Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
Extracts from The Dance of the Sevin Deidly Synnis
By William Dunbar (1460?–1520?)
OF Februar the fyiftene nycht,
Full lang befoir the dayis lycht,
    I lay in till a trance;
And than I saw baith Hevin and Hell:
Me thocht, amangis the feyndis fell,        5
    Mahoun gart cry ane Dance
Off Schrewis 1 that were nevir schrevin,
Aganis the feist of Fasternis evin 2
    To mak thair observance;
  He bad gallandis ga graith a gyiss 3        10
And kast up gamountis 4 in the Skyiss
    As varlotis dois in France.
*        *        *        *        *
Heilie Harlottis on hawtane wyiss
Come in with mony sindrie gyiss,
    Bot yit luche 5 nevir Mahoun,        15
Quhill 6 preistis come in with bair schevin nekkis,
Than all the Feyndis lewche, and made gekkis, 7
    Blak-belly and Bawsy-Broun.
*        *        *        *        *
Lat sé, quoth he, now quha begynnis,
With that the fowll Sevin Deidly synnis        20
    Begowth to leip at anis.
And first of all in Dance was Pryd,
With hair wyld bak, and bonet on syd,
    Lyk to mak vaistie 8 wanis; 9
And round abowt him, as a quheill,        25
Hang all in rumpillis to the heill
    His kethat 10 for the nanis:
Mony prowd trumpour with him trippit
Throw skaldand 11 fyre, ay as thay skippit
    Thay gyrnd with hyddous granis. 12        30
Than Yre come in with sturt and stryfe;
His hand wes ay upoun his knyfe,
    He brandeist lyk a beir:
Bostaris, braggaris, and barganeris,
Eftir him passit in to pairis,        35
    All bodin 13 in feir of weir
In jakkis, and scryppis and bonettis of steill
Thair leggis wer chenyeit to the heill,
    Frawart was their affeir:
Sum upoun uder with brandis beft, 14        40
Sum jagit uthers to the heft
    With knyvis that scherp cowd scheir.
Nixt in the Dance followite Invy,
Fild full of feid 15 and fellony,
    Hid malyce and dispyte.        45
For pryvie hatrent that tratour trymlit;
Him followit mony freik 16 dissymlit
    With fenyeit wordis quhyte:
And flattereris in to menis facis;
And bak-byttaris in secreit placis,        50
    To ley that had delyte;
And rownaris 17 of false lesingis,
Allace! that courtis of noble kingis
    Of thame can nevir be quyte.
Nixt him in Dans come Cuvatyce        55
Rute of all evill, and grund of vyce,
  That nevir cowd be content:
Catyvis, wrechis, and ockeraris, 18
Hud-pykis, 19 hurdaris, 20 and gadderaris, 21
  All with that warlo went:        60
Out of thair throttis thay schot on udder
Hett moltin gold, me thocht, a fudder 22
  As fyre-flawcht 23 maist fervent;
Ay as thay tumit 24 them of schot,
Feyndis fild thame new up to the thrott        65
  With gold of allkin 25 prent.
Syne Sweirnes, 26 at the secound bidding,
Come lyk a sow out of a midding,
Full slepy wes his grunyie, 27
Mony sweir bumbard belly huddroun, 28        70
Mony slute daw, 29 and slepy duddroun, 30
  Him servit ay with sounyie. 31
He drew thame furth in till a chenyie
And Belliall with a brydill renyie
  Evir lascht thame on the lunyie: 32        75
In Dans thay war so slaw of feit,
Thay gaif thame in the fyre a heit,
  And made them quicker of counyie. 33
Than Lichery, that lathly corse,
Came berand 34 lyk a bagit horse,        80
  And Ydilness did him leid;
Thair wes with him ane ugly sort,
And mony stynkand fowll tramort 35
  That had in syn bene deid:
Quhen they were enterit in the Dance,        85
Thay wer full strenge of countenance,
  Lyke tortchis byrnand reid,
*        *        *        *        *
Than the fowll monstir Gluttony
Of wame unsasiable and gredy,
  To Dance he did him dress:        90
Him followit mony fowll drunckart,
With can and collep, 36 cop and quart,
  In surffet and excess;
Full mony a waistless wally-drag, 37
With wamis unweildable, did furth wag,        95
  In creische 38 that did incress:
Drynk! ay thay cryit with many a gaip,
The Feyndis gaif thame hait leid to laip 39
  Thair leveray 40 wes na less.
*        *        *        *        *
Na menstrallis playit to thame but dowt,        100
For gle-men thair wer haldin owt,
  Be day, and eik by nycht:
Except a menstrall that slew a man,
Swa till his heretage he wan,
  And enterit by breif of richt.        105
Than cryd Mahoun for a Heleand Padyane: 41
Syne ran a Feynd to feche Makfadyane,
  Far northwart in a nuke;
Be he the Correnoch had done schout,
Ersche 42 men so gadderit him abowt,        110
  In Hell grit rowme thay tuke;
Thae tarmegantis, with tag and tatter,
Full lowd in Ersche begowth to clatter
  And rowp lyk revin and ruke. 43
The Devill sa devt 44 wes with thair yell,        115
That in the depest pot of hell,
  He smorit 45 thame with smuke.
Note 1. Outcasts. [back]
Note 2. Fasterns Evening, the eve of Lent. [back]
Note 3. prepare a guise or mask. [back]
Note 4. gambols. [back]
Note 5. laughed. [back]
Note 6. till. [back]
Note 7. mocks. [back]
Note 8. waste. [back]
Note 9. abodes. [back]
Note 10. robe. [back]
Note 11. northern participial form. [back]
Note 12. They grinned with hideous groans. [back]
Note 13. arrayed. [back]
Note 14. struck. [back]
Note 15. feud. [back]
Note 16. petulant fellow. [back]
Note 17. whisperers. [back]
Note 18. usurers. [back]
Note 19. misers. [back]
Note 20. hoarders. [back]
Note 21. gatherers. [back]
Note 22. load, properly of 128 lbs. weight. [back]
Note 23. wild-fire. [back]
Note 24. emptied. [back]
Note 25. of all kinds. [back]
Note 26. sloth. [back]
Note 27. grunt. [back]
Note 28. heavy tun-bellied sloven. [back]
Note 29. slothful wench. [back]
Note 30. slut. [back]
Note 31. care. [back]
Note 32. loins. [back]
Note 33. apprehension. [back]
Note 34. snorting. [back]
Note 35. corpse. [back]
Note 36. drinking cups. [back]
Note 37. outcast. [back]
Note 38. grease. [back]
Note 39. hot lead to lap. [back]
Note 40. reward. [back]
Note 41. Highland pageant. [back]
Note 42. Irish. [back]
Note 43. croak like raven and rook. [back]
Note 44. deafened. [back]
Note 45. smothered. [back]

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