Friday, 30 November 2012

'Without gladness avails no treasure'

I came across this William Dunbar poem the other day when I was researching 'Illuminare Jerusalem', and St Andrew's Day seems as good a time as any to post some excellent Scottish verse...


Be mery, man, and tak nocht fer in mynd
The wavering of this wrechit vale of sorrow.
To God be hummle and to thi frend be kyind,
And with thi nichtbour glaidlie len and borow -
His chance this nycht, it may be thine tomorow.
Be mery, man, for any aventure,
For be wismen it has bene said afforow:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.

Mak gude cheir of it God thee sendis,
For warldis wrak but weilfar nocht avalis;
Nothing is thine sauf onlie that thow spendis -
The ramanent of all thow brukis with balis.
Seik to solace quhen saidnes thee assalis;
Thy lyfe in dolour ma nocht lang indure,
Quharfor of confurt set up all thi salis:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.

Follow pece, flie trubill and debait,
With famous folkis hald thi cumpany.
Be cheritable and hummle of estait,
For warldis honour lestis bot ane cry.
For truble in erd tak no malancholy.
Be rich in patiens, gife thoue in gudis be pur.
Quha levis mery, he levis michtely:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresur.

Thow seis the wrechis set with sorow and care
To gaddir gudis all thar liffis spaice;
And quhen thar baggis ar full thar self ar bar
And of thar riches bot the keping hes,
Quhill uthiris cum to spend it that hes grace,
Quhilk of the wynning no labour hed na cur.
Tak thow example and spend with mirrines:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.

Thocht all the wrak that evir hed levand wicht
War onlie thine, no mor thi part dois fall
Bot met and clacht, and of the laif ane sicht,
Yet to the Juge thow sall mak compt of all.
Ane raknyng richt cummis of ane ragment small;
Be just and joyus and do to none injur,
And treuth sall mak thee strang as ony wall:
Without glaidnes avalis no tresure.


I hesitate to translate Scots verse into English because people get offended by that kind of thing - but since I do translate (medieval) English into (modern) English here on a regular basis, I hope no one will take this amiss:

Be merry, man, and take not far in mind
The wavering of this wretched vale of sorrow.
To God be humble and to thy friend be kind,
And with thy neighbour gladly lend and borrow -
His state this night, it may be thine tomorrow.
Be merry, man, for any aventure, [whatever chance may come]
For by wise men it has been said ere now:
Without gladness avails no treasure.

Make good cheer of such as God thee send,
For worldly wealth without joy naught avails;
Nothing is thine, save only what thou spend -
The remnant of all thou enjoy with troubles.
Seek for solace when sadness thee assails;
Thy life in sorrow cannot long endure,
Therefore of comfort set up all thy sails:
Without gladness avails no treasure.

Follow peace, fly trouble and debate,
With decent folks keep thy company.
Be charitable and humble of estate,
For the world’s honour lasts but a cry.
For trouble on earth take no melancholy;
Be rich in patience, if thou in goods be poor.
Who lives merrily, lives mightily:
Without gladness avails no treasure.

Thou seest wretches work with sorrow and care
To gather goods, all their life’s space;
And when their bags are full, their selves are bare
And of their riches but the keeping have,
While others come to spend it, who have the grace,
Who of the winning no labour had nor care.
Take thou example, and spend with merriness:
Without gladness avails no treasure.

Though all the goods that ever had living wight [creature]
Were thine alone, nothing to thy share does fall
But meat and clothes - and of the rest a sight.
Yet to the Judge thou shalt make account of all;
A reckoning right comes of an inventory small.
Be just and joyous and do to none injury,
And truth shall make thee strong as any wall:
Without gladness avails no treasure.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

How could possibly anyone be angry for translating with whom so generously shares her learning ?

Clerk of Oxford said...

Well, I was partly joking - but the Scots are rightly very proud of their medieval poets, Dunbar especially, and they don't always like to see them appropriated by us English encroachers :D

Heliopause said...

What a wonderful poem!! The refrain is brilliant and totally true.

and again, thanks for sharing -- I am so glad of and benefit so much from your generosity!

John Simlett said...

I think the third stanza is a formula for a happy existence!

I am three-quarters through the Wells Cathedral drawing, and just coming to the (your) stained glass window (Kings). The whole thing has proven to be quite a challenge... thankfully!