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■• *.

J- V-' X

:>i O

I H 1



William Dixon, Efq;

HILE at your * Loverfal, fccure retreat.
Far from the vain, the bufy, and the great.
You pafs your peaceful hours in rural eafe,
Pleas'd with amufements that the wife may pleafe ;
Conduft clear currents thro' the vale below,
Bid buildings rife, and future navies grow -,
Or, by the facred thirft of learning led,
Converfe familiar with th* Illustrious Dc ad,

* The Scat of Mr. Dixon near Dofjcajkr.





Worthies of old, who life by arts refin'd.
Taught wholefome laws, and humaniz'd mankind :
Can Dixon lillen to this flowery lay,
Where fplend id Douglas paints the blooming May ?
If aught thefe lines thy candid ear engage,
The mufe Ihall learn to moralize the page.
To give to merit the reward that's due.
And place the interefls of mankind in view.
Form tender minds by virtue's better lore,
And teach old infidels to doubt no more.
To tliee this verfe belongs j and may it prove
An earnePc of my gratitude and love.


( ^ )



HE following poem of G aw in
Douglas is prefixed to the
Xllth book of his tranflation of
V I R G I l's ^ N E I s, and entitled, Anefingular
krnit Prolong of the Difcription of May 3 and
is now publifh'd, as a proof, that the mufes
had viiited Great Britain, and the flowers of
poetry began to be in bloom 250 years ago.
It may alfo ferve as an inftance, that the
Lowland Scotch language, and the Englirti, at
that time were nearly the fame. Chaucer
' and Douglas may be look'd upon as the
two bright flars that illumin'd England and

B 2 Scotland,


Scotland, after a dark interval of dulnefs, a
long night of ignorance and fuperftition, and
foretold the return of day, and the revival of

This Defcription of May is extremely pic-
turefque and elegant, and efteemed by gen-
tlemen, whofe good tafle and learning are
indifputable, to be one of the moft fplendid
defcriptions of that month that has appeared
in print J which is all the apology I {hall
make for having given it an Englifh drefs.

The old Scotch is printed exadly after the
Edinburgh edition, vi^hich was publilhed in the
year 17 lo.


vu )




Gawin Douelas.

Aw IN Douglas, Bi/bop of Dun-
keld, was nobly defcended^ being ci
fon of the iilnjlrioiis fa??nly of An-
gus. His father was Archibald, the
fixth Earl of Angus : He married Elizabeth,
daughter to Robert Boyd, (who was Chancellor
and one of the Governors of the Kingdofn of
Scotland, A, D. 1468.) by whom he had ijue


( viii )

fair fo7iSy George, William, Gavvin, and Ay-
chibald. 'The two eldej}^ ivith 200 Gentlemen
cf the name of Douglas, were killed in the
battle of Flodden.

Ou7' Author was born the latter End of the
year 1474, or the beginning of 1475. Great
care was taken of his education^ and he was
ea?'ly infinite d in the liberal Avis and Sci-
ences. When he had complcated his ft u dies in
his even country ^ he went abroad, that he might
farther improve himfelf by converfation with
great a?jd learned men, and obfervations en
the laws and ciijloms cf other coimtries. Upon
his return to Scotland, he was advanced to be
provo/l of the collegiate church of St. Giles in
Edinburgh, and reul-or of Heriot chirch, fome
Jew miles diftant from it. In this ft at ion he
continued fever al years, bebaring himfelf as be-
came his holy character, noble birth ^ and liberal
education. After the battle of Flodden many
■ecclcfiaflical dignities became vacant , among
which was the abbacy of Aberbrutliock, o?ie of


(ix 3

the mojl confJerahJe in the kmgdom. ^he ^een
Mother^ who was then Regent, and JJjortly af-
ter married to the Earl oj Angus, our Author's
nephew, prefented him to it ; and foo?i after to
the Archbijhoprick of St. Andrews. But he
met with fo great oppojition in this affair, that
?ieither the Royal authority, nor the influence
of his noble relations, nor his own unexception"
able merits, were able to procure him peace -
able pofefjion : For Andrew Forman (Bijhop
of Murray, cind Archbifiop of Bourges /;/
France) by the inter eft he had i?i the Court
of Rome, and the Duke of Albany, obtaified a
bull from the Pope for that dignity^ and was
accordingly acknowledged as Archbifoop by ??joft
cf the Clergy of the See. Mr, Douglas, re-
feeling on the fcandals which arofe from fuch
unworthy contefts, and preferrifig the ho?iour of
a Chriftian, and peaceable dlfpofition to his tem-
poral intereft and greatnefs, wholly laid afide
his preteffons to that See. Bui the Bifoprick
of'Dvinkd(\becGj?jirtg^cacant, ;>/ January 15 15,
the S^ieen advanced him to it ; and afterwards,


by the inter ccfjlon of lienry VITI. King of
England, obtained a bull in his favour from
Pope Leo X. Notwithjiandiyrg his right was
founded on the Royal and Papal authority j yet
he could not obtain confecration for a conf-
derable timey becaufe of a powerjul competitor ;
for Andrew Stewart, Prebendary i?/' Craig, and
brother to the Earl 0/ A thole, had got himfelf
nofninated Bijlocp by fuch of the Chapter as
*were prefent ; and his title was fupported by
all the enemies cj the ^een and her Hujhand
the Earl of Angus, particularly the Duke of
Albany, who returning to Scotland in May
J515, ivds declared Regent. In the firft fef-
jion of Parliament after the Governors ar-
rivals iVfr. Doug] as was accufed, on fome ground-
lefs pretext or ether, of aSllug contrary to the
laws cf the nation, was pronounced guilty y and
committed to the cajlle of St. Andrews, and
imprifond upwards of a year, till the Governor
was reccnciled to the ^een and the Earl of
Angus : Then he was fit at liberty y received
info the favour oj the Regent^ and confe crated



JBifiop at Glafgow. Notwithjianding^ his trcu-
blcs ivere ?iot yet at an end, for his old anta-
gonijl, Andrew Stewart, had pojfcfs'd himfelf
of the palace of Dunkeli, and feemed refohed
to defend it agai?iji the Bifiop by fofxe of
arms : However , at laji it was yielded tip,
without any bloodjhed *, which was very ac~
ccptable to the good Bifiop, who was of a
gentle and merciful difpofition, a?id always re-
gulated himfelf bj the excellent laws of the
Chrijlian religion,

Seing at loft put in peaceable pojfe^ion of
his office^ he refohed to give himfelf wholly to
the faithful difcharge of his duty : but the
interejl of his country would ?20t permit him
long to fatisfy his own inclinations, jor he was
pitched upon to attend the Duke of Albany
into France, to renew the antient league bc^
tween the two nations : however he foon retur?ied
to Edinburgii, with a joyful account oj the
confirmatim of the league \ afi-d tj^efice repaired

G t»

( xii )

to^ his dkccft\ and. applied limfelf to the duties
of his fimBion,

But fever al jwhappy divifions being fcon af-
ter fomented in Scotland, and the Bifop of
Dankeld perceiving the violent avcrfion 'which
the court had conceived againf the family of
Angus, and the danger he ivas cxpyofed to on
that account J refohcd to retire into England
-till the form ivas bloivn over. 'This happened
at a time when the King of England had jufl
declared ivar again/i the Scots j which gave
his enemies at home, who were the prevailing
party at court, an opportunity to endeavour his
ruin. A proclamation was foon iffued out a-
gaiift him, he was declared an e?iemy to his
country, the revenues of his bifioprick were fe-
quefierd, and all correfpondencc with him was

Soon qfter his coming to London, i& pleafed
God to put an end to the perfccutions of his


enemies, by taking him to himfelf. Mojl au-
thors agree that he died of the plague, which
then raged in the City, in April 1522, about' •
the forty-eighth year oj his age. He was bti- '
ried in the Hofpital- church of the Savoy, on^
the left fide of the tombflone of Thomas Hal-.-
fay, BiJJjGp 6/"Leighlin in Ireland. In Weever'i
ancient momnnents we find this infcription for'^
them both. Hie jacet Tho. Halfay Leighlinen.
EpifcopuSj in Bafilica St. Petri Romae nationis
Anglicorum Poenitentiarius, fumma: probitatis
vir, qui hoc folum pofl fe reliquit ; Vixit,
dum vixit, bene. Cui. lasvus. conditur, Gawi-
nus. Douglas, Scotus. Dunkelden. Prajful,
Patria. fua. exul. 1522.

Such was the fate of this great genius and

good man 3 for whofe Elogy, as a Poet, I

fhall refer the reader to his works, which are

very eloquent in his praife ; and out of feve-

ral teflimonies of eminent men that might be

produced in his favour, fliall only tranfcribe

this palTage from Hume's Hiflory of the Doug-

Ja/JeSy p. 220.

C 2 G.

( XIV )

" G. Douglafs left behind him great appro^
bation of his vertues, and love of his perfon,
in the hearts of all good men j for befides
thq nobility of his birth, the dignity and
comellnefs of his perfonage, he was learned,
temperate, and of lingular moderation of mind j
and in thofe turbulent times had always car-
ried himfclf among the factions of the No-
bility equally, and with a mind to mak: peace,
and not to ftir up parties. "

His chief works are, his tranflation of
Virgil's Mneis, the Falice of Honour a Poem,
AiirecB narrationes, Cotnoedia aliquot facra, ^
de rehus Scoticis Liber,






His lingular lernit




I ONE A, nycht hird, and wache of day.
The fternes chafit of the heuin away.
Dame Cynthia doun rolling in the feye,
And Venus loift the bewte of hir eye,
Fleand efchamet within Cyllenius caue, §

Mars umbedrew from all his grundin glaue,






Bifhop of D U N K E L D.

VENUS, bright beam of night, and watch of

Had chas'd the lingering ftars of HeaY*n away,

Driv'n to the deep pale Cynthia from the fky.

And loft herfelf the beauty of her eye ;

With Mercury fhe fought the fecret fliade, '5

And Mars withdrew, for sU his burning blade ;


4 A Difcription of May*

Nor frawart Saturne from his mortall fpere

Durfl langare in the firmament appere,

Bot flal abak zound in his regioun far,

Behynd the circulate warld of Jupiter ; 10

Nydimene afFrayit of the licht

Went under couert, for gone was the nycht j

As frefche Aurora, to mychty Tithone fpous,

Ifchit of her fafferon bed and euyr hous.

In crammefy clede and granit violate, 15

With fanguyne cape, and feluage purpurate,

Unfchet the wyndois of hir large hall,

Spred all with rofis, and full of balme riall.

And eik the heuinly portis crillaiiyne

Upwarpis brade, the warldc till illumyne; 2©

The twynkling ftremouris of the orient

Sched pourpour fprayngis with gold and ailire ment,

Perfand the fabil barmkin no6lurnall,

Bet down the flcyes cloudy mantil wall;

Eous the ftede, with ruby ham my s rede, 25

Abufe the feyis liftis furth his hede,


A Defcription of May. 5

Nor gloomy Saturn, rolling in his fphere,
Durft longer in the firmament appear,
But vanilh'd far from ken of mortals, far
Beyond great Jupiter's imperial ftar. tO

The fcreech owl, fbartled at the dawning light,
Wing'd to her bow'r her folitary flight :
For freili Aurora, Tithon's fplendid fpoufe,
Rofe from her faffron bed, and left her ivory houfe;
Her vi'let robe was ftain'd with crimfon hue, 15
The cape vermilion, and the border bluej
Her hands the Vv'indov/s of her hall unbarr'd^
Spread all with rofes, and perfum'd with nard •:
The cryftal gates of Heav'n expanded wide
Pour'd flreams of fplendor in an ample tide : 20
The beaming Orient, beauteous to behold,
Shed purple rays, and azure mlx'd with gold,
Difperfing with all-penetrating light
The folid gloom of cloud-envelop'd night.
The Sun's gaycourfcrs, in their harnefs red, 25

Above the billowy ocean's boundlefs bed

D Rais'd

! .

6 A Difcription of May.

Of culloure fore, and fume dele broune as bery.

For to alichtin and glad our emyfpery.

The flambe out braflin at the neifs thirlis.

So hCi * Phaeton v/ith the quhip him quhirlis, 30

To roll Apollo his faderis goldin chare.

That fchroudith all the heuynnys and the are ;

Quhii fchortlie with the blefand torche of day,

Abulzeit in his lemand frefche array,

Furth of his palice riall ifchit Phebus, ^§

With goldin croun and vifage glorius,

Crifp harls, bricht as chriiTolite or thopas.

For quhais hew mycht nane behald his face.

The fyrie fparkis brafting from his ene.

To purge the are, and gilt the tendir grenc, 40

Defoundand from his fege etheriall

Glade influent afpcdis celicall,

Before his regal hie magnificence

Myfty vapoure vpfpringand fwete as fence,

* This confuilon of Phcebus and Phaeton is an error
which feveral old Engiifh writers have fallen into.


A Defcription of May. 7

Rais*d high their heads, impetuous in career.
To give the light, and glad our hemifphere.
So faft they fcour'd, that from their noftrils came
A cloud of fmoke, and flreams of living flame, 30
Fir'd by the whirling v/hip their round to run.
And roll the golden chariot of the fun.
While fhortly with the blazing torch of day
Forth from his royal hall in frefh array
Sprung Phoebus, by his flaming mantle known, 35
His glorious vifage, and his golden crown ;
His gloflTy locks were as the topaz bright.
His radiance beam'd intolerable light ;
His eye-balls fparkled with celeflial flieen.
To purge the air, and gild the tender green, 40
Diffiifing from the brightnefs of his brow,
Etherial mildncfs on the world below.
Before the king of day thin vapours rofe.
Like clouds of incenfe, and as fweet as thofe,

D 2 (The

8 A Difcription of May.

In fmoky foppis of donk dewis wak, 45

With hailfum flouis ouerheiland the flak.

The auriate phanis of his trone fouerane

With gUtterand glance ouerfpred the odiane.

The large fiudis lemand all of licht,

Bot with ane blenk of his fupernale ficht j 50

For to behald it was ane glore to fe.

The ftabyllyt wyndys, and the calmyt fe.

The foft feiloLin, the Hrmament ferene.

The loune illuminate are, and firth amene.

The fikier fcaht fyfchis on the grete, ^s

Ouer thowrt clere ftremes fprinkilland for the hete.

With fynnys fchinand broun as fynopare.

And chefal tahs, flourand here and thare -,

The new cullour alichting all the landis

Forgane the flanryis fchcne, and bcrial ftrandis : 60

Quhil the reflex of the diurnal bemes

The bene bonkis kefl: full of variant glemes :

And lufl:y Flora did hir bionics fprede

Under the fete of Phebus fulzeart flede :


A Defcription of May. 9

(The dewy tribute which the meads exhale) 45

Curling they rofe, and hover'd o'er the vale.
The golden fplendor of his glorious beams
Glanc'd on the floods, and glitter'd in the ftreams.
And all the ocean flione ferenely bright,
With the firft glimpfe of his fupernal fight. 50
How calm ! how Hill ! how pleafing to behold
The fea's broad bofom where no billows roll'd !
The feafon foft, the firmament ferene,
Th' illumin'd landfcape, and the watry fcene !
Where fportive fifh difplay'd their filver pride, 55
Quick- glancing on the furface of the tide.
By rulTet fins impell'd from fhore to fhore,
Their tail the rudder, and their fin the oar.
New luftre gilded all the rifing lands.
The ftony hillocks, and the beryl flrands •, 60

While the refieflion of the glowing beams
Play'd on the banks in variegated gleams.
Where-e'er Apollo's radiant courfers went.

Sprung flov/ers unnumber'd of delicious fcent •,


lo A Difcription of May.

The fvfarclk foyll enbrode with felkouth hewls, 6^
Wod and foreft obumbrate v/ith the bewis,
Quhais biysful branchis porturate on the ground
With fchaddois fchene fchew rochis rubicund,
Towris, turettis, kirnalis, and pynnakilHs hie
Ofkirkis, caftellis, and ilk faire ciete, 70

Stude payntit, euery fane, phioll and flage
Apoun the plane ground, by their awin umbrage :
Of Eokis north blaftis hauand na drede.
The fulze fpred hir brade bofum on brede,
Zephyrus confortabill infpiratioun 75

For tyll reffaue law in hir barne adoun :
The corn is croppis, and the bere new brerde
Wyth gladefum garmont reuefting the erd ;
So thyk the plantis fprang in euery pete.
The feildis ferlyis of their f ructuous flete : 80

Byfly dame Geres, and proude Priapus
Reiofing of the planis plentuous,
Plennyfl fo plefand, and maill propirly
By nature nurifiit wounder tendirly,


A Defcription of May. h

Earth's flourifh'd carpet various hues difplay'd, 65
And wood and foreft wore a fuller Ihade,
Whofe beauteous branches, chequer'd on the green,
Imbrown'd the rigid rocks that rofe between :
Tow'rs, battlements, and caftles huge and high.
Turrets, and fpires that mingle with the iky, *jm
And every dome, and pinnacle, and fane,
By their own fhade flood figured on the plain.
The glebe, now fearlefs of the North's keen aii-.
To the foft Zephyrs fpread her bofom bare.
With genial warmth her fertile lap to chear, 71

And fill her with the plenty of the year.
Frefli fpringing corn enliven'd all the fcene,
And cloath'd the country with a robe of green i
And plants fo numerous open'd to the view.
The fields rejoicing wonder'd how they grew. 80
With joy the goddefs of the golden grain.
And proud Priapus ey'd the pregnant plain ;
Where fruitful nature wak'd her genial power.
And rear*d, and fofter'd every herb and flower :


12 A Difcription of Mav.

On the fertyl fkyrt lappis of the ground 9^

Strekand on brede under the cyrkil round :
* The varyant vefture of the venuft vale
Schrowdis the fchcrand fur, and euery fale
Ouerfrett with fulzeis, and fyguris ful dyuers.
The pray byfprent with fpryngand fproutis dyfpers,
For callour humours on the dewy nycht, 91

Rendryng fum place the gyrs pylis thare licht,
Als fer as catal the lang fomerys day
Had in thare pafture ete and gnyp av»/ay :
And blyfsful blofibmys in the blomyt zard g^

Submittis thare hedys in the zoung fonnys fafgard :
lue leuis rank ouerfpred the barmkyn wall.
The blomit hauthorne clcd his pykis all,


[Ver. 87, Th -varyant t'cfiiire, &c.] It is evident our au-
thor intends to defcribe two dtflinft things, v\%. cornfields,
and meadows or pafture-lands, the former in the three firft

lines, the 'varyant vejiiire, &c. is plainly arable, and

the fulzeis and fyguris ful dyuers, are the various leaves and
flowers of the weeds growing among the corn, and making
a piece of embroidery. And here the defcription of cornfields


A Defcription of May. 13

The fair creation fwell'd upon the eye ; 85

Earth was their bed, their canopy the fky.
A varied verdure rob'd the vales around.
And fpread luxuriant o'er the furrow'd ground :
And flowery weeds, that grew profufe between
The barley-lands, diverfified the fcene. 90

The filver fprings, that through the meadows flow'd
In many a rill, fertility beftow'd -,
And where the humid night's relloring dew
Dropt on the ground the bladed herbage grew,
As faft as cattle the long fummer's day g^

Had cropt the grafly fuflenance away.
A bloom diffufive o'er the gardens run.
Confiding in the fafeguard of the fun :
Wreath'd ivy mantled round the lofty tower ;
And hawthorn- hedges whiten'd into flower. 100

■ends, and that of pafture-lands begins at, The pray hyfpnnty
&c. Pray^ not as the gloffary to G. Douglas fays, corruptcdly
for fpray, but formed from the Lat. Fratum, and Spryngatid
Sproutis, rifing fprings, from the Ital. fpruzxare, fpruzzolartt

E The

14 A Difcription of May.

Furth of frefche burgeouns tlie wyne grapis zing
Endlang the trazileys dyd on twiftis hing, loo

The loukit buttouns on the gemyt treis
Ouerfpredand leuis of naturis tapeflryis.
Soft grefy verdoure eftir balmy fchouris, 105

On curland ftalkis fniyland to thare flowris :
Behaldand thame fa mony divers hew
Sum piers, fum pale, fum burner, and fum blew.
Sum gres, fum gowlis, fum purpure, fum fanguane,
Blanchit or broun, fauch zallow mony ane, i lo

Sum heuinly colourit in celeftial gre,
Sum wattry hewit as the haw wally fe.
And fum departe in freklis rede and quhyte.
Sum bricht as gold with aureate leuis lyte.
The dafy did on brede hir crownel fmale, 115

And euery flour unlappit in the dale.
In battil gers burgeouns, the banwart wyld,
The clauir, catcluke, and the cammomylde -,
The flourdclyce furth fprede his heuynly hew,
Floure damas, and columbe blak and blew, 1 20


A Defcription of May. 15

The frefh-form'd grapes In little clufters hung ;
Clofe to their props the curling tendrils clung.
The buds, that fwell'd in gems on every tree,
Burft into foliage, nature's tapeftry.

Lol by foft zephyrs wak'd, and gentle fhowers, 105
On bending ftalks fmile voluntary flowers,
Trick*d off in vaft variety of hue.
Some red, pale, purple, yellow, brown or blue 5
Some brightly ting'd in heav'n's etherial ftain.
And fome cerulean, like the watry main, no

Some crimfon-colour'd, fairly fleckt with white.
Some gold that gayly glitter'd in the light.
The daify did its coronet unveil.
And every fiow'r unfolded in the dale ;
Rank fprung falubrious herbs, and every weed, i i;g
And clover bloom'd luxuriant in the mead :
The flow'r-de-luce abroad its beauty fpread.

And columbine advanc'd his purple head :

E 2 From

1 6 A Difcrlption of May.

Sere downis fmal on dentilioun fprang,

The zoung grene blomit ftrabery leuis amang.

Gimp jereflouris * thareon leuis unfchet,

Frefche prymrois, and the purpour violet.

The rois knoppis, tetand furth thare hede, 125

Gan chyp, and kyth thare vernale lippis rede,

Cryfp fkarlet leuis fum fcheddand baith attanis,

■f Keft fragrant fmel amyd fra goldin granis,

Heuinlie lyllyis, with lokkerand toppis quhyte,

Opynnit and fchew thare creiftis redemyte, 130

The balmy vapour from thare fylkyn croppis

Diftilland halefum fugurat hony droppis,

And fylver fchakeris gan fra leuys hing,

With cryftal iprayngis on the verdure zing :


* Probably Gawin Douglas wrote i/jare anuin. Vide Ver. 72.
thare antjin umbrage.

Ver. 126. Keft fragrant fmel, &€.] It is obfervable, tliat
Gawin Douglas never once mentions the fcent of flowers till
he comes to the rofe, and never at all the fcent of any par-
ticular flower, except the rofe, not even of the lilly ; for, I
take it, the words, Ver. I'^x.from thare fylkyn croppis, are meant


A Defcription of May. 17

From dandelion flew the feeded down.

And ftrawb'ry beds bore wild weeds, not their own.

Carnations glow'd in gay ly- mingled hue •,

Pale was the primrofe, and the vi'let blue.

Its velvet lips the bafliful rofe begun

To fhew, and catch the kifies of the fun -,

Some fuller blown their crimfon honours fhed ; 125

Sweet fmelt the golden chives that grac'd their head.

Queen of the field, in milkwhite mantle drefl:.

The lovely lilly wav'd her curling creft.

From every flower ambrofial fweets diftill'd,

Ambrofial fweets the ambient asther fill'd. 13®

Dev/-drops like diamonds hung on every tree,

And fprinkled filv'ry luflre o'er the lea,

to defcrlbe the flow«rs in general j and the halmy i^apour to bt
the fame with the frefihe liquour, Ver. 138. and the duke hu~
mouris ^hareof the beis ivrocht thare hony fwete, an exhalation
diftind from that which caufes the fcent ; and redolent cdour,
Vcr. 1 44, is general ; for he certainly means to clofe his de-
fcription of the vegetable world, (and he does it nobly) by one
univerfal cloud of fragance from all nature, as well f elds as


1 8 A Difcription of May.

The plane pouderit with femelie feitis found, 135-

Bedyit ful of dewy peirlys round ;

So that ilk burgeon, fyon, herbe, or floure,

Wox all enbalmit of the frefche liquour,

And baithit halt did in duke humouris flete,

Quhareof the beis wrocht thare hony fwete, 14a

Be mychty Phebus operatiouns.

In fappy fubtell exhalatiouns :

Forgane the cummyn of this pry nee potent.

Redolent odour up from the rutis fprent,

Halefum of fmel as * * * 14^

Aromatike gummcs, or ony fyne potioun,

Muft, myr, aloyes, or confedioun.

Ane paradife it femyt to draw nere

Their galzeard gardingis, and eik grene herbere :

May ft amyabil waxis the emerant medis, 150

* Swannis fouchis throw out the refpand redis,


Online LibraryGawin DouglasA description of May → online text (page 1 of 2)