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The Lily and the Thistle

The Lily and the Thistle: The French Tradition and the Older Literature of Scotland

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 432
  • Book Info
    The Lily and the Thistle
    Book Description:

    InThe Lily and the Thistle, William Calin argues for a reconsideration of the French impact on medieval and renaissance Scottish literature.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6624-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    In 1927 Hugh MacDiarmid, the father of the modern Scots Renaissance, proclaimed: “Not Burns – Dunbar!”¹ By this he meant that the most authentic model for a modern resurgence ought not to be associated with Robert Burns – according to general belief, the quintessentially Scottish poet – and his epigones, but instead with the Makars of the later Middle Ages. In 1954 C.S. Lewis opined that the best literature in Great Britain, after Chaucer and prior to Spenser, comes from Scotland. Today the literature of the Makars enjoys something like classical status in Scottish academic circles, and it stands out as a major...

  5. Part One High Courtly Narrative:: The Tale of Love

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 13-14)

      Although less pervasive in Scotland than in England, with major Scottish writing coming under a strong English influence, French maintained its presence and its seminal impact on literature in the Scots vernacular through both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.¹ This is especially true for what is, arguably, the most important single genre in late-medieval Scotland, high courtly narrative, what C.S. Lewis called the allegory of love.² Late-medieval Scottish poetry can benefit from renewed scrutiny in the light of the analogous French tradition of thedit amoureux(tale of love). Because Lewis limited his perusal of French books to Chrétien...

    • 1 The Kingis Quair
      (pp. 15-27)

      The Kingis Quair, attributed to King James I, was written relatively early in the fifteenth century, either in late 1423–4 or, according to Matthew P. McDiarmid, between 1428 and 1437, more likely in 1435.¹ It is the first of a number of Scottish texts that partake of that medieval mode of high courtly narrative, Lewis’s allegory of love, what, in French studies, we now call thedit amoureuxor tale of love. A number of scholars have explored James’s debt to Chaucer, Lydgate, and to a lesser extent Gower and Hoccleve; their studies are so meticulous and so exhaustive...

    • 2 The Testament of Cresseid
      (pp. 28-37)
      Robert Henryson

      Although a very different text in so many ways,The Testament of Cresseidby Robert Henryson partakes of courtly traditions just asThe Kingis Quairdoes. This magnificent poem is one of the masterworks of medieval literature.¹ Bound intertextually to Chaucer’sTroilus and Criseyde, theTestamenthas been portrayed as offering commentary on theTroilusor presenting a sequel or alternative ending.² Some scholars insist upon Henryson’s critiquing or destabilizing Chaucer and undermining his authority.³ For the most part they agree on Henryson’s powerful, dark, tragic vision in contrast to the Chaucerian: tragedy in response to Chaucer’s broad ironic...

    • 3 The Palice of Honour
      (pp. 38-52)
      Gavin Douglas

      Gavin Douglas, recognized as one of the greatest Scots Makars, is best known for hisEneados(1513), a translation of theAeneid.¹ Many a scholar, and a number of poets including Ezra Pound, consider Douglas’s version to be the best that we have “in English.” In addition to the thirteen books (Virgil’s twelve plus Maffeo Vegio’sSupplementumof 1427–8), Douglas authored superb prologues for each book, original verse of high caliber. The three nature prologues – winter in Prol. 7, a day in May in Prol. 12, and a June evening in Prol. 13 – have been especially prized. Some critics...

    • 4 The Goldyn Targe and The Thrissill and the Rois
      (pp. 53-65)
      William Dunbar

      When Hugh MacDiarmid launched the Scottish Literary Renaissance of the twentieth century, he urged writers and readers to go beyond the cliché-ridden icons of a false, primitive, backward, and limited cultural identity: Robert Burns and his epigones. MacDiarmid proclaimed instead a turn to the more vital, living culture of the Middle Ages and, more specifically, to William Dunbar: “Not Burns – Dunbar!”¹ Dunbar is indeed considered by many as the greatest of the Scots Makars, and beyond any doubt the richest, most varied, most dynamic poet writing in Middle Scots or, for that matter, the richest, most varied, and most dynamic...

    • 5 The Court of Venus
      (pp. 66-82)
      John Rolland

      The Court of Venusby John Rolland is a text all but totally neglected in Scottish studies.¹ C.S. Lewis, in his pioneering rehabilitation of the sixteenth-century in Middle Scots, cites the book, describing it as “an erotic allegory strangely encumbered by the author’s legal interests, and almost (but not quite) without merit.”² Maurice Lindsay, in hisHistory of Scottish Literature, represents the poem as old-fashioned and not “in itself of much importance or interest.”³ Gregory Kratzmann also employs the term “old-fashioned” in the four-volumeHistory of Scottish Literatureto designate Rolland’s poetry.⁴ And Janet Smith observes that the poem...

  6. Part Two The Comic, Didactic, and Satiric:: A Mode of Clerical Provenance

    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 83-84)

      Literary typology – the construction of a pattern or structure of genres, modes, types, and forms to account for a corpus of literature – is a fascinating and perhaps also a futile persuit. In French studies, for a long time, the typology was grounded in part in genre and in part in chronology but more so in the presumed literary public or the presumed cultural background of the modes. Hence, from the time of the creator of modern literary history in France, Gustave Lanson, for up to three generations, French medieval literature was compartmentalized as a heroic and chivalric literature written for...

    • 6 Morall Fabillis
      (pp. 85-102)
      Robert Henryson

      Robert Henryson’sMorall Fabillisplace us in a seemingly different world from hisTestament of Cresseidand from the high courtlydit amoureuxtradition in which theCresseidholds an honoured place. TheMorall Fabillisare generally considered to be Henryson’s masterpiece, one of the first and one of the greatest achievements in Scottish literature.¹

      If the scholars are unanimous in their high valuation of Henryson’s work, they diverge on about everything else relating to it. Douglas Gray, who wrote one of the best full-length studies on Henryson, observes that we cannot be certain of either the text itself or...

    • 7 Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo and Public Court Didactic Verse
      (pp. 103-125)
      William Dunbar

      To assess the literature in Middle Scots from the French perspective in a broader intertextual context proves to be especially apt in the case of the 530-lineTretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, William Dunbar’s longest, most ambitious work and a masterpiece in the Scots corpus.¹ The narrator overhears three ladies, dressed in green, who, after a sumptuous repast, discourse on love and marriage. The first wife complains that her husband is jealous, old, and impotent; she would like to trade in for a new husband each year. The second wife has a younger husband, but he...

    • 8 Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis, The Testament of the Papyngo, and Squyer Meldrum
      (pp. 126-156)
      David Lyndsay

      Why do I range Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount under the rubric of writers and writings in the clerical tradition, that is, in a tradition ultimately of clerical origin? For two reasons. First of all, Lyndsay resembles Dunbar and, for that matter, Deschamps as a public figure and court poet who is close to the reigning monarch and who utters the standard views of the age. As with Deschamps, and more than Dunbar, Lyndsay authored a significant corpus of didactic and satirical verse, which includes his play on the three estates. Second, his major concern is with the Church....

    • 9 The Freiris of Berwik
      (pp. 157-166)

      Despite the presence of what we can call the fabliau mindset, and the probable influence of French fabliaux on William Dunbar and David Lyndsay of the Mount, only one Scots fabliau is extant:The Freiris of Berwik.¹ This gem of a poem, a masterpiece of wit in 566 lines, was once attributed to Dunbar. Rather likeKing Hart, once attributed to Gavin Douglas, it has suffered from relative neglect now that it has lost its author.

      Two Dominican friars, Alan and Robert, realize that they have dallied too long outside the walls of Berwick and that the city gates will...

    • 10 King Hart
      (pp. 167-174)

      On occasion the French courtly tradition had an impact on Scottish books that partake of a different current and with different conventions. One example would be the 960-line allegory entitledKing Hart(late fifteenth or very early sixteenth century).¹ Hart leaves his castle for a good fight. He is taken prisoner by Bewtie and imprisoned in the castle of Dame Plesance. Danger and Piete debate. However, New Desyr and Grene Luif conquer Plesance on Hart’s behalf, so that she makes him the master of her domain. Manifestations of joy, followed by a banquet! But, then, Age arrives with a retinue...

  7. Part Three Romance

    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 175-178)

      InThe French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval EnglandI wrote that “The question of Middle English romance is one of the most discussed and most controversial in all of medieval studies. Widely divergent and highly challenging theses have been offered concerning the nature of the genre, its origins, its constituent traits, and its public.”¹ Although by no means to the same extent, Scottish romance raises comparable issues. Rhiannon Purdie quite rightly emphasizes the problems facing students of medieval romance in Scots, starting with how to define the corpus.² That is, when referring to specific narrative texts, are they...

    • 11 Fergus
      (pp. 179-188)

      Before proceeding to the study of Arthurian romance in Scots I should like to examine a French text, one that can be considered the rough equivalent in Scotland of the Anglo-Norman romance in England. I have argued elsewhere that the most exciting phenomenon in Anglo-Norman is the flowering of narrative, and that one of the major contributions to this flowering took the form of romance.¹ Marie de France’sLais, Beroul’sTristan, Thomas’sTristan, Hue de Rotelande’sIpomedonandProtheselaus, and the anonymousAmadas et Ydoinecan be counted among the most notable romances. An especially interesting category of Anglo-Norman romance...

    • 12 Lancelot of the Laik
      (pp. 189-196)

      The two Arthurian romances in Scots exemplify the advice to princes theme and thus differ strikingly fromFergus.Lancelot of the Laik, of some 3487 lines, dates, according to Sally Mapstone, from the late 1450s to the late 1480s.¹ It is, grosso modo, a translation / adaptation of some early episodes in the Old FrenchProse Lancelot.² The text is incomplete, breaking off in the midst of a battle. The author may have ceased writing at this point for any number of reasons, or it may be that only a truncated version has survived the vagaries of time.

      King Arthur...

    • 13 Golagros and Gawane
      (pp. 197-204)

      The political / statecraft theme is developed more strikingly inGolagros and Gawane, a 1365-line romance dating from before 1508, than inLancelot of the Laikand perhaps in a more successful manner.¹ The source text for the Scots poem is the late twelfth-century sequel to Chrétien de Troyes’sPerceval, ou le Conte du Graal:The First Continuation of the Perceval, also called theContinuation Gauvain.² Ralph Hanna, in the “Introduction” to his edition, relying upon an early doctoral dissertation and upon the notes of W.R.J. Barron, restates an old idea that the French source forGolagrosis a late...

    • 14 The Taill of Rauf Coilyear
      (pp. 205-211)

      The Taill of Rauf Coilyear(ca. 1470) is one of the more curious romances in medieval literature.¹ Off on the chase outside Paris, Charlemagne loses his way in a storm. He accepts hospitality from Rauf, a coal-carrier, who does not recognize the emperor. Charlemagne, who gives his name as Wymond of the Wardrobe, is offered a splendid meal and the most opulent of beds for the night. The onlycontretempsoccur when Charles, as king, expects Rauf to precede him into the house and to table, and Rauf, aware that he is the master in his domain, insists that the...

    • 15 Eger and Grime
      (pp. 212-220)

      Eger and Grimecomes down to us in two late, Anglicized versions. The much longer Aberdeen or Huntington-Laing version contains a fascinating extension of the narrative beyond the usual happy ending; it also retains some of the Scots language from the original.¹ The villain, Gray-Steel, became a legendary figure of quasi-mythical status; the first allusion to the romance has King James IV listening to two fiddlers who sang about Gray-Steel at Stirling in 1497. The story, with its two heroes and their magnificent adversary, remained popular through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Deanna Delmar Evans thinks of it as the...

  8. Part Four Scots Renaissance:: Soundings

    • [PART FOUR Introduction]
      (pp. 221-224)

      There is a tradition in French studies which emphasizes the barriers separating the Middle Ages from the Renaissance. Fortunately, this is not the case in Scotland. The proceedings of scholarly conferences and the collections of essays devoted to the older Scots literature assume a continuum from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century.¹ Medieval and Renaissance / early modern are addressed together, in the same collections and, more often than not, by the same scholars.

      In Scotland as in France traits presumed to be hallmarks of the new times – a passion for classical letters; the embellishing of contemporary writing with Greco-Roman...

    • 16 Mary Queen of Scots
      (pp. 225-235)

      Opinion is divided on Mary Stuart / Mary Queen of Scots. Jenny Wormald envisages her as an incompetent ruler, with no sense of political reality, who collapsed when faced with crises and who achieved nothing of value that endured.¹ Michael Lynch sees her reign as a golden age of culture and refinement, presided over by a patron of the arts – poetry, music, and painting – a woman who sought in vain for an Erasmian court where opposites could meet and the realm could flourish without outside (English) interference.² Both sides agree that it is an error to overemphasize Mary’s personal life,...

    • 17 King James VI
      (pp. 236-251)

      Sally Mapstone argues persuasively that although the courts played a role in the patronage of literature, it is only with the reign of James VI that we find a thriving group of writers centred around the monarch, acknowledging his patronage and conscious of contributing to an ensemble of writing.¹ In addition, this court differed from so many on the Continent or in England, in that the monarch himself was an active, creative writer throughout his reign in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, after inheriting the crown of England. He was indeed treated by the others not just as a...

    • 18 The Monarchicke Tragedies
      (pp. 252-264)
      William Alexander

      Sir William Alexander of Menstry, first earl of Stirling, lived a varied, exciting existence. Alexander, who followed King James to London in 1603, became a great man in the realm, active in four areas: literature, statecraft, colonial expansion, and religion. However, the colonial ventures ended in failure, darkening his later years; his life ended in poverty and, from the Scottish side of the border, odium.

      Alexander authored a considerable poetic corpus; in his day, he was a respected and successful man of letters, praised by Michael Drayton, Samuel Daniel, and William Drummond of Hawthornden, among others.¹ His works includeAurora...

    • 19 William Drummond of Hawthornden
      (pp. 265-294)

      It is perhaps appropriate that this study of earlier Scots literature end with one of its more fascinating writers, one whose ambivalent place in the canon is emblematic of Scottish literature as a whole. William Drummond of Hawthornden is the author of a rich corpus of verse, sacred and profane, the major collections published in 1616 and 1623, and also of works in prose.¹

      Although respected and admired by his contemporaries – by Alexander, Drayton, and also Ben Jonson, who took the trouble to pay him a visit in the North – he was seriously neglected until the most recent times. Scholars...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 295-302)

    It will come as no surprise that French literature had a pervasive impact on the older literature of Scotland, medieval and Renaissance. The French tradition offered a wide range of genres, modes, structures, and styles, much of which the Scots adopted, adapted, and made their own. What today we recognize to be one of the dominant genres of the French later Middle Ages, perhaps the most important of all – thedit amoureux– played a comparable role in Scotland. Guillaume de Lorris, Machaut, Froissart, Chartier, and theBelle Dame sans MercyCycle are especially prominent. Another mode – satirical, comic, and didactic...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 303-354)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 355-400)
  12. Index
    (pp. 401-415)