Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy

My own translation (from the old scots to our tongue) of this early 16th century flyting...

Sir John the Rose, one thing there's written:
In general, Kennedy and Quinting,
Who himself is is above the shining stars
And if any threat were made him
Such a stint of strife would arise
And with pride-swelled breast
As Lucifer that from the heaven descended
Hell couldn't hide their heads from harm's hunting.

The earth would tremble, the firmament would shake
And all the air of venom suddenly stink
And all the devils of Hell fear quake
To hear what I would write with pen and ink.
For if I flyght, some men for shame would sink.
The sea would burn, the moon would suffer eclipse,
Rocks would rife, the world would have no grips
So loud exclaiming the common-bell would clink.

But wonderous loath would I be to bard,
Flyghting to use, right greatly ashamed,
For in its neither winning nor reward,
But tinsel of both honor and fame.
Increase of sorrow, slander, and ill-name,
Yet might they be so bold in their backbiting
To spur me to rhyme and raise the fiend with flyghting
And through all countries and kingdoms them proclaim,
Quod Dunbar to Kennedy.

Durtin* Dunbar, on whom do you think you throw your boast? [beshitten]
Of claiming to write such scabrous verse?
Stank-mawed ribald, you fall down at the feast,
My leareate's letters at you I'll loose.
Mandrake dwarfkin, master but in scorn,
Thrice-shown trumper with one threadbare gown,
Cry for God's Mercy before I cry you down,
And leave thy ryming, ribald, and thy rolls.

Dread, dirtcaked dwarf, that though he disobey it,
My cousin Quintene and my commisar* [deputy]
Fantastik fool, trust you will be put to flight.
Ignorant elf, ape, mishapen owl,
Scabrous skaitbird and common sponger,
Wanfukkit* foundling that nature made a dwarf, [misconceived]
Both John the Rose and you all will squeel and shriek
If ever I hear more of your making poetry.

Here I put silence to thee in all thy parts,
Obey and cease the play that you're pretending.
Weak wastrell and puller of the carts,
See that you make my commisar amends
And let him lay six leeches on your loins,
Meekly in recompensing for your scorn,
Or you shall bane the time that you was born:
For Kennedy to thee this document sends.
Quod Kennedy to Dunbar.

Juge in the nixt quha gat the war

Irish bumming bard, vile beggar with your rags,
Cuntbitten* craven Kennedy, coward by nature make,
Evil-farit* and dried as a Danesman on the wheel,
Like as that kites had on thy gulesnout dined.
Mismade monster, ilk of men our of his mind,
Renounce, ribald, your ryming, you but rave,
A lowland arse would make a better noise

Riven ragged roook, and full of ribaldry,
Skitterand scorpion, scold in scuriliee,
I see the haughty in your harlotry,
And other sciences nothing sly* [knowledge, skilled]
Of every virtue void, as men may see,
Quit-claim clergy* and take to you a club, [learning]
A bard blasphemer in bribery* for to be, [beggary]
For wit and wisdom one wisp from thee may rub.

You ask, dastard, if I dare with you fight.
Yea, Dagone dumwit, thereof have no doubt,
Wherever we meet, there my hand I pledge,
To rid your ribald rhyming with a rout.
Through all Brittain it will be blown out,
How that you, poisoned pelour*, for your ______, [thief]
With a dog leash I'll make you shout,
And neither to you take knife, sword, or axe.

You crop and rute of traitorous tressonable*,
The father and mother of murder* [and mischief, Dunbar was suspected/accused of murder]
Deceitful tyrant with serpents tongue unstable,
Cuckold, craven coward, and common thief,
You purposed to undo our lord's chief
In Paisley with a poison that was fell* [deadly. Dunbar also accused of attempted mutiny]
For which, you brim, yet will you get a brief.* [summons to court]
Pelour, on you I will this prove myself.

Even if I lie, your frawart* physique [vile]
Does manifest your malice to all men.
Fie, traitor thief, fie glengoir doun*, fie, fie!
Fie, fiendly face far fowler than a fen*, [midden]
My friends you accused with your pen.
Even if I lie, tratour, which on you I'll prove,
Suppose your head was armed times ten,
You will recry* it, or thy crown will cleve. [retract]

Before you dare move your mind malicious,
You saw the sail above my head updrawn.
But Eolus, full wroth, and Neptunus,
Mark and moonless us met with wind and wave,
And many hundred mile hense we were blown
By Holland, Zeeland, Shetland, Norway coast,
In sea desert where we were famished all,
Yet came I home, false bard, to lay low your heart.



  1. jj kennedyFebruary 19, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    not much different from modern day mockery in both scotland and northern ireland albeit the language is often not the same but the sentiments remain as the highland scot and lowland still pain each other but less so than say 40 and more years ago while in northern ireland you only have to look at the vile verbal of hellfire politicians towards the indigenous population to see that not much has changed since the flyting of dunbar and cinneide. and flyting reminds me of danish influence.
    AnonymousJune 4, 2010 at 3:10 PM

    "but the sentiments remain as the highland scot and lowland still pain each other"

    Actually, both Kennedy and Dunbar were Lowlanders. Kennedy was from Ayrshire where, in places, Gaelic was spoken well into the 18th century. "Highland' doesn't mean today what it meant then. 'Highland' often simply had the meaning of 'country'. I have seen old documents referring to the hilly Edinburgh area as "Highland'. This often causes some confusion with people assuming older references to 'Highland' or "Highlander' meant the same as it does today. It didn't.
    owner of this blogJune 3, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Danish influence? What do you mean, J Kennedy?
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