Roull’s Town?

1280px-Ravelston_Garden.JPG
Posh flats in Ravelston, more from the era of Hercule Poirot than Roull of Corstorphine

I have written previously about the mediaeval poet Roull of Corstorphine here.

He is best known to most people, if at all from William Dunbar’s Lament for the Makars (c. 1500):

“He hes tane Roull of Abirdene,
And gentill Roull of Corstorphine;
Two bettir fallowis did no man ſé:
Timor Mortis conturbat me”

Ravelston = Roull’s Town?

The Roull family’s links were not just to Corstorphine but to Cramond. But Ravelston named after the Roulls? I’ll put this one down to a mere phonetic similarity, but it is tempting, very tempting.

The surname Ralston, currently borne by a BBC weather presenter, appears to come from a place near Paisley not Ravelston.

The Cursing

We may have at least one piece by Roull of Corstorphine; this is known as The Cursing and it is attributed to one Sir John Roull. The Cursing is directed at some poultry thieves, and falls under the genre of flyting (no pun intended). According to Janet Hadley Williams in her paper Humorous Poetry in Late Medieval Scots and Latin (c. 1450-1550), published in the European Journal of Humour Research (1(1) 61- 66):

With all the power of the ecclesiastical authorities behind him, Roull denounces the sinners, revealing the terrible sin they have committed, the stealing of five fat geese, ‘With caponis, henis and othir fowlis’. The bathetic revelation provides a humorous aspect to the threats, reducing the speaker’s authority; nonetheless the poem is an uncomfortably dark attack, closely parodying the real-life prose excommunication in the structure of the curse, the specialized language (the many references, for instance, to horrific diseases), and in the terrors of its imagery of hell’s serpents, adders, and devils with whips and clubs

Picture credits

  • The image was taken from Wikipedia, and is the work of Jonathan Oldenbuck. Permission is granted under the GNU Free Documentation licence.
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