Biography of Robert Henryson
Little is known about Robert Henryson's life, who was a very well-known Scottish author much admired by his contemporories (often described as the 'greatest' Scottish medieval author); who wrote in middle-scots in the second half of the fifteenth century, and mainly during the reign of James III. He 'possibly' attended and taught at the University of Glasgow, and is associated with the town of Dunfermline, where -inasmuch as can be ascertained from his work and sixteenth century tradition- he may have worked as a teacher, lawyer, or public notary. He was not a court poet, unlike his younger contemporary, William Dunbar.
Henryson's main works include a version of Aesop's Fables (usually entitled The Morall fabillis of Esope the Phrygian), The Testament of Cresseid, a follow-on to Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (but also seen as his own, original 'masterpiece', a poem in its own right) , Robene and Makyne, and Orpheus and Eurydice, a version of the classic tale.
Pricilla Bawcutt describes Henryson in Discovering Scottish Writers as excelling as 'a narrative poet' who handled the fable genre 'brilliantly.'
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Robert Henryson Poems
The Cock and The Fox
Thogh brutal beestes be irrational, That is to say, wantand, discretioun, Yit ilk ane in their kindes natural Has many divers inclinatioun:
The Testament of Cressida (excerpt)
... Thus chydand with her drerie destenye, Weiping, scho woik the nicht fra end to end; Bot all in vane; hir dule, hir cairfull cry,
Robin and Malkin
Robene sat on gud grene hill, Kepand a flok of fe; Mirry Makyne said him till, "Robene, thow rew on me;
The Garment Of Good Ladies
Would my good Lady love me best, And work after my will, I should ane garment goodliest Gar mak' her body till.
The Bludy Serk
THIS hinder yeir I hard be tald Thair was a worthy King; Dukis, Erlis, and Barronis bald, He had at his bidding.
Robin and Makyne
ROBIN sat on gude green hill, Kepand a flock of fe: Mirry Makyne said him till 'Robin, thou rew on me:
Robin and Malkin
Robene sat on gud grene hill,
Kepand a flok of fe;
Mirry Makyne said him till,
"Robene, thow rew on me;
I haif the luvit lowd and still,
Thir yeiris two or thre;
My dule in dern bot gif thow dill,
Dowtless but dreid I de."