COMMENTARY NOTES

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spacerI Meter: elegiac couplets.
spacerI.9 The Ethiopian method of choosing kings is described by Herodotus III.20.
spacerI.43 Probably Henry’s last wife, Katherine Parr.
spacerI.44 Nestor.

spacerII This poem’s evidently stress-based metrics and stanzaic organization appear to warrant the conclusion that it was written for a musical setting. The explicit reference to Cambridge in the stanza at 54ff. suggests this may have been performed at some academic celebration of Edward’s birthday.

spacerIII Written on the death of the courtier Sir Anthony Denny in 1549, who earned this tribute both by patronage of Humanistic learning and his support of the Protestant cause. In Book II of The Scholemaster (pp. 171f. The Whole Works of Roger Ascham, ed. the Rev. Dr. Giles, London, 1864, I.171f.) Ascham looked back on his friendship with Denney. Both the Greek and Latin versions are written in iambic trimeters.

spacerIV William Cecil’s first wife, Mary, died in February 1544. She was the sister of Sir John Cheke [1514 - 1557], Cambridge’s first Regius Professor of Greek and, like Ascham, a Fellow of St. John’s College. He was also instrumental in getting Ascham appointed as tutor to the Princess Elizabeth. Meter: iambic trimeters.
spacerIV.12 The reference is of course to the character in the Sophoclean play, the intended husband of Antigone, who loves her so much that he commits suicide after she dies, a fitting comparison for the wife of one Greek scholar and the sister of another.
spacerIV.32 Menander, Sententiae 425, Ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν, ἀποθνῄσκει νέος.
spacerIV.41 These feet are “equal” in the sense that we all go forward to meet our deaths at the same speed, rich and poor alike.
spacerIV.50 The 1576 edition contains the misprint mors for mori at the end of this line.

spacerV William Bill [d. 1561] was a contemporary of Ascham at St. John’s College, Cambridge. He went on to become Dean of Westminster. Meter: iambic trimeters.
spacerV.2f. The sun is in Capricorn from December 22 through January 19. Then it moves into Aquarius. Although Ascham thus expresses himself astrologically, it is likely that this poem (like VIII below) was written as a strena or New Year’s gift.
spacerV.16 For the proverbial tag livor edax cf. Amores I.xv.1, Remedia Amoris 389, and Seneca, Hippolytus 493.
spacerV.25 For Cheke see the initial note on poem IV.

spacerVI Martin Bucer [1491 = 1551], a Protestant theologian invited by Archbishop Cranmer to come to England and assist with the reformation of the Church of England. He was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge in 1549. Meter: dactylic hexameters.

spacerVII Meter: elegiac couplets.
spacerVII.6 Ascham seems to have been thinking of Hebrews 11:13, These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (cf. also I Peter 2:11 - 12).

spacerVIII Another New Year’s poem (strena). According to Edward Grant’s note, Haec carmina, paucis ante mortem diebus, inchoavit 1568, mense Decembris, quae in initium novi anni insequentis praeparaverat: sed in hisce condendis, morbo correptus, diem obiit, et sic ea imperfecta reliquit. [“He began these verses in December 1568, which he was preparing for the beginning of the following year, a few days before his death, but was overtaken by disease and died, leaving them incomplete.”] In his accompanying Oratio de Vita et Obitu Rogeri Aschami (§ 41) Grant adds that Ascham wrecked his health laboring over this poem. How he imagined it was unfinished is not clear. Meter: dactylic hexameters.
spacerVIII.24 Nec tu diffidis amari states that Elizabeth is not like a tyrant in a Senecan tragedy (such as Thyestes in Thyestes or Nero in the pseudo-Senecan Octavia) who would prefer to be feared than loved.
spacerVIII.34 He means the Salic Law, which prevented women from gaining the French throne.
spacerVIII.74 To give more concrete meaning to Ascham’s words in this passage, it may be useful to consider some of the events of the year 1568, now concluding: in France although the Second War of Religion ended in May, the Third War broke out in August; in the Netherlands, the attack launched by William of Orange against the forces of the Duke of Alva commenced the Eighty Years’ War; in Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots, who had been deposed the previous year, escaped from Loch Leven Castle, fled to England, and was placed under arrest by Elizabeth. Each of these events involved conflict between Catholics and Protestants.
spacerVIII.82f. A pair of Biblican villains is combined with a pair of wayfarer-molesting ogres from Classical mythology to suggest the evils of Catholicism (since the other three are individuals, Ascham’s Hammon is more likely to be Haman than the Ammonites, a related people who often sided with Israel’s enemies).