John Skelton - NOTES TO VERSES AGAINST DUNDAS.

NOTES TO VERSES AGAINST DUNDAS.

1. Vilitissimus Scotus Dundas allegat caudas contra angligenas] So, perhaps, Skelton wrote; but qy. "Vilissimus?" ("The most worthless Scot Dundas alleged that the English race had tails")

2. Dundas] "Georgius Dundas, Graece Latineque doctissimus habitus, Equitum Hierosolymitanorum intra Regnum Scotiae praefectus, sed prius Aberdonim Professor. Scripsit diligenter, et laboriose. Historiam Equitum Hierosolymitanorum, lib. ii. Claruit anno MDXX." Dempsteri Hist. Eccles. Gentis Scotorum, &c. 1627. p. 234. ("George Dundas, greatly learned in Latin and Greek, prefect of the Knights of Jerusalem in Scotland, professor at Aberdeen University. He wrote laboriously and diligently. History of the Knights of Jerusalem book II. He flourished 1520. Dempster, History of the Scottish Church.") This George Dundas was, I apprehend, the person who excited the wrath of Skelton.

3. Caudatos Anglos, spurcissime Scote, quid effers?
Effrons es, quoque sons, mendax, tua spurcaque bucca est
] "'English with tails,' you foulest Scot, what do you say? You are criminal and shameless, a liar, and your mouth is full of filth."

4. Anglicus a tergo
caudam gerit;
est canis ergo.
Anglice caudate,
cape caudam
ne cadat a te.
Ex causa caudae
manet Anglica
gens sine laude.
] "The Englishman has a tail behind, and is therefore a dog. Tailed Englishman, grab your tail so it does not fall off. Because of the tails, the English remain a people without praise." These three hexameters, are, it would seem, the composition of Dundas.

5. Diffamas patriam, qua non
est melior usquam.
Cum cauda plaudis dum
possis, ad ostia pultas
Mendicans; mendicus eris,
mendaxque bilinguis,
Scabidus, horribilis, quem
vermes sexque pedales
Corrodunt misere; miseris
genus est maledictum.
] "You slander our country, than which none is better. While you can lash your tail, lash yourself out the door to beg; you will be a beggar, a two-tongued liar, scabby, horrible, miserably infested with worms six feet long, your wretched clan accursed."

6. nobilis poeta.] "noble poet." (you knew that, didn't you?)

7. Laudate
Caudate
,] "Praise ye those with tails"

8. That Englishmen have tails] "After this Saint Austin entered in to Dorsetshire, and came in to a town where as were wicked people & refused his doctrine and preaching utterly & drove him out of the town casting on him the tails of thornback or like fishes, wherefore he besought almighty god to show his judgement on them, and god sent to them a shameful token, for the children that were born after in that place had tails as it is said, till they had repented them. It is said commonly that this fell at Stroud in Kent, but blessed be God at this day is no such deformity." The life of Saint Austin,—Golden Legend, fol. clxxiiii. ed. 1483. See too Nova Legenda Angliae (by Capgrave), 1516. fol. xxx.

On the proverbial expression Kentish Long-Tails, Fuller has the following remarks. "Let me premise, that those are much mistaken who first found this Proverb on a Miracle of Austin the Monk . . . I say they are much mistaken, for the Scene of this Lying Wonder was not laid in any Part of Kent, but pretended many miles off, nigh Cerne in Dorsetshire. To come closer to the sense of this Proverb, I conceive it first of outlandish extraction, and cast by foreigners as a note of disgrace on all the English, though it chanceth to stick only on the Kentish at this Day. For when there happened in Palestine a difference betwixt Robert brother of Saint Lewis King of France and our William Longspee Earl of Salisbury, hear how the Frenchman insulted over our nation: O timidorum caudatorum formidolositas! Quam beatrus, quam mundus praesens foret exercitus, si a caudis purgaretur et caudatis. "O the cowardliness of these fearful Long-tails! How happy, how clean would this our army be, were it but purged from tails and Long-tails". Matthew Paris. Anno Dom. 1250. pag. 790.

That the English were nicked by this speech appears by the reply of the Earl of Salisbury following still the metaphor; The son of my father shall press thither to day, whither you shall not dare to approach his horse tail: Some, will have the English so called from wearing a pouch or poke, (a bag to carry their baggage in) behind their backs, whilst probably the Proud Monsieurs had their Lacqueys for that purpose. In proof whereof they produce ancient pictures of the English Drapery and Armory, wherein such conveyances do appear. If so, it was neither sin nor shame for the common sort of people to carry their own necessaries, and it matters not much whether the pocket be made on either side, or wholly behind. If any demand how this nick-name (cut off from the rest of England) continues still entailed on Kent? The best conjecture is, because that county lieth nearest to France, and the French are beheld as the first founders of this aspersion. But if any will have the Kentish so called from drawing and dragging boughs of trees behind them, which afterwards they advanced above their heads and so partly cozened partly threatened King William the Conqueror to continue their ancient customs, I say, if any will impute it to this original, I will not oppose." Worthies (Kent, p. 63), ed. 1662. The preceding passage of Fuller, somewhat abridged, is copied by Ray into his Proverbs, p. 245. ed. 1768. For fanciful stories concerning the origin of Kentish long tails, see also Cornucopiae, Pasquils Night-cap, 1612, (attributed to S. Rowlands), p. 42. sqq.; and the commencement of Robin Good-fellow, His mad Pranks and Merry Jests, 1628, (a tract which originally appeared at an earlier date).

9. Skeltonus laureatus,
Anglicus natus,
Provocat Musas
Contra Dundas
Spurcissimum Scotum,
Undique notum,
Rustice fotum,
Vapide potum
] "Skelton the Laureate, an Englishman born, calls on the Muses against Dundas, that filthiest Scot, who is well known to be full of boorish drunkenness and hot air."

10. Go shake thy dog, hey] In our author's Magnificence is,

"Go, shake the dog, hay, sith ye will needs."
 
v. 306.

and had the expression occurred only in these two passages of Skelton, I should have felt confident that in the present one "thy" was a misprint for "thee," and that both were to be explained—"Go shake thee, dog," &c.; but again, in his poem The Doughty Duke of Albany we find,

"Twit, Scot, shake thy dog, hey"
v. 159.

11. A toolman to blot] A friend queries "tal man?" but toolman is, I believe, pen-man: compare our author's third poem Against Garnesche;

"Had ye gone with me to school,
And occupied no better your tool [i.e. pen]," &c.
v. 117.

also the commencement of the present piece,

"Gup, Scot,
Ye blot."

12. Huntley Banks] See note 25 to Against the Scots

13. Dundee, Dunbar] See note 18 to Against the Scots

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