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ROBERT SEMPILL [the elder] (c. 1 53 0 - 1 595), Scottish ballad-writer, was in all probability a cadet of illegitimate birth of the noble house of Sempill or Semple. Very little is known of his life. He appears to have spent some time in Paris. He was probably a soldier, and must have held some office at the Scottish court, as his name appears in the lord treasurer's books in February 1567-1568, and his writings show him to have had an intimate knowledge of court affairs. He was a bitter opponent of Queen Mary and of the Catholic Church. Sempill was present at the siege of Leith (1559-1560), was in Paris in 1572, but was driven away by the massacre of St Bartholomew. He was probably present at the siege of Edinburgh Castle (1573), serving with the army of James Douglas, earl of Morton. He died in 1595. His chief works are: " The Ballat maid vpoun Margret Fleming callit the Flemyng bark "; " The defence of Crissell Sandelandis "; " The Claith Merchant or Ballat of Jonet Reid, ane Violet and Ane Quhyt," all three in the Bannatyne MS. They are characterized by extreme coarseness, and are probably among his earlier works. His chief political poems are " The Regentis Tragedie," a broadside of 1570; " The Sege of the Castel of Edinburgh " (1573), interesting from an historical point of view; " Ane Complaint vpon fortoun ... " (1581), and "The Legend of the Bischop of St Androis Lyfe callit Mr Patrik Adamsone " (1583).
See Chronicle of Scottish Poetry (ed. James Sibbald, Edinburgh, 1802); and"Essays on the Poets of Renfrewshire," by William Mother well, in The Harp of Renfrewshire (Paisley, 1819; reprinted 1872). Modern editions of Sempill are: " Sege of the Castel of Edinburgh," a facsimile reprint with introduction by David Constable (1813); The Sempill Ballates (T. G. Stevenson, Edinburgh, 1872) containing all the poems; Satirical poems of the Reformation (ed. James Cranstoun, Scottish Text Soc., 2 vols., 1889-1893), with a memoir of Sempill and a bibliography of his poems.
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