The King's Quire

Original Text: 
205    Despeired of all joye and remedye,
207    Unto the wyndow gan I walk in hye,
210Myght have no more, to luke it did me gude.
211  Now was there maid fast by the touris wall
212    A gardyn faire, and in the corneris set
214    Railit about; and so with treis set
215    Was all the place, and hawthorn hegis knet,
217That myght within scarse ony wight aspye;
219    Beschadit all the aleyes that there were.
220And myddis every herbere myght be sene
222    Growing so faire with branchis here and there,
224The bewis spred the herbere all about;
229    That all the gardyng and the wallis rong
231Off thaire suete armony, and lo the text:
232  "Worschippe, ye that loveris bene, this May,
233    For of your blisse the kalendis are begonne,
234And sing with us, 'Away, winter, away!
236    Awake for schame! that have your hevynnis wonne,
237And amorously lift up your hedis all,
238Thank lufe that list you to his merci call."
243    And freschly in thaire birdis kynd arraid
246  This was the plane ditee of thaire note,
247    And there-with-all unto my self I thoght,
248"Quhat lyf is this that makis birdis dote?
250    Quhat nedith it to be so dere ybought?
252And that men list to counterfeten chere."
254    That Lufe is of so noble myght and kynde,
255Lufing his folk, and suich prosperitee
256    Is it of him, as we in bukis fynd?
257    May he oure hertes setten and unbynd?
258Hath he upon oure hertis suich maistrye?
259Or all this is bot feynyt fantasye!
261    That he of every wight hath cure and charge,
263    That I am thrall, and birdis gone at large,
265And gif he be noght so, than may I seyne,
266'Quhat makis folk to jangill of him in veyne?'
268    Be lord, and as a god may lyve and regne,
269To bynd and louse, and maken thrallis free,
270    Than wold I pray his blisfull grace benigne,
272And evermore for to be one of tho
273Him trewly for to serve in wele and wo."
274  And there-with kest I doun myn eye ageyne,
277    The fairest or the freschest yonge floure
278    That ever I sawe, me thoght, before that houre,
280The blude of all my body to my hert.
283Were so overcom with plesance and delyte,
285    That sudaynly my hert became hir thrall
288  And in my hede I drewe ryght hastily,
291    With no wight mo, bot onely wommen tueyne.
293"A! suete, ar ye a warldly creature,
294Or hevinly thing in likenesse of nature?
295  "Or ar ye god Cupidis owin princesse,
297Or ar ye verray Nature the goddesse,
298    That have depaynted with your hevinly hand
299    This gardyn full of flouris, as they stand?
300Quhat sall I think, allace! quhat reverence
301Sall I minister to your excellence?
302  "Gif ye a goddesse be, and that ye like
307That lufis yow all, and wote of noght bot wo?
308And therefor, merci, suete! sen it is so."
311Unknawing how or quhat was best to doon,
312    So ferre I fallen was in lufis dance,
314My hert, my will, my nature, and my mynd,
315Was changit clene ryght in an-othir kynd.
317    Toward, hir goldin haire and rich atyre
320    With mony ane emeraut and faire saphire;
321And on hir hede a chaplet fresch of hewe,
325So new, so fresch, so plesant to behold,
328And, above all this, there was, wele I wote,
329Beautee eneuch to mak a world to dote.
337  And forto walk that fresche Mayes morowe,
342It was to see hir youth in gudelihede,
343That for rudenes to speke thereof I drede.
346(God better wote than my pen can report)
349In word, in dede, in schap, in contenance,
350That nature myght no more hir childe avance.
351  Throw quhich anon I knew and understude
353On quhom to rest myn eye, so mich gude
354    It did my wofull hert, I yow assure,
355    That it was to me joye without mesure;
356And, at the last, my luke unto the hevin
359    To quhom I yelde homage and sacrifise,
360Fro this day forth your grace be magnifyit,
362    To lyve under your law and do servise;
363Now help me furth, and for your merci lede


204] THE KINGIS QUAIR (i.e. quire, book) is a poem in 1379 lines in seven-line stanzas and is extant in one MS., Arch. Selden B 24, at the Bodleian, written about 1490. The poem is attributed in the MS. to James I of Scotland, and was first printed in 1783 in William Tytter's The Poetical Remains of James the First, King of Scotland. The ascription to James I has been questioned, but is still generally accepted. James I, son of Robert III, King of Scotland, was captured by the English while sailing for France in 1406, in his twelfth year, and shortly before his father's death. He was detained in England in honourable captivity for eighteen years. In 1424 he married Lady Joan Beaufort, granddaughter of John of Gaunt, and returned to Scotland. After an energetic reign he was murdered at Perth in 1437. He is said by the Scottish chronicler, John Major (d. 1521), to have written a poem concerning his queen before they were married. In The Kingis Quair the poet, looking back on his chequered fortunes, tells how, while on a voyage in his tenth year, he was seized by his enemies and kept prisoner for eighteen years. While imprisoned in a tower he saw a lady walking in a garden and fell in love with her. After her departure he had a vision, in which he was transported through the heavens to the palace of Venus, who promised to aid him. He then visited the palace of Minerva to learn wisdom and prudence in his love, and then, the domain of Fortune, who placed him on her wheel and promised him success. When he woke, a dove brought him a message of comfort and soon afterward he was united to his lady. The language of the poem is mainly of the Early Scots dialect but certain forms of the London English of the period of Chaucer occur quite frequently. It seems as if James's own dialect had been modified by his long residence in England and by his study and imitation of the works of Chaucer and Lydgate. Back to Line
206] For-tirit of my thoght. Tired out with brooding. Back to Line
208] warld. World. Back to Line
209] As for the tyme. At that time. Cf. Gower, Confessio Amantis, 1144 and note.
fude. Food. Back to Line
213] herbere. Shrubbery, herb-garden, or arbour.
wandis. Wands. Back to Line
216] lyf. Living creature, person. Back to Line
218] bewis. Boughs. Back to Line
221] jenepere. juniper. Back to Line
223] lyf. See on 1. 216. Back to Line
225] twistis. Twigs. Back to Line
226] suete. Sweet. Back to Line
227] ympnis. Hymns. Back to Line
228] among. At intervals. Cf. Gower, Confessio Amantis, 1076. Back to Line
230] With their song and with the next stanza. Back to Line
235] sonne. Sun. Back to Line
239] thrawe. Time. Back to Line
240] stent. Stopped. Back to Line
241] kest. Cast.
a-lawe. Below. Back to Line
242] hippit. Hopped. Back to Line
244] fret. Adorned. Back to Line
245] makis. Mates. Back to Line
249] of ought. At all. Back to Line
251] feynit chere. Feigned or assumed behaviour. Back to Line
253] Eft. Again.
wald. Would. Back to Line
260] gif. If. Back to Line
262] Quhat have I gilt. How have I sinned. Back to Line
264] Sen. Since.
corage. Heart. Back to Line
267] bot gif. Except. Back to Line
271] To qualify me (and make me) worthy of serving him. Back to Line
275] Quhart as. Where. Back to Line
276] cummyn. Come.
hir to pleyne. To play (reflexive). Back to Line
279] abate. Surprise.
astert. Started, rushed. Back to Line
281] abaisit. Abashed.
tho. Then.
lyte. Little. Back to Line
282] forquhy. Because. Back to Line
284] latting. Letting. Back to Line
286] manace. Menace. Back to Line
287] takyn. Token. Back to Line
289] eft-sones. Soon after.
lent. Leaned. Back to Line
290] that verray womanly. That true womanly, ideal woman. Back to Line
292] seyne. Say. Back to Line
296] louse. Loose. Back to Line
303] astert. Escape. Back to Line
304] dooth me sike. Causes me to sigh. Back to Line
305] Quhy lest. Why did it please. Back to Line
306] do. Cause. Back to Line
309] thrawe. Time. Back to Line
310] infortune. Misfortune. Back to Line
313] coutenance. Bearing. Back to Line
316] write toward. Write concerning. Back to Line
318] Were set in ornamental fashion with white pearls. Back to Line
319] balas. Balas rubies.
lemyng. Gleaming. Back to Line
322] partit. Partly. Back to Line
323] spangis. Spangles. Back to Line
324] Forgit. Forged.
amorettis. Love-knots. Back to Line
326] floure-jonettis. St. John's Wort. Back to Line
327] round crokettis. Curled locks of hair. This is Skeat's conjecture. In the MS. floure-jonettis is repeated here, in error. Back to Line
330] fyre amaille. Fire-enamel. Back to Line
331] orfeverye. Goldsmith's work. Back to Line
332] hang. Hung. Back to Line
333] schapin. Shaped. Back to Line
334] lowe. Flame. Back to Line
335] Semyt. Seemed. Back to Line
336] Now God knows whether there was a good match or not! Back to Line
338] huke. Cloak.
tissew. Woven garment. Back to Line
339] toforowe. Before. Back to Line
340] lyte. Little. Back to Line
341] halflyng louse for haste. Half loose, half informal an account of haste.
suich. Such. Back to Line
344] aport. Bearing. Back to Line
345] facture. Fashioning, mould. Back to Line
347] largesse. Liberality.
estate. High rank or dignity.
connyng. Intelligence. Back to Line
348] Mesure. Moderation. Back to Line
352] Wele. Well. Back to Line
357] thir. These. Back to Line
358] of goddis stellifyit. Among the deities who have been made stars. Back to Line
361] ressavit. Received. Back to Line
364] dëis. Dies. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.43; RPO 1996-2000.