Robert Henryson : a critical and biographical study
Robert Henryson, 1425-1500 approximately, was a lecturer in law at Glasgow University and subsequently a notary public and schoolmaster in Dunfermline, where he died around the turn of the century. Far from being the stern schoolmaster so often depicted by his critics, Henryson shows himself to be a warm, deeply passionate man concerned with the many problems of his time. His poems reflect his involvement with the conditions of the common folk of Scotland. In particular his fables show his bitter and heart-felt criticism of life. The Testament of Cresseid is a tribute to his 'greit humanitie' for in his depiction of the tragedy of Cresseid, his anger and questioning of God's justice is made manifest. Orpheus reflects his concern for the human tragedy of man, tied to his appetites, and forever seeking harmony between' those desires and reason. His short poems continue the themes expressed in the longer works. Together they form a distinctive criticism of life and reveal that, in Robert Henryson, Scotland has a poet of the highest order, one whose union of concern for his neighbour with great poetic skill ensures his position as one of the great makars.