Lament For The Makers

Original Text: 
William Dunbar, [Prints] (Edinburgh: Chepman and Myllar, 1508).
2Am trublit now with gret seiknes,
3And feblit with infermite;
5  Our plesance heir is all vane glory,
6This fals warld is bot transitory,
8    Timor mortis conturbat me.
9  The stait of man dois change and vary,
10Now sound, now seik, now blith, now sary,
11Now dansand mery, now like to dee;
12    Timor mortis conturbat me.
15Wavis this warldis vanite.
16    Timor mortis conturbat me.
17  On to the ded gois all estatis,
19Baith riche and pur of al degre;
20    Timor mortis conturbat me.
21  He takis the knychtis in to feild,
24    Timor mortis conturbat me.
25  That strang unmercifull tyrand
27The bab full of benignite;
28    Timor mortis conturbat me.
30The capitane closit in the tour,
31The lady in bour full of bewte;
32    Timor mortis conturbat me.
34Na clerk for his intelligence;
36    Timor mortis conturbat me.
40    Timor mortis conturbat me.
41  In medicyne the most practicianis,
44    Timor mortis conturbat me.
45  I se that makaris amang the laif
48    Timor mortis conturbat me.
50The noble Chaucer, of makaris flour,
52    Timor mortis conturbat me.
56    Timor mortis conturbat me.
59Fra balat making and tragidie;
60    Timor mortis conturbat me.
62Allace! that he nocht with us levit
64    Timor mortis conturbat me.
66That maid the Anteris of Gawane;
68    Timor mortis conturbat me.
70Slaine with his schour of mortall haill,
72    Timor mortis conturbat me.
74That did in luf so lifly write,
76    Timor mortis conturbat me.
78And gentill Roull of Corstorphin;
79Two bettir fallowis did no man se;
80    Timor mortis conturbat me.
84    Timor mortis conturbat me.
85  And he hes now tane, last of aw,
88    Timor mortis conturbat me.
92    Timor mortis conturbat me.
94He will nocht lat me lif alane,
96    Timor mortis conturbat me.
97  Sen for the deid remeid is none,
99Eftir our deid that lif may we;
100    Timor mortis conturbat me.


1] This poem was first printed by Chepman and Myllar in Edinburgh, 1508. The MS. copies are later. The date of composition is unknown, but may have been shortly before 1508. The poem shows the influence of the dance of death or danse macabre, current in European literature and art of the fifteenth century, in which representatives of every social rank are summoned by Death, in the figure of a skeleton; cf. Lydgate, Daunce of Macabre. There is also a poem by Lydgate with the refrain Timor mortis conturbat me, which Dunbar may have known.
makaris. Makers, poets.
heill. Health. Back to Line
4] The fear of death troubles me. Back to Line
7] brukli. Brittle, frail.
the Fend is sle. The Devil is sly. Back to Line
13] No rank in earth here stands secure. Back to Line
14] wickir. Twig. Back to Line
18] potenttatis. Potentates. Back to Line
22] Ynarmit. Armed. Back to Line
23] mellie: mêlée, conflict. Back to Line
26] sowkand. Sucking. Back to Line
29] campion. Champion.
stour. Battle. Back to Line
33] piscence. Puissance. Back to Line
35] strak. Stroke. Back to Line
37] art-magicianis. Practitioners of magic arts. Back to Line
38] rethoris. Rhetoricians. Back to Line
39] conclusionis sle. Skilful reasonings. Back to Line
42] surrigianis. Surgeons. Back to Line
43] supple. Help, defend. Back to Line
46] syne. Then, afterwards. Back to Line
47] faculte. Profession. Back to Line
49] done devour. Devoured. Back to Line
51] The Monk of Bery. Lydgate, who was a monk of Bury St. Edmund's. Back to Line
53] Syr Hew of Eglintoun d. c. 1375. Possibly the poet "Huchown", said to be the author of Arthurian romances. Back to Line
54] Heryot. Unknown. Wyntoun, author of a verse chronicle of Scotland c. 1424. Back to Line
55] tane. Taken. Back to Line
57] done infek. Infected and withheld. Back to Line
58] Nothing certain is known of these poets. Back to Line
61] Holland. Author of The Buke of the Howlat, ca. 1450.
Barbour. John Barbour, author of The Bruce (1375). Back to Line
63] Works unknown. Back to Line
65] There are various poems of the adventures of Gawain in Northern dialect, but the one meant here has not been traced. Back to Line
67] Sir Gilbert Hay translated a romance of Alexander the Great, ca. 1456. Back to Line
69] Blind Hary. A blind minstrel said to have composed a poem on Sir William Wallace about 1460.
Sandy Traill. Unknown. Back to Line
71] Patrik Johnesioun. Author of one poem in Bannatyne MS. Back to Line
73] He has deprived Merseir of his power of writing. (A few of his poems are extant). Back to Line
75] of sentence hie. Lofty meaning. Cf. Prologue to Canterbury Tales, 306. Back to Line
77] Roull. One poem extant by a man of this name. Back to Line
81] hes done roun. Has whispered. Back to Line
82] Henrisoun. See the extracts from his works, above. Back to Line
83] Schir Johne the Rot. A friend of Dunbar, but nothing else is known about him. Back to Line
86] Stobo and Quintyne Schaw were friends of Dunbar and a poem by the latter is extant. Back to Line
87] wichtis. Men. Back to Line
89] Walter Kennedy engaged with Dunbar in a vituperative combat in scurrilous verse called The Flytyng of Dunbar and Kennedy. Back to Line
90] dede. Death. Back to Line
91] Reuth. Pity. Back to Line
93] Sen. Since. Back to Line
95] man. Must. Modern Scots maun. Back to Line
98] dispone. Dispose ourselves. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.55; RPO 1996-2000.