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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.

V. The Earliest Scottish Literature

§ 7. The Epistill of Suete Susane

The Pistill of Susan is only a versified form of The Story of Susanna in the Apocrypha, a story which both literature and art show to have been very popular at the end of the Middle Ages. The author is able to tell the tale in twenty-eight stanzas of thirteen lines. Like the later Holland, he discourages the reader by the extraordinary amount of detail, with which he feels it necessary to describe amount of detail with which he feels it necessary to describe the garden. The advantage of mentioning every tree and every vegetable of which he had ever heard is that he is thus able to exercise more ingenuity in alliteration. The modern reader, however, hardly finds the same charm in

  • The persile, the pasnepe, porettis to preve …
  • With rewe and rewbarbe, raylid on right.107 f.
  • Stanza XX, which describes the meeting of Susanna and her husband after she has been condemned, illustrates the versification and, if its form in the earliest (the Vernon) MS., of about 1380, be compared with that in the latest (the Ingilby), first published in Amours’s edition for the Scottish Text Society and dating from about the middle of the fifteenth century, it will at once be clear how much change in a literary work may take place in a comparatively short time after the date of its composition. The Ingilby manuscript, though later than the Vernon and more corrupt, has, if Huchoun was a Scot, preserved the dialect better.

  • Heo fel doun flat in the flore, hir feere when heo fond,
  • Carped to him kyndeli, as heo ful wel couthe:
  • “I wis wraththed the neuere, at my witand,
  • Neither in word ne in werk, in elde ne in [char]outhe.”
  • Heo keuered up on hir kneos, and cussed his hand:
  • “For I am dampned, I ne dar disparage thi mouth.”
  • Was neuer more serroful segge bi se nor bi sande,
  • Ne neuer a soriore siht bi north ne bi south;
  • Tho thare
  • Thei toke the feteres of hire feete,
  • And euere he cussed that swete:
  • “In other world schul we mete.”
  • Seid he no mare.
  • Sche fell flat to the flore whan sche hire [fere] fande,
  • And carped to him kyndely, as sche wele cowde:
  • “Sire, I wrethed [char]ou neuer, at my witand,
  • Neythir in worde no in werke, in elde no in [char]owde.”
  • Sche couerde on hire knes, and kissid his hande:
  • “For I am dampned I ne dare disparage [char]our mowthe.”
  • Was neuer a sorowfuler syht be see no be sande,
  • Nor a dolefuler partyng be north ne be sowthe
  • Als thore.
  • He toke the fetteres fro hir fete,
  • And ofte kyssyd he that swete:
  • “In other werld sal we mete.”
  • Sayde he no more.