Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Poems of Walter Kennedy

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Poems of Walter Kennedy

Article excerpt

The Poems of Walter Kennedy, ed. Nicole Meier, Scottish Text Society, 5 th series, no. 6 (Edinburgh: Scottish Text Society, 2008). cxvi + 449 pp. ISBN 978-1897976289. £35.00. The six poems attributed in the early manuscript and print witnesses to Walter Kennedy (c.1455-c.1518) provide a conspectus of the moral, religious, satirical, and comic verse written in Scots during the reign of James IV In her edition of these poems, Nicole Meier reassesses Kennedy as an important contemporary of Gavin Douglas and William Dunbar. His relation to Dunbar has special significance, given its outcome in their Flyting. With Meier's edition, it becomes possible to consider how the surviving poems attributed to Kennedy confirm some of the main categories of Scots verse. Here these categories appear in rapid succession, strikingly articulated: a ballade in which an old man praises his age succeeds one in which a no less aged man denounces the female pudendum as an insatiable 'mouth thankless'. Kennedy's range epitomizes the generic and rhetorical antitypes that have struck and sometimes disturbed modern readers of Older Scots poetry - not least with regard to the depiction of old age, the poet, and women (p. xcviii). In the over-the-top performance of invective and self-praise of the Flyting, Kennedy styles himself 'of rethory the rose' (L 500), a title Douglas and Dunbar both accord Chaucer; and now it is possible at least to begin to locate him in that poetic garden.

Meier provides a parallel text edition of the four poems for which multiple witnesses exist. These are all on secular topics, while the two religious poems, Ane Ballai of Our Lady and The Passioun of Crist, survive only in unique copies, another indication of Kennedy's representative status in sixteenth-century Scottish literary culture (pp. 225 f.). At first, the decision to provide minimally emended parallel texts may seem wrongheaded. …

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