1. In his magisterial two-volume William Shakspere’s Small Latine & Lesse Greeke (Urbana, 1944), T. W. Baldwin attempted to ascertain how much Latin Shakespeare is like to have known by conducting a detailed investigation of English secondary education: teaching methods, texts used, and so forth. It may seem that he left little more to be done, but one avenue of approach remains largely unexplored: study of the writings of contemporary schoolmasters to determine the nature and quality of their Latinity. In this context, perhaps no individual comes to mind sooner than Christopher Ocland [d. ca. 1590], who taught at Cheltenham and elsewhere NOTE 1 Perhaps uniquely among his contemporary brethren in the teaching profession Ocland enjoyed a brief moment of national prominence in 1582, when the Privy Council ordered that his 1580 Anglorum Praelia should be read as a textbook in every school in the land During the early 1580’s Ocland was a writer of considerable prominence and respectability. The volume containing his Εἰρηναρχία (“The Government of Peace”) is prefaced by gratulatory poems by Richard Mulcaster, first Master of the Merchant Taylors’ School and by Marlowe's friend Thomas Watson, one of England’s very best Latin poets. Its sequel, the 1589 Elizabethaeis, boasts a similar epigram by another prominent literary schoolmaster, Thomas Newton, who, among other things, was responsible for assembling Seneca His Tenne Tragedies.
2. In reading Εἰρηναρχία one quickly sees why Ocland’s work commended itself to the Lords of the Council. It is not only wholesome and free of questionable Ovidian immorality. Ocland is also outspokenly patriotic in his politics and orthodox in his religion. In studying the Latin literature produced in the Elizabeth and Jacobean period, one quickly appreciates the degree to which literature becomes coopted for political purposes: securing the loyalty of the Latin-reading educated classes was of paramount importance to the government, and there were plenty of ambitious and talented writers hungry for patronage and for jobs who were happy to cooperate in the effort. Hence much of the Anglo-Latin literature of the times wears more or less the same frankly propagandistic look as do Ocland’s poems.
3. This effort was primarily directed towards the Universities and their graduates. For example, in the Introduction to Charles Fitzgeoffrey’s Sir Francis Drake, His Honourable lifes commendation, and his Tragicall Deathes lamentation (a work written in the vernacular, but clearly intended for a learned audience), I have pointed out that the government’s allowing the University of Oxford to operate its own press (by subsidizing the press of Joseph Barnes, allowing him to call himself Printer to the University and employ the seal of the university) appears to have entailed an understanding that Barnes would issue a substantial amount of poetry and other works, mostly written in Latin, designed to mould the opinions of educated readers on political issues of the day. That was done in 1584, and the abovementioned Privy Council decree appears to demonstrate an at least momentary interest in reaching down to the level of school. In reading Εἰρηναρχία, along with his Latin, the schoolboy would imbibe the key ideas that Queen Elizabeth was an all-wise, kindly and peace-loving sovereign; that she enjoys the favor of the Almighty to the extent that, in various ways, He has repeatedly intervened on her behalf; that her present and former Privy Counselors are great and good men; and that England’s woes (including the execution of Anne Boleyn, with nary a word about her husband’s responsibility in the matter) can be blamed squarely on the Catholics. Hence this poem is another example of the way public opinion could be manipulated by exploiting the power of the printed word.
4. All of this is so transparently clear, and can so readily be associated with other literary efforts of the same kind, that no expatiation is necessary here. Εἰρηναρχία, however, has a second claim on our interest. In his Chapter XLI (II.380 - 416) Baldwin studied the way Latin verse composition was taught in Shakespeare’s day. The student was supposed to quarry phrases out of the texts he read (by such canonical authors as Lucretius, Vergil, Horace, Juvenal, Persius, Lucan, and above all those by Ovid), supplemented by ones garnered from phrase-books such as the Flores Poetarum, Plegromius’ Sylva Synonymorum, and Textor’s Epitheta) and liberally lard his own efforts with these; indeed, carried to its logical conclusion, this is a method whereby poetry can be manufactured by a method of “cut and paste,” stringing such excerpts together (one may think of Homeric formulaic composition as a fairly close analogy). This, no doubt, was the method Ocland instilled in the students under his hand, and so there is a certain interest in observing that when he himself sat down to write he adhered to the same recipe. One might expect that this schoolmaster’s formula for manufacturing Latin verse was rather like training wheels on a bicycle, meant to be discarded when no longer needed and in the long run an impediment to true poetic creativity. Detailed analysis of Εἰρηναρχία reveals an impressive catalogue of borrowings from the canonic Latin poets read in schools (and from Erasmus’ Adagia as well). When many another Latin poem written by Englishmen of the age, no matter how much more talented than Ocland they might happen to be, is subjected to a similar analysis, the results prove to be strikingly similar. The interested reader may, for example, compare the the commentary notes on John Milton’s In Quintum Novembris included in the Philological Museum. So there is a strong connection between the pedagogical method of teachers such as Ocland and the impressive achievements of even the best of the Anglo-Latin poets of the age, such as William Gager, Thomas Watson, Thomas Campion, and Milton.
5. Εἰρηναρχία was printed at London by Christopher Barker in 1582 [Short Title Catalogue 18775a, Early English Books reel 327]. It also appeared in the same year together with a reprinting of the 1580 Anglorum Praelia in a volume entitled Anglorum praelia: ab anno Domini 1327 anno nimirum primo inclytissimi principis Eduardi eius nominis tertii, usque ad annum Domini 1558: carmine summatim perstricta; item, De pacatissimo Angliae statu, imperante Elizabetha, compendiosa narratio issued by the London printer Ralph Newberry (S. T. C. 18773, E. E. B. 1822). The printer Robert Waldgrave more or less simultaneously issued a black-letter volume containing John Sharrock’s English translation of both works, under the rather formidable title The Valiant Actes And victorious Battailes of the English nation: from the yeere of our Lord one thousand three hundred twentie and seven: being the first yeare of the raigne of the most mightie Prince Edward the third, to the yeere 1558, also of the peaceable and quiet state of England under the blessed government of the most excellent and vertuous Princesse Elizabeth (S. T. C. 18777, E. E. B. 550). An English version of the portion of the poem dealing with Morpheus’ prophetic revelations to Anne Boleyn in a dream was printed as late as 1680, with the even longer title The pope’s farwel, or, Queen Ann’s dream containing a true prognostick of her own death : together with the extirpation of popery out of these realms by King Edward the 6th, but especially by Queen Elizabeth of ever-blessed memory : being translated out of a book written in her reign, and by her allowed to be printed, written originally in Latine verse by Mr. Christopher Ockland, and printed in the year 1582 ; together with some few remarques upon the late plot, or non-con-conspiracy. Printed by J.M. for T.W., a true lover of the Church of England, as now establish’d by law [Early English Books, second series, reel 393:33]. The present Latin text is based on the Barker version, and is matched with Sharrock’s translation. Unfortunately, the last page thereof in the microfilmed copy is damaged, so that several lines are only partially legible.
NOTE 1 Besides being the subject of a D. N. B. biography, Ocland has been noticed by T. W. Baldwin, William Shakspere’s Small Latine & Lesse Greeke (Urbana, 1944) I.111f. (whence comes the text of the Privy Council order) and elsewhere, as noted in his Index, and by J. W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England (Leeds, 1990) p. 30.