A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Dunbar, William

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Dunbar, William (1465?-1530?). -- Poet, is believed to have been b. in Lothian, and ed. at St. Andrews, and in his earlier days he was a Franciscan friar. Thereafter he appears to have been employed by James IV. in some Court and political matters. His chief poems are The Thrissil and the Rois (The Thistle and the Rose) (1503), The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins, a powerful satire, The Golden Targe, an allegory, and The Lament for the Makaris (poets) (c. 1507). In all these there is a vein of true poetry. In his allegorical poems he follows Chaucer in his setting, and is thus more or less imitative and conventional: in his satirical pieces, and in the Lament, he takes a bolder flight and shows his native power. His comic poems are somewhat gross. The date and circumstances of his death are uncertain, some holding that he fell at Flodden, others that he was alive so late as 1530. Other works are The Merle and The Nightingale, and the Flyting (scolding) of Dunbar and Kennedy. Mr. Gosse calls D. "the largest figure in English literature between Chaucer and Spenser." He has bright strength, swiftness, humour, and pathos, and his descriptive touch is vivid and full of colour.