صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

repeatedly found idiomatically used in the Morte Arthure and Geste Hystoriale. In the Glossary attached to the Bride of Lammermuir there are upwards of sixty similar words; while on looking over the pages of the latter I find that I could very largely add to the number-the compiler of the Glossary, doubtless a Scotsman, having passed over several to which he was so accustomed as to forget that they were peculiar and Scottish.

In the volume entitled Syr Gawayne, containing a collection of ancient Romance poems by Scottish and English authors, edited by Sir F. Madden for the Bannatyne Club, 1839, the editor discusses at some length the questions respecting the age, the author, &c., of Syr Gawayne and the Grene Knight. His remarks have a most important bearing upon the authorship not only of that poem and the Morte Arthure, but also upon that of the Geste Hystoriale, now printed for the first time by the E. E. T. Society.

"This curious poem is printed for the first time from a manuscript, believed to be unique, preserved in the Cottonian collection, and marked Nero, A. x." "It will not be difficult from a careful inspection of the manuscript itself, both in regard to the writing and illuminations, to assign it to the reign of Richard II.; and the internal evidence, arising from the peculiarities of costume, armour, and architecture, would lead us to assign the romance to the same period, or a little earlier. There are three other metrical pieces in the volume, all most unquestionably composed by the author of the romance, and these I have carefully read over with the hope of detecting some more direct indication of the age, but without success." "" "In regard to the author of these poems much uncertainty also exists. There is sufficient internal evidence of their being Northern, although the manuscript containing them appears to have been written by a scribe of the Midland counties, which will account for the introduction of forms differing from those used by writers beyond the Tweed.

"It is, I think, certain, that the writer of the romance must have been a man of birth and education, for none but a person intimately versed in the gentle science of wode-craft could so minutely describe the various sports of the chase, nor could any but an educated individual have been so well acquainted with the early French literature. Of his poetical talent the pieces contained in the MS. afford unquestionable proof, and the descriptions of the change of the seasons, the bitter aspect of winter, the tempest which preceded the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, and the sea-storm occasioned by the wickedness of Jonas, are equal to any similar passages in Douglas or Spenser. The individual,

who has the best claim to be recognised as the author, is 'Huchowne of the Awle Ryale,' mentioned by Wyntown,1 who writes of him thus:

[blocks in formation]

"Mr Chalmers was of opinion that this Huchowne and the Sir Hugh of Eglintoun, mentioned by Dunbar in his Lament for the Makkaris, who flourished in the middle of the 14th century, and died, it is supposed, about the year 1381, were one and the same person; but there are so many difficulties in this supposition, as justly to prevent our yielding assent to it without some additional evidence.3 Admitting, however, Huchowne to be the author of the romance, we are singularly fortunate in possessing probably all the pieces written by him noticed by Wyntown, together with those others on allegorical or scriptural subjects, hitherto not pointed out. It is very evident on the chronicler's authority, that the Gret Gest of Arthure, the Gest Hystoryale and the Gest of Broyttys Auld Story are one and the same poem, and relate to the exploits of Arthur and his knights against the Romans. In this work Huchowne makes Lucius Hiberius emperor, in the time of Arthur, whereas Wyntown, following other authorities, names Leo as emperor. He first defends himself, and then good-naturedly excuses his predecessor, by saying that in the Brute (by which he here means Geoffrey of Monmouth) Lucius is called Procurator, which was more correct, but that if Huchowne had done so,

'That had mare greuyd the cadens,

Than had releuyd the sentens.'

1 Wyntown was elected prior of St Serf's in Lochleven, in 1395, so that he must have been contemporary with Huchowne. His chronicle was not finished till the year 1420-1424.


Cronykil of Scotland, vol. i. p. 122, ed. Macpherson, 1795.

3 See the notices of this Sir Hugh collected in the admirable edition of Dunbar's Poems by Mr Laing, vol. ii. 355; and his remarks, vol. i. p. 38. Consult also the Select Remains of the Popular Poetry of Scotland, pref. to Pystil of Susan, 4to, 1822; Lyndsay's Works, by Chalmers, vol. i. p. 132, note, 8vo, 1806; and Tytler's History of Scotland, vol. ii. p. 367, 8vo, 1829.

4 Mr Guest regards as the most decisive proof of what is here assumed, the fact, that in the void space at the head of the poem in the MS., a hand of the 15th century (Mr G. says, "not much later than the year 1500,") has scribbled the name Hugo de, as shown in the facsimile annexed to the description of this MS., but, I confess, to this I do not attach much weight.-Sir F. M.

"Had Sir Walter Scott ever read through the Arthour and Merlin of the Auchinleck MS. he would have known that it could not be the Gest referred to in the above passage by Wyntown; and Mr Turnbull, the editor of this romance, is less excusable on this account in repeating the error without correction. But of what, in all probability, is the veritable Gest of Arthure composed by Huchowne, and written in alliterative metre, I possess a transcript, from a MS. in Lincoln Cathedral Library, which may, probably, at some future period be given to the press."

This MS.-the Morte Arthure-was first printed by Mr Halliwell, in the year 1847, and again by the Society in 1865, edited by Mr Perry, who, on the authority of Dr R. Morris, asserted it to be not Scottish, but composed in one of the Northumbrian dialects spoken south of the Tweed. And upon the same authority, the Stately Poem of the Destruction of Troy has been pronounced, in one of the Society's Reports, to be the work of an English writer of the Midland counties.

The sufficient internal evidence to which Sir F. Madden refers, as proving the northern origin of Sir Gawan, of the three metrical pieces referred to on page xxiv, and, doubtless, also of the Morte Arthure, must mean the words, expressions, or language of the poems, as distinguished from the mere spelling, or peculiarities of form, which, in his estimation, can only indicate the transcribers or copyists of the MSS.

The latter the spelling and external forms in a MS.—the production or handiwork of one, or it may be of several transcribers, as we have already remarked, may point out or prove the country and perhaps even the county of the last transcriber; but unless they are component parts of, or inseparably connected with, the words or expressions themselves, they are and must be no very strong foundation on which to rest the proof as to the real source of the language and the authorship of a work. And yet it is upon the ground of the spelling and external forms of the words, mainly or wholly, that it has been contended that the Morte Arthure is Northumbrian and Midland, and that the Stately Poem is Midland, without the Northumbrian.

It may be more than doubted that we have yet a sufficiency of MSS., and especially a sufficient number of examples of each work,

printed or accessible, to furnish the external forms and reliable criteria by which alone, and without other evidence, we may determine otherwise than generally the authorship and localities of our unnamed, or unknown, early English literature. That the words, language, or vocabulary, of unknown works, alone and irrespective of other internal evidence, do not in all cases form a perfectly safe guide either, must be at once admitted. When words, however, are combined into phrases and compound expressions, the ground becomes firmer. Much has been done with Glossaries, but very much more must be accomplished before we can draw out a list of test words, the presence of which will enable us to define the exact limits within which a work was originally produced. But although it may be difficult, or even impossible, to compile such a list at present, if ever, yet it would be quite possible from the works of Barbour, Henry, Wyntown, Bellenden, and other early Scottish writers, to produce a list of words and phrases, the absence of which from any work, or the expression of their meaning by other and Southern words, would conclusively prove that it could not be Scottish, whatever else it might be. Such a negative test, if we may call it so, both the Morte Arthure and the Stately Poem, we are satisfied, can stand.

The writer of this, in the course of his investigations in connection with the present poem, has examined personally or by deputy several MSS., or versions of Guido de Colonna, and of Lydgate's Troy Book, and has had many portions of these transcribed for reference and comparison. Amongst others he has had transcribed several passages from Douce MS. 148, one very long one, containing Lydgate's account of the rebuilding of Troy by Priam. This MS., like that in the Cambridge University Library, Kk. 5. 30, was the transcript of a Scottish writer who tells us at the conclusion,

Heir endis ye sege of Troye written and mendit at ye Instance of ane honorable chaplane Ser Thomas ewyn in Edinburgh.

Now from these long passages of about 400 lines, did we not know whose work the MS. was, we could very easily produce from the spellings and peculiar forms-from such words as thai, thar, thaim, quhat, quhilk, quhom, quhar, quhylome, thir, war callit, mak,

couth, sicht, crukit, ferd (fourth), sext, straike, ane, ayre, polyst, chakker, has ordanyt, for 'hath ordeyned,' one rawe, for 'a rowe,' &c.; and especially from such lines as

"For thir pepill destroyit war certane,”

[ocr errors]

"Cosyng Iason tak hede quhat I sall sayne;
"Besyd ane holt, he saw quhar stude ane tre;

occurring in them—an amount of evidence to prove that portions of it were originally written by a Scottish author, quite as complete and sufficient as may be advanced to prove that the Morte Arthure is Northumbrian and Midland, and that the Stately Poem is Midland. Had a second 'honorable chaplane' taken the MS. in hand, and especially had it been written to dictation, as our Poem evidently has been, the remaining portions in which Ser Thomas Ewyn was more faithful to his copy, and which in consequence are manifestly English, would have been thoroughly "mendit,", and all obvious traces of its Southern origin removed, such as en from the infinitives, y from the perfect participles, &c. And yet upon comparing these extracts with the parallel passages in the printed version of Lydgate executed by Marsh, it is remarkable to find, among all the changes of spelling, &c., how few words, if any, have been changed for others by the Scottish transcriber. The first word that I noticed, as quite different from that in Marsh, was ythakkede, which, from its form and from its occurring in a portion apparently untouched, I am of opinion is Lydgate's original word—the change to covered having taken place in the modernized version. Had the MS. been again transcribed, it would have probably become thakked, and if written to dictation, either thekyd or theikkit, as respectively in Wyntown and Bellenden.1 The passages from both, in which the change has been made, are as follow:

"Men to wolken to-gidder, tweyn and tweyn,
To kepe hem dry, when yat it dyde reyn,
Or hem to save from tempest, wynde or thondre,
If yat hem lest to schroude hemself yar wndre,
And eueryche house ythakkede was witht lede." &c.

Douce MSS. 148.

"Wyth lede the south yle thekyd alsua."-Wyntown, ix. 6. 124.
"He theikkit the kirk with leid."-Bellend. Cron., B. xii. c. 16.

« السابقةمتابعة »