1. A large collection of poetry by the poet and antiquarian John Leland [d. 1553] exists in two different forms. One is the version edited by Thomas Newton and printed at London in 1589 under the title Principum Ac illustrium aliquot et eruditorum in Anglia virorum Encomia, Trophaea, Genethliaca, et Epithalamia A Joanne Lelando Antiquario conscripta, nunc primum in lucem edita. The other is a manuscript of the collection made by the historian and antiquarian John Stow (Bodleian ms. Tanner 454.iv). Although in the main these two sources represent the same collection, there are significant differences between them. In Stow’s versions many of the poems contain variant readings, as well as copying errors and omissions presumably inherited from his exemplar. More significantly, the manuscript contains twenty-eight items not printed by Newton. Some observations on the relation of these two versions have already been made by Leicester Bradner, NOTE 1 and I hope to return to the subject elsewhere.
2. For the moment, I want to consider one item in the collection. Newton printed only the first ten lines, as if they comprised an independent poem, under the title AD MUSAS, UT MARIAM HENRICI OCTAVI FILIAM INVISANT (p. 3. Stow’s manuscript contains seventy-one more: the first ten are prefaced by the title EXHORTATIO AD MUSAS UT MARIAM HENRICI OCTAVI REGIS INCOMPARABILIS FILIAM INCOMPARABILEM INVISENT and the rest by a separate title, or rather sub-title, MUSODIA (pp.21v- 23r). Bradner evidently did not appreciate that all eighty-one lines comprise a single composition, since (p. 828) he lists MUSODIA among the twenty-eight poems not printed by Newton. Yet it is clear that the first ten lines (written in hendecasyllables) constitute a preface to the following polymetric verses delivered in turn by the individual Muses.
3. When we consider the poem as a whole, we can appreciate that the entire thing bears a strong resemblance to the masque of Nymphs Leland wrote for the baptism of Prince Edward in 1537, which likewise features a polymetric series of short poems delivered by various Nymphs and other woodland creatures, following a short hexameter introduction. More generally, the Latin masque (pompa), sometimes polymetric, enacted by the Muses or similar mythological personalities is not an uncommon genre of Neo-Latin literature: one can mention, for example, the first of five masques written by George Buchanan for performance at the court of Mary Queen of Scots, which features the Muses, and the fourth of Buchanan’s masques (featuring rustic deities) is an example of a polymetric one. And I have elsewhere argued that the first 292 lines of John Sanford’s 1592 Εὐκτικὰ Εἰδύλλια, written for Elizabeth’s 1592 visit to Oxford (likewise a series of polymetric passages delivered individually by Apollo and the Muses) looks very much like it was originally written as a pompa and embedded in a larger literary structure, just as was Leland’s masque of Nymphs.
4. When the whole composition, as preserved by Stow, is read against this background, it is not difficult to surmise that here we have another text of a masque, this one written for performance at Ludlow Castle, which Henry VIII bestowed on Princess Mary at age nine in 1525, for the maintenance of her own court.
5. The second item included here is found in its fuller form in Stow’s manuscript (pp. 24r - 25r). NOTE 2 The first twenty-eight lines are also found in Newton’s collection (pp. 39 and 38 — in the book the pages are not numbered properly). It was written on the occasion of the marriage of John Clement [d. 1572], tutor to St. Thomas More’s children and future President of the College of Physicians, to Margaret Gibbs, who had lived and studied with the More family. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the marriage is supposed to have occurred ca. 1526. On the basis of its resemblance to the other items noted above, it seems worth conjecturing that this is the text of a masque written for performance during the wedding celebrations.
NOTE 1 Leicester Bradner, “Some Unpublished Poems by John Leland,” P. M. L. A. 71:4 (1956) 827 - 36.
NOTE 2 It is probably incomplete in Stow’s version too: considerations of symmetry would seem to require a second passage by Aglaia.