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Thoch he was wicht he was nae wyss
With sic jangleurs to jummil;
I'm slain this day
Quhen that he saw his blude sae reid
To fle micht na man let him.
He thocht ane cry'd Haif at him.
The far fairer it set him,
Throw speid that day
His wyfe hang at his waist :
He grin'd lyk ony ghaist,
Sae hard in lufe him laist,
And mair that day
To meit him was no mows;
Sae noytit he their pows.
And bikkert him wi' bows:
Behind that day
Twa that war herdmen of the herd,
On udder ran lyk rams :
Bet on with barrow trams.
Maist lyk that day At Christ's Kirk on the green.
The wyves keist up a hideous yell
Quhan all thir younkers yokkit; Als ferss as ony fire flauchts fell
Freiks to the fields they flokkit. The carlis with clubs did uder quell
Quhyl bluid at briests out bokkit. Sae rudelie rang the common bell That a' the steipill rokkit
For reird that day At Christ's Kirk on the green.
Be this Tam Tailor was in's gear,
When he heard the common bell; Said he wald mak them all asteir
When he came there himsell,
While to the erd he fell;
Feld hina that day
When they had beirt like baited bulls,
And branewod brynt in bales; They war as meik as ony mulis
That mangit ar wi' mails.
For faintness thae forfochtin fulis
Fell down lyk flauchtir fails;
Bedeen that day
The bridegroom broucht a pint of aile,
And bade the pyper drink it :
A sbrew me if I think it.
And said it was na blinked:
Full soon that day
When a' was dune Dik with an aix
Came furth to fell a fudder;
Richt now wald slain my brudder ?
And sae did Meg his mudder;
them baith their paiks,
For feir that day
The two preceding Ballads are, perhaps, the most perfect delineations of the manners of the Scottish peasantry, that ever were executed; and they demonstrate most forcibly how difficult it is to change the general character and manners of a people. Since the publication of these poems many causes have been in operation, which, one would be ready to suppose, should have effected a total change of character among the mass of our population, yet they are at this moment as perfectly descriptive of rustic life, as they could possibly be at the moment they were composed. There is not one country fair (throughout the south and west of Scotland) among a thousand that does not exhiblt the whole scene in the utmost perfection, only that the stocks have disappeared, and in many places have had nothing substituted in their place, so that violence is a little more II.
lawless, and vicious habits subject to less restraint than formerly. Whoever is curious in these matters, and chooses to make the experiment, will find, that, after all the happy effects of parish schools, with all the addenda that modern times has brought in aid of them, our rustic youth, are, when their heads are heated by whisky, and their heels lightened by the powerful tones of the fiddle, most immoderately given to swearing and brawling; and the winklotis, he will find, are still coarse, coquetish, and shameless.
The author of these Poems, has been pretty generally assumed to be James I. of Scotland, but who ever will be at the trouble to inquire, will find that this is mere assumption, without even the shadow of proof. Nay, all the evidence of a presumptive kind, is directly the contrary way, and goes in my opinion to establish it as a fact, that James I. could not be the author of these Poems. The reader, who is interested in such inquiries, will find the question pretty largely discussed by Dr. Gibson, the earliest editor of any of these Poems, by Mr. Callander of Craigforth, by Mr. · Tytler, in his Poetical remains of James I. as also in the works of Dr. Tanner, Bishop Percy, Dr. Warton, Mr. Ritson,
&c. &c. I shall content myself with stating a few simple facts, which require the reader only to turn to the life of James I. in order to verify them, and if, after thinking them over, he can really believe that James could be the author of the Poems in question, he is welcome to possess his faith, and may do so forever, without any disturbance from me.
James I. was born in 1993, carried prisoner into England 1405, being then at most in his 12th year, was not restored to his country till 1424, when he behoved to be above 30 years of age. The remainder of his days, only 13 years, were spent in fruitless endeavours to bless his country, by the exercise of that superior discernment which a better education, aided perhaps by the misfortunes of his early life, had conferred upon him. I would only after this, wish to know how it was possible for him to acquire either that perfect knowledge of the language, or that intimate acquaintance with the manners of his rude countrymen, which the author of these Poems evidently possessed.
We have moreover an undoubted production of James's, The King's Quair, (or Book,) the stile and manner of which is as unlike these Poems as any thing of the kind can well be supposed to be. The reader may take the following extract, which is an address to the nightingale, in the garden of Windsor, where the object of his love, the Lady Jane, daughter of the Earl of Sommerset, is represented as walking.
An othir qubile the lytill nyghtingale,
That sat upon the twiggis, wold I chide,
That thou of love has song this morrowe tyde?
For Venus' sake, the blissfull goddesse clere,
And eke I pray, for all the paynes grete,
That, for the love of Proigne, thy sister dere,
Were with the teres of thyne eyen clere
Wilt up thyne hert, and sing with gude entent,
And in thy notis suete the treson telle,
Was kythit by hir husband false and fell,
And bid them mend in the XX deuil way.
Quho comyth yond? Is it now time to wring?
Opyn thy throte; hastow no lest to sing?
Now, swete bird, say ones to me pepe.
I dee for wo; me think thou gynis slepe.
Or artow seke, or smyt with jelousye
Quhat is the cause of thy melancolye,
Sluggart, for schame! lo here thy golden loure
That worth were hale all thy lyvis laboure.
Here is, in fay, the time, and eke the space :
In song with the, the maistry to purchace.
And here to wyn gree happily for ever;
Here is the tyme to syng, or ellis never.
Or gif I cost, than will sche flee away;
And gif I crye, sche wate not quhat I say:
Bot blawe wynd, blawe, and do the leuis schake,
This is rather a favourable specimen of the Poem, wbich like the other productions of that age, is quaint in the contrivance, wiredrawn in the sentiments, and perplexed throughout with mythological conceits, and will not certainly, with any impartial reader, tend any thing to establish the authors' claim to the Poems in question.
I am indeed inclined to think that these Poems are not the work of the same hand, nor of any known author. “ Peblis to the Play” I suppose to be the original, and Christ's Kirk” a still happier imitation of the same easy and natural manner, a manner exemplified by no poet of that day, if we except the author of Robene and Makyne, which is said, but upon very doubtful authority, to be Henryson's. It is not difficult to conceive that by the despensers of fame, these natural and simple effusions would at first be but coldly received, perhaps, among their more gorgeous com. peers, they were for a time wholly overlooked, and being found preserved in the cabinets of the curious, without any owner, when their merit began to be appreciated, they were without enquiry given to the name, at the time posscased of the greatest celebrity.