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Poem by Alexander Montgomerie


The Cherrie and the Slae


  About ane bank, quhair birdis on bewis
  Ten thusand tymis thair notis renewis
    Ilke houre into the day,
  The merle and maueis micht be sene,
  The progne and the phelomene,
    Quhilk caussit me to stay.
  I lay and leynit me to ane bus
    To heir the birdis beir;
  Thair mirth was sa melodius
    Throw nature of the yeir:
      Sum singing, sum springing
        With wingis into the sky;
      So trimlie and nimlie
        Thir birdis they flew me by.

  I saw the hurcheon and the hair,
  Quha fed amangis the flowris fair,
    Wer happing to and fro.
  I saw the cunning and the cat,
  Quhais downis with the dew was wat,
    With mony beisties mo.
  The hart, the hynd, the dae, the rae,
    The fowmart, and the foxe
  War skowping all fra brae to brae,
    Amang the water broxe;
      Sum feiding, sum dreiding
        In cais of suddain snairis:
      With skipping and tripping
        Thay hantit all in pairis.

  The air was sa attemperate,
  But ony myst immaculate,
    Bot purefeit and cleir;
  The flowris fair wer flurischit,
  As Nature had them nurischit
    Baith delicate and deir;
  And euery blome on branche and bewch
    So prettily wer spred,
  And hang their heidis out-ouir the hewch
    In Mayis colour cled;
      Sum knopping, sum dropping
        Of balmie liquor sweit,
      Distelling and smelling
        Throw Phœbus hailsum heit.

  The cukkow and the cuschet cryde,
  The turtle, on the vther syde,
    Na plesure had to play;
  So schil in sorrow was her sang
  That, throw hyr voice, the roches rang;
    For Eccho answerit ay,
  Lamenting sair Narcissus cace,
    Quha staruit at the well;
  Quha with the schaddow of his face
    For lufe did slay himsell.
      Quhylis weiping and creiping
        About the well he baid;
      Quhylis lying, quhylis crying,
        Bot it na answere maid.

  The dew as diamondis did hing
  Vpon the tender twistis and ying,
    Owir-twinkling all the treis;
  And ay quhair flowris flourischit faire
  Thair suddainly I saw repaire
    In swarmes the sounding beis.
  Sum sweitly hes the hony socht,
    Quhil they war cloggit soir:
  Sum willingly the waxe hes wrocht,
    To heip it vp in stoir.
      So heiping with keiping,
        Into thair hyuis they hyde it,
      Precyselie and wyselie
        For winter they prouyde it.

  To pen the pleasures of that park,
  How euery blossome, branche, and bark,
    Agaynst the sun did schyne,
  I leif to poetis to compyle
  In staitlie verse and lofty style:
    It passis my ingyne.
  Bot as I mussit myne allane,
    I saw an river rin
  Out-ouir ane craggie rok of stane,
    Syne lichtit in ane lin,
      With tumbling and rumbling
        Amang the rochis round,
      Dewalling and falling
        Into that pit profound.

  To heir thae startling stremis cleir
  Me-thocht it musique to the eir,
    Quhat deskant did abound
  With trible sweit, an tenor iust,
  And ay the echo repercust
    Hir diapason sound,
  Set with the Ci-sol-fa-uth cleife,
    Thairby to knaw the note;
  Thair soundit a michtie semibreif
    Out of the elphis throte.
      Discreitlie, mair sweetlie
        Nor craftie Amphion,
      Or Musis that vsis
        At fountaine Helicon.

  Quha wald haue tyrit to heir that tune,
  Quhilk birdis corroborate ay abune,
    Throw schowting of the larkis?
  Sum flies sa high into the skies,
  Quhill Cupid walkinnes with the cryis
    Of Natures chappell clarkis,
  Quha, leving all the hevins aboue
    Alighted in the eird.
  Lo, how that little God of Loue
    Befoir me thair apperid!
      So myld-lyke and chyld-lyke,
        With bow thrie quarteris scant,
      So moylie and coylie,
        He lukit like ane sant.

  Ane cleinlie crisp hang ouir his eyis
  His quauer by his naked thyis
    Hang in ane siluer lace.
  Of gold, betwix his schoulders, grew
  Twa pretty wingis quhairwith he flew;
    On his left arme ane brace.
  This god aff all his geir he schuik
    And laid it on the grund.
  I ran als busie for to luik
    Quhair ferleis micht be fund.
      Amasit I gasit
        To see that geir sa gay
      Persawing my hawing
        He countit me his pray.

  His youth and stature made me stout;
  Of doubleness I had na doubt,
    Bot bourded with my boy.
  Quod I, How call they thee, my chyld?
  Cupido, Sir, quod he, and smyld:
    Please you me to imploy;
  For I can serve you in your suite,
    If you please to impyre,
  With wingis to flie, and schafts to schute,
    Or flamis to set on fyre.
      Mak choice then out of those then,
        Or of a thousand things;
      Bot craue them, and haue them.
        With that I wowed his wings.

  Quhat wald thou giue, my friend, quod he,
  To haf thae prettie wingis to flie,
    To sport thee for a quhyle?
  Or quhat, gif I suld len thee heir
  My bow and all my shuting geir,
    Sum bodie to begyle?
  That geir, quod I, can not be bocht,
    Yet I wald haif it faine.
  Quhat gif, quod he, it coist thee nocht
    Bot randring it againe?
      His wingis than he bringis than,
        And band them on my back:
      Go flie now, quod he now,
        And so my leif I tak.

  I sprang vp on Cupidoes wingis,
  Quha bow and quauir baith resingis
    To lend me for ane day.
  As Icarus with borrowit flicht
  I mountit hichar nor I micht;
    Ouir perrelous ane play.
  Than furth I drew that deadlie dairt
    Quhilk sumtyme schot his mother,
  Quhair-with I hurt my wanton heart,
    In hope to hurt ane-vther.
      It hurt me, it burt me,
        The ofter I it handill.
      Cum se now, in me now,
        The butter-flie and candill.

  As scho delytis into the low,
  Sa was I browdin in my bow,
    Als ignorant as scho;
  And als scho flies quhill sche be fyrit,
  Sa, with the dart that I desyrit,
    My hand hes hurt me to.
  As fulisch Phaëton, be sute,
    His fatheris cart obteind,
  I langt in Luiffis bow to shute,
    Bot weist not what it meind.
      Mair wilfull than skilfull
        To flie I was so fond,
      Desyring, impyring,
        And sa was sene vpond.

  To late I knaw, quha hewis to hie,
  The spail sall fall into his eie;
    To late I went to scuillis.
  To late I heard the swallow preiche,
  To late Experience dois teiche--
    The skuill-maister of fuillis.
  To late to fynde the nest I seik,
    Quhen all the birdis are flowin;
  To late the stabill dore I steik,
    Quhen all the steids are stowin.
      To lait ay their stait ay
        All fulische folke espye;
      Behynd so, they fynd so
        Remeid, and so do I.

  Gif I had rypelie bene aduysit
  I had not rashlie enterprysit
    To soir with borrowit pennis,
  Nor yit had saied the archer craft,
  Nor schot myself with sik a schaft
    As resoun quite miskennis.
  Fra wilfulnes gaue me my wound
    I had na force to flie,
  Then came I granand to the ground:
    Freind, welcome hame! quod he.
      Quhair flew ye, quhome slew ye,
        Or quha bringis hame the buiting?
      I sie now, quod he now,
        Ye haif bene at the schuting.

  As skorne cummis commonlie with skaith
  Sa I behuifit to byde them baith:
    O quhat an stakkering stait!
  For vnder cure I gat sik chek
  Quhilk I micht nocht remuif nor nek,
    Bot eyther stail or mait.
  My agonie was sa extreme
    I swelt and soundt for feir;
  Bot, or I walkynnit of my dreme
    He spulyied me of my geir.
      With flicht than on hicht than
        Sprang Cupid in the skyis,
      Foryetting and setting
        At nocht my cairfull cryis.

  Sa lang with sicht I followit him
  Quhill baith my feiblit eyis grew dim
    With staruing on the starnis;
  Quhilk flew sa thick befoir my ein,
  Sum reid, sum yellow, blew, and grein,
    Sa trublit all my harnis;
  Quhill euery-thing apperit two
    To my barbuilyiet braine,
  Bot lang micht I lye luiking so
    Or Cupid come againe;
      Quhais thundring, with wondring
        I hard vp throw the air;
      Throw cluddis so he thuddis so
        And flew I wist not quhair.

  Fra that I saw that god was gane,
  And I in langour left allane,
    And sair tormentit, to,
  Sum-tyme I sicht quhill I was sad,
  Sum-tyme I musit and maist gane mad,
    I wist not quhat to do.
  Sum-tyme I ravit, halfe in a rage,
    As ane into dispaire;
  To be opprest with sic ane page
    Lord! gif my heart was saire!
      Like Dido, Cupido
        I widill and [I] warye,
      Quha reft me, and left me
        In sik a feirie-farye.

  Then felt I Curage and Desyre
  Inflame my heart with vncouth fyre,
    To me befoir vnknawin;
  Bot now na blud in me remaines
  Vnbrunt and boyld within my vaines,
    By luffis bellies blawin.
  To quench it, or I was deuorit,
    With siches I went about;
  Bot ay the mair I schape to smor it
    The baulder it brak out:
      Ay preising but ceising
        Quhill it may breik the boundis.
      My hew so furth schew so
        The dolour of my woundis.

  With deidlie visage, paill and wan,
  Mair like ane atomie nor man,
    I widderit cleine away.
  As wax befoir the fyre, I felt
  My hart within my bosome melt
    And pece and pece decay.
  My vaines with brangling like to brek--
    My punsis lap with pith--
  Sa feruently did me infek
    That I was vext thairwith.
      My hart ay did start ay
        The fyrie flamis to flie,
      Ay houping, throu louping,
        To win to liberty.

  Bot O! alace! byde it behuissit,
  Within my cairfull corpis incluissit,
    In presoun of my breist;
  With sichis sa sowpit and ouirset,
  Like to an fische fast in the net,
    In deid-thraw vndeceist,
  Quha, thocht in vaine, dois striue for strenth
    For to pull out hir heid,
  Quhilk profitis nathing at the lenth
    Bot haistes hir to hir deid.
      With wristing and thristing
        The faster still is scho;
      Thair I so did lye so,
        My death advancing to.

  The mair I wrestlit with the wynd
  The faschter still myself I fynd;
    Na mirth my mynd micht mease.
  Mair noy, nor I, had neuer nane,
  I was sa alterit and ouirgane
    Throw drowth of my disease.
  Than weakly, as I micht, I rayis;
    My sicht grewe dim and dark;
  I stakkerit at the windilstrayis,
    Na takin I was stark.
      Baith sichtles and michtles,
        I grew almaist at ainis;
      In angwische I langwische
        With mony grievous grainis.

  With sober pace I did approche
  Hard to the riuer and the roche
    Quhairof I spak befoir;
  Quhais running sic a murmure maid,
  That to the sey it softlie slaid;
    The craig was high and schoir.
  Than pleasur did me so prouok
    Perforce thair to repaire,
  Betuix the riuer and the rok,
    Quhair Hope grew with Dispaire.
      A trie than I sie than
        Of CHERRIES in the braes.
      Belaw, to, I saw, to,
        Ane buss of bitter SLAES.

  The CHERRIES hang abune my heid,
  Like twinkland rubies round and reid,
    So hich vp in the hewch,
  Quhais schaddowis in the riuer schew,
  Als graithlie glansing, as they grewe,
    On trimbling twistis tewch,
  Quhilk bowed throu burding of thair birth,
    Inclining downe thair toppis,
  Reflex of Phœbus of the firth
    Newe colourit all thair knoppis,
      With dansing and glansing
        In tirles dornik champ,
      Ay streimand and gleimand
        Throw brichtnes of that lamp.

  With earnest eye quhil I espye
  The fruit betuixt me and the skye,
    Halfe-gaite, almaist, to hevin,
  The craig sa cumbersume to clim,
  The trie sa hich of growth, and trim
    As ony arrowe evin,
  I cald to mind how Daphne did
    Within the laurell schrink,
  Quhen from Apollo scho hir hid.
    A thousand times I think
      That trie then to me then,
        As he his laurell thocht;
      Aspyring but tyring
        To get that fruit I socht.

  To clime the craige it was na buit
  Lat be to presse to pull the fruit
    In top of all the trie.
  I saw na way quhairby to cum
  Be ony craft to get it clum,
    Appeirandly to me.
  The craige was vgly, stay, and dreich,
    The trie heich, lang, and smal;
  I was affrayd to mount sa hich
    For feir to get ane fall.
      Affrayit to say it,
        I luikit vp on loft;
      Quhiles minting, quhiles stinting,
        My purpose changit oft.

  Then Dreid, with Danger and Dispaire,
  Forbad my minting anie mair
    To raxe aboue my reiche.
  Quhat, tusche! quod Curage, man, go to,
  He is bot daft that hes ado,
    And spairis for euery speiche.
  For I haue oft hard wise men say,
    And we may see our-sellis,
  That fortune helps the hardie ay,
    And pultrones plaine repellis.
      Than feir not, nor heir not
        Dreid, Danger, or Dispaire;
      To fazarts hard hazarts
        Is deid or they cum thair.

  Quha speidis bot sic as heich aspyris?
  Quha triumphis nocht bot sic as tyris
    To win a nobill name?
  Of schrinking quhat bot schame succeidis?
  Than do as thou wald haif thy deidis
    In register of fame.
  I put the cais, thou nocht preuaild,
    Sa thou with honour die,
  Thy life, bot not thy courage, faild,
    Sall poetis pen of thee.
      Thy name than from Fame than
        Sall neuir be cut aff:
      Thy graif ay sall haif ay
        That honest epitaff.

  Quhat can thou loose, quhen honour lyuis?
  Renowne thy vertew ay reuyuis
    Gif valiauntlie thou end.
  Quod Danger, Hulie, friend, tak heid!
  Vntymous spurring spillis the steid.
    Tak tent quhat ye pretend.
  Thocht Courage counsell thee to clim,
    Bewar thou kep na skaith.
  Haif thou na help bot Hope and him,
    They may beguyle thé baith.
      Thy-sell now can tell now
        The counsell of thae clarkis,
      Quhairthrow yit, I trow yit,
        Thy breist dois beir the markis.

  Brunt bairn with fyre the danger dreidis;
  Sa I beleif thy bosome bleidis
    Sen last that fyre thou felt.
  Besydis this, seindell tymis thé seis
  That euer Curage keipis the keyis
    Of knawledge at his belt.
  Thocht he bid fordwart with the gunnis,
    Small powder he prouydis.
  Be nocht ane novice of the nunnis
    That saw nocht baith the sydis.
      Fuil-haist ay almaist ay
        Ouirsylis the sicht of sum
      Quha huikis not, nor luikis not
        Quhat eftirward may cum.

  Yit Wisdome wischis thé to wey
  This figour of philosophey--
    A lessoun worth to leir--
  Quhilk is, in tyme for to tak tent,
  And not, when tyme is past, repent,
    And buy repentance deir.
  Is thair na honoure efter lyfe
    Except them slay thy-sell?
  Quhairfoir hes Attropus that knyfe?
    I trow thou cannot tell,
      That, but it, wald cut it
        That Clotho skairse hes spun,
      Distroying thy joying
        Befoire it be begun.

  All ouirs are repuit to be vyce--
  Ore hich, ore law, ore rasche, ore nyce,
    Ore heit, or yit ore cauld.
  Thou seemes vnconstant be thy sings;
  Thy thocht is on ane thousand things;
    Thou wattis not quhat thou wald.
  Let Fame hir pittie on thé powre
    Quhan all thy banis ar brokin:
  Yone SLAE, suppose you think it soure,
    May satisfie to slokkin
      Thy drouth now, O youth now,
        Quhilk drownis thee with desyre.
      Aswage than thy rage, man,
        Foull water quenches fyre.

  Quhat fule art thou to die of thirst,
  And now may quench it, gif thou list,
    So easily, but paine!
  Maire honor is to vanquisch ane
  Nor feicht with tensum and be tane,
    And outhir hurt or slane.
  The prattick is, to bring to passe,
    And not to enterprise;
  And als guid drinking out of glas
    As gold, in ony wise.
      I leuir haue euer
        Ane foule in hand, or tway,
      Nor seand ten fleand
        About me all the day.



Alexander Montgomerie


Alexander Montgomerie's other poems:
  1. Sonnet 30. Christen Lyndesay to Ro. Hudsone
  2. Sonnet 18. To the Lords of the Session. I
  3. Sonnet 61. Of the Duleweid. III
  4. Sonnet 71. Epitaph of the Maister of Work, [Sir Robert] Drummond of Carnok, [Khight]
  5. Sonnet 9. In Praise of M. J. M., Chanceller


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