Background on Against Dundas

Connected Background




Introduction and Background to

The poem Against Dundas consists of 63 Skeltonic verse lines, and occurs in Marshe’s 1568 Workes.

Skelton’s subject of ridicule is once more a Scotsman, presumed to be George Dundas, knight of Rhodes who was involved in tribulations with James V’s secretary. These incidents were indirectly linking to a dispute in which James V and Henry VIII were involved (Scattergood 429-30). On this basis, Scattergood suggests the poem was written around 1515.

In his explanatory notes on the poem, Scattergood analyses the origin of the ‘tailed Englishman’ imagery, which is a recurrent trope in medieval satirical texts. It appears in The Golden Legend, but most likely came to Skelton through the chronicles of Langtoft or Fabyan. Moreover, the default stereotype of the ‘rough-footed’ Scot is both present in these chronicles and Skelton’s poem. The short lines of Against Dundas convey a song-like quality, similar to the popular mocking songs which were supposed to be sung during Anglo-Scottish battles and recorded in the aforementioned chronicles. Skelton’s use of popular song is also visible in Epitaphe, which features the sailor’s refrain ‘Hey, howe, rumbelowe’ (l. 80), also present in Fabyan’s Brut.