william dunbar

The Two Old Nags

english translation

The Two Old Nags

original Scots poem

The Twa Cummeris

Rycht airlie on Ask Weddinsday,
Drynkand the wyne satt cumeris tway;
The tane cowth to the tother complene,
Graneand and suppand cowd scho say,
“This lang Lentern makis me lene.”

On cowch besyd the fyre scho satt,
God wait gif scho wes grit and fatt,
Yit to be feble scho did hir fene,
And ay scho said, “Latt preif of that,
This lang Lentern makis me lene.”

“My fair, sweit cummer,” quod the tuder,
“Ye tak that nigertnes of your muder;
All wyne to test scho wald disdane
Bot mavasy, scho bad nane uder;
This lang Lentern makis me lene.”

“Cummer, be glaid both evin and morrow,
Thocht ye suld bayth beg and borrow,
Fra our lang fasting ye yow refrene,
And latt your husband dre the sorrow;
This lang Lentern makis me lene.”

“Your counsale, cummer, is gud,” quod scho,
“All is to tene him that I do,
In bed he is nocht wirth a bene;
Fill fow the glass and drynk me to;
This lang Lentern makis me lene.”

Off wyne owt of ane choppyne stowp,
They drank twa quartis, sowp and sowp,
Off drowth sic exces did thame strene;
Be than to mend thay had gud howp
That Lentrune suld nocht mak thame lene.


William Dunbar

William Dunbar (c. 1456 – 1520) trained as a Franciscan novice in addition to studying at the University of St Andrews, Oxford, and Paris. He served as an ambassador and court poet of King James IV, for whom his work epitomized the ideals of the “Northern Renaissance.” His most famous work, “Lament for the Makaris” eulogizes twenty-four early Scots/English poets including Geoffrey Chaucer, John Barbour, Blind Harry, and Robert Henryson.


Kent Leatham

Kent Leatham holds an MFA in poetry from Emerson College and a BA in poetry from Pacific Lutheran University. His translations of medieval/Renaissance Scots-language poetry have appeared or are forthcoming from InTranslation, Rowboat, Anomalous Press, and Ezra. His original poetry has appeared in dozens of journals nationwide, such as Ploughshares, Fence, Zoland, and Poetry Quarterly. Previously a poetry editor for Black Lawrence Press, Kent currently teaches at California State University Monterey Bay.



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