King James I is the first Scottish poet to show Chaucerian inspiration. Of course, there are doubts about the authenticity of his literary acquirement, yet he is generally accepted as the author of The King’s Quair or The King’s Book.
The King’s Quair bears an atmosphere of romance and that of The Romance of the Rose. Its inspiration mainly lies in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale. The poem, which is a sort of dream allegory, contains the king’s personal experience and a romantic affair of life. At the age of eleven, during his voyage to France, he was captured by the English and remained in detention for nineteen years. Towards the end of his imprisonment, he fell in love with John Beaufort, niece of Henry IV, and married her in 1425. The poem is an account of this personal romantic episode of the king’s life.
The King’s Quair, which runs to 1379 lines, has two general divisions. The first division is about the author’s misfortune and stiff struggle of life, while the latter portion deals with his happiness of love. The contrary aspects of the theme of the poem are well echoed in the poet’s invocation to the Muses, quite early in the poem, to guide him to write of his torment and his joy.
Bearing the reminiscences of Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, The King’s Quair is a delightful romance in verse. The art of story-telling in verse is well exhibited and an added interest is achieved by the insertion of the traditional dream which, as noted already, is allegorical in effect. Moreover, the poet possesses a tone of sincerity and impulsiveness and the metrical effect is quite appealing for the common reader. In fact, the Chaucerian tradition is seen continued here.
A few more works are attributed to James I, which bear hardly Chaucer’s influence and remain rather average verses. Of such poems may be mentioned-Peblis to the Play and Christis Kirk on the Grene. Although there are doubts about James’s authorship of these poems.