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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
Distinguished sir, born from the fine blood of noble ancestors, 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.
Let those in need of praise be praised. For you it is sufficient praise that King James loves you for your merits.
Since you are of the opinion that everybody’s a donkey, does this include you and the Pope, you parasite?
You call yourselves Jesuits, although you should be called Loyoluits. For Jesus did not create you, Loyola did.
I would scarcely call you Jesuits: more properly, I’d call you Jebusites. 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.
Come, 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].
Just 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 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.
Putrid 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.
Do you want to know what I think about when I’m thinking of nothing? About woman’s constancy.
British 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
Bel, Babel and Babylon died, fell and collapsed thanks to Daniel, to God, and to your striving, James.
Let 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.
Since 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.
While you are fleeing, fugitive, you run to neighboring houses. Tell me what madness it is to be captured lest you be caught?
You 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.
Tell me, for I am curious. Why are are you called Viretus? Is it because you are always fresh [vireo] on the lips of men?
Men have deserved to be called martyrs because of their noble deaths, but your life makes you a Martyr.
Who 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.
You 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.
This mill separates the pure wheat from the chaff, namely the reformed faith from that of the Papists.
THE THIRD DECADE
England 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.
Since the True Faith of Christ was besmirched at Trent, now it is cleansed by the waters of the Trent.
Kings 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.
What do you expect, Pope? That’s only a shepherd’s crook, you have no authority over kings’ martial scepters.
No 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.
Because you have waged great wars against the great Pope, I do not call you Bullinger, but rather Belligerent.
He sleeps with his friend’s wife, calling her common property, since friends have all things in common.
This 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.”
Do 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?
Because you foster the light of life in men’s dark hearts, what a candle in life (vita κηρὸς) you will be!
I’m not rich, I can’t pay you tithes. Let others give you tithes, I’m giving you these Decades.
You men making a journey to heaven, let a pure life be your road, let prayers be your steps, and holy grace your stairway.
In order to prove their follies, cunning Papists are always wont to ignore Scripture and cite evidence and passages out of the Church Fathers (Gelasius in particular). They are absurd themselves, as are the things they cite.
4. TO THE THEOLOGIAN VADIAN
Let the Papist wade to the swamp of Hell, if he wants. You, Vadian, will pervade our homesteads.
Oh 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.
So 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?
When it comes to an ancient pedigree, Davie, nobody rivals you. You have five hundred forebears [D avi}.
Just 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.
Marnix attacks the Pope, Mornay attacks the Pope: the one bites him seriously, the other by using humor.
How well I know you, Boeticus. For you always have gold-bearing feet and a wool-bearing head.
THE FIFTH DECADE
Cupid 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.”
You 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.
No man feels inverse love unless it is a brute that is being loved. Rome is inverted amor. Who but a brute would love her?
A 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 came before Hus, then Luther before Calvin, and finally Beza unlocked its sacred treasures.
Other men take their delight in hills, that’s none of my concern. Pleasant Wallis is dear to my heart.
Only 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.
Do you know why Calvio has no hair? Glauca has the hair he donated to her.
Since 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.
This 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.
The lyre does not deceive you, nor the Siren of Papism, and so you are rightly called Illyricus.
THE SIXTH DECADE
Porculus, 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.
MacDowell’s fair shade departed in the land of France, 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.
When 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?
Harris, 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.
What’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.
If 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.
If whoever loves good things is a good man, then you are the best of men. Nobody loves goods more than you, my wealthy friend.
They say that when Choerilus 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.
While 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.”
ON THE EYES OF ISABELLA ABERNETHY, ADAM ABERNETHY’S DAUGHTER
I 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.
But since Venus’ boy Cupid is blind, tell me how you can steal them from him?
This boy is , but it was the infant Abernethy girl who deprived him of his eyesight when she stole his eyes.
Abernathy blinded him? Since he was born sightless, in what way did he blind her?
A mole can blamelessly be held to be born sightless, as you imagine the god to have been.
You are trying to make the god seem silly, although his eyes were taken away by a mortal hand.
She who despoiled Eros of his eyes was no mortal, but rather a goddess, born of gods and destined to give birth to gods.
You’re telling me that she who despoiled him of his eyes is a goddess, born of gods and destined to give birth to gods?
That god has no need of his eyes. For him, nets, chains, missiles and torches suffice.
I confess that the god does his fighting with the weaponry you mention, but in love our eyes are our guides.
The first honor deservedly goes to the eyes, but those are weapons more fit for the common run of lads.
So why didn’t the goddess acquire a woman’s eyes, if she was seeking for arms suitable for battle against the bevy of lads?
The mother of the Loves offered the babe her own eyes, but the chaste girl was too modest to wear the eyes of a harlot.
Why should Mother Cypris offer her her eyes? Was your goddess blind or one-eyed?
She was neither blind nor one-eyed, she was hiding her own eyes lest she set everything ablaze.
If she hid her eyes out of fear of a slaughter of mankind, why did she not hide her neck, her lips, her cheeks?
She would have done this too, but the prudent girl feared less runaway Eros might abandon the earth.
No matter: let Eros depart and abandon the earth. What this god gave to the world, she will supply.
You would not do well to entrust Venus’ campaigning to a single person, nor can one woman join this battle.
But Eros, whom the goddess has despoiled of the use of his eyesight, will refuse to have her for a comrade-in-arms.
Perhaps Cupid will not be aware of his loss. She has stolen the boy’s heart and those of his fellow gods.
Farewell, Abernethy. I fear lest you ply your thieving arts and steal me away from myself and my Muses.
Poet, 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?
We 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.
Here’s my hand. And, Dunbar, if the thieving girl has left me anything of my heart, you may have it.