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SIX DECADES OF EPIGRAMS BY JOHN DUNBAR OF GREAT BRITAIN
TO THAT RIGHT NOBLE MEMBER OF THE NOBLE ORDER OF THE GARTER, SIR GEORGE VILLARS, GENTLEMAN OF THE BEDCHAMBER
TO KING JAMES AND MASTER OF HORSE &c.

THE FIRST DECADE OF EPIGRAMS

1. TO GEORGE VILLIERS, KNIGHT &c.

spacerDistinguished sir, born from the fine blood of noble ancestors, blue for whom shine conjoined virtue and reputation, oh, I pray, let these few breezes which are blown here by my Muse be full welcome to your sails.

2. TO THE SAME

spacerLet those in need of praise be praised. For you it is sufficient praise that King James loves you for your merits.

3. AGAINST SCHIOPPE blue

spacerSince you are of the opinion that everybody’s a donkey, does this include you and the Pope, you parasite?

4. ON THE JESUITS

spacerYou call yourselves Jesuits, although you should be called Loyoluits. For Jesus did not create you, Loyola did.

5. ON THE SAME

spacerI would scarcely call you Jesuits: more properly, I’d call you Jebusites. blue But if you want to be called Jesuits, you will be called such because you depart so far from Christ Jesus [Jesu itis]. You want to know where? Onto a great evil cross. blue

6. ON THOMAS CORYAT OF ODCOMBE blue

spacerCome, tell me, you visitor famed throughout the world, how does it happen that you are so familiar to all men everywhere? A sheep is recognized by its fleece, a donkey by its ears, a goose by its honking, and you, Coryat, by your hide [corium].

7. TO STEPHEN BALDWIN, A LAWYER OF LA ROCHELLE blue

spacerJust as there will be room in my books for learned men, Baldwin, so there will be room for modest ones. Since you are trained in the arts of Themis blue down to your fingernails, and learned Minerva blesses you with gifts poured from her bountiful lap, and yet your worshipful modesty vies with your learning, I should sin against you if I were unwilling to give you a mention.

8. ON PANTALEON, CONCERNING THE LIFE OF THEODORE BEZA blue

spacerPutrid Pantaleon, you scullery-boy of the Pope’s kitchen, in whose foul throat false teachings are a-croaking, what business have you dealing with the life of Beza, you great liar? Beza was not a beast of the Roman school.

9. ON WOMAN’S CONSTANCY, TO THE READER

spacerDo you want to know what I think about when I’m thinking of nothing? About woman’s constancy.

10. ON BEDE, CALLED THE VENERABLE

spacerBritish Bede was once called by the title of Venerable, not Saint or Divine. For he was born in the age of the world when the insane were starting to be called Saints, and demons Divine.

THE SECOND DECADE

1. TO KING JAMES blue

spacerBel, Babel and Babylon died, fell and collapsed thanks to Daniel, to God, and to your striving, James.

2. TO THE SAME blue

spacerLet Rome boast that the British were triumphed over by the arms of their indomitable Caesar and his fearsome military might. Now, King James, Great Britain extols you to our heavenly home because Rome needs to be triumphed over by your art. To whom belongs the greater honor, is it yours or Caesar’s? He was the victor by his arms, but you will prevail unarmed.

3. TO GEORGE VILLIERS, KNIGHT &c.

spacerSince you have the capacity, noble sir, to be to our master what Maecenas was to Augustus, you must assist, insist, and persist. Enjoy prosperous fortune, and thus a Vergil will have you for a patron.

4. TO A FUGITIVE

spacerWhile you are fleeing, fugitive, you run to neighboring houses. Tell me what madness it is to be captured lest you be caught?

5. TO LABERIUS

spacerYou claim you can write learned books, Laberius. So why not choose to do so? Laberius, I shall conclude that the man who does not claim to be able to write learned books can do so.

6. TO VIRETUS blue

spacerTell me, for I am curious. Why are are you called Viretus? Is it because you are always fresh [vireo] on the lips of men?

7. TO PETER MARTYR blue

spacerMen have deserved to be called martyrs because of their noble deaths, but your life makes you a Martyr.

8. ON A DOG THAT CHANCED TO BE KILLED BY QUEEN ANNE, INSTEAD OF A DEER

spacerWho should lament because Di-Anna shot a flying missile at a deer and a dog chasing the deer died? For this reason glory conferred by her errant hand was all the greater. I believe this is how the hound wanted to die.

9. TO PIERRE MOLYNEUX, DOCTOR OF THEOLOGY AT PARIS blue

spacerYou glory of eloquence, Molyneux (no one more eloquent where the French king’s dread scepter holds sway), you thus threaten, flail, grind and harrow Christ’s enemies that now you who were a Molyneux are now a miller.

10. TO THE SAME

spacerThis mill separates the pure wheat from the chaff, namely the reformed faith from that of the Papists.

THE THIRD DECADE

1. ON TRENT, A TOWN IN AUSTRIA, AND A RIVER IN ENGLAND COMMONLY CALLED THE TRENT blue

spacerEngland thus has its Trent, as does the land of Austria: England has a river, but Austria has a town. Here the blasphemy the Pope gathered against Christ collapses, quite blunted by the strength of the English. For it was destined by the fates that the water of the Trent possessed by England should wash away that Tridentine creed.

2. OTHERWISE, IN HONOR OF TOBIE MATHEW, IN WHOSE ARCHIEPISCOPAL PROVINCE THIS RIVER LIES blue

spacerSince the True Faith of Christ was besmirched at Trent, now it is cleansed by the waters of the Trent.

3. TO THE POPE

spacerKings allow human writings to be read, but you don’t want men to see God’s Scripture. You say that divine things need to be kept under closer control than human ones, but this, my Pope, is concealing, not controlling.

4. ANOTHER, TO THE SAME MAN blue

spacerWhat do you expect, Pope? That’s only a shepherd’s crook, you have no authority over kings’ martial scepters.

5. ON THE MERCHANT’S ART, TO HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW JOHN WALLIS, MERCHANT OF LONDON blue

spacerNo art is finer than the mercantile one: thus all merchants are as they wish to be. Hence men of high and low degree are said to trade, and to trade them well, that is your glory.

6. TO THE THEOLOGIAN BULLINGER blue

spacerBecause you have waged great wars against the great Pope, I do not call you Bullinger, but rather Belligerent.

7. ON AN ADULTERER

spacerHe sleeps with his friend’s wife, calling her common property, since friends have all things in common.

8. ON A PHYSICIAN AND AN ITALIAN PRIEST blue

spacerThis one took the lead in saying, “Good health to you, physician,”and the other responded, “Good health to you too, preacher.” As he made this response, he smilingly added, “And have for yourself what you wished for me, preacher.”

9. ON AN ACTOR

spacerDo you know why you have come to the theater with a crowd assembled ,actor? Did you only come so that you may do no action?

10. TO WHITAKER, THE CAMBRIDGE THEOLOGIAN blue

spacerBecause you foster the light of life in men’s dark hearts, what a candle in life (vita κηρὸς) you will be!

THE FOURTH DECADE

1. TO GEORGIUM VILLIERS, K. G. &c.

spacerI’m not rich, I can’t pay you tithes. Let others give you tithes, I’m giving you these Decades.

2. THE JOURNEY TO HEAVEN

spacerYou men making a journey to heaven, let a pure life be your road, let prayers be your steps, and holy grace your stairway.

3. ON PAPISTS blue

spacerIn order to prove their follies, cunning Papists are always wont to ignore Scripture and cite evidence and passages out of the Church Fathers (Gelasius blue in particular). They are absurd themselves, as are the things they cite.

4. TO THE THEOLOGIAN VADIAN blue

spacerLet the Papist wade to the swamp of Hell, if he wants. You, Vadian, will pervade our homesteads.

5. TO HENRY WALL-IS, A MINISTER OF SACRED SCRIPTURE blue

spacerOh indomitable athlete of God, it seems fated that you shall have no peace in this wretched world. For controversy, that whetstone of virtue, arises against you in the midst of things, and controversy is not wont to attend on cowardly men. And a brazen English Wall goes before you to stand against your enemies, excellent life.

6. ON THE CATECHISM OF THE THEOLOGIAN URSINUS blue

spacerSo that he might gather the unknown proofs of our holy faith from sacred, complex texts, he spent wakeful nights, he was observant, he turned pages, he wrote and he read. Now tell me, isn’t this said to have been a bear of a job?

7. TO JOHN DAVIE blue

spacerWhen it comes to an ancient pedigree, Davie, nobody rivals you. You have five hundred forebears [D avi}.

8. ON MARNIX’S TABLEAU DES DIFFÉRENDS blue

spacerJust as Apelles once produced his lifelike paintings, so Marnix has given us his Tableau. They both have supreme glory for their representations: the one painted the Pope’s whore, the other the whore of Paphus.

9. OM MARNIX AND MORNAY blue

spacerMarnix attacks the Pope, Mornay attacks the Pope: the one bites him seriously, the other by using humor.

10. ON BOETICUS blue

spacerHow well I know you, Boeticus. For you always have gold-bearing feet and a wool-bearing head.

THE FIFTH DECADE

1. THE FABLE OF CUPID’S LYCA blue

spacerCupid shot one of the deadly arrows from out of his quiver and blinded the eyes of his Lyca. When Venus saw this, she came, pitying the poor girl, and lent her her own. But the girl exclaimed, “Pray touch me no more. If you want to injure these eyes, you injure your own.”

2. TO JAMES, MARQUESS OF HAMILTON &c. blue

spacerYou had a look at Rome, troublemaking Rome had a look at you, and neither of you came off the worse. For your mind is pious and cannot be corrupted, and she is so depraved that she cannot become more so.

3. ON THE SAME ROMA, WHICH UPON BEING INVERTED BECOMES AMOR

spacerNo man feels inverse love unless it is a brute that is being loved. Rome is inverted amor. Who but a brute would love her?

4. ON REFORMED RELIGION blue

spacerA first file, drawn back and forth by a strong hand, does not polish rust-eaten steel, nor does religion, shut up in dark shadows, shine at first when handled this way and that by a keen mind. Waldo blue came before Hus, then Luther before Calvin, and finally Beza unlocked its sacred treasures.

5. ON HIS E. WALLIS blue

spacerOther men take their delight in hills, that’s none of my concern. Pleasant Wallis is dear to my heart.

6. TO JAMES PORTEOUS, A MINISTER blue

spacerOnly if learning become lost, Porteous, could it be wanting from your studies. There is nothing about which you are so inexpert that you yourself could not give instructions to the Muses.

7. ON CALVIO

spacerDo you know why Calvio has no hair? Glauca has the hair he donated to her.

8. THE BOOK BY THE PAPIST LINDANUS ENTITLED DUBITANTIUS blue

spacerSince Lindanus’ book contains all heretics, you ask,in what part of his book is he himself? One can point to no particular part of the book. Why? He, the greatest of heretics, is visible throughout the work.

9. ON THE SAME

spacerThis book of yours is entitled Dubitantius, and let it be so. For there’s nothing at all about which you are incapable of harboring a doubt.

10. TO THE THEOLOGIAN ILLYRICUS blue

spacerThe lyre does not deceive you, nor the Siren of Papism, and so you are rightly called Illyricus.

THE SIXTH DECADE

1. ON PORCULUS, A MONK

spacerPorculus, you were fathered by a monk, a priest, an owl and a donkey. So you by yourself have four fathers, two human and two animal. Thus you are a monster, born of a whore. Or rather do you confess you have only one father, Porculus? A monk is all of these wrapped up in a single body.

2. THE EPITAPH OF MACDOWELL, LAIRD OF GARTHLAND blue

spacerMacDowell’s fair shade departed in the land of France, blue and a better one scarce beholds its heavenly home. It is wrong to mourn him, and we do not reckon that he has perished, for he lives on in that part he would prefer to survive.

3. ON HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW ANTHONY WALLIS blue

spacerWhen Wallis had barely seen twice ten years, he had twice seen the ends of the earth. He had seen notorious crags resounding with the waves of the sea and raising their heads aloft to the stars. If he has dared look upon these things as a lad, what further things will he dare as a man, before he grows old?

4. TO SIR CHRISTOPHER HARRIS &c. blue

spacerHarris, or, since you rather a hero or a second Zeus Xenius with your hospitality, noble sir, let Ulysses have Alcinous’ table for himself, as long as Christopher’s dinners are served up for me.

5. ON JAMES MAXWELL’S LOOKING-GLASSE OF GRACE AND GLORY, DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS blue

spacerWhat’s this Looking-glasse, and why is it dedicated to Mary? Is it because her grace and glory give it its title? Assuredly, for Mary’s grace so flourished on this earth that now her glory shines entire in heaven. This Looking-glasse differs from other mirrors in this, that only the handiwork is laudable in them, but in this one both the artist’s intention and his handwork are worthy of praise.

6. ON A WEALTHY MISER

spacerIf somebody who loves bad people and bad things should be a bad man, then should not the man who loves good things and good men be a good man? This wealthy fellow loves goods. So is he therefore not good? I deny this. A man who is good loves only good men.

7. ON THE SAME, OTHERWISE

spacerIf whoever loves good things is a good man, then you are the best of men. Nobody loves goods more than you, my wealthy friend.

8. TO KING JAMES

spacerThey say that when Choerilus blue wrote about the deeds of Alexander the Great, he did so on the condition that he would receive a gold coin for every good verse he wrote and suffer a slap for every bad one. May you be a second Alexander, oh you greatest of kings as far as I am concerned. If you have nobody else, you’ll have a second Choerilus.

9. TO GEORGE VILLIERS, K. G. &c.

spacerWhile favor and fortune were competing to make you a leading man, an ample reward for your virtue befell you, and our British Jupiter said, “You are arguing to no point, it is my desire that first place go to this latecomer.”

10. AN EPILOGUE TO THE READER

spacerStart here or stop, reader, it makes no difference. Finit [“it ends”] and infit [“it begins”] are permutations of the same word.

Finis

APPENDIX

ON THE EYES OF ISABELLA ABERNETHY, ADAM ABERNETHY’S DAUGHTER

JOHNSTON

spacerI was amazed at your birth, goddess, and your eyes arrested mine with their novel light. At first I fancied I was beholding gems of the East, but soon they seemed to me to be heaven-sent stars. Both of these impressions were mistaken: gems do not burn bodies, and stars have duller light. Venus’ boy claims that you have stolen these eyes from him, eyes by which you alone both burn and pierce all men.

1. DUNBAR

spacerBut since Venus’ boy Cupid is blind, tell me how you can steal them from him?

2. JOHNSTON

spacerThis boy is , but it was the infant Abernethy girl who deprived him of his eyesight when she stole his eyes.

3. DUNBAR

spacerAbernathy blinded him? Since he was born sightless, in what way did he blind her?

4. JOHNSTON

spacerA mole can blamelessly be held to be born sightless, as you imagine the god to have been.

5. DUNBAR

spacerYou are trying to make the god seem silly, although his eyes were taken away by a mortal hand.

6. JOHNSTON

spacerShe who despoiled Eros of his eyes was no mortal, but rather a goddess, born of gods and destined to give birth to gods.

7. DUNBAR

spacerYou’re telling me that she who despoiled him of his eyes is a goddess, born of gods and destined to give birth to gods?

8. JOHNSTON

spacerThat god has no need of his eyes. For him, nets, chains, missiles and torches suffice.

9. DUNBAR

spacerI confess that the god does his fighting with the weaponry you mention, but in love our eyes are our guides.

10. JOHNSTON

spacerThe first honor deservedly goes to the eyes, but those are weapons more fit for the common run of lads.

11. DUNBAR

spacerSo why didn’t the goddess acquire a woman’s eyes, if she was seeking for arms suitable for battle against the bevy of lads?

12. JOHNSTON

spacerThe mother of the Loves offered the babe her own eyes, but the chaste girl was too modest to wear the eyes of a harlot.

13. DUNBAR

spacerWhy should Mother Cypris offer her her eyes? Was your goddess blind or one-eyed?

spacer14. JOHNSTON

spacerShe was neither blind nor one-eyed, she was hiding her own eyes lest she set everything ablaze.

15. DUNBAR

spacerIf she hid her eyes out of fear of a slaughter of mankind, why did she not hide her neck, her lips, her cheeks?

16. JOHNSTON

spacerShe would have done this too, but the prudent girl feared less runaway Eros might abandon the earth.

17. DUNBAR

spacerNo matter: let Eros depart and abandon the earth. What this god gave to the world, she will supply.

18. JOHNSTON

spacerYou would not do well to entrust Venus’ campaigning to a single person, nor can one woman join this battle.

19. DUNBAR

spacerBut Eros, whom the goddess has despoiled of the use of his eyesight, will refuse to have her for a comrade-in-arms.

spacer20. JOHNSTON

spacerPerhaps Cupid will not be aware of his loss. She has stolen the boy’s heart and those of his fellow gods.

21. DUNBAR

spacerFarewell, Abernethy. I fear lest you ply your thieving arts and steal me away from myself and my Muses.

22. JOHNSTON

spacerPoet, you are right to be afraid. Who should not dread the power of a girl who robs the gods of their hearts and blinds them?

23. DUNBAR

spacerWe have devoted ourselves enough to this contest, Johnston. Now the goddess who was the cause of our fight will make us clasp hands in a truce.

24. JOHNSTON

spacerHere’s my hand. And, Dunbar, if the thieving girl has left me anything of my heart, you may have it.

Finis