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and might even be spoken by them, without the slightest suspicion that they were uttering anything either archaic or foreign. In my native county of Fife many an urchin, “yonge and yepe," or "yaup,” not long intrusted with “breeks," were he visiting Cupar, the capital of the ancient “Kingdom,"
“Hit is the Soveraiyne citie of the soyle ever,
Of lenght and (of) largenes louely to see,
Well bilde all aboute, and mony buernes In”might, on his return home, give an account of his expedition very much in the words of the poem, and tell that he had
“Steppit up to a streite streght on his gate,
That proudly was painted with pure gold ouer.” The “gude folke” at home would not only understand every word, “grese” perhaps not excepted, of this account taken or made up from the passage 351–372, but consider that the account was expressed in most appropriate broad Scotch, taught him by “hom selvyne;" and if told that this was South-Midland English, they would “threpe," and with a “birr” too, that it was no more English than it was French or Gaelic. It must indeed be admitted, however, that were the same urchin sufficiently advanced to be in Latin, and translating Cæsar into his vernacular, he and they would as stoutly aver that he was turning his author into English. I question if a South-Midland peasant, or Englishman far south of the Tyne, could even pronounce some of the words in this
passage, and yet were I reading, more Scottico, these lines and many other similar ones to a class of boys or girls, able to write, in a parish school, I venture to say that I would “belyve” get them back, almost in the very guise or form in which they are “brevit” in
" 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.”
351 “Gate masons full mony, that mykull fete couthe ;
1529 Wise wrightis to wale, werkys to caste; Qwariours qweme, quaint men of wit. Sone he raght vpon rowme, rid up the dykis." “ Priam by purpos a pales gert make,
1629 Louely and large to logge in hym seluyn, ffull worthely wroght and by wit caste, And euyn at his etlyng Ylion was cald.” “He throng into thicke wodes, thester within,
2362 ffor thornes and tres I tynt him belyue. Than I sesit of my sute, and softly doun light.” “Iff tylmen toke tent what shuld tynt worth,
2462 Of sede that is sawen, by sesyng of briddes,
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,
“Eorum magna pars fui."
" When we ascertain that Sir Hugh Eglintoun was connected with
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 Eglin
The passages, to hich 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
| 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,
i 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 od urs in the Registrum Magni Sigilli Regum Scotorum, printed in 1814.
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, 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
1 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.