Imagens da página

his nobles; but at the same time it is easy to see that his poverty was often extreme, subjecting him to the most mortifying repulses from the lowest officers about the court. The pangs of deferred hope, the pride of insulted genius, the bitter repentance that he had devoted himself to so thankless and ill-requited a service, and the biting satire against kings and favourites, by which many of his productions are distinguished, all form a painful but instructive commentary on the history of a man of letters, who has relinquished the more humble walk in which, with a little labour, he might have provided for his own wants, and finds, when it is perhaps too late, that distinction is not synonymous with independence. It seems to have been in one of these moods that he indited his complaint addressed to the king :

Of wrangis and of great injures
That nobles in their days indures,
And men of virtue and cunning,
Of wit and wisdom in guiding;
That nocht can in this court conquess?,

For lawte, love, or long service *. But it is time we should leave these ebullitions of wounded pride, or disappointed ambition, to consider some of the higher efforts of his genius. On the 8th of August, 1503, James IV. was espoused to the Princess Margaret of England, an event which it was earnestly hoped would have the most beneficial effects in removing, or at least diluting, the feelings of mutual hostility which had so long and so frequently arrayed the two kingdoms in mortal warfare against each other. The

1 acquire
* Poems, vol. č. p. 142.

[ocr errors]

ceremony was accompanied with every species of feudal triumph and solemnity; and the event was commemorated by Dunbar, in a poem entitled the • Thistle and the Rose,' which, had he never written another line, is of itself amply sufficient to place him in a high rank of genius. It commences with the following beautiful stanzas:

Quhen Marche wes with variand windis past,

And April hadde, with her silver showris,
Tane leif of Nature with ane orient blast;

And lusty May, that mudder is of flowris,

Had maid the birdes to begin their houris,
Amang the tender colours, red and quhyt,
Quhois 2 harmony to heir it wes delyt.
In bed ae morrow, sleeping as I lay,

Methocht Aurora, with her cristall ene,
In at the window lukit by the day,

And halsit me with visage pale and grene,

Upon whose hand a lark sang fra the splene,
Awalk, luvaris, out of your slomering,
See how the lusty morrow does up spring.
Methocht fresh May befoir my bed up stude,

In weid depaynt of mony divers hew,
Sober, benign, and full of mansuetude,

In brycht atteir* of flouris forgit new;

Hevinly of colour, quhyt, reid, broun, and blew,
Balmet in dew and gilt with Phæbus' bemys,
Quhill all the house illumynit of hir lemyss ®.
Slugird, she said, awalk anone for schame,

And in my honour somthing thou go write ;
The lark his done the mirry day proclame,

To raise up luvaris with comfort and delyt;

Yet noch incressis thy courage to indyte,
Quhois hart sum tyme hes glaid and blissful bene,

Sangis to mak under the levis grene*. bade adieu to Nature.

% whose. * bright attire.

5 beams.

glitters. * Poems, vol. i. pp. 3, 4.

8 saluted me.


With scarce the difference of a word, the whole of this fine description may be read as English poetry, not inferior in the brilliancy of its fancy or the polish of its versification to Spenser :When March with varying winds had onward past,

And gentle April, with her silver showers, Bade Nature farewell in an orient blast,

And lusty May, that mother is of flowers,

Had waked the birds in their melodious bowers,
Amongst the tender borders, red and white;
Whose harmony to hear was great delight.
In bed at dawning, as I sleeping lay,)

Aurora, with her eyne as crystal clear,
In at my window look’d, while broke the day,

And me saluted with benignant cheer,

Upon whose hand a lark sang loud and clear,
Lovers, awake out of your slumbering,
See how the lovely morning doth upspring.
Methought fresh May beside my bed upstood,

In weeds depaynt of many divers hue,
Sober, serene, and full of mansuetude,

In bright attire of flowers all budding new, Heavenly of colour, white, red, brown, and blue, All bathed in dew, and gilt with Phæbus' beams, While all the room with golden radiance gleams. Sluggard, she said, awake, arise for shame,

And in mine honour something new go write ; Hear'st not the lark the merry day proclaim,

Lovers to raise with solace and delight,

And slumbers yet thy courage to indite
Whose heart hath whilome glad and blissful been,
Weaving thy songs beneath the leaves so green?

The poet having excused his slumbers on the ground of the inclemency of the season and the boisterous blasts of Lord Æolus, which had silenced himself and many other tuneful birds, is reminded by May that he had promised, when her sweet season began, to describe the rose.

Now rise, therefore, says she, and do thine observance

Go see the birdis how they sing and dance,
Illumyt oure with orient skyis brycht,

Annamyletrichly with new azure lycht. He arises, casts his ' serk and mantill' over him, and follows the goddess into a lovely garden, redolent with flowers, which are glittering in the morning dew. The sun rises, and as his first level rays gild the face of nature, a blissful song of welcome bursts from every bush and grove. The whole description is exquisite : The purpour sone, with tendyr bemys reid,

In orient bricht as angell did appeir, Throw golden skyis putting up his heid,

Quhois gilt tressis schone so wondir cleir,

That all the world tuke confort, fer and near,
To luke upone his fresche and blissful face,
Doing all sable from the hevynnis chace.
And as the blessful soune of cherachy,

The fowlis song throw confort of the licht;
The birdis did with oppen voices cry,

O luvaris fo, away thou dully Nycht,

And welcum Day that comfortis every wicht,
Hail May, hail Flora, haill Aurora schene,
Hail princis Nature, haill Venus, luvis quene *.
The glorious sun, with beams as ruby red,

In orient bright as angel did appear,
Through the glad sky advancing up his head;

Whose gilded tresses shone so wondrous clear,

That all the world took comfort, far and near,
To look upon his fresh and blissful face,
Which soon all sable from the heavens did chase.

i enamelled.
* Poems, vol. i, p. 5.

And as the glorious orb drove up the sky,

Sang every bird through comfort of the light, And with their sweet melodious throats 'gan cry,

Lovers awake, away thou dully Night ;

Welcome, sweet Day, that comforts every wight;
Hail May, hail Flora, hail Aurora, sheen,
Hail princess Nature, hail Love's loveliest Queen.

Dame Nature, having first commanded fierce Neptune and Eolus the bald not to perturb the water nor the air

And that na schouris snell’, nor blastes cauld,

Effray should flouris, nor fowlis on the fold, issues next her mandate to the beasts, the birds, and the flowers, to attend her court, as they are wont on the first of May:Scho ordaind eik that every bird and beist,

Befoir her hienes suld annone compeir, And every flour of verteu, most and leist,

And every herb be field, fer and neir,

As they had wont in May, fro yeir to yeir,
To her their inakar to mak obediens,
Full law inclynand, with all dew reverens
She then ordain’d that every bird and beast,

Before her highness should anon appear,
And every flower of virtue, most and least,

And every herb, by field or forest near,

As they were wont in May, from year to year, To her, their Queen, to make obedience, Inclining low, with all due reverence.

The swift-footed roe is despatched as the herald to warn the beasts of the forest, the restless swallow to bear her commands to the denizens of the air, and, obedient to the summons, all instantly appear before the queen

* Poems, vol. i. p. 6.

« AnteriorContinuar »