Page:Notes and Queries - Series 9 - Volume 10.djvu/70

This page needs to be proofread.


62


NOTES AND QUERIES. [9* s. x. JULY 26, 1902.


ment and profit may be able to enlighten us a little further about corn-bote, a term behind which there lurks a considerable archaic and legal reminiscence. Its use by two contemporary Scottish poets, one in alliteration, the other in riming verse, may argue for a Northern origin, but, broadly speaking, there was no Tweed or Solway between vocabularies in the fourteenth cen- tury. GEO. NEILSON.

[Sir Cador's use of corn-bote was the subject of a query in 9 th S. viii. 44.] ,


LANDOR ON SINGING BIRDS. No. xix. of ' Dry Sticks ' is entitled ' Sing- ing Birds,' and opens thus :

Merle ! cushat ! mavis ! when but young More vulgar names from mother tongue Often and often, much I fear, Have wounded your too patient ear.

The poet then proceeds to explain that the birds thus designated are respectively the blackbird, the wood-pigeon, and the speckled thrush, and concludes :

I doubt if now ye sing so well

In your fine names ; but who can tell ?

The fine names had, no doubt, struck Landor in his perusal of Scott, whom he greatly admired, and to whom he pays this stirring tribute in the ' English Hexameters ' of the ' Last Fruit ' :

Reckless of Roman and Greek, he chaunted the

' Lay of the Minstrel ' Better than ever before any minstrel in chamber

had chauated. Marmion mounted his horse with a shout such as

rose under Ilion : Venus, who sprang from the sea, had envied the

Lake and its Lady. Never on mountain or wild hath echo so cheerily

sounded, Never did monarch bestow such glorious meed upon

knighthood, Never had monarch the power, liberality, justice,

discretion.

It will be remembered that the ballad of 'Alice Brand' in 'The Lady of the Lake' opens with the fresh and captivating lines : Merry it is in the good greenwood When the mavis and merle are singing,

thus conjoining prominent songsters of spring and early summer. In placing these birds together Scott follows early precedent. Robert Henryson, Scottish " makkar " of the fifteenth century, couples them near the opening of his fable 'The Lyon and the Mous,' where flowers charm the eye, and the songs of birds give a hint of Paradise,

Sic mirth the Mavis and the Merle couth mae. Gavin Douglas, describing May in the Pro- logue to 'JEneid, xii., groups in one line


" the merll, the mavys, and the nychtingale, thinking more probably of descriptive effect than accuracy of statement ; and the author of the quaint and fascinating 4 Complaynt of Scotland ' (1549) pits the birds against each other as rivals in song, asserting that "the mavis maid myrth for to mok the merle." The mavis appears in English poems of a date earlier than any of the works men- tioned. In the 'Romaunt of the Rose,' 11. 619-20, it figures along with " the nyght- yngale and other joly briddis smale"; and towards the close of the ' Court of Love ' we learn that the turtle-dove took up the parable of May, "and therat lough the mavis in a scorn." The ' ' mavys " also appears in the 'Romaunt of the Rose,' 1. 665, along with "thrustles and terins," whatever the latter may be.

The cushat (A.-S. cusceote) has been a favourite with Scottish poets from Gavin Douglas, and perhaps earlier, to Principal Shairp. Douglas, in the Prologue just cited, says :

The cowschet crowdis and perkis on the rys, that is, it cooes and perches on the copse. Montgomerie, in ' The Cherrie and the Slae,' st. 4, writes, " The Cukkow and the Cuschet cryde," and it is noteworthy that in the first stanza of the poem he has " the Merle and Maueis micht be sene." It is suggestive to contrast with these early references to the cushat the descriptive line in Thomson's 'Summer':

The stockdove only through the forest cooes. This again leads to Burns's 'Afton Water,' in which we hear of the "stockdove whose echo resounds through the glen." Burns, however, is loyal to the cushat, which appears five different times in his lyrics. Twice he uses the term employed by Gavin Douglas to describe its song. "A cushat crooded o'er me," he writes in the fragment 'As I did wander'; and in the 'Epistle to William Simpson ' he listens

While thro' the braes the cushat croods

With wailfu' cry !

Principal Shairp, in his fascinating ' Bush aboon Traquair,' uses the popular form " cushie," and happily selects i the resonant and haunting " croon " to give something of onomatopoeic character to the impression he desires to convey. The charming result is presented as follows :

And what saw ye there At the bush aboon Traquair ? Or what did ye hear that was worth your heed ? I heard the cushies croon Through the gpwden afternoon, And the Quair burn singing doun to the Vale of Tweed.