SCOTS
CMSW

Document 598

Lecture on Scottish Literature 1

Author(s): Dr John B Corbett

Copyright holder(s): SCOTS Project, University of Glasgow: Copyright © 2004 The University of Glasgow. All rights reserved.

Audio transcription

M608 [click] Right last week we were talking about eh the poetry of the period of James the Sixth and First, round about the end of the sixteenth century, beginning of the seventeenth century. [click][inhale] And what I was suggesting was that you can take a look at Jam- James' own "Essaye of a Prentise at the Reulis and Cautelis" and you can see that, as limited and as flawed as it is, as a statement of what a Scottish poet of that period and time [door opens], should be doing with respect to language and literature. Hi there, do you wanna grab a handout? Grab a handout? There you go. [click] [inhale] What we're going to do now, [video operator comments that a student has moved the video camera] Steady cam. [laugh] I'm now going to try to forget that the camera is on on me erm.

What we're gonna do now is take a look at Scottish prose, er not just of the [click] sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but moving on later into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well. [inhale] This week I wanna take a look at the beginnings of Scottish prose, where does it come from, what kind of traditions can it lean upon, and in the next couple of weeks gonna take a look at one of its most kind of eccentric flowerings, Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, and the way that he presages what is going to go on in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, the changes in prose writing that were gonna take place at that time.

[click] Now the tradition of Scottish prose writing at the time of James the Sixth and First, eh, is nowhere near so well developed as the tradition in verse writing, and one question to ask immediately is why should this be? [click] [inhale] First of all, er, in the older Scots period, the period up till about seventeen hundred erm there was comparatively little vernacular prose written. [inhale] Vernacular prose, prose in Scots wasn't valued. It wasn't needed. [inhale] Few people could read: those who could were scholars, clergymen, often the two were synonymous; if you were educated it was f- to be a priest, [click] and there would be some literate aristocrats. [inhale] Now, you could generalise and say that basically the scholars and clergymen when they read and wrote, read and wrote Latin. [inhale] Er Latin was the language of the church, it was the language of education, language of administration, for a good part of the medieval period. after the period of Norman influence in Scotland. [inhale] Laws and charters were written in Latin, philosophical words were f- works were written in Latin, sermons were written in Latin. [click] [inhale] In England, there are reports of sermons delivered in the vernacular, in English, but significantly, when others were writing these sermons down to keep a written record of them, they wrote them in Latin. So you've this weird, eh thing happening in England certainly, [inhale] that when somebody delivers a, a sermon in a church they might give the sermon in English, but if you want a written record of it kept, you transfer it into Latin, you translate it into Latin, because Latin is a language of official record. [click] [inhale] Latin was also for centuries the natural medium for writing.

[click] After the Norman period begins, if the aristocrats wanted to read or listen to literature for pleasure, rather than for education or instrumental purposes, they would read a French romance, or have it read to them. [click] [inhale] The romance would probably be in verse: prose was not thought fit for pleasurable or literary discourse. [inhale] As we saw last week, James the Sixth even thought eh rhyming couplets were a bit too pedestrian for poetry; [inhale] rhyming couplets would be the language of histories, so if you're writing a history in the vernacular, it would be written in, erm, Fre-, well, it would be written in the French vernacular for a start, or it would be written in an official language of record like Latin. [inhale] So for an um fair period of time after the Norman conquest, 1066, erm people who're reading and writing, if they're doing it for serious purposes, are doing it in Latin; if they're doing it for pleasure they're doing it in French; if you're doing it in Scots at all, then it should be poetry; erm Scots prose is way, way down your list of priorities: it's not valued at all. [click] [inhale] And as I said even James if you're writing a verse history would say you- you'd write it in octosyllabic couplets.

[click] [inhale] So for various reasons vernacular prose takes a while to get off the ground. [inhale] It does get off the ground eventually because of the rise of the merchant classes, various social changes take place. [inhale] As the merchant classes in Scotland become more powerful, [click] there's an increasing demand for administrative prose in the vernacular, in Scots: in the language that the merchant classes can read. [click] [inhale] The acts of Parliament of Scotland begin to be written in Scots at the end of the fourteenth century. By the early fifteenth century, you find church charters having Scots as well as Latin elements, and in the fifteenth century, the burgh laws, dating back to the twelfth century, are translated into Scots from Latin. [inhale] So, what you get from about the end of the fourteenth century on, is a clear language shift. You're moving from Latin towards the vernacular, and this can be allied to the rise of a merchant class, who don't have the Latin, who want access to power, want access to the written language of record, and they want it in Scots. So you begin to get laws, and the charters, written in Scots.

[click] [inhale] And at this point, the literary tradition begins: 1375, Barber's "Bruce" is published, and now don't think it's any accident, that you get this shift towards literary writing in Scots, at the same time there's a more general shift towards Scots, away from Latin, and away from French. [inhale] From the end of the fourteenth century on, you get a steady trickle of vernacular prose works, either original writings or translations from Latin and French into Scots, chivalric treatises like Gilbert Hay's "Book of Knighthood", "The Book of Knichthede", "The Book of the Law of Arms", "The Book of the Governance of Princes". [click] These treatises were translated from fourteenth-century French books: they were for the use of William Sinclair, Hay's eh aristocratic patron, who re- who we know, that Hay read them attentively. We know this because he left little marginal notes eh in his copies. We can actually see what he thought of various passages, [inhale] he scribbles things in the margins. [click] [inhale] At one point the treatise exempts Fre- France, Spain and England from imperial jurisdiction, and Sinclair adds "Scotland too", [inhale] and Ireland to the marginal note. [inhale] So here at the beginning of the fifteenth century, we have a Scottish aristocrat, possibly commissioning a writer, to compose in Scots, a French treatise, so that he can learn from it. He can't read French, he wants it in Scots, so he commissions someone to do the translation for him. [click] [inhale] And this activity grows among the Scottish aristocracy, through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, until the point at which Hector Boyce's Latin "Scotorum Historiae", published in Paris, in 1527, is translated by John Bellenden into Scots prose, as the "Cronikles of Scotland", only four years after the original had appeared. Erm, the original appears in 1527, the translation is completed by 1531, so you're beginning to get a really fast throw-flew, throw-flow, through-flow, flow-through from eh Latin into Scots by the mid-1500s.

[click] [inhale] What I'm suggesting then, is that writing, in prose, in Scots, is slow to develop, Certainly compared to poetry, it's slow to develop. It's less valued, originally: it only begins to get valued more with cert- ch- changing social conditions, er from the late fourteenth century on. [click] [inhale] And when it starts, it's gotta find models to follow, so people who're writing in Scots have got to have something to base their Scots prose writing on. [inhale] So what could they follow? [click] [inhale] Well generally, you can point to two models, both of which find expression in the work of Scots prose writers of the period. [inhale] The first model might be called the native model, that derives ultimately from the Anglo-Saxon period, derives ultimately from Old English prose writing. [click] [inhale] Before the Norman Conquest, centuries before, before 1066, Anglo-Saxon prose had become well-established and was used for laws, histories, epic poems, eh, well, the prose wouldn't be used for epic poems, the language was used for epic poems, like "Beowulf", and it was used, the prose, for biblical translation.

[click] [inhale] And on your handout, you've got an example of Anglo-Saxon prose taken from King Alfred's "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" for the year seventee- 755. [inhale] Eh, the punctuation is modernised. [click] [inhale] This is the kind of thing you might have had a quick glance at if you've done Level One in English Language, eh you'll have seen some Old English. "Her Cynewulf benam Sigebryht his rices ond Westseaxna wiotan for unryhtum daedum, buton Hamtunscire", which can be translated as "In this year Cynewulf and the council of the West-Saxons deprived Sigebriht of his kingdom, because of his unrighteous deeds". [click] [inhale] Now you don't have to know much Old English to recognise that grammatically, this kind of prose is fairly straightforward. [inhale] The sentences are largely main clauses, independent clauses, linked, if at all, by 'ond, ond, ond', 'and, and, and'. One of the things to do with this text, is to take a look at it and just see how many times the word 'and' turns up. [inhale] If it's quite a lot, then, you can pretty much figure out the grammar. This happened, and, this happened, and, this happened, and, this happened, not a very sophisticated prose style. [click] [inhale] If you've done Level One English Language you'll remember there are two ways of making sentences in English, basically, you can link together sentences using things like 'and' or 'but'; [inhale] or you can use what's called subordination, subordinate clauses, using subordinate conjunctions like 'because', 'unless', 'although', erm 'if', and if you do that you're putting sentences inside other sentences, and making what are called complex sentences.

[click] [inhale] But we don't have many complex sentences here. Here we have a string of independent clauses just loosely linked together. [inhale] This is a prose style that seems to grow naturally out of the spoken medium. If you look at the grammatical units, they often fall into two stress units. "Her Cynewulf benam Sigebryht his rices, ond Westseaxna wiotan for unryhtum daedum". Two stresses per unit. And it looks pretty much like what is happening here is people are taking a spoken medium, and turning it into writing, writing it down. And they're using the kind of grammar that you associate with speech. [click] [inhale] This kind of written prose did survive the Norman Conquest of 1066. Copies of the writings of Anglo-Saxon writers like Aelfric and Wulfstan continued to be made, [inhale] and we must assume that they were understood until at least about the year 1200. At that point perhaps people began to understand them less and less. [inhale] New texts in the rapidly-evolving Middle English were written based on this Anglo-Saxon tradition, however, in particular, homilies or sermon-like essays on religious subjects, and moral values that have obviously appealed to the spoken medium. [inhale] Speech too tends to rely pretty much on sentences linked with things like 'and' or 'but'. [click] So that's one model. [inhale] Based on speech, going back to the Old English period, very much, er, grammatically simple, and kind of falling into rhythmic units.

[inhale] The second available model for Scots prose was quite different, it came from the continent. [inhale] We've already seen that, in the post-Norman Conquest period, French and Latin were the languages of most English and Scottish written texts. [click] [inhale] The French influence substantially changed the nature of English itself; the Norman Conquest marks the boundary between Old and Middle English. [inhale] At the end of the twelfth century, when new vernacular English texts were being composed, then written French models were also available for c- exploitation. [inhale] Translations from French introduced into English and then into Scots grammatical patterns that were peculiarly French. [inhale] This happens with translation. I don't know if any of you have done modern languages to any extent, but if you've been asked ever to sit down with a a German text, or a French text, and translate that into English, you begin to find yourself using French grammatical patterns, German grammatical patterns, you're tempted to use the structures of the source. The same with Latin, but I don't think anyone actually studies Latin any more. Now this is what begins to be- happen when h- when people begin to use the vernacular, but they're translating from French, translating from Latin. They're also literate in Latin and French, they've been taught in Latin and French, in ways that h- they have not been taught to write vernacular prose. [inhale] So there is a strong tendency to import structures from French, and Latin, into Scots. And this is what begins to happen. [click] [inhale] Ehm [click] Something like this process is also happening around the world today because of t- cable television, you can see this process happening. [inhale] erm when I was living in Brazil a few years ago, I used to watch American and European on er television on cable channels, I don't know if you've s- watched cable channels, if you've ever been abroad in hotel bedrooms. Erm [click] [inhale] Often you get this er, in English but with er subtitles in the language of the country in which you're inhabiting, so I was watching English programmes with Portuguese subtitles. And one of the interesting things is, that the people who are watching these programmes tend to be teenagers, and they're watching programmes like "Friends" and "That Seventies Show", have ye- ha- h- does anyb- ha- does that mean anything to anybody,"'That Seventies Show"? [inhale] God-awful programme. [inhale] Eh [laugh] but it's called, in Brazil, it's called "Zat Seventies Show!", and you get it in English with these Portuguese subtitles. [inhale] Now, the trouble is that these Portuguese subtitles are translated from English, into a format that can fit the bottom of the television screen, so it's unidiomatic; it's very strange Portuguese. [inhale] It's the kind of thing that people would not naturally say to each other, unless they're teenagers, who're trying to imitate the style of the people in "Friends", and "That Seventies Show". So they're beginning to use structures that are imported, through the translation of subtitles, onto their television screens, and they're beginning to sound less like their parents and grandparents, er because of this. So again you can see how the structure of one language, makes contact with another language, through a particular medium, a literary medium if you like, and then changes the structure of the language as it does so.

[inhale] A similar thing is happening apparently in Icelandic [laugh] texts. I was talking to a guy in Iceland a few years ago, a translator, and he says that the same thing happens in Iceland, You get er, English programmes with Icelandic subtitles. [inhale] And the interesting thing about Icelandic, for us, is that it's very like Old English. It's like Old English hasn't changed. Has anyone ever been to Iceland? Yeah, you can see these thorns and these crossed 'D's, the kind of letters that you get in Old English, are still there in Icelandic. And it's saying that there's oo- th- it's got the same kind of er, synthetic grammatical structure. It's not an analytic language: it's a synthetic language. [inhale] So it uses inflections, and it uses, erm grammatical signals instead of word order, for example. [click] And, eh y- do you know those cash dispenser machines are called er 'fa' i- th- the the same word for 'cash' is the same word for 'cow' in Icelandic, so you get a 'cow dispenser machine', basically, in the side of a bank. I- c- you can see how this happened, people used to exchange cows, and then that became the word for 'cash'. [click] [inhale] Er, another interesting trivial thing about Icelandic.

Well I was talking to, er, the translator and he says that one of the things that's happening, is that because of things like subtitles on television, Icelandic is moving towards an analytic language, rather than a synthetic language. In other words, present-day Icelandic is beginning to do what Middle English did [inhale] a thousand years ago. And it's because of subtitles. [click] That is the kind of situation that is happening in Scots five hundred years ago. [click] You're getting these French texts, you're getting these Latin texts, translated into Scots, and the structures of Latin, and French, are making contact with Scots directly and changing the structure of the language. [click] [inhale] So translated, Frenchified and Latinized grammar, is beginning to appear in Scots, from the late fourteen hundre- from the late 1300s, early 1400s, right through the older Scots period.

[click] [inhale] The second thing in your handout, is a passage from a thirteenth-century translation of a cycle of sermons, spoken texts initially, composed by the Bishop of Paris between 1168 and 1175. [inhale] Now, we tend to think of sermons as written to be spoken, and therefore you would be expecting to see a sermon written in a kind of colloquial style, a little bit like the style of the history, the Anglo-Saxon history, before it. [click] [inhale] However, if you take a look at the sermon, you can see that it's written in complex sentence structures. It's obviously designed to be read, rather than listened to. [click] [inhale] And the prose style makes use of complicated sentences in English, you put clauses inside other clauses, sentences inside other sentences, like Russian dolls, and you signal these subordinate clauses by using subordinating conjunctions like 'because', 'so that', 'if', 'given that'. [click] [inhale] So, er the text is "Þet water bitockned se euele Cristeneman. For also þet water is natureliche schald, and akelþ alle þo het- þet hit drinkeþ, so is euele Cristeman chald of þo luue of Gode, for þo euele werkes þet hi doþ; ase so is lecherie, spusbreche", [laugh] I like killing your spouse is br- spouse-breaking, spusbreche. [inhale] [exhale] [laugh] "lecherie, spusbreche, roberie, manslechtes, husberners, bakbiters, and alle oþre euele deden, þurch wyche þinkes man, ofserueth þet fer of helle, ase Godes oghe mudh hit seid". If you to- lake- take a look at the translation there, you'll see that it's much more complex in its linguistic construction, than the Anglo-Saxon text. [click] It's interesting to take a look at what happens when people translate texts.

[click] [inhale] If you're taking a look at a more specifically Scottish text, you can take a look at Henryson's "Orpheus and Eurydice". [click] and you can compare it, with er, Geoffrey Chaucer's prose version in his, er, translation of Boethius's Latin "The Consolation of Philosophy". [inhale] Now, if you've read Henryson's "Orpheus and Eurydice", you will know that Boethius is one of Henryson's sources. Henryson read him in Latin; he didn't read the Chaucerian version. [inhale] But Chaucer uses the same source, and simply gives you a prose translation into Middle English. Now what I'd encourage you to do, is to take a look at Chaucer's Middle English prose version and Henryson's poetic version, and compare the level of s- erm syntactic complexity in these two. One of the things that I would suggest that you'll find, is that, erm, Chaucer's translation is much more complex than Henryson's much looser, poetic version. [click] [inhale] Chaucer uses a fair amount of co-ordinate clauses, but he also uses a lot of subordinate structures in his translation, and these again I'm suggesting, will be influenced by the Latin. [click] [inhale] So these are the two models: one which is native, goes back to Old English, based on speech; [inhale] one which is based on language contact, is continental, and goes towards the grammatical structures of French, and Latin. [inhale] How does this actually work out in the er Scottish histories then? [click] [inhale] [student cough] The sixteenth-century Scots prose writers would not be writing novels, that's the first thing to [student cough] to er [student cough] bear in mind. When prose begins to appear, in Scots, you're not seeing it in fictional contexts, not what we would think of really as purely fictional contexts. [inhale] When prose begins to appear, it's in these things these treatises, these educational works. [inhale] And the things that are most like fiction, in the sixteenth century, are the histories. [click] They tell stories. [click] So you get the rise of a historiographical tradition in Scots vernacular prose writing, and this will eventually form the basis of a fictional prose tradition. So if we want to take a look at the origins of of the fictional tradition, we can take a look at the histories in the sixteenth century.

[click] [inhale] Now, the prose writers of the sixteenth century tend to fall into the native or the continental camp. [click] So they're either following the Old English model, or the continental model; [student coughs twice] that is they employ co-ordinate sentences structures keeping pretty much to speech rhythms, or they employ more complex sentence patterns, and appeal less to the ear than to the eye. Some look as if they're written to be l- listened to, some look as if they're written to be read. [click] [inhale] At their more, at their most complex, the continental type of prose writing, er contains grammatical structures called 'periodic sentences', or simply 'periods'. [inhale] Now these sentences were self-conscious- consciously literary forms, they're adopted by European vernacular writers from Latin models, and they display an intricate relationship between the clauses. [click] [inhale] The idea about a period is that it's supposed to contain a complete thought. That's why [laugh] it's called a period. You think your thought, you develop it, you embellish it, and when it's over, [click] [clicks fingers] you get a full stop. And a period can be quite a sophisticated thing to keep control of. It's quite a complex piece of sentence structure, with a number of qualifications, or balanced propositions and [er], if you're writing in periods, it's an indication that you are a polished elegant thinker, as well as writer, and it's written for polished and elegant readers, so it's paying a compliment to the reader, as well. [click] [inhale] So the complex period is quite a different thing from the kind of colloquial co-ordinate structure.

[click] [inhale] Periodic sentences became more popular towards the end of the sixteenth century, and they reached their climax in the work of Sir Cr- Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, the guy that we'll look at next week. One of the things that you'll find about Thomas Urquhart's writing, is that he can, he can actually construct sentences or periods, that go on for at least a page. [inhale] [exhale] Ah, he never seems to stop. It's like a twelve-inch record rather than a s- forty-five single if you remember that far back. [inhale] ah, he just writes these great big long periods.

[click] [inhale] But staying in the sixteenth century for the time being, we can see the two traditions in the work of two very different Scots historians: John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, author of "The History of","The History of Scotland" 1579, and Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, author of "The Historie and Cronikles of Scotland", round about 1577, 79. [click] [inhale] So these are two writers working in the last quarter of the sixteenth century, round about the same time. [click] [inhale] I want to point you first of all to John Leslie's work, er "The History of Scotland", [click] erm, he wrote this history for Mary Queen of Scots. [click] [inhale] Erm, he presented it to her in 1579, [inhale] and he relates, er her ill-fated marriage in 1558 to the Dolphine. Er it wasn't a kind of cross-species marriage: the Dolphine was the Prince of France at the time. [inhale] Erm, and what I want you to pay attention to are these sentences, the sentence structure in this hist-: it's bloody difficult to read, and it's really difficult to listen to, so bear with me. [inhale] Er but you should be reading this rather than listening to it. [click] "All thingis necessarie for the mariage of the Quene of Scottis with the Dolphine being prepared, and the hoill nobilitie and estatis of the realme of France being convenit at Paris, apoun the twentieth day of Aprill 1558, in the gret hall of the palice of the Louver, in presens of Kinge Henry of France, with the Quene, his wyfe, and a gret number of cardinallis, duikis, erlis, bischoppis and nobill men; [student sneezes] the fanzeillis, utherwyis callit the hand fastinge, was maid with gret triumphe be the cardinall Loran, betwix the excellent young prince Frances, eldest sone to the most valyeant, curageous and victorious prince, Henry, King of France and Marie Quene, heritour of the realme of Scotlande, ane of the farest, most civile and verteous princes of the hoill world, with gret solempnitie, triumphe and banquating; and upoun the nixt Sonday, being the 23rd of Aprill the mariage was solmen- solempnizat and compleit betwix thame, be the Cardinall of Burboun, Archebishop of Rouen, in Noster Damis king- kirke of Pareis, quhair the bishop of Paris maid ane verrey lerned and eloquent sermon, in presens and assistance of the King, Quene, and mony prelattis, nobill men, ladeis and gentill men of all estaitis and calling, with most excellent triumphe and the herauldis cli- crying with loude voces, thrie tymes, thrie sindre tymes, 'larges!'; casting to the people gret quantitie of gold and silver and all kindes of sortes of coynes, [inhale] quhair thair was gret tumult of peple, everie one trubling and pressing utheris for gredines to get sum parte of the money".

In other words it was a scramble, if you remember scrambles at weddings. Do people still have scrambles at weddings? [inhale] They throw money out, and the kids kind of batter each other to get to them. [students laugh] So basically this is a long, very involved description of a royal scramble. One sentence. Half a page. [click] Murder to read. [click] [inhale] Now one of the interesting things about this kind of, er, sentence, is that Leslie was obviously of the Queen's party. [click] Er the word 'sook' might have been invented for John Leslie, Bishop of Ross, he- this was a sooking up history, 'here's my history, you are wonderful', sook sook sook sook, 'give me some money', basically, 'make me a bishop'. [click] [inhale] erm C S Lewis has written of Leslie's prose: he says "his built periods are those of a judicious classicist, his manner is however is hardly maintained after he gets down to business, his narrative is free from rhetoric and not very typical either of the medieval or the humanist kind of history; [inhale] the truth is he writes primarily as a man of affairs, he has read too many state papers, and sat in on too many committees, to be either affected or racy". So it's a little bit like the Hutton report becomes a history, er it's kind of a civil servant writing his- historical prose. It's kind of dull, it's kind of boring. [inhale] But it's also very much the continental model.

[click] [inhale] Erm [click] Leslie was a man of affairs: he was the Bishop of Ross, he was a member of Mary's privy council, he was a leader of a commission into the revision of Scots law. [inhale] When Mary's fortunes fell, he was imprisoned in England, and he was threatened with the rack. [inhale] On his release from prison, he went to the continent, and he died in an Augustinian monastery near Brussels, and this is an important thing to remember, he was of the Catholic Party. [inhale] And it becomes increasingly obvious in Scotland, that when the Catholic Party is writing histories, this is the kind of history that they write, these long, complex continental histories.

[click] [inhale] Now Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie was a Protestant, and he seems to have written his history as a direct rebuttal of Leslie's history, basically putting the Protestant case, instead of the Catholic case. [click] [inhale] His ideology is different, and his style is different. And the style that Pitscottie uses becomes very associated with his ideology. This becomes, if you like, the Protestant way of writing. [click] [inhale] One of my favourite bits, in er Pitscottie's history is the death of James IV on the Field of Flodden, [inhale] and it is much more colloquial, it's much easier to read and I hope, he'll be much easier to listen to. [click] [inhale] "Then the great batell of Ingland led by the Lord Halbert, quho was under his father the Earle of Surray governour in that battell, quho come furieouslie upoun the king to the number of twentie thousand men. [inhale] But the kingis battell inconterid him cruellie and faught manfullie on both the saydis, witht uncertane victorie, quhill that the stremis of blude ran on ather syde so aboundantlie, that all the feldis and watteris was maid reid witht the conflewence thairof. The Earle of Huntlie then and the Lord of Home standard- standand in ane rayit battell quho had win the vangaird afoir, and a few of thair men ether hurt or slaine, the Earle of Huntlie desyrit at the Lord Home that he wald help the king, and reskew him in his extremitie, for he said he was over sett witht multitud of men. Nochtwithstanding, the Lord Home answerit the Earle of Huntlie in this maner, sayand, 'He dois weill that dois for him self. We have faught our vangaird ellis and win the samin. Thairfoir lat the laif do thair pairt, as we.' The Earle of Huntlie answerit againe, and said he could nocht suffer his native prince to be owercome witht his enemeis befoir his ene, [inhale] thairfoir callit his men togither be sloghorne and sound of trumpit to have passit to the king, bot, or he come, all was defait on ether syde, that few or nane was levand, nother on the kingis pairt, nor on the uther. Sume sayis thair come foure men upoun foure horse rydand to the feild witht foure speiris, ane wyspe upoun everie speir heid, to be ane signe and witter to thame, that everie ane of thame sould knawe ane uther. They raide in the feild and horssed the king and brocht him fourtht of the feild in ane dune haiknay. Bot soume sayis they had him in the Merse betwix Dunce and Kelso. [inhale] Quhat they did witht him thair I can not tell. [inhale] Bot ane man ten yeir efter convickit of slaughter offeirit to the Duik of Albanie, for his lyfe, to lat him sie the place quhair the prince was endit, [inhale] to the taikin he sould lat him sie his belt of irone lyand besyde him in the grave. Bot nochtwithstanding this man gat no audience be thame that was about them the Duik of Albanie quho desyrit not at that tyme that sic thingis sould be knawin".

[click] [inhale] That's a fantastic piece of writing. [inhale] It's a bit like "Braveheart" meets "The X-Files". [student laughter] Erm [laugh] you get this wonderful battle scene, the King is killed, and at the end, four ghostly mysterious horsemen, obviously conspirators, ride up, nobody knows who they are, but they've got standards so they know each other, and they take the King's body, and they spirit it away. Nobody knows where the King's body is. Is he dead? Is he alive? Is he captured? The Duke of Albany knows, but he's not telling anybody. [laugh] Erm, so we get this wonderfully kind of oral history, if you like. Much more of it is based on speech rhythms, and co-ordinate clauses. [click] [inhale] Er, C S Lewis again talks about Pitscottie and he links Pitscottie's history with what he calls "that old school of chronicling, with the rhetorical histories of the humanists displaced, the kind of history which is still saga, full of the sharp sayings and tragic deaths of great men". I think what C S Lewis is doing there is recognising, that Pitscottie's history goes back to the native models, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, er that underlie this kind of history writing. [click] [inhale] In this extract we actually get direct speech, which you don't get in the Leslie extract, and this is the closest we can ever now get, to the speech of our ancestors. [click] [inhale] Now there are similarities: both Leslie and Pitscottie writes prose in Scots. [click] [inhale] In Pitscottie in particular we find Scots spellings, the now familiar Q-U-H spelling, the spellings 'reid' and 'heid' for 'red' and 'head', the 'nochtwithstanding'. [click] [inhale] There are Scots grammatical markers, such as the A-N-D present participle inflection, the I-T past form, the I-S present inflection, the N plural for 'een'. [click] [inhale] And there are th- there are singular nouns, er with numerals, like 'fower horse', 'ten year', which again is a Scots erm feature. [click] [inhale] So, they're both writing in Scots, but their style is very different, and Leslie and Pitscottie can be seen as two poles of sixteenth-century Scots prose writing; [inhale] Leslie following a continental classical style influenced by French and ultimately Latin models, and Pitscottie following a native style, linking him to the old chroniclers of the Anglo-Saxon period. [inhale] Leslie's prose is good; I'm not knocking Leslie's style. It's ornate, it's careful, it's written to be read, it's written to be savoured. You look at the long sentence, you look at the balance in it, you enjoy the way that he's put it together, because you've got the time, when you're reading it, to do that. [inhale] Pitscottie's is dramatic, it's fast-moving, it's written to be performed orally, if only in your inner ear.

[inhale] The sixteenth-century prose writer who blends these two styles most effectively is also the writer who's often accused of pushing Scots prose in the direction of English, and that's John Knox. I want to finish off for the last five minutes or so, by looking at exa- looking at an example from Knox's "History of the Reformation", a third piece of historiographical writing. [inhale] Now this extract describes the murder of Cardinal Beaton: a revenge killing for the martyrdom of the Protestant, George Wishart. [inhale] Knox is concerned to portray the murder as justified, the murderers as noble, and the Cardinal as sinful, and deserving of his fate, so it's a g- very very iolog- ideologically-biased piece of work. [inhale] But he also wants to tell a good story.

[click] [inhale] Now, a couple of minutes ago I was making a rather crude distinction, between, if you like, continental models being associated with Catholic writing, and native models, being associated with the plain style, or Protestant writing. One of the interesting things about John Knox, obviously a key Protestant figure, is that he actually blends the two styles. [click] [inhale] And he blends the two styles dramatically. So in other words, he uses one, when it's ap- important to advance the story, and he he uses the other, when he wants to hit a high note: a kind of rhetorical purple patch. [inhale] So I want you to, when you're, when I'm reading this, think about which of the styles is being used at any particular moment. Is it the continental style, is it the native style, what's the effect that Knox is trying to achieve?

[click] [inhale] So, the murder of Cardinal Beaton. "The cardinall awalkened with the shouttis, asked from his windo, what ment that noyse. It was answered, that Normound Leslye had tacki- tackin his castell. [inhale] Which understand, he rane to the posterne; but perceaving the passage to be keapt without, he returned quicklye to his chalmer, took his twa-handed sword, and garte his chalmer child, cast kystes and other impedimenis to the doore. [inhale] In this meane tyme came Johnne Leslye, unto it and biddis open". This is a different John Leslie from the historian. [inhale] 'The cardinal askyne, 'Who calles?' he answeris, 'My name is Leslye'. He re-demandis 'Is that Normond?' The other sayis 'Nay, my name is Johnne'. 'I will have Normound,' sayis the cardinall, 'for he is my freind'. "Content your self with such as i- such as ar hear, for other shall ye gete nane". [inhale] Thare war, with the said Johnne, James Melven, a man familiarlie acquented with Maister George Wisharte, and Petir Caremichaell, a stout gentilman. In this meanetyme, whill thei force the doore, the cardinall hydis a box of gold under coallis that war laide in a secret cornar". This is the kind of thing that cardinals do, they have boxes of gold: they hide them in the corner when people are trying to kill them. [inhale] At length he asked, 'Will ye save my lyef?' The said Johnne answered, 'It may be that we will'. [laugh] 'Nay', sayis the cardinall, 'swear unto me by Goddis woundis and I will open to yow'. Then answered the said Johnne, 'It that was said, is unsaid!' and so cryed 'Fyre, fyre!' for the doore was verray stark, and so was brought ane chymlay, full of burnyng coallis. [inhale] Which perceaved, the cardinall or his chalmer child (it is uncertane), opened the doore, and the cardinall satt doune in a chyre and cryed 'I'm a preast, I'm a preast, ye will not slay me!' [click] [inhale] The said Johnne Leslye, according to his former vowes, strook him first, anes or twyse, and so did the said Petir. [inhale] But James Melven, a man of nature most gentill and most modest, perceaving thame boyth in cholere, withdrew thame and said, 'This worke and judgement of God, although it be secreit, aught to be done, with greattar gravitie'; And presenting unto him, a at the point of a sweard, said, 'Repent thee of thy formar wicked lyef, but especiallie of the schedding of the blood, of that notable instrument of God, Maister George Wisharte, which albeit the flame of fyre consumed befoir men yitt cryes it a vengeance upoun thee, and we from God ar sent to revenge it; [inhale] For heir befoir my God I protest that nether the hetterent of thy persone, the luif of thy riches nor the fear of any truble thow could have done to me in partuculare moved, nor movis me to stryk thee; but only because thow hast bein and remaines ane obstinat ennemye against Christ Jesus, and his holy Evangell'. It's the kind of thing you would say. [student laughter] [inhale] 'And so he stroke him twyse or thrise trowght it, with a sto- a stog sweard, and so he fell, never a word heard out of his mouth but 'I'm a preast, I'm a preast, fy fy. All is gone'.

[click] [inhale] Now if you take a look at that passage as a whole, [inhale] it's closer, as a whole, to Pitscottie, than to Leslie. [click] [inhale] Knox's history, this episode in particular, is vivid, dramatic, and it makes good use of direct speech to bring the ven- the events alive. [inhale] The narrative is driven along by reasonably simple co-ordinate clauses, with a little subordination, Until [inhale] Until you get to the point, where Melvin is making his speech to Beaton, before Melvin strikes him dead. [inhale] At this point Melvin recognises the need, quite explicitly, for greater gravity. [laugh] In other words, "I'm gonna kill you, but I'm not gonna kill you, in anger, or in choler; I'm gonna kill you rhetorically". [laugh] I'm gonna kill you with a nice long, periodic, sentence. [click] [inhale] So the style shifts into the ornate, continental mode, before shifting back to the native chronological mode, which serves the narration of exciting episodes. So at this point, to show that the killing of this cardinal is a sanctified act Knox deliberately raises the style, and obviously this is part of his propaganda, obviously this is part of his purpose, in convincing you the reader, that this is a justified assassination. [click] [inhale] Knox of- often gets the blame, for Anglicisation, of the Scots tongue.

If you take a look at his language it's a blend of English and Scots. [inhale] You can see here the English W-H, rather than the Scots Q-U-H spellings, and the past tense verbs end in E-D, rather than I-T. Although, he'd retained some Scots features, like the present tense I-S rather than T-H for example. [inhale] There are also Scottish vocabulary items such as "gart them cast kists", er made them cast chests against the door. [click] [inhale] And some of the spellings still suggest Scots pronunciations, things like 'taken', 'keeped', 'twa-handed' and 'freend'. [click] [inhale] Now as we said last week there are several possible reasons for this Anglicisation. [inhale] The desire to reach an English as well as a Scottish audience, and the fact that the printing industry was much stronger in England than in Scotland, both contributed to the spreadend- spread of English linguistic features, through the Scottish Reformers' prose at this time. This spread is patchy. [inhale] This slightly modernised version of the text is based on the 1566 manuscript of "The History of the Reformation", er which is earlier than the two more Scottish histories by Leslie and Lindsay. [click] So in fact, the later histories on your handout are more Scottish than the earlier history by Knox, and erm erm, it's interesting that the kind of, the Anglicisation at this point, although it's generally on the rise is kind of patchy, it goes up and down. er depending on which writer you're looking at.

But to sum up: [inhale] Scottish vernacular prose grows gradually out of a multilingual linguistic situation. [click] [inhale] As the merchant classes rise, h- there is an increasing demand for administrative, instrumental, and educational prose, written in the vernacular, and the vernacular poetic tradition also begins to get into gear. [inhale] As vernacular prose writing begins, the kind of "Cinderella" of the er linguistic forms, its writers draw on two traditions: the native tradition shared with English, of the Anglo-Saxon Chroniclers, characterised by low subordination, and er, a reliance on speech, speech rhythms, [click] [inhale] and the newer continental model, modified from French and Latin. [inhale] The importation of long, complex periodic sentences, is accelerated by the fact that many of the prose writings were in fact translations.

[inhale] By the end of the f- sixteenth century, histories are arguably the most literary kind of vernacular prose that you'll find, and they draw on both native and continental styles, in the pursuit of telling compelling, persuasive stories, to support their own particular side, in the religious un- upheavals that were rocking the nation. These are texts that are in a contentious political situation, the Reformation. [inhale] The Protestant reformers in particular, became identified with a plain, straightforward prose style, with some exceptions like George Buchanan, but in the gen- in general they became identified with a plain, straightforward prose style, and they also became identified with an increasing Anglicisation. [click] That the Reformers won significantly, shaped the style of prose in the centuries to come. Plain speaking, based on native models, with little ornamentation, leaning as much towards the writings of England, as to, er the continent, erm became the norm. [click] [inhale] And one of the things that we lost, at least for a while, was the incredibly baroque, complex, periodic style. It went out of favour, and some would say that it's never really come back into favour. But, er, its best exponent, and its most eccentric exponent, is Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, and he's the guy that we'll take a look at next week.

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Information about Document 598

Lecture on Scottish Literature 1

Audio

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Adults (18+)
Informed lay people
Specialists
For gender Mixed
Audience size 21-100

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Speaker awareness Aware
Degree of spontaneity Fully scripted

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Year of recording 2004
Recording person id 612
Size (min) 43
Size (mb) 248

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Contained in Series of lectures by John Corbett

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Education
Recording venue Lecture hall
Geographic location of speech Glasgow

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Speakers knew each other N/A

Audio speaker relationships

Professional relationship

Audio transcription information

Transcriber id 718
Year of transcription 2004
Year material recorded 2004
Word count 7319

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Lecture/talk, sermon, public address/speech

Author

Author details

Author id 608
Title Dr
Forenames John
Initials B
Surname Corbett
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation University Professor
Place of birth Ayr
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Bridge of Weir
Region of residence Renfrew
Residence CSD dialect area Renfr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Insurance Broker
Father's place of birth Auchinleck
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Dental Receptionist
Mother's place of birth Ayr
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes In most everyday situations
Portuguese Yes No No Yes When trying to communicate with my in-laws
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes In domestic/activist circles; reading literature

Participant

Participant details

Participant id 608
Gender Male
Decade of birth 1950
Educational attainment University
Age left school 17
Upbringing/religious beliefs Protestantism
Occupation University Professor
Place of birth Ayr
Region of birth S Ayr
Birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Country of birth Scotland
Place of residence Bridge of Weir
Region of residence Renfrew
Residence CSD dialect area Renfr
Country of residence Scotland
Father's occupation Insurance Broker
Father's place of birth Auchinleck
Father's region of birth S Ayr
Father's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Father's country of birth Scotland
Mother's occupation Dental Receptionist
Mother's place of birth Ayr
Mother's region of birth S Ayr
Mother's birthplace CSD dialect area Ayr
Mother's country of birth Scotland

Languages

Language Speak Read Write Understand Circumstances
English Yes Yes Yes Yes In most everyday situations
Portuguese Yes No No Yes When trying to communicate with my in-laws
Scots Yes Yes Yes Yes In domestic/activist circles; reading literature

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