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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

VI. Sir David Lyndsay

§ 4. Minor poets

Of the poetry of Sir James Inglis, whom he commends as without a superior “in ballatis, farces and in plesant playis,” and who is credited by some with the authorship of The Complaynt of Scotland, no examples remain that are definitely known to be his. John Bellenden, the translator of Boethius and Livy, prefixed to his translations moral “prohemiums” ornamented with classical allusions, and is also the author of “a godly and lernit work callit The Banner of Pietie,” contained in the Bannatyne MS.; but these specimens of his art far from justify Lyndsay’s eulogy of him as “ane plant of poetis.” To Kyd, the Bannatyne MS. ascribes The Richt Fontane of hailfull Sapience, which may well enough have been the production of one who Lyndsay affirms was “in cunnyng and practick rycht prudent,” for it is admirable rather as advice than as poetry. Stewarte, who, while Lyndsay wrote, was daily compiling “full ornate werkis,” and who, in Rolland’s Seven Sages, is referred to as a court poet, is represented in the Bannatyne MS. by several pieces very much in the style of Dunbar, including a ribald Flyting betwix the Sowtar and the Tailyour, and an aureate love poem—in the French octave with refrain—For to declare the hie Magnificence of Ladies—which he does with more ardour than inspiration. Stewarte of Lorne, also referred to by Lyndsay, may possibly be the W. Stewarte whose name is attached in the Bannatyne MS. to a short allegorical piece entitled This Hinder Nycht neir by the Hour of Nine. John Rolland, a Dalkeith notary who, about 1560, wrote The Seven Sages, was also the author of a long and dull allegorical piece, entitled The Court of Venus. Among poetry of later date than 1530, in the Bannatyne MS., is Gife Langour makis men licht, attributed to lord Darnley, but, we must suppose, written by some unknown poet as an imaginary representation of Darnley’s sentiments; a humorous love-song O Gallandis All I cry and call, signed “Balnaves”; two love-songs, signed “Fethy,” and, probably, the production of Sir John Futhy, a priest and organist, who is also credited, by the MS. of Thomas Wode in Dublin university, with the authorship of a sacred song O God abufe set to music by himself, but of which no copy is known to survive; a song Be Merry Brethren, signed “Fleming,” and consisting of a series of advices to husbands as to how to deal with unruly wives; a short humorous piece, Brother Beware, I red you now, attributed to Sir John Moffat, to whom another than Bannatyne attributes that humorous rural tale The Wyf of Auchtirmuchty; two love poems The Lanterne of Lufe and Absent, attributed to Steill, who is also the author of a romance in the Maitland MS., entitled The Ring of the Roy Robert. In quite a different vein is the lament of one Clapperton, in the Maitland MS., In Bowdin on blak Monanday. In the Bannatyne MS. are three grossly witty ballads on notorious courtesans of the time, written by Robert Sempill, the author of powerfully satirical reformation broadsides, including The Legend and Discourse of the life of the Tulchene Bischope of St. Andrews. Most of the verses of these and other decidedly more minor poets in the Bannatyne and Maitland MSS. manifest considerable technical skill; but both in subject and manner they are largely imitative, and, though their wit is occasionally clever, they generally lack the distinctive qualities of poetry. Most of the anonymous verse in the Bannatyne and Maitland MSS., belongs, evidently, to an earlier period than that of Lyndsay and has been discussed in an earlier chapter of the present work; indeed, there is definite proof of early date in regard to many pieces, including some of the finest songs; but there are a few, such as My Hart is quhyt, which are probably of the time of Alexander Scott, if not even by Scott himself.

A satirical piece of about Lyndsay’s time, and preserved by Knox in his Historie of the reformatioun, is the earl of Glencairn’s Epistle direct from the Holy hermit of Allarit to his Brethren the Gray Freiris; and a later versifier, who manifests something of Lyndsay’s spirit and method, though little of his vigour or skill, is William Lauder, afterwards minister of Forgandenny, who wrote in octosyllabic couplets Ane Compendious and breve Tractate concernyng the office and dewtie of Kyngis, Spirituall Pastoris, and Temporall Jugis (1556) and is the author of several minor poems of somewhat similar intent.