Preface The poem with its dedicatory epistle occupy pp. 3 - 11 of the volume; evidently by a printer’s mistake, the letter also appears on pp. 1f., standing before the editor’s Preface.
Preface The allusion is to John Whitfield of Merton College; the present volume contains two of his poems, a description of Chelsea Hospital and one praising Mary.
Montagu Letter This letter dedicates the present poem to Charles Montagu, Earl of Halifax [1661 - 1715], William’s Chancellor of the Exchequer and one of his most influential ministers, who also receives a compliment at poem VI.16. If the intention was to procure Montagu as a patron, it was unsuccessful.
Montagu Letter Addison alludes to William Congreve’s poem The birth of a muse a poem to the right honourable Charles Montague, Chancellor of the Exchequer &c. (London, 1698).
I.1f. This poem was written to celebrate the Treaty of Rijswijk of 1697, ending William III’s Lowlands campaigning against Louis XIV in the War of the Grand Alliance.
I.2 Throughout the poem, the royal family is written of in Roman terms: William III is called Caesar here and at 103, and the dead Mary II is called Augusta at 102 and diva at 182 (as if she were a deified empress).
I.16 The stalks are strange because, fed by human blood, they grow to an unwonted height.
I.18ff. Now that the fighting is over, the battlefields become a tourist attraction.
I.24 James Butler, second Duke of Ormonde [1665 - 1745] was wounded and taken prisoner at the battle of Landen in 1693.
I.27 John Cutt, Baron Cutts of Gouran in Ireland [1661 - 1707] had previously distinguished himself in the capture of Buda in 1686. The laurel is presumably called peregrina because this was such a foreign war (or did Addison believe the laurel was not native to Hungary?) Subsequently Cutts was the hero of the successful taking of Namur in 1695.
I.36ff. Here Addison writes of the climactic taking of Namur, when, under Cutts, the allied forces stormed the citadel. He appears to be describing the firing of its powder magazine, but I find no source that confirms this was done.
I.42ff. The local inhabitants are astonished by the changes the fighting has wreaked in their landscape, just as mortals marveled at the changes made in the world when Enceladus and the other giants attempted to storm Olympus by piling Pelion atop Ossa, and were defeated by Jupiter.
I.51 The battle-flag of the king of France.
I.52f. Britain’s important allies were the Dutch and some German principalities.
I.54 Norway and Sweden were at least nominally members of the Alliance.
I.55 Spain also belonged to the Alliance.
I.61 Thus Addison pays a complement to the Oxford-educated soldier and poet Christopher Codrington [1668 - 1710].
I.65 Rhedecina was allegedly an ancient name of Oxford.
I.79 “The marshall of Muscovy” is written in the margin (the allusion is to Peter the Great).
I.94 Now Peter has been schooled by William’s excellent example, his Russian terrirories will no longer be vexed by their neighbors.
I.96ff. A description of William’s arrival at the Hague to settle the peace (May 7, 1697).
I.108 A Dutch private soldier returns to the bosom of his family. The transition from William to this trooper is abrupt and unmarked, even by a new paragraph, which only serves to point up the parallel between the two: covered with glory, both are returning to their homeland and the bosom of their family.
I.125ff. Having arranged the peace, William returned to England in the autumn.
I.133 As William and Mary were childless, the heir apparent was the young William, Duke of Gloucester, son of Princess Anne and Prince George of Denmark; in the event, the boy died in 1700 and William was succeeded by Anne.
I.151 What poet will tell the shade of Mary (who had died in 1694) about William’s triumphal progress from Margate, where he landed in November 1697, back to London?
I.154ff. Addison describes the pyrotechnical displays put on at this time. Presumably he is writing of some sort incendiary device consisting of a clay pot full of explosives that create a starburst effect. The streets are full of scraps of cartridge paper, the remnants of exploded firecrackers; pitch was used to the seal the ends of these.
II.37 The return of the herons to their marshland nesting-places heralds the onset of the rainy season.
III.4 In lines 30ff. we are informed how the Cranes were the offended parties in the dispute.
III.9 Cf. Catullus lxiv.4, cum lecti iuvenes, Argivae robora pubis. Catullus was writing of the Argonauts, and surely Addison too had them in mind.
III.11f. Literature recounting William’s accomplishments are folded in with allusions to the three most distinguished Roman epics, the Aeneid, Statius’ Thebais, and Lucan’s Bellum Civile. Is this subtle self-congratulation for Poem I?
III.14 Untouched in the sense of not having been touched upon by any previous writer.
III.47 “The bard of Maeonia” is Homer.
III.56 We now have a catalogue of the various homes of the Cranes. The river Strymon on the Thracian-Macedonian border was known for them. Lake Maeotis was in Egypt, and the Cayster a river in Asia Minor.
III.64 Springtime is the proper time to launch a campaign.
III.75ff. As noted in the Introduction, Macauley compared this passage with Swift’s description of the king of Lilliput, “The Emperor is taller by about the breadth of my nail than any of his court, which alone is enough to strike an awe into the beholders.” Tallness was in any event a token of majesty, but both writers may have been thinking of the especially regal Charles II.
III.120ff. The Pygmy leader’s fate is suggested by Juvenal, Satire xiii.168ff.
III.126 Their king grows smaller as he recedes in the distance.
III.147 The mutability of empire is a topos perhaps having its origins in Daniel 11.
IV Although the title and contents of this poem would lead one to think that it is a description of a fresco over the chapel altar of Magdalene College, Oxon., it in fact describes the chapel’s main west window, which is thought to be a seventeenth century copy of a painting by Christopher Shwarz (c. 1590): cf. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Oxford (Royal Commision on Historical Monuments, England, London, 1939) 72.
IV.85 The College of Mary Magdalene, Oxon., was founded by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester, in 1459.
V.7f. A lawn roller.
V.10 It would seem intrinsically improbable that the balls were oiled to make them roll better: would this help? More likely Addison is describing them as being waxed, or perhaps varnished.
V.20f. A small ball is rolled out on the green, serving as a target. Then each competitor strives to place his ball nearest to it (although facing the risk of having his ball knocked away by a later bowl), and as the number of balls clustered around the target grows greater each successive bowler’s task becomes more difficult. For the rest of the poem Addison writes as if it were simply a matter of each man competing on his own behalf, but lines 18f. suggest that somehow the participants are divided into two teams.
V.52 The comparison is with a chariot team bursting forth from the starting-gate at Olympus and running so quickly that the buildings it passes appear to the driver to be flying.
VI Edward Hannes M. D. [d. 1710] of Christ Church, was the university reader of Chemistry. He contributed to at least two Oxford commemorative anthologies, on the death of Charles II (1685) and on William’s return from Ireland (1690): Bradner, op. cit. 208f. This poem is written in Alcaic stanzas.
VI.26 This line was written after Harvey’s demonstration of the circulation of the blood. Addison perhaps had read Robert Grove’s 1685 poem Carmen de Circuitu Sanguinis (for which cf. Bradner, op. cit. 216).
VII.12ff. A number of vertical strings hang from the front of the puppets’ stage so as to disguise the strings operating the marionettes.
VII.19 If not exactly Punch (as stated by Bradner, op. cit. 223) , this character may at least be reckoned as Punch’s ancestor.
VII.25 Because he is larger the others he can strike them without fear of retaliation; to be sure, since he is a hunchback, one of his arms could be longer than the other — but what advantage would this provide upon which he could rely?
VII.44ff. The same faeries and faery rings mentioned in Addison’s poem III.158f.
VII.57 This appears to describe a door (possibly a frame-and-door contraption specially built for the purpose) slammed offstage to create sound effects. So too were the firecrackers employed.
VIII Thomas Burnet, Master of Charterhouse [1635? - 1715], was the author of, inter alia, a geological treatise entitled Telluris Theoria Sacra (published in 1681 with an English translation eight years later; a digitized photographic reproduction of the 1694 Amsterdam edition may be downloaded from the Web here). According to Burnet’s theory (as summarized by the Dictionary of National Biography life), the earth was originally like an egg. When its shell was crushed by the Deluge, its internal waters burst out, and the fragments of the shell formed mountains. This poem appears on pp. 284 - 6. It is written in Alcaic stanzas.
In academic contexts, the title dominus belonged to anybody who had been admitted to the B. A. degree.
VIII.5 Burnet was no atomist. Rather, the phrase “seeds of things” is meant to suggest that Burnet reveals Natures’ secrets to his generation, just as Lucretius had for his contemporaries.
IX Printed in an 1689 Oxford anthology of gratulatory poetry on the accession of William and Mary.
IX.7 “Shall have given” because the task of restoring public tranquillity in the wake of the Glorious Revolution that had ousted James II was not yet complete.
IX.9 They have condescended to accept the proferred throne of a troubled England, and to accept responsibility for repairing the nation.
IX.11 The maxim is quoted from Tibullus II.x.6.
IX.13 Obviously a secularized version of the injunction from the marriage service in the Book of Common Prayer, “whom God hath joined together no let no man rend asunder.” In the book Amor is capitalized: in view of the common tendency of the time to capitalize common nouns, one cannot be sure whether Addison meant love in the abstract, or substituted the pagan god Amor for the God of the Church of England (which might strike some contemporary readers as faintly blasphemous).
IX.16 The Muses were not Phoebus’ actual sisters, but sisters devoted to Phoebus’ arts.
IX.24 Addison alludes to their crossing from the Netherlands to England, when they arrived to assume the throne.
IX.35 England, Scotland, and Ireland.
X This poem was written for a 1690 Oxford gratulatory anthology issued on the occasion of William III’s return from Ireland, where he had defeated the combined forces of Tyrconnell’s rebel Irish, James II and the Jacobites, and troops furnished by Louis XIV, at the Battle of the Boyne (Drogheda) and elsewhere. He landed in England on September 6. Addison’s English To the King was written to celebrate the same occasion.
X.1ff. Before William III took a firm hand, Tyrconnell’s revolt had thrown Ireland into chaos, and historians do write of the desolation described below.
X.4ff. Addison means the kind of English colonists in Ireland who stoody by William and were beseiged by the rebels at Londonderry.
X.17 English negligence had let Ireland’s affairs slide into anarchy.
X.24ff. This description of William’s victories seems to be sufficiently impressionistic that it would be impractical to attempt to identify allusions to very many specific events. The first two lines probably refer to the first phase of the campaign, when the king’s arrival in Ulster forced the Jacobites to retreat down to the Boyne. Mention of a bog in 29 points to the Battle of the Boyne, where both sides were challenged by the difficulties of the marshy land.
X.36ff. Evidently this passage is a eulogy of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham [1628 - 1687]. If so, it is written with tongue set firmly in cheek. The Duke was rumored to have died in a squalid inn, he was notable for his “policy of sacrificing the interests of the church to the political exigiences of the moment” (D. N. B. life), and the pomp with which his embalmed corpse lay in state in the Abbey excited adverse comment. Buckingham was a courtier, not a soldier, but he had commanded the Royalist forces in the east during the uprising of 1650.
X.39 “Exiled gods” of course refers to the exiled Anglican followers of Charles II during the Commonwealth.
X.61 James’ second wife was the Catholic Mary of Modena.

XI.9 The Salic Law debarred women from inheriting the crown of France.

XII.3 Prince Eugene of Savoy, commander of the imperial forces in the War of the Spanish Succession, and his principal opponent, the French general Louis Joseph, Duc de Vendôme.
XII.4 Here the Teutons are England’s Dutch allies. In the following line, “the Basque” simply means the Spanish.

XIII In this epigram, obviously, Addison gloats over the discomfiture of Louis XIV.

XV This poem of course refers to the situation at the end of Book IV of the Aeneid, where Anna attends to her sister Dido’s funeral after her suicide.