1. During the first decades of the seventeenth century there existed a tradition of virile and outspoken Presbyterian Neo-Latin poetry, largely spurred by the insistent efforts of King James and King Charles to rein in the Kirk by imposing bishops and Anglican ritual, and otherwise interfering in its democratic self-government. NOTE 1 One generally thinks of such earlier and better-known poets as Andrew Melville [1545 - 1622] and David Hume of Godscroft [1558 - 1629], both of whom were deeply committed to a radical vision of a united British Protestant state which would lead the fight to overthrew the Papacy and the Spanish empire. NOTE 2 But, as we shall see, after the failure of King James's attempt to create a genuine British state by uniting the parliaments of Scotland and England, the issue of Scotland's ecclesiastical independence of Canterbury and the Crown paradoxically became wrapped up in the old, old question of maintaining Scottish identity in the face of an increasingly Anglocentric and un-British crown. The result was that anti-episcopal poetry also became a literature of patriotism. NOTE 3 An unfamiliar representative of this Presbyterian tradition deserves consideration because his poetry represents a later phase in the struggle, by which time the struggle for the autonomy of the Kirk had fused with political objections to Charles I's personal rule, and erupted into open warfare. This is William Forbes, author of Poemata Miscellania Gulielmi Forbesii Scoti, printed at London in 1642,
2. In the course of this small volume, its author identifies himself as William Forbes (after poem 3), Forbesius Rocaniensis (after poem 2) and Philomusus Rocaniensis (after poem 4). Particularly because at 1.118 — for such is the implication of tuus — he calls himself a friend of Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet, he can securely be identified as the William Forbes of Innerwick whose letters and poems to Scott are preserved by National Library of Scotland, Adv. ms. 17.1.9, fols. 8, 34f., 47f., 56, 79 - 88, and 167f. NOTE 4 The fact that some of the material in the manuscript duplicates that of the printed book eliminates any possibility of doubt. But who was he? Having acquired a copy of this volume, “K. J.” wished to learn something about its author and issued a plea for help in finding out what Rocaniensis means (Scottish Notes and Queries Second Series, Aberdeen, 1903, IV.58f.). He received no answer. Possibly there is some pun with “rock” or its Gaelic equivalent “Craig,” at work, but, especially in view of the medieval Latin word roca, one cannot be sure. Identification as William Forbes, Bishop of Edinburgh, is implied by the Short Title Catalogue (and therefore also the Early English Books Online website), for on that site the Bishop’s birth- and death-dates, 1585 to 1634, are ascribed to this poet. Nothing could be more patently wrong. In the first place, at all times our writer breathes the intransigent spirit of militant Presbyterianism, whereas Bishop William’s message to the world was one of reconciliation and accommodation with Rome. Even more decisive, it is clear at a glance that poems 2 and 3 were written, respectively, during and shortly after the Second Bishops’ War of 1640, long after the Bishop’s death. If anything, we seem free, if we wish, to speculate that our William Forbes may have adopted the epithet Rocaniensis precisely to differentiate himself from Bishop William.
3. In any event, the subscript of a letter to Scott on fol. 8 of the ms. cited above, Enervicae e musaeo nostro 21 Junii 1642 permits the secure identification of our poet as the William Forbes, minister of Innerwick, who contributed the section on Lothian for Joan Blaeu’s 1654 atlas of Scotland. From the Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticanae one learns that he attended Marischal College, Aberdeen, from 1626 to 1630, and held the charge of Kirkton of Tough in upland Aberdeenshire until he was appointed to Innerwick in October 1640. He died, having fallen ill at a meeting of presbytery, on 1 May 1646, at the probable age of 36. His family connections do not seem to be known, but it is tempting to speculate that he was some kind of kinsman, perhaps a nephew, of the preacher John Forbes [d. 1634], minister of Alford and moderator of the “illegal” Aberdeen General Assembly of 2 July 1605, who, with five others, was convicted of high treason and banished the kingdom for life in November 1608 (David Hume of Godscroft, Lusus Poetici epigram 63 may have written about this episode: see the Philological Museum commentary note ad loc.) The single most striking thing one can glean about our Forbes from the National Library ms. is his Dutch connection: he forged a friendship with Isaac Gruter, sending him a copy of his poem Arethusa (ms. 47 - 48v), and Gruter wrote an Arethusa of his own in response (fols. 161 - 163v) with a little poem to Forbes appended (fol. 164), followed by a friendly prose postscript (fol. 166). In September 1645, Forbes was in Amsterdam to consult over the Scottish section of the printer Joan Blaeu’s Theatrum Orbis Terrarum project, presumably as Scott’s representative (fols. 56 and 171).
4. The 1642 volume contains four substantial poems, with a dedicatory epigram appended to the third. Poems 2 - 4 were written in reaction to current events, something that is only slightly disguised in the book by the fact that they are presented out of their proper chronological order. It is likely that they were composed more or less in the heat of the moments they reflect. Poems 2 - 4 were originally issued (either in Scotland or Holland) independently as short, anonymous pamphlets. Poem 2 was written during the Second Bishops’ War of 1640 and poem 3 celebrates the Scottish victory in that war. Poem 4 is a considerably longer and more ambitious work describing the victory over a Spanish fleet by the Dutch under the command of Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp in the Battle of the Downs, fought in 1639. The original pamphlets are quite rare (they evidently survive only in single copies, the former owned by the library of the University of Ghent and the latter by that of the University of Edinburgh), and it is highly tempting to imagine that poem 3 made its first appearance in the same way, but that no copies are extant. That these pamphlets appeared not long after the events that inspired them, when feelings were still running high, is strongly suggested by the fact that neither the author nor the printer cared to identify himself on the title page, and the poems are unsigned at the end (rather amazingly, one Dutch source manages to misattribute the pamphlet version of poem 2 to the great Hugo Grotius). So we may suppose that the time of their first appearance their contents were still highly controversial.
5. Subsequently these three poems were collected and, with the addition of poem 1, printed at London in 1642 under the title Poemata Miscellania Gulielmi Forbesii Scoti. This was only possible because the Royalists had quit the city in January of that year, leaving it in the hands of the Parliamentarians.At least at first sight, Forbes’ intention in issuing this volume are rather puzzling. Presumably he was aiming it at a predominantly English readership. In the case of poems 2 - 4 this makes obvious sense: now that the English Civil War had erupted, it was timely to remind Parliamentarians that they could count on the sympathy and support of their Scottish coreligionists. Poem 1, however, is a very different matter. This is a poem in praise of the poet’s friend, the Scottish legalist and champion of letters Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet, an important and widely respected figure in Scottish intellectual circles but probably not a familiar figure in England, and it is far from self-evident why Forbes imagined English readers would take any interest in him. It is tempting to surmise that by opening his volume with this panegyric to Scott, Forbes the Scottish patriot was seeking to alert the wider world to the stature of the Scottish Latin poetry that Scott had gathered and published in the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum. The very large number of typographical errors in this volume, incidentally, would appear to show that Forbes himself did not go down to London to supervise the printing job — a page of corrigenda is included with the volume, but corrects only a fraction of its textual problems.
6. Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet [1585 - 1670] was a prominent figure in Scotland’s legal system, inheriting the position of Director of Chancery in 1606 and created a Lord of Session in 1629, and he also sat on James VI’s privy council. A writer himself (he is best remembered for his satirical The Staggering State of the Scots' Statesmen), he was also an important patron of the arts. Scotstarvet Tower, which he erected on his estate in Fife, as the original D. N. B. article put it, served as “a kind of college, where he attracted round him the learned Scotsmen of the time” (one suspects he did so in deliberate imitation of Tycho Brahe’s Uraniborg). He endowed a professorship of Humanity or Latin at the University of St. Andrews and supported the occupant of this chair by the donation of Classical books. But he is chiefly remembered for his association with a project of assembling what he regarded as the best contemporary Latin poetry written by Scotsmen, in deliberate imitation of the volumes in Jan de Gruyter’s continental Deliciae series, a project that ultimately eventuated in the two-volume Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum published at Amsterdam in 1637. It is sometimes said that Scott’s important contribution was to fund this project, but it was his idea in the first place and modern historians of literature periodically rediscover the fact that, at least in its earlier stages, he also served as the its editor (although he later recruited the poet Arthur Johnston as his editorial assistant). NOTE 5 Although his name does not appear on the title page of the finished product, Scott’s effort was common knowledge at the time. In addition to Forbes’ reference to this work in the opening lines of the present poem, one may cite as an example John Leech’s epigram IV.18: NOTE 6
IN APES IN MUSAEO D. IOANNIS SCOTI SCOTOTERVATII EQUITIS MELLIFICANTES
Dum Fergusiacos Scotus parat aedere vates,
Sparsa legens variis undique membra locis,
Mellificae volucres, castris de more relictis,
Qua laurus virides pandit odora comas
Consedere simul, factoque hinc agmine rursus
(Mira loquor), regem turba secuta suum,
Delegit certam sibi Scoti in culmine sedem,
Servat ubi vates biblotheca sacros.
Illic ver geminum, geminosque morata Decembres,
Sedula in Hyblaeo nectare sudat apis.
Non temere hoc casuque aliquo, verum omine certo,
Scilicet authores res habet ista deos.
Fautori vatum tibi, Scoti, unaque poetae,
Mella vovent curis, laurea serta comis.
[“ON THE BEES MAKING HONEY IN THE MUSEUM OF SIR JOHN SCOTT OF SCOTTSTARVET
While Scott prepares to publish the bards descended from Fergus, collecting scattered elements from places on all sides, these flying honey-makers, leaving their camp (as they do), settled together in the place where the sweet-scented laurel spreads its evergreen foliage, and from there (I am describing wonders) they formed another battle-line and their throng followed its king, and chose a fixed abode for itself in Scott’s tower, where his library preserves the sacred bards. There the bees stayed for a pair of springtimes and a pair of Decembers, industriously secreting its Hyblean honey. This was not done ill-advisedly or by any happenstance, but rather as a definite omen, by which I mean this thing was divinely inspired. They are vowing honey for your efforts, Scott, you champion of bards and a poet yourself, and laurel garlands for your locks.”]
7. Forbes’ poem comprehensively praises Scott his literary achievements and beneficial effect on raising the tone of contemporary Scottish culture. More specifically, the poem constantly mentions Apollo and the Muses, and a kind of “subtext” seems to be at work. At XXVI.51 of his 1534 Anglica Historia, not long after a harrowing description of conditions in contemporary war-torn Italy (at XXVI.23), Polydore Vergil writes:
Iisdem temporibus perfecta literae similiter Latinae atque Graecae ex Italia bellis nefariis exclusae, exterminatae, expulsae, sese trans Alpes per omnem Germaniam, Galliam, Angliam, Scotiamque effuderunt. Sed Germani cum primis eas in suas civitates adscripserunt, quando illi ut quondam minime omnium literati erant, ita nunc maxime docti sunt. Idem Gallis, Anglis, Scotis, ut de aliis sileamus, a Deo optimo maximo munus est impertitum. Quippe solae literae sunt quae quidem certe nostra benefacta cum aeternitate adaequent, nostrique nominis commemorationem servent, idcirco rursus quam multi magni viri foeminaeque nobilissimae ubique gentium coeperunt iuvare bonarum artium ac disciplinarum studiae.
[“In those days polished letters, both Latin and Greek, were excluded, uprooted, and banished from Italy by its criminal wars, and made their way over the Alps, flowing throughout all Germany, France, England, and Scotland. But the Germans in particular received them into their cities, since, just as once as they were the least lettered of all men, they had now become the most educated. Likewise this gift was imparted by God Almighty on the French, English, and Scots (to say nothing of other peoples). For letters are the only thing which eternally monumentalize our good works and preserve the memory of our names. It was for this reason that many great men and noble women began to foster the study of the goodly arts and of learning everywhere.”]
The spread of Humanism to northern Europe, or to specific northern nations, was sometimes mythologized as a migration of Apollo and the Muses. Thus, for example, in a masque written for Queen Elizabeth’s 1592 visitation to Oxford entitled Apollinis et Musarum Εὐκτικὰ Εἰδύλλια, John Sanford represents them as having chosen Oxford as their new home. It would seem that Forbes is getting at pretty much the same idea, and suggesting it was Scott’s responsibility (he uses other variants of this topos to praise Scott in his manuscript poems at fols. 8v and 47 - 48v). If this was indeed his message, he was misled by friendship into gross exaggeration. If the improvement of Scottish letters can be attributed to any single man, this would of course be the great sixteenth century Humanist George Buchanan.
8. An ongoing battle was waged by James VI/I and Charles I and the Scottish Kirk over the subject of bishops. As early as 1582, when James had insisted on installing Robert Montgomery as Archbishop of Glasgow contrary to the wishes of of the General Assembly, the question of bishops was a hot item of contention. NOTE 7 The king saw them as proper and necessary instruments of royal control, whereas Presbyterians regarded their existence as an unwelcome interference with democratic Kirk governance. From this point down to the conclusion of the Second Bishops’ War in 1640, the history of Scotland can largely be written concerning this single bone of contention, and it also generated a great detail of the heated sectarian literature of the period, most memorably the Latin poetry of Andrew Melville, one of whose most acerb epigrams earned him imprisonment in the Tower followed by permanent banishment from the realm. Matters grew much worse commencing in 1603, when James was installed as King of England. An initial period of euphoria quickly wore off when it became evident that James’ Great Britain was not going to be the equal partnership of the two former nations that idealistic Scotsmen had expected (the original hope can be seen, for example, in a pair of political treatises by David Hume of Godscroft, NOTE 8 and the growing disappointment can be traced in the same writer’s poetic cycle Daphn-Amaryllis, completed in 1605). James boasted he could govern Scotland from London with his pen and did not set foot on his native soil again until 1617, and Charles did not bother to turn up for his Scottish coronation until 1633. Doubtless many Scotsmen found an unpleasant significance in this lack of interest. When James and Charles tried to force the Kirk to conform to the organization and rites of the Church of England, in Scottish minds this revived the ancient question of defending Scottish liberty and law against the tyranny of English encroachment, the traditional great theme of their national history (a theme elaborately set forth in a history book familiar to every educated Scotsman, Hector Boece’s Scotorum Historia, first printed in 1527). So this ecclesiastical controversy both acquired strong nationalistic overtones and led Scotsmen to question the proper limits of royal authority, along lines set forth by George Buchanan as early as 1579, in his enormously influential De Iure Regni apud Scotos Dialogus. Worse yet, the Presbyterians were convinced that there was no difference between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, NOTE 9 so that in their eyes any threat to their ancient liberty coming from London was tantamount to the same threat coming from Rome. Laudian sacramentalism and ritualism, and the fact that King Charles's French wife maintained a Catholic chapel at Whitehall did nothing to reassure them.
9. In 1637 matters reached the crisis point. Charles’ attempt to regularize Kirk liturgy by imposing the Book of Common Prayer inspired rioting in Edinburgh and the revival of the old National Covenant. This involved an oath to maintain the reformed religion in its traditional form, an oath subsequently endorsed by the Scottish Parliament. The Covenanters raised an army in defense of their cause and in 1639 a few skirmishes were fought, with light casualties, in what historians call the First Bishops’ War. Neither side yet had the stomach for a serious conflict, but attempts at reconciliation broke down, and so in the following year actual war erupted. Thomas Wentworth Earl of Strafford raised an army for a projected Scottish expedition, but the Scots forestalled him by crossing the Tweed and occupying all of Northumberland and Country Durham, and inflicted a defeat the royalist forces at the Battle of Newburn. This was the most decisive victory of Scottish forces over England since the days of Wallace and Bruce, and Charles was utterly humiliated. He was obliged to ransom the counties he had lost, and it was for this purpose that he had to convene the Long Parliament. This altogether unhappy experience with Scotland was the beginning of the sharp downturn in the King’s fortunes, and historians therefore now term what used to be called the British Civil Wars or the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, recognizing, among other things, the crucial role played by the Scots' successful rejection of the royal will.
10. Poem 2 was clearly written during the course of that war, at a time when the outcome was still in doubt. Its title word Hecatomomphe appears to be Forbes’ own invention, meaning “having a hundred sacred voices.” This makes sense in view of Vergil’s wish expressed at Aeneid VI.625ff.:
Non mihi si linguae centum sint oraque centum,
Ferrea vox, omnis scelerum comprendere formas,
Omnia poenarum percurrere nomina possim.
[“Had I a hundred tongues, and a hundred mouths, and an iron voice, I could not comprehend all the kinds of their crimes, nor name all their punishments.”]
The point, presumably, is that, since in this poem Forbes is speaking on behalf of the entire Protestant Scottish community rather than as a mere individual, he does have the hundred tongues so envied by Vergil. By resorting to the literary device of prosopopoeia, Forbes in effect appointed himself spokesman for all of Protestant Scotland. His Caledonia professes her fealty to King Charles, but reproaches him for taking up arms against the land of his birth, sets forth Scotland’s complaints, and politely — or as politely as one can when she is informing Charles that his government is a tyranny, as she does at line 76 — but firmly declines to put down the sword she has taken up in defense of God’s cause against Romanism. The Covenanters, in other words, are prepared to remain loyal to the British crown, but only on terms of their own dictation.
11. Poem 3, written after the Scottish victory in the War, is a kind of sequel, even if Caledonia is no longer the speaker. In it, Forbes describes Scotland as having won a victory over the Roman Catholic Church rather than over overreaching English Anglicans. This explains the poem’s title: scorpiacum was a remedy against scorpions’ stings used in antiquity, and in all likelihood the immediate allusion is not to one of the German Kaspar Schoppe’s polemic counterblasts against King James entitled Scorpiacum: Hoc est, novum ac præsens adversus Protestantium haereses remedium ab ipsismet Protestantibus scorpionibus petitum, quo adversus...Iacobum Magnæ Britanniæ regem recitatis Magdeburgensium Centuriatorum testimoniis ...demonstratur (Mainz, 1612) but rather to a reply by a German Protestant pamphleteer named Georg Hartmann having a title deliberately intended to stand Schoppe’s on its head, Scorpiacum adversus pontificios, das ist ein heilsam Mittel wider der Papisten Verketzerung gegen die Evangelischen, printed at Rostock in 1639 (at this time, there were plenty of commercial, cultural, and religious ties between Scotland, particularly in the northeast, and Rostock). The newly-gained Scottish victory, in other words, provided an antidote against the venom of papism, not least as injected into the world by the Jesuits, long identified by Protestants as the scorpions of Revelation 9:1-11.
12. The poem contains a remarkable passage addressed to the king (35ff.):
Roma excors, nondum Scotis cum rege Britanno
Sed tecum certamen erat. Submittit habenas
Scotus ovans, rex magne, tibi, te rege superbit
Grampius una tuis adglutinat oscula sceptris,
Indomitumque regis populum soloque tonante
Dum minor es uni fasces submittis Olympo.
Instruis imperium sola ratione, nec armis,
Sed patriis patrium componis legibus orbem.
Celsaque tu populo quamvis oracula pandis
Consiliumque animo libras, tamen aequa monenti
Auscultas, fidique probas consulta senatus.
Sic coelo terraeque places, periuraque rides
Ausonii consulta Iovis, sua signa minantis
Inferre in patrios tecum, dux magne, penates.
Sic tua te patris maiestas commodat orbi.
Sic surgit tibi laudis apex, sic gratia gentis
Grampiacae crescit, plausuque accedit Olympus
Caelestique suum sic cum splendore nitorem
Confundit, diadema, tibi, radiansque corusca
Luce Caledonium nebulis absolvis Olympum.
Carole, Scotorum lux et spes una tuorum,
Caesarias contunde aquilas, Baetimque superbum
Frange, Palatinae repara capitolia terrae,
Agnoscatque tuos regales purpura cives,
Grampiginasque duces, semper qui milite fido
Et nunquam timidis cingent tentoria castris.
[“Mad Rome, the Scots’ struggle was not against the King of Britain but rather against you. The cheering Scotsman surrenders the reins to you, great king. The Grampian man takes pride in you and plants kisses on your scepter alone, and you rule this unconquered people as long as you remain lesser only to the Thunderer, subordinating your fasces to heaven alone. You frame your government exclusively with the help of reason, not arms, and you manage your father’s world in accordance with its ancestral laws. Although you dictate the lofty oracle of laws to your people and weigh counsels in your mind, you nevertheless give an ear to a man giving good advice, and you approve the decisions voted by your loyal Parliament. Thus you are pleasing to heaven and earth, and you mock the perjured deliberations of the Ausonian Jove, who threatened to introduce his standards to our home along with you, my great commander. Thus your majesty adapts itself to the world of your father. Thus you attain the height of praise, thus the good-will of the Grampian nation grows and heaven joins in with its applause. It mixes its celestial splendor together with yours, you crown, and, shining with bright light, you clear your Caledonian heaven of its clouds.
“Charles, you single light and hope of your subjects, you must shatter Caesar’s eagles and break the proud Spaniard. Repair the temples of the Palatinate. Let its purple acknowledge your subjects as its rulers, your Grampian-born captains, who surround your pavilions with their trusty soldiers and their encampments, which never feel fear.”]
13. The verbs in the first paragraph really ought to be subjunctives: they indicate what Charles should be doing, whereas in reality he has been doing the precise opposite. As indicatives, they appear to represent a superabundance of wishful thinking (Forbes otherwise appears to be a poet devoid of a sense of humor, so the possibility that irony or sarcasm is present here can safely be discounted). The second paragraph is even more remarkable, suggesting that, having just fought as a champion of “papist” Anglicanism, Charles should suddenly do a complete volte face, reform his religious orientation and style of government, repair the Palatinate of James’ son-in-law Frederick, defeat the Holy Roman Empire in battle, and march a Protestant army through the streets of Rome. One realizes that he has heard this kind of thinking before, in the prose and verse works by the Presbyterian political theorist David Hume of Godscroft already cited. Even at the time Hume broached these ideas, immediately after James’ accession to the English throne, the idea that James should place himself at the head of an international Protestant crusade was grossly absurd, for at least two reasons. Hume failed to appreciate the extent of English war-weariness as the protracted Spanish War was winding down, and he completely misread the personality of his sovereign: there was no way whereby James Stuart could be transformed into Gustavus Adolphus. Yet old ideas die hard and Hume was unable to abandon his impossible dream. We find a later version of it in a poem written in 1625, shortly after Charles came to the throne, in which he appears to be advising the new king that he should involve Great Britain in the Thirty Years’ War. I do not know how widespread or persistent this kind of thinking was among Presbyterian intellectuals, but at the very least we can see it resurfacing in Forbes. And of course, since by this time Charles’ personality and his religious and political inclinations were altogether visible, the idea that he could be persuaded to become a Protestant paladin was all the more unrealistic. The world contained no scorpiacum sufficiently powerful to produce the requisite changes, and the tragedy of Charles’ career continued to play itself out.
14. On October 21 1639, a squadron of the United Fleet under the command of Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp inflicted a decisive defeat on a Spanish fleet off an English anchorage between Dover and Deal known as The Downs. Due to French intervention in the Thirty Years’ War, Spain had lost any overland access to its army in Flanders and was obliged to deliver supplies to the army by ferrying them from Dunkirk, its last Spanish-held port on the North Sea coast. A convoy was assembled for this purpose and in a preliminary action was met by a smaller Dutch flotilla which (with the help of Spanish incompetence) threw the enemy fleet into disarray. The Spanish sheltered off the English coast, where the Dutch, now numerically augmented, hemmed them in and inflicted terrible losses. This defeat marked a decisive downward turning-point in fortunes of Spain as a naval power.
15. Not long thereafter, Forbes published a lengthy (over 670 lines) and artistically ambitious work celebrating this important Protestant victory (poem 4). The title of his poem is not easy to understand. The word apophoreta — Martial also used it as the title of Book XIV of his epigrams — literally means “party favors,” and it may be a sarcastic reference to the the defeat that the Pope, so to speak, took home from the Spanish attempt to send a fleet to resupply their army in Flanders. Or possibly the fleet’s cargo itself is sarcastically being called “the Pope’s party-favors.” Be this as it may, the Apophoreta Papae is so heavily mythologized, and provides such a vague and impressionistic battle-description, that it can scarcely be described as a historical poem. Forbes had so little interest in describing the actual circumstances of the battle that at line 457 that he in effect refers the reader in search of more information to another mythologizing account, the 1639 poem by the Dutch Humanist Caspar Barlaeus Auriacus Triumphans (and possibly also to Barlaeus’ 1640 Oratio Panegyrica, De Victa Hispanorum Regis Classe, Federatorum Ordinum Auspiciis, if Forbes’ poem was written that late). The reasons why Forbes chose a mythological approach were, no doubt, in part literary, but adopting this tactic may also have been his response to the embarrassing fact that, although the Battle of the Downs could fairly be described as a brilliant Protestant victory, it could scarcely be called a British one, since Great Britain was officially neutral and had in fact done much to assist the Spaniards by helping them transport troops and supplies to Flanders. Indeed, one of the reasons the Spanish fleet had fled to the English coast was to seek the protection of a British squadron under the command of Vice-Admiral John Pennington. Writing a mythologized account, Forbes could safely gloss over these awkward facts and praise the victory without seeming explicitly disloyal to his sovereign by pointing out that Great Britain had not fought on the right side, which was God’s side.
16. Forbes’ literary tactic was no mere attempt to outfit his poem with a neo-Vergilian “machinery of the gods.” Rather, he had recourse to a variant of what was by his day a time-honored narrative pattern of British Neo-Latin poetry, NOTE 10 according to which a movement to harm Protestantism in the British Isles is originated by Satan in the Underworld, when he convenes a hellish council and delivers a speech in which he vents his anger and sets forth his plan, which is communicated to the Vatican, and from Rome a specific anti-Protestant attempt is organized and local representatives are put to work in Britain. But the scheme is always baffled by a stroke of divine intervention. This pattern had been used in narrative Latin poems about William Parry’s 1585 attempt on the life of Queen Elizabeth (by George Peele, its inventor), Queen Mary’s imprisonment of her sister Elizabeth (by William Alabaster), and the Gunpowder Plot (by Francis Herring, Michael Wallace, Thomas Campion, Phineas Fletcher, and John Milton). NOTE 11 This pattern accomplishes two things at once: it casts the Church of Rome in the role of Satan’s principal agency on earth (thereby inverting its own claims to spiritual supremacy), and it can handily be adapted as a tool for revealing the theological implications of a number of specific historical events, by inviting the reader to look beneath the surface play of human affairs and see them as episodes in an ongoing cosmic struggle of epic Manichaean proportions between the forces of good and evil, managed in such a way that individual actors in these episodes are cast as agents of the one side or the other. By having the situation put right by divine intervention, it also conveys that the Protestant cause has God’s approval. The aim of these poems, as I say, is primarily theological, and historical accuracy is at best as secondary consideration. In some examples, such as Milton’s In Quintum Novembris, it is no consideration at all. By placing his poem squarely in this tradition (as well as by his explicit mention of the Gunpowder Plot at 74ff.), Forbes adroitly manages to convey to the educated reader familiar with at least some of these abovementioned items that the recent Spanish attempt to send its fleet through to Flanders was the latest incident in a series of similar Catholic assaults on Protestantism.
17. Forbes does not follow this pattern exactly, insofar as he does not begin with Satan in the Underworld, but rather at the Vatican, where Satan himself is the Pope. With the exception of this detail, all the requisite elements are present, and are handled successfully. A couple of complaints can be made about the way he treats his material. One wishes that the Spanish commander “Antonius” (actually Admiral Antonio de Oquendo) had been introduced more formally, rather than casually popping up at 309. A pre-battle interview between the Fury and him could have achieved this. And the battle description is drawn out to the point of tedium. Nevertheless, Apophoreta Papae is on the whole an interesting continuation to the earlier series of poems using the same narrative pattern.
18. A critical reader may be disturbed by Forbes’ battle-description. It is, in the first place, highly impressionistic and largely devoid of any true details about the way in which the battle was fought. But, of course, he was interested in writing a mythologized version of events, not a factual account. More generally, his problem can neatly be summarized by a single passage, 466ff.:
Iamque morae impatiens Batavus propellit in hostem
Quatuor ex omni delectas classe carinas,
Vique viam inveniunt, collisaque robora rostris
Dant sonitum, Nedum ferro iaculisve moventur,
Sulphureumque voment tormenta immania plumbum,
Tela pluunt, faciemque poli radiantis obumbrat
Ferrea tempestas, ponto et ferratilis imber.
Ingruit, et volucres imitantur fulgura glandes,
Consurguntque nigri spatiosa volumina fumi,
Et Tartessiacum involvunt caligine classem.
[“And now, brooking no delay, the Dutch admiral sends against the foe four ships chosen out of all the fleet, which force their way, and produce a crash as their prows ram into oak. They remain unmoved by swords or darts, and their great guns spew forth sulphur-driven lead. Missiles fall like rain, and a storm of steel darkens the face of the bright sky, as an iron torrent falls upon the sea. It increases, and flying bullets imitate lightning, as great billows of black smoke fly upwards, enveloping the Tartessian fleet in a murk.”]
19. Here we have an indiscriminate conflation of two quite different ways of fighting at sea. First we have the old one, the one which had persisted since the time of the Greeks and the Romans, in which ships attempted to destroy each other by ramming with special reinforced “beaks”(rostra), ideally followed by boarding. Then we have the new way, pioneered by the English in the sixteenth century, in which ships were floating gun platforms and did their deadly work at a distance by the use of ship-killing artillery. The last major engagement featuring the old method was the Spanish victory over the Turks at Lepanto in 1679, and the first to use the new was the English fight against the Armada in 1588 (England had possessed ships of the gun platform variety since the days of Henry VIII, but heretofore had had no occasion to use them in a large-scale battle). This new means of naval warfare required quite different tactics, and in fact Maarten Tromp is sometimes said to have introduced the tightly-organized line of battle on the present occasion, so that the battle must have resembled Trafalgar more than Lepanto. Likewise, a new kind of warship was called for, so that craft at least partially propelled by oars became obsolete and fighting ships were entirely sail-driven. No doubt being both a landlubber and a bookworm, Forbes did not grasp the great transformation experienced by naval warfare, and occasionally (as in the passage just quoted) cheerfully conflates these two methods of fightinge, with their different kinds of tactics and propulsion, into a confused and unintelligible misch-mosch.
20. At least one reason for this is that a good deal of what he did know, or imagined that he knew, about naval warfare had been gleaned from an earlier poem describing a sea fight, King James’ The Lepanto, published as an item in the undated Edinburgh collection His Maiesties poeticall excercises at vacant houres and subsequently at London in 1603. Or rather, to be more precise, he was probably familiar with this work through the medium of Thomas Murray’s Latin translation, Naupactiados, first issued in 1604 and reprinted in the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum. At various points, poem 4 features a number of more or less clear echoes of that work, which are recorded here in appropriate commentary notes.
21. The textual sources for the poems contained in this edition, together with identifying sigla, may be summarized as follows:
A National Library of Scotland, Adv. ms. 17.1.9, containing texts as follows: poem 1 - fols. 34 - 35; poem 3a - fol. 80; poem 3 (under the title Astraeae Scorpiacum) - fols. 80v - 83..
B Hecatomomphe Carolo Regi, a single-poem pamphlet bearing no author’s name, printer’s name, or place or place and date of publication, containing poem 2.
C Apophoreta Papae, a single-poem pamphlet bearing no author’s name, printer’s name, or place or place and date of publication, containing poem 4.
1642 Poemata Miscellania Gulielmi Forbesii Scoti, Londini, imprimebat S. B. pro W. C., 1642.22. As is often the case with Scottish Neo-Latin texts included in The Philological Museum, I must express my profound thanks to Dr. Jamie Reid-Baxter, for suggesting Forbes’ poetry as a worthy subject for a modern edition, for supplying a great deal of useful information about the historical background of these poems, and for furnishing me with collations of items A and C.
NOTE 1 See James Doelman, King James I and the Religious Culture of England (Woodridge, Suffolk 2000), Chapter IV, “King James, Andrew Melville, and the Neo-Latin Religious Epigram.”
NOTE 2 See, e. g., the Introduction to Paul J. McGinnis and Arthur H. Williamson (edd.), The British Union: A Critical Edition and Translation of David Hume of Godscroft's De Unione Insulae Britannicae (Aldershot, 2002). In this Introduction they discuss James’ abortive attempt, at the beginning of his reign, to create a genuine British state, foiled by the utter refusal of his English subjects and their Parliament to cooperate with the idea. For this subject see also Bruce Galloway, The Union of England Scotland 1603 - 1608 (Edinburgh, 1986).
NOTE 3 Some of these poets are discussed by David William Allan in his recent “‘The Divine Fury of the Muses’: Neo-Latin Poetry in Early Modern Scotland,” in Crawford Gribben and David George Mullan (edd.), Literature and the Scottish Reformation (Aldershot, 2009) pp. 63 - 80.
NOTE 4 The association of this individual with Forbes the poet has already been made by Christopher Upton, op. cit. 1984, p. 42 (but he did not identify him as Forbes of Innerwick). Upton is the only modern scholar I have seen who writes about Forbes, and he limited himself to poem 1.
NOTE 5 T. D. Robb, "Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum," in Proceedings of the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow 39 (1907 - 98) 91 - 120; Christopher A. Upton, Studies in Scottish Latin (diss. St. Andrews, 1984) Chapter I, and “National Internationalism: Scottish Literature and the European Audience in the Seventeenth Century,” Studies in Scottish Literature 26 (1991), 218 - 225; and Steven J. Reid, "Quasi Sibyllae folia dispersa: The Anatomy of the Delitiae Poetarum Scotorum (1637)," in Janet Hadley Williams and J. Derrick McClure (edd.), Fresche Fontanis: Studies in the Culture of Medieval and Early Modern Scotland (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2013), 395 - 412.
Johnston (who did not put his name on the title page) began the first volume with a dedicatory epistle in which he fully acknowledged Scott’s work in assembling material for the anthology, work which he rather romanticized by describing it as rescuing Scottish writers from obscurity, in terms sufficiently similar to those of this poem that one suspects Forbes wrote it with Johnston’s words echoing in his mind.
NOTE 6 See the recent appreciation of this poem by Allan, p. 78.
NOTE 7 See Jamie Reid-Baxter, “James Anderson and His Poem The Winter Night,” in Luuk Houwen (ed.), Literature and Religion in Late Medieval and Early Modern Scotland: Essays in Honour of Alasdair A. MacDonald (Leuven, 2012), pp .145 - 165.
NOTE 8 De Unione Insulae Britannicae (available in a modern edition by McGinnis and Williamson).
NOTE 9 Echoing King James's own words to the General Assembly of August 1590 that the then fully presbyterian Kirk of Scotland was “the sincerest kirk in the world… As for our nighbour kirk in England, it is an evill said mass in English, wanting nothing but the liftings [elevations of the Host]” (Calderwood, History of the Kirk VI.106).
NOTE 10 See Dana F. Sutton, Miltons in Quintum Novembris, Anno Aetatis 17 (1626): Choices and Intentions, in Gareth L. Schmeling (ed.) Qui Miscuit Utile Dulci (Festschrift for Paul Lachlan MacKendrick on his 85th birthday, Chicago, 1997) 349 - 375 (since writing this article I have become more convinced that Herring’s poem was written before Wallace’s). The device of the Underworldly convention also appears in literature of the time, but put to other purposes, most conspicuously in John Donne’s Ignatius his Conclave).
The relevant works not included in The Philological Museum are available as follows: Book I of William Alabaster’s abortive attempt at an epic poem about Elizabeth’s career has been edited by Michael O’Connor, The ‘Elisaeis’ of William Alabaster (Studies in Philology monograph 76, 1979); Francis Herring’s Pietas Pontificia by by Estelle Haan, Miltons In Quintum Novembris and the Anglo-Latin Gunpowder Epic Humanistica Lovaniensia 41 (1992) 221 - 95; and Phineas Fletcher’s Locustae by Haan, Phineas Fletcher. Locustae vel Pietas Iesuitica. With Introduction, Translation and Commentary (Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia 9, 1996).
NOTE 11 The Scotsman Alexander Yule had also written a narrative Plot poem, the 1606 Descriptio Horrendi Parricidii, which partially adheres to this same narrative pattern.