Alexander Scott was probably a Lothian man, but particulars of his origin and of his life are entirely wanting. It is only by gathering together a few scraps of internal evidence that we learn that his poems were written between 1545 and 1568 (the date of the Bannatyne Manuscript, the only manuscript authority for the text). Allan Ramsay was the first to bring Scott's work to the notice of modern readers, by printing some of the poems in his Ever Green. In a copy of verses (Some Few of the Contents) on the Bannatyne Manuscript, he thus refers to Scott:
Licht skirt it lasses, and the girnand wyfe,
Fleming and Scot haif painted to the lyfe.
Scot, sweit tunged Scot, quha sings the welcum hame
To Mary, our maist bony soverane dame;
How lyflie he and amorous Stuart sing!
Quhen lufe and bewtie bid them spred the wing.
The sketch is just, for Scott's poems deal chiefly with female character and with passion of a strongly erotic type. He is "sweit tunged", for his technique is always good, and his lyrical measures show remarkable accomplishment. In this respect he holds his own with the best of the 'makars' represented in the Bannatyne Manuscript. In what may appear excessive coarseness to present-day taste, he makes good claim to rival Dunbar and his contemporaries. The poems referred to by Ramsay are Ane Ballat maid to the Derisioun and Scorne of Wantoun Wemen, Ane New Yeir Gift to the Queen Mary quhen scho come first Hame, 1562, and some or all of his amorous songs (about 30 in number). Of these To luve unluvit, Ladeis, be war, and Lo, quhat it is to lufe are favourable examples of his style. No early Scots poet comes nearer the quality of the Caroline love-lyric. His Justing and Debait up at the Drum betuix William Adamsone and Johine Sym follows the literary tradition of Peblis to the Play and Christis Kirk on the Grene. He has left verse-renderings of the 1st and 50th Psalms.
The first collected edition was printed by D. Laing in 1821; a second was issued privately at Glasgow in 1882. The latest edition is that by James Cranstoun (Scottish Text Society, 1 vol., 1896).(G.G.S.)
Being the entry for SCOTT, ALEXANDER in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.