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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,
252 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.
? 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.
On turning to the Glossary, out of mere curiosity to see the meaning given there for forelytenede, I found “decreased," a mistake, which the author of the Glossary might have avoided, as forlete occurs in Chaucer. Forlete, forleit, forliet, or forlyte, in Scotland, is used to signify to forget, or rather to forsake. “We have lived long as wretched caitiffs, and forsaken the glory that we formerly, or but lately, regarded, or sought."
2. The three “balefulle birdez,” in attendance upon the giant attacked by Arthur, “his brochez they turne,
1029 That byddez his bedgatt his byddynge to wyrche."
Of "byddez his bedgatt” a conjectured meaning is given in the Glossary—“ Are his bedfellows”!! But pronounce the line more Scottico, and the meaning is obvious enough :
“That bide, (or wait on him till) his bed-going or bed-getting, to work, or do his bidding." And here, by-the-bye, the word "gate," meaning way, is always most correctly used in the Morte Arthure and Geste Hystoriale, precisely as at the present day in Scotland, in such phrases as, "of his gate," "on his gate," “ony gate," “a gate,” &c.
3. At line 1041 we are told of Arthur that
“To the sowre of the reke he soghte at the gayneste.”
While “ sowre” is not noticed in the Glossary at all, "reke,” we are informed, means a “path.” If "the surs of the sonne” means “the rising or soaring of the sun," then “the sowre of the reke’ will mean
“the rising of the path,”--a mistake which no Scotsman
Forelytenede, if not “mendit,” I regard as another, and perhaps older form of what at a later period appeared as forlieted and forleited.
“ Others were for declaring that the king had forlieted the kingdom.”—Life of Sir G, Mackenzie, Works, I. xiiij. “ Wee esteeme these desolate and foreleited places to be full of foule spirits.”—Forbes on the Revelation, p. 181. There were very likely two forms of the verb, as in the case of gloppe, gloppen, wakyn, &c. Mr Skeat considers the verb in the text to be derived from lyt, and assumes an A.S. verb forlyt-n-ian. There may have been such a verb, but I hardly think that the author would have written that these “losells" had “decreased,” or lessened the glory or reputation which they only sought, and which was not yet theirs; whereas it was very natural to say that they ħad forsaken, or left off the pursuit of it. “ All haffde Godd forrlaetenn.”— Orm.
would make. Why, “reke,” or “reek,” means smoke, whence “Auld reekie,” the common name for Edinburgh ; and in the passage before us, Arthur hied him to “ the rising of the smoke,” of the fire, to wit, to which he had been directed by the “
wery wafulle wedowe," and at which the giant “bekez his bakke," &c., all “ breklesse,” like a very Highlander as he was.
And here I may remark that in presence of a crowd of weans such as
“I suppos, quha than walde seke
Amang thaim all wes noucht a breke,” a Jock Jabos of the present day, and in the neighbouring street, might speak of a horse as Arthur did of Sir Fererre,
“ Thou wille be flayede for a flye that one thy flesche lyghttes," and not one “breklesse” loon within his hearing would miss his meaning, or for a moment dream that an English ostler, Yorkshire or Midland, was making remarks about his “ oss.”
4. At line 2542 we have “one lyarde stedes,” and again at line 3281 we read
“ The lokkes lyarde and longe the lenghe of a zerde.” In the Glossary the last is explained “disordered.” The word occurs in Chaucer as lyard, and the meaning is given—"a grey horse.” As lyart, the word is given by Henrysone thus,—“lyart lokis hoir," which explains itself; and few know not the line of Burns
“ His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare." 5. When the Roman envoys, glowred at by Arthur,
"ruschte to the erthe ffor (the) ferdnesse of his face, as they fey were,” they were not dead, as the Glossary tells ; nor were the Britons dead, whom Arthur encourages his followers to fight fiercely, telling them, “ fellis downe yone feye folke.” Arthur himself was not by any means dead when the “
wery wafulle wedowe” warned him against the giant, saying, “Thou arte fay, be my faithe ;” and, in fine, he was not yet dead when, mortally wounded after the traitor Mordred's death,
“In faye, says the feye kynge, sore, ine fore thynkkes."
In all these passages fey, pronounced, I doubt not, with a diphthongal sound which now only a Scotsman can give, has the same meaning, modified in each case, as it still has in this country—mad, death-doomed, or fiend possessed before death. Sir Walter Scott, in Guy Mannering, at once uses the word, though not spelt as usual, and explains its meaning in the passage regarding the unfortunate Gauger, Kennedy, when excited by the combat between the sloop of war and the smuggling lugger, just before he hurried to destruction.
“'I think,' said the old gardener to one of the maids, the gauger's fie,' by which word the common people express those violent spirits which they think a presage of death.” The passage in Morte Arthure describing the last mad and fatal onset of Sur Gawan, while containing the word, also explains and most exactly exemplifies its meaning:
“Thare mighte no renke hyn areste, his resone was passede !
And here, by the way, if the “Great Unknown” had not acknowledged his works, and we had been called upon to seek out an author for this novel from which we have just quoted, and bring home to the “ Makkar” his handiwork, surely it would not be from the spelling of such words as “fie," &c., as given by him, but from the words themselves, and the way in which they were used by the characters, that we would seek to prove its nationality. What Englishman far south of the Tweed, what Irishman or Welchman, could write the racy Scottish language as Meg Merrilies and Dandie Dinmont are made to speak it? Ay, or understand and pronounce all their truly characteristic expressions, somewhat diluted though they occasionally are by the author ? In my time, at home, in the colonies, and in America, I have often heard Englishmen and others attempt to pronounce such expressions as the following, but the Lowland vowel, diphthongal, and guttural sounds baffled their vocal powers, and a somewhat laughable “claiver,” in Scottish ears, was generally the result :
“The blunker that's biggit the bonnie house down in the howm. Nane o' our fowk wad stir your gear.”
“Sign wi' cross, and sain wi' mass,
Keep the hous frae reif and wear.” “What do you glower after our folk for ? ”
6. Ye maun come hame, sir—for my lady's in the dead-thraw.' Repeating the words, in the dead-thraw!' he only said, “Wife and bairn, baith—mother and son, baith—sair, sair to abide.''
“Meg claught the bairn suddenly out of the gauger's arms--and then he rampauged and drew his sword—for ye ken a fie man and a cusser fears na the deil. So, sir, she grippit him, and clodded him like a stane from the sling ower the craigs of Warrochhead.”
“We'll ding Joch o' Dawston Cleugh now after a ́.” “ He was to have a weary weird o't, till his ane-and-twentieth year. kenn'd he behoved to drie his weird till that day cam.”
“ I'll tak the gate-ye maunna spier what for "_"It was a blythe bit ance!” said Meg. “ There was an auld saugh tree that's maist blawn down, and it hangs ower the bit burn—mony a day hae I wroght my stocking and sat on my sunkie under that saugh.” 1
Now strange to say, every one of these extracts has its precisely similar parallel passage or counterfeit expressions in the Morte Arthure and Geste Hystoriale. Nay, more, the parallel passages are, in some instances, more than once repeated, and the expressions varied with marvellous precision, just as used in Scotland at the present day. And then in such proper names as Derncleuch, Bydethe-bent, Cleikum Inn, &c., of Sir Walter Scott, which are characteristic and Scottish, if ever words were or are, we have compounds the simple words or elements of which are to be met with in many pages of both poems. There is a difference, of course, in the spelling, especially in the case of the Morte Arthure, but this difference is often more apparent than real, owing to the final and other e's which are most profusely and often perhaps unnecessarily expended over the latter.
On looking over the Glossary appended to The Heart of Midlothian, as just issued in the centenary edition of Sir Walter Scott's works, I find upwards of fifty words, every one of which may be
1 A curious corroboration of the truth of our remark occurred in the setting-up of these very sentences. In the first proof sent for correction there were more mistakes in the spelling of them than in all the preface besides.