The Testament of Cresseid and Seven Fables

Colin Burrow writes:

Robert Henryson is the most likeable late medieval author after Chaucer. He wrote with a directness, a lightly carried learning and a lack of sentimentality hard to match anywhere in the British Isles at any date. A late and sadly unreliable anecdote conveys something of his style. Francis Kynaston reported in the early 17th century that when Henryson was dying of diarrhoea (probably around 1500) a cunning woman told him to go and circle a rowan tree chanting ‘whikey tree, whikey tree, take away this flux from me.’ Henryson is reported to have complained that it was too cold for a dying man to go frolicking around outside and suggested instead that he dance round the table in his room singing ‘oaken board, oaken board, gar me shit a hard turd.’ It is said that he died 15 minutes later.

(LRB 8 October 2009)

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