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Of Walter Kennedy's poetical productions, the five poems that have come down to us (cf. p. 2) formed in all probability a small part only. They have been preserved to us in four Manuscripts, viz. I. in the Bannatyne MS., belonging to the Advocates Library, Edinburgh (19 : 1 : 1) in two different places, viz. fol. 52 b–53a (B1) and pp. 38–39 (B2), and in the Maitland MS., belonging to the Pepysian Library in Magdalen College, Cambridge, p. 208; II. likewise preserved in the Bannatyne MS. (fol. 268a–268b) and in the Maitland MS. (pp. 305–306); III. in the Asloane MS. only (fol. 301 b–302a); IV again in the Bannatyne MS. (fol. 281a) and in the Maitland MS. (pp. 292, 293); and V in the Howard MS., now called Arundel MS. 285 of the British Museum (fol. 6a –48b). As the first three MSS. have been described at length in our edition of Dunbar's poems, it is not necessary to revert to them here. The Arundel MS., however, having been rather shortly noticed there, as it contains only three of Dunbar's poems, whereas it has preserved to us the whole “ Passioun of Christ, by far the longest of Kennedy's poems, it may not be out of place to give a somewhat more accurate description of it here. In the Catalogue of Manuscripts in the British Museum (New Series, vol. I, 1834) an elaborate description of the MS. and the contents of it is given which begins as follows: Paper, small 4“, ff. 226, XVI cent. (according to Laing, written probably about the year 1500). A collection of Scottish poetry and prose by various authors, as follows: "1. The tabil of Confessioun, compilit be M. William Dunbar, in 21 eight-line stanzas, fol. 1. Another copy, wanting a stanza, is contained in the Bannatyne MS. fol. 17 b. 2. " The passioun of Christ, compilit be M. Walter Kennedy, in stanzas of eight (recte: seven) lines. A woodcut, representing the scourging of our Saviour, is prefixed, fol. 6.“ (Then the first two verses of the prologue and of the poem itself are quoted.) "In the body of the poem we find the conversation between the Virgin and the Cross, which proceeds much in the same manner as in the Early English poem in MS. Reg. 18, A 10, fol. 8b." 3. The contemplatioun of Synnaris, compilit be frer William of Touris of the ordour of the frer minouris, a poem divided into seven parts, or contemplations, corresponding with the seven days of the week, fol. 47.
* This statement is not correct, fol. 8 as well as the preceding and following folios forming part of a treatise in prose.
and ends as follows:
Was born to blede as cristes crede sobely to say
Hence it appears that the metrical form of the poem is entirely different from that of Kennedy's 'Passioun of Christ' and belongs to the so-called bob-wheel stanzas; nor is there a greater similarity between the two poems as to their contents, apart from the general run of thought afforded by the subject itself.
Printed in a work also entitled The contemplacyon of Synners, 4, London 1499, where each chapter as given above is preceded by a prose dissertation upon the same subject. Another copy is contained in MS. Harl. 6919.“
Equally elaborate notices are given in the above-mentioned Catalogue of the other poems of the MS. (34 in all) with regard to their contents, and in several cases the first verses of them are quoted. Two of them are poems written by Dunbar, viz. The Maner of Passing to Confessioun und The Passioun of Christ.
The MS. is written, as far as our poem (The Passioun of Christ) is concerned, in a good, clear hand, which goes on till the end of fol. 346, every page containing three stanzas of seven lines (rhyme-royal), not of eight lines, as is erroneously stated in the above quoted description of the MS.
Then another similar hand commences, the letters being somewhat smaller and a somewhat larger space being left at first between the lines, so that on the first page (fol. 35a) there are only two stanzas and five verses of the third, whereas the two next pages contain each two lines more than three stanzas, fol. 36b till fol. 43a again three stanzas each, fol. 43 b till fol. 46a three stanzas and from three to five lines more, while the last page of the poem, containing only the last eleven lines of it and the following words written in red ink in three lines:
Heir endis the passioun of our
Lord Ihu crist compilit be
seems to be written again in the original hand. After all, the difference in the writing of the poem may be due only to different pens used by the scribe, but slight differences in the spelling would seem to point to different scribes, as e. g. crist, pilot (scribe A), christ, pilat (scribe B). The initials of the several stanzas are written in red ink up to the end of fol. 9a (stanza 9). In the following stanzas every line begins with an ordinary capital in black ink, which has a red vertical line added to it in the interior of the letter. This goes on till fol. 20a (first stanza, Nr. 72 of the whole poem), after which follow two stanzas (Nr. 73, 74) which are not coloured at all; then the stanzas have the red strokes again added to each initial letter of the lines up to the end of fol. 22b (stanza 89); then they are left out again till the end of fol. 28a (stanza 122), after which they occur again till fol. 33b (stanza 154). Of the following stanza only the initial of the first line is coloured, in those of the other lines the red strokes are wanting as well as in all the other stanzas of the next folios till the end of fol. 36a; from fol. 36 b (stanza 171) the initials are again coloured in the usual way up till the end of fol. 39a (stanza 188), when the red strokes are omitted again on the two next pages of the MS. (fol. 139 b, 140a) up till stanza 194, when the colouring of the initials begins again and is continued till the end of the poem. The headings of the different parts of the poem are always written in red ink. Regarding the critical value of the MS. we can only repeat Laing's remark in his Introduction to it (Poems of William Dunbar, II, p. 448), where he says: "The writer of the Howard MS. has committed innumerable blunders; and with all the pains that could be taken, some of the passages selected are allowed to remain sufficiently obscure, if not unintelligible This is the case not only in the passages selected and printed by Laing, but even to a greater extent still in the much larger part of the poem now printed here for the first time. In the same way as in Laing's selections of the poem, the words printed within brackets are inserted either to fill up defective syllables in the measure, or in place of evident blunders. In not a few cases we hope to have restored the original readings; in others we are doubtful about it, and in a good many more any attempt at restoring the original text had to be given up as altogether hopeless. The writer of the MS. seems to have been an Englishman, as it contains many English forms of words. Owing to the deplorable state of the text and the impure character of the dialect of the poem in this MS., we have not thought it necessary, or even advisable, to dwell upon the peculiarities of the language in which it is written. As we have stated in a note to v. 89 of The Lament for the Makaris' by Dunbar, in our edition of the works of this poet, a new and complete edition of Kennedy's poems was planned then by Prof. Luick of Graz, to whom we had ceded our own collations of the smaller poems of Kennedy. As Prof. Luick, however, has not found leisure to edit them, in consequence of his grammatical researches and other literary labours which have fully occupied him during the last few years, and as he thought he would have to postpone the plan for several years to come, if not altogether, we have taken it up again and have to thank him now for having delivered up to us his own copy of the unpublished parts of the Passioun of Christ. We have collated the whole poem twice again, when staying in London last summer, with the original MS., so that we may be pretty sure now of an accurate reproduction of it. Regarding the order of composition of Kennedy's poems nothing can be said with certainty. As it seems probable, however, that those poems which refer to worldly matters, were written first, we have deviated a little from Laing's arrangement (cf. p. 2) and have printed them here in the following order: 1. Pious Counsale (IV), 2. Ane Agit Manis Invective against Mouth-Thankless (II), 3. The Praise of Age (I), 4. Ane Ballat in Praise of our Lady (III), 5. The Passioun of Christ (V). His share in the Flyting has, of course, not been included in this edition, as this poem has been formerly published by us in our edition of the Poems of Dunbar mentioned above (p. 2).
II. TeXt Of the P0emS.
The first of Kennedy's poems according to our arrangement, entitled " Pious Counsale by Laing, seems to be addressed to the poet's sweetheart, whom he advises to give up worldly love and to do penance instead. This makes it probable that the poem was written by Kennedy, not exactly in his old age, but, at all events, when he was advanced in years. Possibly it was the first of those of Kennedy's poems which have been preserved to us. Laing has printed it with a stroke between the two stanzas, as if they were two different poems. There is, however, no necessity for separating them. In the first stanza, it is true, the poet is speaking of himself and his lady-love. As, however, he has directly addressed her in the first verse, the second stanza, in which he only talks in the second person, is quite in conformity with the first stanza and certainly adds to the personal interest of the poem, which is written in stanzas of eight five-beat lines rhyming after the formula ababbcbCz (C signifying the refrain). We print it from MS. M, which has the preferable readings here, and which seems to have formed also the basis for Laing's text, the spelling of which, however, differs so considerably from that of the two MSS., that it almost seems as if he had used yet another text, although he does not mention it.
[Preserved in MS. B, fol. 281a and in MS. M, pp. 292, 293; formerly edited by Laing, Dunbar II, p. 96;
- Altir our amowris in to observance;
Various Readings in M: I. 1 Leif luve my luve no langar pow B. luif my luiff no langer L(aing). 2 Alter B L. amouris L. 3 swerd B. wengeance B, vengeance L. 4 Your B. luste L. plesour M. we L; B M om.
Notes: V. 1. Leiff luiff etc. Leave off love, my love.
On Kennedy's poem entitled Ane Agit Manis Invective against Mouth-Thankless Laing has a strange Note. He says: "This Invective against Mouth-Thankless has been considered as beneath criticism. So far as it is intelligible, it is indecent. Why it should be beneath criticism, we must confess ourselves unable to see. The poem is written in fluent verses, and in it the author seems to accuse an ancient member of the order of the Gray Friars or Franciscans of a peculiar vice, and at the same time makes him repent of it. Nor can we blame him for referring to this vice with the outspokenness which is characteristic of his age and which other poets, as e. g. Dunbar and Lyndesay, frequently availed themselves of in a still higher degree. As Kennedy never was a member of that order himself, as far as we know, the poem is not of an autobiographical nature. It is written in a stanza which occurs several times also in the poems of Dunbar, viz. in the old ballad stanza of eight four-beat lines rhyming after the formula ababbcbC. (C signifying the refrain).
Various Readings: 5 Ouir misdeidis M; Off misdeid B; Of misdeidis L. conscienss B. 6 Go luve our God,
our nychtbour and Satan oursett B. ouir M. sinnis L. 7 Punyss weill be flesch for pyn awin offens. Pwneis L, Punische L. our L, our L. 8 Haue M. e B. brik M. II. 9 Woluptous B. lyff L. po so B. 10 deth B. ewaid B. 11 persaveiris L, perseveiris B. fesly B, feschelie M. heyit M. 12 fro B. pi sinnis L. disswaid L, per
suaid B. 13 Contempnyng B, comtemning L. the hes B. 14 unto L. brukle B. lyff L. 15 devoyd B. 17 Q. Kennedye.
Notes: V. 5. Of kissing mak conscience = instead of kissing let us consult our conscience.