CHAPTER 2
Scottish Literature in Scots

MEDIEVAL, REFORMATION AND RENAISSANCE PERIODS

One expression of Scottish literature is writing in Scots, which has a number of periods of particular fruition. The medieval period is the earliest of these, where literature in Scots can be seen to accompany a prominent national or dynastic agenda, ‘nation-building’ as I will call it. What is usually taken to be the earliest extant fragment of poetry in Scots (though from a fifteenthcentury printed source) concerns the death of King Alexander III in 1286, when the Scottish monarch had fallen from a horse. Alexander had definitively ended Norse claims on Scotland by defeating King Hakon of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263. A shrewd politician, he had in turn married an English princess and a French noblewoman as he played a balancing game between much larger kingdoms and, for a time, deflected imperial English eyes from Scotland. The narrator of the poetic fragment bewails catastrophe:

Qwhen Alexander our kynge was dede
That Scotland lede in lauche and le, [law protection]
Away was sons of alle and brede. [plenty]
Off wynne and wax, of gamyn and gle. [play joy]
Our golde was changit in to lede. [lead]
Crist, borne in virgynyte,

-29-

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Scottish Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Series Preface v
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Chronology viii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Rise of Scottish Literature 4
  • Chapter 2 - Scottish Literature in Scots 29
  • Chapter 3 - Scottish Writing in English 75
  • Chapter 4 - Intimate Critical Spaces in Scottish Texts 135
  • Chapter 5 - Literary Relations- Scotland and Other Places 171
  • Conclusion 197
  • Student Resources 200
  • Index 224
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