Tres novit, Labiene, Phoebus artes,
ut narrant veteres sophi; peraeque
quas omnes colui, colamque semper:
nunc omnes quoque musicum, et poetam
agnoscunt, medicumque Campianum.

Epigram I.167

1. “Campion is the only poet in English whose work has a place in music history, and he is the only musician who has a place in literary history.” NOTE 1 But he was much more too: theorist of harmony and English metrification; sometime student of the law; Doctor of Medicine and practicing physician. More immediately to the point, Thomas Campion also belonged to that small company of English poets that includes Watson, Herbert, Milton, and Landor, who have produced significant and interesting poetry in Latin as well as in English.
2. Rescued from obscurity in the past century by the combined efforts of literati and musicians, lionized by Elliot, Pound, and Auden, NOTE 2 Campion is now appreciated as a masterful English lyricist. His standing as a Latin poet is less established, and his work less known. To be sure, Percival Vivian included all of his Latin output then known in his Oxford edition of Campion’s works. NOTE 3 But what was acceptable in a 1909 edition is near-fatal for most readers today: no translations. The situation has only partly been retrieved in more recent times. Campion’s Latin work printed in his own lifetime consists of two Books of epigrams and one of elegies, together with two longer works, ad Thamesin and Umbra. These were issued as Thomae Campiani Poemata by Richard Field at London in 1595. A second enlarged edition of the same work was printed as Tho. Campiani Epigrammatum Libri II, Umbra, Elegiarum Liber Unus by Edward Griffin at London in 1619. In the second version Umbra (which had been printed as a fragment in 1595) was completed, and ad Thamesin, an epyllion on the defeat of the Armada, was suppressed since no longer timely. To these may now be added another Latin work, a poem on the Gunpowder Plot in two Books entitled de Pulverea Coniuratione. NOTE 4 In his 1967 edition of Campion’s works Walter H. Davis included texts and translations for ad Thamesin, Umbra, one elegy out of eighteen, and 49 epigrams out of 453. NOTE 5 Thus most of this significant body of work is inaccessible to the modern reading public.


3. Previous writers have tended to appraisals of the Latin poetry that are lukewarm and sometimes downright disparaging. NOTE 6 The author of a book-length study of Campion stated “The Latin poems, which were his pride, are read (if ever) for the light they throw on his life and times, not for their poetic interest.” NOTE 7 About the epigrams, even a considerably more thoughtful and well informed reader has complained that,

…the bulk of his epigrams are written in a low key, drawing attention to some trait of human folly or weakness. They lack the mordant vehemence of satire, the “sting in the tail ” is slight…Many of these seem to be only mildly amusing today, to be low-powered and laboured, lacking the neat and biting conclusion necessary to make them memorable. Campion has toned down the final emphasis characteristic of the epigrams of Martial. NOTE 8

Such attitudes may mislead the reader into imagining he can know Campion well without knowing his Latin poems. Perhaps a modern may safely remain indifferent to the consideration that they were highly prized in his own lifetime. NOTE 9 Far more to the point are the considerable affinities between the epigrams and the ayres, upon which his reputation ultimately rests. Campion earned his place in the English pantheon as a miniaturist. NOTE 10 In the manifesto-like introduction to the first Booke of Ayres (1601) he proclaimed,

What Epigrams are in Poetrie, the same are Ayres in musicke, then in their chiefe perfection when they are short and well seasoned…And as MARTIALL speakes in defence of his sort Epigrams, so may I say in th’ apologie of Ayres, that where there is a full volume, there can be no imputation of shortnes. The Lyricke Poets among the Greekes and Latines were first inuenters of Ayres, tying themselves strictly to the number, and value of their sillables, of which sort, you shall find here onely one song in Saphicke verse; the reast are after the fascion of the time, eare-pleasing rimes with out Arte. The subiect of them is for the most part, amorous, and why not amorous songs, as well as amorous attires? Or why not new Ayres, as well as new fascions…Ayres haue both their Art and pleasure, and I will conclude of them, as the Poet did in his censure, of Catullus the Lyricke, and Vergil the Heroicke writer:

tantum magna suo debet Verona Catullo:
quantum parva suo Mantua Vergilio.

4. The affinity between Campion’s English ayre and Latin epigram is not merely a matter of scale. Davis devoted several pages to exploring the parallels: NOTE 11 both feature economy of expression, emphasis on structure, frequent compressed aphorisms, and sometimes the traditional epigrammatic “sting in the tail.” The same writer points the way to an even more significant comparison: NOTE 12

A new set of genres sprang up which, eschewing myth and fiction, espoused realism and a plain unadorned style. The erotic elegy as practiced by Donne and Jonson ran counter to the sonnet sequences: the focus was not on the mistress in a mythic context but on the half-amused self-observation of the lover in a social context, and it was direct erotic experience rather than its transcendence that was celebrated. The self-proclaimed originality of verse satire by Hall (1597), Marston (1598), and others featured the addressing of actual abuses of the time instead of a mythic past, and in a rough, plain, and frequently scurrile style…the 1590’s were the heyday of the epigram, which treated actual city life, the London scene, with amusement, wit, satire, and a plain style. If we follow its history from Weever (1599) and Davies (1600) to Donne and Johnson, we will discover a growth in brevity and wit.

5. Given this literary environment, an upsurge of interest in the classical epigram was inevitable. Martial became a popular model for imitation. NOTE 13 The reason for the enhanced popularity of the epigram in the late 1590’s probably had to do with that great literary paradigm-shift known as the Anti-Ciceronianism movement, whereby Silver Age Latin authors came to replace Golden Age ones as models for imitation. Both because he was a poet of the Imperial period, and because the pithy epigrammatic remark was a feature of Silver Age prose, it is likely that this literary vogue engendered new interest in Martial and the literary possibilities of the kind of pointed, “sting-in-the-tail” kind of epigram one associates with his name. The epigrams of the Greek Anthology were also the object of intensified sudy: one may mention, for example, a volume devoted to their translation into to Latin, John Stockwood’s Progymnasma Scholasticum (1597), which could readily be employed as a manual on epigram-composition. Yet there is one part of this formula that can scarcely be credited to Martial, for the erotic is wholly foreign to him. We shall have to search elsewhere for precedent for Campion’s erotic epigrams.
6. Among English poets who wrote in Latin, Campion appears to have been the first to explore the possibilities of the Martial-style epigram on a large and conspicuous scale. The portion of his 1595 Thomae Campiani Poemata indentified as “epigrams” is not composed exclusively of the comic “sting in the tail” type one associates with Martial, although it contains a large number of them. Like those of their Roman models, such epigrams almost exclusively consist of generalized humor, or sometimes of more pointed social satire (attacks on usury, for example, or the use of tobacco), written about fictitious characters with Latin names, who are no more than representative “types.” Campion’s attitude towards Martial is revealed in epigram II.27: 

Cantabat Veneres meras Catullus;
Quasvis sed quasi silva Martialis
Miscet materias suis libellis,
Ludes, stigmata, gratulationes,
contemptus, ioca, seria, ima, summa;
multis magnus hic est, bene ille cultis.

[“Catullus used to sing mere love songs. But, like a forest, in his slim volumes Martial commingled all sorts of material: praises and reproaches, congratulations and diatribes, witticism and serious stuff, the highest and the lowest. So the former is great in the eyes of the multitudes, while the latter is well-liked by those of cultivated taste.”]

Campion preferred Martial to Catullus because he prized variety (though this pronouncement makes one wonder precisely how much of Catullus he had read). As one would expect, therefore, we find a similarly varied medley of short poems in his epigrams. This closely corresponds to what one finds in his collections of ayres. Consider the 1601 A Booke of Ayres which bravely begins with the proclamation “What Epigrams are in Poetrie, the same are Ayres in musicke.” The first item is an embroidery on Catullus v that begins:

My sweetest Lesbia, let us live and love,
And, though the sager sort our deedes reprove,
Let us not way them:

The next is a bit of advice from an old man:

Though you are yoong and I am olde,
Though your vaines hot and my blood colde,

This concludes with the gloomy truth that Thou foole, tomorrow thou must die. Then comes something very different indeed:

I care not for these Ladies
That must be woode and praide,
Give me kind Amarillis
The wanton countrey maide.

In the span of just these three ayres we are treated to remarkable and remarkably abrupt shifts of moods, attitudes, and personae. The first, among other things, stakes an implied claim to be a doctus poeta, and, as hinted at the end of the preface quoted above, a Catullus for his times. By the time we have traversed the gloomy philosophy of the second and arrive at the fourth line of the third, set to a suitably pert Rossiter tune, we are treated to a familiar risqué pun. So the common denominator between the Campion’s Latin epigrams and vernacular ayres is kaleidoscopic variety, of indulging in the fun of adopting various voices and trying on different personae, doubtless not without a certain delight in the shock created by abrupt transitions and jarring juxtapositions. Often, one suspects, the word “persona” applies with its full theatrical connotation: the author is an actor momentarily playing a part, striking a posture for fun or to see how it feels. Something very similar is true of Campion’s epigrams
7. The tepid evaluations of the epigrams quoted above are both right and wrong. It may be true that one should only read them to find out about their author and his times, but this is only a serious objection if the man and his times are not worth knowing. Compared to Martial’s, possibly they are tame stuff and only intermittently funny, but this criticism presumes that Martial is never tame and always funny, and that amusement is the epigram’s sole aim. It is wrong to criticize Campion because his epigrams fail to conform to a single type. Quite to the contrary, the striking thing about the classical epigram is its versatility, as our poet well appreciated in Epigram II.27, just quoted. Some are undeniably insipid. Others are wickedly barbed. Yet others indulge in something approaching social satire, but a satirist can only be as good as the material he has to work with. If such epigrams are not as outrageous as their equivalents in Martial, it must immediately be added that Campion did not belong to an outrageous society, nor an exceptionally vicious one. What seems to us the most substantial and pervasive vice of the age, religious intolerance, may have struck him as right and natural, and in any event how can one lampoon vice when it is elevated to the level of government policy? Some readers will be gratified, and others disappointed, that he was largely free of Martial’s frequent nastiness. In the 1595 edition, to be sure, there is an attempt, tame by comparison, to imitate his model in this respect, by using such words as cunnus and mentula. But Campion had second thoughts. In the expanded 1619 edition in virtually every case the epigrams in question have been cut out or toned down. NOTE 14
8. In some ways Campion’s epigrams are imitative of Martial. After the example of his prototype, he organizes his epigrams into Books. Each Book in Martial’s collection begins with a dedicatory epigram to Caesar, matched by Campion’s two initial epigrams addressed to Prince Charles. Some Books of Martial (I, II, IV, X, XI) end with a special concluding epigram; these too are imitated by Campion. The Roman names of a number of his fictitious characters and addressees (for example Cotta, Sextilianus, Stella, Telesinus, and Tucca) are borrowed from his Roman model. One could expatiate at some length on other ways in which he imitates his exemplar. But such imitatio is far from slavish, and dwelling on the his resemblances to Martial ultimately has the effect of obscuring Campion’s positive qualities: it is far more illuminating to pay attention to the ingredients which are not Martial-based. This is especially true because adverse criticisms of his “epigrams” are written by readers who approached them with the expectation that these section of his volumes would be entirely devoted to Martial-style epigrams, as are those of “Britian’s Martial” John Owen [1560? - 1622], and have voiced their consequent frustration. In fact, like his volumes of Ayres, his epigrams present a deliberate, and often deliberately jarring, medly of short Latin poems of very mixed contents and moods. It is necessary to observe that several other categories of poem are interspersied with the comic epigrams.
9. First and most memorably, there is the erotic element. This is restricted to the more elevated and varied Book II, in which a large number of epigrams are written for or about the two steady women in Campion’s life, heartless Caspia (a name designed to conjure up the harsh cragginess of the Caspian Mountains) and promiscuous Mellea (who is as sweet as honey). To be sure, the tone of these varies considerably, but many of them are serious miniature love-poems, recording a kind of erotic experience reminiscent of Roman elegy, not epigram; no wonder, therefore, that Caspia and Mellea also make their appearance in Campion’s elegies. The adaptation of the epigram to this purpose evidently deserves to be accounted a significant innovation within the genre, for which our poet has not been given due credit. NOTE 15
10. If Campion is self-revealing regarding his amours, he is equally so in the corresponding sphere of his masculine friendships. He was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1586, and seems to have stayed there until 1595. It is not difficult to imagine that he proved a poor student of the law. He was never called to the bar, and a large number of his epigrams display a distaste for lawyers and their practices, often personified by his favorite fictional target Caccula. NOTE 16 Rather, like a large number of men allegedly reading law in the Temple, Campion appears to have used this time to pursue personal interests. A large number of epigrams in the 1595 edition are given new addressees for the 1619 edition. Thus the names of such individuals as Edmund Bracy, Robert Castle, George Gervis, William Hattecliffe, James Huishe, Francis Manby, Thomas Smith, John Sanford, William Strachey, and James Thurbarne appear in his 1595 epigrams and elegies. By 1619 he had left these Gray’s Inn associations far behind him. Their place is taken by the circle of literary friends with which Campion was now associated.
11. Another idiosyncrasy of the 1619 collection is the large number of epigrams on medical subjects added to the revised version. Vivian (p. xxxix) thought that Campion’s pleasant Gray’s Inn existence (punctuated, evidently, by participation in the 1591 Rouen campaign) came to an end because he exhausted the small patrimony which had enabled him to lead his existence as a student. Thus he was faced with the necessity of earning his living. He acquired a Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Caen in 1601, and for the rest of his life plied a physician’s practice in London. It would be well not to gloss over this aspect of our poet’s life, or to imagine that he took up medicine only to put bread on his table. One of the most notable features of the new material written for the 1619 edition is how much of it reflects a physician’s outlook on life. NOTE 17 Thus we have plenty of epigrams on diseases, remedies, symptoms, the perils of excess, quack doctors, and bogus remedies, a collection possibly large enough to commend itself to the attention of historians of medicine. While on occasion Campion can adopt the tones of a conventional moralist, in a number of epigrams he displays the peculiar moralism of a medical man: vice and excess contain their own punishment since they undermine the constitution and lead to death, and so he can regard gluttony, alcoholism, and venery with a kind of grim humor.
12. Here we have something new and rather unexpected, as Campion’s medical profession never impinged on his English literary works. Yet his own mind, literary and medical activities were related. His humorous verdict on the intersection of his poetic and medical interests can be read an epigram that appeared in The Discription of a Maske presented before the Kinges Maiestie at White-Hall, on Twelfth Night last, in honour of the Lord Hayes and his Bride (1607):

“Quid tu te numeris immisces? anne medentem
metra cathedratum ludicra scripta decent?”
musicus et medicus, celebris quoque, Phœbe, poeta es,
et lepor aegrotos, arte rogante, iuvat.
crede mihi, doctum qui carmen non sapit, idem
non habet ingenium, nec genium medici.

[“‘Why are you meddling with versification? Do playful ditties befit an armchair healer?’ Phoebus, as a musician and medico, and poet to boot your are famous, and when the healing art so requires, pleasant grace aids the ailing. Depend on it, the man unversed in learned song, not having music bred in the bone, also lacks the sawbones’ wit.”]

In another (I.6) he writes that Apollo was a musician, poet, and healer, and so is he:

Tres novit, Labiene, Phoebus artes,
ut narrant veteres sophi; peraeque
quas omnes colui, colamque semper:
nunc omnes quoque musicum, et poetam
agnoscunt, medicumque Campianum.

[“As wise men of old related, Labienus, Phoebus knew three arts, which I myself have plied, and always shall. Everybody knows that Campion is a musician, poet, and medico.”]

If he could pose as an Apollo for his times, he could also draw a comparison between himself and Galen, planted conspicuously near the beginning of the volume (I.3):

Nec sua barbaricis Galeno scribere visum est,
in mensa nullum qui didicere modum;
nec mea commendo nimium lectoribus illis
qui sine delectu vilia quaeque legunt.

[“Galen did not elect to write his works for the benefit of barbarians who had not learned to exercise moderation at the dinner-table. Nor am I too keen to commend my works to those readers who read any old trash without discrimination.”]

13. In many ways Campion’s professional experience colored his view of life, and a number of his epigrams either employ medical imagery or on explicitly medical topics. As is only suitable in a volume composed for the general reader, these are non-technical and readily comprehensible to the layman. What has been written about certain prose writers of his time has a certain application to our poet ): NOTE 18

We may observe this phenomenon [the injection of modern science and medicine into belles lettres ] most clearly in the writings of certain professed men of science who became literary men…who bring into new and curious relations the results of their physical exploration of man’s nature and the moral speculations of their time. Essentially moralists, as all men of their age were, they were able to add to the common stock of ideas and images a wealth of curious detail derived from their professional pursuits and their knowledge of unfamiliar facts.

14. Finally, we encounter patriotism. Some of the poems written to King James and various members of the royal family, no doubt, come dangerously close to forming a contemporary parallel to the obsequious flattery Martial too often directed towards the emperor Domitian. James managed to surpass even Elizabeth in his zest for such stuff. But even bearing this in mind, other epigrams on Elizabeth and such national figures as Sir Philip Sidney, Mary Pembroke, Sir Walter Devereux, Drake, Camden, and Bacon impart a nationalistic flavor to the collection. And, more generally, one can scarcely accuse Campion of being a mere imitator of Martial: a wide variety of allusions to things specifically English give this collection the flavor of beefsteak more than of garum.
15. So in the section of his volumes identified as “epigrams,” Campion developed a new kind of assemblage of short Latin poems, a kaleidoscopic medley of comic and sometimes satiric epigrams, a strong erotic component, poems written to friends, patriotic items, poems praising great figures of the day, and, in the 1619 volume, poems reflecting his professional medical interest. He soon found an imitator in his friend Charles Fitzgeoffrey’s 1601 Affaniae (see the commentary note on I.178) and it is likely that the influence of the kind of Latin verse-miscellaney he pioneered could be traced in other collections of the early seventeenth century. Campion appears to have developed something quite new for England. But this does not mean that this kind of volume had not been produced previously on the Continent. There exists a volume, for example, printed as early as 1554, entitled Stephani Forcatuli Iurisconsulti Epigrammata, published at Lyons, which adheres to this formula and contains many of these same same elements, including a number of short poems written to the poet’s mistress Clytia and items reflecting the author’s professional interests (in this case, the law). It is likely that other Continental predecessors could be adduced. But one wonders whether Forcatulus was responsible for developing the kind of short erotic epigram Campion favored, or at least for integrating this kind of poem into a serio-comic miscellaney of epigramss.
16. In annotating the epigrams I have not defaced this edition by playing the game of trying to identify individuals possibly represented by Latin names. The proper names in this collection of epigrams and elegies fall into three categories. Names taken from Martial are indisputably fictitious. Others are undisguised English names of historical individuals. Subtract these and there remains a considerable residue which could or could not be Latinized English surnames. Take, for example the addressee of II.126. One could suggest that Candidus is supposed to be the London physician-playwright Matthew Gwinne, since gwyn is Welsh for “white” and Gwinne had printed verse under the pen name Il Candido. But of course a conjecture such as this is not susceptible to proof; there seems to exist no shred of evidence that the two men knew each other in their literary or professional capacities, and Candidus may be meant to stand for somebody with the common English name White, or for nobody at all. Aulus may be someone named Hall, Eurus may or may not stand for a man named East or who had East for the first syllable of his surname, Corvinus for a man named Crowe, Maurus for Moore, and so forth. One could spend a lot of energy proposing such English surnames thus transmogrified into Latin and tracking down contemporaries of Campion to whom they might allude. Eurus, for example, might be a member of the music-publishing Eeste family. But to what avail? When Campion wanted to reveal the subject or addressee of a poem, he was capable of doing so, and it is doubtful whether in the case of any poem conjectural identifications would enhance the reader’s enjoyment or understanding.
17. Collected here in a separate file are various epigrams by Campion taken from other sources. For the most part, these are dedicatory verses prefacing works by the poet himself and by other writers.

18. Campion’s elegies have a great deal in common with the 1619 epigrams. In his case, the line of demarcation between the two genres is sufficiently indistinct that they come considerably closer to forming a single body of work than one would expect for such nominally different forms. To be sure, their Ovidian nature and a certain amount of mythological allusion impart a higher and more learned tone to the elegies. But they are dominated by accounts of the poet’s dealings with the same two romantic interests who appear in many of the erotic epigrams of the 1619 collection, Caspia and Mellea, and some of the elegies are addressed to members of the same circle of friends who figure in the epigrams. One cannot draw any hard and fast distinction between elegies and epigrams based on in particular seriousness of purpose or depth of feeling, for it is the presence of these qualities in many of the 1619 epigrams that marks them as unusual. Even the obvious distinction of length is not quite convincing. The epigram de Ira that appeared in the 1595 edition(II.45C ) is long enough that it would not seem out of place had it been printed among the elegies. Per contra the satirical and comparatively short elegy V could almost have been included among the epigrams.
19. The elegies have been carefully and sympathetically studied by J. W. Binns, who was chiefly concerned with pointing out their pronounced Ovidian character. NOTE 19 He took his cue from Charles Fitzgeoffrey’s appraisal (Affaniae II.15):

O cuius genio Romana Elegia debet
Quantum Nasoni debuit ante suo!
Ille, sed invitus, Latiis deduxit ab oris
In Scythicos fines barbaricosque Getas.
Te duce caeruleos invisit prima Britannos  
Quamque potest urbem dicere iure suam.
Magnus enim domitor late, dominator et orbis
Viribus effractis, Cassivelane, tuis,
Iulius Ausonium populum Latiosque penates
Victor in hac olim iusserat urbe coli.
Ergo relegatas Nasonis crimine Musas
n patriam revocas restituisque suis.

[“O you to whose genius Roman Elegy is indebted, no less than she was before to her Ovid! He, though unwilling, brought her from Latin climes to the Scythian land and the barbarous Getae. With you her guide, she has made her first visit to the blue-eyed Britons, though by rights she can call this city her own. For when your forces were shattered, Cassivelaunus, victorious Caesar, master far and wide, master of the world, once bade the Roman people and their Latin household gods dwell in this city. Therefore you recall the Muses, exiled by Ovid’s crime, to their homeland, and give them back their own.”]

20. Together perhaps with the Umbra, it was his elegies that earned Campion this praise as England’s Ovid. NOTE 20 Specific parallels with Ovid and the other Roman elegiac poets are best relegated to individual commentary notes. Speaking generally of the erotic epigrams, which dominate both the 1595 and 1615 collections, Binns (pp. 4f.) wrote “Campion drew much of the inspiration for his verse from Roman amatory poetry, some perhaps from life, but the object of his affections remains shadowy. The force of his mistress’ personality, whether real or imaginary, does not impress itself on the verse. Nonetheless Campion builds up a convincing amatory landscape.” He drew specific comparisons with Ovid (pp 10f.):

Campion’s mood in his love elegies is one of lightness and detachment, the result of his easy and graceful style, which derives above all from Ovid. The mistresses who appear in Campion’s erotic elegies are not placed in any particular identifiable social historical setting. There are no allusions which would enable us to say that they are set in the world of Campion’s own day…the setting is timeless and placeless, not specific. Nonetheless, the atmosphere of Campion’s elegies is that of Ovidian love elegy, somewhat cynical, portraying a love that is concerned with physical beauty and attraction rather than a spiritual and transcendent love. There are, too, many close echoes of Ovid…From Ovid too derive the mythological figures whom Campion uses as studied exempla n his love elegies — Theseus, Dido, Cephalus and Procris in elegy VII, Thisbe in elegies X and XII, Phaedra in elegy XI, and Leander in elegy XII.

21. This observation requires one major qualification. Save for the appearance of Oberon in IX, this attempt to appear echt Roman is made more strictly in the 1619 elegies (1 - 13 here), as part of Campion’s programme of raising the tone of that volume. But the elegies printed in 1595 set contained considerably more modernizing touches: NOTE 21 thus, for example, XIV (the first elegy of the 1595 set) is aggressively English and no less aggressively Protestant, Cupid exchanges bow and arrow for a contemporary weapons system in XV, and Jane Shore and Rosamund appear in XVI where we might expect to find a pair of classical mistresses cited as exempla. The final two poems in the 1595 collection are strikingly different from the general run of Campion’s elegies. XVII is an autobiographical description of a serious illness which reflects the self-observation of a physician as well as a poet, and XVIII is a puzzling mythologized account of the lifting of the French siege of Naples in 1528: it is far from clear why this episode appealed to the poet’s imagination, unless perhaps the way the impending capture was unexpectedly averted reminded him of the defeat of the Armada. Then too, two of the elegies exchange the realm of Eros for that of masculine friendship: XIII is written to Edward Mychelburne on the death of his sister (presumably her death also provoked epigram II.77), and in XVII the ailing poet pathetically addresses absent friends. In these two poems the Ovidian pose is at least partially abandoned.
22. Binns also pointed out how the 1619 set of elegies was shortened and rearranged to achieve a closer thematic relationship. NOTE 22

The first poem in the cycle begins with an invocation to springtime and deals with love at first sight, and so makes an appropriate beginning. There is also a pronounced tendency to present poems in antithetically balanced pairings, either directly juxtaposed or interwoven. “There follow elegies II and III, not dissimilar in length…each dealing with a similar theme, La Ronde, elegy II telling of the poet’s abandonment by his mistress in favour of Ottalus, whom she will in turn abandon, whilst no. III recounts the abandonment of Calvus by Calvus’ mistress in favour of the poet.” V complains of the fickleness of womankind while VI is about the lover’s constancy. In VII the lover professes his fidelity, and in IX he complains of the infidelity of his mistress. In VIII the he turns down a chance to possess his beloved, while in X he writes of an opportunity denied him. XI and XII form an antithetical pair of almost equal length…Poem XI opens with a recommendation that love should be shunned…whilst poem XII concludes with a recommendation that advantage should be taken of the amatory opportunities that present themselves.

So in the 1619 edition we see the transformation of what had been a series of individual elegies into a carefully integrated cycle. Like much else in the later book, this reflects Campion’s attainment of a higher level of literary sophistication.
23. In preparing a Latin text, thanks to the Early English Books microfilm series I have had direct access to the original editions of both 1595 and 1619, although I have also made due reference to the editions of Bonner, Vivian, and Davis (to whom I wish to record my gratitude). Save for correcting a few textual errors unnoticed by previous editors, the only necessary editorial work has been modernizing and correcting the punctuation in the interest of comprehensibility. The only important problem to be solved was integrating the poetry contained in two somewhat dissimilar volumes into a single edition. The artistically superior 1619 edition has provided an overall framework. I hope that the tactic of interspersing 1595 epigrams subsequently omitted does not give offense; since these epigrams are indicated by special letters, the outlines of Book II in its 1619 form are not erased, and this method shows the reader where the earlier poems stood in the original collection, which would be obscured were they to be consigned to an appendix.. But since the difference between the 1595 and 1619 elegies is considerably greater than that of the two sets of epigrams, it seemed preferable to devise a different strategy for their presentation. Hence I have given the 1619 set priority and then appended the 1595 ones omitted from the later collection (beginning with XIV). When readings differ between 1595 and 1619 versions of the same poem, the later ones are regularly given preference Percival Vivian has diligently recorded the textual variants between the two editions (which therefore need not be repeated here) in the section of his edition beginning here, and with the help of those notes the reader can readily reconstruct the way in which 1595 elegies retained in 1619 were printed in their new order.


24. In introducing the ad Thamesin Davis wrote that: NOTE 23

it might best be classified as an epic fragment, derived ultimately from the infernal setting of Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata, Book IV…and, like its progenitor, it possesses many features unusual in traditional epic poetry. While its matter and narrative manner (beginning in medias res with the epic question of cause immediately referred to the supernatural) are quite traditional, its Latin style is more Ovidian than Virgilian, there is but one attempt at the large epic simile, and most of the poem is taken up with descriptive work, especially in those static absolutes defining rather than presenting action, the allegorical houses so dear to Spenser — the House of Dis, the House of Avarice, the Fountain of Envy. So intent was Campion on these descriptive pieces that he left a scant eighteen lines for the defeat itself, and then broke that off for an apostrophe to Elizabeth. Campion here deserves much more than Tasso the accusation of having composed a set of scenes or madrigals rather than a whole poem. Yet it must be alleged that the purpose of the poem is not to present the defeat of the Armada but to place it in its proper epic frame by relating it to the broadest of human concerns.

25. The problem with this appraisal is that Campion is being unreasonably measured against the wrong yardstick. Like John Milton’s subsequent In Quintum Novembris (with which it has much in common), Campion’s poem has been misunderstood, and unfairly criticized, because of mistaken classification. Both poems have been deprecated as failed narratives, because they have been read is as mini-epics, as if they differ from, say, the Aeneid in terms of proportion, but otherwise ought to be held to the same standards and fulfill the same essential function of telling a coherent story. According to this understanding, the poem, like any epic, can be judged by the quality and effectiveness of its narrative contents. But this categorization of the poem is unreasonable: length is by no means a dispensable feature of an epic poem, and Milton’s poem is more properly classified as an epyllion.
26. The genus of the classical epyllion, and later imitations thereof, is in turn divisible into at least two distinct species, each having its own aims and methods, and each raising a characteristically different set of expectations on the part of the reader. First, there is what has been labeled the Ovidian epyllion, exemplified by such works as Musaeus’ (and Marlowe’s) Hero and Leander or Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis. This genre has recently been described: NOTE 24

Unlike an epic such as the Aeneid, Ovid’s [Metamorphoses] conveniently divides into numerous discrete episodes involving perennially fascinating topics such as frustrated passion, incest, rape, and murder, all of which, including the last, are aspects of its erotic character. In addition, the overall theme of transformation or change of identity makes for keen psychological interest. With Ovid the epic’s customary sphere of action broadens to include something of a more reflective dimension, so that the poet seems not merely to be presenting a startling event but also musing on what may underlie its occurrence.

The Alexandrian epyllion is very different. Writing of Callimachus’ Hecale the Hellenist Alban Lesky wrote: NOTE 25

By calling the Hecale an epyllion we do not only indicate its small size, but also a specific method of narrative different from the larger epic. Certain episodes, mostly not the central ones, are taken from the context of old legends and are lovingly reshaped, while the remaining themes are left at the fringe…The Hecale had an extraordinary influence; poems of the Roman neoterici, such as the Io of Licinius Calvus or the Smyrna of Helvius Cinna are modeled upon it; Catullus’ poem on the Marriage of Peleus and Thetis and the Ciris from the Appendix Vergiliania also bear testimony to this influence.

Elsewhere the same author (p. 26) speaks of “the delight of Hellenistic epyllia in depicting little scenes.” The genre delights in verbal scene-painting, the development of individual details of a story, and the building of atmospherics, with the writer gliding hastily over the rest if he treats it at all. The author of an epyllion of the Alexandrian type is under no obligation to present the reader with a coherent narrative; indeed, to do so would be to violate the rules of the particular game he has decided to play. In consequence, such an author has a right to have his work measured by appropriate canons. To do otherwise would be the literary equivalent of an art critic dismissing a first-rate miniature on the grounds that it is a bungled colossus.
27. The discovery that both works belong to this specialized genre does not exhaust the significant similarities between ad Thamesin and In Quintum Novembris. The Alexandrian epyllion is in essence a frivolous genre: as exemplified by such classical specimens as Catullus’ sixty-fourth poem, and by latter-day imitations like the fourth Eclogue of Thomas Watson’s Amintae Gaudia (1592), its purpose is to purvey beguilement and delight with charming descriptive set-pieces. Both Campion and Milton, however, put the form to unexpected uses by converting it into a serious analytic tool. Campion had no interest in providing a historical account of the Armada. Rather, in ad Thamesin he looks for the underlying cause for the launching of the Spanish expedition against England, and locates it in a moral defect: insane greed. As is explicitly stated in the Argument, stripped of spooky atmospherics and quasi-mythological varnish, he is au fond saying that Spanish plundering of America and their attempted conquest of England are part and parcel of the same enterprise. Several of his smaller works (such as epigrams I.14, 70, 160, and elegy V) variously articulate a dislike of money, moneylenders, and usury, and evidently this was an attitude seriously held. Milton was equally uninterested in telling yet again the familiar story of the Gunpowder Plot, its discovery, and the fate of the Plotters. Rather, he uses in Quintum Novembris as an instrument for revealing the Plot’s ethical and even theological foundations. NOTE 27 There are a verbal echo or two that might appear to suggest Milton’s familiarity with ad Thamesin. NOTE 28 If this is so, then it would appear that he learned from Campion that the Alexandrian epyllion could be put to this new, serious use (although, admittedly, an earlier poetic treatment of the Plot, the Scottish Alexander Yule’s 1606 Descriptio Horrendi Parricidii, is also distinctly epyllion-like in its conception).
28. Davis’ comparison of the present poem with Spenser’s Faerie Queen, printed in the following year, is important. Besides the similar allegorical descriptions of Houses, one discovers other similarities. One can compare, for example, the descriptions of Morpheus at a. T. 192ff. and F. Q. I.i.39. the appearance of personified Avarice at a. T. 102ff. and F. Q. I.iv.27f., Campion’s description of Avarice presiding over her hoard with F. Q. II.vii, the peacock-drawn chariot at a. T. 125ff. with the similar vehicle at F. Q. I.iv.17, and perhaps the list could be extended. NOTE 29 But the resemblance strikes deeper than such parallels. Both writers employ the same emblematic or quasi-allegoric approach with a heavily moralistic tone.The friendship of these two poets is attested by epigram II.40B. We may be confronted with a normal case of one writer borrowing from another. But in view of their friendship, and of dates of publication, another explanation is possible, that the two poets, so to speak, looked over each other’s shoulders as they were writing. In a later context I shall point out similar Spenserian elements in Campion’s last and most ambitious Latin work, de Pulverea Coniuratione.
29. Another literary debt must be pointed out. A seminally important 1585 Latin poem entitled Pareus, probably by George Peele, influenced a large number of subsequent narrative poems on political subjects. NOTE 30 Ad Thamesin seems to have been influenced by this work. The dénouement of ad Thamesin realizes the programme suggested at Pareus 339 - 41, a passage describing how the traitor Dr. William Parry wormed his way into Elizabeth’s Court:

ergo aut nobilium mensas, coetusque virorum
arripit insinuans, summisque in rebus agendis
versatur. quid lentus Arar, quid cogitet Ister,
quidque pater Tyberinus, et auro flavus Iberus,
et qua cunctorum tacitis Nereius undis
occurrat Thamesis, fluctusque infringat apertos,
mille suo volvens aeratas flumine puppes,
omnia nec Pylio peius, nec Pallade narrat.

 [“Thus he insinuated himself at the dinner-tables of the nobility and the congregations of men, becoming involved in high matters of state. What the sluggish Saône or the Danube were thinking, or father Tiber, or the Ebro, tawny with gold, and the means by which the oceanic Thames might counter the silent currents of each or shatter their undisguised waves, swirling their myriad gilded hulls in its riverine current — all this he recounted no less ably than a Nestor or an Athena.”]

In addition, one of the themes running through ad Thamesin is the repeated mention of rivers, beginning with those of the Underworld and ending triumphantly with the Thames. Possibly Campion got the idea from this passage, where each river mentioned stands for the nation through which it flows.
30. But the substantial contribution of Pareus lies in another direction. We have seen above that Davis rightly discerned in ad Thamesin the influence of Book IV of Tasso’s Gerusalemme Liberata. Campion’s Dis combines significant features of both the Christian Satan and the Pluto of classical literature, and this hybrid figure was invented by Tasso. It is doubtful whether Campion inherited this figure directly from Tasso - where in his writings or in his life is there evidence he could read Italian? - but, although, Gerusalemme Liberata was not available in English prior to Edward Fairfax’ 1600 version, Campion could have read this portion of Tasso’s work either in Scipio Gentili’s 1584 partial Latin translation, or in the partial English one of Sir Richard Carew (1594). And this neoclassical Satan (if such he can be called) had already appeared in Pareus , NOTE 31 in which, moreover, this hybrid Satan had already been cast in the role of archenemy of Protestant England and the prime mover both of the Roman Church and of the attempt to assassinate Elizabeth. As such, he was the ancestor of a number of similar figures in later Anglo-Latin literature, including the Dis of ad Thamesin, the very similar figure in de Pulverea Coniuratione, and ultimately Abaddon in Milton’s In Quintum Novembris .
31. Ad Thamesin was printed in the 1595 collection of Campion’s Latin poetry, as noted above, and appears in the editions of his work already listed. The translation of course is my own, but I should like to acknowledge my indebtedness to some of the felicities in Davis’ version.


32. Umbra is a standard epyllion of the Ovidian erotic-psychological kind. The story is evidently Campion’s own invention: although its protagonists, Iole and Melampus, have the names of familiar characters from classical mythology, they have nothing to do with these traditional figures. The first 230 lines were printed as a fragment in the 1595 volume, with slightly different final verses (the final one breaking off in mid-line). The complete work, which serves as the basis for the present edition, appeared in 1619.
33. The poem falls into two halves, one narrating the tragedy of Iole, and the other that of her son Melampus. The elements that bind it together and impart an overall coherence are thematic rather than narrative: its two overarching themes are the ruinous power of love and the malicious anger of baffled gods. When Iole refuses Apollo’s advances, he rapes her in an enchanted and drug-induced sleep; the ensuing pregnancy unhinges her, and she dies. Likewise, when Morpheus cannot seduce Melampus his love turns to wrath, and (with the help of a visit to the Underworld) he concocts a bewitching phantom who visits the boy in a dream. When he wakes and realizes he cannot possess this vision, he pines to death. Then Apollo inflicts a final and quite gratuitous insult by intervening at the end of the poem to deny Melampus a decent burial.Both gods wreak havoc on their victims in their sleep. As indicated by the title, the poem deals with destructive dreams and beguiling false visions. Campion’s tragedies are set against a highly decorative background. Both halves of the poem feature a beautiful valley, and loving attention is given to descriptions of the visual appeal of the natural world, as well as of individual humans. There is therefore a tension between the tragedies that are played out and the settings against which they are enacted. In a poem featuring a strong Platonic element (discussed in the commentary note on 255ff.) it may not be impossible that the “subtext” of the poem is that beguiling physical beauty, and the love it engenders is a destructive snare and delusion.
34. A similar tension exists on the level of vocabulary. Words containing the stem flor are used fifteen times. Roses are mentioned eight times, and violets and other attractive plant life are not neglected. Words beginning with virid appear four times. Words denoting physical beauty are also frequent: for example, forma and formosus, taken together, occur thirteen times, dulcis and related words six times, decorus three times But in this world of ravishing physical beauty an ominous tension is created by many words denoting darkness and secrecy. The word umbra, variously employed to designate a shadow or the shade of a dead person, is used fifteen times. Tenebra is used four times, ater thrice, and opacus twice. Closely allied to this are the repeated use of words for secrecy and silence: secretus four times, furtivus thrice, arcanus and silens once apiece. Sleep and dreams, as one would only expect, are mentioned frequently. Words with the stem somn occur twelve times, sopor five times, and quies thrice. The poem would no doubt reward a more detailed study of vocabulary and imagery, for Campion appears to have indulged in a program of deliberate repetition as a means of creating the poem’s special atmospherics.


35. The text of de Pulverea Coniuratione is preserved in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, ms. 59. Although its existence had been noted in print by M. R. James as early as 1895, NOTE 32 it escaped the attention of Campion’s previous editors, and has only recently seen the light of day thanks to an edition by David Lindley with the help of Robin Sowerby. NOTE 4 The manuscript in question is executed in a formal Italic script. A peculiar feature is that the dedicatory epigram to King James is pasted over an original prose dedication and a number of corrections are also inserted by pasted slips. Such alterations, according to Lindley, may possibly be in a second hand. Save for a signature on a legal document, we have no specimen of Campion’s own hand and so cannot ascertain whether he was responsible for these changes. In the present edition verbiage introduced by this process is printed in italics. Lindley managed to decipher most of the original prose dedication, and his transcription is included here. He speculated that the manuscript may have been prepared under Campion’s personal supervision, although copying errors are still present, adding (p. 5):

How or when the manuscript made its way to Sidney Sussex cannot be ascertained. It is possible that the work initially was handed over to James Montagu, the Master of Sidney Sussex College until 1608, who was entrusted by James with the handling of propaganda on the Gunpowder Plot, and was deeply involved with the subsequent debates on the Oath of Allegiance. The Montagu family had a continuing association with Sidney Sussex, and one might conjecture that it was through them that it was donated to the college. The absence of any record of its acquisition after 1619 perhaps suggests that it came to the college earlier, and the secretary hand of the college inscription certainly suggests an early seventeenth-century date for its acquisition.

36. The date of the poem cannot be fixed with precision. Lindley (pp. 2 - 5) noted allusions to the death of Prince Henry in 1612 (I.620) and the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Frederick, Palatine Prince of the Rhine in the following year (II.100ff.). But when he describes the Princess as natorum mox foelicissima mater at 113, this could easily be an expression of pious hope rather than an allusion to historical fact, and so need not mean the line was written after the birth of her second son in 1617. Yet Lindley’s speculation that it may have been written considerably later, based on the absence of this poem, or at least of its prefatory epigrams, from the second edition of his Latin poetry in 1619 carries no weight: surely the author would have felt no obligation to include all his Latin work in that volume. Conceivably he held this poem back in case he ever wanted to publish it independently. Equally unconvincing is the notion that he may have written the poem to refurbish his allegedly fading fortunes after his rather tangential involvement in the murder trial of his patron Sir Thomas Munson (who, after all, was acquitted) ’in 1615. NOTE 33 He may have written out of a quite different motive: writing a poem such as this could be useful in drawing royal attention to himself if he were angling for some official appointment as a physician. Such an understanding might serve to explain why on the title page he identifies himself as a M. D. although only once in his rather plentiful publications did refer to his degree on the title pages of a printed work issued after its receipt in 1605. NOTE 34
37. Beal NOTE 32 pointed out that the title of one of the introductory epigrams describes John Donne as a Doctor of Theology and that Donne received his doctorate in 1615. This consideration only serves to establish a terminus post quem for the epigram and the present manuscript, and leaves open the possibility that the poem itself was written somewhat earlier. In any event a couple a couple of considerations suggest that de Pulverea Coniuratione was written considerably closer to 1615 than to the later date suggested by Lindley. The mention of the Plotters’ plan for kidnapping Princess Elizabeth at II.88ff. inspires an excursus in which the poet praises the girl and then discusses her wedding to Prince Frederick of the Rhine in 1613, and even inserts a eulogy for her guardian, Sir John Harington, Lord Harington of Exton, who died while escorting Elizabeth to her new German home. Such a passage (the only one of its kind in the poem) would most likely have been written while the memory of these events was still reasonably fresh. And although there is an allusion to the death of Prince Henry in 1612, little prominence is given to the new heir apparent, Prince Charles. This forms a marked contrast to the attention paid Charles in Campion’s 1619 Latin volume, in which both Books of epigrams are dedicated to the Prince and a number of individual epigrams are addressed to him. It is tempting to imagine that the present poem was written before Charles became a prominent public figure upon his installation as Prince of Wales in November 1616.
38. This poem (by far the most ambitious thing Campion ever wrote) is the fourth of five Latin narrative hexameter poems that tell the story of the Gunpowder Plot — at least if one extends the concept “narrative” to embrace more or less mythologized accounts as well as realistic historical ones. The poem cannot fully be understood unless its position in this tradition is appreciated. Like the authors of the other items in this series, Campion took his cue from the official governmental representation of the Plot and its meaning.
39. What actually transpired in the Gunpowder Plot will always be a subject of intense historical debate. NOTE 35 All we really know depends on information put out by the government, which was scarcely behindhand in issuing its version of events. This was first promulgated by Attorney General Edward Coke in his prosecution speeches against the surviving Plotters. Then it was publicized in two “white papers,” A true and perfect relation of the proceedings at the severall arraignments of the late most barbarous Traitors and A Discourse on the maner of the discouery of this late Intended Treason. NOTE 36 The latter’s standing as a quasi-official state document was emphasized by the fact that it was printed in the same volume with King James’ 1605 address from the throne. These items are extremely similar: they present a series of carefully selected documents (confessions of the accused - with no admission that they were extracted under torture - and extracts from Coke’s trial speeches, linked by a suitably deploring narrative). The account that was fashioned in this way became a central myth of the early Stuart dynasty, fraught with ideological and theological implications.
40. The myth’s first component involved the Jesuits. The idea for exploding Parliament and thus killing James and his heir-apparent, and of setting up one of his younger children as a more compliant figurehead in order to gain toleration for Catholicism, was hatched by a small circle of English malcontents. Father Garnet, the Jesuit Superior for England, and several other members of the Order were to some degree privy to the Plotters’ plans, and it was at least alleged that they apprised the Vatican of their efforts. The government exactly inverted this situation so as to make the Anglo-Catholic conspirators the instruments of the international Jesuit octopus, acting under Garnet’s instructions. This construction of the facts was greatly facilitated by such Jesuit teachings as Cardinal Allen’s argument that the killing of heretical sovereigns was justified, and the doctrine of equivocation, supposedly preached to the Plotters by Father Garnet, according to which it was acceptable for Catholics to lie to the authorities about their faith. Repeated in subsequent Plot literature, this portrayal of the Jesuits acquired a greater measure of plausibility because of Ravillac’s assassination of Henri IV in 1610.
41. The second and equally important point had to do with King James himself. As the story was told, the conspiracy came to light because the Plotters had moral qualms about killing Catholic peers in the general explosion they were planning. Hence an anonymous letter was sent to one such peer, Lord Monteagle, cryptically urging him to avoid the impending meeting of Parliament. Puzzled and deeply disturbed, he rushed to some of the King’s ministers, and showed them the mysterious letter. As they could make no sense of it, they awoke James, and thanks to his superior sagacity - and, at least in some accounts, because of special divine guidance — he perceived that a plot was afoot, and ordered a search of Parliament’s cellars. Guy Fawkes was arrested, and his confession led to the uncovering of the Plot. Whether or not this account was truthful — it neglects, for example, the fact that Monteagle received the letter and showed it to the ministers over a week prior to Fawkes’ arrest - it served to stress James’ superior intellect and remind his subjects that he enjoyed a special relation with the Almighty.
42. Revelation of the Plot engendered a series of Anglo-Latin narrative poems on the subject. All five follow the same pattern, in which the narrative movement begins in the Underworld, usually in the context of an infernal council; the lord of the Underworld delivers a speech venting his wrath and frustration over the success of Protestant England; often, some fiendish advisor replies with a speech advising the assassination of the royal family by a grand explosion; in most of these poems Guy Fawkes is recruited as the prime mover of the effort, and the Plot is set in train; in the end it is baffled by an act of divine intervention. On the basis of extant evidence, it would appear that the first of these was written by the Scottish poet Michael Wallace (Latinized as Valesius). His poem, printed in 1606, has the lengthy title In Serenissimi Regis Iacobi Britanniae Magnae, Galliarum, Hiberniae etc. Monarchae ab Immanissima Papanae Factionis Hominum Coniuratione Liberationem Faelicissimam Carmen Epicharktikon. NOTE 37 Angry at the peace and prosperity of England under the rule of King James, Pluto convenes a hellish council where he makes his complaint in a wrathful speech. The devil Abaddon responds with the advice that Pluto should employ the services of the Jesuits to rectify the situation. Abaddon, disguised as a Jesuit, appears at Rome, where he recruits Guy Fawkes with an enticing speech that extends the possibility of sainthood (175ff.), urging him to explode Parliament when the royal family is present. Fawkes complies, but the Gunpowder Plot is foiled when God perceives it and intervenes. A mysterious letter is sent to the Catholic peer Lord Monteagle; he discloses it to the government; James in his wisdom deciphers the letter, and the Plot is foiled. The poem concludes with praise of the King and an exhortation to exterminate the Anglo-Catholics.
43. Printed in the same year was another poem, Francis Herring’s Pietas Pontifica. NOTE 38 Lucifer sired the devil Falsus on the Great Whore (the Church). Now that Falsus has grown to maturity, the Whore delivers a speech to him complaining about having lost England to Protestantism. She urges him to go to England to rectify the situation. Arriving there disguised as Guy Fawkes, he recruits many men to his cause, and (much like Peele’s Parry) insinuates himself at Court. Ultimately he plants among his confederates the idea of blowing up Parliament; the plan goes forward until God looks down, sees it, and sends an angel to set in motion the train of events that unmasks the Plot. The poem ends with an exhortation to James similar to that of Wallace, including the advice that English Catholics should be exterminated.
44. Unlike Wallace’s work, Herring’s poem proved popular and went through several printings and two English translations. Evidently inspired by his literary success, Herring issued a much more ambitious version in 1609, dedicated to Prince Henry, and prefaced by a long prose essay about the Plot, and accompanied by a sequel (really a Book II with a separate title), Venatio Catholica, about the apprehension of the conspirators. NOTE 39 The most important alteration is that the names of Falsus and Catesby have been exchanged at a crucial point, giving to Catesby the proposal to explode Parliament, and Falsus an answering speech in praise of this suggestion. This change was presumably made in the interest of historical accuracy, for Catesby was the prime mover of the Plot. But it was ruinous to the literary effect Herring originally strove to create. Since the Plot’s central idea is now hatched by a mortal rather than by the agents of Hell, Fawkes-Falsus is now demoted from a demon to the status of a minor imp and, although Herring’s infernal machinery is retained, it is rendered largely pointless.
45. Save for the strong Puritan coloration of Herring’s poem — which perhaps helps account for its popularity — these two works are obviously so similar in conception, narrative contents, and even some details, that one must have been based on the other. We cannot be quite sure which came first. NOTE 40 Neither poem provides a satisfactory historical account of the Plot. In Herring’s case, for example, the poem’s flaws as a narrative are probably more apparent to a modern reader than to an audience that already familiar with the facts. Thus, for example, his description of the conspirators’ digging activities at 195ff. is confusing because he does not explain that they first rented a nearby house and tried to drive a tunnel into the cellar of Parliament. When they came up against the stone foundation of that building they were baffled, but saved the day by renting storage space within the cellar itself. And, obviously, Herring abandons historical truth in favor of the account comfortably attuned to the way the British preferred to remember the incident. In Pietas Pontifica it is Guy Fawkes, or rather the demon False, who masterminds the Plot; its actual ringleader, Robert Catesby, only makes a brief appearance at 181ff. The passage in question reminds us of another flaw from the point of a modern reader which would not have disturbed Herring’s contemporaries, his failure to provide adequate introductions for his characters. Similar complaints can be made about Wallace’s effort.
46. What we find instead is heavy mythologization, the sources for which are somewhat clearer in the case of Herring. George Peele’s Pareus and another Anglo-Latin historical epic, William Alabaster’s Elisaeis NOTE 41 both use a rather complex narrative move whereby a chain of characters act on each other sequentially to produce a historical result. The ultimate source of this pattern is Juno’s visit to Allecto, followed by Allecto’s to Turnus, in Book VII of the Aeneid. Thus in Pareus we have the sequence Pluto Deception The Pope Cardinal Como William Parry, and the Elisaeis, in obvious imitation, has Satan Papacy Bishop Stephen Gardiner Queen Mary. Both begin with the ruler of Hell, operate by means of the Catholic Church, and end with an English catspaw recruited to execute the infernal scheme in question. This narrative pattern devised by Peele is a powerful one, and is also wonderfully flexible, as it can be adapted to fit a wide variety of historical situations. With its chain reaction, whereby the movement begins in Hell and operates through the Church, it conveys both that England’s immediate enemy is an agent of Rome, and that the Church is charged with the mission of preserving and extending Satan’s earthly empire, an exact inversion of the Church’s claims. It also represents the historical situation to which it is applied as part of a Manichaean cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil.
47. In the poems of both Wallace and Herring we have a passage describing the king of the Underworld’s fear and loathing of the advance of Protestantism and of English peace and prosperity. As in Pareus this takes the form of a speech by Pluto, while in the Elisaeis an equivalent passage is cast in third-person narrative. In both cases, too, at the point which Deception and Satan arrive at Rome we find a set-piece describing the Vatican. Pietas Pontifica simplifies this pattern, but its main outlines are still recognizable. Lucifer begets the fiend False on the Great Whore (the Catholic Church personified), and she sends him into the world to do his dirty work with a speech quite similar to that of Pluto in Pareus. Thus Herring adheres to the narrative pattern devised by Peele somewhat more closely than does Wallace. Equally self-evident is the similarity in conception of Papacy and the Great Whore. Making Fawkes/False the demon himself, rather than a human agent similar to Parry or Gardiner, is the chief deviation from the established scheme. This decision had a certain basis in fact insofar as, although Fawkes was a native of York, he had spent a number of years on the Continent fighting for the Spanish, and so it must have seemed to his contemporaries that he had popped out of nowhere. Further details also seems to reflect Pareus: At 81ff. there is a wildly unhistorical passage in which False insinuates himself at Court. This seems to echo Peele’s description of Parry worming himself into Elizabeth’s good graces. And the treasonous snake lurking in the grass at 107 may be borrowed from Pareus 352, although admittedly this image was scarcely invented by Peele. All in all, it would be difficult to imagine that Herring was not familiar with Pareus and perhaps also with the Elisaeis.
48. Writing immediately after the event and for an audience for the details of the Plot and the personalities involved in it were fully familiar, neither Wallace nor Herring felt obliged to provide a lucid narrative account of the unfolding of the Plot and its discovery; nor did they trouble themselves with properly introducing historical individuals or presenting lifelike character sketches. But nearly a decade later, considering the requirements of a readership in whose minds these details were no longer so clear, and perhaps also entertaining some thought of bequeathing the memory of these important events to posterity, Campion made good these defects and tried to combine a mythologized version of events with a coherent account of the Plot and with characterizations that are considerably more than perfunctory.
49. To a certain extent this attempt was successful. Certainly, any modern reader who has not already familiarized himself with the facts of the Plot from other sources will find small enlightenment in the poems of Wallace, Herring, and Fletcher, and much in them will seem enigmatic. De Pulverea Coniuratione poses no similar problem, and so can be read today with considerably more profit and enjoyment. And so, for all its mythmaking, the poem approaches the stature of genuine historic epic in a way its predecessors do not. A significant sign of its realism is that Campion correctly represents Percy and Catesby as the ringleaders of the Plot, Guy Fawkes is relegated to his true role of technical advisor, and adequate introductions and reasonably realistic portraits are provided for all the principal players in the drama.
50. His intentions can be more closely defined by considering his sources. In introducing ad Thamesin I have already argued for familiarity with Peele’s Pareus. But he was also familiar with more recent works that employed the mythologizing formula first devised by Peele. His insistent denial (II.4ff.) that there was any unusual portent on the night of November 4 - 5, especially of a celestial nature, invites interpretation as a response, and quite likely as an implied rebuke, to Wallace’s description of a solar eclipse at lines 279ff. of his poem. Other signs of familiarity with that work also exist. First, Campion’s nameless hooded Jesuit who advises Satan that Parliament ought to be blown up (I.76ff.) bears a strong resemblance to Wallace’s Abaddon, as do the speeches these two characters deliver. Second, Campion’s pun on the name of Ignitius Loyola at I.295 is borrowed from line 159 of in Serenissimi Iacobi. An outburst of indignation at the Plotter’s misuse of the rite of Holy Communion at I.276ff. looks like an elaboration on a similar expostulation by Wallace (255f.). Other similarities are recorded in individual commentary notes. Taken in combination, such resemblances appear to admit no room for doubting that Campion had read and learned from Wallace’s poem.
51. Catesby’s speech at I.174ff., in which he reproves a confederate for being insufficiently daring and stresses the need to wipe out the entire royal family, rather than just James, appears modeled on Falsus’ similar advice at Herring’s Pontifica Pietas 148ff. Other details suggest familiarity with that work. The description of Fawkes’ trip to Belgium in May 1605 (I.553ff.) finds a match in Herring’s poem (116ff.), but this transaction is not mentioned in that of Wallace. The unhistorical detail (I.669f.) that the pretext for searching the Whynniard house was to hunt for some garments that had been stolen from Queen Anne looks indebted to Pontifica Pietas 355f. The same may be true of the expression of anxiety that the Abbey might have been damaged in the explosion (II.20ff.), for Herring gives voice to a similar sentiment (250f.). More generally, the articulation of Campion’s poem into two Books resembles that of Herring’s expanded second version. Although Herring gives each portion of his work its own title, it is really a continuous narrative in two parts. The first deals with the hatching of the Plot and the arrest of Fawkes, and the second with the fate of the rest of the Plotters. It is probably no accident that Campion distributes his material according to the same scheme. Though the two works are quite different in detail (Herring’s sequel is far more mythologized and, like its predecessor, is largely devoted to anti-Catholic rhetorical excursions) they both contain some parallel episodes: Digby’s feigned hunt, and the fate of the Plotters when run to earth at Holbeach.
52. De Pulverea Coniuratione may therefore be described an expanded and elaborated rewriting of these two works. In part, this was accomplished by the addition of a welter of additional divine and infernal interventions in the course of the story. But the chief new ingredient was a new fidelity to the historical record, coupled with far more detailed and realistic characterizations of the Plot’s dramatis personae. Or, more precisely, in de Pulverea Coniuratione Campion was faithful to the historical record and characterization of the Plotters as officially promulgated by the government in the abovementioned “white papers.”
53. But this statement requires immediate qualification, for the poem contains a serious flaw. In an attempt to paint the story of the Plot against a cosmic background, and also to imitate the divine machinery of classical epic, Campion so overloads his poem with interventions by powers both infernal and supernal that his characters are scarcely allowed any thoughts or feelings, let alone actions, of their own. With the partial exception of James, perhaps, they are reduced to the status of marionettes, which deprives them of a good deal of their potential dignity and stature as literary figures. Campion set himself the problem of balancing historical narration against mythmaking, but did not solve it as adequately as did Alabaster in the Elisaeis. In essence, he managed to fall between two stools by seeking to be a Vergil and a Lucan at the same time.
54. A point of literary interest about de Pulverea Coniuratione is the possibility of Milton’s familiarity with this work. It is often written that his immediate source for In Quintum Novembris (1626) was Phineas Fletcher’s 26 Locustae. In point of fact, however, one searches Milton’s poem in vain for concrete signs of Fletcher’s influence. The situation regarding de Pulverea Coniuratione appears to be otherwise, since there are a couple of possibility similarities between the two works that conceivably suggest Milton had read it. Hope’s bedside speech to Catesby at I.152ff. bears a strong resemblance to Summanus’ similar one to the Pope at Q. N. 92ff. NOTE 42 And the monkish disguise adopted by Summanus at Q. N. 79ff. distinctly recalls the appearance of the nameless hooded fiend of I.76ff. (although, as is well known, this description is indebted to the description of St. Francis by the Scots poet George Buchanan); the physical resemblance is considerably closer to this figure than to Wallace’s Abaddon or Fletcher’s Aequivocus.
55. Finally, the first editors of de Pulverea Coniuratione pointed out some of the poem’s markedly Spenserian devices, and more may be mentioned: see the notes on I.93, I.104, and I.579ff. On the basis of his English work, nobody would be led to include Campion as one of the Spenserians. Ad Thamesin and de Pulverea Coniuratione very much suggest that he be acknowledged to have been such.