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And eke the heavenly portis chrystalline
By rinnand strandis, Nymphis and Naiadis,
SIR DAVID LYNDSAY.
The celebrated Lyon King of Arms, SIR DAVID LYNDSAY of the Mount, was born, about the year 1490, at the paternal seat in the parish of Monimail, Fifeshire. He was educated at the university of St Andrews, was early employed at the court of James IV.; and in 1511-12 had a salary of forty pounds. He was in attendance on the king at the church of St Michael, Linlithgow, when a supposed apparition warned the monarch against passing to England on his fatal project of invasion-an incident graphically delineated in Scott's Marmion. Lyndsay became the usher and companion of the young prince, afterwards James V.
About the year 1529, the king knighted Lyndsay, and appointed him Chief Herald, or Lyon King of Arms. Some years previously, the poet had married a lady, Janet Douglas, who held the office of sempstress to the king, with an annual fee or pension of ten pounds. He seems to have possessed talents for public business, as he was employed on commercial missions to Flanders and Denmark, and on various royal messages and embassies, besides representing the burgh of Cupar in parliament in 1544-46. In his latter days, he retired to his seat, the Mount, where he died some time previous to the 18th of April 1555, when his brother succeeded to the entailed estate. The antiquated dialect, prolix narrative, and frequent indelicacy of Lyndsay's writings, have thrown them into the shade; but they abound in racy pictures of the times, in humorous and burlesque description, and in keen and cutting satire. There are also passages evincing poetical fancy and elevation of feeling. He lashed the vices of the clergy even with greater boldness than Skelton, and from his public position and the openness of his satire and invective, he must materially have advanced the Reformed doctrines. He appears to have been sincerely and strongly attached to this cause, and was one of the influential Reformers who urged Knox to become a preacher. That he escaped the vengeance of the church in the early part of his career, must be attributed to the partiality entertained for him by the king, and to the broad humour and indelicacy mixed up with his satire, which could not fail to be relished by that voluptuous monarch. James also shewed some magnanimity in overlooking the satirical shafts of Lyndsay directed against his own pleasant vices' and defects. With the bulk of his countrymen, Sir David was singularly popular. His sarcastic lines and shrewd sayings passed into proverbs, and are not yet wholly banished from the firesides of the peasantry.
3 Songs then popular. 6 Shelter.
The works of Sir David Lyndsay were edited by Mr George Chalmers, and published in three volumes (London, 1806). A new edition, revised by Mr David Laing, and somewhat curtailed, appeared in two volumes (Edinburgh, 1871). The poet's first production, The Dreme, was written about the year 1528. This was followed by The Complaynt to the King, evidently written in 1529; and The Testament and Complaynt of our Soverane Lordis Papyngo, Kyng James the Fyft, 1530. (The papyngo or popinjay is the old English name of the parrot.) These three works consist chiefly of observations on the state and government of the kingdom during two of its dismal minorities. The other principal works of Lyndsay are: An Answer to the King's Flyting, 1536; The Deploration of the Death of Queen Magdalene, 1537; Ane Supplication directit to the Kingis Grace, in contemptioun of Syde Taillis, 1538; Kitties Confessioun (a satire on auricular confession), 1541; The Tragedie of the Cardinall (Beaton), 1546; The Historie and Testament of Squyer William Meldrum, about 1550; Ane Dialog betuix Experience and ane Courteour, of the miserabyll estait of the World, 1553; and Ane Pleasant Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis. This last work is a rude dramatic composition, a satire upon the whole of the three political orders-monarch, barons, and clergy-full of humour and grossness, and curiously illustrative of the taste of the times. Notwithstanding its
pungency, and, what is apt to be now more surprising, notwithstanding the introduction of indecencies not fit to be described, the satire of the Three Estates was acted in presence of the court at Cupar, Linlithgow, and Edinburgh, the stage being in the open air. The performance at Linlithgow took place at the feast of Epiphany, January 6, 1539-40, in the presence of the king, queen, the ladies of the court, the bishops, and a great concourse of people of all ranks. It is probable that some of the coarser passages were written, as Chalmers supposes, for the amusement of the lower classes during the intervals, when the chief auditory had retired for refreshments. The Historie of Squyer Meldrum is perhaps the most pleasing of all Lyndsay's works. It is founded on the adventures of a well-known person in Fifeshire, William Meldrum, the laird of Cleish and Binns, who served in France during the war in 1513, and on his return to Scotland was noted for his spirit and gallantry. It is considered the last poem that in any degree partakes of the character of the old metrical romance. The Dialogue betwixt Experience and a Courtier is otherwise described as The Monarchie, and is an elaborate compendium of events in sacred and profane history, in the course of which the poet inveighs against the corruptions of the church of Rome.
Of the dexterity with which Lyndsay could point a satirical remark on an error of state-policy, we may judge from the following very brief passage of his early work, the Complaynt, which refers to the revolution in the Scottish government during the year 1524, when the king was twelve years of age, and the Douglases gained the ascendency. We give the lines in the original orthography, from the text of Chalmers:
Imprudentlie, lyk wytles fuilis,
Thay tuke that young prince frome the scuilis,
Satire on the Syde Tails, or Long Dresses, of the Ladies. Directed to the King's Grace, 1538.
Sir, though your Grace has put great order
Till have some reformation
Of ane small fault, whilk is nocht treason, Though it be contrary to reason,
1 Whole, entire.
2 Merchandise or freight, and mariners.
Because the matter been so vile,
May think of their syde taillis irk ;2
And all their faces does begarie.
Gif they could speak, they wald them warie.3.. But I have maist into despite
Poor claggocks clad in raploch white,
Whilk has scant twa merks for their fees,
Then when they step furth through the street,
Women will say, this is nae bourds,1
Quoth Lyndsay, in contempt of the syde tails, That duddrons and duntibours3 through the dubs trails.
We subjoin a few passages from the Satire of the Three Estates, partly modernising the spelling.
Abuses of the Clergy.
Pauper. Gude man, will ye give me of your charity, And I shall declare you the black verity. My father was ane auld man and ane hoar, And was of age fourscore of years and more. And Mald, my mother, was fourscore and fifteen, And with my labour I did them baith sustein. We had ane mare that carried salt and coal, And every ilk year, she brocht us hame ane foal. We had three kye, that was baith fat and fair,
Nane tidier into the toun of Air.
My father was so weak of blude and bane,
That he died, wherefore my mother made great mane :
Then she died, within ane day or two;
And there began my poverty and woe.
Our gude gray mare was battened on the field,
Then Meg, my wife, did mourn baith even and morrow,
And when the vicar heard tell my wife was dead,
The third cow he cleekit by the head.
Their umest claithes, that was of raploch gray,&
Diligence. How did the parson? was he not thy friend?
Pauper. The devil stick him! he cursed me for my teind,9
And halds me yet under that same process
Diligence. Thou art the daftest 11 fuil that ever I saw ;
Pauper. Sir, by what law, tell me, wherefore or why That ane vicar should take frae me three kye?
Diligence. They have na law except consuetude, Whilk law, to them, is sufficient and gude.
Pauper. Ane consuetude against the common weal, Should be na law, I think, by sweet Sanct Geil.12
Speech of the Pardoner.
My patent pardons ye may see, Come frae the Khan of Tartarie,
Weel sealed with oyster-shells; Though ye have no contrition, Ye shall have full remission, With help of buiks and bells.
1 Scoffs, jests.
6 Catched hold of. 7 Uppermost. 8 Coarse woollen gray cloth.
Here is ane relic, lang and braid,
Here is ane cord, baith great and lang, Whilk hangit John the Armistrang:
Of gude hemp soft and sound; Gude haly people, I stand for'd Whaever beis hangit with this cord, Needs never to be drowned!
The culum 2 of Sanct Bride's cow,
He shall never gang to hell-
I have power them for till part;
Has nane of you curst wicked wives That halds you intill sturt and strifes? Come take my dispensation;
Of that cummer I shall make you quit, Howbeit yourselves be in the wyte, And make ane false narration.
Come win the pardon! Now let see,
The Law's Delay.
Marry, I lent my gossip my mare, to fetch hame coals,
There were several other Scottish poets of this period, one of whom, WALTER KENNEDY, has obtained some notoriety from having carried on a flyting or altercation with Dunbar in rhyme. The productions on both sides are coarse and scurrilous, though there was probably as much mirth as malice at the bottom of the affair. Most of these pieces, with several anonymous poems of no small merit, were preserved in the Maitland and
3 The snout.
1 Jaw-bone. 2 The tail, the fundament.
4 The pig. 5 Complain.
6 Company, crew. 7 Plack, a Scotch coin equal to the third of an English penny. 8 Cried, shouted.
Bannatyne manuscripts of the sixteenth century. The first was begun in 1555 by Sir Richard Maitland, and consists of a collection of miscellaneous poetry, in two volumes, ending with the year 1585. These precious volumes were preserved in the Pepysian Library, in Magdalene College, Cambridge. The Bannatyne manuscript contains a similar collection made by George Bannatyne, a merchant of Edinburgh, in the year 1568, when the prevalence of the plague compelled men in business to forsake their usual employments and retire to the country. In a valedictory address at the end of this compilation (containing upwards of Soo pages), Bannatyne says:
Heir endis this Buik writtin in tyme of pest, Quhen we fra labour was compel'd to rest.
A judicious selection from Bannatyne's manuscript was published by Lord Hailes in 1770, accompanied with valuable notes and a glossary.
The early ballads of England and Scotland have justly been admired for their rude picturesque energy and simple pathos. Some of them-as those relating to King Arthur, St George of England, Sir Gawaine, &c.—are of great antiquity, and refer to a period before the formal institution of chivalry. Others of later date, whether embodying historical events, traditional romance, or domestic tragedies, illustrate the times in which they were composed, though often altered and vulgarised in their progress downwards by recitation. Sir Philip Sidney said the old ballad of Chevy Chase stirred him up like the sound of a trumpet ; and the classic Addison devoted two papers in the Spectator to a critique on a more modern version of the same artless but heroic metrical story. The ballads on the famous outlaw, Robin Hood, fill a volume. Another, The Nut-brown Maid, was imitated by Prior, who failed to excel the simple original. Sir Lancelot du Lake, the Heir of Linne, King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid, Tak your Auld Cloak about ye, and numerous others, have enjoyed great popularity. Sir Walter Scott drew his first and strongest poetical inspiration from the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, which he carefully collected and edited. Most of these must be assigned to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but many are older, including what Coleridge termed 'the grand old ballad' of Sir Patrick Spens. James V. of Scotland is the reputed author of two excellent ballads, describing his own roving adventures. In Shakspeare and Beaumont and Fletcher are many fragments of ballads popular in their day, most of which have been collected and published in Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry. To this valuable repository and to Scott's Minstrelsy we must refer the reader.
The Deaths of Douglas and Percy.
The ballad of Chevy Chase is supposed to have been written in the time of Henry VI. or between 1422 and 1461. The oldest MS. is in the Bodleian Library, with the name attached of 'Richard Sheale, a ballad-singer or reciter of the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. In the following extract, we have simplified the spelling, which in the original is careless and uncouth.
At last the Douglas and the Percy met,
Like to captains of might and of main; They swapt together till they both swat, With swords that were of fine Milan.