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With regard to the following ‘Ballat in Praise of our Lady' we are obliged to rely entirely upon Laing's text taken from the Asloane MS., which we have been unable to consult, as, when we arrived in London last year (end of July 1900), it had again been withdrawn by the present owner from the British Museum, where it had been deposited for some time, to be copied there, if we are rightly informed, for the Scottish Text Society. As, however, Laing's texts generally are printed correctly, and as this poem offers no difficulties whatever, it is not of much importance that we have not been able to verify its readings. The intrinsic value of the poem is not of a very high order. In several stanzas which we have pointed out in our notes, it is even very insipid, although on the
Various Readings: V. 33 Lufe law M. graffin B2, gravit M. 34 claithis B,, clayss M. 35 wryt wax Bg. not set by Bz. nocht set by Bg. Writ walx and selis are now athis sett by M; according to Laing: ar no wayis sett by M. 36 Flattrie M. baibe with freyndis and fais M. faythis Bg. 37 bruk Bg, bruke M. heis B2. 38 Wald haue him M. Sapan sa M. heid M. 40 Honour to age with everie vertew drawis M. with every Bi. 41 Qd mr. Waltir Kennedy M.
burying of the dead. They arose in the Netherlands about the beginning of the fourteenth century and were called at first Alexians after their patron St. Alexius. Soon after they were confounded with the Beghards and Beguines, male and female members of an order in Flandres, and the name was synonymous with heretic. In this sense afterwards the followers of Wiclif in England were called Lollards; so also Kennedy had used the term before in the 'Flyting' (vv. 172, 196). Lord Hailes and Laing have some interesting remarks on this passage some of which we may be allowed to quote here : 'Kennedy appears to have been a zealous partisan of what was termed the old faith; whereas the poets his contemporaries, were either lukewarm in their religious tenets, or inclined to the new opinions.' (Lord Hailes.) The doctrines of the Lollards may be considered as having been first promulgated in Britain by the great English Reformer Wyklyffe, and extended by his followers throughout a great part of Catholic Europe. Some of these sought shelter in Kyle and Bute, and in other remote Western parts of Scotland. The prevalence, therefore, of such religious opinions in Ayrshire may account for Kennedy, in the Flyting as well as in this poem, alluding to the Lollards.' (Laing.)
Notes: V. 31. I am glaid and fane. The meaning of this sentence, of course, is: I am glad of it that the time of my youth is gone.
V. 33. The meaning of gravin law pay ly seems to be: they lie buried low or deep in the earth. V. 35..
. ar nocht set by signifies : are not esteemed, valued, regarded or cared for. – In the reading of M according to Laing set by would have the same meaning. As we have deciphered it, the phrase would have to be used in its first sense: Writings, wax and seals are now set by (or added to) oaths.
Denkschriften der phil.-bist. Classe. XLVIII. Bd. I. Abh.
whole a certain warmth of tone cannot be denied to it. It is written in the usual eightline ballad stanza of five-beat verses, after the formula abab bcbcs, the last line always being a Latin one. The versification is very fluent.
ANE BALLAT IN PRAISE OF OUR LADY.
[Preserved in the Asloane MS. only, fol. 301 b - 302 a; formerly published by Laing, Dunbar II, pp. 93—95.]
Notes: V. 1, 2. Clostir evidently is used here in the sense of habitation, abode. Herbar seems to be employed here in a similar sense, namely in that of herbery, herbry, harbory, ags. hereberga, although it would give also a sense in the meaning of a garden.
V. 6. Leche, ags. lâce, physician. The meaning of the verse is : Physician to the leper, crooked, blind, deaf and dumb.
V. 11. Sched, s. connected with ags. scâdan, sceâdan, dividere, separare, signifies here: Division, barrier.
12, 13. Palpis means papis s. pl. Paps. Bled let flow, from bleid v. to bleed. V. 18. The sense evidently is: that hes consavit. V. 19. Tynt
lost; tyne, v. a. to lose, forfeit.
Notes: V. 21, 22. þy modir An, and Joachim, pat generit pe [also] "According to the Apocryphal Gospel of the birth of Mary, published out of Jerome's works, by Jones, we are informed that the Virgin was born in the city of Nazareth. 'Her father's name was Joachim, and her mother's Anna. The family of her father was of Galilee, and the city of Nazareth. The family of her mother was of Bethlehem. The parents of the Virgin were well known to the common people during the dark ages of Popery, by the religious plays or mysteries, founded on these apocryphal writings, which were then exhibited” (Laing).
V. 22. Whether the reading also supplied by Laing is the right one, seems to be doubtful.
V. 27. Stellat seems to mean multitude of stars. The MS. reads montanis, planetis; but montanis and fellis evidently are opposed each other and therefore are to stand together.
V. 28. Dyte s. Writing, composition.
V. 30. The whole stanza as well as the seventh is a curious specimen of stale and insipid poetry, such as Dunbar never has made himself guilty of.
V. 37. But vane glore = without vain glory.
Notes: V. 51. To appleis, v. a. To satisfy, content, please.
The same remark which we have made on the fourth stanza in our note to v. 30 applies more fully to this seventh stanza, which may justly be called the top of insipidness.
V. 57. Hecht s. Offer, promise. The word seems to be used here synonymously to the preceding vowis.
V. 61. What is the meaning of playand leid? If the latter word here may be used in the sense of lead which does not seem to be improbable, the former one can only mean “boiling, bubbling' here.
V. 63. Syne stowis us must mean: Then she bestows us.
Of the last of Kennedy's poems, entitled The Passioun of Christ, by far the smaller part only has been printed by Laing (1. c. pp. 97–112), as he thought it of too inferior poetical value to edit it in extenso. In his 'Notes to the poem (II, pp. 448—450) he speaks of it as follows: "This long, dull, religious poem, if it deserves the title, which has hitherto escaped notice, is preserved in the Howard MS. But only a portion of it has been now printed; the selections consisting of the entire Prologue, and of such of the stanzas as seemed most worthy of publication. The entire composition extends to 245 stanzas, or 1715 lines; and the Reader, I apprehend, will rather charge me with having given too copious extracts, than for not having inserted the whole. In fact, it was only in consideration of the great fame which Kennedy enjoyed as a Poet, and of the few remains by him which are known to exist, that I was induced to give any specimen of it at all. The passages omitted either present a dry summary of the chief events of our Saviour's life and sufferings, or contain tedious episodical reflections appropriated to the different Hours (Prime, Matins etc.) of the Romish Church service.' Apart from our considerations, set forth in the Introduction (p. 2), for publishing the entire poem,
this judgment passed on it by Laing seems on the whole much too severe. If compared to a poem like Dunbar's 'Of the Resurrection of Christ, which is certainly one of the finest religious poems existing in Early Scotch and Early English Poetry, Kennedy's poem on the ‘Passion of Christ', it is true, must appear much inferior to it as to its poetical value. But it can bear comparison very well, we think, with Dunbar's own poem on the same subject, which likewise in the first part consists of a rather detailed description of the sufferings Jesus Christ had to endure on the cross and before he was fixed to it, whereas in the second part, in the complaints and speeches of several allegorical personages he introduces, as e. g. Compassion, Ruth, Remembrance, Pity, Grace, Repentance and others, the poet makes us acquainted with his own reflections on the death suffered by Christ for the salvation of mankind.
The contents, therefore, of the two poems are, as far at least as the chief subject is concerned, very similar; and the greater length of Kennedy's poem is chiefly occasioned by its treating not only of the Passion of Christ, but of his Birth and the different events of his Life, his Resurrection, his Apparition to the Apostles and others, his Descent to Hell, his Ascension to Heaven, and the Descent of the Holy Ghost as well. In short, it has taken in, and reproduced, in the same way as is the case in the MysteryPlays, all the chief events narrated in the Gospels, and by the introduction of several
Notes: V. 71. Sen hale supple etc. As thou art the whole supply of Kennedy i. e. all that Kennedy wants for his help. The circumstance that the poet calls the Virgin Mary here his only support, seems to point to his old age as the time when the poem was written.
V. 72. þy man, means of course, thy servant.