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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.

XI. The Middle Scots Anthologies: Anonymous Verse and Early Prose

§ 6. The Wowing of Jok and Jynny

The Wowing of Jok and Jynny is and early treatment of the theme which Burns has refashioned in Duncan Gray. There is a strong family likeness between the opening of the “second setting” by Burns and that of the Wowing

  • Robeyns Jok come to wow our Jynny,
  • On our feist evin quhen we were fou.
  • Much of the intended humour of the piece lies in the list of Jynny’s “tocher-gud” or dowry and in the complementary inventory which John gives to prove that he is a worthy suitor—a “fouth o’s auld nick-nackets,” after the heart of Captain Grose. Here again, the fun comes from the “rush” of detail and the strange medley of worthless treasures.
  • I haif ane helter and eik ane hek,
  • Ane cord, and creill, and als ane cradill,
  • Fyve fidder of raggis to stuff ane jak,
  • Ane auld pannell of ane laid sadill,
  • Ane pepper-polk maid of a padill,
  • Ane spounge, ane spindill wantand and nok,
  • Twa lusty lippis to lik ane laiddill;
  • To gang to gidder Jynny and Jok.
  • It will be observed that the use of alliteration is frequent.

    In al these pieces, dealing in some way with rustic wooing and matrimony, there is a burlesque element, but this must be distinguished from the subtler, more imaginative, and more literary type of burlesque which constitutes the second permanent characteristic of Middle and Modern Scots poetry. Examples have been noted in the preceding chapter on the work of the greater makars, and especially in the Ballad of Kynd Kittok and the Interlude of the Droichis Part of the Play. What Gavin Douglas wrote of Vergil’s sixth book,

  • All is bot gaistis and elriche fantasies,
  • Of browneis and of bogillis full this buke,
  • might well be said of this strange set of Middle Scots poems. We must not seek, with the sententious bishop, for any allegory or moral purpose in these whimsicalities. Some of these are, perhaps, mere burlesques of romance-tradition, most are but “dremis and dotage in the monis cruik.”