Biography

Robert Henryson (c. 1425 - 1490) : lived in the second half of the 15th century and is said to have taught at the Grammar School connected to the Benedictine Abbey at Dunfermline. Though there is no record of Henryson obtaining a university degree, he was an educated man. In 1462 a “master Robert Henryson” was incorporated into Glasgow University as a bachelor in canon law; it seems possible that this was the poet, though it could also have been the notary of the same name who worked in Dunfermline in 1478. There is an allusion in William Dunbar’s The Lament for the Makars which tells us that Henryson must have died before 1505.

Even though several short poems have been attributed to Henryson, he is more of a narrative poet. His masterpiece, The Testament of Cresseid, was prompted by a reading of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde, but it is an original piece in its own right.

His most important other work is a collection of thirteen fables, usually entitled The Morall Fabillis of Esope the Phrygian, party drawn from Aesop, partly from a medieval cycle. One famous example is the fable of “The Two Mice”. Henryson used the fables’ traditional didactic function for religious, political, and social commentary with wit and word play. Largely forgotten for centuries, Henryson’s work has been much appreciated again in the 20th century.