifteenth century would seem to have been exaggerated.

University of St Andrews


Bawcutt, Priscilla (ed.). 1998. The Poems of William Dunbar, 2 vols, Association for Scottish Literary Studies, 27 & 28 (Glasgow)

Child, Francis James (ed.). 1965 (repr. from 1882-98). The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 vols (New York: Dover)

Corson, James C. 1962. ‘Sir Walter Scott’s boyhood collection of chapbooks in Abbotsford Library’, The Bibliotheck 3.6: 202-18

DOST, Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue.<http://www.dsl.ac.uk/> [accessed 23 May 2012]

Dronke, Peter. 1976. ‘Learned Lyric and the Popular Ballad in the Early Middle Ages’, Studi Medievali, 3rd Series 17: 1-40

Ellis, George (ed.). 1805. Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances, 3 vols (London: Longman)

ESTC: English Short Title Catalogue. <http://estc.bl.uk> [accessed 23 May 2012]

Feather, John. 1985. The Provincial Book Trade in Eighteenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)

Fowler, David C. 1968. A Literary History of the Popular Ballad (Durham, NC: Duke University Press)

—-. 1980. ‘XV: Ballads’, in A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1500, Vol. 6, ed. by Albert E. Hartung (New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences): 1753-1808

Garbáty, Thomas. 1984. ‘Rhyme, Romance, Ballad, Burlesque, and the Confluence of Form’, in Fifteenth-Century Studies: Recent Essays, ed. by R. F. Yeager (Hamden, CT: Archon Books): 283-301

Green, Richard Firth. 1997. ‘The Ballad and the Middle Ages’, in The Long Fifteenth Century: Essays for Douglas Gray, ed. by Helen Cooper and Sally Mapstone (Oxford: Clarendon Press): 163-84

Grinberg, Henry. 1975. ‘The Three Kings’ Sons and Les Trois Fils de Rois: Manuscript and Textual filiation in an Anglo-Burgundian Romance’, Romance Philology 28: 521-9.

Guilpin, Everard. 1598. Skialetheia Or, A shadowe of Truth, in certaine Epigrams and Satyres (London: Printed by I. R. for Nicholas Ling [etc.])

Hales, John W., and F. J. Furnivall (eds). 1867-8. Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript, 4 vols. (London: N. Trübner and Co.)

Hobsbaum, Philip. ‘Guilpin, Everard (b. c.1572)’. in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. <http://www.oxforddnb.com>. [accessed 23 May 2012]

Hornstein, Lillian Herlands. 1967. ‘Miscellaneous Romances’, in A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050-1500, vol. I: Romances, ed. by J. Burke Severs (New Haven: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences): 144-72

Hunt, C. J. 1975. The Book Trade in Northumberland and Durham (Newcastle upon Tyne: Thorne’s for History of the Book Trade in the North)

Laing, David (ed.). 1895. Early Popular Poetry of Scotland and the Northern Border, rev. by W. Carew Hazlitt, 2 vols (London: Reeves and Turner)

Lengert, O. 1892a. ‘Die Schottische Romanze “Roswall and Lillian”’, Englische Studien 16: 321-56

—. 1892b. Die Schottische Romanze “Roswall and Lillian”’, Englische Studien 17: 341-77

Lyle, Emily. 1969. ‘A Reconsideration of the Place-Names in “Thomas the Rhymer”’, Scottish Studies 13: 65-71

—-. 1970. ‘The Relationship between “Thomas the Rhymer” and “Thomas of Erceldoune”’, Leeds Studies in English, New Series 4: 23-30

—-. 2009. ‘Three Notes on King Orphius’, Scottish Literary Review 1.1: 51-68

McDiarmid, Matthew P. 1948. ‘Notes on the poems of John Stewart of Baldynneis’, Review of English Studies, 24: 12-18

MED: Middle English Dictionary. <http://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/>. [accessed 23 May 2012]

Nygard, Holger Olof. 1976. ‘Popular Ballad and Medieval Romance’, in Ballad Studies, ed. by Emily Lyle (Cambridge: D S Brewer): 1-19

Plomer, H. R. 1922. Dictionary of Printers and Booksellers Who Were at Work in England, Scotland and Ireland: 1668-1725 (London: Bibliographical Society)

Plomer, Henry R., G. H. Bushnell and E. R. McClintock Dix. 1932. A Dictionary of the Printers and Booksellers who were at work in England, Scotland and Ireland from 1726 to 1775 (London: Bibliographical Society)

Purdie, Rhiannon. 2002. ‘Clariodus and the ambitions of courtly romance in later medieval Scotland’, Forum for Modern Language Studies 38: 449-61

—- (ed.). 2001. Ipomadon. Early English Text Society, Original Series 316 (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

—- (ed.). forthcoming 2013. Shorter Scottish Medieval Romances, Scottish Text Society, 5th series, 11 (Edinburgh)

Scott, Walter. 1868. The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, Bart. vol. V. (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black)

OED: The Oxford English Dictionary. <http://www.oed.com>. [accessed 23 May 2012]

Stewart, A. M. (ed.). 1979. The Complaynt of Scotland. Scottish Text Society: 4th Series, 11 (Edinburgh)

Stewart, Marion. 1973. ‘King Orphius’, Scottish Studies 17: 1-16

Timperley, C. H. 1839. A Dictionary of Printers and Printing, with the Progress of Literature, Ancient and Modern; Bibliographical Illustrations, etc. etc. (London: H. Johnson)

The Apocalyptic Muse of Francis Hamilton of Silvertonhill

The Apocalyptic Muse of Francis Hamilton of Silvertonhill (c.1585-1645)

Jamie Reid-Baxter

Whether thy chance or choise makes thee to looke,
(Right reverend Reader) on this Poeme penn’d,
Accept my first essay, this litle booke,
Despise it not, nor spare it to amend.
So shall thou thanks receive, and gaine a friend,
And for thy paines have praise, the just reward
Of such as vertue favour, and befriend
The just and good intent. Nor misregard
One litle talent (being rightly vsed
To vertues praise), which shall not bring disgrace
To the possessour. Talents ten, abused,
Makes the abuser loose them and his place.
One litle Talent with right vse I crave,
Rather then Talents ten hid vp to have.

[1] Thus Francis Hamilton (c.1585-1645) spoke ‘To the Christian Reader’ at the outset of his 1626 Edinburgh publication, King James His Encomium, A Poeme, in memorie and commendation of the High and mightie Monarch IAMES, King of great Britaine, France, and Ireland &c. our late Soveraigne, who deceased at Theobalds, vpon Sunday the 27. of March.1625 (STC, 2nd edn. 12726). We have no idea how many readers, right reverend or otherwise, ever looked on Hamilton’s ‘litle booke’, but in the last three centuries, they have not been numerous: no history of Scottish literature mentions the existence of King James His Encomium. But these thirty-one pages of strikingly energetic spiritual verse, which include Renaissance Scotland’s only ‘corona’ of sonnets, are well worth the looking on; and they become downright fascinating when taken in conjunction with the life, personality and manuscript writings of their author, which include petitions about witchcraft made to the Scottish parliament in 1641. [1]  Francis Hamilton’s life and writings have much to offer students of seventeenth century Scottish spirituality, royalism, upperclass profligacy and persecution of witches.

[2] Only two copies of King James His Encomium seem to survive. That held by the National Library of Scotland is incomplete, but it usefully fills a lacuna in the copy owned by the Huntington Library, the result of some owner’s having snipped the publisher Wreittoun’s device out of the title page. In all other respects, the Huntington copy is more than complete, for it contains a further 600 lines of manuscript verse (and other material), dated August and September 1630, written on a total of sixteen front and back flyleaves.[2] That the italic hand is Hamilton’s can be seen by comparing it with his petitions of 1641. This essay begins by surveying the contents of King James His Encomium. There follows a detailed biography of its author, including his 1641 petitions to Parliament, in order to provide the background to his manuscript verse.

[3]  Accurate printed references to Francis Hamilton are few: pages 6 and 7 of Glasgow City Council’s Provan Hall Heritage Trail describe the history of the 15th century mansion of Provan Hall and its extensive lands, whereof the youthful Hamilton became feuar as early as 1599, and all of which he had lost by 1625. The Scottish Historical Review carried a short biographical note which mentions the existence of both Hamilton’s published poetry and his petitions of 1641 (Gray-Buchanan 1909). Further precious details of his parentage, wife and progeny are given by George Hamilton (1933: 812-13), but though Francis’s witchcraft petitions are noted, his poetry is completely ignored. The relationship of that poetry to the work of his Scottish contemporaries is adumbrated in the final part of this essay.

The Printed Poems
[4] Despite the formal variety of its contents and typefaces, King James His Encomium is designed as a single entity, an uplifting sermon on the text printed on the title page: ‘I heard a voice from heaven, saying, Blessed are they which die in the Lord’ (Rev. 14:13). These words are obviously appropriate to a commemoration of a monarch as devout as the late King James; furthermore, the English Book of Common Prayer appoints this verse to be read at burials. However, Hamilton’s ‘sermon’ is being preached for the benefit of the living, his readers, all of whom face the task of living lives that will enable them, too, to ‘die in the Lord’, and thus come to see the New Jerusalem promised and described in Revelation 21, which Hamilton will paraphrase in one of his poems.

[5] The Book of Revelation makes repeated appearances in Hamilton’s book, but though he wholeheartedly endorses the standard protestant view that the Roman Church is the Whore of Babylon, he sets no timetable for the End of the World, such as was put forward in John Napier’s European bestseller A Plaine Discoverie of the Whole Revelation, first printed in 1594, nor does he indulge in the millenarian speculations and identifications of specific historical figures that abound in the Englishman Thomas Brightman’s Apocalypsis Apocalypseon (Frankfurt, 1609).[3] Brightman had received but a faint welcome, if any, from Patrick Forbes of Corse in his Commentarie on the Revelation (London, 1613 and Middelburg, 1614), and Brightman’s book would be denounced in print by King James VI/I (1619: 41). Brightman was also denounced by William Cowper, Bishop of Galloway in his Pathmos: A Commentary on the Revelation (1619) (Williamson 1979: 21 and passim). Cowper’s spiritualised approach to the sacred text parallels Hamilton’s reading of it. King James himself, as Hamilton reminds us in the ‘Encomium’, had been one of those ‘who Mysteries vnfolded/ Which Iohn in Pathmos Ile in trance beholded’ (ll. 243-44). The king’s Fruitfull Meditatioun contening ane plane and facil expositioun… of the 20 Chapter of the Revelatioun (Edinburgh, 1588) had been reprinted in 1603, and again in the king’s Works of 1616, which also contained James’s Paraphrase upon the Revelation.

[6] Hamilton’s book is carefully constructed. The ‘Encomium’ itself is printed on numbered pages 1 to 16, and surrounded by pre- and post-liminary verses on unnumbered pages. The five metrically varied prefatory poems are:

1. sonnet ‘To the Christian Reader’ (ababbcbcdedeff)
2. ‘Seven Crownes’, a sequence of seven sonnets (ababcdcdefefgg)
3. ‘The Epistle Dedicatorie’ (couplets)
4. sonnet ‘To the right magnanimous and worthie Lord, IAMES, Marquesse of Hamiltoun, &c.’ (ababcdcdefefgg)
5. sonnet ‘To the right magnanimous and worthie Lord, Sir George Hay of Kilfawnes Knight, Lord Chancelour of Scotland’ (ababbcbcdedeff)

Seven Crownes
[7] The opening sonnet having told the Christian reader that ‘vertues praise’ is the subject of the book, Hamilton proceeds to place ‘vertue’ in its cosmic Christian context by beginning with something of a showpiece. ‘Seven Crownes’ is a corona of seven sonnets – a significant Biblical number, not least in the book of Revelation: the dedication of Bishop Cowper’s Pathmos, for example, speaks of ‘three severall rankes of Seuens, stretching themselves in most comely order through this Iewell, and wherein the Lord hath secretly inclosed treasures of manifold wisedome’. Revelation looms large in Hamilton’s sonnet sequence, concerned as it is with spiritual warfare and the Last Judgment; in sonnet 3 we find the ‘persecuting Dragon, who was cast | From out of Heaven (as Iohn by revelation | Made knowne to Christians many yeeres since past)’.

[8]  In a corona sequence, the last line of sonnet 1 is repeated as the first line of sonnet 2, and so on, until the first line of sonnet 1 reappears as the final line of the sequence. The sonnets are thus plaited together like the leaves of a laurel crown for the head of the beloved. Or indeed, like a crown of thorns — the only well-known British corona is John Donne’s celebrated La Corona, a meditation on the life of Christ.[4] Donne opted for the ‘petrarchan’ rhyme scheme abba abba cddc ee, which is also regularly found in the work of his Scottish contemporary and admirer William Drummond. Scottish sonnets — whatever their subject matter — overwhelmingly followed the interlacing ababbcbccdcdee rhyme-scheme, right into the 1640s, but this is used by Hamilton only in three of his twenty extant sonnets.[5] For ‘Seven Crownes’ he employed the ababcdcdefefgg ‘Shakespearean’ scheme, also much favoured by Drummond.

[9] Sonnet coronas are rare at the best of times, but Hamilton’s may be unique: the seven sonnets are linked by their closing couplets and not merely their last lines, as here between sonnets one and two:

… One God wee must adore, in persons three
Distinguish’d, who divided cannot bee.

One God wee must adore, in persons three
Distinguish’d, who can never bee divid’d…

or here between sonnets three and four:

… And in the end for ever did confute him
And by his death triumphantly refute him.

Christ in the end for ever did confute him
By his owne death; and did in triumph rise…

The fact that Donne’s La Corona is redolent of the Catholic rosary would not necessarily have repelled the vehemently protestant Hamilton. Scottish protestants happily read the poetry of the English Jesuit martyr St Robert Southwell: St Peters Complainte was published (omitting the author’s name) by Waldegrave at Edinburgh c.1599 (STC, 2nd ed. 22960), edited by the stark Aberdonian presbyterian John Johnstone, friend and colleague of Andrew Melville at St Andrews.  Johnstone even inserted a fine introspective sonnet of his own into the volume, in response to St Robert’s great poem (Reid Baxter 2008: 81). However, there is nothing remotely introspective about Hamilton’s homiletic tone in the severely Bible-based ‘Seven Crownes’ and the Encomium’s other poems.

Dedication and sonnets to the Marquess and the Chancellor
[10] It is only after his book has been placed sub specie aeternitatis with ‘Seven Crownes’ that Hamilton addresses himself

to all true Christians, to my Countrey of Great Britaine, my native Soyle of Scotland, and to that famous, and worthie Towne of EDINBVRGH, and especially to the two magnanimous, and worthie Lords, IAMES Marquesse of Hamiltown &c and GEORGE Lord Chancelour of SCOTLAND.

The ensuing lively verse dedication makes it plain that Hamilton’s main concern in his book is going to be the praise of ‘true vertue’, so perfectly embodied in the late king and in the new monarch, Charles. The poet takes obvious pleasure in playing with language — ‘generous genius’, ‘True tacticke practicke teacheth vs’; ‘[James] left of his owne royall race | A royall, loyall Prince to fill his place’. Linguistic playfulness opens the epistle:

Magnanimous Lords, with duetifull respects
This Pilgrims Poeme,
FRANCK to you directs,
Wishing your Lordships daigne to patronize it;
What FRANCK affoords, let favour infranchize it.            

The poem is concerned with the dead king’s virtues, but before signing off as ‘Your L. loving Friend to bee commanded in all Christian dueties’, Hamilton slips in a plea (or admonition) directed at his ‘magnanimous Lords’:

The vertues of the living, men should praise,
That more and more we may true vertue raise
True vertues praise I heartlie doe intend,
Till that my breath and mortall life shall end,
And so much more to praise it shall be bent,
As I doe finde it true and eminent.                            
(37-38, 41-44)

The implication for these two living noblemen is that Hamilton will be happy ‘to be commanded’ to celebrate them, but only if they live lives of ‘true vertue’ and their commands are compatible with his ‘Christian dueties’. The grandees then receive a sonnet each, again signed ‘your loving friend’. The young Marquis was of course Hamilton’s ‘clan chief’, but Sir George Hay of Kinnoull may have been a personal friend; in the Huntington copy, after the sonnet, Hamilton has inserted Amoris vincula fortissima = si mutua in Christo in a calligraphic italic hand. Both sonnets are concerned with the need for monarchs (and all men) to be spiritually alert, for reasons underlined by the powerful close of the sonnet to George Hay:

Magnanimous Lord, even you, and I, and all
Must strive for Heaven, and whilst wee breath, must fight
Gainst Sinne and Satan, leat wee catch a fall
From Heaven to Hell, and so may lose our right.
Christs colours now are flying in the field,
And woe to such as shall to Satan yeeld.                          (9-14)

The ‘Encomium’
[11] Hamilton’s lengthy tribute to the late James VI & I comprises 244 eminently readable pentameter couplets, occupying the volume’s only numbered pages, 1-16. For 354 lines, James is sonorously celebrated and memorialised as:

Parent of Peace, of potent Poets Prince,
Religous, Royall, and Renown’d defence
Of faithfull Christians ‘gainst the Romish Whoore.      (39-41)

The verse is fluent and attractive for the most part, although perhaps less than poetic in the numerological excursus on the fact that the dying king received the sacrament on ‘The twentie sixt of March, being Saturday, | Yet the Iewes Sabbath, who did Christ betray’ before actually passing away on the Christian Sabbath, the day of the Lord’s resurrection:

The three time nine, or nine times third of March,
The twenty seventh, King Iames his soule did marche
Amongst those Angels, and those Saints of God,
Which haue with our Redeemer their abode.
The thousand yeare, six hundred twenty fiue
Since our sole Saviour tooke on mortall life.          (203-10)

This is followed by an impressive anaphora (‘We waile not IAMES…’), in which Hamilton lists the various royal writings, as others did before him.[6] In the fine pages devoted to the king’s ascent to heaven, Hamilton, like many another, praises James’s poetry, but in his final 76 couplets, Hamilton turns to the new king, and utters a long prayer mostly concerned with Charles’ spiritual qualities and wellbeing, on which the success of the new reign will depend. Intriguingly, there may be just a hint that Hamilton held a less than wholeheartedly episcopalian position, when he prays for Charles that ‘he cause amend what is amisse | In all his Kingdomes, so that thou doe blesse | Both him, and them’ (447-48), since he has nowhere mentioned the present (episcopal) polity of the Kirk, which the late King James regarded as one of his greatest achievements. And Hamilton is prepared to be undiplomatic. A mere time-server concerned to flatter Charles I, recently wed to his Roman Catholic queen Henrietta Maria, would never have ended this ‘Encomium’ with a blazing tirade against the Roman Church, the Jesuits and the Pope, ‘Deluding men with worse than rotten bread, | Instead of such as Soules and bodies feed’ (481-82).

The postliminary poems

[12] After the ‘Encomium’, the unnumbered pages 17-24 contain four poems:

1. ‘A Poetical Ecphrase and Paraphrase on the 13 verse Of the 14 chapter of S. Iohns Revelation’ (twelve couplets);
2. ‘The triumph of every true Christian defunct’ (8 lines alternating trimeters and pentameters)
3. ‘Song to the Comfort of every true Christian’ (twelve complex song-stanzas)
4. ‘Exhortation to all true Christians For the praising of our Saviour’ (72 tetrameter couplets)

Items 1 and 2 are much the worst verse in the volume. Revelation 14:13 is versified thus:

Saying to me from Heaven a voice heard I,
Write, Blest are they, which in the Lord doe die
From hence foorth; yea, the Sprit sayes, for they rest
Them from their labours, and their workes (whilst blest)
Do followe them.

What do follow them here are standard Calvinist reflections on man’s utter reprobacy, the utter uselessness of ‘works’, and the absolute need for good works nonetheless. ‘The triumph of every true Christian defunct’ is an unimpressive short devotional piece, beginning with a quotation of I Corinthians 15.55-56 (‘O death where is thy sting…’) and glossed with some uninspired commonplaces. The ‘Song of Comfort’, however, is an ambitious and admonitory contrafactum sacrum. Not until the sixth stanza does Hamilton makes direct reference to his model, the enormously popular anonymous song ‘What if a day, or a month, or a year?’, often attributed to Thomas Campion.[7] A two-stanza version had seen print in Scotland as early as 1603 (as a page-filler at the end of Charteris’ edition of the comedy Philotus). The song’s text was notoriously unstable, but versions are found in no fewer than ten Scottish musical manuscripts; ‘a simple chordal setting in the style of Campion’ appears in the Thomas Wode Partbooks (Elliott 1963). This song also appears in a further three Scottish manuscripts in purely instrumental form.

[13] In an important article of 1962, David Greer observed that ‘Unlike many ballad tunes, “What if a day” is no mere Gebrauchsmusik: it is not simply a convenient and well-known channel for the transmission of the words, but a melody closely corresponding to the form and inflections of its text’ (312). Hamilton’s twelve stanzas constitute far the longest text written to the tune, though his words frequently require considerable flexibility on the part of the singer to fit the melody to them. The printed layout in Hamilton’s book, using long lines, gives no idea of the musical shape of the verse (cf. the printed layout of the two psalm paraphrases ‘to the tone of Solsequium’ at the close of James Melville’s Comfortable Exhortatioun anent Death (1597: 110-112). You can hear the following stanza (which well illustrates Hamilton’s adroit weaving-in of Scripture) sung here (performed by Michael Swithinbank):

If thou to day heare his voice who doth say,                                   [cf. Ps. 95:1]
Better now thou weepe for sinne, nor to laugh for pleasure;      [cf. Luke 6:21]
Banish therefore away all shifts of delay,
Turne, repent thee with teares, to be kept in his treasure:
Mindst thou to haue,
knock, seeke, and craue,
for the time is sliding.
Knock, he wil open, seek, thou shalt finde,               [cf. Matt. 7:7, Luke 11:9]
Aske whiles thy Lord’s biding;
He will grant,
Thou nought want,
Who so deare hath bought thee;
He’ll redresse
Thy distresse,
Who so much hath sought thee.

In his sixth stanza, Hamilton skilfully recycles phrases from the original song, as his contemporary Elizabeth Melville, for example, had done in her contrafactum ‘Away vaine warld’ (Reid Baxter 2010: 92-93; discussed in Reid Baxter 2005). But unlike her, Hamilton is not uniformly successful in fitting his text to the melody, and he seems more or less to abandon the attempt in the last four stanzas, where he is trying to paraphrase several key verses from Revelation 21. In this poem, Hamilton yet again puts the death-bound brevity of earthly life into its eternal context; the Archangel sounds the Last Trump in the first stanza, and the song’s final stanza concerns the New Jerusalem, and ends with ‘him that overcommeth’ eating of ‘the tree of life … in the midst of the paradice of God’, as in Revelation 2:7. In the intervening stanzas, Hamilton reiterates his message: ‘Wouldst thou ring with thy King in heav’n at his appearance, | Heere thou must fight, as a Christian knight, by faith & perseverance’ (58-59).

[14] Having by this stage established very clearly what he means by ‘a true Christian’, Hamilton ends his book with a rumbustious and energetic ‘Exhortation to all true Christians for the praising of our Saviour’ in dancing octosyllabic couplets, punctuated by repeated injunctions to ‘come’ and praise God, and concluding with the Book of Revelation yet again: the latter part looks forward to the Last Judgement and the destruction of the Roman Whore of Babylon. (Hamilton’s title sounds very much like a deliberate echo of the way King James had begun his closing admonition to his Lepanto, 1019-20 : ‘Exhorting all you Christians true/ Your courage up to bend’.)  The careful structuring of Hamilton’s book can be seen in the fact that the sequence of those being enjoined to ‘come’ almost exactly follows the order found in the title of Hamilton’s Epistle Dedicatorie: ‘all true Christians… Great Britaine … Scotland, and … EDINBVRGH’. However, the ‘Exhortation’ begins with a royal peal of chiming bells:

King CHARLES our King, come now and sing
Exult for ioy before thy King,
The King of Kings, thy God and Lord.                           (1-3)

Charles is strongly reminded of his dependence on God:

When God King David had advaunced,
Before Gods Arke good David daunced
With all his might, for he reiosed                                           [cf. 2 Sam. 6:14]
In God, in whom he still reposed.                         (15-18)

And then the poet cries  ‘Great Britaine, with the Ocean sea | Inviron’d, come now’ (19-20), before addressing society as a whole:

Come learned and come Laickes all,
Come Nobles, Gentles, great and small,
Come rich, come poore, come every creature,
Conformed in true Christian feature,
Now let vs sing in songs the praise
Of God, who Charles our King doth raise            (23-28).

Next, Scotland is told to ‘come… and exult for joy’ (35), and Hamilton himself makes an appearance, ‘Come Edinburgh, renown’d for worth | The towne wherein I had my birth’ (39-40).

[15]  At line 45, Hamilton urges ‘all Christians true’ to ‘come’, and for forty eloquent lines they are encouraged to embrace suffering for the sake of Christ, if need be, even unto martyrdom. Since Christian martyrs are the subject of Revelation 6:9-11, Hamilton’s poem not unnaturally culminates with what will be his book’s final apocalyptic passage, beginning at line 87 with ‘the Arch-Angell shall with sound | Of Trumpet, raise the dead from ground’ and continuing through to the poem’s end. The imperative ‘Come’ is heard again in lines 103 and 107, creating a great, joyous rush of energy, and it is repeated for the last time in Hamilton’s final attack on the Roman Church:

…. O Christians true
Come shout for ioy, and stil renue
A battery to proud Babels wall,
Till that presumptuous Harlot fall.
Would God mine eyes might see her dash’d
And dung to dust, who long hath fash’d
The Bride of Christ.                                                  (123-29)

Hamilton wisely refrains from crowning all these imperatives with the most famous injunction to ‘come’ in Christian civilisation, namely ‘Even so, come Lord Jesus’, found in Revelation 22:20, the penultimate verse of the entire Bible: he can hardly place the Creator on the same level as the created beings on whom he has been calling to ‘come’. However, after a powerful climax quoting the martyr-saints of Revelation 6:10, ‘How long, how long dost thou delay | For to avenge vs of our wrongs?’ (138-39), Hamilton ends his homily and closes his book with a sudden hush that amounts to a splendid modesty topos (and a rejection of attempts to forecast the date of the Last Judgment):

But thou, Lord, know’st what best belongs
Vnto thy glorie; which fulfill,
According to thy holy will.                                       (140-42)

The life of Francis Hamilton of Silvertonhill
[16] Revelation and the Second Coming reappear in the verse from 1630 that fills the sixteen handwritten pages of the Huntington Library copy of King James his Encomium. Very different indeed from the celebratory printed poems, this material, like the 1641 petitions to Parliament, can only really be understood in the context of Hamilton’s biography.

[17] Francis was the eldest son of Sir Robert of Goslington and Silvertonhill, a descendant of Alexander of Silvertonhill (ante 1455), brother of the first Lord Hamilton, and at the end of his liminary sonnet to the Marquess of Hamilton, Francis signs himself ‘your L. loving friend and kinsman’.[8] Francis’s grandfather, Sir Andrew of Goslington (b.1532) fought for Queen Mary at Langside in 1567, but his subsequently forfeited estates were restored to him as early as 1572. On his death in 1592, Sir Andrew was succeeded by his eldest son Robert Hamilton ‘of Newtoun’, who would greatly increase the family’s patrimony when Elizabeth Baillie, his wife since 1580, became sole heir to her father in 1593: William Baillie of Provand had been Lord President of the Court of Session from 1566 to his death, and was a rich Glasgow landowner.[9] His grandson Francis was born c.1585 in Edinburgh, a town for which he clearly had a great deal of affection, making it one of the dedicatees of King James His Encomium and saluting it in the book’s closing poem. Nonetheless, it was at Glasgow University that the poet matriculated in 1601, when one of his classmates was the future minister and notoriously bad versifier Zachary Boyd (Innes 1854: iii, 64). Like many young lairds and noblemen who attended university, Francis does not appear to have taken his M.A., but his writings show that he had a lively and informed interest in religious matters.

[18] Francis was a wealthy student: on 31 October 1599, his mother Elizabeth Baillie granted the extensive lands of Provand to him in fee, reserving the life-rent to her husband, and also reserving the right to raise 8000 merks for the dowries of their five daughters, Margaret, Mary, Elizabeth, Agnes and Jean (RMS 6, 1593-1608, no. 973). The charter further reserved the proprietorship of the lands of Balgray to Edward, the eldest of Francis’s five younger brothers.[10] In 1607, there was a contract of marriage drawn up between Francis and the widowed Dame Isabel Boyd, Lady Blair (c.1577-after 1641), a daughter of the sixth Lord Boyd of Kilmarnock.[11] This marriage never took place, for reasons as yet unknown, and in October 1609, Francis was contracted to marry Agnes Hamilton, a daughter of Sir Alexander Hamilton of Innerwick and his third wife Christian Hamilton (NAS, RD1/159, ff.420v-423v). Agnes Hamilton was no mean bride; her maternal uncle was the future dedicatee of Bishop Cowper’s Pathmos, namely the stellarly successful lawyer and statesman Thomas Hamilton of Priestfield (1563-1637), who rose from the position of Lord Advocate (1596) to that of Secretary of State (1612), and went on to be created Lord Binning (1613), Earl of Melrose (1619) and finally Earl of Haddington (1627).[12]

[19] Francis’s mother Elizabeth Baillie died on 4 November 1609, a month after the marriage contract with Agnes had been signed. Agnes was dead before 1622 (Hamilton 1933: 497), having borne Francis three daughters, named for their mother and their two grandmothers. Elizabeth died young, but Agnes and Christian survived until at least 1652 (RMS 10, 1652-59, no.606). Unfortunately, there is at present no further information about Francis during the decade after 1609. In July 1621, and again in March 1624, he secured licences to spend several years abroad.[13] He does not seem to have used these licences, since in January 1622 we find him raising an unsuccessful court action against his father, and in June 1624, raising another against his sisters in order to escape the fulfilment of the provisions secured to them on the lands of Provand (Morison 1801-08 xii, 9451 and v, 4098).[14] Unsurprisingly, by this time Francis was out of favour with his father, who had on 16 June 1624 contracted ‘to seize and infeft’ Francis’s brother Edward ‘in the £5 lands of Goslington and the lands of Silvertonhill &c’ (NAS, XV General Register of Sasines, 171). Francis’s finances were in a bad way: on 3 July 1624 some of the Provand lands were ‘apprized’ for moneys owed to John Crawfurd of neighbouring Mylnetoun (RMS 8, 1620-1633, no.670). In June 1625, more of the Provan lands would be lost to James Baillie of Carfin and Thomas Baillie in Dunsysetoune. Ten years later, Edward Hamilton would succeed in recovering the various lands of Provan, and Francis would be pointedly excluded from the arrangements laid down for the future ownership thereof (RMS 9, 1633-1651, no.350).[15]

[20] Although Hamilton places the date ‘Feb.7.1626.’ at the end of ‘King James His Encomium’ on page 16, the volume betrays almost nothing of his difficult circumstances. Presumably, however, when in lines 3-6, the dedicatees are offered the book with ‘My loyall love (though I bee much destressed)’, Hamilton is making a veiled plea for assistance from the Marquess of Hamilton and the Chancellor; if we were unaware of the biographical background, ‘much destressed’ might not strike us. The same applies to ‘Blyth may he be, though his friends have opprest him, | Finds by true faith true spirituall ioyes’, the first lines of ‘A Song to the comfort of every true Christian’. Much more striking, indeed distinctly odd, is this passage of the ‘Encomium’, in which Hamilton seems both to merge himself with the late king and evince real persecution mania:

I passe* not what some perverse people say,        [*misprint for ‘panse’?]
Nor mumbling Momus* shall my pen affray,        [*The god of mockery]
Nor who so lust to jeast, to mock or scorne me,
Or seeke by fraud or falshood to forlorne me
By poyson, or by powder-plotted treason,
Or fairded fair pretences bent ‘gainst reason.
I tell them all that Christ my Lord and Master
Can well avenge his litle ones disastre,
And that it better were for them to bee
Bound to a Mill-stone, and cast in the sea,
Then to injure or doe malicious wrong
Vnto the least which doe to Christ belong. (67-78)     [cf. Matt. 18:6]

Just how the pious Francis managed to squander his very considerable wealth by mid-1625 is as yet un-elucidated, but his finances evidently remained parlous for the rest of his life: in 1637 Edward Hamilton issued a charter in favour of Francis’s daughters Christian and Agnes, presumably because their father was unable to provide for them (RMS 10, 1652-59, no.606). Their grandfather, Sir Robert, died in 1642, and left a bequest for an ‘oy’ called Christiana, who may be Francis’s daughter. Sir Robert’s testament makes no mention of Francis (NAS, CC9/7/28, 691-96, dated 20 December 1641). The poet died in Edinburgh in 1645, and his testament, registered 7 February 1646, makes distressing reading. He ‘deceissit wpone the x day x 1645 yeares’, in poverty and entirely alone. No member of his family is mentioned in the testament (NAS, CC8/8/61, 549-51). His executor dative was a baker burgess of Edinburgh, John Baillie, ‘creditor to him’ for an unpaid loan of December 1644, who inherited all of Francis’s pathetic worldly goods. The ‘summa of the inventar’ includes ‘ane old dornick boordcloath’, ‘twa old cushions’, ‘ane pair of old sheits’, ‘three old trunks and ane cabinet’, ‘ane stand of old black cloaths’, ‘twa pairs of old silk stockins with garters and rosis’. There is some other clothing, some pewter, ‘ane old rapper sword’, a bow and quiver, ‘ane shutting [shooting] peice with snap work’. Amongst these sad remnants of an upper-class life, two items stand out: ‘VI score books est[imate] all to £60’ and ‘ane cabinet with the defunctis writts estimat to £10’. That the ‘writts’ would have included poetry is indicated by Francis’s marginal comment on the MS sonnets in the Huntington Library copy of King James his Encomium, namely that he will ‘revise them & get them in order with other such like’ (my italics). As for the hundred and twenty books, there can be little doubt that they dealt with religious subjects.

Dame Isabel Boyd and the witchcraft petitions
[21] Sir Robert Douglas’s Baronage (1798: 425) described Francis as ‘a very enthusiastic, wrong-headed man: he fancied himself bewitched by Dame Isabel Boyd, Lady Blair, which apears by several extravagant petitions to Parliament from him in 1641’.[16] By ‘enthusiastic’, Douglas meant ‘fanatical’ or perhaps even unbalanced. Francis was indeed religious to the point of mania, but he was by no means the only religiously inclined member of the Silvertonhill family. His father Sir Robert wrote in his testament that he resigned ‘his saull to god almightie assuring and perswading himself to inherit eternall lyff in & throw the richtuous merits & suffering of his onlie Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ’. The family forged several West of Scotland clerical connections by marriage: Sir Robert’s brother Andrew married Isabel Greig, the daughter of one minister and widow of another.[17] Two of Francis’s five sisters married clergymen: Agnes, the third of the girls, became the second wife of an important figure, the staunchly Presbyterian Mr Robert Scott (d.1629), minister of Glasgow, on 28 August 1619. Much admired by his young disciple John Livingston (the future Covenanter),[18] Scott was brother-in-law to another Presbyterian, the poet Michael Wallace, minister of Kilmarnock, and was the addressee of neo-Latin verse by both Wallace and the more famous Robert Boyd of Trochrigg, a cousin of Dame Isabel Boyd. By contrast, Francis Hamilton’s fourth sister, Jean, would on 21 April 1621 marry Mr Thomas Law (d.1649), a son of the courtly prelate Archbishop James Law (d.1632) of Glasgow. From 1626, Thomas Law was minister of Inchinnan, until he was deposed ‘for malignancy and other scandals’ in 1648; his will names Francis’s brother Robert Hamilton of Silvertonhill as one of the overseers (Scott 1915-: iii 456, 144).

[22]  There was, then, no shortage of trained theologians available to Francis in his immediate family circle with whom he could consult if he wished, including about witchcraft. In 1641 ‘Francis Hamilton of Silverton-hill petitioned Parliament against the incantations and witchcraft practised against him by Dame Isabel Boyd in the years 1607 and 1608, then relict of the late John Blair of that Ilk, and now relict of the late Sir Donald Campbell of Auchinbreck’ (Paul 1904-14: v, 167). The relevant manuscript material is in the National Archives of Scotland.[19] The man whom Francis misnamed ‘Sir Donald’ was Sir Dugal Campbell of Auchinbreck. For all the number of words Francis expends, his extremely high-flown, ceremonious and bombastic petitions nowhere specify what charms and enchantments Isabel Boyd is supposed to have practised, or why she did so. Francis simply says that he wants to be heard publicly, face to face with Dame Isabel, and then he will reveal ‘such hainous Crimes, & abominable Transgressiones, as import not only wilfull premeditate & publique perjurie, But also Charming, Incantation, Divination, Witchcraft or consultation with Familiar Spirits, witch, wizard or necromancer’. It is unlikely that we shall ever know exactly why Francis was convinced that Isabel Boyd had cast spells on him or had perjured herself. As we have seen, the source of his conviction must be connected with the failed 1607 marriage contract. Dame Isabel’s first husband, John Blair of that Ilk, whom she had married in 1589 ‘in pura ejus virginitate’, had died in 1604. Isabel Boyd and John Blair, younger, had four daughters but no son; the Blair line thus passed to the late John’s brother, Brice. By 1613 she was married to Dugal Campbell, though she continued to enjoy her jointure from the Blair lands (Paterson 1863-66: iii, 162-65). Dugal was knighted in 1617, and the couple had at least one daughter (Paul 1904-14: vi, 295). Isabel was rather more of a grandee than Francis (or his wife Agnes), being a daughter of Thomas, sixth Lord Boyd (c.1547-1611), and hence a half-sister of Thomas’s natural son, the saintly Calvinist Andrew Boyd (d.1636), minister of Eaglesham and then, from 1613, Bishop of Argyll. Francis’ university classmate Zachary Boyd was a ‘cousin’ of Dame Isabel (Reid Baxter 2008b: 397-98).

[23]  That Francis laid the retrospective blame for all his subsequent misfortunes on his link with Dame Isabel in 1607 and 1608 is made quite clear by the 1641 petitions. Written in August, September and November, and addressed to the General Assembly and to the King and Parliament, these are the latest samples of Hamilton’s work that we now possess, and they indicate that they are hardly the first such papers he has written on the subject: ‘I haveing meaned & compleaned these 34 yeares and 16 yeares thereof Last or thairby publiquely in judgment, of such treacherous Crimes, hainous & abominable Transgressiones … Done & practized by Dame Isabell Boyd in the yeare 1607 to 1608’. The ‘34 yeares’ are clearly the whole period between 1607 and 1641. As we shall see, the manuscript material in the Huntington copy of King James his Encomium shows that Francis had appealed to the 1630 Convention of Estates, which sat from 27 July to 7 August. Given that a Convention of Estates had also met from 27 October to 2 November 1625, Hamilton’s ‘16 yeares’ of public complaint must refer to petitions made to that body.

[24]  Hamilton blamed Dame Isabel’s ‘hainous Crimes & abominable transgressions’ for his own ‘hard Estate ensueing theirupon, by Pleas pro & contra, Dangers, Debts; & Debts cumming upon Debts, troubles, Calamities, & Necessities, whereby I haue been constrained, and yet whither I will or nill, necessitated, & in a manner compelled to doe, which otherwise I ought not, and wold not. Beside the loss & hazard of both Libertie & mortall life, And what I had, or haue in this world of temporall things’. Hamilton’s manuscript writings contain various statements about the danger that witchcraft posed to Scotland, and though he and his existence were unknown to Dr Louise Yeoman, Francis perfectly matches her ‘personality profile’ of a certain type of witch-hunter:

quarrelsome, indebted men of some status who did not wish to take responsibility for their own misfortunes. They perhaps felt the need to prove themselves to higher authority in order to compensate for and to cancel out their own personality flaws. These men felt that their enemies must also be public enemies. When they came into conflicts [sic] with their female peers, such men might be quicker than others to label them witches. […] A long-running conflict with a woman, on whom her foe was in no position to take revenge, might rankle for for years before finally, under the right circumstances, generating witchcraft accusations […] Witch-hunting, too, could set up a drama with the zealous witch-hunter at the centre of of the universe saving his community from the forces of ultimate evil. (2002: 120)

By October 1625, when Francis started publicly accusing Dame Isabel, his wife was dead and his financial mismanagement had reduced him to something akin to ruin. Yeoman notes that witchcraft accusations against high-status women generally failed, and that it is ‘a measure of the powerful forces driving the witch-hunters that they made their accusations in the teeth of the odds against success’. Perhaps, she suggests, they ‘genuinely did believe, for culturally-determined reasons, that their female foes were assuredly witches’ (Yeoman 2002: 121). Hamilton believed it for decades. But the establishment, faced with an upper-class accuser and an even more upper-class accused, endlessly postponed taking any action.

[25]  In 1630, Hamilton had copied a string of Old Testament condemnations of witches, consulters therewith, and perjurers onto the final front flyleaf of the Huntington Library copy of King James his Encomium. In 1641, the ‘Supplementa Miscellanea’ to his petition of 17 & 21 August comprised a very different selection of Scripture verses, celebrating, in sequence, the omnipotence of God, the Last Judgment and the destruction of the Beast, the Elect Nation, the King, the faithful who trust in God and who turn all things to good, and God’s love for Sion. When quoting Psalm 94, Hamilton was clearly thinking of himself and his prolonged sufferings as he waited for justice to be done:

Who will rise up for me against the evildoers? Or who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity? Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.

The penultimate quotation (from 1 Peter) concerns brotherly love, the transience of human glory and the eternal word of God. The final quotation is the famous ‘Unto us a child is born’ of Isaiah 9, and concerns the absolute righteousness of the kingdom of God, who will ‘establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever’.

[26]  Francis Hamilton never did see the justice he believed was his by right. On the last-written of the petitions (17 November 1641), a pencil note refers the reader to the Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, volume v, page 602, which merely records: ‘The Laird of Silvertonhill his Petition remitted to the judge ordinar’. Francis’s last attempt to bring about a public confrontation between himself and the lady he blamed for all his misfortunes had got no further than his earlier attempts, ‘referred from judges to judges’.

The MS material on the flyleaves of Huntington Library copy
[27]  Francis’s authorship of this material, dated August and September 1630, is not in doubt. He has crammed the front flyleaves with poetry in rhyming couplets and marginal notes, comments and corrections; the back flyleaves contain poetry in a variety of verse forms. The tone is markedly more personal than the celebratory printed poetry of 1626, which had contained only the merest hint at his private difficulties, and not a single word about witchcraft. The manuscript poetry and comments, however, are the words of a beleaguered soul absolutely convinced both that he himself is deeply wronged and much persecuted, and that the Scottish kingdom is in deadly danger from satanic attack.

[28]  The badly torn first leaf is headed ‘A Christian Lamentation’, the only title to be found among the estimated 120 rhyming couplets that fill(ed) most of the opening flyleaves. There are spaces left between blocs of couplets, and Hamilton seems to have intended a string of linked but separate pieces: he uses the plural when he comments at the end of the couplets: ‘These are but as Prologues & prayers put as in Parenthese … 20 sheet of paper wold skarsely containe what I haue to say’. Two pages earlier, he had noted ‘It wold take a whole Booke if I should proceed to declare my mind concerning these things which I wold write or speake’, and most unfortunately, the opening ‘Christian Lamentation’ has lost at least 82 of its lines, in part or in whole. It is clear that the poem concerned an unsuccessful appeal to the authorities:

[…] Paull must to Appele Proceed,
[…] I haue in time of need
[?Addressed me] to our Royall soveraigne king
[?And I have made appe]le, in all this thing
[?Unto my c]ountreys states of Parliament
[?To read my] bill of ?meanance and Complaint.
[?It’s not] beene read in Publick as it ought
[?Nor I he]ard in my Cause, though I besought
[?And la]tely did intreet in this my Cause
[?That it b]e heard, According to Gods lawes.
[…] of this Generall Convention                                     (45-55)

On the undamaged second leaf, the words ‘1630 7 August’ are placed alongside the apparent end (an indented couplet) of the ‘Lamentation’. The next block of couplets, dated ‘9 August’, indicates that the appeal to king and Convention concerned witchcraft:

If that I present means or moyen had
Then might I doe, as Jabesh Gilead,                                      [cf. 1 Sam. 11:1-4]
In haste send woord vnto our soveraigne king,
And shew him all the manner of this thing.
And how I in this Generall Convention,
Haue not beene heard, euen with the like Attention,
As Jabesh Gilead, when besieged sore,                                 [cf. 1 Sam. 11:8-11]
Since thrise seuen yeares I am besieged more:
With wrong on wrong, plot upon plot assalted,
Till I constrained, haue in the Battall halted:

‘Thrice seven years’ prior to 1630 takes us right back to the aftermath of the ill-fated 1607 marriage contract with Dame Isabel Boyd. Hamilton asks the authorities to

Search, try, and judge, According to the woord.
Of Jehouah, our omnipotent Lord.
Concerning such prophane Abhomination
That God may haue his glory* in this nation          *thrugh our obe
By due obedience giuen to his command                 dience to his will
That not a witch be suffered in this land                  & written word

In the next block of couplets, Hamilton turns directly to Christ:

And till our king and Parliament shall judge[20]
To whom I haue thrugh my Appelle Refuge
Nixt under Godman, Jesus Christ, My Lord,
Redeemer, Saviour, which doth help afford […]
And mee his seruant make in end prevaile
Gainst all his foes, and Mine, which mee Assaile,
That haueing in and thrugh him overcoome,               [cf. Rev. 3:21; Rev. 17:14]
I in his joy for aye may Reigne with Him.                            [cf. 2 Titus 2:12]

A flood of visionary praise immediately ensues, beginning:

*John 24.16
John 15.26
& 16.7&c
O Heighth, O Deepth, of Loue: o breadth O lenth:
Of Grace, of Glory, Joy, Comfort and strenth.
Invincible, and superexcellent,
Goodnesse, and Grandour, Perfect, Permanent
What shall I render vnto thee, My louer,[21]
My soules delight, my judge and just Approuer,
Thrugh love of God, thy grace, and faith me giuen
Wrought thrugh thine holy sprit* sent mee from Heauen
According to thy Promise which thow madest
Whilst yet on earth thow Lord mongst men abadest.
 [cf. Eph. 3:17-19]

Many more couplets follow, in which complaint of persecution mingles with ecstatic, mystical praise. On the final front flyleaf, Hamilton writes ‘I think it not convenient now to enter vpon the maine point. For this book could not fully contain it. But briefly to touch it’ – whereupon he produces a whole series of Biblical quotations, beginning with the notorious Exodus 22:18 ‘Thow shalt not suffer a witch to liue’, followed by grim injunctions about swearing and blasphemy from Leviticus, and about false witnesses and witches from Deuteronomy.

[29]  At the end of the book, the first of the flyleaves contains the comment:

This Country hath beene oppresed with witches, wizards, charmers, enchanters, & sorcerers, idolaters, and prophane periured Atheists (they pretending trew religion) more then twenty yeares. The lord oure God and keeper of Israell redresse & help us. For these haue riden as in Charets of yrone like midianits.

Hamilton also observes that ‘the Deuils their Covenants are loadin full of euils’. On the last page are found the date 14 August 1630, and a marginal note dated 8 September. The various manuscript verses on these latter flyleaves have the general running title ‘Miscellanea’. First come 45 very inelegant couplets, most of which paraphrase the Biblical wording of Judges 4 and 5, i.e. the story of Sisera, Deborah and Jael, with a final section meditating on other Old Testament examples of the Israelites being willing ‘to fight the Battels of their Loueing Lord’ and slaughter vast numbers of enemies. In lines 75-80 Hamilton bursts out:

*burneing lampes of wise
religious faithfull and
fervent zeale and
upright liues and doctrine
Haue Christians trew, not now the writen woord,
Of Jehouah, the sharpe transcendent swoord,
Two edged: And haue wee not burneing* lampes,
To chase the Midianits, from out their campes:
Witches and wizards; and all such prophane
Idolaters; as yet mongst us remaine.

And then he brings in Samson, massacring ‘heape on heape’ of Philistines, Joshua stopping the sun ‘Vntil Gods Foes, and Israels were subdued’, and Samuel hewing Agar ‘all in pieces’. Whereupon he ends abruptly with the young David, who put a stone into the forehead of Goliath and ‘Then with his owne swoord, cut his head off to’.

[30]  Next comes ‘A Christian Confession And prayer in time of Danger, and of Distresse to the toone of the 54 psalme,’ laid out in eight-line octosyllabic stanzas. These 144 well-wrought lines are strongly reminiscent of the opening section of Elizabeth Melville’s Ane Godlie Dreame and even more reminiscent of her unpublished longer meditative poems, which bear titles like ‘Ane Exhortatioun for patience with ane prayer for comfort’. Hamilton’s poem opens:

I am compassed round about,
On every side my foes persew;
Sathan thrugh sinn, within, without,
His strong Assalts doth still renew;
My sinnes they are before mine eyes,                                    [cf. Ps. 51:3]
As mountaines huge; wold presse mee doune.
But Christ thrugh Faith doth mee release,
And in his joy, my soule will Crowne.                          (5-8)

The beleaguered, depressed mood does not greatly change for much of the poem:

Support mee Lord in time of neede
Let not my sinnes nor foes prevaile,
help Lord mee gainst such crafty Feede                                [feud]
wherby my foes wold make mee quaile.                        (33-36)

When Hamilton’s muse does eventually become more energised, Revelation (inevitably) comes in, with the Whore of Babylon and the Antichrist:

Ding downe the Proud presumptuous Beast
Which doth molest and vex thy saints:
The Bloody Whoore, the Antichrist,
And still defend thy militants.
Since thow art quickly, Lord, to come,
Recall the jewes, our Elder Brether,
And gather in the totall summe
Of thine, to sing thy Praise together.                    (89-96)

The words of Psalm 54 certainly relate to the general contents of Hamilton’s poem, but by 1630, the only tune indicated for this psalm in printed Scottish psalm-books was that of Psalm 27, first put forward in this role by Hart in his psalter of 1614.[22] Since Psalm 27’s contents could also be related to Hamilton’s poem, he might just as easily have specified ‘the toone of the 27 psalme’. However, throughout his childhood and early manhood, the melody to which he would have sung Psalm 54 was the 1556 Anglo-Genevan tune for William Whittingham’s version of the Ten Commandments, ‘Attend my people and give ear’.[23] To hear the following stanza (again illustrating the poet’s adroit citing of Scripture) sung to this splendid French tune by Michael Swithinbank, click here.

The Helmet of Saluation                                                          [cf. Eph. 6:17]
Confirme Good God vpon our heads,
That wee from Hells damnation sic
may saued be, thrugh thy good deeds.
The Briestplate of trew Righteousnesse                               [cf. Eph. 6:14]
make firme on us to haue abode,
gird up our loines with truthfulnesse,
with shoes of peace make us be shod  (109-116)                 [cf. Eph. 6:15]

The manuscript pages conclude with an untitled sequence of ten numbered sonnets, dated 19 August 1630. The subject is the need for absolute reliance on Christ, and emulation of His suffering as the only way to share in His triumph and enter eternal life. As the first sonnet shows, the underlying driving-force is the now impoverished Hamilton’s own condition, following the failure of his appeal to the Convention of Estates:

Gold must not be our God, nor Arme of Man,               [cf. Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:13]
For Aegipts Hoste is as a broken reede.                                                   [cf. Isa. 36:6]
God-man Euen Jesus Christ, which will and Can
Support his Saints, euen our Bridgrome & head.[24]   [cf. 1 Cor.11:3; Eph.1:22,
Hee, Allwise Hee, must be our God, indeed:                             5:23; Col. 1:18, 2:10]
His written will and woord, our Rule and square,
In which, through his free Grace, wee must proceed,
Thrugh power of his Sprit (Aye mare & mare
woorking in us trew Faith; with zealous care)
To walke uprightly: And our sinnes repent;[25]
That where Christ is, wee also may be there,
Haueing thrugh Grace, thrugh Faith, and Loue prevent
Those Fearfull terrours, which shall them befall,                           [cf. 1 Cor. 15:28]
Who haue not Christ, to be their All, in All.

We might expect a sequence to use the same rhyme scheme throughout, but this one does not. If we allow coast/boast to rhyme with lust/Antichrist, and fruit/refute with sweet/great, then sonnets 2 and 3 share sonnet 1’s Scottish interlacing form. The other seven display a variety of patterns, including rhyming the same repeated word. Yet the sonnets are tightly linked, for like the ‘Seven Crownes’, they are not self-contained units; for example, sonnet 4’s closing ‘wee […] are made conforme, | To Christ our head, overcoomeing everie storme’ flows straight into sonnet 5’s opening ‘That haueing with our head, some sympathy…’. For all its real roughness of finish, this eminently theological sequence is of considerable emotive power. Like all the manuscript poems of 1630, its heartfelt urgency is unquestionable. Sadly, as in his 1626 attempt to make the end of Revelation fit the tune of ‘What if a day’, Hamilton overreaches himself at the climax, trying to fit into fourteen lines the seven blessings (duly numbered) that God promises to the enduring faithful in ‘the seven churches which are in Asia’[26]:

Revel. 2.3 Chapters saying to Him that overcometh.

To him that overcometh, I will giue,
1. To eat of Lifes tree, midst the Paradize
2. of God; and that of second death, Hee haue                     [cf. Rev. 2 7]
3. none hurt; And of hid mann’ to eat likewise,                   [cf. Rev. 2:11]
I will him giue, a white stone with new name,                     [cf. Rev. 2:17]
4. And Power ouer nationes, I will giue him;                       [cf. Rev. 2:26]
5. And cloth Him with white Robbe (From sinn, & shame)
nor blot his name out of lifes booke (nor prive Him)
But Him confesse before my Father God.
And euen before his Angels. 6. And but doubt,                     [cf. Rev. 3:5]
6. A Pillar in the Temple of my God
Make him (saith Christ) that Hee no more goe out.
Gods name, his Cities name, and his new name,
7. Iy’l write on Him, and inthronize the same.                      [cf. Rev. 3:12]

Hamilton’s conviction that Dame Isabel Boyd was a limb of Satan betokens delusory tendencies, but he did not delude himself as to the shortcomings of his 1630 MS poems; on the last flyleaf, alongside the final sonnets, he wrote ‘Time permitteth not to write it in such forme & order as I would till a better occasion that I revise them’.

Conclusion: Hamilton’s poetic context
[31]  Hamilton’s voice is quite unlike those of Ayton, Sir William Alexander or Drummond of Hawthornden, or even of the exclusively religious versifiers James Cockburn and William Wishartt. But like the sonnets in his sequences, Francis Hamilton does not stand alone. The second sonnet of ‘Seven Crownes’ will serve to show that he belongs to a distinct school of Scottish Calvinist devotional verse:

One God wee must adore, in persons three
Distinguish’d, who can never bee divid’d;
And only he through Christ ador’d must bee,
Who Heaven and Earth, and all therein, doth guide.
Litle availes his gifts, where wants his grace;
His saving grace in Christ our Soules delyte,
And thats our ioy, that wee shall see his face;
When hee shall all his foes with Scepter smyte,
They shall all prove as potters shards,[27] when hee                [cf. Ps. 2:9]
Shall with his Word, the sword of iustice, kill;
And with his powers rodde shall crushed bee                            [cf. Rev. 19:15]
And fry’d in fierie flames for ever still:
Who would enjoy Christs face must fight the field
‘Gainst sinne and Satan, and must never yeeld.

While lines one and two may well echo Alexander Montgomerie’s celebrated sonnet-opening ‘Supreme Essence, beginner, unbegun, | Ay Trinal One, and undivided three’, they are notably closer to the opening of a related but less familiar published sonnet by James Melville, found at the close of ‘A Morning Vision’, the second part of Melville’s A Spirituall Propine of a Pastour to his People (Edinburgh, 1598). Melville’s version of this sonnet — like Montgomery’s a reworking of a French sonnet of Marin Le Saulx — opens: ‘Supreame essence, beginner, unbegon, | Distinguished ane, and undevided three’.[28] The actual phrase ‘Supreme essence’ will appear in Hamilton’s King James his Encomium, 417-18, when God is asked to protect King Charles: ‘Make the good motions of thy Spirite him guide, | Supreme Essence, who cannot bee divide’.

[32]  That the foes of Christ are ‘fry’d in fierie flames’ of line twelve is irresistibly reminiscent of Elizabeth Melville’s Ane Godlie Dreame, 307-9: ‘Puir damnit saullis […] | In flaming fyre, war frying wonder fast’, while the closing couplet’s ‘fight the feild’ can be paralleled no fewer than three times in Ane Godlie Dreame, 439-48, as well as appearing in various guises throughout Elizabeth Melville’s manuscript poetry.[29] The phrase ‘Our Soules delyte’ in Hamilton’s fifth line will appear twice in the manuscript poems of 1630: ‘my soules delight, my judge and just Approuer’ and ‘my soules delight and great desire’. Given that ‘The saules delight’ is the title of a magisterial postliminary sonnet to James Melville’s Spirituall Propine, by his friend ‘MWS’, this may well be further confirmation of Hamilton’s familiarity with that book (Reid Baxter 2008: 85).

[33]  James Melville’s friend David Black, in his Exposition vpon the thirtie two Psalme, describing the true maner of humbling and raysing vp of Gods children (Edinburgh, 1600), voiced views that chime perfectly with what Hamilton evidently thought was the purpose of poetry. Black comments that the author of Psalm 32, King David, teaches us

if we haue any vein of versificating, or any other good vse of our veine, how to vse it, that by this example, our writings may sauour of godlinesse to stirre vp the mindes of others, aswell as our selues therunto, not to leaue vnchest ditties behind vs (as it were bawdes in the world) as many haue done. (2)

There is much more of the same. Black himself left no poetry, but similar sentiments had been voiced by another Presbyterian pastor who did publish poetry, Alexander Hume (c.1557-1609). His Hymnes, or Sacred Songs (Edinburgh, 1599), dedicated to Elizabeth Melville, are prefaced by an exhortation ‘To the Scottish Youth’, where Hume writes:

Such as ather haue the art or vaine poetike, of force they must shew themselues cunning followers of the dissolute ethnike poets, both in phrase and substance, or else they shall be had in no reputation. Als for pittie! Is this the right vse of a Christians talent to […] foster the filthie vice and corruption that naturallie is seased in the harts of all men? (sig.A 3v)

Hume’s dedicatee, Elizabeth Melville, in a sonnet about her own writing, ends with the prayer ‘grant thy gifts may still growe more and more | That I a triple talent may restore’, and Hamilton’s sonnet ‘To the Christian Reader’ states that ‘Talents ten, abused, | Makes the abuser loose them and his place. | One litle Talent with right vse I crave’ (Reid Baxter 2010: 25).

[34]  Another well-wrought ‘plain style’ devotional poem which Hamilton may have known is the Perthshire minister George Muschet’s The Complaint of a Christian Soule (Edinburgh, 1610). Muschet is reminiscent of Hamilton when he writes of earthly life, for example:

But who can sing in such a monstrous graue,
Or praise thy name in this infernall place?
Who can be glade who doth not grace receaue
To see the sweetnes of thy heauenlie face?   (sig.Cv)

But Muschet’s ‘complaint’ is the lament of the Calvinist conscience, humiliated and almost paralysed by its agonising awareness of reprobacy and alienation from God. This has frequent parallels in Elizabeth Melville, but it contrasts interestingly with Hamilton’s focus on spiritual warfare, and with the markedly subjective complaints of persecution expressed in the latter’s manuscript poems.

[35]  Hamilton himself may have influenced some of his contemporaries. There is always the possibility that Hamilton’s 1626 publication may have inspired the plethoric and unpoetic vernacular Muse of Zachary Boyd, who had returned from long years at Saumur in France in 1621; Zachary’s abundant versifications of Scripture are at least as bad as Hamilton’s efforts in that field.[30] We cannot be certain just when David Dickson (1583-1662), minister of Irvine in Ayrshire and friend of Elizabeth Melville, composed his lengthy True Christian Love, to be sung with the common tunes of the Psalms. Dickson’s fluent concatenation of versified quotations from Holy Writ often results in a texture redolent of Hamilton’s work; the first surviving edition is from as late as 1634.

[36]  But the religious verse of David Dickson’s near neighbour, the Ayrshire aristocrat Sir William Mure of Rowallan (1594-1657), may be something of a direct response to King James His Encomium (cf. Tough 1898).[31] Mure was related to the Hamiltons of Silvertonhill by marriage – the link is James Mure of Caldwell, married to the poet’s sister Margaret Mure of Rowallan (d.1644), for Caldwell’s daughter Marion became the second wife of Francis’s brother Edward some time before 1622; she was still alive in 1655 (Hamilton 1933: 816).[32] Sir William’s early poetry, which he did not publish,[33] is full of pagan allusions and its subject matter is largely erotic, including an impressive Dido and Aeneas of 2454 lines in three books. But in 1628, he published A Spirituall Hymne … also … a Poeme entituled Doomes-Day, a not insubstantial book of 1338 lines of religious verse. It was swiftly followed in 1629 by The True Crucifixe for True Catholickes, a much larger volume of 3376 lines, relentlessly denouncing the Church of Rome, that bête noire of Francis Hamilton in King James his Encomium.

[37]  At the end of A Spirituall Hymne, Mure printed three sonnets headed ‘Fancies Farewell’, denouncing his earlier secular poetry, lamenting his ‘Houres mis-employed’ and saying to his soul:

Thy younger yeares, youthes sweet Aprile mispent,
Strive to redeeme with works of greater worth.          (Tough 1898: I, 196)

Mure’s numerous sonnets include a powerful sequence, The Joy of Teares (1637), but unlike Hamilton, he makes almost exclusive use of the Scottish interlacing form, while his 104 psalm paraphrases are considerably better than Hamilton’s surviving attempts at versifying Scripture.[34] Nonetheless, it can at least be speculated that in 1626, Mure may have been struck by the denunciation of pagan verse that opens Hamilton’s ‘Seven Crownes’:

The Heathen Poets who did faine moe Gods
(Blinded with bastard zeale) than I can telle:
Sung praise in Poems, in their Layes and Ods,
To such as they alledg’d made them prevaile.

The dictates of corona form mean that this opening denunciation also closes ‘Seven Crownes’, as the culmination of the final sonnet, which looks forward to the consummation of all things on the Great Day of God’s Judgment, the subject of Mure’s Doomesday:

Let elect Saints in trembling, love, and feare
In faith and true repentance watch and pray,
Praise God in zeale, in wisedome persevere
Vntill the end — attending on that Day:
That Day wherein God shall make even our ods,
And Heathen Poets damne, with fained Gods.

The modern Western secular mind-set tends to find such homiletic, Bible-based devotional poetry uninteresting. If one does not believe in God, let alone the divine inspiration of the Bible, it is difficult to relate to or respond to, particularly when it is devoid of features of ‘literary’ interest (such as sacred Petrarchism or formal experimentation) and is the work of individuals who led outwardly uneventful, blameless lives that cannot be used to identify suggestive tensions and contradictions in their writing. Hamilton’s ‘Seven Crownes’ sequence is an astonishing undertaking in its Scottish context.[35] And Hamilton’s life was hardly blameless or uneventful, and contradictions abound — not least his appallingly unchristian attitude to women, as evinced by his attempt to defraud his sisters by overturning his mother’s careful provision for their dowries, his failure to provide for his own daughters, and his obsessive efforts to bring Dame Isabel Boyd to court – and the gallows — for witchcraft. This strange, forgotten Lanarkshire aristocrat merits the attention of literary scholars as well as historians and social anthropologists.

I express my thanks to Dr Sarah Ross for valuable comments in the course of preparing this essay.

University of Glasgow


[1]  These are now at the National Archives of Scotland (henceforth NAS): NAS PA7/2/131 and NAS PA7/2/131a.[back to text]

[2]  A microfilm of it, perforce including the two innermost flyleaves, was used for Early English Books Online (EEBO), alerting me to the existence of the manuscript material, whereof the National Library of Scotland possesses a complete photostat.[back to text]

[3]  James Melville’s enthusiasm for Brightman was unbounded (1842: 785). The first English translation appeared in 1611. On other (negative) early Scottish reactions to Brightman, see D.A. Drinnon, ‘The Apocalyptic Tradition in Scotland, 1588-1688’, St. Andrews PhD thesis, 2013: http://hdl.handle.net/10023/3386, Chapter 1, especially pp.47-60. Drinnon does not mention Melville’s enthusiasm. My thanks to Michael Riordan for alerting me to this thesis. [back to text]

[4]  In the 1560s, the polyvalent George Gascoigne had introduced the corona-form to English literature in a set of seven sententious sonnets based on proverbial material; there are later secular attempts at English coronas by Samuel Daniel and Lady Mary Wroth.[back to text]

[5]  This rhyme-scheme is still sometimes called ‘Spenserian’, though the consensus is now that it originated in Scotland; see McClune 2009.[back to text]

[6]  Hamilton will have known the similar list found in Michael Wallace of Kilmarnock’s Carmen Panegyricum of 1617, printed in Adamson 1618: 267-69. An online edition and translation of this text will shortly appear in The Philological Museum.[back to text]

[7]  David Greer (1962: 316) notes that two stanzas (in fact those found in the 1603 Philotus) are found copied into a Scottish Metrical Psalter, British Library MS Add. 33,933, f. 81v-82. Fifty years on, in February 2011, Professor Greer confirmed (personal communication) that he really did not believe there is any evidence that Campion wrote the song.[back to text]

[8]  The baronetcy of Hamilton of Silvertonhill still exists, though the actual estate of Silvertonhill in Lanarkshire vanished long ago. The name survives locally in the town of Hamilton, where it describes a residential area around Silvertonhill Avenue.[back to text]

[9]  William Baillie’s wife was Elizabeth Durham, of the family of the Durhams of Duntarvie, royal servants; James Durham of Duntarvie is one of the two principal witnesses to Elizabeth Baillie’s charter of 31 October 1599. See Registrum magni sigilli Regum Scotorum: The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland (1984: vi, no.973), henceforth RMS. Her brothers, mentioned in this charter, had predeceased their father. Francis’s marriage contract of 1609 (see below) shows a continuing Durham of Duntarvie interest.[back to text]

[10]  The others being Robert, William, James, and John (Hamilton 1933: 813-14). For Robert and James, see RMS vol.9, no.350; James was admitted burgess of Glasgow in 1628, and died in October 1649. For Mr William, see RMS vol.8, no.1532, of 20 February 1630, where we find ‘Wil.Hammiltoun filium legit. D.Roberti H. de Goislingtoun militis prebendarium de Nathirfield’ in September 1625. Like John, he appears to have died before 1635.[back to text]

[11]  Recorded in Archibald Heygate, Protocol Book 1604-1609 (Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library, ref. B10/1/10).[back to text]

[12]  RD1/21/288 is an obligation by Francis’s grandfather, Sir Andrew Hamilton of Goslington, and others, including Thomas Hamilton of Priestfield, to Henrie Nesbit, burgess of Edinburgh, 19 March 1583 (N.S.).[back to text]

[13]  Records of the Privy Council of Scotland, xii, 529 and xiii, 485.[back to text]

[14]  My thanks to Mr Gordon Coutts and Dr Winifred Coutts for their help in understanding these legal documents.[back to text]

[15]  There is an entail to Edward’s direct heirs, whom failing to his brother Robert and his, whom failing to his brother James and his.[back to text]

[16]  Having turned Francis’s grandfather Sir Andrew into two separate men, this work depicts Francis as an only child who ‘never was married’ and in whom ‘this branch of the family expired’. This creative fantasy was drawn on by Burke’s General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage 1832 (vol.1, 567). As a result, it has been used by many genealogists and has created a web of misprision, despite the correct account given by George Hamilton in 1933 and the fact that as early as 1909, Gray-Buchanan had observed bluntly that Douglas ‘makes [Francis] the last of an imaginary elder line of the Silvertonhill family’ (1909:438-39). W.H.C. Hamilton demonstrated that the ‘younger line’ via Alexander Hamilton, Tutor of Silvertonhill (d.1547) was entirely spurious, and commented that ‘the Baronage of Scotland is shown by the Records to be erroneous in many particulars’ (1905: 189-90).[back to text]

[17]  Respectively, James Greig (d. before April 1586) of Colmonell, pre-Reformation Archdean of Glasgow, and William Wallace (1577-1617) of Eastwood. See Scott 1915-: iii, 133.[back to text]

[18]  See Livingstone’s Life (Tweedie 1845-47: i, 138), in William King Tweedie, Select Biographies, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1845-47),i, and Memorable Characteristics (Tweedie 1845-47: i, 315).[back to text]

[19]  The extant material (‘Supplementary Parliamentary Papers’) is in NAS, PA7/2/131, inadequately catalogued as ‘131. 1641: Petition by the laird of Silvertonhill; 131a. 1641: Paper relating to trial of Dame Isabell Boyd for witchcraft’. The texts will appear in my Francis Hamilton, Complete Writings (in preparation).[back to text]

[20]  There is a bracket against lines 130-31, and a system of lines down the left margin all the way to the quatrain written at the very end, under a double horizontal line; it appears to be a replacement for these four lines.[back to text]

[21]  Hamilton probably means this word as an equivalent of ‘bridegroom’ or the ‘beloved’ of the Song of Songs; Wisd. 11:26 does describe God as ‘thou lover of souls’.[back to text]

[22]  I am grateful to Dr Timothy Duguid for discussion of this point.[back to text]

[23]  A four part setting of this text and tune can be heard on the CD which forms part of Reid Baxter et al. 2011.[back to text]

[24]  Christ is the bridegroom of the Song of Songs, and of the parable in Matt. 25; he also refers to himself as the bridegroom in Matt. 9:15, Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:34-35; he is the bridegroom of the Church in Rev. 21:2.[back to text]

[25]  William Kethe, metrical Ps.101:2: ‘and walke uprightly in mine house, as one of thine Elect’; Ps. 84:11.[back to text]

[26]  Listed by name in ‘King James His Encomium’, 192-93. Hamilton ignores the Brightman/Forbes reading of them as representing seven stages in the history of the Church (Firth 1979: 166, 176).[back to text]

[27]  Combining the Geneva Bible’s ‘sceptre of iron’ and Sternhold’s ‘as the potters shards’.[back to text]

[28]  See the discussion in Lyall 2005:302-06. Inexplicably, Melville’s ‘Morning Vision’ was not microfilmed and is therefore missing from the EEBO copy of Ane Spirituall Propine.[back to text]

[29]  For example, in the last line of the dizain (Reid Baxter 2010: 12). See also the sextain of Hamilton’s sonnet to George Hay, cited earlier.[back to text]

[30]  See, for example, the varied specimens prefaced to The Last Battle of the Soul in Death (Boyd 1831).[back to text]

[31]  Mure, a convinced Presbyterian, was probably also himself directly influenced by the writings of James Melville and Lady Culross.[back to text]

[32]  She may actually have been James’s sister. The sources do not agree.[back to text]

[33]  Except ‘The Kings Maiestie came to Hamilton on Monday the xxxviii July’ of 1617, which appeared in The Muses Welcome (1618).[back to text]

[34]  STC (2nd ed.) 1819; Mure did not publish his psalms (Tough 1898:ii, 57-232).[back to text]

[35]  As a corona, the only Scottish parallel is Elizabeth Melville’s ‘Call to come to Christ’ in fifteen quatrains, where a key word or phrase from the last line of each quatrain is repeated in the succeeding first line of the next. This dazzling contrafactum of Marlowe’s Passionate Shepherd to his Love circulated in manuscript (Reid Baxter 2010:7-9, 100-03, 119).[back to text]



NAS, CC8/8/61

NAS, CC9/7/28

NAS, XV General Register of Sasines

NAS PA7/2/131

NAS PA7/2/131a

NAS, RD1/159

NAS, RD1/21/288

Glasgow City Archives, Mitchell Library, ref. B10/1/10

Printed Works

[RMS] 1984. Registrum magni sigilli Regum Scotorum: The Register of the Great Seal of Scotland (Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society)

Adamson, John (ed.). 1618. The Muses Welcome (Edinburgh)

Bawcutt, Priscilla. 2012. ‘John Donne: The Scottish Connection’, in David J. Parkinson (ed.), James VI and I, Literature and Scotland. Tides of Change, 1567-1625 (Leuven: Peeters), 323-38

Black, David. 1600. Exposition vpon the thirtie two Psalme, describing the true maner of humbling and raysing vp of Gods children (Edinburgh)

Boyd, Zachary. 1831. The Last Battle of the Soul in Death, ed. Gabriel Neil (Glasgow)

Douglas, Robert. 1798. The Baronage of Scotland (Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute et al.)

Elliott, Kenneth. 1963. ‘What if a Day’, Music and Letters 44 (2): 206

Firth, Katharine R. 1979. The Apocalyptic Tradition in Reformation Britain, 1530-1645 (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

[Glasgow City Council], no date. Provan Hall Heritage Trail. <http://www.glasgow.gov.uk>, accessed 17 January 2012

Gray-Buchanan, A.W. 1909. ‘Queries and Replies’, Scottish Historical Review 6 (24): 438-39

Greer, David. 1962. ‘“What if a day” – an examination of the words and music’, Music and Letters, 43 (4):304-19

Hamilton, George. 1933. History of the House of Hamilton (Edinburgh: n.p.)

Hamilton, W.H.C. 1905. ‘Baron of Argentine’, SHR 2 (6): 189-90

Hume, Alexander. 1599. Hymnes, or Sacred Songs (Edinburgh)

Innes, Cosmo Nelson (ed.). 1854. Munimenta alme universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow from its foundation till 1727 (Glasgow: Glasgow University)

James VI/I. 1619. A Meditation upon the Lords prayer. (London)

Lyall, Roderick J. 2005. Alexander Montgomerie: poetry, politics, and cultural change in Jacobean Scotland (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies)

McClune, Katherine. 2009. ‘The “Spenserian Sonnet” in Sixteenth-Century Scotland’, Notes and Queries, 56 (4): 533-536

Melville, James. 1597. Comfortable Exhortatioun anent Death (Edinburgh)

_____. 1598. A Spirituall Propine of a Pastour to his People (Edinburgh)_____. 1842. The Autobiography and Diary, ed. Robert Pitcairn (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society)

Morison, William Maxwell. 1801-08. The Decisions of the court of Sessions (Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute)

Muschet, George. 1610. The Complaint of a Christian Soule (Edinburgh)

Paterson, James. 1863-66. History of the Counties of Ayr and Wigton,3 vols (Edinburgh: J. Stillie)

Paul, James Balfour. 1904-14. The Scots Peerage, 9 vols (Edinburgh: David Douglas)

Reid Baxter, J. 2005. ‘The Songs of Lady Culross’, in G.J. Munro, et al (eds.), Notis Musycall (Glasgow: Musica Scotica), 143-63

_____. 2008. ‘Liminary Verse: the Paratextual Poetry of Renaissance Scotland’, The Journal of the Edinburgh Bibliographical Society,3: 70-94

_____. 2008b. ‘Mr Andro Boyd (1565-1636): a Neo-Stoic Bishop of Argyll and his writings’, in Julian Goodare and A.A. MacDonald (eds.), Sixteenth Century Scotland: Essays in honour of Michael Lynch (Brill: Leiden), 395-425

______. 2010. Poems of Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross (Edinburgh: Solsequium)

Reid Baxter, Jamie, Lynch, Michael, Dennison, Elizabeth Patricia. 2011. Jhone Angus, monk of Dunfermline, and Scottish Reformation Music (Dunfermline: Dunfermline Heritage Community Projects)

Scott, Hew. 1915-. Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae,11 vols, (Edinburgh: n.p.)

Tough, William (ed.). 1898. The Works of Sir William Mure of Rowallan (Edinburgh: Scottish Text Society)

Tweedie, William King. 1845-47. Select Biographies, 2 vols (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society)

Williamson, Arthur H. 1979. Scottish National Consciousness in the Age of James VI  (Edinburgh: John Donald)

Yeoman, Louise. 2002. ‘Hunting the Rich Witch in Scotland: high-status witchcraft suspects and their persecutors, 1590-1650’, inJulian Goodare (ed.), The Scottish Witch-Hunt in Context (Manchester: Manchester University Press), 106-21