by William Dunbar (1465 - 1520?)

Lang heff I maed of ladyes quhytt
Language: Scottish (Scots) 
Available translation(s): ENG
Lang heff I maed of ladyes quhytt,
Nou of an blak I will indytt
  That landet furth of the last schippis;
Quhou fain wald I descryve perfytt
  My ladye with the mekle lippis:

Quhou schou is tute mowitt lyk an aep
And lyk a gangarall onto graip,
  And quhou hir schort catt nois up skippis,
And quhou schou schynes lyk ony saep:
  My ladye with the mekle lippis.

Quhen schou is claid in reche apparrall
Schou blinkis als brycht as ane tar barrell.
  Quhen schou was born the son tholit clippis,
The nycht be fain faucht in hir querrell:
  My ladye with the mekle lippis.

Quhai for hir saek with speir and scheld
Preiffis maest mychtellye in the feld,
  Sall kis and withe hir go in grippis,
And fra thyne furth hir luff sall weld:
  My ladye with the mekle lippis.

And quhai in fedle receaves schaem
And tynis thair his knychtlie naem,
  Sall cum behind and kis hir hippis
And nevir to uther confort claem:
  My ladye with the mekle lippis.

F. Scott sets stanzas 1-4

About the headline (FAQ)

Confirmed with William Dunbar - Poems, edited by James Kinsley, Oxford University Press 1958, page 20.

Modernized version (used by Scott):
Lang hae I made o’ ladies white.
Now of ane black I will indite,
That landit furth o’ the last ships.
Wha fain wad I descrive perfite,
My Ladie wi’ the meikle lips.

How she is tute-mowt like an ape
And like a gangrel unto gape;
And how her short cat nose up-skips;
And how she shines like ony saip:
My Ladie wi’ the meikle lips.

When she is clad in rich appar’l
She blinks as bricht as ane tar-barrel:
When she was born the sun tholt ‘clipse,
The nicht fain faucht in her quarrel:
My Ladie wi’ the meikle lips.

Wha for her sake, wi’ spear and shield
Proves maist michtlie in the field,
Shall kiss, and wi’ her go in grips;
And thence furth her love shall wield:
My Ladie wi’ the meikle lips.


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ENG English (Iain Sneddon) , "About a black woman", copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Iain Sneddon [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2018-11-27
Line count: 25
Word count: 172