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Two Poems by George Salterne
by Dana F. Sutton
1. The following two poems are appended to Tomumbeius in the manuscript, and it seems worthwhile to place them on the record as further specimens of Salterne’s art. The first one, an eclogue entitled Algaeus, presents us with a considerable interpretational problem. This poem is a cri de coeur in which Algaeus prays to Pales, the patron god of shepherds, complaining about exceedingly bad times, in which religion lies sadly neglected and anarchy prevails throughout the land, so that all manner of crimes and outrages are freely being committed. Its chief difficulty lies in matching this picture to a particular historical context. Certainly, it seems inappropriate for Elizabethan England, and offering any such representation, especially about the neglect of religion, would verge on the treasonable, and could only be written by a very disaffected dissident, but his dedicatory ode to Elizabeth preceding Tomumbeius as well as a favorable reference to her in the present poem show that Salterne was a loyalist. The only hint we have is found at 8f., where the nymphs of the Liffey (Dublin’s river) are described as abandoning their ancient haunts because of the war being and migrating to the river Bann. The allusion is to Hugh O’Neill, Second Earl of Tyrone, who derived most of his wealth and standing from his ownership of Bann Fishery at Lough Neagh, and the locus of Irish power has shifted from Dublin to his headquarters. The poem, then, can plausibly be read as a description of the chaotic condition of Ireland during the Nine Years’ War (1593 - 1604). This would neatly explain the reference to Elizabeth, the diva 0f lines 51f., to whom Algaeus turns as the sole person capable of rectifying the situation. We do not know what moved Salterne to write a poem bemoaning the Irish situation. Was he merely a concerned observer in England, or did he have some first-hand experience of conditions in Ireland? Was he in the service of some more prominent Englishman who wrote poetry himself, or is the dominus of line 4 Spenser, regarded as the master of all contemporary Englishmen who wrote bucolic verse? Another feature of the poem that invites a historicizing explanation is the concluding line, Quas neque custodis servat, neque cura magistri. This suggests that this poem was written in frustration at some time during the war when English leadership in Ireland was either incompetent or seemingly non-existent. And surely this excludes the possibility that Sauterne was in the service of any current figure in the English administration of Ireland.
2. There is a certain point of contact between this Eclogue and Tomumbeius, insofar as both works deal with the theme of “the sins of the people.” The Eclogue elaborately catalogues the sins and crimes of the rebellious Irish, whereas the play shows an almost Christ-like protagonist, who, unlike most tragic heroes, does not die as the result of any personal hamartia, tragic flaw, or personal moral failing, but rather is presented as a good and innocent ruler who dies to atone for the sins of his people. This, presumably, is the reason why at 1013 he is equated with Vergil’s Palinurus, who “loses his life on behalf of many” (Aeneid V.815, unum pro multis dabitur caput).
3. The second poem in the manuscript is an English verse metaphrase of Psalm 13. Such poems, both in Latin and the vernacular languages, were commonplace in the Renaissance. Often they seem to have been written primarily as poetic exercises. But In reading pietistic poetry of the period, it is often useful to recall the words of the English poet William Alabaster, recalling the sequence of sonnets he produced immediately after his conversion to Catholicism (in of the 1599 autobiographical document entitled Alabaster’s Conversion, §5.5.):
I wold sett me downe in certaine corne feldes, where I could not be seene nor heard of others and here passe the tyme in conferences between almightie God and my soule, sometimes with internall meditation uniting my will to god, sometimes [forming] and contryving the same meditations into verses of love and affection, as it were hiding of the fyer under ashes, with the reading wherof I might afterwardes kyndle my devotion at a new tyme againe.
Whatever else such poetry might be, its composition was capable of acquiring the dimension of a personal spiritual exercise,
Ad te, magna Pales, cui res pastoria cura,
Pastor luctificis queritur dum solus in agris
Amissas Algaeus oves furtoque fameque
Mittit inornatas domini de more Camaenas.
Aspicis haec? An te rerum dum pondera tractas 5
Frustra sollicitant leviora pondere Musae?
Aspice et haec: Phoebo placuit levis ante cicuta.
Vos modo Liffiades nymphae, tum sede relicta
Bannides heu bello profugae miseraeque querelim
Aspirate meis, et si modo fistula surgat 10
Altius in luctu elatior impleat auras.
Principio sacras aedes ac templa petamus
Pacem oraturi scelerum veniamque malorum.
Longe templa iacent inter spaelaea ferarum
Abdita sylvarum latebris, densique rubetis 15
Aut procul inculti super avia culmina montis.
Tecta iacent senio aut magna adiecta ruinis
Nec parvus totam pluvia tegit angulus aedem,
Saxa pavimentum superant vel putria tecti
Ligna vel obscuros stimulos urtica relinquens. 20
Proh pudor. His veniam caeli speremus in agris?
Numina fugerunt, homines in vota vocemus.
Oremus pacem lachrymis. Sceleratus ubique
Raptus, ubique nefas et plurima fraudis imago.
Occulte rapiunt sine iure aliena, feruntque; 25
Mox repetita negant, Iurabis numina caeli
Frustra, nam geminis lacerabunt sidera votis.
Futas ac testem profers; adhibebit amicum,
Et iusiurandum tradi sibi mutuo poscet.
Poscet et accipiet. Tanta est reverentia caeli. 30
His ergo pacem aut veniam speremus in agris?
Oppida perque domos obambulat erro
Pro segete infaelix lolium et zizania vendens.
Huic lappae et tribuli aut steriles dominantur avenae.
Ergo proclives veneri non corpora fido 35
Connubio iungunt, sed passim turpia quaestus
Vendit adulteria et dubios nummis Hyemenaeos,
Incerti haeredes ineunt pro sorte duellum:
Spurius infidus donatos turpat honores,
Militibusque vagis nudus fit praeda colonus. 40
Tum faecunda malo foedataque sanguine linquunt,
Praedia in omnivoras sensim absorbenda paludes.
His ergo veniam caeli speremus in agris?
Hostiles alia geminantur parte tumultus,
Cum vitaque simul raptor male parta remittit. 45
Vidi, magna Pales, regionem ardescere totam
Tecta laresque simul faecundaeque horrea messis
Terque decem miseris surgere flammis.
Scilicet hanc labem attraxit neglecta supremi
Relligio et scelerum paenas expendimus omnes. 50
Tu saltem everso mitis succurrere saeclo
Diva velis qua nil melius videt orbis in orbe,
Quod pia maternis natura amplectitur ulnis.
Sed iam cura metu crescit, metus ipse tenebris,
Et trepidum ravus circum lupus errat avide. 55
Ite domum, tenues pecudes teneraeque capellae,
Quas neque custodis servat, neque cura magistri.
Great Pales, you who have concern for pastoral affairs, when the shepherd Aglaeus, complained to you, alone in his sorry fields, about the sheep he had lost to theft and hunger, he sent forth his unadorned Muses in the manner of his master. “Do you see these thing? Or do slight Muses trouble you in vain while you are concerned with weightier matters? Look at these things too. In the past, the simple reed pleased Phoebus. And you, you nymphs of the Liffey, you nymphs, late of the Liffey, who have quit your home as wretched refugees from the war are now nymphs of the Bann, inspire my compaints, and, if possible, let my pipe rise higher, filling the breezes with my grief. But first let me go to the holy cathedrals and churches and beg pardon for my sins and my evils. These temples lie far away, hidden amidst the dens of beasts, greenwoods and thornbrakes, or on the trackless peak of a wild mountain. In each one, not so much as a little gable remains to ward off the rain, and nettles overgrow the floor and rotten timber of the structure, with their hidden thorns. Oh the shame! Can we hope for heaven’s pardon in such a land?
“The gods have fled, so let me call upon men with my prayers. Let me beg for peace with my tears. Evil plundering exists everywhere, everywhere there is evildoing and many a sight of deceit. Lawlessly, men furtively plunder the goods of others and bear them off. Soon, when asked for the return of this property, they refuse. You will swear by heaven’s gods, but in vain, for they assault the stars with twice as many oaths. You confute himand produce a witness. The thief will produce a friend and ask him to swear for a fee. He’ll ask for this and he’ll get it, so much for reverence for heaven. So are we to hope for peace or pardon in such a land?
“An itinerant peddler strolls through our towns and our houses, selling tares and darnel while claiming it is wheat. Thanks to him, burdock, caltrop, and winter wild oats abound. Thus men bent on venery do not join their bodies in the fidelity of wedlock. Rather, everywhere greed for gain is selling base adulteries and questionable weddings for coin, Heirs sue each other over uncertain inheritances, and a treacherous bastard debases the honors granted his family. The defenseless farmer falls pray to vagabond soldiers, who leave behind his fields, fertilized and befouled with their evil bloodshed, a farm destined gradually to be gobbled up by greedy fenlands. So are we to hope for peace or pardon in such a land?
“In another quarter hostile conflicts double in number, when the reiver surrenders his life together with his ill-gotten gains. Great Pales, I have seen houses and homesteads afire throughout all our region, together with thirty barns full of fertile crops going up in flames. For our neglect of God Almighty has brought this plague upon us, and we are all suffering the punishment for our sins. You, at least, should agree to be kindly and come to the aid of our wretched age of the world, a goddess than whom the world sees nome better throughout this globe, embraced by pious Nature in her maternal arms.
“But now my concern increases out of fear, and my fear itself increases because of the darkness, and the tawny wolf is eagerly prowling around my timid self. Go home, you young cattle and tender kidlings, unprotected by the care of any guardian or master. ”
How long o God of Blessednez
wilt thou forgett me hartlesly?
Shall Y in deepe Distresednez
ly buried everlastingly?
How long shall clowdy anger hyde 5
from me thy presence mercifull?
Me shall seditiouz carez devide
and start my hart so sorowfull?
In floudds of grief tempestuouz
how long shall Y tormented be,10
And see my foes outragiouz
make Scornefull triumphez over me?
O Brightness of All-seeing light
Extend to me thy Beauteouz rayez,
Lest terrors of All-Shadowning nygt 15
in clowde of winde by my daiez
Lest shout my foez prowde insolence
“<See> by my hand there r[...] he lies,”
And they that hate my lifez [...]
“See by my hand there [....] he liez.” 20
But thou with hope doest  my hart
O god of helpe most graciouz;
Then wilt I sing shalt healst my smart
And [...] thy [..] gloriouz.
18 and 20. there rackd he liez? 19. duraunce? 21. fill? 24. And praise thy name right gloriouz?