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The Contemplacioun of Synnaris, by the Observant Franciscan William Touris, written c.1494 and evidently intended for King James IV of Scotland, is a significant and much copied work of Older Scots, although the earliest surviving witness is the English print by Wynkyn de Worde (1499).
The Contemplacioun was the very first work of Older Scots literature to be translated and to be printed. The poem’s seven sections comprise a course of meditations for Holy Week. Richard Fox, bishop of Durham, commissioned the English print, in which the stanzas were preceded by Latin sententiae, biblical, medieval and ancient. The work retained sufficient interest to re-emerge in separate versions in both Scotland (1568) and England (1578), drastically revised for Protestant readers.
Phineas Fletcher’s epic allegorical poem The Purple Island (1633) combines anatomical and devotional perspectives on the self as the poet explores the relationship between body and soul. The titular island is figured as both body and as England, thus merging religious, corporeal, devotional, and geo-national narratives. The present critical edition offers the first fresh editorial approach to the poem in over a century and situates the poem in its historical and critical contexts. Although the poem has often been regarded as a bizarre and fragmented curiosity, Johnathan H. Pope compellingly argues in favour of a more unified reading and understanding of the text as a whole, offering a newly-annotated edition that illuminates the text for both the Fletcher specialist and newcomer alike.