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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

X. The Scottish Chaucerians

§ 14. King Hart

Of King Hart, the same may be said, though it must be allowed to be a better poem, better girded as an allegory, and surer in its harmony of words. Its superiority comes from a fuller appreciation of Chaucerian values: it cannot be explained, though some have so considered it, as an effect of Vergilian study. There is not the faintest trace of renascence habit in the story of king Heart in his “comile castle strang” and of his five servitors (the senses), queen Pleasance, Foresight and other abstractions. The setting and sentiment recall the court of the prince of Honour in the Palice of Honour; and that, again, repeats the picture of the court of the palace in all the early continental versions of the cours d’amour.

Conscience is a four-stanza conceit telling how the moral sense has grown dull in men. “Conscience” they had; then they slipped away the “con,” and had “science” and “namair.” Then, casting off “sci,” they were left with “ens,”

  • Quhilk in our language signifies that schrew
  • Riches and geir, that gart all grace go hens.