Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/81

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SIR DAVID LINDSAY. 451


" Dream" and the " Complaynt," both productions of great merit ; but it was to his talent for satire, a quality which he had not yet exhibited, that he was chiefly indebted for the singular degree of popularity which he afterwards ac- quired. Of the felicity and 'point with which he could exercise this dangerous gift, the following curious instance is related by Dr Irving in his Life of the poet : " The king being one day surrounded by a numerous train of nobility and prelates, Lindsay approached him with due reverence, and began to prefer an humble petition that he would install him in an office which was then vacant ' I have,' said he, ' servit your grace lang, and luik to be rewardit as others are, and now your maister taylor, at the pleasure of God is departit, wherefore I wald desire of your Grace to bestow this little benefite upon me.' The king replied, that he was amazed at such a request from a man who could neither shape nor sew. ' Sir,' rejoined the poet, ' thnt maks nae matter, for you have given bishopricks and benefices to mony standing here about you, and yet they can nouther teach nor preach, and why not I as weill be your taylor, though I can nouther shape nor sew, seeing teaching and preaching are nae less requisite to their vocation than shaping and sewing to ane taylor.' The effect of this well managed jeu d 1 esprit upon the bystanders, many of whom came within its range, may be readily conceived. Whatever might be their feelings on the subject, James himself enjoyed it greatly, and found much amusement in contem- plating the angry looks which it occasioned."

This and other witticisms at the expense of the clergy, are supposed by Lindsay's biographers to have been the principal cause of that want of promo- tion of which he so frequently complains ; but this seems doubtful. James him. self had but little reverence for the clergy, and it is not therefore likely that he would be displeased with Lindsay for entertaining similar sentiments. Of the king's opinion of the holy men of his time his answer to a deputation of them which waited upon him with a list of protestant peers and chiefs, whom they desired might be brought to punishment, is sufficiently indicative. " Pack, ye jugglers," said he, " get ye to your charges and reform your own lives ; be not instruments of discord between my nobility and me ; or I vow to God I shall re- form you, not as the king of Denmark by imprisonment, nor as he of England by hanging and beheading, but yet by most severe punishments, if ever such mo- tion proceed from you again." It is not, therefore, easy to say, considering the intimate, nay familiar footing on which Lindsay stood with the king, what were the causes that afforded him grounds for his frequent complaints, if indeed, he had any at all that were reasonable, a point by no means made evident. W hatever might be the emoluments arising from his services, they were now oc- casionally of a sufficiently dignified and important nature. In 1531, he was despatched on an embassy to Antwerp to renew an ancient commercial treaty with the Netherlands, and in 1548, he was sent to the court of Denmark to solicit ships to protect the Scottish coast against the English, and to negotiate a free trade in grain for the Scottish merchants.

Besides being a man of genius, Lindsay was also a man of great practical good sense, if the latter be not indeed a necessary attribute of the former, and this enabled him to see in a peculiarly strong and clear light the errors and absurdities, if not inherent in, at least which had been then engrafted on, the church of Home, and against these he directed the whole force of his satirical powers, and with an effect which rendered him at once extremely formidable to the clergy, and singularly popular with the great bulk of the people.

Of his talent for ridicule the following exquisitely humorous specimen of his manner of dealing with the impositions of the Romish church will give a correct idea. It is the speech of a pardoner of one who dealt in miracles and traded