Robert Henryson

There are many gaps in our knowledge of this man, but he seems to have been a schoolmaster, probably in Dunfermline, where he may have been headmaster of the prominent abbey school there. If he is the same man who attended Glasgow University in 1462, gaining degrees in art and law, then this helps explain the learned poetry which he wrote, using amusing tales of animal fables.

He had always a concern for justice, as well as a refined sense of the many faces of human love, and he is regarded as a major poet of the late medieval period. His longest work is The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian, Compylit in Eloquent & Ornate Scottis. This runs to more than 400 seven-line stanzas. It is fresh writing, with humour and sympathy and also interesting miniatures of the Scottish rural scene.

Here is the last stanza from The Preiching of the Swallow.

'Pray we thairfoir, quhill we ar in this lyfe, For four thingis: the first, fra sin remufe; The second is fra all weir and stryfe; The third is perfite cheritie and lufe; The feird thing is, and maist for oure behufe, That is in blis with Angellis to be fallow. And thus endis the preaching of the Swallow.'