Abbildungen der Seite

without precedent or parallel,1 nor was it destined to lack the approval of which imitation is the surest proof (see post, p. 215). It is simply a competition in invective, and the fertility of invention which the competitors display is truly astonishing. How far such a contest implied serious enmity on the part of the combatants is an open question. It has been inferred from Dunbar's allusion to Kennedy in the Lament for the Makaris2 that the rivals were on excellent terms. On the other hand, a perusal of the Flyting rather leaves the impression that this was not exactly a "friendly " sparring match, but that the hearts of both were in their work. We may note, for example, that, while Dunbar taunts Kennedy with his Celtic descent, Kennedy has no scruple in taunting Dunbar with his poverty as contrasted with his own wealth—a topic which, according to modern notions, is quite inconsistent with the theory of friendship or good will.3 However that may be,

1 See Mackay, Introduction, i. p. cix. One celebrated specimen of flyting is commemorated in Douglas's lines—

"And Poggius stude with mony girne and grone, On Laurence Valla spittand and cryand fy." (The Police of Honour, Douglas's Works, ed. Small, i. p. 47.) ■ Works, ii. p. 51, 11. 89 et seq.

3 Thus Dunbar to that " Ersch Katherane," Kennedy :—

"Forworthin fule, of all the warld reffuse,

Quhat ferly is thocht thow rejoys to flyte?
Sic eloquence as thay in Erschry use,
In sic is set thy thraward appetyte;
Thow hes full littill feill of fair indyte:
I tak on me ane pair of Lowthiane hippis
Sall fairar Inglis mak, and mair parfyte,
Than thow can blabbar with thy Carrick lippis."

The Flyting, 11. 105-12.

And thus Kennedy to Dunbar :—

"Thow has a tome purs, I have stedis and takkis,
Thow tynt cultur, I haif cultur and pleuch,
Substance and geir, thou has a wedy teuch
On Mount Falconn, about thy crag to rax."

Ibid., 11. 365-68.

there is certainly no want of energy or noise in the fray. Where the two parties seem so bent upon winning the victory, and so little fastidious in their choice of weapons, the selection of a continuous passage is almost impossible ; but the following stanza, while believed to be free from serious offence, will show what Dunbar is like when he is thoroughly roused up, and has warmed to his task :—

"Mauch muttoun, vyle buttoun, peilit gluttoun, air to Hilhouse;

Rank begar, ostir dregar, foule fleggar in the flet;
Chittirlilling, ruch rillirig, lik schilling in the milhouse;

Baird rehator, theif of natour, fals tratour, feyndis gett;

Filling of tauch, rak sauch, cry crauch, thow art our sett;
Mutton dryver, girnall ryver, jad-swyver, fowll fell the;

Herrctyk, lunatyk, purspyk, carlingis pet,
Rottin crok, dirtin dok, cry cok, or I sail quell the."'

The scheme of the Flyting may not be very attractive to readers of the present day. But we cannot help raising hands of amazement and admiration at the immense spirit and "go" of lines such as these, with their almost more than Aristophanic lavishness of scurrility.

Of Dunbar's moral and reflective poems the most impressive and beautiful is his celebrated Lament fur the Mafyris quhen he was seik.a The text is no new one, but rarely has a better sermon been preached upon it. The poet begins by telling us how he is troubled with great sickness, and he gives utterance to the gloomy reflections to which such a misfortune naturally gives rise :—

"Onto the ded gois all Estatis,
Princis, prelotis, and potestatis,
Baith riche and pur of all degre;
Timor mortis conturbat me." 3

All sorts and conditions of men, he points out, must yield to 'The Fl)ting,l\. 241-48. 'Works, ii. p. 48. 3 u. 17-20.

that "strang unmercifull tyrand" who spares not the babe, "full of benignite," at its mother's breast.

"He takis the campion in the stour,
The capitane closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewte;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

"He spairis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His avvfull strak may no man fle;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

"Art—magicianis and astrologgis,
Rethoris logicianis, and theologgis,
Thame helpis no conclusionis sle;
Timor mortis conturbat me."'

He presently passes on to men of his own calling :—

"I see that makaris amang the laif
Playis heir ther pageant, syne gois to graif;
Sparit is nocht ther faculte;

Timor mortis conturbat me."2

And then he proceeds to enumerate a number of poets, rrom Chaucer to Kennedy, whom death has cut off.3 The concluding verses are melancholy in the extreme :—

"Sen he has all my brether tane,
He will naught let me lif alane,
On forse I man his nyxt pray be;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

'11. 29-40. '11. 45-48

J In this list, which is of the great value to the historian of Scottish Hterarure, Dunbar refers to the following " Makaris " in addition to those »ho are elsewhere mentioned in this work : Heryot; John Clerk (the reputed author of, inter alia, The Wowing of Jok and Jynny); James Afflek; Mango Lockhart; Clerk of Tranent ; Sandy Traill ; Patrick Johnstoun (to whom has been attributed The Three Deid Pows, with which the Maitland MS. credits Henryson); Mersar (author of The Pcrell of Paramours, and probably of two specimens of the "aphoristic love ballad "); Roull of Aberdeen (?), or Corstorphine (?); Sir John the Ros ; Stobo ; and Quintyne Schaw (cousin of Walter Kennedy, and author of Advyce to a Courtier).

Sen for the deid remeid is non,
Best is that we for dede dispone,
Eftir our deid that lit" may we;
Timor mortis conturbat me."'

Admirable as this fine poem is—and it ranks with the very choicest of Dunbar's achievement—his strength lies mainly in satire. It is not the formal satire of a Juvenal, but a more brisk and nimble, a less measured and stately sort, founded upon a shrewd observation of individual peculiarities and weaknesses, and possessed of a distinctive flavour which is quite unmistakable. In satire of a general scope he does not preeminently excel, except possibly in the poem, This nycht in my sleip I wes agast2 which is extremely good. We have already alluded to his wholesale attack upon contemporary manners in Devorit with Dreme. Dunbar requires some particular set of facts or persons to be present to his mind before he can exert his powers to their utmost. Thus the Tidings from the Session 3 has a "backbone" in it which the last-mentioned piece lacks, though it would be rash to infer that the Session was hopelessly corrupt and incapable.

"Sum castis summondis, and sum exceptis;
Sum standis besyd and skaild law keppis;
Sum is continwit, sum wynnis, sum tynis;
Sum makis him mirry at the wynis;
Sum is put ovvt of his possessioun;
Sum herreit, and on creddens dynis:
Sic tydingis hard I at the Sessioun." *

Is there any law court in the world of which, mutatis mutandis, these lines would not stand for a fair satirical description?

It is true that in The Dance of the Sevin deidly Synnis 5 he appears to have no special individuals in view. But, thanks

'11. 93-100. 3 Works, ii. p. 144. 3 Ibid., ii. p 78. * 11. 29-35. 5 Works, ii. p. 117.

partly to the vogue of Allegory, partly to the vogue of the Miracle Play and the Masque, Dunbar is able to personify Pride, Ire, Envy, Avarice, and the rest, with extraordinary ividness. Besides, he is also able to wind up with a fling at the Highlanders, as thus :—

"Then cryd Mahoun for a Heland padyane;
Sync ran a feynd to feche Makfadyane,

Far northwart in a nuke;
Be he the correnoch had done schout,
Erschemen so gadderit him abowl,
In Hell grit rowme thay tuke.

Thae tarmegantis, with tag and tatter,
Ffull lowd in Ersche begowth to clatter,

And rowp lyk revin and ruke:
The Devill sa devit wes with thair yell
That in the depest pot of hell

He smorit thame with smuke."

This is precisely the vein of Tam 0 Shantcr. But indeed ;-e jesting and ironical spirit in which Dunbar almost intahably treats IVlahoun is indistinguishable from that in which Burns handles th e same personage.

The Dance, then, is one of" Dunbar's masterpieces. If a class st must be made, The Freiris of Berw'tk is probably, the lament for the Alakar'n is certainly, another. But the poem *tich I should be disposed to place highest—if not in respect 'beauty or accomplishment, nevertheless in respect of signikance and depth—is the curious Testament of Mr. Andro A/sWy,! the work of a Browning, as it were, born out of Cm time. The "Testament" was a well-known literary convention of the Middle Ages, whereby an author was aabled to put such sentiments as he desired to give utterwee to into the mouth of some person, real or imaginary. Here the device is used to enable opinions to be expressed

'». P- 54-

« ZurückWeiter »