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1425 ?-1498?

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The number of poems by Robert ! the charters; but the statement of his Henryson that have been preserved, being a schoolmaster, first recorded and the early period at which they were in the title page of his “Fables," committed to print, make it a matter of 1570, has not been traced to any surprise and regret that so little is known

more reliable source ; yet there is no of their author; and even the little reason to doubt its correctness, although that is known is so vague as to afford a it is not quite clear whether the very indefinite conception of the man. office was a secular or a clerical one. One of his poems, “The Bludy Sark,” | The grammar school of Dunfermline is is, on very good grounds, supposed by known to have been situated within the Dr David Laing to have been printed at i precincts of the abbey, and the appointUtrecht in 1474 ; while “Orpheus and ment of schoolmaster, and the superinEurydice” forms part of the first pro- tendence of the school, were in the duct of the Scottish press, the unique col- jurisdiction of the abbots. But the lection of Chepman and Myllar, in 1508. evidence of his having been a man of

Dr Laing agrees with Sibbald in sup- academical culture is supplied by the posing him to have been born about fact, first traced by Dr Laing, of his hav1425, but has not been able to say ing been admitted a member of the rewhere, nor of what family ; indeed, his cently founded university of Glasgow, on researches on this last point have dis- September 10, 1462, as “the venerable proved the probability of there being Master Robert Henryson, Licentiate in any foundation of truth in a tradition, Arts, and Bachelor in Degrees.” Dr noticed by previous biographers, making Laing supposes his object in joining the him the progenitor of the Henrysons or university may have been to enable him Hendersons of Fordell, near Dunfermline. to deliver lectures in law; and from the

! The records of neither of the universities use of the term “venerable;” he infers of Scotland existing during his time, that he must have been somewhat adthose of St Andrews and Glasgow, į vanced in life-an inference which would show him to have completed his studies ! justify the placing of his birth somewhat at home ; and as he is known to have earlier than 1425. In the three deeds acted as a notary, from the fact of his granted by the Abbot of Dunfermline, to having in that capacity witnessed several which he is a witness, his name is charters still existing, it is concluded written Magister Robertus Henrison, that he must have completed his educa- notarius publicus ; and the fact that few tion, and obtained his degree, at some or none but the clergy at that time were foreign university. The fact of his having sufficiently acquainted with the civil and resided in Dunfermline is attested by canon law to act in the capacity of notary public, the authority for which of Chaucer's “Troilus and Cresseid," up to 1469 was held of the Pope, affords and added Henryson's “ Testament of a presumption of his having been in Cresseid,” stating, on the authority of orders, or at least educated for the Sir Thomas Erskine, afterwards Earl of church. The existence of a preaching Kellie, “ and divers aged scholars of vein in the moral of the Fables, and the Scottish nation, that it was made some other of his poems, very character. and written by one Mr Robert Henderistic of the clerical cast of mind, also son, sometime cheife Schole Master in inclines to the same conclusion. Dunfermling ;” and adding that he died

There is no evidence of his ever hav- very aged of a diarrhoea or flux. He ing been married, or of his having left then relates a story illustrative of any descendants ; and there is nothing Henryson's sarcastic humour, which, in his writings which bears upon the in terms more forcible than polite, question. It has been conjectured that marks his contempt of the wretched the king's advocate, in the time of superstitions which prevailed in his James IV., was a son of the poet, but time. that supposition rests on the already The tradition, that he attained to a disposed-of conjecture that he was the good old age, appears to be based upon founder of the Hendersons of Fordell, the fact of his having treated of subjects for the king's advocate was a member appropriate to that period of life ; and of that family, and the first of the name taking all the circumstances into acwho became proprietor of Fordell. count, it is not improbable. Dr Laing, Some others of the name claim to be with that quiet undemonstrative delidescendants of the poet or his family ; cacy for which he manifests his regard but Dr Laing, who has exhausted the for his subject, remarks that, “Whatever subject, finds no reliable evidence con- the year was in which his gentle spirit necting him with any of them.

pa away, we need not doubt that his The date of his death, like that of mortal remains found a resting-place his birth, has not been ascertained. He within the precincts of the abbey of is referred to in Dunbar's “ Lament,” Dunfermline.” which was written about the beginning

There is little doubt that Henryson's of the sixteenth century, in the follow- character, like that of all true and ing couplet :

natural poets, may be best read in his

poems. That he studied the art of poetry "In Dunfermline he hes done roun

in the works of his two greatest predeGud Maister Robert Henrisoun."

cessors, Chaucer and James I., is very From the use of the term Good,” | obvious. His “Testament of Cresseid,” Dr Laing infers that Henryson was which is justly considered his greatest, but recently dead, and that Dunbar if not his most successful work, shows and he were probably intimate. most of the manner of his masters, and

Sir Francis Kynaston, in the reign of so much does it resemble Chaucer's Charles II., published a Latin version poem, of which it forms the conclusion,

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that in all the earlier editions of that commending a process which we apply poet it has been given as his work. Mr with all the care of which we are capable, Goodwin, in his Life of Chaucer, says of that “his verses, if divested of their it that it “has a degree of merit calcu- uncouth orthography, might often be lated to make us regret that it is not a mistaken for those of some poet of the performance standing by itself, instead of present day.” thus serving merely as an appendage to The chief collections in which the work of another.” But the pieces Henryson's poems have been preserved, most characteristic of Henryson's genius are the Asloan MS., a collection of are his “ Fables” and the pastoral of pieces in prose and verse, transcribed in “Robene and Makyn,” and it is in 1515 by John Asloan, and now or lately these that we discover most of the man in the possession of the Auchinleck -his quiet pawky humour, his homely family; the well known Bannatyne and philosophy, and his true observation of Maitland MSS. ; a manuscript in the nature in all her aspects. It is in these Harleian Collection in the British that his verse flows on with that easy Museum ; and the Makculloch MS., in simple grace so devoid of all trace of Dr Laing's possession. To these may effort, so definite and true, and so con- be added the first printed specimen prehensive as to present in a few lines a of Scottish typography, the Collection picture which imparts to the mind a of Chepman and Myllar, 1508. Numervivid impression of the scene described. ous editions, all more or less incomplete, Perhaps no one has summed up his had appeared of his poems previous to characteristic excellencies better than Dr Laing's having undertaken the proProfessor Aytoun, who remarks, in his duction of his edition of 1865, which is collection of the Ballads of Scotland, the first complete collection, and leaves that, “ of the works of this venerable no excuse for any further editing, unman, it is difficult, when we consider less the chapter of accidents turns up the period in which they were written, some of those poems of his which have to speak in terms of too warm encomium. been abstracted from the Asloan MS. In strength and even in sublimity of painting, in pathos and sweetness, in the

ROBENE AND MAKYNE. variety and beauty of his pictures of natural scenery, in the vein of quiet and playful humour which runs through ROBENE sat on good green hill, many of his pieces, and that fine natural Keepand' a flock of fie,? taste which, rejecting the faults of his Merry Makyne said him till, age, has dared to think for himself, he

Robene, thou rew 3 on me ; is altogether excellent.” Mr Tytler is

I have thee loved lowd and still, equally hearty in his appreciation ; but

Thir yearis two or three ; as we give an ample selection of his

4 A phrase meaning on most esteemed pieces, it is unnecessary

? Sheep or cattle. all occasions, open to add more than Dr Irving's observation,


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• Keeping.

3 Pity.

and secret.

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12 If I stay.

1 Sorrow in secret. 2 Unless thou share. 3 Without doubt. * Range in a row. 5 Show. 6 Learn. 7 Learning, lore. 8 Affable. 9 Countenance. 10 Hurt, dishearten.

II Endure. 12 Strive thou. 13 With all thy might. 14 Know, wot. 15 I wonder certainly. 16 Uneasiness. 17 Go healthy. 18 If we. 19 Take heed. 20 Advise.

* Whole, altogether. " Ill will. 2 Good for evil. 3 Mourning, remedy. 13 From the time. 4 I'm in secret with 14 Robs me of quiet. thee.

15 Beset. 5 If I part. Ι

16 Bane. 6 This same time.

19 Pleasest. 7 If

18 Lover, sweetheart. 8 Perhaps.

19 Such a state. 9 Go aside.

20 God grant. 10 Lain.

" My honey, sweet.


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Attempts, presses. 2 Woodland. 3 Field. 4 Across, beyond. 5 Talebearer. 6 Truly, verily. 7 Expected.

8 Recover of love's

illness. 9 Health, welfare. 10 Without hindrance.

11 Enough.

* Trusted, expected. 6 Ailment, disorder.
? Hastily crossed the 7 Kept her well in view.

8 Romances and old 3 Undone.

stories. 4 Sorry.

9 Would. 5 Could fur did.

12 Across the wood

land hoar.

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