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The Scottish Reformation
Chapter II.—The Wishart Period, a. d. 1543—1554.
Section 8. English Invasion. Renewal of Persecution. The Reformation-Poets. 1547—1554


The condition of Scotland from 1547 to 1550 was deplorable. Henry VIII., who died in the beginning of 1547, had bequeathed his quarrel with Scotland to his son and successor, Edward VI.; and the young king's uncle, the Earl of Hertford, now created Duke of Somerset and Lord Protector of England, invaded the kingdom in September of the same year with a powerful army and fleet The battle of Pinkie which followed, and which was one of the greatest disasters that ever befell the Scottish arms, wis only the beginning of a long series ot troubles. English garrisons long held possession of Haddington, Inchkeith, Broughty, and Home Castle, and pillaged and wasted the adjoining districts. Again and again the flames of war were rekindled upon the borders. The French were called in to assist in driving out the English invaders, but they showed much more zeal to secure the consent of the nation to the marriage of the young queen with the dauphin, than to pursue the war with earnestness and vigour; and the citizens of Edinburgh—who saw their provost, Sir James Hamilton, of Stenhouse, and other inhabitants, stretched lifeless upon the High Street by the swords of the disorderly French bands who were quartered in the Canongate—had as much reason to dread and resent the insolent violence of their "auld allies" of France, as the attacks of their "auld enemies of England."

The only topic of consolation in the history of these long troubles and confusions, was the immunity which they brought to the disciples of the Reformation from the persecutions of the clergy, and the deepened interest and significance which they imparted to the lessons of that blessed word, in which growing numbers of the people sought their only solace amidst the public disasters. The success of the Churchmen in avenging the death of Beaton contented for a season their anti-Lutheran zeal; and at a time when the Earl of Angus's heretical "bands" were as necessary to carry on the war with England as the more orthodox "followings" of Huntley and Argyle, it would have been bad policy to rekindle the flames of ecclesiastical strife.

No sooner, however, was peace concluded in 1550 between Scotland, England, and France, than the old battle between light and darkness was renewed. John Hamilton had now been fully installed in the primacy of St. Andrews, and having long possessed a complete ascendancy over his brother, the Regent, stood prepared to take vigorous measures against the enemies of the Church. He saw with particular anxiety the state of the archiepiscopal province of Glasgow. That see had been vacant since the death of Gavin Dunbar in 1547, and heresy, which had rapidly gained ground in the archbishop's lifetime, had greatly increased during this prolonged vacancy. According to Hamilton's own showing, in an Information presented by him to the court of Rome, "a great part of the diocese was infected with heresy, and the greatest scandals were committed against the Catholic faith; such as the burning of the images of God and the saints, the contempt of prelates, the beating of priests and monks, and the eating of forbidden meats;" and in the same document, the primate takes credit to himself for the zeal and vigour with which he had proceeded against two heretics of the diocese, "an apostate heresiarch of the name of McBrair, and another of the same character called Wallace."

John McBrair was a gentleman of Galloway, and had been educated in St. Salvator's College, St. Andrews, where he took his degree in 1531. Having entered the Augustinian monastery of Glenluce, he had become a canon of that house; and after embracing the Reformation, he had carried on as a popular preacher in "the westland " the mission which had been so successfully prosecuted there by Willock, Rough and Wishart. At the time when the primate proceeded to the west to put a stop to his labours, he was living under the protection of Lord Ochiltree,. in the castle of Ochiltree, and had many patrons and followers in the country around. The archbishop did not trust to the terror of ecclesiastical citations and censures; he went to Ochiltree with a band of armed men, and overpowering the preacher's defenders, took him prisoner, along with several of his followers, and lodged him in the dungeons of the castle of Hamilton. This was in the spring of 1550. But before the month of May was out, McBrair was again at liberty. John Lockhart of Barr, the same "stout gentleman" who had been Wishart's patron, stood true also to McBrair in the crisis of his fate. To attempt the forcible release of a prisoner from the Regent's own castle was a crime inferring the penalties of treason. But Lockhart took counsel with his courage rather than with his fears, and having come silently by night with a few attendants as resolute as himself, to the Regent's stronghold, he succeeded in delivering the reformer, and carrying him in safety to the Barr, from which McBrair had no difficulty in effecting his escape across the English border.

The primate's other victim, Adam Wallace, was less fortunate. He was a native of Ayrshire, and is described by Knox as " a simple man, without great learning, but one that was zealous in godliness and of an upright life." He had not much Latin, but he carried a Bible at his belt in three languages, French, German, and English. "With his wife he frequented the company of the Lady Ormiston for instruction of her children, during the trouble of her husband, who was then banished and at the time when he was seized, he was on a visit to the noble family of Winton, in East Lothian. It was no doubt the access which he enjoyed to the houses of the reforming nobility, and the influence which he was exerting in diffusing the principles of the Reformation among the upper classes, which made him an object of jealousy to the clergy. He was carried prisoner to Edinburgh, and his trial took place in the great Church of the Blackfriars in September, 1550. From his answers to the articles laid against him, it appears that he was no preacher; "He had never judged himself worthy ot so excellent a vocation, and therefore never took upon him to preach; but he would not deny but that sometimes at table, and sometimes in other privy places, he would read the Scriptures, and had given such exhortations as God pleased to give to him, to such as pleased to hear him." He owned the truth of the accusation that he had said and openly taught, "that the mass is very idolatry, and abominable in the sight of God!" "He had taught nothing," he added, "but what was agreeable to the holy word as he understood it God and his own conscience were judges, and by that doctrine he would abide unto the time he were better instructed by Scripture, and the contrary proved, even to the death/' "Then all cried out, Heresy! heresy! and so was the simple servant of God adjudged to the fire." On the following day, the sentence was executed with every circumstance of cruelty on the castle-hill.

The kingdom was now stripped bare of all its reforming teachers. However many heretics there might still be lurking among all classes of the nation, the primate was able to look round and congratulate himself and his brother bishops that at least all the heresiarchs were either burnt or driven into exile. Nor only the preachers, but also many of their most active and powerful abettors. The cause of the Reformation seemed now at its lowest ebb. Its adversaries appeared to have recovered all their former power. Who was now to - stand forward and lift up again its fallen banner?

It is an interesting fact, that for the next four years, from 1550 to 1554,—the remainder of the Wishart period,—the interests of the Reformation and the religious instruction of the people were almost exclusively in the hands of the poets and the printers. It was at this time that the following act of the Scottish Parliament against the press was obtained by the influence of the clergy: "Forasmuch as there are divers printers in this realm that daily and continually print books concerning the faith—ballads, songs, blasphemations, rhymes— as well of churchmen as temporal men, tragedies as well in Latin as in English tongue, not seen and considered by the superiors, as appertains, to the defamation of the lieges, the Parliament therefore prohibits the printing of all such things either in Latin or English, without licence, under pain of confiscation of the printer's goods, and banishment from the realm."

Among the "ballads, songs, and rhymes" here referred to, were included many of those which form the curious and highly interesting collection called, "Ane compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs, collected out of sundry parts or the Scripture; with sundry other Ballats changed out ot prophane Sangs, for avoiding of sin and harlotry." These went by the name of Wedderburn's Psalms and Songs; the author being John Wedderburn, of Dundee, who was educated at St. Andrews under Gavin Logie, and is said to have afterwards studied under Luther and Melancthon. He became a zealous Reformer, and translated many of Luther's hymns, and of the Psalms of David, into Scottish metre. These were already in circulation in Wishart's time, for we find him singing one of Wedderburn's Psalms at Ormiston, on the night of his apprehension. Many of the tunes to which the poet adapted his pieces were national favourites, and had long been associated in the minds of the people with rude and indecent verse; and it was then deemed a great service to the cause of truth, not only in Scotland, but also in Germany, France, and England—whatever would be thought of such a measure in our own day—not only to enlist these popular airs on the side of religion, but even to imitate closely, in the new psalms and hymns, the structure and rhythm of the old licentious ballads, which had descended to that age from times still ruder and coarser than itself. Some of Wedderburn's pieces are sufficiently free in this respect, and others of them have no great poetical merit; but many of them are marked by extraordinary power of satire; and many more, by fulness of evangelical doctrine and fervour of religious feeling. Carried to all parts of the country by travelling chapmen, their influence, as they passed from mouth to mouth, could not fail to be very great, and very beneficial to the cause of Reform.

Among the tragedies proscribed by the Act of Parliament, was doubtless, "The Tragedie of the Cardinal," by Sir David Lindsay. By that name were then understood not tragic dramas, but rhyming histories of public and private calamities, especially those of fallen greatness. Boccacio had set the example of such compositions in his "Fall of Princes;" and his tragedies, "done into English" by John Lydgate, were then in the hands of all lovers of poetry and history. Lindsay was a great admirer of "John Boccace;" and soon after the fall * of Beaton—a tragedy equal in astonishment and horror to any that had ever occurred in history—he produced a piece upon the same model, with the design of reading a new lesson to prelates and princes, suggested by the cardinal's proud career, and miserable end.

The prologue begins thus :—

"Nocht long ago, efter the hour of prime,
Secretly sittjng in mine oratory;
I took ane book to occupy the time,
Where I found many tragedie and story,
Whilk John Boccace had put in memory,
How many princes, conquerors and kings,
War dolefully deposit from their rings.

"I sitting so, upon my book reading,
Right suddenly afore me did appear
Ane woundit man abundantly bleeding,
With visage pale, and with ane deadly cheer,
Seeming ane man of twa and fifty year;
In raiment red, clothit full courteously
Of velvet and of satin crammosie."

It was the cardinal himself! and he was come to say, that no doubt, John Boccace, if he had been alive, would have described " his tragedie;" but since he was gone, he looked to Lindsay to* do that office :—

"I pray thee to indite
Of my infortune some rememberance;
Or at the least my tragedie to write,
As I to thee shall shew the circumstance,
Sen my beginning to my fatal end,
Whilk I would to all creature were kend."

The poet then begins to write to the cardinal's dictation:-

"I, David Betoun, umquhy cardinal,
Of noble blood by line I did descend;
During my time I had no perigal,*
Ay gre by gre8 upward I did ascend,
Swa that into this realm did never ring4
Sa great ane man as I, under ane king."

And so on, in stanzas of fluent ten-syllable verse, through the cardinal's whole life and career; forming a kind of epitome of the history of the country during the period of Beaton's ascendancy. The concluding stanza of the story runs thus :—

"I lay unburied seven months and more,
Or I was borne to closter, kirk, or jqueir,
In ane midding, whilk pain be to deplore,
Without suffrage of canon, monk or freir.
All proud prelates at me may lessons leir,
Whilk rang so lang, and so triumphantly,
Syne in the dust doung doun so dolefully."

Then follows an address to the "proud prelates," as if from the lips of the cardinal himself; in which his "brether princes of the priests," are compelled to hear from him very different language from what they had ever heard from his living lips. It is full of Lindsay's favourite grievances against the bishops, which, though meant of course quite seriously, have rather a droll effect when taken up and enforced by the dead cardinal. " Alas!" he cries,—

"If ye that sorrowful sight had seen
How I lay bullerand,8 bathit in my blude,
To mend your life, it had occasion been,
And leave your auld corrupted consuetude;
Failing thereof, then shortly I conclude,
Without ye from your ribaldry arise,
Ye shall be servit on the samyn wise."

The cardinal's address "To the Princes," is equally plain-spoken, and turns upon the sin and folly of appointing to the cure of souls "blind pastors," without knowledge and conscience. He rebukes them sharply for taking more care to appoint,—

"Ane brewster whilk can brew maist hailsum aill,
Ane cunning cook whilk best can season caill,
Ane tailor whilk has fostered been in France,
That can mak garments on the gayest gyse ;"

than they bestowed in the nomination of bishops and abbots. Witness himself, for example, quoth the now candid and humble cardinal:—

"Howbeit I was legate and cardinal,
Little I knew therein what should be done;
I understood no science spiritual,
No more than did blind Allan of the mone."'

"Wherefore," he concludes,—

"I counsel everilk Christian king,
Within his realm mak reformation,
And suffer no mo ribalds for to ring
Above Christ-is true congregation;
Failing thereof, I mak narration,
That ye princes and prelates all at anes,
Shall buried be in hell, soul, blude, and banes."

No wonder that the cardinal's successor and the rest of the prelates complained of the " Tragedies," and tried by Act of Parliament to gag Lindsay and the other poets. It was bad enough for Lindsay's friends to have slain the cardinal; but to turn him into a heretic and a preacher after he was dead was a grosser affront still. Why, Wishart and Knox themselves had never told them the truth with so little ceremony as Lindsay had made the cardinal do, in this provoking " blasphe-jnation." "TheTragedie of the Cardinal" was a happy sally of satiric genius, and no doubt did great execution upon the credit of the churchmen throughout the kingdom.

In 1553 Lindsay finished and sent to the press of John Scot, of St Andrews, a still more important work, his "Monarchic, or Ane Dialog betwix Experience and ane Courteour, of the Miserable Estate of the Warld." It is the most copious and elaborate of all his poems, and dififers from almost all the rest in the thoroughly grave and solemn tone in which it is conceived. So much so, that at the outset, declining the help of the Muses of Parnassus and Helicon, he tells his reader that he looks only for inspiration to Mount Calvary—

"Therefore, O Lord, I pray thy Majesty,
As thou did shew thy heich power divine
First plainly in the Cane of Galilee,
Whare thou convertit water into wine,
Convoy my matter to ane fructuous fyne,
And save my sayings both from shame and sin."

Then begins the "Dialog" in which Lindsay, "the Courteous" and Experience run through, in the form of question and answer, and comment, the whole history of the world, both sacred and profane; recapitulating the story of the four ancient monarchies, and dwelling with special emphasis of remark upon the fifth monarchy, that is, "the spiritual and Papal." It is in handling this last topic of course that the theological and religious spirit of the poet shows itself most fully; and as this work was the latest and ripest fruit of his genius, we see here the matured and concentrated results of the observation, reading, and reflection of his whole life, upon the great question and controversy of his day. But we cannot stop to characterise the poet-reformer as he here reveals himself, farther than to say, that in accomplishments he is almost as good a theologian and Church historian as he is a poet, and that in fearless truth and energy of speech he is almost a match to John Knox himself. His denunciations of Roman corruption and superstition are of the most earnest and fervid description, and in reading them one can only marvel that such a scourge of the Popes and all their ministers and abettors should have been permitted to end his days in peace.

Lindsay did not long survive the publication of "The Monarchic," but he was still able in 1554 to take the management of another grand performance of his "Satire of the Three Estates." It is almost incredible that such a spectacle should have been allowed to take place in the metropolis of the kingdom. But the fact is indubitable, and not only so, but the drama was produced at Greenside, under the slopes of the Calton hill, in presence of the magistrates of the city and of the Queen Dowager herself, who had now superseded Arran in the regency of the kingdom. But she had owed that political success very much to the support of the Protestant lords, and it might be partly with the view of gratifying them that she conceded to Lindsay such a dangerous privilege. The poet seems to have reproduced the piece in its fullest dimensions, for the performance lasted—as we are told by Henry Charters, the Edinburgh bookseller, who saw it—from nine o'clock in the morning to six o'clock in the afternoon; and in this its unabridged form, with all its prologues, parts, and interludes, it formed an extraordinary reflex of the spirit and manners of the age. The coarseness of the dialogue in some places is so gross, that it would not now be tolerated on the boards of the lowest penny theatre. And yet the ideas of the piece, political, social, moral, ecclesiastical, and religious, are of the most enlightened kind. Its key-note is reform; reform everywhere, in church and state, in prince and people, in the maxims of trade, and in the habits of domestic life. Lindsay was a sound politician and enlightened patriot, as well as an evangelical theologian and zealous iconoclast.

It is singular that the date of the death of such a man should not have been exactly recorded. It probably, however, took place in 1557. He survived therefore to witness the commencement of the Knox period of the Reformation; and it must have been a great joy to him to see the man whom he had assisted to bring out of privacy into the public pulpit of St Andrews, return to the kingdom after an absence of eight years, to resume the great work where his predecessors had left it But Lindsay's name does not again occur as that of a living man in the history of the Reformation. His light disappeared beneath the horizon just when the star of Knox rose again to view in the opposite quarter of the heavens; and well had he merited the eulogium of Henry Charters, one of his publishers:—

"Never poet of our Scottish clan
So clearly schew that monster with his marks,
The Roman god, in whom all guile began,
As does gude David Lyndsay in his warks."


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