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Makar

Makar

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A makar is a term from Scottish literature
Scottish literature
Scottish literature is literature written in Scotland or by Scottish writers. It includes literature written in English, Scottish Gaelic, Scots, Brythonic, French, Latin and any other language in which a piece of literature was ever written within the boundaries of modern Scotland.The earliest...

 for a poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 or bard
Bard
In medieval Gaelic and British culture a bard was a professional poet, employed by a patron, such as a monarch or nobleman, to commemorate the patron's ancestors and to praise the patron's own activities.Originally a specific class of poet, contrasting with another class known as fili in Ireland...

, often thought of as royal court
Noble court
The court of a monarch, or at some periods an important nobleman, is a term for the extended household and all those who regularly attended on the ruler or central figure...

 poet, although the term can be more generally applied. The word functions in a manner similar to the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 term (poiētēs) which means both maker and poet. It especially highlights the role of the poet as someone skilled in the crafting or making of controlled, formal poetry with intricate or involved diction
Diction
Diction , in its original, primary meaning, refers to the writer's or the speaker's distinctive vocabulary choices and style of expression in a poem or story...

 and effects. The term is normally applied to poets writing in Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

 although it need not be exclusive to Scottish writers. William Dunbar
William Dunbar
William Dunbar was a Scottish poet. He was probably a native of East Lothian, as assumed from a satirical reference in the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie , where, too, it is hinted that he was a member of the noble house of Dunbar....

 for instance referred to the English poets Chaucer, Lydgate
John Lydgate
John Lydgate of Bury was a monk and poet, born in Lidgate, Suffolk, England.Lydgate is at once a greater and a lesser poet than John Gower. He is a greater poet because of his greater range and force; he has a much more powerful machine at his command. The sheer bulk of Lydgate's poetic output is...

 and Gower
John Gower
John Gower was an English poet, a contemporary of William Langland and a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer. He is remembered primarily for three major works, the Mirroir de l'Omme, Vox Clamantis, and Confessio Amantis, three long poems written in French, Latin, and English respectively, which...

 as makars.

In literary history, the term The Makars is specifically used to refer to a number of poets of fifteenth and sixteenth century Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, in particular Robert Henryson
Robert Henryson
Robert Henryson was a poet who flourished in Scotland in the period c. 1460–1500. Counted among the Scots makars, he lived in the royal burgh of Dunfermline and is a distinctive voice in the Northern Renaissance at a time when the culture was on a cusp between medieval and renaissance sensibilities...

, William Dunbar
William Dunbar
William Dunbar was a Scottish poet. He was probably a native of East Lothian, as assumed from a satirical reference in the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie , where, too, it is hinted that he was a member of the noble house of Dunbar....

 and Gavin Douglas
Gavin Douglas
Gavin Douglas was a Scottish bishop, makar and translator. Although he had an important political career, it is for his poetry that he is now chiefly remembered. His principal pioneering achievement was the Eneados, a full and faithful vernacular translation of the Aeneid of Virgil and the first...

, who wrote a diverse genre
Literary genre
A literary genre is a category of literary composition. Genres may be determined by literary technique, tone, content, or even length. Genre should not be confused with age category, by which literature may be classified as either adult, young-adult, or children's. They also must not be confused...

 of works in Middle Scots
Middle Scots
Middle Scots was the Anglic language of Lowland Scotland in the period from 1450 to 1700. By the end of the 13th century its phonology, orthography, accidence, syntax and vocabulary had diverged markedly from Early Scots, which was virtually indistinguishable from early Northumbrian Middle English...

 in the period of the northern renaissance
Northern Renaissance
The Northern Renaissance is the term used to describe the Renaissance in northern Europe, or more broadly in Europe outside Italy. Before 1450 Italian Renaissance humanism had little influence outside Italy. From the late 15th century the ideas spread around Europe...

, a time of transition between medieval and renaissance sensibilities in the kingdom. Qualities in verse especially prized by many of these writers included the combination of skilful artifice with natural diction, concision and "quickness" of expression. One word that expresses these qualities in combination is the Scots term glegness. Some of the Makars, such as Dunbar, also featured an increasing incorporation of Latinate terms into Scots prosody, or aureation
Aureation
Aureation is a device in arts of rhetoric that involves the "gilding" of diction in one language by the introduction of terms from another, typically a classical language considered to be more prestigious. It can be seen as analogous to gothic schools of ornamentation in carving, painting or...

, heightening the creative tensions between the ornate and the natural in poetic diction
Poetic diction
Poetic diction is the term used to refer to the linguistic style, the vocabulary, and the metaphors used in the writing of poetry. In the Western tradition, all these elements were thought of as properly different in poetry and prose up to the time of the Romantic revolution, when William...

.

The Middle Scots plural is makaris.

The Makars


The work of the Makar of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries was in part marked out by an adoption in vernacular
Vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

 languages of the new and greater variety in metrics
Scansion
Scansion is the act of determining and graphically representing the metrical character of a line of verse.-Overview:Systems of scansion, and the assumptions that underlie them, are so numerous and contradictory that it is often difficult to tell whether differences in scansion indicate opposed...

 and prosody current across Europe after the influence of such figures as Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 and Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

 and similar to the route which Chaucer followed in England. Their work is usually distinguished from the work of earlier Scottish writers such as Barbour and Wyntoun who wrote romance
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

 and chronicle
Chronicle
Generally a chronicle is a historical account of facts and events ranged in chronological order, as in a time line. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the...

 verse in octosyllabic couplets and it also perhaps marked something of a departure from the medieval alliterative or troubador traditions; but one characteristic of poetry by the Makars is that features from all of these various traditions, such as strong alliteration and swift narration, continued to be a distinctive influence.

The first of the Makars proper in this sense, although perhaps the least Scots due to his education predominantly in captivity at the English court in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, is generally taken to be James I
James I of Scotland
James I, King of Scots , was the son of Robert III and Annabella Drummond. He was probably born in late July 1394 in Dunfermline as youngest of three sons...

 (1394–1437) the likely author of the Kingis Quair. Apart from other principal figures already named, writing by makars such as Richard Holland
Richard Holland
Richard Holland or Richard de Holande , Scottish writer, author of the Buke of the Howlat, was secretary or chaplain to Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray and rector of Halkirk, near Thurso....

, Blind Hary and Walter Kennedy
Walter Kennedy
Walter Kennedy was a Scottish makar associated with the renaissance court of James IV. He is perhaps best known as the defendant against William Dunbar in The Flyting of Dumbar and Kennedie, but his surviving works clearly show him to have been an accomplished "master" in many genres...

 also survives along with evidence that suggests the existence of a substantial body of lost work. The quality of extant work generally, both minor and major, demonstrates a thriving poetic tradition in Scotland throughout the period. Henryson, who is generally seen today as one of the foremost makars, is not known to have been a court poet, but the Royal Palace of Dunfermline
Dunfermline
Dunfermline is a town and former Royal Burgh in Fife, Scotland, on high ground from the northern shore of the Firth of Forth. According to a 2008 estimate, Dunfermline has a population of 46,430, making it the second-biggest settlement in Fife. Part of the town's name comes from the Gaelic word...

, the city in which he was based, was one of the residences of the Stewart
House of Stuart
The House of Stuart is a European royal house. Founded by Robert II of Scotland, the Stewarts first became monarchs of the Kingdom of Scotland during the late 14th century, and subsequently held the position of the Kings of Great Britain and Ireland...

 court.

A high point in cultural patronage was the Renaissance Court of James IV
James IV of Scotland
James IV was King of Scots from 11 June 1488 to his death. He is generally regarded as the most successful of the Stewart monarchs of Scotland, but his reign ended with the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Flodden Field, where he became the last monarch from not only Scotland, but also from all...

 (1488–1513) now principally associated in literary terms with William Dunbar
William Dunbar
William Dunbar was a Scottish poet. He was probably a native of East Lothian, as assumed from a satirical reference in the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie , where, too, it is hinted that he was a member of the noble house of Dunbar....

. The pinnacle in writing from this time was in fact Douglas's Eneados
Eneados
The Eneados is a Middle Scots translation of Virgil's Aeneid, completed by Gavin Douglas in 1513. It is the first complete translation of any major work of classical antiquity into an Anglic language...

(1513), the first full and faithful translation of an important work of classical antiquity into any Anglic language. Douglas is one of the first authors to explicitly identify his language as Scottis
Middle Scots
Middle Scots was the Anglic language of Lowland Scotland in the period from 1450 to 1700. By the end of the 13th century its phonology, orthography, accidence, syntax and vocabulary had diverged markedly from Early Scots, which was virtually indistinguishable from early Northumbrian Middle English...

. This was also the period when use of Scots in poetry was at its most richly and successfully aureate
Aureation
Aureation is a device in arts of rhetoric that involves the "gilding" of diction in one language by the introduction of terms from another, typically a classical language considered to be more prestigious. It can be seen as analogous to gothic schools of ornamentation in carving, painting or...

. Dunbar's Lament for the Makaris
Lament for the Makaris
I that in Heill wes and Gladnes, also known as The Lament for the Makaris, is a poem in the form of a danse macabre by the Scottish poet William Dunbar...

(c.1505) contains a leet of makars, not exclusively Scottish, some of whom are now only known through his mention, further indicative of the wider extent to the tradition.

The new plane of achievement set by Douglas in epic
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

 and translation
Translation
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...

 was not followed up in the subsequent century, but later makars, such as David Lyndsay
David Lyndsay
Sir David Lyndsay of the Mount, was a Scottish Lord Lyon and poet of the 16th century, whose works reflect the spirit of the Renaissance.-Biography:...

, still drew strongly on the work of fifteenth and early sixteenth century exponents. This influence can be traced right through to Alexander Scott and the various members of the Castalian Band
Castalian Band
The Castalian Band was a group of Scottish Jacobean poets, or makars, which flourished between the 1580s and early 1590s in the court of James VI and was consciously modelled on the French example of the Pléiade. Its name is derived from the classical term Castalian Spring, a symbol for poetic...

 in the Scottish court of James VI
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 (1567–1603) which included Alexander Montgomerie
Alexander Montgomerie
Alexander Montgomerie , Scottish Jacobean courtier and poet, or makar, born in Ayrshire. He was one of the principal members of the Castalian Band, a circle of poets in the court of James VI in the 1580s which included the king himself. Montgomerie was for a time in favour as one of the king's...

 and, once again, the king himself. The king composed a treatise, the Reulis and Cautelis (1584), which proposed a formalisation of Scottish prosody and consciously strove to identify what was distinctive in the Scots tradition. The removal of the Court to London under James after 1603 is usually regarded as marking the eclipse of the distinctively Scottish tradition of poetry initiated by the Makars, but figures such as William Drummond
William Drummond of Hawthornden
William Drummond , called "of Hawthornden", was a Scottish poet.-Life:Drummond was born at Hawthornden Castle, Midlothian. His father, John Drummond, was the first laird of Hawthornden; and his mother was Susannah Fowler, sister of William Fowler, poet and courtier...

 might loosely be seen as forming a continuation into the seventeenth century.

The Makars have often been referred to by literary critics as Scots Chaucerians although the term is not helpful. Chaucer was certainly an important influence, but the makars drew strongly on a native tradition predating Chaucer, exemplified by Barbour, as well as the courtly literature of France.

In the more general application of the term which is current today the word can be applied to poets of the Scots revival in the eighteenth century, such as Allan Ramsay
Allan Ramsay (poet)
Allan Ramsay was a Scottish poet , playwright, publisher, librarian and wig-maker.-Life and career:...

 and Robert Fergusson
Robert Fergusson
Robert Fergusson was a Scottish poet. After formal education at the University of St Andrews, Fergusson followed an essentially bohemian life course in Edinburgh, the city of his birth, then at the height of intellectual and cultural ferment as part of the Scottish enlightenment...

.

Modern usage


In 2002 the City of Edinburgh
Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

, Scotland's capital, instituted a post of makar, known as the Edinburgh Makar. Each term lasts for three years and the first two incumbents were Stewart Conn
Stewart Conn
Stewart Conn is a Scottish poet and playwright, born in Hillhead, Glasgow . His father was a minister Kelvinside Church but the family moved to Kilmarnock, Ayrshire in 1941 when he was five. During the 60s and 70s he worked for the BBC at their offices off Queen Margaret Drive and moved to...

 (2002) and Valerie Gillies (2005). The current incumbent (starting June 2008) is Ron Butlin.

Other cities to create Makar posts include Glasgow
Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 (Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead is a Scottish poet and dramatist, originally from Newarthill in North Lanarkshire.-Background:After attending Glasgow School of Art, Lochhead lectured in fine art for eight years before becoming a professional writer....

), Stirling
Stirling
Stirling is a city and former ancient burgh in Scotland, and is at the heart of the wider Stirling council area. The city is clustered around a large fortress and medieval old-town beside the River Forth...

 (Magi Gibson) and Aberdeen
Aberdeen
Aberdeen is Scotland's third most populous city, one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas and the United Kingdom's 25th most populous city, with an official population estimate of ....

 (Sheena Blackhall
Sheena Blackhall
Sheena Blackhall is a poet, novelist, short story writer, illustrator, traditional story teller and singer.Author of 76 poetry pamphlets, 12 short story collections, 4 novels and 2 televised plays for children, The Nicht Bus and The Broken Hert...

).

A position of national laureate
Poet Laureate
A poet laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for state occasions and other government events...

, entitled The Scots Makar, was established in 2004 by the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

. The first appointment was made directly by the Parliament in that year when Edwin Morgan received the honour to become Scotland's first ever official national poet. He was succeeded in 2011 by Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead
Liz Lochhead is a Scottish poet and dramatist, originally from Newarthill in North Lanarkshire.-Background:After attending Glasgow School of Art, Lochhead lectured in fine art for eight years before becoming a professional writer....

.

In recent times, other examples of poets that have seemed to particularly exemplify the traditions of the makars have included Robert Garioch
Robert Garioch
Robert Garioch Sutherland, , was a Scottish poet and translator. His poetry was written almost exclusively in the Scots language, he was a key member in the literary revival of the language in the mid-20th century...

, Sydney Goodsir Smith
Sydney Goodsir Smith
Sydney Goodsir Smith was a Scottish poet, artist, dramatist and novelist. He wrote poetry in literary Scots often referred to as Lallans, and was a major figure of the Scottish Renaissance....

, George Campbell Hay
George Campbell Hay
George Campbell Hay was a Scottish poet and translator, who wrote in Scottish Gaelic, Lowland Scots and English. He used the patronymic Deòrsa Mac Iain Dheòrsa. He also wrote poetry in French, Italian and Norwegian, and translated poetry from many languages into Gaelic.-Life:He was born in...

 and Norman MacCaig
Norman MacCaig
Norman MacCaig was a Scottish poet. His poetry, in modern English, is known for its humour, simplicity of language and great popularity.-Life:...

 among many others.

Other uses

  • Makar is the name of a fictional character in the video game "The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker", see The Wind Waker characters.

External links