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I found the following passage from a work called Philotimus, which dates back to 1583. Though most of the language in the book is relatively understandable after a bit of squinting and rereading, this one has been stumping me:

Beware of Ioue and lightning, and fly far from them. Though Venus were assistant to Paris his adherentes, yet for contempte of Iunoes demaunde, both Paris was slaine, and Troy was sac∣ked. Midas for faucines against Apollo, was dubbed for a dolte wt a paire of Asses eares. And Phaeton I gesse if he were aliue, would not be to busy with Phaebus his chariott. Purchase not to thy self Lycurgus his scotchlade, who for his rashnes to the Gods gaind a wretched life, and got a painefull death. Vpon the moū¦teyne of Nisa, Lycurgus aduised the women to doe Bacchus due seruice at his festals, with slips of vines vpon their heades: but he so prickt them forward with his sharpe twible goad, that they let fall their holy crownes, whereat he did reioyce and sport his fill: yea more then this, to disgrace the God himselfe, he thunde∣red out his threats, and caused him to fly to escape his snares: at this offence the Gods did loure, and forthwith did reuenge the same in bereauing Lycu•g of his sight for a certaine tyme, and to punish him aright, and fulfill their will at ful, in setting wreak∣full date to his wicked life.

With contemporary orthography, that'd be something along the lines of:

Beware of Joves and lightning, and fly far from them. Though Venus were assistant to Paris his adherents, yet for contempt of Juno's demand, both Paris was slain, and Troy was sacked. Midas for faucines against Apollo, was dubbed for a dolt with a pair of asses' ears. And Phaeton I guess if he were alive, would not be to busy with Phaebus his chariot. Purchase not to thy self Lycurgus his scotchlade, who for his rashness to the Gods gained a wretched life, and got a painful death. Upon the mountain of Nisa, Lycurgus advised the women to do Bacchus due service at his festivals, with slips of vines upon their heads: but he so pricked them forward with his sharp twible [?] goad, that they let fall their holy crowns, whereat he did rejoice and sport his fill: yea more than this, to disgrace the God himself, he thundered out his threats and caused him to fly to escape his snares: at this offense the Gods did loure [?], and forthwith did revenge the same in bereaving Lycurgus of his sight for a certain time, and to punish him aright, and fulfill their will at full, in setting wreaked full date to his wicked life.

I get the general idea, but that individual sentence is confusing. The key seems to be 'scotchlade,' but I can't figure out what it means. (The word doesn't appear again in the text.) It sort of looks to be a compound of 'scotch' and 'lade,' and the connection to Dionysus kinda supports that. But this seems to be a bit of a stretch; I also can't find '-lade' as a derivation in any list of Middle/Early Modern English suffixes, except for this one, which has '-laden' meaning 'loaded.'

So, what's a 'scotchlade,' and what does that sentence mean?


Edit: here's the original text, with scotchlade emphasized. Perhaps that'll help. It certainly looks fairly ambiguous, in that that characters could be interpreted fairly different, but nothing really jumps out at me.

enter image description here

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    Congratulations: it would appear that you have found a true hapax legomenon, as not only does it only appear once in this work, it seems it appears only once in any work! Its meaning may have died with Brian Melbancke in 1600.
    – Andrew Leach
    Apr 15, 2023 at 16:27
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    If I squint, I see something of a b where the h is: blade — which would make sense for Lycurgus. But I don’t know what a scotcblade would be. Either way, I call transliteration error. Apr 15, 2023 at 16:58
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    The OED reports that a "twibill" or "twybill" might, in the 16th century (and earlier) refer to "a kind of ax with two cutting edges," "a mattock," or "a double bladed battle ax or bill." The OED also notes that "wreakful" was frequent from circa 1560 to circa 1610 in the sense "Of persons, etc.: Given or addicted to revenge; vengeful"; and that "lour" had the meaning "Of persons, their eyes, countenances, etc.: To frown, scowl; to look angry or sullen." And of course "Lycurgus his" was a form of expressing the possessive that we might today render as "Lycurgus's."
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 15, 2023 at 17:51
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    Although it almost certainly isn't relevant to this instance (because the word arises in the context of a quasi-Greek dialogue), I note that "Scotlāde" appears in 26 different books in the Early English Books Online database as a spelling of "Scotland," the latest of which was published in 1600.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 15, 2023 at 18:32
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    It could be an OCR error. Do you have an image of the original text?
    – Stuart F
    Apr 17, 2023 at 10:57

2 Answers 2

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One way of tackling this is to split scotchlade and seek for the combination of constituents. The obvious split is scotch and lade.

The likely association is then

Merriam Webster
scotch, scotched; scotching; scotches. transitive verb
1 archaic : CUT, GASH, SCORE also : WOUND we have scotched the snake, not killed it —William Shakespeare
2 : to put an end to scotched rumors of a military takeover

These meanings give the overtones of a wounding that although not lethal, is serious.

Merriam Webster
lade:
a: to put a load or burden on or in : LOAD
b: to put or place as a load especially for shipment
c: to load heavily or oppressively

This fits with a reference to lade as a noun in:

Etymology Online
load (noun)
c. 1200, lode, lade "that which is laid upon a person or beast, burden," a sense extension from Old English lad "a way, a course, a carrying; a street, watercourse; maintenance, support," from Proto-Germanic *laitho (source also of Old High German leita, German leite, Old Norse leið "way, road, course"), from PIE root *leit- (2) "to go forth" (see lead (v.1)).
It seems to have expanded its range of senses in early Middle English, supplanting words based on lade (v.), to which it is not etymologically connected.

I therefore suggest that the Lycurgus's scotchlade is his burden of being so seriously impaired (wounded) physically and in reputation that he was later to die of it:

Mythica
According to Apollodorus, Dionysus, on his expeditions, came to the kingdom of Lycurgus, but was expelled; whereupon he punished the king with madness, so that he killed his son Dryas, in the belief that he was cutting down a vine. When this was done, Lycurgus recovered his mind; but his country produced no fruit, and the oracle declared that fertility should not be restored unless Lycurgus were killed. The Edonians therefore tied him, and led him to Mount Pangaeum, where he was torn to pieces by horses.

So the passage seems to be advice not to follow the example of Lycurgus: do not anger the gods.

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  • Thanks for this! I didn't think to check for other meanings of 'scotch,' and thought it's not quite a definitive answer, I think it's the closest to be found. Apr 16, 2023 at 15:59
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    Kind of you. It certainly presents a challenge and at this long remove is probably impossible to be definitive, But a most interesting question!
    – Anton
    Apr 16, 2023 at 18:16
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Purchase not to thy self Lycurgus his scotchlade, who for his rashness to the Gods gained a wretched life, and got a painful death.

OED Purchase

†I. To bring about; to attempt to bring about.

1.a. transitive. To endeavour or contrive to bring about (an event, outcome, or state of affairs); to devise or instigate (esp. something harmful) to or for a person or group of people. Obsolete.

1578 H. Wotton tr. J. Yver Courtlie Controuersie 157 The violence of envy..procured him to purchase the ruin of the man that never had offended him.

a1627 W. Fowler tr. Petrarch Triumphs in Wks. (1914) I. 71 And be bent alwayes to purches the weakening and decay of the mightier.

to thy self = for yourself

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