Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Duncaine Laideus Testament' and Other Comic Poems in Older Scots

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

'Duncaine Laideus Testament' and Other Comic Poems in Older Scots

Article excerpt

Duncaine Laideus Testament and Other Comic Poems in Older Scots, ed. Janet Hadley Williams, Scottish Text Society, 5th Series 15 (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2016). 278 pp. ISBN 978-1-89797-638-8. ?40.00. I first encountered Duncaine Laideus Testament (DLT) and the sonnet accompanying it ('Off the Macgregouris armes') whilst working on the manuscript and print contexts of Older Scots romance for my 2010 D.Phil. thesis. Both poems are copied, upside down, at the back of one of two witnesses of Sir Gilbert Hay's Buik of King Alexander the Conquerour owned in the late sixteenth century by the Scottish Campbell of Glenorchy family (Edinburgh, NRS, MS GD 112/71/9). DLT is a satirical testament spoken by the fictional counterpart of the sixteenth-century highland outlaw Duncan MacGregor, hunted for his crimes throughout the central highlands and eventually executed by Sir Colin Campbell in 1552. The poem's appearance in a Campbell-owned manuscript is thus entirely fitting since it commemorates a significant event in Campbell family history and was most probably written by a member of that household (discussion of this is a highlight of this edition). Its copying upside down is also entirely appropriate. As Hadley Williams commented in previous work: 'it could be argued that the scribe saw Duncan's story as the antithesis of King Alexander's and gave that thought physical expression.' Similar patterns of parody and burlesque, bathos and the carnivalesque, characterize the nine other comic poems here freshly edited (with extremely detailed introductory and explanatory notes) by an experienced scholar of Older Scots literature: Roule's 'Devyne poware of michtis maist' (a mock-cursing), 'My gudame wes a gay wif' (aligned with alewives' satires and parodying popular didactic literature and saints' lives), The Gyre Carling (a mock romance), 'Sym of Lyntoun, be the ramis horn' (another mock romance), Lichtoun's 'Quha doutis dremis is bot phantasye' (mock disputation and dream vision), Lord Fergus Gaist (a mockery of romance and church rituals), 'God and Sanct Petir' (on God's creation of a Highlander from a 'hors tourd'), David Lyndsay's Complaint of Bagsche (a dog owned by the king), and Alexander Cunningham's 'Ane Epistle direct fra the holye Armite of Allarit to his bretheren the Gray Freires' (anti-fraternal satire). …

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