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Ne so far forth restauratif,
And if it so befalle among,
As though I were in Paradis ;
[Born, 1379. Died, 1461.]
Was born at a place of that name in Suffolk, about the year 1375. His translation (taken through the medium of Laurence's version) of Boccaccio's Fall of Princes, was begun while Henry VI. was in France, where that king never but when he went to be crowned at Paris, in 1432. Lydgate was then above threescore. He was a monk of the Benedictine order, at St. Edmund's Bury, and in 1423 was elected prior of Hatfield Brodhook, but the following year had licence to return to his convent again. His condition, one would imagine, should have supplied him with the necessaries of life, yet he more than once complains to his patron, Humphry, Duke of Gloucester, of his wants; and he shows distinctly in one passage, that he did not dislike a little more wine than his convent allowed him. He was full thirty years of age when Chaucer died, whom he calls his master, and who probably was so in a literal sense. His Fall of Princes
And eke in other wise also, Full ofte time it falleth so, Myn care with a good pitance Is fedd of reding of romance Of Ydoine and of Amadas, That whilom weren in my cas; And eke of other many a score, That loveden long ere I was bore . For whan I of her loves rede, Myn care with the tale I fede, And with the lust of her histoire Sometime I draw into memoire, How sorrow may not ever last; And so hope cometh in at last. b Loved.
CANACE, CONDEMNED TO DEATH BY HER FATHER ÆOLUS, SENDS TO HER GUILTY BROTHER MACAREUS THE LAST TESTIMONY OF HER UNHAPPY PASSION.
BOOK I. FOLIO 39.
is rather a paraphrase than a translation of his original. He disclaims the idea of writing "a stile briefe and compendious." A great story he compares to a great oak, which is not to be attacked with a single stroke, but by "a long processe."
Gray has pointed out beauties in this writer which had eluded the research, or the taste, of former critics. "I pretend not," says Gray, "to set him on a level with Chaucer, but he certainly comes the nearest to him of any contemporary writer I am acquainted with. His choice of expression and the smoothness of his verse, far surpass both Gower and Occleve. He wanted not art in raising the more tender emotions of the mind." Of these he gives several examples. The finest of these, perhaps, is the following passage, descriptive of maternal agony and tenderness.
For to remember specially, I praye,
I hold him strictly twene my armès twein, Thou and Natùre laidè on me this charge; He, guiltlesse, mustè with me suffer paine, And, sith thou art at freedom and at large, Let kindnesse ourè love not so discharge, But have a minde, wherever that thou be, Once on a day upon my child and me.
On thee and me dependeth the trespace
A mouth he has, but wordis hath he none;
Writing her letter, awhapped all in drede,
In support of the opposite system, an assertor, better known than trusted, namely Pinkerton, has maintained, that "there is not a shadow of proof, that the Gaelic language was ever at all spoken in the Lowlands of Scotland." Yet the author of Caledonia has given not mere shadows of proof, but very strong grounds, for concluding that, in the first place, to the north of the Forth and Clyde, with the exception of Scandinavian settlements admitted to have been made in Orkney, Caithness, a strip of Sutherland, and partially in the Hebrides, a Gothic dialect was unknown in antient Scotland. Amidst the arguments to this effect deduced from the topography of (the supposed Gothic) Pictland, in which, Mr. Chalmers affirms, that not a Saxon name is to be found older than the twelfth century; and amidst the evidences accumulated from the laws, religion, antiquities, and manners of North Britain, one recorded fact appears sufficiently striking. When the assembled clergy of Scotland met Malcolm Caenmore and Queen Margaret, the Saxon princess was unable to understand their language. Her husband, who had learnt English, was obliged to be their interpreter. All the clergy of Pictland, we are told, were at that time Irish; Gaelic clergy, is it conceivable that the Gaelic but among a people with a Gaelic king, and a language should not have been commonly spoken?
With regard to Galloway, or south-western Scotland, the paucity of Saxon names in that peninsula (keeping apart pure or modern English ones) are pronounced, by Mr. G. Chalmers, to show the establishments of the Saxons to have been few and temporary, and their language to the territory of Scotland in 1020; but even in the time of David L. is spoken of as not a part of Scotland. David addresses his "faithful subjects of all Scotland and of
THE origin of the Lowland Scottish language has been a fruitful subject of controversy. Like the English, it is of Gothic materials; and, at a certain distance of time from the Norman conquest, is found to contain, as well as its sister dialect of the South, a considerable mixture of French. According to one theory, those Gothic elements of Scotch existed in the Lowlands, anterior to the Anglo-Saxon settlements in England, among the Picts, a Scandinavian race: the subsequent mixture of French words arose from the French connexions of Scotland, and the settlement of Normans among her people; and thus, by the Pictish and Saxon dialects meeting, and an infusion of French being afterwards superadded, the Scottish language arose, independent of modern English, though necessarily similar, from the similarity of its materials. According to another theory, the Picts were not Goths, but Cambro-British, a Celtic race, like the Western Scots who subdued and blended with the Picts, under Kenneth Mac Alpine. Of the same Celtic race were al-o the Britons of Strathclyde, and the antient people of Galloway. In Galloway, though the Saxons overran that peninsula, they are affirmed to have left but little of their blood, and little of their language. In the ninth century, Galloway was new-peopled by the Irish Cruithne, and at the end of the eleventh century was universally inhabited by a Gaelic people. At this latter period, the common language of all Scotland, with the exception of Lothian, and a corner of Caithness, was the Gaelic; and in the twelfth century commenced the progress of the English language into Scotland Proper: so that Scotch is only migrated English.
a Lothian, now containing the Scottish metropolis, was, after several fluctuations of possession, annexed to
have been thinly scattered, in comparison with the Celtic. As we turn to the south-east of Scotland, it is inferred from topography, that the Saxons of Lothian never permanently settled to the westward of the Avon; while the numerous Celtic names which reach as far as the Tweed, evince that the Gaelic language not only prevailed in proper Scotland, but overflowed her boundaries, and, like her arms, made inroads on the Saxon soil.
Mr. Ellis, in discussing this subject, seems to have been startled by the difficulty of supposing the language of England to have superseded the native Gaelic in Scotland, solely in consequence of Saxon migrations to the north, in the reign of Malcolm Caenmore. Malcolm undoubtedly married a Saxon princess, who brought to Scotland her relations and domestics. Many Saxons also fled into Scotland from the violences of the
Norman conquest. Malcolm gave them an asylum, and during his incursions into Cumberland and Northumberland, carried off so many young captives, that English persons were to be seen in every house and village of his dominions, in the reign of David I. But, on the death of Malcolm, the Saxon followers, both of Edgar Atheling and Margaret, were driven away by the enmity of the Gaelic people. Those expelled Saxons must have been the gentry, while the captives, since they were seen in a subsequent age, must have been retained, as being servile, or vileyns. The fact of the expulsion of Margaret and Edgar Atheling's followers, is recorded in the Saxon Chronicle. It speaks pretty clearly for the general Gaelicism of the Scotch at that period; and it also prepares us for what is afterwards so fully illustrated by the author of Caledonia, viz. that it was the new dynasty of Scottish kings, after Malcolm Caenmore, that gave a more diffusive course to the peopling of proper Scotland, by Saxon, by Anglo-Norman, and by Flemish colonists. In the successive charters of Edgar, Alexander, and David I. we scarcely see any other witnesses than Saxons, who enjoyed under those monarchs all power, and acquired vast possessions in every district of Scotland, settling with their followers in entire hamlets.
If this English origin of Scotch be correct, it sufficiently accounts for the Scottish poets, in the fifteenth century, speaking of Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate, as their masters and models of style, and extolling them as the improvers of a language to which they prefix the word "our," as if it belonged in common to Scots and English, and even sometimes denominating their own language English.
Yet, in whatever light we are to regard Lowland Scotch, whether merely as northern English, or as having a mingled Gothic origin from the Pictish and Anglo-Saxon, its claims to poetical antiquity are respectable. The extreme antiquity of the elegy on Alexander III. on which
Mr. Ellis rests so much importance, is indeed disputed; but Sir Tristrem exhibits an original romance, composed on the north of the Tweed, at a time when there is no proof that southern English contained any work of that species of fiction, that was not translated from the French. In the fourteenth century, Barbour celebrated the greatest royal hero of his country (Bruce), in a versified romance, that is not uninteresting. The next age is prolific in the names of distinguished Scottish "Makers." Henry the Minstrel, said to have been blind from his birth, rehearsed the exploits of Wallace in strains of fierce though vulgar fire. James I. of Scotland; Henrysone, the author of Robene and Makyne, the first known pastoral, and one of the best, in a dialect rich with the favours of the pastoral muse; Douglas, the translator of Virgil; Dunbar, Mersar, and others, gave a poetical lustre to Scotland, in the fifteenth century, and fill up a space in the annals of British poetry, after the date of Chaucer and Lydgate, that is otherwise nearly barren. James I. had an elegant and tender vein, and the ludicrous pieces ascribed to him possess considerable comic humour. Douglas's descriptions of natural scenery are extolled by T. Warton, who has given ample and interpreted specimens of them, in his History of English Poetry. He was certainly a fond painter of nature; but his imagery is redundant and tediously profuse. His chief original work is the elaborate and quaint allegory of King Hart*. It is full of alliteration, a trick which the Scottish poets might have learnt to avoid from the ". rose of rhetours" (as they call him) Chaucer; but in which they rival the anapæstics of Langland.
Dunbar is a poet of a higher order. His tale of the Friars of Berwick is quite in the spirit of Chaucer. His Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins through Hell, though it would be absurd to compare it with the beauty and refinement of the celebrated Ode on the Passions, has yet an animated picturesqueness not unlike that of Collins. The effect of both pieces shows how much more potent allegorical figures become by being made to fleet suddenly before the imagination, than by being detained in its view by prolonged description. Dunbar conjures up the personified Sins, as Collins does the Passions, to rise, to strike, and disappear. They "come like shadows, so depart."
In the works of those northern makers of the fifteenth century+, there is a gay spirit, and an indication of jovial manners, which forms a contrast to the covenanting national character of
*In which the human heart is personified as a Sovereign in his castle, guarded by the five Senses, made captive by Dame Pleasance, a neighbouring potentate, but finally brought back from thraldom by Age and Experience.
The writings of some of those Scottish poets belong to the sixteenth century; but from the date of their births they are placed under the fifteenth.
subsequent times. The frequent coarseness of this poetical gaiety, it would indeed be more easy than agreeable to prove by quotations; and if we could forget how very gross the humour of Chaucer sometimes is, we might, on a general comparison of the Scotch with the English poets, extol the comparative delicacy of English taste; for Skelton himself, though more burlesque than Sir David Lyndsay in style, is less outrageously indecorous in matter. At a period when James IV. was breaking lances in the lists of chivalry, and when the court and court poets of Scotland might be supposed to have possessed ideas of decency, if not of refinement, Dunbar at that period addresses the queen, on the occasion of having danced in her majesty's chamber, with jokes which a beggar wench of the present day would probably consider as an offence to her delicacy.
Sir David Lyndsay was a courtier, a foreign ambassador, and the intimate companion of a prince; for he attended James V. from the first to the last day of that monarch's life. From his
rank in society, we might suppose, that he had purposely laid aside the style of a gentleman, and clothed the satirical moralities, which he levelled against popery, in language suited to the taste of the vulgar; if it were easy to conceive the taste of the vulgar to have been, at that period, grosser than that of their superiors. Yet while Lyndsay's satire, in tearing up the depravities of a corrupted church, seems to be polluted with the scandal on which it preys, it is impossible to peruse his writings without confessing the importance of his character to the country in which he lived, and to the cause which he was born to serve. In his tale of Squyre Meldrum we lose sight of the reformer. It is a little romance, very amusing as a draught of Scottish chivalrous manners, apparently drawn from the life, and blending a sportive and familiar with an heroic and amatory interest. Nor is its broad, careless diction, perhaps, an unfavourable relief to the romantic spirit of the adventures which it portrays.
JAMES I. OF SCOTLAND.
[Born, 1394. Died, Feb. 1436-7.]
JAMES I. of Scotland was born in the year 1394, and became heir-apparent to the Scottish crown by the death of his brother, Prince David. Taken prisoner at sea by the English, at ten years of age, he received some compensation for his cruel detention by an excellent education. It appears that he accompanied Henry V. into France, and there distinguished himself by his skill and bravery. On his return to his native country he endeavoured, during too short a reign, to strengthen the rights of the crown and people against a tyrannical aristocracy. He was the first who convoked commissioners from the shires, in place of the numerous lesser barons, and he endeavoured to create a house of commons in Scotland, by separating the representatives of the people from the peers; but his nobility foresaw the effects of his scheme, and too successfully resisted it. After clearing the lowlands of Scotland from feudal oppression, he visited the highlands, and crushed several refractory chieftains. Some instances of his justice are recorded, which rather resemble the cruelty of the times in which he lived, than his own personal character; but in such times justice herself wears a horrible aspect. One Macdonald, a petty chieftain of the north, displeased with a
widow on his estate for threatening to appeal to the king, had ordered her feet to be shod with iron plates nailed to the soles; and then insultingly told her that she was thus armed against the rough roads. The widow, however, found means to send her story to James, who seized the savage, with twelve of his associates, whom he shod with iron, in a similar manner, and having exposed them for several days in Edinburgh, gave them over to the executioner.
While a prisoner in Windsor Castle, James had seen and admired the beautiful Lady Jane Beaufort, daughter of the Duke of Somerset. Few royal attachments have been so romantic and so happy. His poem entitled the Quair*, in which he pathetically laments his captivity, was devoted to the celebration of this lady; whom he obtained at last in marriage, together with his liberty, as Henry conceived that his union with the granddaughter of the Duke of Lancaster might bind the Scottish monarch to the interests of England.
James perished by assassination, in the 42nd year of his age, leaving behind him the example of a patriot king, and of a man of genius universally accomplished.
* Quair is the old Scotch word for a book.