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Tuesday, 13 March 2012

William Dunbar: Lament, When He Was Seik

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The Cripples
: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568 (Musée du Louvre, Paris)






.I that in heill wes and gladnes,
Am trublit now with gret seiknes,
And feblit with infermité;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.Our plesance heir is all vane glory,
This fals warld is bot transitory,
The flesche 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.

.No stait in erd heir standis sickir;
As with the wynd wavis the wickir
Wavis this warldis vanité.
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.On to the ded gois all estatis,
Princis, prelotis, and potestatis,
Baith riche and pur of al degré;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.He takis the knychtis in to feild,
Anarmit under helme and scheild;
Victour he is at all mellé;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.That strang unmercifull tyrand
Takis on the moderis breist sowkand
The bab full of benignité;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.He takis the campion in the stour,
The capitane closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewté;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.He sparis no lord for his piscence,
Na clerk for his intelligence;
His awfull strak may no man fle;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.Art-magicianis, and astrologgis,
Rethoris, logicianis, and theologgis --
Thame helpis no conclusionis sle;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.In medicyne the most practicianis,
Lechis, surrigianis, and phisicianis,
Thame self fra ded may not supplé;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.I se that makaris amang the laif
Playis heir ther pageant, syne gois to graif;
Sparit is nocht ther faculté;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

.He hes done petuously devour,
The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
The Monk of Bery, and Gower, all thre;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.







The Triumph of Death
: Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1562 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)


The Triumph of Death (detail): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1562 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)



The Triumph of Death (detail): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1562 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)



The Triumph of Death (detail): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1562 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)


The Triumph of Death (detail): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1562 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)


The Triumph of Death (detail): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1562 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)


The Triumph of Death (detail): Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1562 (Museo del Prado, Madrid)


heill = health
Timor mortis conturbat me = The fear of death confounds me
bruckle = brittle
sle = sly
sary = sorrowful
like = likely
erd = earth
sickir = secure
wickir = willow branch
the ded = death
potentatis = rulers
in to = in (the)
anarmyt = armed
mellé = combat, skirmish
sowkand = sucking
benignité = graciousness, meekness
campion = champion
stour = battle
closit = enclosed (for defence)
bour = bower
piscence = puissance, power
clerk = scholar
strak = stroke
Thame helpis no conclusionis sle = 'No subtle conclusions can help them'
most = greatest
lechis = physicians
supplé = deliver
laif = rest
pageant = pageant (of life)
syne = then
graif = grave
faculté = profession
of makaris flour = the flower of makers (poets)


William Dunbar (1456?-1513?): from Lament, When He Was Seik, c. 1500

10 comments:

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

ThHe takis the campion in the stour,
The capitane closit in the tour,
The lady in bour full of bewté;
...Timor mortis conturbat me.

Such a great poem, and to see it "in the original" together with these "scenes" from the Brueghel -- once again, no one has ever thought to do THIS before, for which again all thanks.

3.13

grey rain cloud moving across invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling from branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

consciousness of object for
example, “this” which

also forms itself, to which
was added, each scene

cloudless blue sky reflected in channel,
whiteness of gull flapping toward point

Conrad DiDiodato said...

Ah, I recognized most of the Middle English without glossary:must've been all the Chaucer I read back in the day.

I wonder what dialect Dunbar's is: not the London dialect of Chaucer (I don't think)

tpw said...

Bruegel is so vividly astounding; his work doesn't age. And Dunbar's poem, which I haven't read in many decades, is so immediate and direct. His diction is close enough to noble Chaucer's to be readily readable. Thanks for posting this perfect combination.

Tom Raworth said...

That he was a Scot might be a clue

TC said...

That grey rain cloud, Steve, has now parked its bus above us.

While I was posting this, two commuter cars collided in the rush hour downpour out front, with an impact shudder rocking the walls of the haunted house as though they were the hull of a sub taking a depth charge. I thought, Timor bloody mortis. The cats thought, Oh no, another bloody quake.

Then came the emergency vehicles.

William Dunbar's poem is writ in Middle Scots, the Anglic language of Lowland Scotland.

Its subcultural reverberations have extended into areas WD dinna ken.

E.g.:

Conviction 666: The Amaranth Effect

TC said...

Terry, no, it doesn't.

(Though we bloody well do.)

Tom,

Always lovely to have a detective in the castle.

dalriada9 said...

Tom Dinna ken or sometimes dinnae ken (pronounced dinnay) would be first person singular or plural Third person would be didnae (where i hail from) past tense or disnae present tense

TC said...

Thank you for the good knowledge dal. In fact I had thought to quip, "didna ken," but that would have been wrong too.

Though mortality always comes knocking on the door during a middle-of-the-night monsoon here in Orkney, there is always a speck of hope that a soaking rain will stay the Reaper till there's been a chance to make amends.

Your helpful correction therefore will not go unremembered, albeit quietly as befits a boneyard, at least in the captioning of the top illustration here.

STEPHEN RATCLIFFE said...

Tom,

That rain bus has stalled here too -- 36 hours and still counting, its motor still running -- I guess we should be grateful, but look out for those cars!

3.14

grey white rain cloud against invisible
plane of ridge, drops falling on bricks
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

also more than that in some
way, so being appears

subject, is everywhere what
it is, as in doing so

grey of clouds against invisible ridge,
drops splashing into windblown channel

TC said...

Steve,

All I can say is

also more than that in some
way, so being appears

all wet!

(Splash, glug...)