1. In the summer of 1592 London was visited by a plague, so severe that according to the chronicler John Stowe 10,575 citizens died. As a graceful way of removing Elizabeth and her Privy Council from the danger, a visit to Oxford was arranged. Presumably because of the suddenness with which it was announced, and also, perhaps, because of the time of year, little new literature was written in connection with this visit. NOTE 1 The literary centerpiece was the production at Christ Church of two old comedies, William Gager’s 1583 Rivales and Leonard Hutten’s 1581 Bellum Grammaticale (with a new Prologue and Epilogue contributed by Gager). The present lyric cycle by the Chaplain of Magdalen College seems to have been the only original composition elicited by the occasion; it was issued by Joseph Barnes, printer to the University, later in the same year. The fine quality of Sanford’s lyrics is particularly remarkable because of the speed at which he was obliged to write (the visit was only announced in early August) and because, save for two poems in a 1596 University anthology on the death of Sir Henry Unton, NOTE 2 the present work is his only known literary effort.
2. What we know about Sanford’s life comes from Anthony à Wood’s biographical sketch, quoted in part here: NOTE 3
John Sanford, son of Richard Sanford of Chard in Somersetshire, gentleman (descended from those of his name in Devon) was born in Somersetshire, entered a commoner of Baliol college about the time of the Act in 1581, where continuing till he was bach. of arts, was then made one of the chaplains of Magdalene college. At length having contracted a friendship with John Digby, commoner of that house, did travel with him into France, Spain, and Italy, whereby he did much advantage himself in the modern languages. Afterwards he went in the quality of a chaplain to the said Digby, then known by the name of sir John Digby, at which time he was sent into Spain to treat of a marriage between the infanta, sister of the king of that realm, and Prince Charles of England. After his return, Dr. Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury made him his domestic chaplain, and at length prebendary of Canterbury, and rector of Ivychurch in Kent. He was a person of great learning and experience, and a solid divine, well skill’d in several languages, and a tolerable Latin poet.
As printed, the Εὐκτικὰ Εἰδύλλια falls into two parts. In the first (lines 1 - 298), Apollo and the Muses, exiled from Greece, make their way to Oxford, encounter the queen, and each Muse offers a prayer for the welfare of her and her realm, in a different lyric meter: hence the work’s title. This, perhaps, was what Sanford originally wrote for recitation (or possibly as a masque-like performance piece) at a Magdalene College banquet given by Nicholas Bond, President of Magdalene and current Vice Chancellor of the University, for the members of the Privy Council. But the feast was cut short by a movement by the queen (419ff.). The second part consists of a description of the Magdalene banquet. This may have been written subsequently to bring the piece up to publishable length.
3. Sanford must have been aware of the published cycles of odes on the would-be regicide William Parry and on the Babington Plot by Oxford’s leading poet, William Gager (1555 - 1622). Like those odes, they are written in imitation of Horace, and Sanford surpasses Gager’s adventurousness in attempting various lyric meters. Though somewhat larger, the present volume looks as if it is designed as a continuation of this series of Oxford printings comprising Gager’s lyric volumes and the anonymous hexameter poem Pareus, in all probability written by George Peele. The conceit of momentarily fusing Athens and Oxford, bringing Apollo and the Muses to the banks of the Thames, recalls a similar strategy in two memorable elegies in the University memorial anthology on the death of Sir Philip Sidney. NOTE 4 The closest analogy to Sanford’s cycle in the repertoire of British Neo-Latin literature would seem to be the pompa or masque Apollo et Musae written by George Buchanan, in which Apollo and the Muses likewise appear at the court of Mary Queen of Scots as refugees from a culturally impoverished and war-torn Italy. But I know of no printed edition of this item prior to the 1615 Edinburgh edition of Buchanan’s poetry. Both writers may have taken their cue from a remark of Polydore Vergil in his Anglica Historia, writing of the internecine strife in Italy during the reign of Henry VII (XXVI.51), 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 [“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”]. More immediately, the idea of Apollo visiting Oxford is also found in Gager new special Prologue and Epilogue for Hutten’s Bellum Grammaticale, spoken by Apollo. It is probably no coincidence that Sanford and Gager employed this same device; one imagines that the two poets did so according to the prior agreement that this would be the emblematic theme of the visit. Τhis conceit employed by Sanford looks as if it in turn provided the inspiration for epigram III.31 from the 1601 Affaniae by Charles Fitzgeoffrey, written to celebrate the foundation of the Bodleian Library.
4. Sanford’s cycle was issued by Joseph Barnes, printer to the University, in 1592; it is tempting to suppose that the licensing of Barnes’ press, the forerunner of the Oxford University Press, in 1584 involved an understanding that he would issue a certain amount of literature on subjects congenial to the goverment and established religion. One could point to the volumes just cited, and many other items of Anglo-Latin literature written under Elizabeth and James, as examples of patriotic effusions, sometimes downright political propaganda, manufactured for the consumption of the educated classes. NOTE 5 And of course both the writing and the publication of poetry of this sort constituted an elegant means for the University to profess its loyalty at the same time it displayed its literary talent.
5. A transcript of the printed text was included in the anthology Elizabethan Oxford edited by Charles Plummer. NOTE 6 All of the early poetry volumes issued by Barnes are very rare. In the present instance, only two copies survive, one in the British Library, the other in private hands when Plummer wrote. I do not know its present whereabouts. In the same anthology Plummer included other documents pertinent to the 1592 royal visit, which occupied September 22 - 28, the most interesting of which is an eyewitness account by Philip Stringer, a rather jaundiced Cambridge-educated follower of Lord Burghley (on this visit the Queen was accompanied by the full Privy Council).
6. This is a revised version of an edition that originally appeared at Humanistica Lovaniensia 44 (1994), 207 - 49. I have taken the opportunity to make a number of minor revisions, and include new information about Elizabeth’s 1992 visit to Oxford and Sanford’s probable source of inspiration in writing this cycle.
NOTE 1 To gain an overall idea of the queen’s entertainment on this occasion, one may read the decrees drawn up by the special committee charged with making the arrangments, reproduced by Andrew Clark, Register of the University of Oxford (Oxford, 1887) I.228 - 30.
NOTE 2 Funebria Nobilissimi ac Praestantissimi Equitis, D. Henrici Untoni, edited by Unton’s chaplain Robert Wright and printed by Barnes.
NOTE 3 Anthony à Wood, Athenae Oxonienses, Fasti Oxonienses, and Life of Anthony à Wood (ed. by Philip Bliss, London, 1813 - 22, reprinted Hildesheim, 1969) II.471f. (I have written out some abbreviated words). The existence of Sanford’s cycle has been acknowledged by writers such as Leicester Bradner, Musae Anglicanae: A History of Anglo-Latin Poetry 1500 - 1925 (New York, 1940, reprinted New York, 1966) p. 60 and J. W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Latin Writings of the Age (Leeds, 1990) p. 67, but I know of no scholarship devoted to the man or his work.
NOTE 4 Exequiae Illustrissimi Equitis D. Philippi Sidnaei, Gratissimae Memoriae ac Nomini Impensae, printed by Joseph Barnes, Oxford, 1587, edited by Gager. The final poem in this collection, a fine Sapphic ode by William Whitlock of Christ Church, is quoted in full as another example of Gager’s influence on his contemporaries by Bradner, p. 67.
NOTE 5 Particularly interesting, being a form of courtly flattery peculiar to Anglo-Latin poetry, is the frequent comparison of Elizabeth to a divinity, the prediction of her deification after death, or even the description of the queen as a living goddess. Often the technical language of the Roman Caesar cult is appropriated for the purpose. This is not the place to expatiate on the possible political or religious implications at stake. But Sanford’s poem contains much evidence that could fuel such a discussion and would warrant publication for that reason alone.
NOTE 6 Charles Plummer, Elizabethan Oxford (Oxford, 1887) pp. 277 - 99, who provides much source-material about the royal visit. This visit eventually inspired another literary work not noticed by Plummer, the long and extraordinarly turgid Invitatorius Panegyricus…de Elisabetae nuper reginae posteriore ad Oxoniam adventu by Robert Burhill, a Fellow of Corpus Christi College, included in Oxoniensis Academiae Funebre Officium in Memoriam Honoratissimam Serenissimae et Beatissimae Elizabethae (Oxford, 1603), pp. 73 - 90. Although Burhill had been an Oxford student at the time, he manages to provide remarkably little circumstantial detail.