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Selected Poems

William Dunbar

Edited by Harriet Harvey Wood

Cover Picture of Selected Poems
10% off
Categories: 15th Century, 16th Century
Imprint: FyfieldBooks
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (114 pages)
(Pub. Aug 2003)
£8.95 £8.05
  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Contents
  • I that in heill wes and gladnes,
    Am trublit now with gret seiknes
    And feblit with infermite;
        Timor mortis conturbat me.

    Our plesance heir is all vane glory.
    This fals warld is bot transitory,
    The felsch is brukle, the fend is sle;
        Timor mortis conturbat me.

    The stait of man dois change and vary,
    Now sound, now seik, now blith, now sary,
    Now dansand mery, now like to dee;
        Timor mortis conturbat me.

    1. heill, health 7. brukle, frail, fend, fiend, sle, cunning 10 sary, wretched

    from Lament for the Makaris

    Re-inventing Scottish poetry in the twentieth century, Hugh MacDiarmid's war cry was: 'Not Burns - Dunbar!' With it, he celebrated William Dunbar (1460?-1520?) as 'in many ways the most modern, as he is the most varied, of Scottish poets'. His verve, wit, metrical skill, malice and elegiac power made him one of the greatest poet of the fifteenth century and a defining Scottish poet of all time.

    A priest for most of his adult life, he saw himself, perhaps more than most of his literary contemporaries, as a professional poet rather than a cleric and took pride in the exercise of his craft, reminding the King, his employer, of the unwisdom of neglecting to reward poets. He was influenced as much by Villon as by Chaucer and drew on mediaeval traditions which in his hands are made serviceable one last time - vivid, challenging, expressive.

    More than any other mediaeval poet, Dunbar speaks to us in accents which we recognise today. 'Whatever your taste, pious, gay, melancholy, bawdy, he will write a poem for you, apt and elegant', said W.H.Auden. Poems of all these kinds are included in this selection.

    Dr Harriet Harvey-Wood read English and Mediaeval Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She joined the British Council in 1973, becoming Literature Director until her retirement in 1994. She is currently working on a biography of John Gibson Lockhart. She was a judge of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1992 and was appointed OBE in 1993.
    Table of Contents


    References and Abbreviations

    Dunbar at Oxinforde

    The Thrissil and the Rois

    On His Heid-Ake

    How Dunbar Was Desyrd to be Ane Frier

    Complaint to the King Aganis Mure

    And his Awin Ennemy

    The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie

    Meditatioun in Wyntir

    Of Discretioun in Asking

    Of Discretioun in Geving

    Of Discretioun in Taking

    Remonstrance to the King

    To the King, That he war Johne Thomsounis Man

    To the Lordis of the Kingis Chalker

    To the King

    In This Warld May None Assure

    The Petition of the Gray Horse, Auld Dunbar

    A Brash of Wowing

    Of a Dance in the Quenis Chamber

    Of James Dog, Kepair of the Quenis Wardrep

    Of the Said James, quhen he had plesett him

    The Fenzzeit Freir of Tungland

    the Testament of Mr. Andro Kennedy

    The Dregy of Dunbar

    To the Merchantis of Edinburgh

    The Twa Cummeris

    The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo

    'Quhat is this lyfe'

    'Sweit rois of vertew'

    Inconstancy of Luve

    Fasternis Erin in Hell

       The Dance of the Sevin Deidly Synnis

       The Sowtar and Tailzouris War

       The Amendis to the Tailzouris and Sowtaris

    All Erdly Joy Returnis in Pane

    Lament for the Makaris

    Ane Ballat of Our Lady

    Of the Nativitie of Christ

    On the Resurrection of Christ


    William Dunbar
    William Dunbar was a Scottish makar poet active in the late fifteenth century and the early sixteenth century. He was closely associated with the court of King James IV and produced a large body of work in Scots distinguished by its great variation in themes and literary styles . ... read more
    Harriet Harvey Wood
    ... read more
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