spacer1. John Barclay’s career characterizes the life of court authors of the 17th century, who struggled constantly to secure and maintain the patronage of the rich and powerful whose subsidies made their literary careers possible. Only with the advent of mass readership in the next century could men of letters attain financial independence without a patron. Barclay’s Poematum Libri Duo (London 1615), published here, illustrate specifically the difficulties encountered by an author, born in France of Catholic parents and writing in Latin, who sought to establish himself at the court of King James I of England. Despite the fact that Barclay had a distant family connection with the king that gave him an introduction at court in 1603, he kept his place only through his literary productivity and his usefulness in diplomatic affairs. Eventually however, hampered by religious differences and financial problems, he gave up the struggle for preferment at the English court and moved in 1615 to Rome, where he found a new patron in Pope Paul V.
spacer2. The basic study of Barclay in England is David Fleming’s 1966 essay. More extended descriptions are in the introductions to my own recent editions of Barclay’s lengthy sociological essay Icon Animorum (1615) and his novel Argenis (1621). The evidence for Barclay’s life in London survives in letters and poems from contemporary friends and enemies, as well as in notices in the Calendar of State Papers.


spacer3. John Barclay [1582 - 1621] was born in Lorraine of a Scots father and a French mother. His father, William Barclay [1646/7 - 1608], had spent some time at the court of Queen Mary in Edinburgh, but left Scotland to study law in France, where he eventually became professor of law and counselor to the Duke of Lorraine. Losing the Duke’s favor, he removed to England in 1603, where Queen Mary’s son, James VI of Scotland, had just ascended the throne as James I. When the new king declined to give him a post unless he renounced his Catholicism, William returned to France and became Dean of the Law Faculty at Angers, where he remained until his death in 1608. He wrote two books on the rights of kings. The first, De Regno et Regale Potestate (1600), was written to defend absolute royal power against those, whom he designated monarchomachs, that favored restricting it. These writers, among them George Buchanan, set up an opposition between royal power and the rights of the people, who under some theoretical circumstances could conceivably remove a king from the throne. His other work, De Potestate Papae (1609), posthumously edited by his son, defended royal power against the Church and argued that the pope had no right to intervene in secular matters, that clergy were subjects of the king, and that clerical privileges were royal gifts. This policy (today called Gallicanism) was subsequently instituted in France and most certainly would have pleased King James. In any case, William must have left England in 1603 on good terms, since two years later the son was graciously received by the same king who had refused preferment to the father.
spacer4. Of course Barclay helped to prepare his own way, publishing in Paris in 1603 his Carmen Gratulatorium, a flattering piece composed for James’ accession. John seems to have moved to London in 1605. There he wrote his Series Patefacti nuper parricidii in ter maximum Regem regnumque Britanniae cogitati et instructi, one of many contemporary publications on the Gunpowder Plot. Barclay's Series was illo ipso Novembri scripta, i. e., during November 1605, and published that same year, wasx one of the first in the field. NOTE 1 He dedicated poems in his first collection, the Sylvae....., the Sylvae, to King James, Ludovic Stuart Duke of Lennox. and Prince Henry, all dated Kal. Jan. (the first of January) 1606. His first novel, Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon, Pars I, published in Paris in 1605, was also dedicated to King James. Barclay must have had—or hoped for—other patrons at court, for the Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon, Pars II(1607), was dedicated to Robert Cecil Earl of Salisbury, as was a long poem in his Sylvae, reprinted with revisions in Poemata (I.9). He also had enemies, some courtiers obliquely mentioned in I.7, some rivals (among them the Acestes of I.5.51 and I.6.24), and some churchmen whom he attacked for their opposition to the king’s high-church policies. Barclay was of course a Catholic, not Church of England, and therefore his position was precarious: his children born in England were liable to English law and should be raised as Protestants. In his Paraenesis ad Sectarios (Rome 1617, Cologne 1625, page numbers are cited from the latter edition) he attributes his departure from England to his desire to raise his children in a Catholic environment. In addition, he faced (relative) poverty. King James was generous with words but parsimonious with money. John is mentioned in the State Papers (Dec. 21, 1611) “begging payment of his pension.” Poem I.5 is a pastoral version of this plea for recompense and the poet’s fiscal strategy apparently worked, since a companion piece (I.6) is a pastoral poem of thanks. Nevertheless, Barclay sought a more generous patron, whom he found in Rome, where he moved in 1615 and lived until his death (along with three of his children) in 1621. Barclay contributed to King James’s court both as a participant in the king’s politico-religious controversies and as a literary star whose presence presumably added to his majesty’s luminosity. In both roles, John’s general skills as a Latinist were invaluable. NOTE 2


spacer5. Barclay was demonstrably close to the king. According to his own testimony he assisted at royal meals and participated in debates with other courtiers, some of which he describes in his Paraenesis ad Sectarios, concerning the king’’s opinion that John Knox non impium modo fuisse, sed magum [“not only ungodly, but a sorcerer.”] (Par. 50); whether Catholics considered fornication a venial or a mortal sin [Par. 55f.), and Isaac Casaubon’s opinion on the nature of the Eucharist (Par. 252). Barclay also received a specific assignment. In defense of Protestantism and his royal prerogative, King James had written A Premonition to All Most Mightie Monarches (1609) and Barclay was commissioned to travel throughout Europe and deliver presentation copies to various Catholic rulers. As a Catholic himself and as a skilled Latinist, Barclay was well qualified for such a mission. The results of his observations during this trip appear in the sections of the Icon Animorum (modern edition Leuven 2013) that describe the chief characteristics of each nation.
spacer6. Better known are Barclay’s contributions to the king’s high-church policy. King James attempted to bring the Scottish Kirk as near as could be to the Church of England by installing bishops and introducing high church ritual into Scottish worship. This did not go well and led to unedifying poetic exchanges between Barclay and Andrew Melville as well as other participants. Melville, one of the leaders of the Kirk, was summoned to London in 1606 to discuss the Scottish position and delivered his opinion to the king in a characteristically forthright manner, along with a sarcastic Latin epigram on the use of Catholic ceremonial at the Hampton Court chapel:

In aram Anglicanam eiusque apparatum.
Cur stant clausi Anglis libri duo regia in ara,
      Lumina caeca duo, pollubra sicca suo?
Num sensum cultumque Dei tenet Anglia clausum,
      Lumine caea suo, sorde sepulta sua?
Romano an ritu dum regalem instruit aram,
      Purpuream pingit relligiosa lupam?

[“Why stand there on the Royal Altar hie
Two closed books, blind lights, two basins drie?
Doth England hold God’s mind and worship closs, [closed]
Blind of her sight, and buried in her dross?
Doth she, with Chapel put in Romish dress,
The purple whore religiously express?”]

Melville was promptly thrown into the Tower, where he stayed for four years. Barclay joined the controversy, responding as follows:

BARCLAIUS PONTIFICIUS IN ARIMACHUM (probably Melville’s title for the poem) NOTE 3

Quid mirum est sacram milvinis unguibus aram
      Tentari? Est avium non magis ulla rapax.
Harpyae volucres olim foedissima monstra
      Sic mensae instructas diripuere dapes.
Atqui his virginei fuerat decor oris: at uncis
      Unguibus armatae terribilesque manus.
O nimium impuri facies quibus illita fuco,
      Dum reliquis puros se magis esse putant!
Aedes quisque suas ornabit divite censu;
      Ornatamque Dei non licet esse domum!
Scilicet institui non aram sed cupis haram
      Porcorum stabulum, quo venerere Deum.

[“No surprise that the sacred altar is attacked with hawkish talons,
      For there is no more rapacious bird than the hawk.
In former times Harpies, those most repulsive monsters,
      Similarly destroyed feasts laid out on tables.
The beauty of virgin faces was theirs, but they were also armed
      With hooked talons and terrifying hands.
O what foul faces painted over with deceitful cosmetic,
      While they think they are purer than everyone else.
Anyone can decorate his house with a rich display;
      But he may not decorate the house of God!
It’s obvious that you want to establish, not an altar, but a pigsty,
      A pen for pigs where you can worship God.”]

spacer7. Melville responded in a poem beginning:

Si tibi nil mirum milvinis unguibus aram
      Tentari, et mihi sit res mira minus...

[“If it’s no surprise to you that the altar is attacked with hawkish talons,
      To me it is less of a surprise...”]

Barclay answered:

Quisquis is es coram qui versibus impetis aram,
     Et tacito summi crimine facta ducis,
Ausus es, o nimium, nimiumque audace Camoena
     Quisquis es, et terras,et violare polos.

[“Whoever you are who openly assail in verse the altar,
     And by doing this imply blame on the highest leader;
Far, oh far too rashly with your daring Muse, whoever you are,
     Have you dared to violate the earth and the heavens!”]

spacer8. David Hume of Godscroft joined the fray, writing this epigram against Barclay:


Latra, atque oblatra, aspergens limumque, lutumque
      Melvino. At frustra est, non minus ille nitet.
Latra atque oblatra, aspergens limumque lutumque
      Melvino. Haud frustra est, hoc magis ille nitet.

[“Bark and keep barking, spattering Melville with mud and slime.
      But in vain; he shines no less.
Bark and keep barking, spattering Melville with mud and slime,
      This is not in vain, for through it he shines all the more.”]

Hume explains his puns:

Erat Barclaius author Euphormionis tunc Londini anno 1605. & scripserat Epigramma in Melvinum,

      ...non cupis aram, sed cupis haram;
porcorum stabulum quo venerere Deum.

Bar Chaldaice significat filium et Claye Scotice significat lutum, Barke Scotice significat latrare. [“Barclay was the author of Euphormio, printed at London in 1605 and wrote epigrams against Melville: ‘You do not want an altar, but a pigsty, a pen in which you may worship God.’ Bar in Chaldaean means ‘son’ and Claye in Scots means ‘mud’; Barke in Scots means ‘to bark.’”] NOTE 4

How important Barclay’s contributions were to the religious debate may be questioned, but he was one of the few defenders of the old faith to engage in this poetic controversy. As Scots and as reformers, the Presbyterians had passion, not to say hatred, on their side, as shown in Melville’s epigrams. In the words of fellow Scot Mark Alexander Boyd [1562 - 1601] they loved religion as much as they loved war: nec plus, quam belli, relligionis amans [“loving religion no more than war.”] NOTE 5 [note: quoted in Thomson 1957 69]. Neither Barclay nor anyone else showed much passion on the opposing side. In any case, Barclay’s Poemata, the collection edited here, shows no signs of this controversy.


spacer9. Barclay’s literary value at court can be evaluated by his novel, Euphormionis Satyricon, his Sylvae, and the poems of the Poematum Libri Duo. NOTE 6 With the exception of Don Quixote, Barclay’s Euphormionis Satyricon (1607, 1610) was the most important and most widely read prose fiction of the first two decades of the seventeenth century, eclipsed in popularity only by his 1621 Argenis. In the Euphormio, Barclay portrayed political and religious controversies in an artistic, sophisticated way, and because it was better plotted than its predecessors in the romance and picaresque genres and its elaborate literary style was full of allusions to classical literature, the novel appealed to educated men all over Europe. It enjoyed more than fifty editions during the century after its publication, as well as sequels and imitations, most attributed to a Euphormio as author, so famous had the character become. The novel also occasioned controversy that aided its success when some of the novel’s targets, in particular the Jesuits and the pope, confiscated copies of the book (the 1607 Paris edition is consequently rare) and placed it on the Index, a fate subsequently suffered also by the Argenis.  On the other hand, King James must have been delighted with such attacks, not to mention the novel’s assault on tobacco smoking (Part II, chap. 31), the king’s particular bête noire. The novel and its reception would surely have strengthened Barclay’s position at the English court.
spacer10. For the most part directly addressed to court figures, Barclay’s Sylvae contains twenty-nine poems, beginning with a description of the arrival of King Christian IV of Denmark (the book’s dedicatee) in London in 1606, followed by New Year’s Day best wishes to the king and other court figures. Other poems, ordered roughly by length, include epigrams against rivals and hendecasyllabic love poems addressed to Melidoria. Of the poems in this collection, Barclay revised eighteen for the Poemata and subsequently added others. Two omissions seem odd: one piece dedicated to Ludovic Stuart, Duke of Lennox and King James’s cousin, and one to James Hay, First Earl of Carlisle, a favorite of the king. The latter poem begins with the statement that the poet’s rustic Muse was planning to celebrate Hay as the glory of the court, but Cupid instead advised him that lighter verse (the hendecasyllabics of Catullus) would be more appropriate and that this poem should introduce the hendecasyllabic love poems. In fact this poem is the first of several such offerings in the Sylvae. Perhaps Barclay felt that by 1615 the poem’s intimacy had become unwelcome in view of Hay’s distinguished career at court: he was made a baron in 1606 and was sent on several missions abroad. Other omitted poems include short epigrams in the style of Martial (one on the Justus Lipsius, notorious for the obscurity of his style, wonders if the dead words dug up by Lipsius will eventually kill him) and the poem from Barclay’s Conspiratio Anglicana, which contains a grotesque image:

O dolor! Hoc ineant? Lacerumne per aethera regem
Spargere, quem melius caelo feret ardua virtus?

{“O Grief! Do they dare thus? To scatter the King piecemeal through the heavens,
Whither his soaring virtues would better raise him?”]

Perhaps Barclay had second thoughts about these lines and accordingly suppressed them rather than risk offending King James. The surviving eighteen poems were all revised to a greater or lesser extent, with the Melidoria poems left largely intact. Two poems for Prince Henry were combined into one, perhaps because the prince had died in 1612 before the publication of the Poemata and could no longer be a source of patronage. Imagery and phrasing were revised in most of the poems carried over from the Sylvae to the Poemata, and I suggest reasons for some of these changes in the notes below.
spacer11. Book I of the Poemata comprises Barclay’s longer poems, which he describes as being written liberioris spiritus, which I have translated “in a higher and more untrammeled spirit.” He may simply mean that the poems in Book I are all written in a formal dactylic hexameter. Most have specific dedicatees: King James, Robert Cecil, and Prince Henry occur most often (as in the Sylvae), but Prince Charles, King Christian of Denmark (Queen Anne’s brother), and William Barclay likewise appear. With the exception of the poem to Prince Charles, all of the preceding are revisions of poems from the Sylvae. New to the Poemata are four pastoral eclogues: a plaint of the shepherd Corydon (the poet) about Phoebus’ (the king’s) disdain (I.5), Corydon;s poem of thanks for long anticipated rewards (I.6), Corydon’s plaint for his beloved Daphne (I.7), and two shepherds’ amoebaean lament for the death of Daphnis (Prince Henry, I.8). There is also a funeral dirge (epicedion) for the young daughter of a Spanish legate residing in London. Book II comprises poems and epigrams tenerioribus versibus {in tenderer verses”], by which Barclay means poems in hendecasyllabic and elegiac meter. These include love poems to Melidoria, hate poems to Camella, and miscellaneous poems about friends, rivals, and current events. Many, however, are centered on King James and the court: a poem on the king’s illness (II.1), a celebration of the union of England and Scotland (II.27), a letter from the hares of Newmarket to the king (II.14, James was mad for hunting), a description of a cock-fight at which the king was present (II.29), a farewell poem for King Christian IV’s departure from England (corresponding to I.3). A few of these are recycled from the Sylvae, but most are new. See the notes to individual poems for details.


spacer12. With some 2500 lines of verse included in his two novels plus the 150 pages of verse in his Sylvae and Poemata, Barclay was one of the seventeenth century’s most prolific Latin poets. His talents embraced several genres of verse, most prominently pastoral, epigram, and amatory hendecasyllabics, the eleven-syllable verse form made famous by Catullu’s poems to Lesbia. The Augustan poets, especially Vergil, Ovid, and Catullus, most influenced his verse, with a touch of Statius in his vocabulary. (Barclay’s first published work was a commentary on Thebaid I - IV, and vocabulary from Statius recurs in all his writings.) His verse is entirely classical, containing no trace of medieval influence or biblical references. He has a tendency to display his erudition and frequently employs obscure allusions, most prominently in the Euphormio, and he often repeats the same allusions in different poems. Whoever or whatever he means by Sidonius vates (I.10.32) still escapes discovery. Barclay also favors poetic geographical terms and his favorite adjective Eous (Eastern) occurs at least ten times. He also likes Arctous for northern (six times) and the Latin names of the winds (also applied to compass points), especially Auster for the South wind (seven times). The Phoenix makes several appearances, as do Delphi, the Musae/Camoenae, the Parca/Parcae (Fates), Tithonus and Aurora, and other mythological figures. The judgement of Paris and the three goddesses are favorite themes. Rivers are much in evidence, especially the Rhine and the Thames. Barclay is not reluctant to repeat a theme with variations. Lines expressing the idea “from East to West, North to South” occur many times and may serve as a convenient way to illustrate his copia and variety:

13. Seu placet Arctoas hyemes, aut sole recenti
Mygdoniam spectare diem, patet hospita tellus.

[Addressing King James: “Your land lies open to these nations, whether they inhabit pale shores of western night, or love the Arctic cold, or watch the Mygdonian day with rising sun.” (Mygdon was a king of Phrygia, hence “eastern.”)]

With this one might compare Statius’ Silvae I.iv.89f.,, in which the Rhine also appears: non vacat Arctoas acies Rhenumque rebellem / captivaeque preces Veledae et, quae maxima nuper...

Mox te aliae facilem, seu quas face pulcher Eoa,
Seu quas extremis moriens sol aspicit undis,
Fas habeant terrae.

[“Other lands may find you (King James) persuadable and kind—and rightly so—lands which the lovely sun views with his Eastern torch or which he, dying, sees in the farthest waves.”]

For metrical reasons (a convenient spondee), forms of Eous frequently occur at line end, as in Catullus xi.2f., litus ut longe resonante Eoa / tunditur unda.

Te Seresque Arabesque colant, te quicquid Eoa
Luce videt, quicquid seris sol aspicit undis.
(I.4.70f., to Prince Henry)

[“May the Chinese and the Arabs attend you, as well as whatever the sun sees with its Eastern rays or views as it sinks late in the waves.”]

Igneus Eoo qua se pater exerit axe,
Quaque facem condit nocturnis fessus in undis,
Vestrum fama tulit late decus.
(I.7.78 - 80 to the nobles who have separated Corydon from Daphne)

[“From the place where the blazing father rises in the eastern hemisphere to the place where he wearily lays down his torch in the waters of the night, fame has borne your glory everywhere.”]

These lines may be compared with Ovid, Fasti III.106f., aut geminos esse sub axe polos, / esse duas Arctos, quarum Cynosura petatur / Sidoniis, Helicen Graia carina notet... In addition, the phrase nocturnis fessus in undis is metrically equivalent to nocturnis rexit in undis, Vergil. Aen. V.868.

14. Quisquis ad Arctoas hyemes, Phoebumve cadentem,
Pastor oves egit, vel laetas rupe capellas,
Quem petit igne Nothus, radiis qui flavus Eois,
(I.8.68 - 70, about Daphnis}

[“All the shepherds who herd their sheep or rock-loving goats either in Arctic winter or towards the setting sun, and the shepherds attacked by the south wind’s heat or browned by the eastern rays of the sun...”]

Euphormio, John’s first novel, was heavily influenced by Petronius; this influence also appears  here. Petronius, frag. 27: te nvuerit ultimus Ister, / Te Boreas gelidus, securaque regna Canopi, / Quique renascentem Phoebum, cernuntque cadentem.

Egissem sub iura ferox, dol quicquid Eous,
Et serus mediusque videt
; (II.27.6f., Britain speaks)

[“I would have fiercely subdued to my will whatever the sun has seen in East and West, all corners of the earth (sc. but I was divided into two nations).”]

spacer15. Many poems of Poemata II show the unmistakable influence of Catullus. Sixteenth century Neo-Latin poets like Janus Secundus or Michael Marullus (the Neo-Catullans) as well as George Buchanan NOTE 6 adopted several features of Catullan style: the use of diminutives, repetition of phrases and lines, a familiar tone, and the characteristic hendecasyllabic (11-syllable) meter. Poems may concern the love (as in Buchanan’s poems to Neaera) or hate (as in the same poet’s poems against Leonora). In addition to motifs from Catullus, the Renaissance Neo-Catullans added imagery based on the eye, the god Cupid/Amor with his bow, arrows, and torch, and the motif “loss of the lover’s soul to the beloved.” The love poems to Melidoria and the hate poems to Camella display several of these characteristics.
spacer16. Diminutives include the ever-popular labellus (II.2.14, 15, 16, 22); beatula (II.2.5); ocelli (I.3.20, 23, II.16.3); nigellum (II.13.5). Repetition with rhyme or jingle is frequent: sensi, sentio (II.2.10); lacertum, lacerto (II.2.11, 12);, surdior...ponto (II.15.1f.), dextra...dexteras (II.7.7). The familiar tone is marked by interjections or by questions to the reader or the addressee: en “Look!” (II.2.18, II.5.27), ah (II.2.25; II.9.4, II.16.15, and elsewhere), questions (II.3.1-6, II.6.6 - 10, and elsewhere). Barclay uses imagery based on sight in the two poems referring to Cupid’s blindfold and the dangers attendant on its removal (II.3 and II.16). Amor/Cupid, who appears in the classical Catullus only in the abstract Veneres Cupidinesque of poems iv and xiii or the stylized choruses of xlv, the wedding song, is the dominant player in Barclay’s Melidoria poems. The poet also envisions dying of love (II.15) or losing his soul to his beloved (II.2), an elaboration of the motif: the poet’s soul slips into the bracelet and then into the beloved when she puts it on. The poems of Poemata II demonstrate Barclay’s virtuosity with established forms, but he makes no innovations.


spacer17. The poems of Poemata I are in an entirely different genre. Four poems are explicitly pastoral (I.5 - I.8), but others as well reflect the world of pastoral, where humble people, like shepherds, express strong feelings, especially of love and worship, in learned, elaborate language full of classical and mythological references, even when “singing” (as shepherds always do) in English. NOTE 8 This language, so fashionable at the Jacobean court, elevates the lowly speaker and shines the light of glory on the beloved or on the aristocratic patron, both far above the poet. One of Barclay’s eclogues concerns the poet’s beloved (I.7) and as usual, he is in despair. He was cherished by his previous lover, is well worthy of love himself—being handsome and skilled in his shepherd’s craft—but is separated from his beloved Daphne by hostile guardians. Suddenly, however, he receives a sign from heaven that his wishes will be fulfilled—perhaps; the eclogue ends with a note of doubt (I.7.105f.).
18. More important for Barclay were the eclogues and related poems addressed to aristocratic patrons. As in Vergil (deus nobis haec otia fecit, Ecl. 1.6), the patron and his family have divine status. Throughout these poems the poet’s royal patron is Phoebus, the sun god. He is a numen, a divine power whose influence spreads worldwide. He is the Phoenix who rises from the ashes. His son is also a Phoenix, and the poet sees in Albion the unique occurrence of two simultaneous Phoenixes, James and Charles, the latter perhaps the risen Phoenix of the dead Prince Henry (I.1.177ff.). This deification of the king (paralleled for example in Statius Silvae iv.1, a strena, or New Year’s Day poem, to the emperor Domitian) seems entirely non-Christian, and in fact Barclay’s verse is totally classical, containing no reference to Christianity or the Bible. However, even in more overtly Christian verse, rulers are addressed as deities. Examples are ready at hand in George Buchanan’s works. In his New Year’s Day poem to Queen Elizabeth (Kal. Jan. 1568; Epigrammata 3.10) he calls the queen a goddess, in fact three goddesses:

At Dea nil istis eget haec cui dona parantur
    Juno opibus, studiis Pallas, et ore Venu

[“ But the goddess for whom my gift is intended has no need of these:
     spacerA Juno in wealth, a Pallas in studies, and a Venus in countenance.” (tr. M’Crie, p. 108)

In another epigram (2.25) the same three goddesses appear and the poet says Est dea: quid dubitem.... [“She is a goddess, why do I hesitate [to say it?]...” This comparison to one or another of the three goddesses is a cliché which occurs several times in Barclay (I.4.74, I.9.24, II.20.9 and elsewhere). One must remember that the artistic world of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods was steeped in the classics. To cite just one example: in the masques which were so popular at the Jacobean court during Barclay’s residence there, courtiers took the roles of classical divinities or heroes: Cupid, Venus, Aeneas, Vulcan in Jonson’s The Hue and Cry after Cupid (Feb. 1608); Pallas Athena (played by Queen Anne!), Juno, Diana, Venus in Daniel’s The Vision of the Twelve Goddesses (Jan. 1604). NOTE 9 Portraying the king as a divinity was a classical metaphor for his high status, not a religious statement.
spacer19. The poet is a humble petitioner of this great Phoebus for approval or payment. He wonders what in the world he could give in return that the patron does not already have. (Buchanan had wondered the same in Epigrammata 3.10, also a New Year’s Day poem.) The poet’s song, which may bring the patron eternal fame (I.7.86f., I.9.49ff.), can be one gift, but humble worship may be the best offering (I.2.175ff).
spacer20. Barclay was careful to keep his poems entirely classical in tone. We may hypothesize that, as a Catholic, he avoided any religious reference that might possibly be used against him. On the other hand, the literature popular at the Jacobean court (the masques, plays by Jonson and others) was never explicitly Christian; Barclay was simply conforming to his environment. An example of Barclay’s avoidance of religious reference can found in Poemata I.4, to Prince Henry, when compared with George Buchanan’s Silvae 7, the genethliacon (birth poem) for King James, Barclay’s patron. Buchanan introduces the Phoenix, Roman rulers (Romulus, Numa, Nero), the Graces, and the Muses, as does Barclay (here and elsewhere), but Buchanan also introduces Christian references: Solomon, the Dei vivens imago (Silvae 7.77) which lives in the prince who governs himself well. His poem is a serious reflection on the education of princes and a statement of his political and religious hopes for Scotland. In contrast, Barclay’s only maxim is “model yourself on your noble father.” He has written an essentially trivial work aimed at flattering the adult King James. Even the epicedion (funeral poem) for Isabella (I.10) is entirely classical. In a vision the dead girl tells her parents that she is syderibus iugenda meis [“united with my stars.”] She enjoys the nova semper in astris gaudia “eternally renewed joys in the stars.” Her Fates (Parcae) wished all this. By contrast, in his epicedion on John Calvin, Buchanan uses the pagan phrases astra tenes “you hold the stars” (Miscell. 24.11) and in astra remeas (24.20-21) “you return to the stars,” and he mentions the classical Charon and Cerberus, but also refers to Deus in the singular, the purum lumen and mors secunda (24.12, 21) of Revelation chapters 20 and 21, and the contemporary Popes whom Calvin had opposed. Buchanan’s epicedion combines classical (“pagan” would be entirely the wrong term) and Christian imagery in a way avoided by Barclay. It may be relevant that King James was not fond of his old tutor, George Buchanan, and might have reacted badly to any verse that reminded him of the stern old man. By keeping his tone light, flattering, and loyal, Barclay maintained the king’s friendship and his position at court. There is no evidence that his move to Rome was the result of any loss of the king’s favor.

- - -

spacer21. In this edition Barclay’s (or the printer’s) original spelling has been maintained (but j is changed to i); punctuation and capitalization has been lightly modernized.  As usual with seventeenth century printers’ practice, most exclamations which contain some word which often introduces questions (quotiens, quot) were marked as questions; indirect questions often had a question mark as well. Such cases have been changed. The first word of a sentence beginning in the middle of a line was not capitalized; this has been changed as well. I have kept the original paragraphing in the poems. I know of four editions of the Poemata, all nearly identical: the editio princeps. Ioannis Barclaii Poematum Libri Duo, London 1615 (numbers in brackets in the Latin text refer to pages in this edition); Ioannis Barclaii Carminum Libri Duo, Cologne 1626, which adds a third Book comprising poems selected from his novel Argenis; Ioannis Barclaii Poematum Libri Duo, Oxford 1636, which adds miscellaneous poems not by Barclay at the end of Book II. These include an epicedion for Archduchess Margaret of Austria (died 1630) and a long Tumulus Gustavi Adolphi, a memorial for Gustavus Adolphus (killed in battle 1632).  All of these editions are available online. The Poemata were also reprinted in volume I of Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum huius aevi Illustrium (Amsterdam, 1637) 76 - 136. The translation differs from the usual practice of the Museum in that we have indulged in a verse translation, as perhaps better representing Barclay's art. These versions are all from the pen of Robert Meindl.


spacerNOTE 1 The two short hexameter poems originally attached, without titles, to the end of the Series Patefacti nuper parricidii were reprinted on pp.42f. of Barclay's Sylvae of 1606, now entitled “De coniuratione in regem regnumque Britanniae; detecta 5 die Nouemb.1605” and “De eâdem” respectively. Deleted from the Poemata (see paragraph 10 above), they would reappear, without titles, at the end of the Series patefacti divinitus parricidii in ter maximum regem regnumque Britanniae, printed with running title Conspiratio Anglicana  on pp.769-82 of the 1634 Oxford print  Euphormionis lusinini, sive, Ioannis Barclaii partes quinq[ue]. Satyricon bipartitum. L.1. & 2. Apologia pro se. L.3. Icon animorum. L.4. Veritatis lachrymae. L.5 Cum clavi praefixa. Accessit Conspiratio Anglicana. For a brief discussion of Barclay’'s hexameter lines, see James Reid Baxter, ‘Andrew Melville and the Gunpowder Plot,’ in Andrew Melville (1545 - 1622): Writings, Reception and Reputation, ed. R. A. Mason and S. J Reid. (Ashgate: Farnham, 2014), pp.155 - 76, at 16f.1.

spacerNOTE 2 For the necessity for skilled Latinists see

spacerNOTE 3 Arimachus is the compound of ara and machus, “altar-fighter.” Jamie Reid Baxter reminds us of the similar formations of arenicola (“sand-dweller”) and aulicola (“one who dwells at court”).

spacerNOTE 4 Translation of the first item quoted from M’Crie II.243. All the Latin poems are printed in Melvini Musae (1620; Early English Books reel 1354). M’Crie makes the suggestion that Melville himself may have written all these poems, based on the fact the Barclay poems show several of his characteristic usages (which of course would not have been hard to imitate): the classical parallel of Harpies, the uncommon impeto for “assail,” Camoena for Musa, polos for caelum. In Latin Melville is Melvinus, giving rise to the pun on milvus [“kite”], the bird of prey (translated “hawk” here). 
spacerThe French ambassador, Antoine Le Fevre, Sieur de La Boderie, seems to have forwarded Melville’s epigram to the French court, along with a discussion of the relations between the king and the Puritans. He included a response to Melville, qui a été faite par un Secrétaire de la Chambre du dit Roi. Barclay could certainly be a plausible author of the response. (See Ambassades de M. de la Broderie, 1750, I.456 - 8, available on Internet Archive. The epigrams themselves are not included in the published work.) More on this controversy in Doelman pp. 63ff.

spacerNOTE 5 Quoted by Thomson, p. 69.

spacerNOTE 6 The novel has a modern edition, Barclay 1973. The Sylvae is available in the Early English Book series, reel 872:05.

spacerNOTE 7 I have frequently cited parallels from George Buchanan’s lyrics in this introduction. As a fellow Scot with long residence and wide acquaintance in France, Buchanan must have exerted some influence on Barclay, although John never mentions him. William Barclay had specifically addressed Buchanan’s political thought in De regno. In any case, Buchanan’s verse was widely admired.

spacerNOTE 8 Compare this stanza from Spenser’s Shepheardes Calendar for October with Barclay’s pastoral lament at I.5.30 - 34:

Piers, I have pyped erst so long with payne,
That all mine Oten reedes bene rent and wore:
And my poore Muse hath spent her spared store,
Yet little good hath got, and much lesse gayne,
Such pleasaunce makes the Grashopper so poore,
And ligge so layd, [lie so faint] when Winter doth her straine.

NOTE 9 For Jonson’s The Hue and Cry after Cupid and its production, see Nichols, II.176 - 88 ; for Daniel’s The Vision of the Twelve Goddesse , see ib. I.305 - 314.


spacerCHEL The Cambridge History of English Literature (edd. A. W. Ward and A. R. Waller. Cambridge U. K. 1907 - 1916).

Barclay, John, Argenis (ed. and trans. Mark Riley and Dorothy Huber, Assen, 2004)

Euphormionis Satyricon (trans. with introduction and notes by David A. Fleming, Nieuwkoop, 1973)

Icon Animorum or The Mirror of Minds (ed. Mark Riley, Leuven, 2013)

Buchanan, George, Georgii Buchanani Scoti, Poetarum sui seculi facile principis, Opera Omnia (ed. Thomas Riddiman, Leiden, 1725); volume II contains Buchanan’s poetry

Doelman, James,  King James and the Religious Culture of England, (Cambridge 2000).

Ford, Philip J., George Buchanan, Prince of Poets (Aberdeen, 1982)

Fleming, David, “John Barclay: Neo-Latinist at the Jacobean Court,” Renaissance News 19.3 (Autumn 1966) 228 - 236

Gilmore, John T., “John Barclay’s ‘Camella’ Poems,” in D. Orrells, G. Bhambra, T. Roynon (edd.), African Athena: New Agendas, (New York, 2011) 277 - 292

Hume of Godscroft, David,  Davidis Humii Wedderburnensis Poemata Omnia (Paris, 1639). The relevant material discussed in this introduction has been published in The Philological Museum here

M’Crie, Thomas, The Life of Andrew Melville (Edinburgh 1819)

McGinnis, Paul and Arthur Williamson, George Buchanan: the Political Poetry (Edinburgh, 1995).

Nichols, John, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities, of King James the First, His Royal Consort, Family, and Court (London, 1828); this four-volume set is available online here.

Thomson, D. F. S., “The Latin Epigram in Scotland: the Sixteenth Century,” The Phoenix 11.2 (1957) 63 - 78.