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the force of Hamlet's expression in Shakspeare, where, condemning a ranting player, he says, "I could have such a fellow whipt for ore-doing Termagant: it out-herods Herod" (Act iii. sc. 3). By degrees the word came to be applied to an outrageous turbulent person, and especially to a violent brawling woman; to whom alone it is now confined, and this the rather as, I suppose, the character of Termagant was anciently represented on the stage after the eastern mode, with long robes or petticoats.
Another frequent character in the old pageants or interludes of our ancestors, was the sowdan or soldan, representing a grim eastern tyrant. This appears from a curious passage in Stow's Annals (p. 458). In a stage-play "the people know right well that he that plaieth the soudain, is percase a sowter [shoe-maker]; yet if one should cal him by his owne name, while he standeth in his majestie, one of his tormenters might hap to break his head." The soudain, or soldan, was a name given to the Sarazen king (being only a more rude pronunciation of the word sultan), as the soldan of Egypt, the soudan of Persia, the sowdan of Babylon, &c., who were generally represented as accompanied with grim Sarazens, whose business it was to punish and torment Christians.
I cannot conclude this short memoir, without observing that the French romancers, who had borrowed the word Termagant from us, and applied it as we in their old romances, corrupted it into Tervagaunte; and from them La Fontaine took it up, and has used it more than once in his tales. This may be added to the other proofs adduced in these volumes of the great intercourse that formerly subsisted between the old minstrels and legendary writers of both nations, and that they mutually borrowed each other's
SIR PATRICK SPENCE,
A SCOTTISH BALLAD,
S given from two MS. copies transmitted from Scotland. In what age the hero of this ballad lived, or when this fatal expedition happened that proved so destructive to the Scots nobles, I have not been able to discover; yet am of opinion, that their catastrophe is not altogether without foundation in history, though it has escaped my own
researches. In the infancy of navigation, such as used the northern seas were very liable to shipwreck in the wintry months: hence a law was enacted in the reign of James III. (a law which was frequently repeated afterwards), "That there be na schip frauched out of the realm with any staple gudes, fra the feast of Simons day and Jude, unto the feast of the purification of our Lady called Candelmess." Jam. III. Parlt. 2, ch. 15.
In some modern copies, instead of Patrick Spence hath been substituted the name of Sir Andrew Wood, a famous Scottish admiral who flourished in the time of our Edward IV., but whose story has nothing in common with this of the ballad. As Wood was the most noted warrior of Scotland, it is probable that, like the Theban Hercules, he hath engrossed the renown of other heroes.
[The fact that this glorious ballad was never heard of before Percy printed it in 1765, caused some to throw doubts upon its authenticity, and their scepticism was strengthened by the note at p. 102, which refers to the author of Hardyknute. It was thought that the likeness in expression and sentiment there mentioned might easily be explained if the two poems were both by Lady Wardlaw. This view, advocated by Robert Chambers in his general attack on the authenticity of all The Romantic Scottish Ballads (1859), has not met with much favour, and Professor Child thinks that the arguments against the genuineness of Sir Patrick Spence are so trivial as hardly to admit of statement. He writes, "If not ancient it has been always accepted as such by the most skilful judges, and is a solitary instance of a successful imitation in manner and spirit of the best specimens of authentic minstrelsy." Coleridge, no mean judge of a ballad, wrote—
"The bard be sure was weather-wise who framed
Antiquaries have objected that Spence is not an early Scottish name, but in this they are wrong, for Professor Aytoun found it in a charter of Robert III. and also in Wyntoun's Chronicle.
There has been considerable discussion as to the historical event referred to in the ballad, and the present version does not contain any mention of one of the points that may help towards a settlement of the question. The version in Scott's Minstrelsy contains the following stanza:
"To Noroway, to Noroway
To Noroway o'er the faem
['English and Scottish Ballads, vol. iii. p. 149.]
Professor Aytoun would change the third line to
"The king's daughter to Noroway,"
as he agrees with Motherwell in the view that the ballad refers to the fate of the Scottish nobles who in 1281 conveyed Margaret, daughter of Alexander III., to Norway, on the occasion of her nuptials with King Eric.
Fordun relates this incident as follows:-"In the year 1281 Margaret, daughter of Alexander III., was married to the King of Norway, who, leaving Scotland in the last day of July, was conveyed thither in noble style in company with many knights and nobles. In returning home after the celebration of her nuptials, the Abbot of Balmerinoch, Bernard of Monte-alto, and many other persons, were drowned." As to the scene of the disaster, Aytoun brings forward an interesting illustration of the expression "half over to Aberdour," in line 41. He says that in the little island of Papa Stronsay one of the Orcadian group lying over against Norway, there is a large grave or tumulus which has been known to the inhabitants from time immemorial as "the grave of Sir Patrick Spens," and he adds, that as the Scottish ballads were not early current in Orkney, it is unlikely that the poem originated the
The other suggestions as to an historical basis for the ballad are not borne out by history. It is well, however, to note in illustration of line 1, that the Scottish kings chiefly resided in their palace of Dunfermline from the time of Malcolm Canmore to that of Alexander III.
The present copy of the ballad is the shortest of the various versions, but this is not a disadvantage, as it gains much in force by the directness of its language.
Buchan prints a ballad called Young Allan, which is somewhat like Sir Patrick Spence.]
HE king sits in Dumferling toune,
Up and spak an eldern knicht,
Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor,
The king has written a braid letter,*
The first line that Sir Patrick red,
The teir blinded his ee.
O quha is this has don this deid,
To send me out this time o'the yeir,
Mak hast, mak haste, my mirry men all,
Our guid schip sails the morne.1
O say na sae, my master deir,
For I feir a deadlie storme.
Late late yestreen I saw the new moone
O our Scots nobles wer richt laith2
O lang, lang, may thair ladies sit
* A braid letter, i.e. open, or patent; in opposition to close rolls.
3 to wet their cork-heeled shoes.
4 long ere.
O lang, lang, may the ladies stand
For they'll se thame na mair.
Have owre, have owre to Aberdour,*
And thair lies guid Sir Patrick Spence,
ROBIN HOOD AND GUY OF GISBORNE.
ZE have here a ballad of Robin Hood (from the editor's folio MS.) which was never before printed, and carries marks of much greater antiquity than any of the common popular songs on this subject.
The severity of those tyrannical forest laws that were introduced by our Norman kings, and the great temptation of breaking them by such as lived near the royal forests at a time when the yeomanry of this kingdom were everywhere trained up to the long-bow, and excelled all other nations in the art of shooting, must constantly have occasioned great numbers of outlaws,
A village lying upon the river Forth, the entrance to which is sometimes denominated De mortuo mari.
[Finlay observes that Percy's note is incorrect. The truth is that De Mortuo Mari is the designation of a family (Mortimer) who were lords of Aberdour. They are believed to have received their name from the Dead Sea, in Palestine, during the times of the Crusades.]
+ An ingenious friend thinks the author of Hardyknute has borrowed several expressions and sentiments from the foregoing and other old Scottish songs in this collection.