|Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916.|
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
|By George Buchanan (15061582)|
From a Tract written Against the Laird of Lethington
THERE is a certain kind of beast callit Chamæleon, engenderit in sic countries as the sun hes mair strength in than in this isle of Britain, the whilk, albeit it be small of corporance, noghttheless it is of ane strange nature, the whilk makes it to be na less celebrat and spoken of than some beasts of greater quantity. The proprieties is marvelous, for what thing ever it be applicat to, it seems to be of the same colour, and imitates all hues, except only the white and red; and for this cause ancient writers commonly compares it to ane flatterer, whilk imitates all the haill manners of whom he fancies himself to be friend to, except white, whilk is taken to be the symbol and token given commonly in devise of colours to signify simpleness and loyalty, and red signifying manliness and heroical courage. This application being so usit, yet peradventure mony that has nowther seen the said beast, nor na perfect portrait of it, would believe sic thing not to be true. I will therefore set forth shortly the description of sic an monster not lang ago engendrit in Scotland, in the country of Lowthian, not far from Hadingtoun, to that effect that, the form known, the most pestiferous nature of the said monster may be more easily evitit. 1 For this monster being under coverture of a mans figure, may easilier endommage and worse be escapit than gif it were more deform and strange of face, behaviour, shape, and members. Praying the reader to pardon the feebleness of my weak spirit and engyne, 2 gif it can not expreme 3 perfectly ane strange creature, made by nature, other willing to show her great strength, or by some accident turnit by force from the common trade and course. This monster being engenderit under the figure of a man child, first had ane propriety of nature, flattering all mans ee and senses that beheld it, so that the common people was in gude hope of great virtues to prosper with the time in it; other farther seeing of great harms and damage to come to all that sould be familiarly acquaintit with it. This monster, promovit to sic maturity of age as it could easily flatter and imitate every mans countenance, speech, and fashions, and subtle to draw out the secrets of every mans mind, and depravat 4 the counsels to his awn proper gain, enterit in the court of Scotland, and having espyit out not only factions but singular persons, addressit the self in the beginning to James, after earl of Murray, and Gilbert then earl of Cassillis, men excellent in the time in all virtues pertaining to ane noble man, and special in love of the commonwealth of their country: and seeing that his nature could not bow to imitate in verity, but only to counterfeit fenzeitlie 5 the gudeness of thir two persons, nor yet change them to his nature, thocht expedient to lean to them for a time, and climb up by their branches to higher degree, as the woodbind climbeth on the oak, and syne with time destroys the tree that it was supported by.