صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

our "Boke." And there are passages moreover, not a few, in which occur, within a short space, several undeniably Scottish or Northern words of peculiar meanings, still retained in use, and spelt, curiously enough, almost exactly as now pronounced. So that, reasoning according to the mere doctrine of chances, it may be concluded with certainty that so many could never have come together, or been used in their present connection, unless the author had been a Scotsman or Northumbrian, to the manner born. I may give here two or three such passages.

"Steppit up to a streite, streght on his gate."

"Gate masons full mony, that mykull fete couthe;
Wise wrightis to wale, werkys to caste;



Qwariours qweme, quaint men of wit.

[blocks in formation]

Shuld never corne for care be caste vppon erthe."

There are scores of such passages, one of which, longer and more peculiarly note-worthy, will engage our attention further on.

But the author of the Stately Poem, while, I believe, a Scotsman, was something more. Other passages still more remarkable and specially characteristic, describing the sea, its storms, and voyaging; woodcraft, rural and silvan scenes; war, its conflicts and bloody work; courts, with their receptions and feastings; councils, their deliberations and debates, &c., when translated or amplified from Guido de Colonna, show not only the skill of the poet, but are often hit off with an appropriate ease and deftness of hand that mark the experienced sailor, hunter, warrior, courtier, and statesman. The author, experto crede, if a landsman, must have been at sea

A similar experiment tried in some parts of the North of England would, I have little doubt, be attended by a like result.

more than once, and out of sight of land too, to describe, as he does, its varied tempers and "ythes," with the doings of his sailors in fair weather and foul, and in "Schippes and Cogges little and hoge." And so too with his other pictures of "Weghes, knightes, kynges and other," with their doings. Not less obviously certain is it that he had not only looked upon these as a witness, but shared in them as an actor, and could say,

"Eorum magna pars fui."

Such passages, which are no mere poetical translations of Guido de Colonna's text, but often paraphrases rather, and additions to it, are not positive proof of who the author of our work was, but they indicate not obscurely what he must have been. They are not only not inconsistent with the supposition that "Huchowne of the Awle Ryale," whom we believe to have been the author of the Stately Poem, was "The Gude Schir Hew of Eglintoun," mentioned by Dunbar in his Lament for the Makaris, but they materially strengthen the presumption that he was. Sir Hugh of Eglintoun, from his connection by marriage with the royal family of Scotland, the substantial crown grants which he received, and the public services he rendered, was precisely the man whom we should expect to be named "of the Aule Ryale," and possessed of the ability, experience, and means to write, or cause to be written, such a work as the Troy Book. We may here give from Dr Irving what we know of him :


"When we ascertain that Sir Hugh Eglintoun was connected with the Scottish court in the successive reigns of David II. and Robert II., we seem to have obtained some additional evidence. He belonged to the distinguished family of Eglintoun of Eglintoun; and as it appears probable that he was knighted when a young man in the year 1342, we may perhaps venture to place his birth about the year 1320. During the summer of 1342, King David led a numerous army into Northumberland, and in the course of this expedition, he liberally distributed the honour of knighthood: but the army was commanded by a monarch who possessed no share of his father's talents; and some of the newly created knights, who endeavoured to approve their chivalry, having fallen into an ambush laid by Robert Ogle, five of their number, Stewart, Eglintoun, Boyd, Craigie, and Fullarton, were taken prisoners. The Christian name of Eglintoun is not indeed mentioned; but from the time and the occasion it appears sufficiently probable that this individual was the good Sir Hugh. We find him described as Justiciary

[blocks in formation]

of Lothian in the year 1361; and in 1367 he was one of the commissioners for negotiating a treaty with England. He married Egidia the half-sister of Robert II.: she was the widow of Sir James Lindsay of Crawford, who died about the year 1357. Sir Hugh Eglintoun is supposed to have died soon after the year 1376. His daughter Elizabeth, who inherited his numerous and extensive estates, became the wife of John Montgomery of Eglisham, ancestor of the noble family of Eglintoun."1

The passages, to which we have already referred, were noticed and pointed out to me by the transcriber while still engaged in his work of copying, and when casting about for the author of the Stately Poem, these, with the peculiar oft-recurring phraseology of the MS., recalled to his memory the similar descriptions and phraseology of the Morte Arthure, printed by the Society, which he had recently read. I had only cursorily and silently read some portions of this, when it appeared, without noticing anything remarkable, the somewhat florid spelling having concealed its real nature, and much that, on closer examination, was obvious enough. As Jock Jabos said, "There was nae missing it, ance ane was set to look for 't."

On treating the Morte Arthure in the same way as our proofs had been, that is, on reading portions of it aloud, and pronouncing them more Scottico, as the spelling seemed to direct, it was just as plain as it had been in the case of the Stately Poem, that the language was truly Scottish or Northern. This was manifest not only in single words, but in expressions, which seem to have been indigenous, and are yet native to Scotland. On closer examination, the truth of this was still more manifest by the idiomatic precision and correctness with which the various particles, such as and or an, sen or sin, syne or seyne, sythen, ilke, ilke a and ilkane, bot and or, with their

1 From 1348 to 1375, the name of Sir Hugh Eglintoun frequently occurs in the Accounts of the Great Chamberlains of Scotland. On three different occasions he appears among the Auditors of Exchequer (vol. ii. pp. 19, 46, 75). Besides the entries relating to payments of the annual sum due to his lady from the customs of Dundee, we find various others relating both to his public and private transactions (vol. i. pp. 289, 360, 374; vol. ii. pp. 57, 58, 62, 80, 84). From 1358 to 1369, Eglintoun paid frequent visits to England, as appears from the safe conducts recorded in the Rotuli Scotiae, vol. i. pp. 823, 833, 872, 876, 893, 917, 932. Under the date of 1367, he is one of the parties in an indenture for preserving the peace of the Scottish and English marches. His name very frequently occurs in the Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, printed in 1814.

[blocks in formation]

different meanings, er, are, forby, belyve, til, gif, &c., were conjoined with their respective appropriate words or expressions, proving satisfactorily that none but a Scotsman, or one using the same language, could have written or used them as they stand. And then when once we have got into the way of the spelling and pronounced accordingly, the nationality of the work comes out still more forcibly. There are portions which Allan Ramsay or Robert Burns might have written, and bits which our Scottish lads and lasses of the present day might lilt. The spelling, indeed, is not quite uniform, but very many of the words are spelt as in Barbour's Bruce,1 Wyntown's Cronykil, and Henry's Wallace, and if the rest were stripped of the redundant letters attached to them by R. Thornton or other previous transcribers, and the lines divided as in the original MS., it would be difficult indeed, if not impossible, to point out the difference between the Scottish of the Bruce and the so-called south-ofTweed English dialect of the Morte Arthure. Or, what is the same thing, if the latter were composed by an English author, and written in the English spoken and written south of the Tweed, then it was not a dialect, for it must have been the same language as that spoken and written as far north as the Grampians, if not further. Mere spelling, if words are indifferent, I hold,-and every one, however little conversant with manuscripts, will soon be convinced of the same thing, is and must be a very unsafe criterion not only of their language, but of their authorship. So long as the literary productions of England or Scotland were confined to writing alone, and especially while the language of both countries was in a transition. state, there was, and there could be, no exact or uniform system of spelling of the language of either. The same may be affirmed of all the languages, Romance and other, employed for literary purposes during the Middle Ages. Each author followed his own system, if he had one, and each transcriber followed his; or, at most, each Scriptorium might issue works that were in some degree uniform. As well shown by Mons. Joly, just in proportion as an author's Not a few of the words of the poem, with their meanings and spellings, coincide remarkably with those met with in the volumes of the Burgh Records of the City of Edinburgh, recently printed. These Records begin with the early part of the 15th century.

[blocks in formation]

work was popular, and it was often copied, would it, in process of transcription, have less and less of his original impress or spelling, and the language in consequence would come to be very much disguised; but the words themselves, as I shall have occasion further on to show, often wonderfully kept their ground.

In the Morte Arthure, on running one's eye over the pages, many words of spelling, little, if at all, removed from their ancient and present pronunciation, arrest the attention, such as

Til, besekes, alde (auld), bathe, noghte, tak, secker (siccar), fawte, laundes, aughte (owed), dynte, ynowe, ynoghe, alles (as), rogh, rugh, sal, sulde, Sonondaye, Monondaye, Tyseday, Seterday, fra, wan, nane, anes, apone (upon), glored (glowred), offore (before), than, withowtyne, es, or, lowe, rawe, ding, rynnez (runs), bygede, &c. &c.i

And then of idiomatic words and phrases, still in general use, to be found in every page of Morte Arthure, what more expressive or better calculated to prove its Northern or Scottish origin than

Busk, Bield, byde, doughty, kepe, won the gree, on the bente, in the moldez, grippe, gird, graythe, weches and warlows, ettell or attel, reke, clekes, erles, moss, bethan, forby, ferde, sheltrons, threpe, fey or fay, dede thraw, ding to dede, &c. &c.

Of these and a great many more that we have marked, not a few do not appear in the Glossary at all, while of others, the meanings are only guessed at, or mistaken altogether, and yet they are quite common at this day, and racy of the Scottish soil. We may give examples:

1. The very first word that caught my attention, as a well-known and common one, was forelytenede in the passage in which Sir Cador of Cornewayle says of himself and fellow knights of the Round Table,

"We hafe as losels liffyde many longe day,

Wyth delyttes in this land with lordchippez many,
And forelytenede the loos that we are layttede."


Of course, very many of these and following words are to be found in Hampole and other Northern authors; but that, if it does not make for what we contend, certainly does not make against it.

2 Since this was written, in 1870, a second edition of this work has appeared, under the care of Mr Brock. The Glossary has been entirely rewritten, and, with the help of the Rev. W. W. Skeat, is now a model of what one should be.

« السابقةمتابعة »