Lament for the Makaris

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I that in Heill wes and Gladnes, also known as The Lament for the Makaris, is a poem in the form of a danse macabre by the Scottish poet William Dunbar. Every fourth line remorselessly repeats the Latin refrain timor mortis conturbat me (fear of death disturbs me) a litanic phrase from the Office of the Dead.

The poem is important for the list of makars it contains, some of whom we know of only from their citation in this work. It thus stands in part as a poetic testimony to the general phenomenon of loss in literature. But more than simply of interest as a historical record, the poem is an effective and moving work of personal meditation with a highly compressed emotionally stark expression.

The makars listed are chiefly, but not exclusively, Scottish and cited as having died by the time of composition with the two exceptions of possibly Patrick Johnston and certainly Walter Kennedy. Most of the names can be traced to either the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries. From internal evidence the lament is thought to have been composed c.1505.

List of names in the Lament[edit]

In order and form of citation, the makars (poets) that Dunbar mourns in The Lament are:


On to the ded gois all estatis,
Princis, prelotis, and potestatis,
Baith riche and pur of al degre;
   Timor mortis conturbat me.

He takis the knychtis in to feild,
Anarmit under helme and scheild;
Victour he is at all mellie;
   Timor mortis conturbat me.[4]

(Lament for the Makaris, Lines 17-24)


  1. ^ a b c Tasioulas, J.A. The Makars Canongate 1999, p.788-9.
  2. ^ Priscilla Bawcutt
  3. ^ Lament for the Makaris See notes section.
  4. ^ "RPO -- William Dunbar : Lament For The Makers". Retrieved 2014-01-27. 

See also[edit]