7Introduction

 

spacer1. Cum ante quinquennium de lectionibus et exercitiis scholae nostrae puerilis deliberationes instituerentur, inter alia etiam placuit prudentissimis scholarchis ut paraphrasis psalmorum Buchanani in prima classe proponeretur, ut nimium ex ea pueri nostri, praeter veram pietatem et linguae Romanae puritatem varias etiam carminum, maxime lyricorum, dimensiones animo paulatim comprehentur. Mihi vero sententia illa scholarcharum nihil tum fuit acceptius, nihil iucundius. Iampridem enim sacratissimum illud, quod vocant, spiritus sancti enchiridion, una cum omnibus piis, et ipse maximi fecerim, at aliis quoque quoque meae fidei commissis et commendaveram et nonnunquam etiam privatim domi meae iisdem explicueram, ut eo quoque nomine facilius mihi esset, voluntati illorum laudatissimae morem gerere. Id quod etiam sub ipsa scholae primordia statim sum aggressus. Primo autem in ea tractatione hoc potissimum egi, ut auditores mei post breve psalmi cujiuslibet argumentum, verba et phrases poeticae grammatice a me explicatas recte intelligerent et metaphorarum aliorumque ornamentorum poeticorum rudi, ut aiunt, Minerva expositam utcunque viderent. Existimabam enim, verborum vi recte percepta, ad rerum quoque et sententiarum cognitionem aditum illis fore faciliorem, et tum quoque illos eo maiore cum fructu ad modulationem eorundem psalmorum quam a psittacorum cantu discrepare omnino oportet, esse accessuros. Et hinc quidem nata sunt primo argumenta hac editione in ipso Buchanano singulis psalmis praefixa, deinde collectanea illa qualiacunque qua bono typogrpahi consilio in hunc peculiarem libellum congesta sunt ut qui vellent seorssim etiam ea sibi compararare possent.
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2. Interea, ui laudem quoque divinarum nunquam nobis aut materia aut opportunitas paulo post deesset, egi cum pimario scholae nostrae cantorem, Statio Oltghovio Osnabrugensi, ut trigentga diversis, quae in Buchanano continentur carminum generibus melodias certas, partim olim ab aliis usurptatas, nonnullas etiam a seipso modulatas, adungeretg In quo quidem ille mihi et scholasticae iuventuti non solum gratificatus est libentissime, verum etiam fide et industria sua effecit ut brevi admodum tempore auditores nostri illas ipsas melodias quatuor vocibus expedite cantitate possent. Unde etiam illud est consecutum ut singulis horis, sub initia et finem exercitiorum sccholarsticorum, primani nostri ipsi inter se psalmum aliquem quatuor vocibus sine notis quas vocant musicis canendo aliquoties totum psalterium iam absolverint, atque ita (quod mihi certe auditu iucundissimum est) laudibus et celebrationibus nominis divini multoties quotidie repetitis locus gymnasio et domicilio nostro assignatus undeque resonet, quinetiam crebra illa eorundem psalmorum iteratione factum est ut caeteris ingeniosiores qui sunt bonam psalmorum praecipuorum partem memoria circumferant eosque, si opus sit, sine libro recitare queant.

spacer{3.“Five years ago, when we consulted about the readings and exercises of our school, among other things it pleased the wisest of our scholarchs that Buchanan’s paraphrase of the Psalms be offered in the first-year class, so that, in addition to true piety and pure Latinity, the various meters of verse, most especially of lyric poetry, might gradually be grasped. Nothing was more welcome and pleasing to me than that opinion of the scholarchs. For (just as do all pious men) I myself had already placed the highest value on what men call that most sacred textbook of the Holy Spirit, and in my private home I had occasionally lectured on it, so that on this score it was all the easier for me to fall in with their most praiseworthy decision, which I strove to implement immediately upon becoming Headmaster of the school. In doing so, I made it my first order of business that my pupils should correctly comprehend the contents of any given Psalm, its vocabulary,. metaphors and poetic turns of phrase, as grammatically explained by myself (no matter how ineptly). For I thought that, once the meaning of the words was properly understood, my students’ path to comprehension of subject-matter and sentiments would become easier, so that they would attain to a more fruitful singing of those Psalms, which ought to be something quite different than mere parroting. And herein lay the origins of the summaries prefixed to the individual Psalms in my former Buchanan book. Next (following the sound advice of my printer) my miscellaneous observations have been collected in the present volume, so that he who so chooses may privately consult them for himself.
spacer[4. spacer“Meanwhile, so that the material or the opportunity for offering up various divine praises might never be lacking for us, I dealt with the senior Cantor of our school, Master Statius Olthof of Osnabruck, that he would supply various kinds of tune appropriate for the thirty meters contained in Buchanan, partly taken from other composers, but no few contrived by himself. In this matter he not only most generously obliged both myself and the young gentlemen of the school, but also, by his good faith and industry, soon brought it about that my pupils were able to do a fine job of singing those tunes, as written for four voices. The result was that at given times of the day, at the beginning and end of our scholastic exercises, our senior students, singing these songs among themselves in four-part harmony without the help of a musical score, could work their way through the entire Psalter, and so (as hugely pleased me to hear) the place given us for our gymnasium and living-quarters, frequently resounded with praises and celebrations of God's name, repeated many times each day. Indeed, the result of the frequent repetition of those Psalms is that the cleverest among our boys were able to commit to memory a goodly part of the most important Psalms and, should the need arise, could recite them without a book.”]

spacer5. The Introduction to the second of two volumes published by the Herborn printer Christopher Corvinus, by Nathan Chytraeus [1543 - 1598], headmaster of the Latin gymnasium at Rostock (beginning in early 1580). The first one was Psalmorum Davidis Paraphrasis Poetica Georgii Buchanani Scoti, Argumentis ac Melodiis Explicata atque Illustrata, NOTE 1 containing texts of Buchanan’s famous paraphrases, each of them preceded by a brief summary by Chytraeus and a simple four-voice setting. The other was the 1584 In Georgii Buchanani Paraphrasin Psalmorum Collectanea also issued by Corvinus at Herborn, containing a life of the great Scottish Humanist George Buchanan, a set of explanatory scholia to Buchanan’s Psalm paraphrases, and thirty poetic lines intended to illustrate the thirty meters employed by Buchanan, each accompanied by a snatch of meant as a device to help students remember them {the paragraphs quoted at the start of this introduction are taken from the preface to that second volume). Taken together, these two books were meant as helps for students struggling to master Buchanan’s paraphrases (a brilliantly showy kind of Kama Sutra of Latin lyric meters). The portion of Chytraeus’ Introduction to the former book quoted above is remarkably instructive.
spacer6. In the first place we learn that, although his name will forever be linked to Buchanan’s thanks to his highly influential and frequently reprinted study guides, Buchanan was not Chytraeus’ personal discovery and he bore no exclusive responsibility for introducing Buchanan’s poetry into the German classroom. Rather, even before his installation as Headmaster certain “scholarchs” had decided to use them as classroom fare, and they may or may not have been the only Germans to put them to this purpose.. Who were these individuals? Taken literally, “scholarch,” would mean Headmasters, and which would imply that, in order to achieve educational uniformity, decisions about curricula and teaching materials were made collectively by the Headmasters of the schools in the district. Knowing nothing about the workings of German secondary education at the time, I am in no position to rule out this possibility. But is more likely Chytraeus is only speaking about those members of the faculty of the Rostock gymnasium sufficiently senior to have a vote in the matter. This interpretation appears to be supported by Chytraeus’ initial statement that they were discussing assigned readings and teaching methods for our school.
spacer7. An obvious pedagogical reason for this choice, which Chytraeus goes on to acknowledge in his introduction, is that these paraphrases serve as an excellent way of preparing students to confront the Odes of Horace. Another important consideration that must have influenced Chytraeus and his Lutheran colleagues was that they suffered from the same misapprehension that prevailed back home in Scotland, namely that these paraphrases were some kind of Protestant literary monument. Thus, one supposes, they applied a reading whereby David was an archetypal Protestant, the enemies who constantly confronted him were Catholics, the idolatry denounced in some Psalms was an example of Papist error, and so forth. In their eyes, this Protestant interpretation of Buchanan’s Psalms was the way in which they served as a useful means of inculcating “piety.” The problem here is that Buchanan at least began his set while he was still on the Continent, at a time when his conversion to Protestantism lay well in the future. NOTE 2 And even after his conversion, he did not see fit to make any alterations in the text of their printed versions to reflect his doctrinal change of heart.
spacer8. In fact, some contemporaries thought his paraphrases were not Christian at all. In his day, the standard Christian way of reading the Old Testament, Psalms included, was to batten onto every possible feature that could be alleged to be prophetic or proleptic of something in the New Testament. Buchanan refused to play this game, and it is clear that this troubled some of his contemporaries. In the introduction to his 1597 Liber Psalmorum cum poetica interpretatione, the Catholic Luis de Cruz wrote of him:

etsi princeps poetarum sui temporis inscribatur.…praeter summam scelus, quo se per haeresim obstrixerit, id egisse videtur ne clarissima notissimaque de Christo opt. max. vaticinia, quae psalmis continentur, suo in carmine apparerent. Quo facto merito piis omnibus displicuisse potuit…

[“…and even if he is called the prince among the poets of his own time, apart from the gravest crime of heresy, he appears to have worked in such a way that the famous prophecies about Christ, which are to be found in the Psalms, fail to emerge in his poetry. In result, he managed deservedly to give offence to all men of true religion.”]

Here was something on which Catholics and Protestants could agree. In 1620 the retired Stirling schoolmaster Alexander Yule published Ecphrasis Paraphraseos Georgii Buchanani  in Psalmos Davidis, a set of prose paraphrases of Buchanan’s versified ones. In introducing these, he made it clear that they were based on students’ transcripts of such prose summaries issued from Buchanan’s own lips, for the poet himself had employed these as teaching aids. In confronting these, therefore, one cannot in general be certain what elements in them are Yule’s and what are Buchanan’s (and hence in the Philological Museum edition, with one highly conspicuous exception, they are credited with joint authorship for the volume). Obviously Yule shared de Cruz’ disappointment that no Christianizing element is present, for he devotes a large amount of space in to supplying that missing element, in tedious abundance. It appears likely that this Christianized interpretation of Buchanan’s set of the Psalms was his major contribution, superimposed on prose summaries originally developed by Buchanan himself. His interest was in repurposing Buchanan’s paraphrases so as to make them suitable grist for Protestant classrooms. Other Protestant schoolmasters who taught Buchanan’s paraphrases, such as the Scotsman John Ray and the German Johann Sturm, very likely did the same.
spacer9. Chytraeus concludes his scholia with a colophon:

Haec quam brevissime in psalterii huius voces obscuriores annotasse sufficiat. Reliqua quae in eo latent Christianae pietatis documenta et mysteriis aliis ex professio hoc agentibus relinquimus explananda.

[“Let it suffice to have very briefly annotated the more obscure words in this psalter. We deliberately leave the remaining proofs and mysteries of Christian piety that lie hidden within these to be explained by others.”]

This goes to show that he too shared this discomfort: nobody put it quite this way, but the complaint could have been lodged that Buchanan’s set was “too Jewish” and insufficiently Christianized. One strongly suspects that when he present Buchanan’s work in his classroom Chytraeus did so in a manner that did not substantially differ from Yule’s. Nevertheless, in his published scholia Chytraeus sticks to the program (announced on the title page) of presenting the reader with a set of annotations:

...quibus vocabula et modi loquendi tam poetici quam alias difficiliores et minus vulgo obvii perspicue explicantur.

[“...in which words and means of expression which are more difficult and uncommon are clearly explained.”]

Only in one note does he deviate from this program, in his note on CX.29. in which he informs his readers that Melchisedech was the “type” of Christ, the Everliving Priest.
spacer10. From Chytraeus’ preface we learn that Buchanan’s paraphrase were not merely a classroom text, but rather that they came to play a much more organic role in the daily life of the gymnasium, thanks to the simple and easily-learned musical settings of Statius Olthof. NOTE 3 Uninformed readers will perhaps think it remarkable that Buchanan’s paraphrases were put to this performative use, but in 1579 Jean Servin (also a Protestant). had already published elaborate polyphonic settings (for up to eight voices) of the first forty-one of them. NOTE 4 Post hoc propter hoc may be bad logic, but it is striking how many of these paraphrases are written in stanzaically organized meters, particularly susceptible to musical settings. Had this been Buchanan’s intention all along?
spacer11. Finally, the reader may be puzzled by the emphasis Chytraeus places on having his students memorize Buchanan’s paraphrases. This probably had nothing to do with any point of contemporary pedagogical feature, but rather addressed a practical need associated with another subject he doubtless had to teach his students. In the Renaissance there was a popular method of Latin verse composition that, to an appreciable extent, relied on having students to memorize a large number of words and phrases culled mostly from the canonic Roman poets (although some adherents to this system went further afield) and create their own poetry by pasting these together. Evidently this was a method that appears to have been taught in some but not all schools, since some writers employed it and other did not. Or at least (if I may be personal for a moment), since Latin verse composition was a standard curriculum item in secondary schools, I permit myself the assumption that this method originated in the classroom. Admittedly, my understanding of this the educational role this method played during the Renaissance is influenced by the example of more recent times. On the one hand, a former colleague of mine was instructed in this same method in a postwar Nuremberg gymnasium, while on the other I used to own an early twentieth century introduction to Latin verse composition published in England, which makes no mention of it. Retrojecting this same disparity into past centuries, it would seem therefore, that some schoolmasters employed this method and some did not, so that whether a given Neo-Latin poet did or did not adhere to this system depended on his luck in the draw as a schoolboy. This understanding, admittedly, is hypothetical, but it does serve to explain the observed fact that some Neo-Latin poets wrote according to this method, while others did not.
spacer12. The idea was that you could appropriate, say, a noun-adjective combination or take a Latin phrase from, say, Vergil that went up to the caesura in the line, and then borrow a phrase from, for example, Lucan to complete it. Or sometimes you could go further and patch in a longer passage taken from some classical author, altering only a few words here and there to suit its new context. One was supposed to commit thousands of such phrases to memory, and doubtless some students did so, since Renaissance education greatly relied on memorization, but for those who were unable or unwilling to rely on their memory, published helps of the Gradus ad Parnassum variety were available. In the work of a mature poet who had learned to write in this fashion, not everything consists of scissors-and-paste work. One still observes plenty of free composition in his output, but it is copiously larded with classical borrowings. And it is sometimes striking that in formal poems or ones meant for publication, on which the poet has obviously expended some effort, the percentage of such borrowings can be appreciably higher than in works by the same man that look like they have been dashed off in a hurry.
spacer13. There are three misconceptions that one could easily gain about this particular technique of versifying. The first is that this system was cooked up by schoolmasters for the benefit of the dunces in the back row, so that any schoolboy, no matter how untalented, could display at least some semblance of poetic ability. The second is that this system was similar to training wheels on a bicycle, something that had to be used by beginners, but was meant to be discarded at the earliest opportunity. An examination of the evidence shows that these ideas would be completely mistaken. To take a single example, analysis of his In Quintum Novembris shows that Milton, about as far from a tyro or a dolt as one could imagine, composed this poem by this same system. Analysis of work by other first-rate Neo-Latin poets, such as the Oxford poet-playwright William Gager, show the same thing
spacer14, The third misconception is that this scissors-and-paste method of verse composition necessarily precluded artistic creativity, and this can be countered in at least two ways. The first is to point out that a poet's choice of the classical phraseology he incorporates in a work can be significant. For example, in one his eclogues on the death of Sir Philip Sidney (poem XXVII), the same William Gager appropriates lines from the Aeneid on the friendship of Euryalus and Nisus, and surely he does so to outfit his poem with a subtext on the subject of Sidney's close friendship with Fulke Greville. Then too, one can point to the use of traditional stock formulae in oral poetry, most memorably (as studied by Milman Parry and others) in Homer, a poet one would not care to accuse of deficient creativity. Clearly, the answer to this objection is that it is possible for a poet to create works of considerable originality using phrases rather than individual words as his building blocks.
spacer15. On the other hand, one must hasten to add that a poem like Gager's eclogue is an uncommon item. Most usually, poets who adopted this system simply harvested whatever phrases they needed to make their lines work without paying any regard to the literary contexts that supplied these phrases. This can occasionally lead to some unsettling results. To cite one spectacular example, phraseology from Ovid's Ars Amatoria can be detected in a partial set of Psalm paraphrases contained in the Philological Museum, the hexameter ones written by Scipio Gentili. Evidently most readers were untroubled by such verbal echoes, but one cannot help wondering exactly how they were received by educated Puritans (one wonders the same thing, parenthetically, about another feature of English Neo-Latin poetry of the time, frequent use the vocabulary of the Roman Caesar cult when writing about the sovereign.)
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16. Now, in verse by a number of seventeenth century Scottish Neo-Latinists written according to this method, one finds that snippets from the Roman classics are supplemented by similar ones taken from Buchanan’s Psalms. Consider, for example, the 1606 Carmen Ἐπιχάρτικον, written by the Glasgow poet Michael Wallace to congratulate King James on escaping any harm from the Gunpowder Plotters. Among the canonic Roman poets from whom Wallace borrows phraseology we find: Vergil, Aeneid - thirty-four, Vergil (other) - eight, Horace - nine, Ovid - nine, Lucan - seven, Lucretius - four, and Statius - four. It is not surprising to find so many echoes of the Aeneid in a narrative hexameter poem in which some narrative events imitate Vergilian models. In comparison with these figures, it is instructive to find twenty-nine, or perhaps even thirty, verbal borrowings from Buchanan’s Psalms. These numbers tell an interesting story. They certainly tend to establish that Wallace had been given instruction in the method of versification by Allan Lockhead, master of the school at Kilmarnock where he had received his early education, and that he had been required to memorize Buchanan just as much as Vergil, Horace and Ovid. There is one lesson to be learned here, which is the degree to which a Scottish poet of this generation was capable of relying on Buchanan as a poetic model. This, no doubt, is the result of the position Buchanan had gained in the Scottish schools curriculum. His set of paraphrases was just as much a part of the pabulum on which these poets had been nourished in their young days as were the Roman classics, and this inevitably affected what they wrote in later life. At this point one remembers Chytraeus' remark about some of his boys becoming so familiar with Buchanan that they could reel his paraphrases off by memory, and it is tempting to think he valued this because he taught verse composition by the method here described (although this would take us too far if pursued here, it would be interesting to verify this surmise by determining whether his own poetry was written according to this technique). There is a second lesson as well, that, at least unintentionally, in Scotland Buchanan was added to the same roster of exemplary authors as the canonical Roman greats on a more or less equal footing. Judging by the interest Chytraeus takes in memorization, it seems plausible to think that the same was true in his classroom, and probably in Lutheran schools elsewhere as well (the remarkable number of reprints of Chytraeus’ books, particuarly the first one, strongly suggests that interest in Buchanan was rather widespread in Lutheran schools).
spacer17. Other than the abovementioned note on CX.29, Chytraeus’ scholia are exactly as advertised: they avoid interpretation and are chastely limited to lexical glosses, explanations of poetic turns of phrase, decipherments of metaphors, and observations of borrowings from Roman poets, all copiously illustrated by citations and quotes of classical texts. As such, his scholia retain their interest and usefulness for modern students of Buchanan’s paraphrases as they exist in the original Latin. It is therefore useful to include an edited transcription of them here in The Philological Museum, and also to insert links individually pointing to them in the text of these paraphrases posted elsewhere in Museum. On the other hand, most of them are too language-specific and technical to be of any use to Latin-less readers, so there seems to be no need to include an English translation. As a matter of convenience, the present edition is based on the reprint issued by Corvinus in 1616.


Notes

spacerNOTE1 No copy of this work prior to 1585 seems to be extant. Nevertheless in his introduction to the Collectanea volume Chytaeus writes as if it already exists. As for the date of the Collectanea volume, the introduction is signed and dated November 1584, so it may strike the modern reader as somewhat unlikely that a printed edition could have been produced by the end of the year. But it should be remembered that the Protestant states of Germany did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1700, so that between November 1584 and the last week of the following March there would have been plenty of time for a volume to appear.

spacerNOTE 2 Ian D. McFarlane, “Notes on the Composition and Reception of George Buchanan’s Psalm Paraphrases,” Forum for Modern Language Studies 7 (1971) 319 - 360.

spacerNOTE 3 See Margaret Duncumb, “George Buchanan’s Psalms and the Musical Settings by Statius Olthof,” in Philip Ford and Roger P. H. Green (edd)., George Buchananan Poet and Dramatist (Swansea, 2009) pp. 137 - 162. It would appear that Chytraeus is describing two distinctly different contributions by Olthof, a.) the mnemonic tunes, composed as a help for learning different meters, and b.) the four-part settings, composed to facilitate the Psalms’ performance, written in that order but published in the reverse one.

spacerNOTE 4 Servin’s settings have been edited by J. Porter (Turnhout, Belgium) 2014.