by William Dunbar (1465 - 1520?)
Translation © by Iain Sneddon

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.

Authorship

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

About a black woman
Language: English  after the Scottish (Scots) 
Long have I written about ladies white,
Now of one black I will indict
That landed forth from the recent ships;
How happily I would describe as perfect
My lady with the large lips.

How she is large mouthed like an ape
And like a toad unto gape,
And how her short cat-like nose turns up
And how she shines like any soap -
My lady with the large lips.

When she is clad in rich apparel,
She gleams as bright as a tar barrel.
When she was born the sun suffered an eclipse,
The night is perhaps fought in her quarrel – 
My lady with the large lips.

Whoever for her sake with spear and shield
Proves most mightily in the tournament,
Shall kiss and go with her hand in hand,
And from that time her love shall carry – 
My lady with the large lips.

And whoever in the tournament receives shame
And loses their knightly name,
Shall come behind and kiss her hips
And never claim other comfort:
My lady with the large lips.

Authorship

  • Translation from Scottish (Scots) to English copyright © 2018 by Iain Sneddon, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.
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Based on

 

This text was added to the website: 2018-11-27
Line count: 25
Word count: 177