Monday, May 09, 2011

Lament For The Makars

Wiiliam Dunbar's great ode to the Bards of medieval Scotland and England, freely adapted from the original by Laban the other night when feeling a tad deflated after the Baggies lost to Wolves.

Dunbar's also noted as being the first writer to get his four letter words printed. It's interesting to see that his great English contemporaries rank so high - no "effete ****holes" in the Dunbar bestiary - not English ones, anyway - and it's sad that many of the Scots he praises leave no surviving work. There's a worthy task for antiquaries and researchers - to find the verses of Stobo, Herriot, Blind Harry and the rest.


I, that hearty was and hale,
Am troubled, sick and like to fail,
Enfeebled by infirmity;

Our pleasure here is all vainglory,
This false world is but transitory,
The flesh is bruckle, the Fiend is sly;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The state of man does change and vary,
Now sound, now sick, now blithe, now sorry,
Now dancing merry, now like to die;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Nought of this earth here stands securely;
As the wind shakes the growing barley,
So trembles worldly vanity.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

On unto Death go all estates,
Of Court, of Church, all potentates,
Both rich and poor of all degree;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He cuts the knights down in the field,
Full armoured under helm and shield;
Victor he is at all melees;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

That warlord merciless and wild
Tears from the mother's breast the child,
And sorrowing he leav├Ęs she;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He takes the warrior in his power,
The captain in the strongest tower,
The bowered beauty, all takes he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He spares no lord for elegance,
Nor clerk for his intelligence;
His deadly stroke may no man flee;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Magicians and astrologers,
Logicians or theologers,
Their wits help them no more than me;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

In medicine the best practicians,
The leeches, surgeons, and physicians,
Find Death to have no remedy;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Poets and playwrights of our day
Play out their pageant, then away;
Spared not for their great faculty;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has impetuously devoured,
The noble Chaucer, of poets the flower,
The Monk of Bury, and Gower, all three;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Also Herriot, and Wyntoun,
All taken out of this country;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

His sting has left the world bereft
Of Master Clerk, and James Affleck,
Of ballad-making and tragedy;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Of Holland, Barbour we're bereaved;
Alas ! He would not even leave
Sir Mungo Lockhart of the Lee;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The Clerk of Tranent's also gone,
That wrote Adventures of Gawain;
Sir Gilbert Hay - ended is he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has Blind Harry and Sandy Traill
Slain with his shower of mortal hail,
Can Patrick Johnstone from it flee ?
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He's given Mercer his goodnight,
That did of love so lively write,
So short, so quick, of sentence he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He has ta'en Roull of Aberdeene,
And gentle Roull of Corstorphine;
Two better men you'll never see;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

In Dumfermline the race is run
And Sir John Ross embraced has he;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

And he's now ta'en, last of all,
Good, gentle Stobo and Quentin Shaw,
All men might wish he'd left them be:
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Good Master Walter Kennedy
At point of death lies verily,
Great pity that such thing should be;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Since he has all my brethren ta'en,
He will not let me live alone,
And I shall be his next, you'll see;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

For death there is no remedy,
So for our death, prepare must we,
That after death, new life may be;
Timor mortis conturbat me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Scots Makars are a hidden treasure. Dunbar and Henryson are marvelous, if difficult, poets. They are also vastly superior to Burns are are Scotland's true national bards.

But they had no successors, perhaps the Kirk killed Scots poetry.