To see the Latin text, click on a green square. To see a textual note, click on a blue square.
ANDREA AMMONIO OF LUCCA GREETS THE RIGHT DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN G. MOUNTJOY
have always hoped, most noble Mountjoy, that when I could not repay a favor, I could at least not be an ingrate, or seem to be one. And so, although I have been treated by every manner of kindness not only by yourself, a second Maecenas, but also by many other very friendly patrons of learning in this your England, which has supported me so well for all these years that I can justly call it my own nation, since poverty (which, as the poet says, “makes many men obscure”) has precluded other ways in which I could express my gratitude, I have adopted the only means I could, and begun to praise those to whom I considered myself particularly indebted. Pliny the Younger once called this duty so welcome that, if writers praised individuals or cities, it was the custom of the ancients to distinguish them with honors or pecuniary rewards. Choerilus received from Alexander “Philips coined in the royal mint in exchange for his uncouth verses,” and Scipio Africanus did not disdain to have the rude poet Ennius as a friend, allow him to march in his train in his most splendid triumphal parade, and ultimately to have him buried in the tomb of the Cornelii. But I pass over mortals. What thanks does God Almighty require of us in exchange for His immeasurable favors towards us? Only praise. What victims does He command us to sacrifice to Himself? Nothing more than praise, since this is the single gift that is our own to give, whereas all else belongs to Him.
2. And so I have attempted to express this gratitude towards Britain, my foster-mother, towards you, and towards my other patrons. I have praised your goodness and virtues, not sufficiently, but as best I could. And if I have conferred little grace on this most fair subject, you know that proverb, “in great things it suffices to have had the will.” I venture to dedicate these trifles of mine, of whatever quality they may be, expressly to yourself because I know you are not an over-finicky man, and I am aware that, out of your wonderful friendliness, you will not regard them as entirely worthless. And so, of whatever quality this work may be, I ask you to receive it with the same cheerfulness that you are wont to accept cheap, rural gifts, judging (as you do), not the gift itself but rather the spirit in which it was given. Farewell, London, May 17.
1. HENDECASYLLABLES OF ANDREA AMMONIO OF LUCCA FOR WILLIAM MOUNTJOY, BARON OF ENGLAND
Mountjoy, supreme glory of the Peerage (as I adjudge) and of those whom Albion’s Nereus washes or of whoever any human-inhabited region supports, you who rightly can be called the Maecenas of all men, the patron of Clarian Apollo. You do not campaign under the banner of enervating Venus while neglecting the arts of learned Pallas., as do most of your order. You do not eagerly throw the ruinous dice or spend your nights in drinking unwatered wine. Rather, being the scion of noble forebears, and you have a sufficiency of wealth — yet scarcely a wealth that matches your good disposition and your merits — you devote your days and nights to goodly pursuits after your martial exercises, and short ones at that. You keep choice volumes in your hands, and nothing is nobler or sweeter. For you either read the sacred doctrines of Socrates, which nearly raise us up to heaven, or you scan the centuries of mankind, with everything set before your eyes as in a theater: the race of Japeth, and indeed the origin of this universe’s globe wherewith we are enclosed. If you desire to understand its construction, you may see how God’s innate goodness bade disgraceful Chaos take on form, and abandon its erstwhile conflict, establishing a place for the seeds of things, decorated the heavens with various fires, and filling everything with living beings, left no place in the universe unpopulated, albeit the greater part may elude human eyes. You may also see how the good divine Potter fashioned us after His image and set fire in the regions above: this is why, they say, a harvest of diseases and woes have been given mankind, so that golden centuries soon changed into silver ones, then bronze ones, and finally were filled with the iron of criminality, so that Probity, who had long fought against Vice on equal terms, took to her heels.
At this point, if you wish to pursue human affairs and those of ourselves, you may perceive the wars of mankind (a great bane) and the ups and downs and various mockeries of fortune, how the Mede took power away from the Assyrian, then was likewise subjugated by the Persian, the Persian by the Macedonian, and again how the descendent of Agenor toppled Sparta from its lofty perch, with the result that, when the powers of rival Libya were shattered, government of all the world (which had previously wandered about) fell to the race of Aeneas. But, lest this lest be everlasting, the dire Geat with his bloody spear, that offscouring of the Danube, drove the sons of Aeneas off the Capitoline and off the pinnacle of power. Then the world was given over to steel and fire, then everything was abandoned to grasping hands. Then the Frank, who had made this attempt so often at the cost of his own blood, since the gods were set against him, eventually got possession of the land and scepter of France, the Hungarian gained Pannonia, the Scots (a race more numerous than the bees of Mt. Hyblas) Ireland and whatever huts the Caledonians now own, and the Slav now controls the land of Dalmatia. There is a district of once-dominant Italy which the Lombard battle-standards continue to hold under their yoke nowadays, and your Britain came to take its name it has from the Angles. Thus it is: the long passage of times creates all manner of innovations. But why am I going astray, forgetful of my subject? These are the spectacles, these are the studies and the places which particularly delight your mind. And moreover, conjoined with your modesty and candor, they make you the familiar of kings, a delight to one and all, and they make you my patron and master and, if you will permit, my god.
INTERLOCUTORS: LYCAS AND AMMON
If these seem not to be redolent of forests and pastures, you should appreciate that they have migrated from the countryside to the court
You’re here, oh sweet Lyca7s? My delightful friend, you’re here? What god has fetched you from the ends of the earth and bade you penetrate such deep recesses? I scarcely trust my eyes. But you could come to me at no better time or place. For here joys now hold sway, cares banished, and it is a great felony not to pass gladsome days. Mother Venus, her quiver-bearing escort, Juno, that patroness of marriage, and the satyrs, Dryads, and spirits of the mountains are a-dancing. Fair Hymen leads the throng. Iacchus accompanies him, and Bounty comes gambolling after with her cornucopia. Pan likewise plays a tune on his bundled reeds, and Triton makes the shores resound with his golden conch. The Naiads, roused from their plashing fountains, gleam with their damp rumps and sway their sides, and a crew of sea-nymphs wantonly moves along as it follows Tethys.
Rest is not so welcome to those wearied by long labors, should they find the shade of a spreading tree, Ammon, alongside a river murmuring with its bejeweled waters, as your sight, your voice, your embrace, and your face are welcome to me. But you are not the only reason for my journey. After you left the hills of Romulus, you traitor, the light very rarely shone bright on our fields. Often Camilla, abandoned, complained to me about you, often the unhappy girl’s shouting reached my ears as she went about the glades, loudly calling you an ingrate. Often I called you a fool for abandoning that which was certain and the hut where you were born, your sheep and happy pastures, and for going in search of forlorn hopes and things that were unsure and unknown. But behold, the sky began to be thickly overcast and the south wind blew with sluggish heat. Immediately a wretched blight invaded my sheepfold, my unhappy flock with bright fleece on its backs began to fail. I saw them gasping out their lives on hard crags, and kidlings pulling at the udders of their dead dams. At this point I called you thrice and four times lucky for being far distant from these tragedies. What of the fact that the Tiber, dammed at the Tuscan shore, raged over our fields and meadows and threatened our hilltops? Had I the mind and the heart, a soothsayer had previously warned us to beware of these calamities. Soon there appeared a pack of insatiable wolves whom the shepherds could not fend off with their hostile weapons, nor could the swift hounds keep the fierce beasts from snatching kids from our countryside, and there was no lack of savage robbers who committed all manner of crimes. At length, overcome by this mass of evils, I yielded to my adverse fortune and gave the few she-goats chance had left me to Menalcus, and made up my mind to learn the varying manners of mankind, their cities, and the lay of their lands, so that, my friend, I might pass the remainder of my life in your company, wherever in the world you were hiding. And behold, after great toils by land and by see, I join you, and now whatever I endured seems sweet.
My mind, prophetic of evil, had already foreseen these things, and if you recall, Lycas, I predicted many such events, when you chanced to hold a shepherd’s crook in your left hand while propping up your chin with your right, under the shelter of an ancient oak, at the time when I complained that my barque was being tossed by varying currents or caught in the doldrums, and that nothing could go well for me when the stars were hostile. On the other hand, I saw many men, heartlessly ignoring all their livestock, who were servants of Bacchus and Venus, who still flourished with their cows and goats, but whose flocks increased day by day, since they never felt misfortunes.
I remember often hearing those complaints. But who convinced you to visit the British, cut off from the world? Tell me this, I ask you, and why you hid yourself from me, your faithful friend.
Once, as I was standing at the Altar of Peace, where the lilies shone white, alone and aggrieved over these things, strange to tell, a voice came to my ears: “Ammon, make no delay. Hasten to the distant British. There a god will look upon you and lift you up from the mud.” I stood stock-still, my hair on end. Then, thinking much about the matter, I decided that I should in no wise scorn that divine utterance (a thing that has harmed many), and, even if I had to suffer many things either before setting foot on British soil or having earned the favor of such a great divinity, I took the road by myself, something for which a friend could reproach me. I traversed mountains and snow, and crossed the sea which surrounds those wealthy realms. Flat, great, fertile Albion offered herself to me. I entered, with favorable omens, then I surveyed how the sea flows around it on all sides, like a moat; with what various currents it moves and with how many fish it abounds, and with how many sail-driven ships it is plowed. As I continued, fat farmlands greeted my eye, hills easy to climb, lovely gardens, and regions such as we see painted in churches. What cattle I saw! How gentle! How huge! With udders hanging down to their feet! I also encountered sheep which imitate silk with the fine threads spun from their wool, or that fleece once brought back to his homeland by the Pegasian hero, together with his stolen bride from Phasis. I was amazed how the sheep wandered with no supervision, and how the playful bulls ranged far without their mothers, as they plied the budding weapons of their curved faces. I was amazed how of its own volition, having had no trainer to school it, a warhorse in a meadow set down its feet so daintily that one would could imagine that he was dancing to a tune. Here, I understand, there is no need to fear a noxious herb, thieves or wolves. Their sole danger is this, that if they do not trouble themselves to keep their cattle off from their favorite fodder, they will grow over-fat and burst. I forbear to say more, about rabbit-warrens full of does, and groves which had not failed to experience the bite of lightning-bolts, in which I myself saw Napaeae and Father Silvanus dancing in broad daylight, together with the horned satyrs. Next I saw fields bristling with sundry crops, and places which once flowed with the yellow gold, but now produce masses of lead very much resembling gold and silver, to which you can add dark bluish ingots. When I went through their towns, what young men I saw were fit for war and displaying wide shoulders and martial necks: they seemed as if they had been sired by giants. Nor did their matrons yield to them in beauty: both sexes were comely, the man well-matched to his wife, and she to her husband. I visited their churches, and thought they alone were worthy of the saints. Their paintings, resplendent with gems, dazzled my eyes and gilt hammer-beams hung down from their lofty roofs. I contemplated their private wealth: I saw that everything was so a-boil with prosperity that not even our cottages are lacking in silverware. This, Lycas, is that blessed island where Cynthius is said to rest his weary team after sinking to the western sea, while bright Phoebe moves her wheels in her coordinated orbit. Here the mildness of the pleasant weather is always fresh. Here youth lasts long and old age comes late, and death scarcely comes along in their doubtful mature years.
Oh Ammon, lucky are they whom the stars once permitted to migrate to such happy fields!
But what that god, sacred of appearance and reverend of face, who rules the brave British with his innate gravity, promised me surpasses all these miracles. And he towers as much above all other kings as cone-bearing cypresses tower above arbute-shrubs. He, puissant in his realms and his offspring, and happy in his wealth, commands a world related to himself by friendships and ties of blood. Nectar like that of a Nestor drips from his mouth, so that he equals men like Atilius in his faithfulness, the Catos in his probity, Numa in his religion, the Decii in his piety, and he has made himself as beloved to his nation as Codrus was to Athens. He is the father of them all, he opens his arms to those who approach and cherishes them after he has received them, asking not what manner of clauy they have been made from but about their merit. Sooner will you count the grains of Egyptian wheat and the flowers that bloom in the springtime than how many unknown men of humble station he has raised up, made into men, honored and enhanced. But observe how it is permitted to no man lacking in blood and fervor to rise to a seat of supremacy and sit there in security. He is likewise heaven-born, and Mars always stands by him, Pallas entirely shields him with her Gorgon. Beginning with his tender young years he endured exile and many an exile, but then he trampled the savage tyrant in battle. He has defeated pretender-sons, capturing that plaything of fortune and executing him, ending the war by means of a shameful noose. Nor did wild Ireland cease, but rather it lashed out at him with swiftly-recruited companies of men in open warfare. But their bands fell, slaughtered like so many sheep. Here in England a part of the realm is inhabited by a race keen in battle, taking its name from a horn. They all rose up in arms and attacked their king. But when they saw him marching against them, they suddenly threw away those arms, scattered, and fled, no differently than do the lesser birds when an eagle makes its appearance.
Things created to endure do not emerge with ease, and nature confronts every fair thing with hardship. For what did the shepherd Romulus not endure before founding his walls alongside the water of the Tuscan Tiber, walls destined to cast its chains on the world?
This peace was gained by our god, and Fortune’s uncertain wheel was nailed fast. Next he turned his attention to shaping the manners of his subjects, to defend its important laws, to punish the guilty, protect and honor the good, resolve quarrels, and renew himself for a long time by creating a countless progeny. By his daughter, a girl the King of Scotland, conjoined by requited love, embraces as his queen, he has been made a grandfather. Then he likewise joined his son in a Spanish marriage. Whew, what character the lad has! He resembles his father in his face no less than in his name, and soon he will resemble him in his doughty deeds. The lad’s appearance is divine, he has the prudence of a hoary old man: nothing in him smacks of a mortal, there is a hidden god within him. There remained the marriage of his youngest child, Mary, too old to be nursed but not yet ready for wedding-torches. She was betrothed to a similar marriage, and as a young bride was conjoined to a young husband, none more noble. A number of scepters reserved themselves for his hand: first, both Spains owed him their service and the Balearic land, famed for its bendable lead, the shore of the sea of Sardinia and the realm of Campania, the fields of Flanders, conveyed to his control by Paphian Venus, and Austrian Germany, accustomed to his ancestor’s yoke, the fierce peoples of the Huns, once called the Paeones, and, in sum, the greatest part of our world.
A happy betrothal! They have similar fathers, as you say, and they are equals in age and beauty, and are well-matched. in their power. What could be born from their seed but a god? But come, tell me the name of the man who by himself will enjoy the mastery over so many peoples.
Charles, who inherited his name from that thunderbolt who destroyed French power and compelled their king to plead as a captive. Burgundy prevailed but, alas, an early death took away his father Philip, cutting him down in the first flower of his youth.
That is a form of plunder which hangs over all excellent men.
Our god will perform the family duties both of his father-in-law and his father, easing his loss so that he will feel his father has in no wise been stolen from him. He is also protected in all respects by the love and arms of Caesar his grandfather, the greatest ruler of the Roman world. If a just fortune favors him, no title would be nobler for any man, since in himself he combines the uprightness of Antoninus, the wisdom of Marcus, and the strength and martial experience of Trajan, and no other Augustus was more open-handed. If Rome could enjoy such a holy Caesar, you would see her seven hills flourishing once more.
While we have been enjoying this longed-for conversation, the stars now govern the sky, abandoned by Phoebus’ splendor.
I see that you are weary and in search of hospitality. Come, avail yourself of mine, for you may. Kneel and humbly worship our king. Then let a lamb be slaughtered in honor of my friend, come here safe and sound, and for the marriage. Soon we will both take our pleasure. Hail, most prudent of prudent kings. You outstrip the good ones in your probity, the puissant ones in your wealth, on which your virtue, careful for itself, has relied for its defense.
Thus may you thrive and see three lifetimes of the king of Pylos, thus may you outlive the lengthy span of the prophetess of Cumae. Thus may the friendly gods anticipate you in your wishes and may the treacherous necks of the Turks stretch tight your chains. Thus may the recovered land of Jerusalem, its Holy Sepulcher, and the saving tokens of His blood greet you. Look on us, and bear in mind that we are at your service.
3. AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF KING HENRY VII AND THE HAPPY SUCCESSION OF HENRY VIII
Fill now, fill the sky with your tearful outcries, my elegy, and gash now your tear-stained cheeks. Beat now your breast with your tender hands and tear your hair, drench now your sad face with copious tears. Never ever has there been a like cause for grief, no cause has ever produced more justifiable tears. Henry has died, the seventh of that name who has wielded the English scepter in his hand. Henry, that glory of great kings, their brilliance, their splendor, their special glory, has died. Died has Henry, he who banished the clouds from the sky wherever he looked with his happy face. His eyes shone with a mild fire, and in him, if you beheld him, was a pleasant dreadfulness, together with gravity and great modesty in his bearing, and a majesty which usually belongs to the gods. Woe’s me, died he at a time when he was preparing to subjugate Turkish perfidy with his wealth and his arms! Oh envious Fates, hostile to mankind’s good, at least this should have been accounted your crime. Why did not the idle commons and useless common run of men perceive this wound was inflicted by your hand? The answer is that this was done so we could not have called him an invincible man in all respects, had he bested you. But you have accomplished nothing. After his thread was broken he lives on, and his glory will grow greater. His intellect, his prudence in affairs, will live on, and the treasures of his sweet face will survive, as will his courage and his feats of arms (how countless were those he bested with a small band!), so that he could lead the subject world where he would take it and so that land and sea would hold the man in reverence.
Yet suppose these things perish too. Your son, Henry, who bears your name, your living image which lives in your son, will not perish. From lofty Olympus you will see how your eternal blood-line mounts to the stars. He will bind to himself Commons and Peerage to himself, lads and gaffers, being mankind’s darling. Foreign kings will fear him, the world will hold him in veneration, thinking him a god in mortal guise. What region of the world, either watered by the great gliding Indus or shaken by the waves of the Tartessian sea, either parched and uncultivated beneath fiery Leo or shivering because of the cruel north wind’s blast, would not crave him as a master and freely hasten to submit its neck to his welcome yoke? What ages of the world have given birth to a prince of such a character? What work, I ask, has it seen so consistent in all its numbers? His heart is free of gall, he is well-versed in Minerva’s studies, from which he frees himself to devote a just amount of his time to Mars. Thus he cultivates his mind and his body, thus he so excels in both that you would think him born for all pursuits. Suppose he plucks a Bistonian lyre with his ivory fingers and sings of the doughty deeds of his half-divine forebears, or sometimes relaxes his mind by singing of love. Thetis herself would prefer him to the son of Peleus. Let him stretch an Itiraean bow and he is thought to be Apollo, for he possesses Phoebus hands, breast, and countenance. Let him break a snorting horse, and Leda would hold Castor in disdain and prefer that Jupiter had been his father. If, Venus, you were to see him, you would forget Adonis, and for you, Cynthia, Endymion would seem base.
The fiery looks of the lad! Hair that is dark and a little bit curly lashes his snow-white neck, his royal brow is painted with a bow of eyebrows, his eyes shine with a glow brighter than starlight, purple tinges his glowing cheeks, a good nose ornaments his reverend face, a circle of pearly-white teeth stand in a row, and his rivalling lips surpass his ancestral red roses. The muscles bunch up on his shoulders and he is deep-chested, features such as I imagine the son of Mars to have had. His well-turned arms are connected to long forearms, and to marble hands and rosy fingers. His slender legs rise up from springing ankles, and his tight stomach is not wide. In sum, there is no fault in his tall body that a man would wish to be more handsome. But since such endowments of mind and body combine with his strength, comeliness, youth, and ardor, although he could do whatever he willed, he keeps a tight rein on himself and refuses himself what he allows others, and demands nothing of his subjects other than a friendly heart, devoting his energies to be a father to his nation even as a boy. So come, my elegy, dry year falling tears. See that much more remains than what has been lost.
See that in place of Henry VII we have Henry VIII, and that we have a god in place of a mortal. It is not permitted us to rejoin the Sisters’ thread when once it has been severed, nor can we break the laws of unkind death. See that the land now rejoices, having banished its sorrow, and that every field smiles. Let Astraea return to the long-neglected land and compel the evil arts to depart and flee. You see how the rivers begin to flow white with milk and rosy honey flows from the hollow trees. If you are unaware, Octavius has restored the Golden Age to the world. Let us pray prosperity for our lord. Let Henricus Octavus live to Pylian years, and surpass your number, hoary Sibyl. Let him he be better than Nerva, happier than Augustus himself, and outstrip Trajan in strength and government. Let Jupiter bless his every undertaking with supreme results, and let Phoebus foster the roses, both the white and the red.
4. A WEDDING-SONG FOR THE MARRIAGE OF KING HENRY VIII AND QUEEN CATHARINE
Ruler of boundless heaven, Father of gods and men, and you, fostering Venus, chaste mother of the winged Cupids, and you too, Hymen, come hither, bringing your lawful torches. Let the fair Graces take their hands and lift up their rosy flames. Let heaven and all that dwell therein take the leisure to celebrate our happiness. May Juno temper the weather, bringing springtime. Restrain the other winds in your caverns, Hippotades, and send forth only the west wind, to shower all the arable tracts of rich England with its special nectar, fertilizing the soil and ever whispering with its light breeze. And let it suffuse everything far and wide with its sweet aromas, so that the incense which is grown on the trees of Panchaea, the nest of that unique bird, may envy England alone. No place is not cheerful and thriving with its happy grass, no field does not take a covering of roses white and red. Every valley and steep hill, every flatland and forest, glade and warren, is cheering and supporting its lord.
Fountains, brooks and streams luxuriate with sweet waters, but foremost Father Thames crowns his locks with sedge and binds his glassy head with roses red and white, and, stopping his refluent urn, flows on with a generous flood, with his shimmering current sporting with snow-white swans in dancing measures. Come a-running, you nymphs who are daughters of wandering Tethys, make sport, you chaste virgins, and likewise you boys. And you make sport with your husbands, you new-made brides. And you who have had Lucina stand by you as you gave birth, have no shame in youthfully dancing along with bent old men. Let roses white and red shine in the hair of you all. Let there be no limit to your mirth, let no instrument of music go unsounded, and let Fescennine wantonness claim its part. Henry, that glory of youth, and likewise that glory of princes, is marrying the daughter and special delight of the King of Spain and his right noble virago.
Wherefore let the Sisters spin out the snow-white wool on their swift distaff. While the others spin, Lachesis, fairer than Phoebus’ light, sings this happy doom: “May Henry, easily the greatest and best of all kings, together with the consort of his bed, live three lifespans of Nestor, but they will not feel the evils of old age. We want them always to enjoy the benefits of a thriving age. Every passing day will be happier than the one that went before. Scarcely able to contain yourself for happiness, you will soon see a number of little Henries playing in the British court. Then this lord will make up his mind to subjugate the wild Turks, and to say everything together, then I see that much toil will await our bards. The following age will ratify these things we now sing.”
5. TO DOMINUS RICHARD, BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
In their prayers mariners once called upon the brothers born of Leda, when they feared the threats of water and weather. Now, when a storm brews up, the sailor calls on Erasmus, preferring him to all those gods. But I take refuge with you, my prelate, whose sacred head is right worthily crowned with a triple crown. You must calm the waters for my barque, you must steer my skiff when it is tossed by savage winds, you must shine at my masthead as a prosperous flame. It was the prosperity and great abundance of all things, and most of all the virtue of your king, that inspired me to abandon the dear walls of my homeland and the delightful palaces of great Rome, and the friendships I had cultivated for no few years, to travel a long journey, traverse rocks, near to the sky and covered with Scythian snow, and cross the ocean, observing mad whales robbing us of the daylight with their spray. Lest you say I was rash in coming here, there were those who lured me with their promises, which the winds snatched away into thin air along with my hope, leaving me stranded in these parts, helpless. Unless your goodness, you great father of this wretched crew, had given me hope, my life would have been a burden. You make me hope for favorable winds, so that I imagine I too may find a harbor. For what should I not hope for from such a great prelate? Religion cultivates his heart with piety. Pallas’ holy arts shaped him in his youth, and he allows no day to pass free from those pursuits. You’ll rarely find a man who such a sure friend to his friend, who takes pleasure in outdoing his promised faith. He has raised up so many men from the ground, a number that not even a skilled tongue could enumerate over the course of a long day. He has supreme standing with our king, his power is great, but nevertheless he would like to help more than he is able to do. I beg you not to disdain this praise, father, and to deem me deserving of your help. Put me among the dependants you have rescued; if I have not merited this, your praise will be all the greater. I am not asking for great things, only for my daily bread, kind sir, and it is enough to be a chattering royal servant.
6. A CONSOLATION, TO THE SAME
Richard, you glory of prelates and bulwark of good men, and my greatest concern as long as I live, your Greystoke sends you these words from the Elysian Fields, and I beg you set aside your sorrow and read them. “After I departed these dregs of the world and unwillingly left your service, having put off the dross of my body and its frail mass, I was led straightway to the Elysian Fields. Thus they nowadays call the place where those who have deserved to be sent to heaven after having made trifling atonements fir a little while. Here I am destined not long to tarry until I am purged and may mount up to the precincts of supreme Jove. Even now this great hope gladdens me, and I hope to behold the face of my Creator. Therefore, father, you should be happy: pray congratulate your son. This was the death I had hoped to die, one which did not torment me with lengthy pangs in sickness, nor suddenly cut my throat, but kindly dissolved my frame with a great sweat and bade me depart by way of my humors. Even since before I was beset with the tedium of a long life and had not yet been hagridden by the evils of disease-ridden old age, and, father, while my love for you and my tender young years had not yet allowed me to plunge myself into the vices, I admit I only quit my body after a struggle. And yet I would not now wish to endure that bondage, in which I was constantly tormented by joy and grief, hope, fear, and six hundred other butchers of the mind, which I now adjudge to have been plagues. and I perceive in what a miserable condition I existed. Just like a steersman who, having been borne far across the sea, has completed his intended voyage in a short time, I rejoice that I have survived so many seas safe and sound in such a fragile craft, and have quickly gained my harbor. And so, if any piety possesses you, set aside your sorrow and refuse to be sadder than is my fate. There is no other way in which I could become blessed, death is the only gateway to heaven. But you, who are so advantageous to our king and realm, must live a longer time than I did, father. Live, father, farewell, and pray to the world’s Creator that He quickly bring me to the beings of heaven.”
7. ON THE SAME
Come hither, you Indians, you Dacians, all you nations who believe that Christ is God. I am able to show you a reverend bishop perfect in all his numbers. He is the man whom the land of Britain, rich in sheep and populous, has produced, Bishop Richard of Winchester, a devotee of that which honorable, a new model of virtue, brought to his high station by his consummate faith, unstinted effort, and his prudence in his affairs. If you consider his face, there is such gravity, integrity, and restraint on his brow that you will recognize that he is one among thousands when it comes to piety. If you were to see him devote himself to divine matters, you would say he wholly scorns human things. He wakes in the morning, says Mass, and devotes himself to his many daily duties. And, although public affairs take him away from his congregation, he does not neglect his flock. For he casts a vigilant lie on its members, and the takes care lest anything grow awry. If he sees his sheep go astray, he leads them back to the fold so the sly wolf won’t devour them. This father confers hospitality on all the needy and lifts those who have fallen. With his advice and resources he helps whatever man is worn down by the thunderbolts of the impotent lady. Furthermore, he sits on cases and hears the suits of his subjects, but does so as a pious father judges his sons. He decorates, founds, and constructs altars, churches, shrines, houses, city halls, and country estates.
And again, if you were to see him devote himself to secular matters, you would say he wholly scorns divine things. His usefulness for the commonwealth keeps him busy at court for nearly all his days. Whether a great suit arises between powerful subjects or the king’s business is at stake concerning war, peace, or the making of a league, or if a new ambassador has arrived, or if any detail, no matter how small and trifling, crops up that touches on the public interest, he is the first man who the guards of the court and the Privy Council catch sight of, for his patriotism thus commands him. If any hard rain falls on the earth, the rivers freeze solid, if the north wind howls around his hoary head or Sirius bakes it, have no doubt that he will make a timely arrival to deal with matters of state, for he ranks them as more important than his personal health. Some men have learned to plead thorny causes, so that you would imagine Nature herself were speaking. Some know what is proper and what is not, whether the useful is at odds with the honorable, and some investigate God, while others solve the conundrums of the law more learnedly than did Papinian. But when it comes to managing affairs, their knowledge goes no further, they are unlettered dunces, incompetent clodhoppers, but our man is so well-versed in every branch of knowledge that you cannot tell whether he is outstanding for his erudition or his experience, or whether he excels at both (which I myself regard as closer to the mark). And although he is thus caught up in such great concerns that surround him on every side, he does not fail his own dependents: rather, he will never ever abandon those whom he has once embraced, nor allows them to exist in evil straits, and he shares with others the grace and authority which he has earned by his own effort, and likewise he shares whatever kindly fortune has handed him. You might imagine I am fawning and exaggerating, but what fraction of the truth is this? Such are the man’s merits that what could not be said about others without flattery cannot match his good works: rather, any extremity of praise is less than them. I have shown you a bishop you can understand, but only to the extent you can understand gods.
8. TO THE REVEREND DOMINUS THOMAS RUTHALL, SECRETARY TO THE KING, LATELY CREATED BISHOP OF DURHAM
Thomas, darling of the British land, thus Henry, that best of kings (and he daily grows kinder) has disclosed to you the secrets of his heart, thus may the saints give you a Pylian old age and grant your every wish. Account me a client in your retinue and you’ll make me more blessed than Croesus. For I think these riches, that flow back to their source, to be defended by the protection of such a great patron, to whom the generous gods have been all-giving. Permit me to give a brief description of your particulars to gratify my own mind, even if you are bashfully reluctant. In the first place, you have a serene countenance, laughing eyes, a manly color, lively vigor, and are always in motion. You have a clever intellect, which deeply delves into everything without effort. You have a kindly vein of innate eloquence, a keen and sage judgment, and the power of your retentive memory is such that you are as familiar with the laws once enacted by your mighty people and the decretals of the holy Fathers as with your own fingers and fingernails. The poets say that the Thracian bard was in the habit of using the honeyed notes of his tuneful lyre to stop wolves as they were attacking stinking goats, their jaws a-gape and unmoving, to make rivers stand still, set rocks a-moving, and bring down cypress trees from the mountains. But if you play musical instruments and follow along with your voice, you do not move only beasts and stones: with your mighty quill you could entrance Orpheus’ own astonished ears. Nor (as is wont to befall many men) do these gifts lack wealth. For the furniture and decoration of your table weary the eyes, as does your plate, all made with polished skill and artistry: the richness of the material defers to the art. If I twist my neck, I see your new tapestries, hangings more proud than those of the Attalids, the silken efforts of a Tuscan loom. And your style is royal, as he will not deny this to be truer than truth itself who comes into your cult when you are entertaining the king. But, so that my discourse may not be irksome to your most austere eyes, I prudently leave off mentioning the other riches which you are not timid to use, but enjoy with pleasure. And ye you want them to serve you, not to command you as your mistresses. Nor, even if the gods have granted you your well-deserved honors, do you therefore arrogantly preen yourself upon them. Indeed, day by day you are regarded as kinder. So surely it is not for small reasons that I request to be enrolled in the number and company of your clients?
9. TO THE SAME
Thomas, my bulwark, on these Kalends of Janus, the father of all things, gifts are heaped up for you, received from hither and thither. This man gives you the impious birds of Phasis, partridges, blackbirds, and cranes, while that one gives you great prey from stream or ocean. Others bring Spanish olives, figs, lemons, and cakes of sugar. Others bring casks filled with Bacchus: either what Crete produces from its golden clusters, or what is borne by vines of Calais, or what French presses have yielded. Another client gives embroidered tapestries, and our sovereign gives gold plate or emeralds. But, Ruthall, what will your Andrea give, who has none of these things, other than his Muses, which you love although you know them to be inelegant? So he presents them to you, along with himself. No man gives gifts more expensive than himself.
10. A HYMN TO THE LORD HENRY VII
Henry, you holy man who has lately increased the number of the saints, grant me to recall the pomp of Jove which you thought beautiful.
The great Ruler of his vast world has appointed a day for this triumph, on which just Henry should prepare to mount his deserved car.
The stars have bathed themselves in great Thetis so that the heaven might glitter with pure files. The titan has shone once more, more welcome than usual, as has fair Phoebe.
On one side and the other great decorations have been put up where the triumphal chariot would pass by, and all the air was fragrant with nectar and ambrosia.
Snares were borne before it, arms more harmful than any steer, and many spoils and trophies of that kind, carried in a long procession.
Next came a throng overwhelmed in that very harsh war, and followed by many glum commanders, their arms bound behind them with stout ropes.
First came Pride, the leader of their grave crimes, with a swollen heart and bold step, quite unmoved by its bondage and misfortune.
Together with ot came his comrade Envy, with a pale face, slitted eyes, and deep sight, burning himself with the venom he spewed.
After them hastened along Wrath, with its furrowed brow and quivering lips, whose eyes shone with the terrible light of a Fury.
Accursed Greed for Gold marched along with its filthy face and clawed fingers, always keeping an eye to the pavement in the hope of finding pennies.
Then Gluttony, reeling along with Bacchus, stinking, lousy, and greasy. Diseased and dripping with foul pus, it dragged its legs along.
Muddy Sloth brought up the rear, constantly yawning, save when the whiff of a kitchen came to its nostrils.
Behold, sitting on his lofty car, the lord himself shone in his purple, his temples gleamed bright, being bound with gems of the East.
His chariot was pulled by Charity, shining with welcome gold, and Faith, white with its Indian pearl, and Hope, green with an emerald from the north.
That virgin adorned with the just scales, who subdues whatever things she sees to be predestined in her divine heart,
And who sets a limit on the things that must be done, also put her shoulder to the car, and they were followed by the company of all the virtues, walking in a great band.
Meanwhile a choir of angels hovered around, repeating with their sweet mouths, “Hooray for you, good Christ, Who fills heaven with well-tried citizens.
“This just triumph has been given to a just man who subdued the savage passions of his mind, who mightily trampled underfoot the bitter pleasures.
“The purple received Henry as he issued his mother’s womb, as a babe of a single year he wielded the scepters of France and Britain.
“As a little boy he sat on his father’s throne, and yet he did not give free rein to the vices which launched a great assault on his ardent youth.
“Being sober, he abstained from the Falernian set before him, scorning royal feasts. With helpful bread he dispelled the imperious grumbles of his hungry belly.
“Although Venus would have been ready at every hand, he kept a chaste bed, and resorted to it only for the sake of having sons and sweet offspring.
“He was mild in bearing and forgiving offence, and attacked no man with an angry sword. He only wished that to be permissible to himself which was suitable.
“Now pious, friendly, and affable to all, he supported orphans and relieved widows, and fed crowds of the needy like a kindly father.
“The crown was made dear to him because he could be of service to many, and because he possessed the power to defend the innocent from the fraud of the guilty.
“He was content with a modicum, and did not value the scepters of this earth at a groat. Rather, he was always meditating on God and yearning for His supernal realms.
“Yet he did not obtain heaven before the Almighty had tried him in the fire, to see if he was pure gold without any fault or dross.
“He lost his realm, he fell into the clutches of his fierce enemy, he was led in a victory-parade, he was kept in the malign dungeon of a prison,
“Until a henchman born for killing, a human whirlpool thirsting for human blood, evilly drank from his holy breast with his cruel steel.
“This brave soldier of Christ overcame his woes by an exercise of patience, and thanked the King of heaven for having stoutly endured all these storms.
“And so He who generously repays all good deeds granted him a blessed home, and gave him a kingdom which no time or power could snatch away.
“And he granted him the power to restore sight to the blind, banish sundry diseases, and restore dead bodies back to life.”
While the holy winged beings sang these things Henry came to the bejeweled throne of the supreme Thunderer and offered up the crown that encircled his brow,
And thanked God with a lengthy prayer. And God in turn, these things earnestly performed, received His son into His paternal breast.
Therefore all our suppliant people, young and old alike, pray: grant peace and enduring tranquility to the British, oh saint,
Or let our arms be wielded for this purpose, that the Turks may admit their bows are no match for ours, and their fugitive horde may abandon Canopus.
Grant us to be on our guard against the snares of Dis, baited with their seductions. Grant us to scorn this earth, grant us to lift up our minds heavenward.
Banish the poison of swift-spreading plague, ward off the sweat that suddenly kills. Let our climate always smile with the west-wind and wholesome air.
Let our land be generous to ourselves and our flocks, but particularly let our young men grow, saint, while we enjoy sound bodies and a healthy mind.
Preserve our sovereign and his like-minded consort, so that, having surpassed the old age of Methuselah, they might be blessedly late in returning to the joys of heaven.
Let the Father and the Son be propitious to us, and may the Spirit which proceeds from them both mingle Itself in the body of this world as a paraclete.
11. AN EXPLANATION SHOWING WHY THE KING’S HORSE IS NAMED CANICIDA
Do you see, stranger, that horse gambolling with a free rein? He has killed countless dogs with his hoof and mouth. For when he is savaged by them as they bay, his anger boils up and raises up the mane of a Libyan beast. Then he dashes hither and thither, scattering hunting hounds, so as to surpass those lionesses themselves in his nobility. Unhappy the dog caught by his teeth, he would find the tusk of a hostile boar more gentle. Had Actaeon been transformed into a horse by Dictynna, he would not have been food for his dogs. But at the moment he’s so peaceful? He copies the character of our sovereign: although he is mild-mannered, take care not to provoke him.
12. ON A CERTAIN MAN
You British lords, mark you that man with sloping shoulders, a pop-eyed fellow weighed down by much wine, having the nostrils of an Athenian owl and the face of a savage hunting-hound, who has scarce three kinsmen surviving on both sides of his family, and those are clad in saffron yellow. Lately he cruised about the cities of Italy as a strong-man, lifting weights to their very last ounce which couldn’t be held up by ten men. Soon, when his youthful vigor failed him, what did the villain leave untouched? He scorned the Muses’ fountain, but, without being initiated into the art, he read some rhetorical commonplaces and foisted himself on our king’s dinner-table. But no king at all could teach him anything, even if he were to expend great effort over many a year. I advise you, beware of this rascal. He cheats, he lies, he attacks, he steals, there’s no crime he wouldn’t commit for money. He snarls at good and bad men alike, and often insults the king himself. I advise you, you Britons, beware of this plague.
You ask me what I think of the British, learned Griphus? I think they are gentle lions. If you stroke them kindly, they lower their mains, lick your hand, and do as you say. But if you provoke them with a threatening whip, their old ferocity fires their blood. They are heedless of the weapons and artillery which can harm them, but, roused by wrath, blindly hurl themselves against these. France will not deny the truth of this.
You who sing of cruel war between the French and the English, surely you don't see the baleful signs of war? The King of France sends legates whom the King of England receives like a brother, for he is bound by pious ties. He is celebrating banquets such as those given by Persian Assuerus or Cleopatra, that disgrace of Lagus. What is mad Fécamp bent upon? Do you hope a war will occur? If that should happen, the peace of Hell will be upon us.
Once it was our forefathers’ habit, back when good faith prevailed, on that day when Janus renewed his perpetual cycle, for each man to beseech heaven to be granted his greatest wish. Hence they say that a certain man who was dissatisfied with his own lot petitioned of Jove in a loud and clear voice for a hundred thousand to repay a debt, and that was a fine thing to do, for he owed ten times as much. I approve of this ancient custom and for a number of years I have observed it, not because I believe the beings of heaven have their ears especially cocked for prayers on that day in particular, but because it is reasonable to worship God in connection with all new beginnings, and to pray that the affairs we have in hand go well. And while, at the start of this new year, I ask myself what I should pray for, pretty much nothing else occurs to me but that my lord and father, my sure bulwark, should long live and thrive. You can scarcely gain much more, since God in His generosity has given you everything else that Jupiter could supply. And I think it is more than adequate for me if you live. And so, Almighty God, Creator of the painted sky Who has commanded time to fly silently by with a fixed change of the seasons, grant Winton, that prelate You know full well, to enjoy as many Januaries as the king of Pylos did days, as many as were in the measure of that withered little hag of Cumae, as many as the flowers that bloom in the spring time, as many as the fish that swim in the sea, as many as the birds contained by the sky. And let him be sound in his strength, robust, flourishing, and strong. All good men seek this with their prayers, as does the king and the Peerage, and all of England. Look favorably on these just prayers, Jupiter best and greatest.
“You goddess of the earth, who used to be greater on the seven hills of Quirinus than any temple dedicated to the gods, tell me why you lie prostrate, squalid, naked, sad, alone, and scorned. What happened to that chariot, that robe revered by kings?”
“I am kept from speaking by my sobs and shame. That Marliano has bested me, to my unhappiness, nor did that harsh man think his victory was sufficient unless he produced me, wounded and with my undergarment torn open as far down as my privies, to be gawked at and censured by all one and all, as you see.”
“But who, pray tell, is Marliano?”
“A man who is regarded as a scion of Phoebus for his medical art, excellently trained in natural history, who understands the mathematics and the stars of heaven, who cites all histories, and understands the origins and construction of the university, an orator and a poet whom nothing eludes, and indeed, a man whom, they say, nothing escapes.”
“So how is it strange that you were conquered? Since your quarrel was with someone half-divine, as is shown by the majesty of his face, his gravity, the beauty of his frame and the tallness of his body. And you know (unless you are trying to claim this too) that you have no power over gods.”
Colet, you endure hot days doing your goodly toiling in Christ’s vineyards. Now you turn much earth with your mattock, now you take your hoe and prize up the recalcitrant stone, constantly striving to avoid a barren harvest. Now you open your vineyard for the calf to roam free, and now you use your steel to attack the over-lush growth of its wood and its tendrils. And you effectively use your attention and your strength on behalf of the new grapes, and play the part of a competent workman. Stay blessed, you little plants, and quickly give Colet huge clusters, so that Christ’s foaming wine may flow out on every for him in his ardor, like a lake of Falernian.
My boy, Christ is calling you to His school to shape and instruct you. You have no need to fear the nonsense of an ancient schoolmaster, to dread his heavy frown and threats. For He is a very handsome Boy, the kindest and most learned of them all, the darling of Brutus’ land and the delight of high heaven, and He strives to be loved. Oh, thrice-blessed and more are you for having such a Teacher! Don’t dawdle, hurry, boy. Whether you want to study true wisdom, or the Golden Rule, or to learn , when Mother Nature demands the return of her loan after your final doom, how to live for all time above Phoebus’ orbit and the starry globe, or if you want to learn these all, hasten to Christ’s school.
Roused by cheering and blaring trumpets, Jupiter looked down from heaven on Henry’s sports. When he saw the stars lit up in the daytime by the radiance of arms, dark metal and gems, he said “Here one of my company of gods is fighting, no mortal hand can create such things. He is either my son come from Gothic Mt. Haemus, or from her who was born of my brow.” But when Henry sat his horse and made it wheel as he wished, he remarked, “He is Castor. But when he saw him stand up in his stirrups and break a lance against his foe, he said, “I was not deceived at my first sight. He is Mars, Mars he is. No other god does these things.” But when Henry opened his helmet and disclosed his starry face, he seemed to Jove to be the sun. Then at length he recognized Henry, although he said not a word, and admitted that three of his sons existed in this one man.
I know of nothing more sweet and elegant, and this stuff has long been standard fare at bishops’ tables. But lately one thing yet sweeter has been found: this, acute Erasmus, is your eloquence.
The ancients were wont to distribute medals, horses, crowns, marble arches, trophies, and statues of men wearing armor or perched on horseback as monuments to their virtue. But what rewards shall we give you for your virtue, Tygrinus, you who rightly are called the beautiful palm of your people? Nor do I think it wrong to imagine the gods have you given such great good things: you are fine in your nobility, and you are do not abound with friends who are malign in their affairs or their wealth. What a very rare dignity in your expression! If a man should see you, he would immediately imagine you are a duke or a ruler of many peoples. But I shall leave off speaking of these things which nature has given you with her kindly hand. You have achieved better, so that you became friendly, affable, and modest. Your honeyed tongue is eloquent and learned, as you are as familiar with the laws of the Caesars, and likewise those of the Holy Fathers, as you are with your own fingers. You are erudite concerning annals both old and new. What that you have refused to allow the doughty deeds of our peoples to go unremembered? If you choose to leave off playing the judge or the man in power, the judge’s love and terror, and his hot anger are banished from your mind. Having performed your service, you display nothing save love of your people. If the need should arise to petition dukes, senates, kings, or holy pontiffs, men immediately know who should represent them as their ambassador: they have resort to you, your words, mightier in their riches, are requested, and they are the source of your usefulness, your honor and glory. This is what you lately displayed, learnedly addressing Julius II in the name of your city. The virtues of the civic gown are no fewer when horrible armaments are in motion: if wayward soldiers wander the fields, if the enemy conscripts foot and horse, if the common folk quake with fear of war, you alone are the champion of their doubtful safety, you alone give their minds courage, you alone make bright and clear that which was lately hidden in clouds. So what worthy rewards shall we bestow on your virtue, Tygrinus? The city fathers will see to that. I shall give you a civic crown and myself, always at your service. So thrive now, you glory of our senate, and I pray you live to a Pylian old age.
The power of your poem was such, Erasmus, that it rendered me quite untalented and wholly made out of stone when it came to vying with you in iambics. But thereupon Apollo plucked me eyer and said, “Does a frog dare compete with oxen, or a crow with swans?” The lyre immediately slid out of my hand and struck the ground. For a brief while mind a frenzy paralyzed my mind, and I could barely write you these few words. I would add more, but this would be against Apollo’s will. Farewell, Erasmus, glory of our age.
Open up your head, learned book, let the world read you. Let candid posterity be in its authors debt. No need to fear wrinkled snoots, you are safe with Alabantus as your champion and can go where you will, unaccompanied. You will be confronted by biting envy and a detractor, but these will be unable do do you harm. Zoilus, you should now glumly flee and go back to your lair, this is not fit matter for your teeth.
Daedalus is said to have been first in genius, Apelles in painting, Alcides in boundless virtues, Alexander the Great and like-named Pompey in triumphs, Nero in cruelty, Cato in inborn morals, Sardanapalus in luxury, Vergil in verse, Tully in eloquence. Phoebus’ son was first in the medical arts, and Aristotle in reason. And Stephen is first in logic, he whom happy Flanders produced, the land that was responsible for the birth of such a great man. He is a devotee of wisdom and a teacher of that divine art, the glory of his nation, the honor of his religion. And so you should come to know this holy work, candid reader, if you want to have access to all men.
Although you could use your elegies, Bernard, to tell of unhappy loves, and speak of wars with your loud trumpet, you chose instead to expound God’s praises, more sweetly passing by the tunes of Dirce, and set up your sacred odes against Ovid’s Fasti. He takes precedence in antiquity, but you in piety. This is the duty of a bard and a servant of the gods, to offer sacrifices, not of bulls, but of pious praise.
Other men will fight against the enemies of the See of Rome, this one with his bow, that one with a lance, and another in hand-to-hand combat. But you, Whitsone, fight with holy monuments and irrefutable arguments, attacking your enemy with as many darts as the hand of angry Jove hurls thunderbolts from lofty Acroceraunium. You kill your enemy’s soul or compel him to compel it to surrender, allowing nothing of him to remain unconquered. Julius, you doorkeeper of high heaven, how indebted you and the See of Rome are to the English, who not only fight to defend your cause, but also prove it with unchallenged reason.