OF THE MANERS OF THE SCOTS IN THESE DAIES,
AND THEIR COMPARISON WITH THE BEHAUIOUR OF THE OLD,
AND SUCH AS LIUED LONG SINCE WITHIN THIS ILAND.
[Extracted from Holinshed's Chronicles of
England, Scotland and Ireland, 1807, vol. 5, pp. 22-7.]
THE XIIJ. CHAPTER.
FORSOMUCH as diuers noble men haue desired me to shew apart the old maners of the Scots touched in my historie, to the end it may be knowne how far our nation in these present daies are different in their maners and behauiour from those of our forefathers, and herevnto although I assure my selfe alreadie that the reuealing of these things will procure vnto me the hatred of sundrie woorthie or renowmed personages (of which few will yeeld to heare their doings touched or their errours reproued) yet because I owe such duetie and seruice vnto those that haue made this request vnto me, and least I should seeme ingrate not to hearken vnto them in this behalfe; I haue condescended to the performance of their desires, and so much the rather, for that they alledge how it will be verie profitable vnto all the readers, but especiallie such as are not immoderatlie giuen ouer vnto their ownt affections, nor so wbolie drowned in their owne sensualitie and pleasures, but vpon consideration of wholesome admonition will be verie willing to leaue whatsoeuer offendeth in them.
First of all therefore, I will declare what vsages haue beene among our elders both in time of warre and peace, and by what wisedome and industrie they haue preuailed so long time against such and so manie mightie aduersaries, as first the Britains, then the Saxons, next of all the Danes which haue entered into this iland with huge armies to spoile and subdue the same. Furthermore, I will set downe with so much breuide as I can, how the falling by little and little from the frugalitie and customs of their forefathers, their vertue and force also began in like order to decaie. And finallie how in these daies either by the clemencie of our neighbours, or by their delicat negligence rather than by our owne prowesse, we liue insecuritie, and thereby as it were ouerwhelmed and wrapped vp in all avarice and excesse, whereinto our want of exercise and martiall prowesse dooth maruellouslie impell vs.
Certes I beleeue that by this meanes such as are of the more couragious sort (& yet reteining a sauour of the temperancie of their elders) will reioise to heare their manhood & great prowesse commended in this wise, as others of the contrarie sect (in seruile maner addicted to gather goods, and spend their times in idle excesse and riot) seeing their errors iustlie reprehended, and the dishonor gotten thereby openlie reuealed, will the rather addresse themselues to reformation of their estate, thereby to recouer the ancient renowme of their forefathers, in answering to their prowesse, than proue a reproch vnto their successours, through their lewd behauiours neuer to be forgiuen. This I protest before all men, that whatsoeuer I shall speake of the euill maners of our times, I doo not meane it vnto all, but those onlie whome blind selfe-loue, couetousnes, intemperancie, excesse and abuse of all Gods good gifts haue so touched, that they deserue much more to be reprehended than I will vouchsafe to auempt in this my lateward treatise. Therefore if anie man shall thinke himselfe to be rubbed on the gall by me, I counseil him that he conceale not his infirmitie, by seeking reuenge on other men, but rather indeuour to procure the remedie in first acknowledging his misdemeanois, which is the one and better halfe of his cure.
Our elders although they were right vertuous both in warre abroad, and at home in peace, were yet neuerthelesse in conuersation & behauiour verie temperat, which is the founteine & originall of all vertues. In sleepe they were competent, in meate and drinke sober, and contented [p. 23] tented with such food as was readie at hand and prepared with little cost. Their bread consisted of such stuff as grew most readilie on the ground, without all maner of sifting and bolting, whereby to please the palate; but baked vp as it came from the mill without anie such curiositie, which is a great abasing of the force thereof vnto our dailie nourishment. The flesh whereon they chiefelie fed, was either such as they got by hunting, wherein they tooke great delight, and which increased not a little their strength and nimblenesse, or else such tame cattell as they bred vp at home, whereof beefe was accompted the principall, as it is yet in our daies, though after an other maner and far discrepant from the vse and custome of other countries. The stirkes or yoong beefets vngelded, we either kill yoong for veale, or geld, to the end that they may serue afterward for tillage in earing vp of the ground, but the cowcalfes and heifers are neuer killed till they be with calfe, for then are they fattest and most delicious to the mouth. The common meat of our elders was fish, howbeit not onlie or somuch for the plentie thereof, as for that our lands laie often wast and vntilled, because of the great warres which they commonlie had in hand. They brake also their fast earlie in the morning with some slender repast, and so continued without anie other diet vntill supper time, in which they had but one dish, whereby it came to passe, that their stomachs were neuer ouercharged, nor their bones desirous of rest through the fulnesse of their bellies. At such time as they determined of set purpose to be merie, they vsed a kind of Aquauite void of all spice, and onelie consisting of such hearbs & roots as grew in their owne gardens, otherwise their common drinke was ale: but in time of warre, when they were inforced to lie in campe, they contented themselues with water as rediest for their tumes. Ech souldier also had so much meale as might serue him for a dale which he made vp in cakes, and baked on the coles, as the Romans sometimes vsed to doo, and the emperour Caracalla himselfe (as Herodian hath remembred.) Seldome did they eate anie flesh in their tents, except they got it from their aduersaries; such as they had likewise was eaten halfe raw, because they supposed the iuice thereof so vsed to nourish verie abundantlie. But fish was much more plentifull amongst them, especiallie when they wanted their vsuall preies, or could not atteine vnto them.
They brought furthermore from their houses to the field with them, a vessell of butter, cheese, meale, milke, and vineger tempered togither as a shoot-anchor against extreme hunger, on which they would feed and sucke out the moisture, when other prouision could not be gotten. In like maner, whensoeuer they had entred into league and amitie with their enimies, they would not liue in such securitie, that thereby they would suffer their bodies & forces to degenerat, but they did keepe themselues in their former actiuitie and nimblenesse of lims, either with continuall hunting (a game greatlie esteemed amongest our ancestors) or with running from the hilles vnto the vallies, or from the vallies vnto the hilles, or with wrestling, and such kinds of pastime whereby they were neuer idle. Their heads were alwaies shauen after the maner of the ancient Spaniards, with a little tuft of heare onelie left on their forparts, and neuer couered, except when they were troubled with sicknesse, by which means it came to passe, that few of our nation in old time was seene to be bald and hearelesse. They went also barefooted, or if they had anie shooes, they dipped them first in the water yer they did put them on, especiallie in winter when sharpest weather shewed it selfe, to the end that the soles of their feet (which were well hardned in summer with heat and in winter with cold) might be more strong and able to susteine great labor and dailie trauell.
Their apparrell was not made for brauerie and pompe, but as shuld seeme best to couer their bodies, and serue their appointed vses, their hosen were shapen also of linnen or woollen, which neuer came higher than their knees, their breeches were for the most part of hempe, clukes also they had for winter made of course wooll, but in the summer time they ware of the finest that could be gotten. They slept moreouer either vpon the bare floore or pallets of straw, teaching their children euen from their infancie to eschew ease, and practise the like hardnesse; and sith it was a cause of suspicion of the mothers fideltie toward hir husband, to seeke a strange nurse for hir children (although hir milke failed) each woman would take [p.24] intollerable paines to bring vp and nourish hir owne children. They thought them furthermore not to be kindlie fostered, except they were so well nourished after their births with the milke of their brests, as they were before they were borne with the bloud of their owne bellies, nay they feared least they should degenerat and grow out of kind, except they gaue them sucke themselues, and eschewed strange milke, therefore in labour and painfulnesse they were equall, & neither sex regarded the heat in summer or cold in winter, but trauelled barefooted, and in time of warres the men had their cariages and victuals trussed behind them on their horsses, or else vpon their owne shoulders without refusall of anie labour inioined vnto them by their capteins.
If it hapened them at anie time to be vanquished, they fled with such speed to the mounteins, that no horsse might ouertake them, and verie oft escaped. The violence that was doone to anie one of them, was reputed common to all, & such was their deadlie fude conceiued in these cases, that vntill they had requited the like with more extremitie, they would neuer be quiet nor let go their displeasure. The noblest and most couragious gentleman would soonest desire to be placed in the fore ward, where his vassalage or seruice & manhood should readilest be scene, and such was thefriendship of the nobilitie amongst themselues, that whilst they contended which of them should be most faithfull and friendlie to other, they would oft fall out, and quarell one with another. Sometimes it happened that their capteine was beset with extreme perill, or peraduenture some other of the nobilitie, in which cases they that were of his band would suddenlie rush in through the thickest of their enimies vnto him, and deliuer him, or else if they could not so doo, they would altogither lose their liues with him, thinking it a perpetuall note of reproch to ouerliue their leader.
The graues and sepulchers of our noble men had commonlie so manie obelisks and spires pitched about them, as the dcceassed had killed enimies before time in the field. If anie souldier had beene found in the field without his flint and tinder box, or had walked or gone vp and downe with his sword at his side, and not naked in his hand, for then vsed they light armour for the most part, he was terriblie scourged: but he that sold or morgaged his weapon, was forthwith cut from his companie, and banished as an exile; he that fled or went from the battell without leaue of his capteine, was slaine wheresoeuer he was met afterward, without anie iudgement or sentence, and all his goods confiscated to the prince. Their light armour in those daies consisted of the lance, the bowe, the long sword which hanged at the side of the owner, and thereto a buckler, but afterward heauier armour came into generall vsage.
In these daies also the women of our countrie were of no lesse courage than the men, for all stout maidens & wiues (if they were not with child) marched as well in the field as did the men, and so soone as the armie did set forward, they slue the first liuing creature that they found, in whose bloud they not onelie bathed their swords, but also tasted therof with their mouthes, with no lesse religion and assurance conceiued, than if they had alreadie beene sure of some notable and fortunate victorie. When they saw their owne bloud run from them in the fight, they waxed neuer a whit astonished with the matter, but rather doubling their courages, with more egernesse they assailed their enimies. This also is to be noted of them, that they neuer sought anie victorie by treason, falshood, or skight, as thinking it a great reproch to win the field any otherwise than by meere manhood, prowesse and plaine dealing.
When they went foorth vnto the wars, each one went with the king of his owne cost (except the hired souldior) which custome is yet in vse. If any were troubled with the falling euill, or leprosie, or fallen frantike, or otherwise was out of his wits, they were diligentlie sought out: and least those diseases should passe further by infectuous generation vnto their issue & posteritie, they gelded the men. But the women were secluded to some od place far off from the companie of men, where if she afterward happened to be gotten with child, both she and the infant were run through with the lance. Gluttons and rajieners, droonkards, and egregious deuourers of victuals were punished also by death, first [p.25] being permitted to deuoure so much as they listed, and then drowned in one fresh riuer or other.
Furthermore, as iustice in time of war was commonlie driuen to perke, so in daies of peace our cuntriemen that offended, were oft seuerelie punished and with inconuenient rigor. For they well considered that after their people should returne & come home againe from the warres, they would be giuen to so many enormities, that the same their excesse should hardlie be restreined but by extreame seueritie: such also was their nature, that so soone as they knew themselues guiltie of any offense committed against the estate or commonwealth, their first attempt was to set discord amongst the peeres and princes of the realme, neuerthelesse when they are gentlie intreated, and with courteous moderation, they are found to be verie tractable and pliant vnto reason: in priuate bargains & contracts they are so willing to giue euerie man his own, that they will yeeld the more. And so farre is it growne into a custome euen in these our daies, that except there be some surplusage aboue the bare couenant, they will breake off and not go forwards with the bargaine.
They vsed at the first the rites and maners of the Aegyptians from whence they came, and in all their priuate affaires they vsed not to write with common letters, as other nations did; but rather with ciphers and figures of creatures made in maner of letters, as their epitaphes vpon their toomes and sepulchers remaining amongst vs doo hitherto declare. Neuerthelesse in our times this hieroglyphicall maner of writing (I wot not by what meanes) is perished and lost, and yet they haue certeine letters proper vnto themselues, which were somtime in common vse: but among such as reteine the ancient speach, they haue their aspirations, dipthongs, and pronunciation better than any other. The common sort are not in vse withall, but onlie they which inhabit in the higher part of the countrie, and sith they haue their language more eloquent and apt than others, they are called poets; they make also poets with great solemnitie and honour, being borne out therein by the authoritie of the prince. Besides the skill also of many other arts and sciences, whose rules and methods are turned into the said language, are giuen by tradition from their elders, they cheeflie excell in physicke, wherein they go far beyond manie other, who learning of them the natures and qualities of such hearbs as grow in those quarters, doo heale all maner of diseases euen by their onelie application.
Certes there is no region in the whole world so barren & vnfruitfull, through distance from the sun, but by the prouidence of God all maner of necessaries for the sustentation of mankind dwelling there are to be had therein, if the inhabitants were such as had any skill how to vse the same in order. Neuerthelesse our elders, which dwelled continuallie vpon the marches of England, learned the Saxon toong through continuall trade of merchandize and hazard of the wars long since, whereby it came to passe that we neglected our owne language, & our owne maners, and thereto both our ancient order in writing and speaking is vtterlie left among vs, that inhabit neere vnto them; whereas contrariwise those that dwell in the mounteins reteine still their ancient speech and letters, and almost all their old rites, whervnto in time past their forefathers haue beene accustomed. One thing hereof also may euidentlie be seene (for an example) in their boats which they call carrocks, for being made of osiers and couered with bull hides, they vse to passe and repasse with them ouer their riuers and waters in catching of samons, and when they haue doone, they beare them on their backs vnto what place soeuer it pleaseth them.
But we will now leaue the maners of our ancient friends, and intreat of our later countriemen. In processe of time therefore, and cheeflie about the daies of Malcolme Cammor, our maners began greatlie to change and alter. For when our neighbors the Britons began, after they were subdued by the Romans, to wax idle and slouthfull, and therevpon driuen out of their countrie into Wales by their enimies the Saxons, we began to haue aliance (by proximitie of the Romans) with Englishmen, speciallie after the subuersion of the Picts, and through our dailie trades and conuersation with them, to learne also their maners, and therewithall their language, as I haue said alreadie. Heereby shortlie after it came also to [p.26] passe, that the temperance and vertue of our ancestors grew to be iudged worthie of small estimation amongst vs, notwithstanding that a certeine idle desire of our former renowme did still remeine within vs.
Furthermore as men not walking in the right path, we began to follow also the same shadow of the Germane honor and titles of nobilitie, and boasting of the same after the English maner, it fell out yer long, that wheras he in times past was accompted onlie honorable which excelled other men not in riches and possessions, but in prowesse and manhood, now he would be taken most glorious that went leaden with most titles, wherof it came to passe, that some were named dukes, some earles, some lords, some barons, in which vaine puffes they fixed all their felicitie. Before time the noble men of Scotland were of one condition, & called by the name of Thanes, so much in Latine as Quaestores regij, gatherers of the kings duties, in English: and this denomination was giuen vnto them after their desert and merit.
But how far we in these present daies are swarued from the vertues and temperance of our elders, I beleeue there is no man so eloquent, nor indued with such vtterance, as that he is able sufficientlie to expresse. For whereas they gaue their minds to dowghtinesse, we applie our selues to droonkennes: they had plentie with sufficiencie, we haue inordinate excesse with superfluitie: they were temperate, we effeminate: and so is the case now altered with vs, that he which can deuoure and drinke most, is the noblest man and most honest companion, and thereto hath no peere if fie can once find the veine, though with his great trauell to puruey himself of the plentifullest number of new fine and delicate dishes, and best prouoke his stomach to receiue the greatest quantitie of them, though he neuer make due digestion of it.
Being thus drowned in our delicate gluttonie, it is a world to see, how we stuffe our selues both dale and night, neuer ceasing to ingorge & powre in, till our bellies be so full that we must needs depart. Certes it is not supposed meet that we should now content our selues with breakefast and supper onelie, as our elders haue doone before vs, nor inough that we haue added our dinners vnto their aforsaid meales, but we must haue thereto our beuerages and reare suppers, so that small time is spared wherein to occupie our selues in any godlie exercise, sith almost the whole daie and night doo scarselie suffice for the filling of our panches. We haue also our merchants, whose charge is not to looke out, and bring home such things as necessarilie perteine to the maintenance of our lines, but vnto the furniture of our kitchen, and these search all the secret corners of our forrests for veneson, of the aire for foules, and of the sea for fish, for wine also they trauell not only into France, whose wines doo now grow into contempt, but also into Spaine, Italie and Greece: nay Affrike is not void of our factors, no nor Asia, and onelie for fine and delicate wines if they might be had for monie.
In like sort they gad ouer all the world for sweet and pleasant spices, and drugs (prouokers vnto all lust and licentiousnesse of behauiour) as men that aduenture their owne lines to bring home poison and destruction vnto their countriemen, as if the mind were not alreadie sufficientlie bereft of hir image of the diuinitie, but must yet more be clogged and ouerladen with such a franked case, therewithall to be extinguished outright, which alreadie dwelleth or is buried rather in such an vglie sepulchre. The bodie likewise being oppressed with such a heape of superfluous food, although otherwise it be indued with an excellent nature, cannot be able to execute his office, nor keepe him selfe vpright, but must needs yeeld as ouercome, and to be torne in peeces and rent with sundrie maladies.
Hereof also it commeth to passe, that our countrimen trauelling into the colder regions are now a daies contrarie to their former vsage taken sometime with feuers, whereby their inward parts doo burne and parch as it were with continuall fier, the onelie cause whereof we may ascribe vnto those hot spices and drugs which are brought vnto vs from the hot countries. Others of them are so swollen and growne full of humors, that they are often taken suddenlie, and die of vehement apoplexies, and although here and there one or two recouer for a little while, yet are they but dead people, reuiuing againe, leading the rest of their liues like shadows, and walking about as if they were buried alreadie.
Our youth also following these vnhappie steps of their
parents, giue themselues wholie to lust and licentiousnesse, hauing all vertue
and knowledge in contempt, and eschewing the same as a pestilence and subuersion
of their pleasures, wherevnto they applie themselues as vnto the most excellent
trade. But sithens they are now inured, and as it were haunted with these vices,
when time dooth come of seruice, and that our countrie shall stand in need of
manhood, these will become so effeminate, that they must now ride on horssebacke
as clad in heauie armor, for on foot they cannot go by reason of their fatnesse
which choketh vp their vitall forces, neither be able to performe anie thing at
all in comparison of the souereigne manhood and prowesse of their elders. So
soone also as they returne home, bicause their possessions are not otherwise
able to nourish them vp in pleasure and pampering of their mawes, they must fall
to couetous and greedie practises,
therby to inrich themselues, or else proue strong theeues, or finally sowers of
dissention and discord among the noble men, thereby to preie some commoditie.
Certes these and other vices following them necessarilie, proceed generallie from none other fountaine than voluptuous life and intemperancie, the which if we would refraine, there is no region vnder the sunne that would proue more wholsome, lesse subiect to pestilence, nor more commodious and profitable for the sustentation of hir people. Certes I despaire not of the redresse of these things, but still hope that in short time these corrupt maners of my countriemen will be turned into better frame. We are not yet become impudent, neither altogither haue cast off vnshamefastnesse, sith that in a great manie some remainder of our ancient sobernesse and manhood dooth yet appeare, and thereto newnesse of life with feruent deuotion increase euerie day, through the working of the zeale of our christian religion in vs.
This also will I adde, without offense vnto other nations, that there was neuer people more stedfast to my knowledge in the christian faith, nor more constant in their faithfull promises, than the Scots haue beene since their first beginning: and for a conclusion I will say more, not onelie for their praise, but also in exhorting them vnto perseuerance, that as our people now liuing doo passe their ancestors in sumptuous and curious attire, so they are more neat and fine in their houses, better giuen to learning, and much more magnificent in building and decking of their churches. God grant them also to returne to their former frugalitie, and that with speed. Amen.
¶ Hitherto haue I translated Hectors description of Scotland out of the Scotish into the English toong, being not a little aided therein by the Latine, from whence sometime the translator swarueth not a little, as I haue done also from him, now and then following the Latine, and now and then gathering such sense out of both, as most did stand with my purposed breuitie. Now will I set downe the description of an ancient Pict, as I haue gathered it out of Herodian and other, and then I will giue ouer not onelie to write more at this present, but for euer hereafter of anie historicall matters, sith I see that this honest kind of recreation is denied me, and all time spent about the same in these daies vtterly condemned, as vaine and sauouring of negligence, and heathenish impietie.