Hay, Gilbert (DNB00)

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HAY, Sir GILBERT (fl. 1456), Scottish poet and translator, was in all likelihood of the noted family of Hays of Errol, hereditary constables of Scotland. He was probably the son of Sir William Hay of Locharret, and he may be the Gylbertus Hay mentioned among the Determinants or Bachelors of Arts in 1418 and the Masters of Arts in 1419 of St. Andrews University. Following a custom of the cadets in his time, Hay soon after this date went to France, where the influence of the Dauphiness Margaret, daughter of James I of Scotland, may have helped him to the position of chamberlain to Charles VII. He returned to Scotland soon after Margaret's death in 1445. It is not certain when he became a knight, but in introducing in 1456 his version of Bonnet's ‘Buke of Battailes,’ he calls himself ‘Gilbert of the Haye Knycht, Maister in Arte, and Bachilere in Decreis, Chaumerlayn vmquhile to the maist worthy King Charles of Fraunce.’

After his return to Scotland, Hay resided with the Earl of Caithness, at whose suggestion he translated from French the prose works that bear his name. He may have been related to the Caithness family by marriage. He was a witness to the testament of Alexander de Sutherland of Durnbethe, ‘made at Roslin, 14 Nov. 1456.’ The testator leaves Sir Gilbert the Haye his ‘sylar colar,’ with the injunction to say ten Psalters for his soul. (Genealogie of the Sainteclaires of Rosslyn, pp. 91–8.)

Hay's prose works were found in manuscript in the library of Sir Walter Scott after his death, and were edited by David Laing for the Abbotsford Club (1847). There are three treatises in all: 1. The monk Bonnet's ‘Buke of Battailes.’ 2. The anonymous ‘Le Livre de l'Ordre de Chevalerie,’ which Caxton also translated. Hay entitles his version ‘The Buke of the Order of Knyghthood.’ 3. ‘The Buke of the Governaunce of Princes,’ a translation of the spurious Aristotelian ‘Secretum Secretorum.’ These were all translated into expressive characteristic Scotch, and Laing prints the second in full, with illustrative specimens of the others. Hay's poetic work is a translation from the French into upwards of twenty thousand Scottish verses of ‘The Buke of the Conqueror Alexaunder the Great.’ The work is only extant in a manuscript at Taymouth Castle, which seems to have been written in 1493, after the translator's death. It has never been printed in full, but copious extracts were printed for the Bannatyne Club in 1834.

Hay's vigorous command of his native tongue insured him a measure of importance, and his ‘Buke of King Alexaunder’ has sufficiently distinctive merits to warrant allusion to the writer by Dunbar in his ‘Lament for the Makaris’ (before 1508) and by Sir David Lyndsay in the prologue to his ‘Papyngo.’

[Mackenzie's Lives and Characters of the most Eminent Writers of the Scots Nation, vol. iii.; Abbotsford Club and Bannatyne Club books, as above; Michel's Les Écossais en France, vol. i.]

T. B.