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government of the country lead to this subtenants were ordered to quit in the conclusion.
most summary and inconsiderate manner. That James was not in advance of his This being in accordance with the law age in his views regarding the freedom of the land, James was unable to remedy of religious opinion, was too plainly otherwise than by a request to the manifested in a law passed by him for greater barons and higher clergy to the secular punishment of heresy, under grant a year's grace to the smaller tenwhich Paul Craw, a Bohemian who had ants and labourers who were removvisited Scotland in order to propagate able without warning ; and it is supthe doctrines of Wickliffe, was composed that this recommendation first mitted to the flames. Yet it was in his familiarized the country with the right reign, though during his exile in 1413, of tack or lease. In reference also to and on his application to the Pope, that matters which the wisdom of later the first university in Scotland—that of times have left to the regulation of St Andrews—was founded ; and in his public opinion and individual taste, the third parliament at Perth, in March enactments of James show the monarch's 1425, copies of the laws of the realm anxiety for the public welfare, by makwere ordered to be supplied to such ing regulations regarding burgesses and persons in the different counties as had tradesmen-their occupations, their to do with the administration of justice. dress, and even their amusements; in fact, Nor was he forgetful of the military drill
, discipline, and legislative regulation organization of the country; and especi- were to be applied to almost all the ally did he enforce the practice of relations of society, with a view to the archery, in which he was himself one of general efficiency and economy of the the most skilful adepts of the age. nation as an industrial and warlike
Such was the energy of James' admin- community. istration, and his capacity for details in But James' chief difficulty in governreference to all the interest of the country ing arose from the spirit of insubordina—its agriculture, home and foreign trade, tion and jealousy which animated the manufactures, and fisheries—that his nobility in reference to the prerogatives parliaments were almost constantly of the crown. Accustomed as they had employed devising measures for their been to almost regal power, each in his improvement. And in nothing is the own district, even to the extent of keepbenevolent character of the monarch ing armed retainers, and waging inmore conspicuous than in his efforts to ternecine war upon one another, they ameliorate the condition of the lower resented the monarch's interference with orders of the people, whose well-being that rude independence which was en. at this time was almost as dependent on tirely incompatible, in his view, with the the will of their superiors as the lives of welfare of the kingdom. James, through the cattle upon their estates; and it conciliating the higher clergy and men often happened, when lands were let to of business capacity among the lesser new tenants, that the labourers and nobility, had systematically set himself
to the task of bringing the privileges appears that James and his infant heir and rights of the most powerful of the were the only obstacles to the claims of aristocracy into subordination with those Athole upon the throne, and there was of the crown. And the bold and decided a prediction that he should wear a crown measures which he adopted in the case before he died. But the immediate of some of the most dangerous of them instigator was Graham, who, on behalf was attended with wonderful success ; of his nephew Menteith, disputed the yet the spirit of revenge, so characteristic king's right to assume, as falling to the of semi-barbarous times, became wide-crown, the earldom of Stratheam. This spread among those who considered earldom James seized, on the plea themselves the victims of a that it was a male fief—an exception tyranny.
to the general law of heredity in ScotAlthough the conspiracy through land; but as compensation to the which the life of this useful and vigorous dispossessed heir, he made him Earl of sovereign was cut short cannot be traced Menteith. Sir Robert Graham, howbeyond the inspiration of the personal ever, took such advantage of the transrevenge and ambition of the con- action as to inspire a party of the nobles spirators, yet the spirit of suppressed with a desire to control the action of mutiny among the nobility was so wide- the king ; and in the royal presence in spread that it formed an element in parliament, went the length of proposfavour of their designs, upon which they ing that the sovereign should be subjected no doubt calculated. As illustrating to personal restraint. James, with that the spirit and motives which animated decision for which he was remarkable, those men, it is of interest to trace the ordered his immediate arrest, and was circumstances on which they seemed to promptly obeyed. After being imjustify their proceedings, and rest their prisoned for some time, he was banished hopes of success. The chief actors in from court, and his estates confiscated. the plot were Walter Earl of Athole, Landless and a fugitive he retired into his grandson Sir Robert Stewart, fastnesses of the Highlands, whence he chamberlain to the king, and one of sent the king a letter renouncing his his personal favourites ; and Sir Robert allegiance, and expressing his determinaGraham, uncle to the young Earl of tion to slay him wherever he met him. Menteith, who was absent in England But James, who appeared to treat the as a hostage for the payment of James' matter with indifference, nevertheless
Athole himself was the son issued a proclamation offering a large of Robert II. by his second wife reward for his head. Euphemia Ross, and the Earl of The Christmas of 1436 James had Menteith was a grandson of David Earl resolved to celebrate in Perth ; and it is of Strathearn, the eldest son of the same recorded that when crossing the Forth marriage; but the Earl of Menteith does on his way thither, a Highland woman, not appear to have been personally who seems to have learned something aware of the conspiracy. It thus of the plot that was being hatched by the outlawed Graham and the Earl of calculated to serve the aims of men who Athole, attempted to warn the monarch are ready to sacrifice the public welfare of his danger ; but her efforts were frus- to their own selfish ends. trated through the carelessness or com- This summary of James' political plicity in the crime of his attendants, career enables us to note those circumand the king soon reached his destina- stances in his life which moulded and tion, and with his court took up his developed a mind which was originally residence in the monastery of the of a superior order; and it has to be Dominican Friars, a short way from acknowledged, that though these may acthe town. Athole and his grandson count for what might be construed into were in attendance on the king, while slight blemishes in his political disGraham conducted the military pre- position, as regards his literary training parations for the daring and vengeful and character, they were such as few enterprise in the adjoining Highlands. monarchs have had the advantage of. By The night of the 20th February 1437, his early instructor, before leaving home, was that selected for putting it in exe- he was grounded in those solid elements cution. The court had been unusually of knowledge which his mind was so gay, and the king sat playing at chess, well calculated to retain ; and after his when the Highland woman, who had captivity, the leisure of which allowed already vainly attempted to warn him him the uninterrupted prosecution of his of his danger, again demanded to be studies, he was equally fortunate in admitted to his presence.
On her having in Sir John Pelham a governor desire being intimated to the king, he admirably suited to complete what the requested her to return to-morrow; but sagacious Wardlaw had begun. It is to-morrow found him the mangled therefore not surprising that we find victim of the vengeful sword of Graham, in James I. the most accomplished who, with a band of three hundred scholar, and the most elegant poet of Highlanders, in concert with Athole and his time. The extent and variety of his grandson, took such measures as his accomplishments are recorded by all secured their possession of the monastery, his biographers, but his memory is and the easy accomplishment of their mostly indebted to the celebrated villanous design, the details of which antiquary, Tytler of Woodhouselee, and it is unnecessary here to introduce. his grandson the historian of Scotland ;
Thus was cut off, in the midst of his the former of whom, after the neglect of usefulness, one of the best, and certainly centuries, introduced the beautiful poem the most accomplished king that ever of “The King's Quair" to the notice ruled in Scotland. Yet it can hardly of the public in 1783. The manuscript have escaped observation that, in his in which it is preserved is unique, and assertion of the claims of the crown, his from having been presented to the actions naturally excited, on the part of Bodleian Library, Oxford, by Selden, the nobility, those feelings of distrust and is called the Seldenian MS. insecurity, than which nothing is better This poem may be best described
“ Peblis to
as a love song, which, in the ardour of He to my finger then a ring applied its devotion, and the beauty of the
(It glittered like Aurora's yellow hair),
And gave his royal head a pleasant wag, imagery by which it is expressed, may
And said, Go on, my boy; and celebrate thy not inappropriately be compared to the
Mag !" Song of Solomon, although as regards the allegorical framework, so to speak, The “Quair” only admitted of the on which it is constructed, it bears little exhibition of a serious vein of poetry ; resemblance to that impassioned lay. yet James, like Chaucer, was a keen
It may be thought a matter of course observer of the humorous aspects of to find James highly extolled by the life ; and his two poems, literary historians of his own country; the Play,” and “Christ's Kirk on the we shall therefore—not from disre. Green,” have been regarded as the most spect of their judgment or their im- graphic and faithful, though ludicrous, partiality-pass over their remarks on pictures of rustic manners that exist in the merits of “The Quair,” and give the the language. opinion of an English critic, whose “Peblis to the Play,” the scene of poetical judgment has been largely which, as the name implies, is the ancient endorsed by English writers. Mr Ellis, town of Peebles, has been preserved in his Specimens of the Early English in the Maitland manuscript, without Poets, calls it the most elegant poem any author's name attached to it; but produced during the early part of the nearly all our antiquarian writers agree fifteenth century. “It is full of simpli. in recognising it as the poem attributed city and feeling, and is not inferior to James I. by Major, the historian, of in poetical merit to any similar pro- which he quotes the two first words. duction of Chaucer.” Of a given It was first introduced to the notice of extract he remarks—“It would, per- modern literary historians by Bishop haps, be difficult to select, even from Percy. Chaucer's most finished works, a long
“Christ's Kirk on the Green," the specimen of descriptive poetry so most popular, and supposed to be the uniformly elegant as this; indeed, some more modern of the two poems from of the verses are so highly finished that having the title of the former menthey would not disfigure the compositions tioned in it, has been preserved in both of Dryden, Pope, or Gray.” Perhaps the Maitland and Bannatyne manuthe highest compliment to the muse of scripts. An imperfect version of it, James is the graceful tribute in which under the title of a Ballad of a Country the author of “Anster Fair” conceives of Wedding, was printed as a broadside in the royal poet as his poetic genius 1660, a copy of which is preserved in
the British Museum. The next edition “Last night I dreamed that to my dark bedside -a more perfect one—was published Came, white with rays, the poet of the
in 1691, at Oxford, under its present Quhair' And drew my curtain silently aside,
title, by Edmund Gibson, afterwards And stood and smiled majestically fair ; Bishop of London. But Allan Ramsay's
edition of 1716, to which he added of Leslie, in Fife, not far from Falkland, two cantos of his own composition, is more likely to have presented a first gave it an extensive popularity. scene such as, not far from the same Several places have been suggested as i place, centuries afterwards, inspired the the scene of the rustic festivities from poetic pencil of Wilkie. which the royal poet drew his materials It is proper to add that James' title to for this amusing sketch. A village the authorship of this poem is not undisnamed Christ's Kirk, said to have puted; yet the subject involves too many existed in the district of Garioch, Aber. | purely antiquarian considerations to deenshire, is referred to; but the village I admit of its being popularly interesting.
THE KING'S QUAIR.
Of Rome, whilom that was the worldis
flower, High in the heavenis figure circular And from estate by fortune a while
The ruddy sterres' twinkling as the fire : Foringit' was, to povert in exile.
And there to hear this worthy lord and
clerk, Through Capricorn heavéd her hornis bright,
His metre sweet full of morality ; North northiward approached the mid His flowered pen so fair he set a werk, night.
Discryving first of his prosperity,
And out of that his infelicity;
And then how he in his poetly report, When as I lay in bed alone waking,
In philosophy 'gan him to comfort.
[began, more ;
To borrow a sleep, at thilke4 time For which as though could I no better Or ever I stent, 5 my best was more to look wile,
Upon the writing of this noble man, But took a book to read upon a while : That in himself the full recover wan
Of his infortune, poverty, and distress, III. Of which the name is clepit 3 properly
And in them set his very seckerness. Boece, after him that was the com
VI. piloure, 4
And so the virtue of his youth before, Shewing counsel of philosophy,
Was in his age the ground of his delights: Compiled by that noble senatour
* Banished or condemned. 4 That. 2 Little before. 3 Called. 2 Scholar.
5 Paused. 4 Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy.
3 For though.