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friends; which made him to be reverenced and respected of all men.
The same author has preserved an anecdote of this ancient baron, which, whilst it undoubtedly reflects credit on his personal valour, says little for his sobriety and moderation. “The king," says he, (it was James IV. of Scotland,) “on a time was discoursing at table on the personages of men, and, by all men's confession, the prerogative was adjudged to the Earl of Angus; but a courtier that was by, one Spens, of Kilspindy, whether out of envy to hear him so praised, or of his idle humour only, cast in a word of doubt and disparaging. It is true, said he, if all be good that is upcome; meaning, if his actions and valour were answerable to his personage and body. This spoken openly, and coming to the earl's ears, offended him highly; and it fell out soon after, as Angus was riding from Douglas to Tantallon, that he sent all his company the nearest way, whilst he himself, with one only of his servants, having each of them a hawk on his fist, in hope of better sport, took the way by Borthwick towards Fala; where, alighting at the brook at the west end of the town, they bathed their hawks.
“ In the mean time, this Spens happened to come that way; whom the earl espying, said to his man, 'Is not this he that made question of my manhood? I will go to him and give him a trial of it, that we may know which of us is the better man.' 'No, my lord,' said his servant, it is a disparagement for your lordship to meddle with him;
• Hume's Hist. of the House of Douglas and Angus, vol. ii. p. 57.
I will do that sufficiently, if it please your honour to give me leave.' 'I see,' said the earl, ‘he hath one with him; grapple you with him, but leave me to deal with his master. So, fastening their hawks, that they might not fly away in the mean time, they rode after him, and, having come up, • What reason had you,' said the earl, ‘to speak so contemptuously of me, doubting whether my valour were answerable to my personage?' Spens would fain have excused the matter, but Angus plainly told him this would not serve his turn. “Thou art a big fellow,' said he, "and so am I; one of us must and shall pay for it.' 'If it may be no better,' said the other, there is never an earl in Scotland, but I will defend myself from him as well as I can; and rather kill him than suffer him to kill me.' So, alighting from their horses, they fought, till at last the Earl of Angus, with a stroke, cut Spens's thigh-bone asunder, so that he fell to the ground, and died soon after. 'Go now,' said Angus to the servant of the slain knight, and tell my gossip the king, there was nothing here but fair play; I know he will chafe
- but Hermitage is a strong castle, and there will I abide till his anger be over.
Such was the stalwart father of the poet-a sire more fitted to teach his children how to couch a lance than polish a sonnet; and Gavin's elder brethren, George, master of Angus, and Sir William Douglas, of Glenbervie, were bred up in this warlike school. They fell, with their sovereign, in the fatal battle of Flodden; and two
• Hume's History of the House of Douglas and Angus, vol. ii. p. 59.
hundred knights and gentlemen of the same
“ The flowers of the forest,
That aye were the foremost," lay stretched around them. Their father, the old earl, who had in vain dissuaded the monarch from a ruinous war, bending under the weight of public and individual sorrow, retired into Galloway, where he soon after died.
Meanwhile a gentler fortune awaited his third son, Gavin, who had been educated as an ecclesiastic, and, having entered into holy orders, was early promoted to the rectory of Hawick, a town in Roxburghshire, situated in a beautiful pastoral country, at the confluence of the rivers Teviot and Slitterick. Here, living in the midst of romantic natural scenery, endowed with a fine imagination, and having a mind imbued with no common stores of learning and knowledge, considering the darkness of the times,) he appears to have early devoted himself to poetry. “ The intimacy of his acquaintance with ancient literature,” says Dr. Irving, was,
in that age, rarely paralleled. His favourites amongst the ancient poets were, apparently, Virgil and Ovid; and, among the Christian fathers, St. Augustin, whom he denominates the Chief of Clerks. His knowledge of the Latin language was, undoubtedly, extensive; and, as he has informed us that Lord Sinclair requested him to translate Homer, we may conclude that he possessed also an acquaintance with Greek—an accomplishment rarely to be met with at that time in Scotland. We learn also from his ancient
biographer, Mylne, that he was profoundly read in theology and in the canon law."*
His first work of any extent was King Hart," an allegorical poem, upon human life, of which it is impossible to give an analysis in more striking language than his own.
" The hart of man, “ beand his maist noble part, and the fountain of his life,” is here put for man in general, and holds the chief place in the poem, under the title of " King Hart." This mystical king is first represented in the bloom of youthheid, with his lusty attendants, the attributes or qualities of youth. Next is pictured forth the Palace of Pleasure, near by the castle of King Hart, with its lovely inhabitants. Queen Pleasance, with the help of her ladies, assails King Hart's castle, and takes him and most of his servitors prisoners. Pity at last releases them, and they assail the Queen Pleasance, and vanquish her and her ladies in their turn. King Hart then weds Queen Pleasance, and solaces himself long in her delicious castle. So far is man's dealing with pleasure; but now, when King Hart is past mid-eild, comes another scene. For Age, arriving at the castle of Queen Pleasance, with whom King Hart dwelt ever since his marriage with her, insists for admittance, which he gains. So King Hart takes leave of Youthheid with much sorrow. Age is no sooner admitted, than Conscience comes also to the castle and forces entrance, beginning to chide the King, whilst Wit and Reason take part in the conference. After this and
Irving's Lives, vol. ii. p. 27.
other adventures, Queen Pleasance suddenly leaves the King, and Reason and Wisdom persuade King Hart to return to his own palace: that is, when pleasure and the passions leave man, reason and wisdom render him his own master. After some other matters, Decrepitude attacks and mortally wounds the King, who dies after making his testament.
Such is Douglas's nervous and condensed description of his own poem. The allegory, although insipid and tedious to our modern taste, was probably delightful, in all its intricate and endless personifications, to his feudal readers, There is a curious contrast, in these iron times, between the fierce activity of the barons in the lists or in the field, and the patience and resignation with which they seem to have sat down to wade through the interminable pages of their romances, and listened to the long drawn-out legends of their minstrels, or their jongleurs. To them the business of life was full of passion, violence, and bloodshed; whilst their amusements and their literature were solemn, grave, and tedious. In our days, life stagnates in repose and indolence; whilst the productions of our literature must be striking, abrupt, highly wroughtabove all, brief; and we keep our violence and impatience for the unhappy authors who dare to draw upon us for anything which requires serious thought, sustained attention, or a prolonged perusal.
But although uninteresting and somewhat heavy, as a lengthened allegory, “King Hart" abounds with much noble poetry; and we often forget,