and Christian mythology, and tell me what chance there is to make an immortal poem of such an incongruous mixture.
Can these dry bones live?
can create such a soul under these ribs of death that one hundred and fifty editions of his poem shall be called for in these last sixty years, the first half of the sixth century since his death.
Accordingly I am apt to believe that the complaints one sometimes hears of the neglect of our older literature are the regrets of archaeologists rather than of critics.
One does not need to advertise the squirrels where the nut-trees are, nor could any amount of lecturing persuade them to spend their teeth on a hollow nut.
On the whole, the Scottish poetry of the fifteenth century has more meat in it than the English
, but this is to say very little.
Where it is meant to be serious and lofty it falls into the same vices of unreality and allegory which were the fashion of the day, and which there are some patriots so fearfully and wonderfully made as to relish.
Stripped of the archaisms (that turn every y to a meaningless z
, spell which quhilk
, shake schaik
, bugle bowgill
, powder puldir
, and will not let us simply whistle till we have puckered our mouths to quhissill
) in which the Scottish antiquaries love to keep it disguised,—as if it were nearer to poetry the further it got from all human recognition and sympathy,— stripped of these, there is little to distinguish it from the contemporary verse-mongering south of the Tweed.
Their compositions are generally as stiff and artificial as a trellis, in striking contrast with the popular ballad-poetry of Scotland
(some of which possibly falls within this period, though most of it is later), which clambers, lawlessly if you will, but at least freely and simply, twining the bare stem of old tradition with graceful sentiment and lively natural sympathies.
I find a few