Mr. E. Charlton Black delivered a lecture in Sever 11 last night on the l're-Elizabetham Poetry of Scotland. Owing doubtless to the unpleasant weather there was room for everybody.
Mr. Black opened his lecture with a rather amusing description of the ordinary Scotch character, showing the traits in that character to which the early poetry appealed and the reasons which gave rise to the poetry itself. It was +++ the natural scenery of Scotland, not the hills and rivers and lakes that inspired Scotch poetry but rather the deeds of war that had been done on these hills and rivers and lakes. The poetry came spontaneously from the hearts of a people whose life had always been one of aggression, a struggle for existence. The soul, then, of all this poetry has been the idea of freedom.
The period covered in the lecture was from Chaucer to Elizabeth. The first poet of note was John Barbour who was born in 1320. In 1375 he wrote his story of Robert the First, called, "The Bruce." The language was the Northern English much like that used by Chancer. Barbour was a man of varied culture, a master of pathos and a true poet. His work is full of dignity and some of his characters show that his own nature must have been that of a gentleman. There is in his work no trace of humor; his mind seemed to turn instinctively to sterner things and be delighted in the praise of valor and manhood.
Strangely, in Barbour's work, Wallace does not figure. Contemporary with Bar bour, however, came the author of the so called Blind Harry's "Wallace" a long poem sounding the praises of the great Scotchman, This poem had an influence later on Burns and Scott. About the same time came Andrew Winton who wrote the "Chronicles of Scotland." Winton had no marked literary gift and his work is not any great. It has, however, certain interest for the antiquarian.
The fifteenth in England centurey was barren of literary advance. In Scotland however literature blossomed out freely. The times were less turbulent in Scotland +++ kings happened to be literary men James I, called the Poet-King, early showed the beautiful nature which afterwards wrote itself so finely in his great poem. James was imprisoned when young and while in prison he made a great study of Chaucer and wrote a great deal in imitation of him. His work is full of tenderness and affection and shows his love of nature and his reverence for good. Two humorous poems are ascribed to him but it is not at all certain that he wrote them. Robert Henryson, contemporary with James I, was the first ballad writer.
Later came James IV whose handsome person a poetic nature attracted to his court and circle of literary men. William Dunbar, the first of these was little known when he came to court. He had been of the Order of St. Francis, but had never liked his profession. At court he wrote innumerable verses on court incidents-which were full of life and vigor. So good was his work that Scott called in the first poet of Scotland to the time of Burns. He too was a follower of Chaucer.
Garvin Douglass was another of these men. He translated Virgil and wrote a good many poems himself. His work contains much honor and pathos but is written in such difficult language that it is little known. Last came Sir David Lindsay who, during his life was the most popular poet in Scotland. He was a reformer in the form of a poet. He wrote the bitterest satires and invectives against the political and social evils of his time and exercised a great influence upon the Cort.
There was also a mass of anonymous ballads, dealing with battle and murder and love and Nature. These ballads were many of them very remarkable. Through them there comes the ring or freedom and the quiet sincerity of peasant life. They sing of the hardihood of noble Scotland.