Although Walter Kennedy [note] is now chiefly known to the
readers of Scottish poetry, as a rival in Flyting to Dunbar, he appears, in his time, to have
possessed a much more respectable poetical reputation. He speaks of himself as “Of
Rethory the Rose,” and as one who has
| ———ambulate on Parnasso the mountain, |
Inspyrit with Hermes frae his golden sphere;
And dulcely drank of eloquence the fountain,
Quhen puriflet with frost, and flowand cleir.
But independently of his own authority, which may reasonably be supposed
to be tinctured with some portion of vanity, we find him mentioned by both Douglas and
Lindsay, as one of the most eminent of their contemporaries.
Douglas even ranks him before Dunbar
in his Court of the Muses, styling him,
“The Greit Kennedie.” His works, however, have unfortunately all
perished, except the Flyting with Dunbar, and two short pieces, the one entitled, an Invective against Mouth-Thankless, contained in the Evergreen; [note] and the other, Prais of Age, published by lord Hailes. [note]
From the Flyting, we learn, that he was a native of the district of Carrick, and belonged to the
ecclesiastical order. Dunbar upbraids him with living by
theft and beggary; but Kennedy replies,
that he wants not “land, store, and stakkis,” “steids and
cakes,” of his own. He boasts also of the favour of royalty, and even of some
affinity to it.
|20||LIVES OF EMINENT SCOTSMEN.|
| I am the king's blude, his trew and special clerk, |
That never yit imaginit his offence;
Constant in mine allegiance, word, and wark,
Only dependand on his excellence,
Trusting to have of his magnificence
Guerdon, reward and benefice bedene.
The Flyting is altogether a miserable exhibition of rival malice, and does as little credit to the
moral sense, as to the poetical taste of the combatants. It is due, however, to Kennedy, to mention, that the attack did not commence with him; and
that as far as it is worth glancing at a comparison, he appears to have had the best of the
conflict. Dr. Irving [note] remarks, that “in the
Testament of Kennedy,
Dunbar has consecrated this apparently dissolute priest to
perpetual ridicule.” This may be true of the Kennedy
referred to in the Testament; but Dr. I. seems to be in a
mistake, in supposing him to be the same person with the hero of the Flyting.
The priest satirized in the Testament is a “Master Andro Kennedie;”
but the Christian name of the poet was Walter.
Lord Hailes thinks it probable, that this fierce altercation between
the two poets may have been merely a play of fancy, without any real quarrel existing between the
parties. Had it served to show off their talents to mutual advantage, I should have been inclined
to suppose so too; but it is incredible, that
any two individuals should concert to calumniate each other so grossly
as Dunbar and Kennedy have done in the
Flyting, for any entertainment which the exposure might be
supposed to give to the public. 6
It is gratifying to find, that Dunbar, who
survived Kennedy, survived also whatever resentment he entertained
toward him. In his Lament for the Death of the poets,
he thus laments the approaching loss of his old antagonist, who appears, at the time that poem was
written, to have been on his death-bed.
| And Mr. Walter Kennedy
In point of death lies wearily,
Grit rewth it wer that so should be,
Timor mortis conturbat me.
The Invective against Mouth-thankless is beneath criticism; it is not very intelligible, and, in as far as it is so, is indecent.
The Prais of Age is the only production by Kennedy extant, which is of a nature to account for the
estimation in which he was anciently held. “This poem,” says Lord Hailes, whose opinion I gladly adopt, “gives a
favorable idea of Kennedy as a versifier. His lines are more
polished than those of his contemporaries. If he is the person against whom Dunbar directed his Invective, he has met with hard