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The Testament of Cressida (excerpt)

  Thus chydand with her drerie destenye,
  Weiping, scho woik the nicht fra end to end;
  Bot all in vane; hir dule, hir cairfull cry,
  Micht not remeid, nor yit hir murning mend.
  Ane lipper lady rais, and till hir wend,
  And said, "Quhy spurnis thow aganis the wall,
  To sla thyself, and mend nathing at all?

  "Sen thy weiping dowbillis bot thy wo,
  I counsall the mak vertew of ane neid;
  To leir to clap thy clapper to and fro,
  And leir efter the law of lipper leid."
  Thair was na buit, bot furth with thame scho yeid,
  Fra place to place, quhill cauld and hounger sair
  Compellit hir to be ane rank beggair.

  That samin tyme of Troy the garnisoun,
  Quhilk had to chiftane worthie Troylus,
  Throw jeopardie of weir had strikken down
  Knichtis of Grece in number marvellous:
  With greit tryumphe and laude victorious
  Agane to Troy richt royallie they raid,
  The way quhair Cresseid with the lipper baid.

  Seing that companie, thai come all with ane stevin;
  Thay gaif ane cry, and schuik coppis gude speid;
  Said, "Worthie lordis, for Goddis lufe of hevin,
  To us lipper part of your almous deid."
  Than to thair cry nobill Troylus tuik heid,
  Having pietie, neir by the place can pas
  Quhair Cresseid sat, not witting quhat scho was.

  Than upon him scho kest up baith her ene,
  And with ane blenk it come into his thocht
  That he sumtime hir face befoir had sene;
  But scho was in sic plye he knew hir nocht;
  Yit than hir luik into his mynd it brocht
  The sweit visage and amorous blenking
  Of fair Cresseid, sumtyme his awin darling.

  Na wonder was, suppois in mynd that he
  Tuik hir figure sa sone, and lo! now quhy!
  The idole of ane thing in cace may be
  Sa deip imprentit in the fantasy,
  That it deludis the wittis outwardly,
  And sa appeiris in forme and lyke estait
  Within the mynd, as it was figurait.

  Ane spark of lufe than till his hart culd spring,
  And kendlit all his bodie in ane fyre,
  With hait fevir ane sweit and trimbling
  Him tuik, quhill he was reddie to expyre;
  To beir his scheild his breist began to tyre;
  Within ane quhyle he changit mony hew,
  And, nevertheles, not ane ane uther knew.

  For knichtlie pietie and memoriall
  Of fair Cresseid, ane gyrdill can he tak,
  Ane purs of gold, and mony gay jowall,
  And in the skirt of Cresseid doun can swak:
  Than raid away, and not ane word he spak,
  Pensive in hart, quhill he come to the toun,
  And for greit cair oft syis almaist fell doun.

  The lipper folk to Cresseid than can draw,
  To se the equall distributioun
  Of the almous; but quhan the gold they saw,
  Ilk ane to uther prevelie can roun,
  And said, "Yone lord hes mair affectioun,
  How ever it be, unto yone lazarous,
  Than to us all; we knaw be his almous."

  "Quhat lord is yone," (quod scho), "have ye na feill,
  Hes done to us so greit humanitie?"
  "Yes," (quod a lipper man), "I knaw him weill;
  Schir Troylus it is, gentill and fre."
  Quhen Cresseid understude that it was he,
  Stiffer than steill thair stert ane bitter stound
  Throwout hir hart, and fell doun to the ground.

  Quhen scho, ouircome with siching sair and sad,
  With many cairfull cry and cald "Ochane!
  Now is my breist with stormie stoundis stad,
  Wrappit in wo, ane wretch full will of wane:"
  Than swounit scho oft or scho culd refrane,
  And ever in hir swouning cryit scho thus:
  "O, fals Cresseid, and trew knicht Troylus!

  "Thy lufe, thy lawtie, and thy gentilnes
  I countit small in my prosperitie;
  Sa elevait I was in wantones,
  And clam upon the fickill quheill sa hie;
  All faith and lufe I promissit to the
  Was in the self fickill and frivolous:
  O, fals Cresseid, and trew knicht Troilus!

  "For lufe of me thow keipt gude continence,
  Honest and chaist in conversatioun;
  Of all wemen protectour and defence
  Thou was, and helpit thair opinioun:
  My mynd in fleschelie foull affectioun
  Was inclynit to lustis lecherous:
  Fy, fals Cresseid! O, trew knicht Troylus!

  "Lovers, be war, and tak gude heid about
  Quhome that ye lufe, for quhome ye suffer paine;
  I lat yow wit, thair is richt few thairout
  Quhome ye may traist to have trew lufe agane:
  Preif quhen ye will, your labour is in vaine;
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:43 min read

Robert Henryson

Robert Henryson was a poet who flourished in Scotland in the period c. 1460–1500. Counted among the Scots makars, he lived in the royal burgh of Dunfermline and is a distinctive voice in the Northern Renaissance at a time when the culture was on a cusp between medieval and renaissance sensibilities. Little is known of his life, but evidence suggests that he was a teacher who had training in law and the humanities, that he had a connection with Dunfermline Abbey and that he may also have been associated for a period with Glasgow University. His poetry was composed in Middle Scots at a time when this had become a state language. It is one of the most important bodies of work in the canon of early Scottish literature. His writing consists mainly of narrative works highly inventive in their development of story-telling techniques. He generally achieved a canny balance of humour and high seriousness which is often multi-layered in its effects. This is especially so in his Morall Fabillis, in which he expresses a consistent but complex world view that seems standard, on the surface, vis a vis the major ruling power of the church, while containing critical and questioning elements. more…

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