« 上一頁繼續 »
Would she put on this garment gay,
allegorical poems are the Thistle and the Rose (a triumphant nuptial song for the union of James and the Princess Margaret), the Dance, and the Golden Terge; but allegory abounds in many others, which do not strictly fall within this class. Perhaps the most remarkable of all his poems is one of those here enumerated, the Dance. It describes a procession of the seven deadly sins in the infernal regions, and for strength and vividness of painting, would stand a comparison with any poem in the language. The most solemn and impressive of the more exclusively moral poems of Dunbar, is one in which he sides in a debate on earthly and spiritual affections, represents a thrush and nightingale taking opposite the thrush ending every speech or stanza with a recommendation of a lusty life in Love's service," ration, All Love is lost but upon God alone.' and the nightingale with the more melodious declaThere is, however, something more touching to common feelings in the less laboured verses in which he moralises on the brevity of existence, the shortness and uncertainty of all ordinary enjoyments, and the
wickedness and woes of mankind.
WILLIAM DUNBAR, a poet,' says Sir Walter Scott, unrivalled by any that Scotland has ever produced,' flourished at the court of James IV., at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth centuries. His works, with the exception of one or two pieces, were confined, for above two centuries, to an obscure manuscript, from which they were only rescued when their language had become so antiquated, as to render the world insensible in a great measure to their many excellencies. To no other circumstance can we attribute the little justice that is done by popular fame to this highly-gifted poet, who was alike master of every kind of verse, the solemn, the descriptive, the sublime, the comic, and the satirical. Having received his education at the university of St Andrews, where, in 1479, he took the degree of master of arts, Dunbar became a friar of the Franciscan order (Grey Friars), in which capacity he travelled for some years not only in Scotland, but also in England and France, preaching, as was the custom of the order, and living by the alms of the pious, a mode of life which he himself acknowledges to have involved a constant exercise of falsehood, deceit, and flattery. In time, he had the grace, or was enabled by circumstances, to renounce this sordid profession. It is supposed, from various allusions in his writings, that, from about the year 1491 to 1500, he was occasionally employed by the king (James IV.) in some subordinate, but not unimportant capacity, in connexion with various foreign embassies, and that he thus visited Germany, Italy, Spain, and France, besides England and Ireland. He could not, in such a life, fail to acquire much of that knowledge of mankind which forms so important a part of the education of the poet. In 1500, he received from the king a pension of ten pounds, afterwards increased to twenty, and finally to eighty. He is supposed to have been employed He is, at the same time, by no means disposed habituby James in some of the negotiations preparatory to ally to take gloomy or desponding views of life. He his marriage with the Princess Margaret, daughter has one poem, of which each stanza ends with 'For of Henry VII., which took place in 1503. For some to be blyth methink it best.' In another, he advises, years ensuing, he seems to have lived at court, re- since life is so uncertain, that the good things of this galing his royal master with his poetical composi-world should be rationally enjoyed while it is yet tions, and probably also his conversation, the charms possible. Thine awn gude spend,' says he, while of which, judging from his writings, must have been thou has space.' There is yet another, in which very great. It is sad to relate of one who possessed these Horatian maxims are still more pointedly so buoyant and mirthful a spirit, that his life was enforced, and from this we shall select a few not, as far as we can judge, a happy one. He ap- stanzas :pears to have repined greatly at the servile courtlife which he was condemned to lead, and to have longed anxiously for some independent source of income. Amongst his poems, are many containing nothing but expressions of solicitude on this subject. He survived the year 1517, and is supposed to have died about 1520, at the age of sixty; but whether he ultimately succeeded in obtaining preferment, is not known. His writings, with scarcely any exception, remained in the obscurity of manuscript till the beginning of the last century; but his fame has been gradually rising since then, and it was at length, in 1834, so great as to justify a complete edition of his works, by Mr David Laing..
The poems of Dunbar may be said to be of three classes, the Allegorical, the Moral, and the Comic; besides which there is a vast number of productions composed on occasions affecting himself, and which may therefore be called personal poems. His chief
This wavering warld's wretchedness
The sliding joy, the gladness short,
The suggared mouths, with minds therefra,
Or, in another poem
Evermair unto this warld's joy,
Be merry, man, and tak not sair in mind
The wavering of this wretched world of sorrow; To God be humble, to thy friend be kind,
And with thy neighbours gladly lend and borrow; His chance to-night, it may be thine to-morrow; Be blyth in hearte for my aventure,
For oft with wise men it has been said aforow, Without Gladness availes no Treasure.
Make thee gude cheer of it that God thee sends,
For warld's wrak but welfare3 nought avails;
2 Snare. 3 World's trash without health.
Follow on pity, flee trouble and debate,
With famous folkis hald thy company; Be charitable and hum'le in thine estate,
For warldly honour lastes but a cry. For trouble in earth tak no melancholy; Be rich in patience, if thou in gudes be poor; Who lives merrily he lives mightily; Without Gladness availes no Treasure. The philosophy of these lines is excellent. Dunbar was as great in the comic as in the solemn strain, but not so pure. His Twa Married Women and the Widow is a conversational piece, in which three gay ladies discuss, in no very delicate terms, the merits of their husbands, and the means by which wives may best advance their own interests. The Friars of Berwick (not certainly his) is a clever but licentious tale. There is one piece of peculiar humour, descriptive of an imaginary tournament between a tailor and a shoemaker, in the same low region where he places the dance of the seven deadly sins. It is in a style of the broadest farce, and full of very offensive language, yet as droll as anything in Scarron or Smollett.
And died himself, fro' dead him to succour ;
The Merle said, Why put God so great beauty
That she suld have the thank therefor or luve,
O Nightingale ! it were a story nice,
The Nightingale said, Bird, why does thou rave!
The Merle said, Love is cause of honour aye,
The Nightingale said, True is the contrary,
Then said the Merle, Mine error I confess :
But love the love that did for his love die:
Then sang they both with voices loud and clear,
The Merle said, Love him that thy love has sought Fro' heaven to earth, and here took flesh and bone. The Nightingale sang, And with his dead thee bought: All love is lost, but upon him alone.
1 Shown. * Equivalent to the modern phrase, from the heart. $ Bound, encircled. 4 Slothful. 5 Ta'en; taken.
Then flew thir birdis o'er the boughis sheen,
Of Februar the fifteenth nicht,
Full lang before the dayis licht,
And then I saw baith heaven and hell:
Mahoun gart cry ane Dance Of shrewis that were never shriven,3 Agains the fast of Fastern's Even,4 To mak their observance He bade gallands gae graith a guise,5 And cast up gamonds in the skies, As varlots does in France.
Heillie 7 harlots, haughten-wise, 8
But yet leuch never Mahoun;
Let see, quoth he, who now begins.
And first in all the Dance was PRIDE,
All boden in 'feir of weir,14
In jacks, and scrips, and bonnets of steel;
With knives that sharp could shear.
1 Whose close disputation yet moved my thoughts. 2 The Devil. 3 Accursed men, who had never been absolved in the other world. 4 The eve of Lent. 5 Prepare a masque. 6 Gambols. 7 Proud. 8 Haughtily. 9 The names of popular spirits in Scotland. 10 Something touching puffed up manners appears to be hinted at in this obscure line. 11 Large folds. 12 Robe. 13 For the occasion. 14 Arrayed in the accoutrements of war. 15 Gave blows.
*Dunbar is a poet of a high order. ** His Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins, 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, to disappear. "They come like shadows, so depart."'-CAMP
Next in the Dance followed ENVY,
For privy hatred that traitor trembled ;
Next him in Dance came COVETICE,
That never could be content:
Ever lashed them on the lunyie :"1
And made them quicker of counyie.18
Then the foul monster GLUTTONY,
To dance he did him dress:
Nae menstrals playit to them, but doubt,
And entered by brief of richt.
In hell great room they took: Thae termagants, with tag and tatter, Full loud in Ersche begond to clatter, And roop like raven and rook.
4 Great quantity. 7 Visage. 9 Slow and sleepy drabs. 12 Circulation, as of coin. 14 A compliment, obviously, to the poetical profession. 15 Pageant. In this stanza Dunbar satirises the outlandish habits and language of the Highlanders.
The Devil sae deavit was with their yell, That in the deepest pot of hell,
He smoorit them with smook.
Tidings fra the Session.
[A conversation between two rustics, designed to satirise the proceedings in the supreme civil law court of Scotland.]
Ane muirland man, of upland mak,
I tell you under this confession,
I come of Edinburgh fra the Session. What tidings heard you there, I pray you? The tother answerit, I sall say you: Keep well this secret, gentle brother;
Is na man there that trusts another: Ane common doer of transgression,
Of innocent folk preveens a futher :2 Sic tidings heard I at the Session.
Some with his fallow rouns him to please,
That has his mind all on oppression;
Wad look full heigh were not the Session. Some, bydand the law, lays land in wed ;5 Some, super-expended, goes to bed; Some speeds, for he in court has means; Some of partiality compleens,
How feid and favour flemis7 discretion; Some speaks full fair, and falsely feigns: Sic tidings heard I at the Session.
Some castis summons, and some excepts; Some stand beside and skailed law kepps; Some is continued; some wins; some tynes; Some maks him merry at the wines;
Some is put out of his possession; Some herried, and on credence dines:
Sic tidings heard I at the Session. Some swears, and some forsakes God, Some in ane lamb-skin ane tod Some in his tongue his kindness turses ;9 Some cuts throats, and some pykes purses;
Some goes to gallows with procession; Some sains the seat, and some them curses: Sic tidings heard I at the Session. Religious men of diverse places Comes there to woo and see fair faces;
Some gives for thank, and some for threat;
That ere the gift delivered be, The thank is frustrate and expired:
In Giving sould Discretion be.
And for a hood-pick halden is he,
Then vice and prodigalitie,
In Giving sould Discretion be. Some to the rich gives his gear, That might his giftis weel forbear;
And, though the poor for fault2 sould die, His cry not enters in his ear:
In Giving sould Discretion be.
And to auld servants list not see,
In Giving sould Discretion be.
Though all the contrair weel knaws he; Are mony sic now in thir days:
In Giving sould Discretion be.
Some gives to gude men for their thews;
The people to teach and to o'ersee, Though he nae wit has them to guide: In Giving sould Discretion be.
Of Discretion in Taking.
Some takes o'er little authoritie, And some o'er mickle, and that is glaiking:5 In Taking sould Discretion be.
The clerks takes benefices with brawls, Some of St Peter and some of St Paul's; Tak he the rents, no care has he, Suppose the devil tak all their sauls:
In Taking sould Discretion be.
Barons taks fra the tenants puir All fruit that growis on the fur,
In mails and gersoms6 raisit o'er hie; And gars them beg fra door to door: In Taking sould Discretion be.
3 A large proportion of the strangers who visited Scotland at this early period were probably from Flanders. 5.Foolish. 6 Rents and fines of entry.
1 Unlawful. 2 Leases. 4 In its whole breadth. court of law.
pying a prominent place in the history of his country, he died of the plague in London in the year 1522. Douglas shines as an allegorical and descriptive poet. He wants the vigorous sense, and also the graphic force, of Dunbar; while the latter is always close and nervous, Douglas is soft and verbose. The genius of Dunbar is so powerful, that manner sinks beneath it; that of Douglas is so much matter of culture, that manner is its most striking peculiarity. This manner is essentially scholarly. He employs an immense number of words derived from the Latin, as yet comparatively a novelty in English composition. And even his descriptions of nature involve many ideas, very beautiful in themselves, and very beautifully expressed, but inappropriate to the situation, and obviously introduced merely in accordance with literary fashion.
The principal original composition of Douglas is a long poem, entitled The Palace of Honour. It was designed as an apologue for the conduct of a king. and therefore addressed to James IV. The poet represents himself as seeing, in a vision, a large company travelling towards the Palace of Honour. He joins them, and narrates the particulars of the pilgrimage. The well-known Pilgrim's Progress bears so strong a resemblance to this poem, that Bunyan could scarcely have been ignorant of it. King Hart, the only other long poem of Douglas, presents a metaphorical view of human life. But the most remarkable production of this author was a translation of Virgil's Eneid into Scottish verse, which he executed in the year 1513, being the first version of a Latin classic into any British tongue. It is generally allowed to be a masterly performance, though in too obsolete a language ever to regain its popularity. The original poems, styled prologues, which the translator affixes to each book, are esteemed amongst his happiest pieces.
[Apostrophe to Honour.]
2 Without equal.
5 Purple streaks mingled with gold and azure.