1. John duke of Albany (son of Alexander duke of Albany, the brother of James the Third) was regent of Scotland during the minority of James the Fifth; and this poem relates to his invasion of the borders in 1523; an expedition, which, according to Pinkerton, "in its commencement only displays the regent's imprudence, and in its termination his total deficiency in military talents, and even in common valour." Hist. of Scot., ii. 230. Mr. Tytler, however, views the character and conduct of Albany in a very different light; and his account of the expedition (Hist. of Scot., v. 166 sqq.) may be thus abridged. Albany's army amounted in effective numbers to about forty thousand men, not including a large body of camp-followers. With this force,—his march impeded by heavy roads, the nobles corrupted by the gold and intrigues of England, they and their soldiers jealous of the foreign auxiliaries, and symptoms of disorganization early appearing,—the regent advanced as far as Melrose. Having vainly endeavoured to persuade his discontented army to cross the Tweed, he encamped on its left bank, and laid siege to Wark Castle with his foreign troops and artillery. There the Frenchmen manifested their wonted courage; but the assaulting party, receiving no assistance from the Scots, and fearing that the river flooded by rain and snow would cut off their retreat, were obliged to raise the siege, and join the main body. The Earl of Surrey (see notes 102 to The Garland of Laurel and 29 to Why Come ye not to Court?), who had in the meanwhile concentrated his troops, hearing of the attack on Wark Castle, now advanced against the enemy. At the news of his approach, the Scottish nobles being fixed in their resolution not to risk a battle, Albany retreated to Eccles, (a monastery six miles distant from Wark,) with his foreign auxiliaries and artillery; and the rest of his forces dispersed, rather with flight than retreat, amidst a tempest of snow. From Eccles Albany retired to Edinburgh, and, soon after, finally withdrew to France. His army had been assembled on the Burrow-Muir near Edinburgh towards the end of October; and its dispersion took place at the commencement of the following month.
2. Huntley Bank] See note 25 to Against the Scots
3. the ragged ray]—ray seems here to be merely—array; but Skelton in his Replication, &c., has,
"That ye dance all in a suit
The heretics' ragged ray."
and see note 85 to Poems Against Garnesche.
4. And so attainted] Qy. "sore attainted"?
5. With, hey, dog, hey] This line has occurred before, in Elynour Rumming, v. 168.
6. For Syr William Lyle, &c.] "And the said Monday at iij a clock at after noon, the water of Tweed being so high that it could not be ridden, the Duke sent over ij m. (2000) Frenchmen in boats to give assault to the place, who with force entered the bas courte ("lower courtyard"), and by Sir William Lisle captain of the castle with c. (100) with him were right manfully defended by the space of one hour and an half without suffering them to enter the inner ward; but finally the said French men entered the inner ward, which perceived by the said Sir William and his company freely set upon them, and not only drove them out of the inner ward, but also out of the outer ward, and slew of the said Frenchmen x (10) persons. And so the said French men went over the water," &c. Letter from
7. my lord admiral] i.e. the Earl of Surrey.
8. With Saint Cuthbert's banner] An earlier passage of the letter just cited is as follows. "At which time I being at Holy Island, vij (7) miles from Berwick, was advertised of the same [Albany's attack on Wark Castle] at v a clock at night the said Sunday; and incontinent sent letters to my lord cardinal's company, my lord of Northumberland, my lord of Westmoreland at Saint Cuthbert's banner lying at Alnwick and thereabouts, and in likewise to my lord Dacre and other lords and gentlemen lying abroad in the country to meet me at Barmer Wood v miles from Wark on Monday, who so did."
9. But ye mean a thing, &c.] That Albany aimed at the destruction of James V. was a popular rumour, but, according to Mr. Tytler, entirely without foundation.
10. bight] i.e., perhaps noose. Beight,bight, or bought, is any thing bent, folded: in
11. shake thy dog, hey!] Qy "thee, dog?" but see note 10 to Verses Against Dundas.
12. We set not a fly
By, &c.] i.e. We value not a fly, care not a fly for.
13. dagswayne] Normally means "A coverlet of coarse cloth." I know not if the word was ever used as a term of reproach by any writer except Skelton.
14. Right inconveniently,
Ye rage and ye rave,
And your worship deprave]—inconveniently, i.e. unsuitably, unbecomingly: your worship deprave, i.e. debase, degrade, lower your dignity. "I am also advertised that he [Albany] is so passionate that an he be apart amongst his familiars and doth hear any thing contrarious to his mind and pleasure, his accustomed manner is to take his bonnet suddenly off his head and to throw it in the fire, and no man dare take it out but let it to be brent. My lord Dacre doth affirm that at his last being in
15. Duke Hamilcar. . . Duke Hasdrubal—Duke, i.e. leader, lord. So Lydgate;
"Duke whilom of Carthage
Fall of Princes, B. v. leaf cxxvi. ed. Wayland.
"Duke Hasdrubal, whom books magnify."
Ibid. B. ii. leaf xlv.
16. How ye will bears bind] Compare;
"With meed men may bind bears."
Coventry Mysteries,—MS. Cott. Vesp. D viii. fol. 195.
"Some man is strong bears for to bind."
Lydgate's verses Against Self-love, &c.—MS. Harl. 2255. fol. 10.
"That with the strength of my hand
Bears may bind."
The Droichis Part of the Play, attributed to
"Making the people to believe he could bind bears."
Bale's King Johan, p. 72. ed. Camd.
17. intruser] i.e. intruder.
"But an intruser, one called Julian."
Lydgate's Fall of Princes, B. viii. leaf ii. ed. Wayland.
18. The fiend of hell mote starve thee] i.e. May the fiend of hell cause thee to die, destroy thee. (To starve in our old writers is common in the sense of—die, perish).
19. Carried in a cage, &c.] In no historian can I find any allusion to the strange vehicle here mentioned.
20. Therein, like a roil,
Sir Duncan, ye dared] Compare;
"By your revellous riding on every roil,
Well-nigh every day a new mare or a moyle."
Heywood's Dialogue, &c. sig. H 4,-Works, ed. 1598.
"Nulla in tam magno est corpore mica salis, There is not one crumb or drop of good fashion in all that great roil's body. For Catullus there speaketh of a certain maiden that was called Quintia," &c. Udall's Flowers, or Eloquent Phrases of the Latin speech, &c. sig. G 5. ed. 1581. Grose gives "Roil or royle, a big ungainly slamakin, a great awkward blowze or hoyden." Prov. Gloss.:—Sir Duncan is a Scottish name used here at random by Skelton, as he elsewhere uses other Scottish names, see note 18 to Against The Scots. Dared [lurked, lay hid], see note 124 to Magnificence; and compare; "Daren or privily been hid. Latito." Prompt. Parv. ed. 1499.
"Under fresh flowers sweet and fair to see,
The serpent dareth with his covert poison."
Lydgate's Fall of Princes, B. iv. leaf cvii. ed. Wayland.
"the snail goeth low down,
Dareth in his shell."
Poem by Lydgate entitled in the Catalogue, Advices for people to keep a guard over their tongues,—MS. Harl. 2255. fol. 133.
21. sir Thopas] See note 19 to Poems Against Garnesche.
22. Bass] The Bass is an island, or rather rock, of immense height in the Firth of Forth, about a mile distant from the south shore.
23. lass] "as" in MS. I may just notice, in support of this reading, that "a lusty lass" occurs in our author's Magnificence, v. 1577
24. munpyns] Compare;
"Sirs, let us crib first for one thing or other,
That these words be pursed, and let us go fodder
Prima Pastorum,—Towneley Mysteries, p. 89,
(a passage which the writer of the Gloss. altogether misunderstands), and;
"Thy munpyns ben like old ivory,
Here are stumps feeble and here are none," &c.
Lydgate, The Prohemy of a Marriage, &c.—MS. Harl. 372. fol. 45.
Munpyns is, I apprehend, mouth-pins, teeth. Ray gives "The Munne, the Mouth." Coll. of Engl. Words, &c.—Preface, p. x. ed. 1768: and Jamieson has "Munds. The mouth."—"Muns. The hollow behind the jaw-bone." Et. Dict. of Scot. Lang. and Suppl.
25. sir Wrig-wrag . . . sir Dalyrag] See note 53 to Poems Against Garnesche
26. the Lion White] i.e. the Earl of Surrey. See note 21 to Against The Scots.
27. the flingande fiend] i.e. the flinging fiend. So in Ingelend's Disobedient Child, n. d.;
The flyinge and [sic] fiend go with my wife."
Sig. F ii.
Northern readers at least need not be informed that to fling means—to throw out the legs;
"Sometime, in dancing, fairly I flang."
Sir D. Lyndsay's Epistle before his Dream,—Works, i. 187. ed. Chalmers.
28. avaunts] i.e. vaunts, boasts. "The bragging avaunts of the Spaniards be so accalmed," &c. Letter of Wolsey,—Burnet's Hist. of the Reform., iii. P. ii. 9. ed. 1816.
29. save voster grace] "despite your grace."
30. Gae hame] Scottice for—Go home—as before in Why Come Ye Not To Court, v. 123.
31. mate you with checkmate] In allusion to the king's being put in check at the game of chess.
32. pipe in a quibible] The word quibible, as far as I am aware, occurs only in Skelton. Chaucer has a well-known passage,
"And playen songs on a small ribible;
Thereto he sang sometime a loud quinible."
The Miller's tale, v. 3331
where Tyrwhitt (apparently against the context) supposes quinible to be an instrument: and I may notice that Forby gives "Whybibble, a whimsy; idle fancy; silly scruple, &c." Voc. of East Anglia.
33. overage] Over-rage, excessive rage. See note 4 to Why Come Ye Not To Court.
34. Like unto Hercules] Barclay goes still farther in a compliment to the same monarch;
"He passeth Hercules in manhood and courage."
The Ship of Fools, fol. 205. ed. 1570.
35. Scipiades] i.e. Scipio.
36. Duke Josue]—Duke, i.e. leader, lord. So Hawes;
"And in like wise duke Josue the gent," &c.
The Pastime of Pleasure, sig. c ii. ed. 1555.
37. the valiant Machube] i.e. Maccabee.
38. a knappish sort] "Knappish. Proterve, pervers, fascheux." ("Obstinate, contrary, angry") Cotgrave's Dict. "Knappish. Tart, testy, snappish." Jamieson's Et. Dict. of Scot. Lang.: sort, i.e. set.
39. Et faitez a luy grant torte] "And do him a great injury"
40. Saint George to borrow] i.e. St. George being my surety or pledge: the expression is common in our early poetry.
41. Skelton Laureat, obsequious et loyal, &c] Perhaps these words are a portion of the superscription to the L'envoy which follows. The L'envoy itself does not, I apprehend, belong to the poem on the Duke of Albany. See Some Account of Skelton and his Writings.
42. Je foy enterment en sa bone grace.] "I trust entirely in his good graces" (PH)