Quhen Alysander oure kyng wes dede

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This eight line verse is commonly said to be the oldest recorded text in the Scots language. It was written down by Andrew of Wyntoun (1350-1423) in his Original Chronicle [i.e. a chronicle starting with the origins of the world], and said by him to be a song composed in the previous [probably early fourteenth] century. It is a lament about the death of Alexander III, whose death in a fall from his horse left Scotland to a four-year-old grand-daughter, living in Norway. The subsequent turmoil and anarchy allowed Edward I of England to assert overlordship of Scotland, and thus caused the Scottish War of Independence.

Wemyss MS (earlier)
ll 3548-3555
Copttonian MS (later)
LL 3620-3628
Modern SE version
Sen Alexander our king wes deid, Qwhen Alexander our kynge was dede When Alexander our King was dead
That Scotland left in luf and le, Þat Scotland led in luve and le, That led Scotland in love and law
Away wes sons of aill and breid, Away was sons of alle and brede, There was no more abundance of ale and bread
Off wyne and walx, of gamyn and gle. Off wyne and wax, of gamyn and gle; Nor wine, nor wax; there was no more gaming and fun
The gold wes changeit all in leid, Our gold wes changit into lede, Our gold was turned into lead
The frute falÊ’eit on euerilk tre. Crist, borne in virgynyte, The fruit failed on every tree/Christ, born of a virgin
Ihesu, succour and send remeid, Succoure Scotlande, and ramede, Rescue, and give a remedy for, Scotland
That stad is in perplexite. Þat is stade in perplexite. That is beset with trouble


Andrew of Wyntoun (c.1350–c.1420), The Orygynale Cronykil, vol. 1, bk. 7, ch. 10, l.
Ed. F.J. Amours [1841-1910], The Scottish Text Society, Edinburgh & London. Vol. I 1914 (posthumous; completed J.T.T Brown & G. Neilson); II 1903; III 1904; IV 1906; V 1907; VI 1908