Complete and Full with Numbers: The Narrative Poetry of Robert Henryson

Complete and Full with Numbers: The Narrative Poetry of Robert Henryson

Complete and Full with Numbers: The Narrative Poetry of Robert Henryson

Complete and Full with Numbers: The Narrative Poetry of Robert Henryson

Synopsis

This book presents a major re-examination of the works of the fifteenth-century Scottish poet, Robert Henryson. Encompassing the full range of the poet's work, Professor John MacQueen opens up previously unexplored areas of both Henryson's literary practice and his underlying moral and philosophical vision. MacQueen argues that numerology is central to the intellectual landscape that shaped Henryson's development as a poet, and that numerological patterns and structures are embedded throughout his corpus, revealing themselves not simply in such overtly allegorical works as The Testament of Cresseid, but also in many of the Fables as well. This book therefore recovers for a modern audience qualities to which Henryson's original readers would have been alert, while at the same time conveying something of the energy and excitement of his intellectual and poetic culture.

Excerpt

The working life of Robert Henryson occupied the middle to late years of the fifteenth century (see Fox (ed.) 1981: xiii–xxv; Gray 1996: 155–60; and my own article in Oxford DNB). We know nothing of his date of birth or place of origin, and details of his education are sparse. On 10 September 1462, when he was incorporated in the recently founded University of Glasgow, presumably as a teacher of law, he is described as licenciate in Arts (i.e., he held the degree of MA) and bachelor of Decreits (Canon Law) (Munimenta 1854: 2: 69); the latter, as a higher degree, following on the first. He is also called vir venerabilis, “a venerable man”, a phrase which suggests that by then his first youth was already well past. His degrees he did not obtain from any Scottish or English university. in the Aesopic fable The Lion and the Mouse, he makes Aesop claim to be a Roman and to have studied canon and civil law in the schools of Rome, a claim elsewhere unparalleled. Rome maintained schools of canon and civil law for poor foreign students throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and it is at least plausible that Henryson projected elements of himself onto a character in his poem, and that he had himself obtained his bachelorship from the Roman schools (Encyclopaedia Britannica 1957: s.v. “Universities”). the poems provide abundant evidence that he had completed the various stages of a medieval professional education, the trivium (grammar, rhetoric and logic), the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music), philosophy, and finally canon and civil law.

Henryson may have written at least one of his longer poems, The Tale of Orpheus, during his time at Glasgow. the narrative is based on the version of the legend found in bk.3, metrum 12 of the Consolations of Philosophy by Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius (c.480–524); the long Moralitas on the gloss to the text written by the English friar Nicholas Trivet (1258–1328). Liber Boetii cum glossa Treuet is one of the items held during the fifteenth century in the library of Glasgow Cathedral (Registrum 1843: 2: 334–39). Glasgow University, the founder of which had been the bishop of Glasgow, William Turnbull (c.1410–54), was closely associated with the cathedral and its chapter.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.