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Be Nice to Mice

Colin Burrow: Henryson, 8 October 2009

‘The Testament of Cresseid’ and ‘Seven Fables’ 
by Robert Henryson, translated by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 183 pp., £12.99, June 2009, 978 0 571 24928 2
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... Robert Henryson is the most likeable late medieval author after Chaucer. He wrote with a directness, a lightly carried learning and a lack of sentimentality hard to match anywhere in the British Isles at any date. A late and sadly unreliable anecdote conveys something of his style. Francis Kynaston reported in the early 17th century that when Henryson was dying of diarrhoea (probably around 1500) a cunning woman told him to go and circle a rowan tree chanting ‘whikey tree, whikey tree, take away this flux from me ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford, 17 February 2011

... Pluto sat doune, And in his handis quhyte his harp can ta …            Henryson, ‘Orpheus and Eurydice’ The day you died I stared up at the grey Dome of St Paul’s, then caught the sleeper north, Dourly imagining your own departure From London as your last, pained way to stay Elusive, Mick, Oxonian Aberdonian, Sly Doric fitted ...

Did she go willingly?

Marina Warner: Helen of Troy, 7 October 2010

Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood 
by Laurie Maguire.
Wiley-Blackwell, 280 pp., £55, April 2009, 978 1 4051 2634 2
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... in the opposite direction to Helen, leaving Troilus, her Trojan love, for Diomedes the Greek. Robert Henryson picks up the story where Chaucer left it: in The Testament of Cresseid, he introduces into the story of punitive, divine revenge an unusual depth of tragic pity for the hussy.* The character of Penelope also provides a counter-model and ...

‘Kek kek! kokkow! quek quek!’

Barbara Newman: Chaucer’s Voices, 21 November 2019

Chaucer: A European Life 
by Marion Turner.
Princeton, 599 pp., £30, April 2019, 978 0 691 16009 2
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... treated his heroine without mercy. In The Testament of Cresseid, a sequel by the Scots poet Robert Henryson, Cresseid is reduced to prostitution and – by counsel of the gods – stricken with leprosy. Chaucer borrowed the plots of both ‘The Knight’s Tale’ and Troilus and Criseyde from Boccaccio, who was still alive during his first ...

Dunbar’s Disappearance

Sally Mapstone: William Dunbar, 24 May 2001

The Poems of William Dunbar 
edited by Priscilla Bawcutt.
Association for Scottish Literary Studies, £70, May 1999, 0 948877 38 3
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... Tale’, the emphasis being rather on love’s ethical or horrible implications. Sometimes, as in Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid, both are treated in the same poem. The Testament is explicit in its challenge to Chaucer: ‘Quha wait gir [Who knows if] all that Chauceir wrait wes trew?’ It takes Cresseid – Chaucer’s Criseyde – beyond ...

Puellilia

Pat Rogers, 7 August 1986

Mothers of the Novel: One Hundred Good Women Writers before Jane Austen 
by Dale Spender.
Pandora, 357 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 86358 081 5
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Scribbling Sisters 
by Dale Spender and Lynne Spender.
Camden Press, 188 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 948491 00 0
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A Woman of No Character: An Autobiography of Mrs Manley 
by Fidelis Morgan.
Faber, 176 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13934 5
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Cecilia 
by Fanny Burney.
Virago, 919 pp., £6.95, May 1986, 0 86068 775 9
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Millenium Hall 
by Sarah Scott.
Virago, 207 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86068 780 5
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Marriage 
by Susan Ferrier.
Virago, 513 pp., £4.50, February 1986, 0 86068 765 1
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Belinda 
by Maria Edgeworth.
Pandora, 434 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 074 2
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Self-Control 
by Mary Brunton.
Pandora, 437 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 9780863580840
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The Female Quixote: The Adventures of Arabella 
by Charlotte Lennox.
Pandora, 423 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 86358 080 7
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... than thirty men’. Then follows a remarkable passage: ‘Among the neglected men I have found Robert Bage, Henry Brooke, John Bunyan, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Delaney [sic], Emanuel Ford, William Godwin, Richard Graves, Robert Greene, Robert Henryson, Charles Johnstone, Charles ...

Those Brogues

Marina Warner, 6 October 2016

... here. More than two hundred years later, this sense had not yet faded; with a cheeky rhyme, Robert Burns attributed such devices to the devil: ‘Then you, ye auld, snic-drawing dog!/Ye came to Paradise incog/An’ play’d on man a cursed brogue.’ By the time Burns was writing, ‘brogue’ also commonly described ‘a rude kind of shoe generally ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... spangles of diamonds, / a sparkling cover for earth’) to the carnivalesque Scots of Robert Fergusson, who hymns ‘Caller Oysters’ and harangues ‘the Principal and professors of the university of St Andrews, on their superb treat to Dr. Samuel Johnson’. When Fergusson rounds on his former teachers he subjects their Scotophobic guest to a ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... still rich in hints of the life savoured by its great authors, from Dunbar to Norman MacCaig and Robert Garioch. The heyday of its literary, cultural and philosophic life lasted for a hundred years to the death of Scott and left its mark on Europe and America. An ancient city, a capital, with authors of all kinds, from Gavin Douglas to James Boswell to Annie ...

Out of His Furrow

William Poole: Milton, 8 February 2007

Delirious Milton: The Fate of the Poet in Modernity 
by Gordon Teskey.
Harvard, 214 pp., £21.95, March 2006, 0 674 01069 8
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... Sprinklings of pseudo-Hebrew here and there added to the mystique. When the former army chaplain Robert Bacon visited the ‘Shakers’ God’, John Robins, in London in around 1650, he found Robins sitting on a bed before his disciples speaking in tongues: ‘But the words he spake I did not understand, only they seemed to me to be a mixture of Latin, and ...

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan, 16 February 1984

The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse 
edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie.
Oxford, 407 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 19 214131 7
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Time’s Oriel 
by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Hutchinson, 61 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 09 153291 4
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On Gender and Writing 
edited by Michelene Wandor.
Pandora, 166 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 86358 021 1
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Stone, Paper, Knife 
by Marge Piercy.
Pandora, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 9780863580222
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The Achievement of Ted Hughes 
edited by Keith Sagar.
Manchester, 377 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 7190 0939 1
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Ted Hughes and Paul Muldoon 
Faber, £6.95, June 1983, 0 571 13090 9Show More
River 
by Ted Hughes and Peter Keen.
Faber, 128 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 571 13088 7
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Quoof 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £4, September 1983, 0 571 13117 4
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... poetry today’ – should have told John Haffenden in an interview for Viewpoints that he found Robert Frost’s fable of imagined unlived lives, ‘The Road Not Taken’, exemplary. If Fenton’s distinction between the narrative kinds is just, so is the note of regret and rebellion that he strikes in the phrase ‘deliberately excluded from ...

Putting Down the Rising

John Barrell, 22 February 1996

The Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. I: The Shepherd’s Calendar 
edited by Douglas Mack.
Edinburgh, 287 pp., £29.50, July 1995, 9780748604746
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Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. II: The Three Perils of Woman 
edited by David Groves, Antony Hasler and Douglas Mack.
Edinburgh, 466 pp., £32.50, July 1995, 9780748604746
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Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. III: A Queer Book 
edited by P.D. Garside.
Edinburgh, 278 pp., £29.50, July 1995, 0 7486 0506 1
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... in Scots, others in a language of Hogg’s own invention, a factitious, Chattertonian version of Henryson. There is a strangeness about some of these poems that recalls the self-consciousness of Hogg’s best fiction; for example when he interrupts himself, as he does in two different poems, to discuss the meaning and success of his own extended similes, or ...

All the girls said so

August Kleinzahler: John Berryman, 2 July 2015

The Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 427 pp., £11.99, October 2014, 978 0 374 53455 4
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77 Dream Songs 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 84 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53452 3
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Berryman’s Sonnets 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 127 pp., £10, October 2014, 978 0 374 53454 7
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The Heart Is Strange 
by John Berryman.
Farrar, Straus, 179 pp., £17.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 22108 9
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Poets in their Youth 
by Eileen Simpson.
Farrar, Straus, 274 pp., £11.50, October 2014, 978 0 374 23559 8
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... Partisan Review, the Kenyon Review and Sewanee Review, with a good deal of auto-canonising. Robert Lowell, almost by default it seemed, was ceded pride of place, the ‘most important American poet now at work’. Lowell and Randall Jarrell, roommates at Kenyon College in the 1930s, and to a lesser extent Berryman too, were big on rating and ...

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