Academic journal article Medium Aevum

William Dunbar: Selected Poems

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

William Dunbar: Selected Poems

Article excerpt

William Dunbar Selected Poems, ed. Priscilla Bawcutt, Longman Annotated Texts (Harlow: Addison Wesley Longman; New York: Longman, i996). xii + 451 pp. ISBN o-582-o6l88-i,L 5o.oo (hard covers); ISBN o582-o6i873, L19.99 (p/b).

This is the first substantial student-centred edition of Dunbar, and it is extremely welcome; Priscilla Bawcutt's long-standing familiarity with the work of Dunbar and the cultural, literary and biographical issues involved in editing it make its apparatus succinct yet very comprehensive. A helpful one-page chronology of Dunbar's life precedes a short but wide-ranging introduction, which gives a condensed survey of Dunbar's milieu and literary influences along with summary groupings of the many genres he practised. Particularly useful here are the explicit cross-references to individual poems, suggesting itineraries through Dunbar's work. All this is complemented by an annotated shortlist of primary sources, short sections on languages and orthography, and a `Glossary of common words' aimed at those less familiar with Middle Scots; at the end of the book are substantial notes on each poem, an index of titles and refrains, and a lengthy bibliography.

The order of the poems, freshly edited from the originals and with substantial glosses on the page, is alphabetical by first line (no. 42, 'Quhy Will Ye', precedes no. 43, 'Quho Thinkis', as and are used interchangeably). A short introduction to each poem highlights the interpretative issues it raises and lists the most relevant secondary criticism, a real bonus in teaching. …

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