The Unicorn in Clariodus

Unicorn at Hampton Court Palace
Unicorn at Hampton Court Palace

Clariodus: A Metrical Romance is a peculiar poem. The author is unknown and the poem was probably based on the French work entitled Cleriadus et Meliadice from c. 1440. The poem is Scottish but written in English. It is full of medieval themes but written after the medieval period sometime in the early sixteenth century. The poem is full of medieval motifs including courtly love, tournaments, fulfilling vows, magical woods, righting wrongs, and fighting pagans.

A unicorn made an appearance in the poem:

Foure syndrie liquoris ran with royaltie, 
From foure beistis in foure nuiks of the hall, 
Whilke was ane sight richt fair and triumphall: 
Ane was ane lyoun, right awfull and terribill, 
At quhois gaiping mouth, full horibill, 
Rane myghtie wyne, right plesant, cleir, and cauld; 
It was ane gude sight him for to behald: 
The uther was ane lustie unicorne, 
Eyne Ipocras did ryn out at his horne: 
The thride ane tyger was, felloun and stout, 
Rose water fearcelie at his nose ran out: 
The fourte ane marmaide was, with traces bright, 
At both her papis mylke ran out on height. 


My modernization of the language:

Four sundry liquors (liquids) ran with royalty,
From four beasts in four nooks of the hall,
While was one sight rich fair and triumphal,
One was one lion, right awful and terrible,
At whose gaping mouth, full horrible
Ran mighty wine, right pleasant, clear, and cold;
It was one good sight for him for to behold:
The other was one lusty unicorn,
Eyne[?] Hippocras did run out at his horn:
The third one tiger was, savage and stout,
Rose water fiercely at his nose ran out:
The fourth one mermaid was, with traces bright,
At both her breasts milk ran out on height.

What a sight. A lion with wine flowing out of its mouth; a tiger with rose water running out of its nose; a mermaid lactating milk; and a unicorn spewing spiced wine from its horn.


Anon., Clariodus: A Metrical Romance: Printed from a Manuscript of the Sixteenth Century (Edinburgh: The Maitland Club, 1830).

Dictionary of the Scots Language,

Rhiannon Purdie, “Clariodus and the Ambitions of Courtly Romance in Later Medieval Scotland,” Forum for Modern Language Studies vol. 38, no. 4: 449-461.


  1. Dear James, Thank you for publishing this obscurity, which broadens my view of the unicorn myth, which I am studying.
    This “eyne” business: could it be a variant of the English “even”, in the sense of “rather surprisingly”? J.-P.

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