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Montgomerie, Alexander

MONTGOMERIE, ALEXANDER (c. isso-c. 1610), Scottish poet, was the second son of Hugh Montgomerie of Hessilhead, Ayrshire, and was born about the middle of the 16th century. 1 He spent some part of his youth in Argyleshire and afterwards lived for a time at Compston Castle, in Galloway. He was in the service of the regent Morton; thereafter, on the regent's demission of office in 1578, in that of the king, James VI. In 1583 the grant by the Crown of a pension of 500 marks was confirmed; and three years later he set out on a tour through France, Flanders and other countries. He appears to have got into trouble, to have been imprisoned abroad, and to have lost favour at the Scottish court, and (for a time) his pension. We have no record of his closing years.

Montgomerie's chief poem is the Cherry and the Slae, first printed in 1597 (two impressions). It was frequently reprinted in the 17th and 18th centuries, and appeared twice in Latin guise in 1631, in Dempster's Cerasum et syhestre prunum, opus poematicum. It is included in the collected edition of Montgomerie's Poems, by David Irving (1821), and by James Cranstoun, for the Scottish Text Society (1887). The text in the latter is a composite of 930 lines from the second impression of 1597 (u.s.) and 666 lines from the version in Allan Ramsay's (q.v.) Ever Green (1724); but a better text, from a MS. in the Laing collection in the university of Edinburgh, has been prepared (1907) for the Scottish Text Society by Mr George Stevenson. The poem, written in the complicated alliterative fourteen-lined stanza, is a confused allegory the confusion 'Alexander's brother, Robert Montgomerie (d. 1609), was made bishop or archbishop, of Glasgow, in 1581, an appointment which was strongly objected to by the General Assembly. The long struggle which ensued was only terminated by Montgomerie's resignation of the see in 1587.

being due to the fact that sections of the poem were written at different times on Youth's choice between a richly laden cherry-tree on a high crag and a sloe " bush " at his feet. His other poems are: The Flyting betwixt Montgomery and Polwart (1629; 1st ed., 1621), which reproduces the literary habit of the Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedie; a series of 70 sonnets; a large number of miscellaneous poems, amatory and devotional; and The Mindes Melodie, Contayning certayne Psalmes of the Kinglie Prophete Dayvid, applyed to a new pleasant tune (Edinburgh, 1605). The formal value of Montgomerie's verse was fittingly acknowledged by James VI. in his early critical essay A ne Schorl Treatise conteining some reulis and caulelis to be obseriiil and eschewit in Scotlis Poesie, where the author makes three quotations from Montgomerie's poems, then in circulation in manuscript. Montgomerie had written a sonnet to his majesty, which is prefixed to the Essayes of a Prentise.

Montgomerie stands apart from the courtier-poets Ayton, Stirling, and others, who write in the literary English of the South. He carries on the Middle Scots tradition, and was not without influence in the vernacular revival, in Allan Ramsay and his successors. (G. G. S.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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