Commentary Notes

spacerI - IX Date: 1563. Sources: a.) British Library MS. Royal 12 A XXX, the presentation manuscript given to Elizabeth on the occasion of her 1563 visit to Eton; b.) a transcript of this MS. printed in the first edition of John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth (London, 1788), pages specially numbered 1 - 51 for this document. This latter obviously has no independent evidentiary value, but its printing errors are noted for the benefit of users of that book. See also the edition of the entire manuscript (by David K. Money) included in Jayne Elisabeth Archer et al., John Nichols’s The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth: A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources (Oxford, 2014) I.259ff. The number of copying blunders in the manuscript is understandable when one reflects that the object of the exercise was to present the queen with a handsome physical object as a souvenir of her visit, not something she was necessarily expected to read. Therefore the services of a professional scrivener were probably engaged, and such men were not usually decent Latinists, if they knew anything of the language at all. This is the reason so many presentation manuscripts prove to be bad copies (examples of what I mean are the extraordinarily handsome British Library Royal 12a, xxxv, containing poems by William Alabaster, and a number of the presentation copies of short Ovidian plays produced at St. John’s College, Oxford, executed to be given to the current college President). Like a good policeman, an editor of Latin texts needs to possess a suspicious nature, and presentation manuscripts should make him or her especially so.
spacerThis collection of poems by various Eton students is replete with the kind of versifying stunts seen in a few of Fletcher’s contributions, which raises the suspicion that the enthusiasm for such efforts was not the boys’ but rather belonged to their Latin master, and that one of the purposes of the collection was to show off his prowess in teaching students how to write such stuff. Certainly, in later life Fletcher wrote nothing more of the kind, as if he took no personal pleasure in dazzling his readers with his technical ability. In the same way, one of his contributions (IV) is a set of Alcaic stanzas and as a more mature poet he demonstrated no further interest in lyric meters, sticking exclusively to dactylic hexameters and elegiac couplets.

spacerII.2 membra sua This seemingly strange choice of words is understandable in the light of Ephesians 5:30, membra sumus corporis eius.

spacerII.6 The allusion is to Elizabeth’s imprisonment during the reign of Mary.

spacerII.28 “Quiver-bearing” because for centuries the longbow had been the characteristic English weapon.

spacerII.30 Henry of course receives complimentary mention as Elizabeth’s father.

spacerIII The beginnings of the words printed thus spell out ELISABETHA GRATA REDISTI (“Elizabeth, welcome have you returned.”). Elizabeth had previously visited Eton in 1560.

IV Despite the unorthodox colometry, these are Alcaic stanzas.

IV.2 Athenae Cecropiae Cecrops was the first King of Athens.

IV.5 cum Papho Paphus was a city on Cyprus.

IV.7 Nysa One might imagine this is not the Greek mountain, but rather the Indian town consecrated to Dionysus allegedly discovered by Alexander the Great (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius of Tyana II.viii). But the linkage of Nysa with Cyprus (an island, not a city) would appear to call this into question.

IV.8 Inachiae Mycoenae Mycenae was governed by the Perseid dynasty, who claimed descent from the river-god Inachus.

IV.12 Cultiloqui This word, which is not found in the classical Latin lexicon, may be Fletcher's own invention (even if it is a trifle startling to find a schoolboy venturing to manufacture neologisms). “Cultivated bards” (or, more accurately, “bards who sang in a cultivated manner”) is therefore a tentative translation.

spacerV A double acrostic: the first letters of each line spell VIVENTE TE VIVIMUS (“as long as you are alive we live”), and the last spell TE REMOTA MORIEMUR (“When you have been removed we shall die.”). The manuscript features several such trick poems such as this and the next ones. In later decades academic memorial anthologies were replete with such technical exercises as university dons competed to show off their cleverness.

spacerV.14 Mitis ergo sit tibi I suppose that the grex sororum are the Fates, and that Fletcher is expressing the wish that they treat Elizabeth with kindness. This understanding requires substituting tibi for MS. sibi.

spacerV.16 Secla quot cervus volucer The stag supposedly lived four times as long as a man, and the crow nine times (cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses VII.273).

spacerVI In the MS. the heading is CARMINA SOTADEA QUAE RETRO METIUNTUR SI A PENTAMETRO INCIPIAS (“SOTADIC VERSES WHICH CAN BE SCANNED BACKWARDS IF YOU START WITH THE PENTAMETER”). In a footnote on p. 294 David Money explains: “Each couplet can be read backwards: the words of the pentameter, in reverse order, with the last word of the hexameter, will make a hexameter; the rest of the hexameter, in reverse order, will make a pentameter. This is an unusual verse form, presenting a considerable challenge to the author’s ingenuity.”

spacerVI.3 The idea, presumably, is that incense is supposed to make a crackling sound as it burns. This set of instructions for burning incense recommends placing aromatic resins on burning charcoal tablets, and notes “You should notice the charcoal gently sparkle, crackle and pop as it self-ignites across its surface.”

spacerVII Earlier in 1563 an English expeditionary force sent to France had suffered costly reversals, as detailed in the chapter for that year in William Camden’s Annales Rerum Anglicarum et Hibernicarum Regnante Elizabetha. Fletcher may have used this event as a clever pretext for putting to good use a very close verse adaptation of the narrative provided by Livy at the beginning of his Book IX, which one suspects was originally written independently as a poetic exercise. The incident described here is the defeat and humiliation of the Roman forces administered by the Samnite forces, led by Gaius Pontius the son of Herennius, to the Roman army commanded by the consuls Titus Veturius Calvinus and Spurius Postumius Albinus, at the Caudine Forks during the Second Samnite War, in 321 B. C. The Romans rebounded from this disaster and eventually devastated the Samnites, and the hope expressed at the end of the poem is that the English will do the same to the French.

spacerVII.59 Pontius contrasts Roman wealth with Samnite poverty (Croesus was the immensely rich king of Lydia, Iros was the beggar in the Odyssey).

spacerVII.62 Are bees really larger than hornets?

VIII This one is a quadruple acrostic, in which four sets of letters within each horizontal dactylic hexameter can be read vertically so as to spell out the message VIVITO MORS UT LUCRUM (“live in such a manner that your death is profitable.”) But it is less successful than poem V, since, in order to make this stunt work, Fletcher is obliged to write rather crabbed dactyls that are difficult to understand. The translation offered here therefore needs to be read with the eye of charity.

IX The facts that this poem is used to conclude the collection, that his poems are so frequent in it, and that his poem VII is its longest one, combine to suggest that Fletcher was regarded as Eton’s star performer.

spacerX Date: 1569. Source: William Dillingham, Poemata Varii Argumenti (London, 1677) pp. 201 - 207. In the course of the second of his Piscatorie Eclogues (II.9 et seqq.) Fletcher’s elder son Phineas includes reminiscences of his father, under the name Thelgon, who, while reminiscing about his time spent along the banks of the Cam, says:

So far credulitie and youth had brought me,
spacerI sang Telthusa’s frustrate plaint,
And rustick Daphnis wrong, and magick’s vain restraint;

And then appeas’d young Myrtilus, repining
At generall contempt of shepherd’s life:
And rais’d my rime to sing of Richard’s climbing;
And taught our Chame to end the old-bred strife,
Mythicus’ claim to Nicias resigning:
spacerThe while his goodly Nymphs with songs delighted,
My notes with choicest flowers and garlands sweet.

In introducing his 1869 edition of Phineas’ poetry (I.xli et seqq.), taking his cue from the allusion to the old-bred strife, Mythicus’ claim to Nicias resigning (a clear reference to poem XX), the Rev. Alexander Grosart sought to identify other poems by the poet’s father, and pointed to three poems included in William Dillingham’s collection Poemata Varii Argumenti (London, 1677). He suggested that the phrase Myrtilus, repining / At generall contempt of shepherd’s life was an allusion to an eclogue printed by Dillingham entitled Aegloga allegorica contra praedicatorum contemptum (poem XXVII here) in which Myrtilus appears as a speaker, complaining of just such contempt displayed against preachers. Likewise, he saw that I sang Telthusa’s frustrate plaint points to lines 46f. of another eclogue in Dillingham’s collection, Querela Collegii Regalis (poem XXVIII here).

Flumineaeve movent plangentes littora nymphae,
Grantigenas quantum nuper Telethusa per undas.

In Dillingham’s book, these are immediately followed by a third eclogue, De Morte Boneri (pp. 201 - 207), which in turn is followed by Phineas Fletcher’s Gunpowder Plot narrative Locustae, vel Pietas Iesuitica). The inclusion of De Morte Boneri at this point certainly seems to suggest Fletcher’s authorship of this one as well.
spacerThe reader interested in pursuing the subject of Phineas’ representation of “Thelgon” can be referred to Lloyd E. Berry, “Phineas Fletcher’s Account of his Father,” JEGP lx (1961) 265f.

spacerX.31 Palaemon is a little behind the times: the great Turkish siege of Malta lasted from May to September 1565. Or was Fletcher confusing Malta with Cyprus and thinking of the run-up to the great defeat of the Turkish fleet at Lepanto? If so, that would require us to move ahead the date of composition of this eclogue to 1570 or even 1571.

spacerX.49 St George’s Chapel at Windsor.

spacerX.53 Plenty of plant leaves are toxic for sheep (for example milkweed and, most notoriously, oak), but I do not know of any which produce fearfulness or any other abreaction which human observers might interpret as such.

spacerX.87 Molossa is another name for Epirus, a region of northwestern Greece.

spacerX.109 Alsis is of course Henry VIII and the “golden boy” his son Edward VI. Bonner was imprisoned under Edward but freed and restored to office at the accession of Mary.

spacerX.132 “Pagasaean” = Thessalian. Pagasa was a town of Thessaly, later called Demetrias, where the Argo was built. Cf. Ovid, Fasti V.401, Metamorphoses VII.1 and XIII.24, and Valerius Flaccus I.422.

spacerX.143f. Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley.

spacerX.149ff. He means Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury and Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London, who both took office as the result of Elizabeth’s accession. The description of the sorry state of the countryside represents the condition to which England had been reduced by the reign of Mary. (A somewhat later Bishop of London was none other than Fletcher’s brother Richard, the father of the playwright John Fletcher).

spacer163 It seems unclear whether Thestius is some actual individual who thus fled England during Mary’s reign, or whether he is a fictitious invention representing the many English Protestants who went into self-imposed exile at that time. The Seine separated the Roman provinces of Belgica and Gallia Lugdunensis.

spacerX.170 The Calydonian boar.

spacerX.176 Here Aegle obviously represents Elizabeth. She is not to be confused with Palaemon’s wife Aegle, mentioned at line 22. Or is this deliberate, and Palaemon stands for some friend of Fletcher or well-known Cambridge personality whose name was Elizabeth?

spacerXI - XIII
Date: 1570 Source: Huntington Library (San Marino, California) MS. HM 8, pp. 20v - 21r (the commonplace book of Thomas Butts, son of Sir William Butts, a physician of Henry VIII). See Robert R. Raymo, “Three New Latin Poems of Giles Fletcher,” Modern Language Notes 71:6 (Jun.e 1956), pp. 399 - 401. These are three epigrams on the death of Butts’ wife Bridget, who died in January 1570.

spacerXIV Date: authorities are divided in giving Walter Haddon’s death date as 1571 or 1572. The present poem , written prior to the death of his son Clere. in May of that year, makes it unambiguously clear that the correct date is 1571 (poem XIV attests that he died in the spring of the year). Walter Haddon was a prominent legalist, sometime Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge, Vice Chancellor of the University, and President of Magdalen College, Oxford. Source: Poematum Gualteri Haddoni, legum doctoris, sparsim collectorum libri duo (London, 1576), in a special appendix starting on sig. L3r containing poems about the deaths of the two Haddons. A transcript of the contents of this appendix was printed by Charles J. Lees S. M., The Poetry of Walter Haddon (The Hague - Paris, 1967), pp. 270ff.
spacerDominus was a courtesy title given to any man with a university degree.

spacerXIV.24 Cicero.

spacerXIV.25f. Demosthenes. “Cecropian” = Athenian (Cecrops was a mythical ancient king of Athens).

spacerXIV.29f. Herodotus

spacerXIV.31f. Vergil (the Euganei were a people of northern Italy, the region of Padua).

spacerXIV.37f. Aristotle. It was supposed that great writers and orators such as Plato, Sophocles, Virgil and Lucan had been fed by bees or had their lips touched by honey in infancy.

spacerXIV.42f. Ovid.

spacerXIV.45ff. Celadon, Myrtilus and Tityrus are traditional names of shepherds who show up in bucolic poetry.

spacerXIV.95 See the note on lines 37f.

spacerXIV.111 Fletcher anticipates Rupert Brooke, who in Grantchester described the river as deep as death and green as a dream.

spacerXIV.114 An allusion to the willows that grow plentifully along the Banks, one of which is the subject of the next poem.

spacerXIV.126 Procne, who was transformed into a nightingale.

spacerXV Date: the same as the preceding. Source: ib., starting on sig. L5v.

spacerXV.12 He means the olive.

spacerXV.17 - 29 There are appear to be three things wrong with these lines as printed: 1.) After Sic tibi one would expect, sooner or later, a wish that all of the items in this list of potentially tree-damaging threats will prove harmless to the willow. 2.) capessant lacks any direct object. Conceivably it could be used absolutely to mean “snatch at grass” (i. e., “graze”) but it would be reassuring if one could cite any other example of such a usage and none is recorded by Lewis and Short. 3.) innocui frigora longa greges makes no sense. One could read innocui frigore longo greges (at least if thinking that cattle would be particularly harmful to trees in wintertime, by why should we think this?) but substituting longo for longa would ruin the scansion. More likely, in what Fletcher actually wrote the cattle and the long English winter were two separate items on the list. So it would seem that what we have here are the four-line disjecta membra of an original six-line passage. What I translate (in italics) conveys an idea of what the original passage may have looked like.

spacerXVI Date: at least fictively the same as the preceding, although the poem’s contents make one suspect it was actually written after the death of Clere Haddon. Clare had been two years behind Fletcher at Eton, and was admitted to King’s College in 1567. A little while before his death by drowning in the Cam in May 1571, he had been appointed a Fellow of the college. The information about his death given along with the title is supplied by the MS. version. Source: ib., starting on sig L6f.

spacerXVII Date: May 1570 Sources: a.) Hatfield House MS. 298/3, b.) Poematum Gualteri Haddoni, starting on sig. M5r. Collation of textual variants given by Lloyd E. Berry in his descriptive article about the MS.

spacerXVII.16 The unspoken antecedent of gelidique is flumen or amnes.

XVII.29 He "encloses" the mountains because he hunts using nets, as described immediately below.

XVII.32 I suppose the idea is that the huntsmen kept their spears handy by sticking their points in the trunks of young oaks (or are they retrieving them from oak-trees in which they stuck after missing their mark?).

XVII.56f. At minimum, the printed text is wrong because it has a full stop after mecum, and a comma after potestis in the next line, where it seems to require that these punctuation marks be reversed. I have translated the repunctuated text as best I could, but suspect that one or more lines of the text may have been omitted by the printer: the antecedent of illud in 57 is far from clear, and the unmarked translation from the second-person apostrophe to the agri, to the second-person apostrophe to Adonis, is jarring.

XVII.59 Catching birds by smearing birdlime on twigs.

XVII.65 Presumably a hunting-horn is meant.

spacerspacerXVIII Date: the same. Source: Poematum Gualteri Haddoni, starting on sig M1v.

XVIII.59f. The meaning of this crabbed couplet seems to be "[If you had predeceased them], your parents would have seemed old, bereft of any hope because your brother and sister had died."

XVIII.62 As explained in the following couplet, the sixth death is that of his family’s hope.

spacerXIX Date: the same. Source: Poematum Gualteri Haddoni, starting on sig M3r.

spacerXX Date: 1571. Source: Hatfield House MS. 298/3, containing eclogues by Fletcher (the remainder of the items in this manuscript were subsequently published in more or less altered form). The Earl of Oxford and Ann Cecil, daughter of William Cecil Lord Burleigh and Mildred Cooke, were married in December 1571. This presentation MS. is written in a neat and fully legible hand markedly differing from that of Hatfield House MS. 186.43 (a memorandum stating reasons why the queen should favor his suit for a lease), which, together with the occasional silly mistake in the Latin, make it seem that the present MS. is executed by a professional scrivener. See my remarks on scriveners above. For the MS. as a whole cf. Lloyd E. Berry, “Five Latin Poems by Giles Fletcher, the Elder,” in Anglia: Zeitschrift für englische Philologie 79 (1961) pp. 338 - 77, and for the present poem in particular cf. B. M. Ward, The Seventeenth Earl of Oxford 1550 - 1604 from Contemporary Documents (London, 1928) pp. 60f. and 64. In a dedicatory epistle addressed to Lord Burghley’s bluestocking wife Mildred Cooke, duly obsequious and otherwise uninformative, Fletcher wrote simul et has aeclogas tibi offerre quas valde adolescens conscripsi. Born ca. 1548, he was in his earlier twenties at the time of Oxford’s marriage, and on the showing of this remark it seems safe to conclude that the other four eclogues in the present set come from the same period in his life.
spacer In the course of this poem Fletcher congratulates Oxford for the fine showing he has made participating in a tournament. Most likely this was during the second annual Accession Day tilting at Whitehall (these tourneys were held from 1570 until 1602), which took place in November 1571, the month before the Earl's marriage. This is the single item of the five preserved in the Hatfield House MS. that Fletcher did not subsequently choose to print; presumably regarding its subject as too ephemeral to warrant reproduction.

spacerXX.46 The planets only shine with the reflected light of the sun, a Galileo discovery.

spacerXX.83ff. “The bay laurel is dioecious (unisexual), with male and female flowers on separate plants.” These lines allude to the fact that the bride was only fourteen years old at the time.

spacerXX.85 Elizabethan women used vermilion and white lead as cosmetics, hence erotic literature of the time frequently specifies the female beauty of red and white.

spacerXX.101 Parthenium hysterophorus is a species of flowering plant of the aster family. In his 1592 A Quip for an Upstart Courtier (sig. D3v) Robert Greene writes that eringion is useful for sweetening bad breath. The following literary allusion is to Ovid, Heroides xv.

spacerXXI Date: early 1570’s. Sources: 1.) Hatfield House MS. 298/1, and 2.) printed together with the Sylva Poetica by his son Phineas in a volume issued at London in 1633.
spacerThere have been few historical debates more fruitless than one about the putative precedence of the two English universities. Here, fortunately, we are only concerned with the state of play at the time Fletcher wrote the present poem sometime in the early 1570’s. This debate, which had its roots in some shameless forgeries of previous centuries, commenced during the royal visitation to Cambridge in 1564, when Dr. John Caius put forth a lengthy argument in favor of Cambridge’s priority and was answered by a certain Thomas Caius — evidently no relation— of Oxford. In 1566 Oxford Caius presented the queen with an Assertio antiquitatis academiae Oxoniensis claiming the university had been founded by Trojan refugees arriving in Britain together with Brutus, and two years later Cambridge Caius published a volume on the subject entitled De antiquitate Cantabrigiensis academiae libri duo, claiming that his university had been founded by a certain ancient Spanish king named Cantaber. To this he appended a copy of Thomas’ 1566 treatise (presumably the same document he presented to the queen two years previously), to which John then offered a heated rebuttal. Thomas subsequently wrote a longer and more detailed one, but this was only published in the eighteenth century. Both writers seized on various blatant Medieval forgeries as ammunition to support their claims. This launched a series of similar disquisitions extending to the early eighteenth century, which amounted to nothing more than a monumental waste of time, energy and brainpower which, had these been expended on just about anything else, would have been a more profitable investment. Worse yet, the growth of this particular species of academic literature may be presumed to have had the unfortunate effect of seeming to legitimize such pseudohistorical moonshine at the same time that rational historians (such as the great Humanist George Buchanan in his 1575 Rerum Scotarum Historia) were beginning to reject it, and therefore of prolonging its respectability. The reader interested in pursuing this dreary subject (upon which a great amount of learned brainpower was wasted which could have been put to better purposes) can be referred to the first chapter of James Parker, The Early History of Oxford 727- 1100 Preceded by a Sketch of the Mythical Origin of the City and University (Oxford Historical Society, Volume 3, Oxford, 1885), and Alfred Hiatt, “Forgery at the University of Cambridge” in David Lawton, Wendy Scase and Rita Copeland (edd.), New Medieval Literatures (Oxford, 2000) III.95 - 118.
spacerFletcher was of course familiar with John Caius’ 1568 volume (in a sidenote to the MS. version, it is explicitly stated that Mythicus represents Thomas Caius and Nicias John Caius), and at some points he closely echoes Caius (for example, what he says about the giants who inhabited early Britain echoes a similar passage in De antiquitate Cantabrigiensis academiae: see the note on 65ff. below). But his approach is his own. Whereas Caius’ treatise is a rambling, discursive Humanistic document, Fletcher adopts a considerably more systematic strategy: glean what you can from those Medieval forgeries, integrate it with the mythical history of the island retailed by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and construct something like a coherent historical narrative of his university’s foundation and early history tied to allegedly contemporary personalities and events (at least for its first two-thirds, after which it morphs into a kind of tourists’ walking guide to Cambridge).
spacerAs noted above, it exists in two version. The latter version, which is the one presented in this edition according to the theory that it is the final, finished product, is heavily rewritten (a collation has already been published in Lloyd E. Berry in his descriptive article about the MS. and so need not be repeated here). And it is the longest and most ambitious Latin poem he ever wrote. These considerations go to show how much time and effort he invested in this project.

spacerXXI.4 Permessis was a river in Boeotia sacred to Apollo and the Muses. The conceit that the Muses have abandoned their ancient haunts and migrated to a new home in the north is something of a commonplace in Neo-Latin poetry. For example, John Sanford’s Apollinis et Musarum Εὐκτικὰ Εἰδύλλια (a masque written as entertainment for Elizabeth’s 1592 visitation to Oxford, subsequently fleshed out with nonperformative poetry in the printed version) we find the same idea.

spacerXXI.13 If Mythicus and Nicias are supposed represent Thomas and John Caius, then surely Lycidas is Fletcher himself (he gives himself the same name in poem XV). Since he matriculated from King’s College in 1655, his specification of five years indicates that the first version of this poem comes from 1570, unless he was using poetic license to speak loosely)

spacerXXI.26 Maeonides ought to mean "Homer," but it is clear from 392ff. that Fletcher thought this word designated the Muses.

spacerXXI.27 Per undas = “along your waters”: Fletcher is thinking of the colleges set in a line along the Backs.

spacerXXI.37ff. This catalogue of nymphs imitates the one at Vergil, Georgics IV.333ff.:

At mater sonitum thalamo sub fluminis alti
Sensit. Eam circum Milesia vellera Nymphae
Carpebant hyali saturo fucata colore,
Drymoque Xanthoque Ligeaque Phyllodoceque,
Caesariem effusae nitidam per candida colla,
Nesaee Spioque Thaliaque Cymodoceque,
Cydippeque et flava Lycorias, altera virgo,
Altera tum primos Lucinae experta labores,
Clioque et Beroe soror, Oceanitides ambae,
Ambae auro, pictis incinctae pellibus ambae,
Atque Ephyre atque Opis et Asia Deiopea
Et tandem positis velox Arethusa sagittis.

In these lines Fletcher names seventeen nymphs. Since prior to 1596 the University of Cambridge had consisted of sixteen college, before I had seen the MS. version I casually assumed that the nymphs represented those colleges (with Gonville and Caius for some reason being reckoned separately). But MS. sidenotes tell a quite different story. The first one says Enumeratio historiarum e quibus haec petuntur [“a list of the histories from which these things are taken.“] Then we are told that Thespio = Bede, Drymo = Sylvster, and Lygaea (as she is there called) = the Saxon Laws, Leuce = St. Alban, Xantho = Flavian, Diodora = Diodorus Sicilus, Themis = Justin, Graiis et nota Berosae [“and Berosa, familiar to the Greek nation“] = Berosus “who taught mathematics at Athens, being a Syrian by nationality. ” Melane is Radulphus Niger, Crocale = Richardus Crocus (Richarfd Crooke?), and Aemone = “ Gildas, that flower of historians.“ Polydora is of course Polydore Vergil, who haled from Urbino in Italy, a town on the Arno. One can only guess at the identity of nymphus unmentioned in sidenotes: Diona, for exampole, could well be Dio Cassius, for example, and Caesariaeque is almost certainly Julius Caesar.

spacerXXI.53 A MS. sidenote establishes that Fletcher is speaking of the so-called Historiola, a forged document containing “a brief but sweeping account of the university from its foundation to the tenth century, ascribed on little evidence to the Carmelite friar Nicholas Cantelupe. It contains five spurious texts: the charters of King Arthur, Cadwallader, and Edward the Elder, the forged bull of Sergius...and an alleged letter of Alcuin” (Hiatt pp. 103f.). This is sometimes referred to as the codex niger [“the black codex.”]

spacerXXI.55 The Muses.

spacerXXI.59 Allegedly, particularly according to Pseudo-Berosus, the first inhabitants of Britain were immigrants governed by Samothes and his descendants, and Britain was originally called Samothea (details here). According to Raphael Holinshed in his Chronicle:

Vpon these considerations I haue no doubt to deliuer vnto the reader, the opinion of those that thinke this land to haue bene inhabited before the arriuall here of Brute, trusting it may be taken in good part, sith we haue but shewed the conjectures of others, till time that some sufficient learned man shall take vpon him to decipher the doubts of all these matters. Neuerthelesse, I thinke good to aduertise the reader that these stories of Samothes, Magus, Sarron, Druis, and Bardus, doo relie onelie vpon the authoritie of Berosus, whom most diligent antiquaries doo reject as a fabulous and counterfet author, and Vacerius hath laboured to prooue the same by a speciall treatise latelie published at Rome.

spacerXXI.65 It is perhaps at this point that Fletcher’s poem most resembles John Caius’ De Antiquitate Cantabrigiensis Academiae (p. 24): Equidem non alios fuisse Gigantes existimo quam procerum et incorruptae magnitudinis naturalis primi saeculi hominum genus...eosque non a monstruosa (ut stultum vulgus putat) magnitudine appellatos, sed a solo in quo nati sunt denominates. Gigantes enim seu γηγενεῖς, terrae filios seu aborigines denotat, ut Caesar vocat, indigenes. He has already said (pp. 21f.). more explicitly than does Fletcher. that Samothes was a particularly pious Giant and drawn the equation Giants = Samotheans. But then he discursively meanders off in a variety of other directions, whereas Fletcher continues the thread of his historical narrative by going down the list of Samothes’ successors, telling us a little about each. One needs read no further to appreciate his essential independence from Caius: he is considerably more systematic and disciplined in sticking to the point.

spacerXXI.67 Semina rerum was a term frequently used by Lucretius to designate atoms. The idea seems to be that, when the world was new and unsullied, even the atoms out of which it was made were superior to those of our own degenerate times.

spacerXXI.72 An evident allusion to the Greek myth of the Giants launching an attempt against the Olympian gods by piling Mt. Pelion atop of Mt. Ossa. Only here there is no idea that this attempt was sinful or hubristic: it is only natural that these magnificent specimens should cherish such ambitions.

spacerXXI.96 See the note on line 4 above.

spacerXXI.135 This line seems impossible to reconcile with what Fletcher has written about the Giants above. He should either have made his meaning clearer (possibly he thought there had been two separate and distinct races of Giants) or simply omitted this line, retaining Fundit and substituting Hic for Is for metrical reasons. A sidenote on the equivalent MS. passage reads Brutus expulsis Samothaeis Brytanniam occupat).

spacerXXI.139 Rhodope is a mountain in Thrace. Medieval writers, most memorably Bede, claimed that the Picts were originally Scythians (who were at least putatively present in Thrace, although modern historians recognize Scythians and Thracians as two distinctly different peoples). Here Humber, obviously, is the name of a Pictish king, although another tradition, retailed by Geoffrey of Monmouth, represents him as a Hun.

spacerXXI.158 Evidently Locrinus kept Sabrina concealed in some room or outbuilding made of stone. Fletcher fails to make it clear that Sabrina is not his captive mistress, as one might otherwise suppose, but rather his daughter. He divorced his wife Guendoloena and married his mistress, the Germanic princess Estrildis, who gave birth to Sabrina (whom, at least according to Fletcher, he must have hidden out of shame). Guendolena raised an army, defeated Locrin, and cast both Estrildis and Sabrina into a river, subsequently named the Severn in memory of Sabrina.
spacerAccording to Leicester Bradner (loc. cit.):

The appearance of the story of Sabrina with the figures of Father Camus and Lycidas in the same [poem] suggest that Fletcher’s work was not without influence upon Milton...Milton could not have taken his Sabrina story in Comus from Spenser, who also mentions Sabrina in connection with the Severn river, since Spenser does not tell of her transformation into a goddess.

spacerXXI.176 I am only guessing that Fletcher’s Vitorgum is Abermule, the traditional site of Locrinus’ palace (Camden in Brittania has nothing to say on the subject: a Latin gazetteer of the British Isles, drawing heavily on Leland and Camden, is much to be desired).

spacerXXI.196 We seem to be in the Lothian district of Scotland. If so, then Osa must be, if not the Tweed itself, then one of the rivers discharging into the North Sea between the Tweed and the South Esk, maybe the Blackadder.

spacerXXI.201 Lud (his name is memorialized in Ludgate) is traditionally supposed to have been the founder of London, but the mention of the Stour rules that out here (and anyway the current of the Thames as it passes London, by now an estuary, can scarcely be called piger). Several English rivers of that name exist, and there is no especial reason for assuming Fletcher is thinking of the one that arises in Cambridgeshire, or is claiming that Lud founded Cambridge.

spacerXXI.220ff. The story recounted here, different in several respects from that of King Lear, is essentially the same one told by Spenser in The Fairie Queen (II.x): the aged Lear was exiled by his other two daughters, but Cordelia raised an army and restored him to his throne. But in the end her sisters’ children defeated and captured her. Wearied of her lot in prison she committed suicide. The Ovidian touch at the end seems to be Fletcher’s own contribution to the story: .

The wretched man gan then auise too late,
  That loue is not, where most it is profest,
  Too truely tryde in his extreamest state;
  At last resolu’d likewise to proue the rest,
  He to Cordelia him selfe addrest,
  Who with entire affection him receau'd,
  As for her Syre and king her seemed best;
  And after all an army strong she leau’d,
To war on those, which him had of his realme bereau'd.

So to his crowne she him restor’ d againe,
  In which he dyde, made ripe for death by eld,
  And after wild, it should to her remaine:
  Who peaceably the same long time did weld:
  And all mens harts in dew obedience held:
  Till that her sisters children, woxen strong
  Through proud ambition, against her rebeld,
  And ouercommen kept in prison long,
Till wearie of that wretched life, her selfe she hong.

spacerXXI.238ff. Cf. Geoffrey of Monmouth, Potitus itaque victoria Cunedagius monarchiam totius insulae adeptus est, eamque triginta tribus annis gloriose tractavit.

spacerXXI.248 Gorboduc.

spacerXXI.258 Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses I.227, obsidis unius iugulum mucrone resolvit.

spacerXXI.274 For the purposes of this poem, “Hesperian” = “Spanish.”

spacerXXI.316 I. e., the Furies.

spacerXXI.330 Precisely speaking, the Silures were a Celtic tribe inhabiting southeastern Wales. Whether or not Fletcher was aware of that fact, here he pressed their name in service as a general description for the Celts encountered by the Romans when they entered

XXI.334 Boadica.

spacerXXI.350 An early king named Lucius is supposed to have sent a letter to Pope Eleutherius requesting that missionaries be sent to convert his people.

spacerXXI.359 Gradivus was a cult name of Mars.

spacerXXI.368 Scarcely Vesuvius (sometimes called Vesevus or Vesbius in Latin). More likely, Fletcher means the river Weser (for which Graesse ’s Orbis Latinus lists a variety of Latin names: Visurgis, Wesera, Wisara, Wisuraha, Wisora, Wisura, Visera, Visara, Wissula, and Wirraha).

spacerXXI.392 See the commentary note on line 26.

spacerXXI.393 St. Sigebehrt or Sigibert of East Anglia (7th c.), the first English king to receive Christian baptism. There is a tradition that he founded the University of Cambridge, or at least some kind of school there: cf. the interesting remarks of James Parker, The Early History of Oxford, 727 - 1100 (Oxford, 1885) III.37.

spacerXXI.396 Not King Alfred of Wessex, as the reader might suspect, but King Aldfrith of Northumbria.

spacerXXI.401 Coelwulf, a later King of Northumbria. Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum was dedicated to him.

spacerXXI.404 Thespio appears to be a nymph of Fletcher’s own invention. Cf. Phineas Fletcher’s The Purple Island vi.25:

Sacred Thespio, which in Sinaie’s grove
First took’st thy being and immortall breath,
And vaunt’st thy off-spring from the highest Jove,
Yet deign’dst to dwell with mortalls here beneath,
spacerWith vilest earth, and men more vile residing;
spacerCome holy Virgin in my bosome sliding,
With thy glad angel Light my blindfold footsteps guiding.

In that passage there is obviously no equation of Thespio with Bede.

spacerXXI.407ff. “It is a curious fact that many pigeon-houses are known to have existed in Cambridge, but there is no information of any at Oxford. Chancellor Ferguson that notes that from the collegiate histories he gathers that one existed at every Cambridge College except Clare Hall and Sidney Sussex. At King’s Hall the dove-cote was built in 1414; at King’s College in 1449; at Queens’ College in 1547...Trinity College, Cambridge, had its dove-cote where formerly stood St. Gregory’s Hostel. According to Caius, and also Parker (1662), St. Gregory’s Hostel stood behind Michael House to the north, looking into ‘Foul Lane,’ which then ran down to the river, or to use another description, ‘at the corner of Mill Street and opposite the back entrance of King’s Hall.’ It may have incorporated portions of the ancient buildings that stood on its site.” Samuel Tymms and Charles Harold Evelyn White, The East Anglian: Or Notes and Queries on Subjects Connected with the Counties of Suffolk, Cambridge, Essex and Norfolk (Norwich - London, 1905 - 6) XI.386.

spacerXXI.428ff. The equivalent passage in the MS. version makes it considerably clearer that its subject is Henry I, William the Conqueror’s educated fourth son. Fletcher begins by speaking of his struggle against his elder brother Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy. The remainder of this paragraph is devoted to Robert. Some of what is said about him is true: he did participate in the First Crusade and engaged in a campaign against Malcolm III Canmore of Scotland (but not the Picts) on behalf of his father William the Conqueror. But when making their way to the Holy Land the Crusaders did not pass through Greece, so he probably never laid eyes on the river Strymon, and he most certainly never saw the Dneiper.
spacerThe Tyne is bifrons since it consists of two separate rivers which conjoin near Hexham.

spacerXXI.433 Candida because of the whiteness of their canvas tents.

spacerXXI.459ff. Peterhouse, Cambridge’s earliest college, is on Trumpington Street, to the south of the town center. It was founded in 1284 by Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely. Even so, it must be appreciated that Fletcher’s roster of colleges is organized geographically rather than chronologically. He begins at the south of town, works his way seriatim along the Backs (or at least along King’s Parade) until he winds up at St. John’s, then crosses Magdalene bridge and writes about the colleges at the north end of Cambridge.

spacerXXI.463ff. Pembroke College was founded in 1347 by Marie de St. Pol. widow of Aymer de Valence, second Earl of Pembroke.

spacerXXI.467ff. Corpus Christi College (originally Benedict College) was the fifth to be founded, in 1352, by three men with the support of Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster.

spacerXXI.470ff. Queen’s College (originally St. Bernard’s College) was founded in 1446 and refounded in 1448 by Margaret d’Anjou, consort of Henry VI. In 1465 work was brought to completion by Elizabeth Woodville, consort of Edward IV. King’s College was founded by Henry VI in 1441 (it was actually the seventh Cambridge foundation). Fletcher does not add that the colleges’ unfinished condition was made good by Henry VII. He goes on to describe Henry’s foundation of Eton College in 1440.

spacerXXI.501ff. St. Catharine’s College was founded in 1459 thanks to a gift from Robert Woodlark, Provost of King’s College.

spacerXXI.504 Here culmo = culmine. The meter shows this is not a textual corruption. spacer

spacerXXI.506ff. A MS. sidenote attributes the foundation of Clare College (which occurred in 1326) to a certain “Robert Badeu.” He was in fact Richard Badew, Vice Chancellor and Chancellor of the university. Trinity Hall was founded in 1350 by William Bateman, Bishop of Norwich. The following allusion is to Bartolus de Saxoferrato [1313 - 1357], a great writer of legal textbooks studied all over Europe.

spacerXXI.510ff. Gonville Hall was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gnoville, Rector of Terrington St. Clement in Norfolk. By the sixteenth century, it had fallen into a state of disrepair and was refounded by the same Dr. John Caius who wrote De antiquitate Cantabrigiensis academiae, under the new name Gonville and Caius College.

spacerXXI.517ff. Trinity College was founded by Henry VIII in 1546, by the merger of two preexisting colleges and some adjacent hostels.

spacerXXI.522ff. I do not understand the force of Obviously Fletcher is describing the main gate of St. John’s College, consisting of two square towers rising from walls of diapered brickwork. The towers are faced with the same brick, but decorated with contrasting white stone at their corners. The college was founded in 1511 by Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby and mother of Henry VII. She also endowed Christ’s College, in 1505.

spacerXXI.528ff. Magdalene College was founded in 1519 by Edward Stafford, third Duke of Buckingham, and refounded by Henry VIII’s Chancellor Thomas Audley in 1542. Prior to Stafford’s intervention, the college had been a Benedictine hostel that came to be called Buckingham College.

spacerXXI.532ff. Sidney Sussex College was founded in 1596 by Frances Sidney, Countess of Sussex.

spacerXXI.537ff. John Alcock, Bishop of Ely, founded Christ’s College in 1496, on the site of the former Convent of St. Radegund. The waters are “divided” insofar as the so-called Isle of Ely is built on high ground surrounded by low-lying fens, giving it a particularly island-like quality during their rainy season (prior to the draining of the fens in the mid-17th century this was a serious matter — the first chapter of Dorothy Sayers The Nine Tailors, surely written with Ely in mind, conveys an idea of what it must have beeen like).

spacerXXI.542ff. Sir Walter Mildmay, Elizabeth’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, founded Emmanuel College in 1584, being 64 years old at the time. Clarius is a cult name of Apollo. Emmanuel is the easternmost Cambridge college. In Musae Anglicanae (New York, 1940) pp. 38f. Leicester Bradner thought that this reference established the terminus post quem for this poem’s date of composition, but he was only familiar with the book version. Naturally, these lines do not appear in the earlier MS. version. However, this observation does give us valuable information about when Fletcher made his revisions.

spacerXXII Date: 1576. Source: a liminal poem prefacing the third edition of John Foxe, The First Volume of the Ecclesiasicall history contayning the Actes and Monumentes of thynges passed in every kinges time in this Realme, especially in the Church of England (London, 1576), unnumbered page.

XXIII Date: 1577. Source: Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotlande, and Irelande (London, 1577). The poem appears on p. IV.803 of the 1807 - 1808 edition (repr. New York, 1965). It was written for Sir Maximilian Brooke, the eldest son of Sir William Brooke, Baron Cobham, a member of Elizabeth’s Privy Council.. Maximilian took as his motto Gaudet patentia duris ("Patience rejoices amidst hardships"). On the showing of this poem, he was evidently a young man of high promise, but he died abroad at Naples in July 1583.

XXIV Date: 1579. Source: A liminal poem prefacing Peter Baro, Praelections on Jonah (London, 1579). Baro was the Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

spacerXXV - XXVI Source: Academiae Cantabrigiensis Lachrymae Tumulo Nobilissimi Equitis, D. Philippi Sidneii Sacratae (ed. Alexander Neville, London 1587). The first poem is signed, the second is not, then the following item in the anthology is signed by Thomas Jenison. According to contemporary printing convention, this ought to mean that Fletcher wrote both the poems given here.

spacerXXVII Date: unknown. Source: William Dillingham, Poemata Varii Argumenti (London, 1677) pp. 185 - 191 (see the commentary note on poem X). Fletcher’s allegory is easily deciphered: by “contempt of the clergy” it is clear that what he really means the hard-handed treatment of Protestant clergy during the reign of Mary.

spacerspacerXXVIII Date: unknown. Source: the same, pp. 192 - 200. In the book version the text of this poem is preceded by a note: In Daphnide videtur poeta perstringere Millingtonum, primum huius collegii praepositum, qui, quod a re collegii alienor esset ac Eboracensibus suis totus favens, ab rege fundatore ad aulam de Clare relegatus est [“The poet appears to be attacking Millington, the first Master of this college, who, because he was alienated from the college's affairs and wholly favored his fellow Yorkshiremen, was transferred to Clare Hall by the college’s royal founder.”] This appears to be editor Dillingham’s personal guess as to the poem’s allegorical meaning.
spacerI quote from the original Dictionary of National Biography, “[William Millington’s] learning and general worth led to his selection by Henry VI to preside over his new foundation at Cambridge. In the charter of the original foundation, 12 Feb. 1440, he appears under the title of 'rector,' which on the enlargement of the scheme in 1443 was exchanged for that of 'provost.' He seems to have had no hand in framing the statutes of King's College. During his tenure of the provostship he was one of the contracting parties in the “Amicabilis Concordia,” with the provost of Eton and the wardens of New College and Winchester, in which they bound themselves to render each other mutual support in maintaining the common interests of their foundations. In 1446 he refused to acquiesce in the sweeping changes proposed in the constitution of the college, by which it was to be made altogether independent not only of the bishop of the diocese, but also of the university authorities, and its benefits limited to scholars from Eton. He regarded compliance as 'involving perjury,' since he had already sworn to the observance of the original code. Alnwick, bishop of Lincoln, vainly endeavoured to induce him to resign, and finally sentence of deprivation was reluctantly passed on him by royal commissioners. In a curious correspondence with Bishop Beckington of Bath and Wells [q. v.] (the letters bear no date, but internal evidence places them after 1452) he attacked the bishop in violent and unscrupulous language for the part he had taken as one of the royal commissioners in his deprivation, and threatens him with vengeance. The statement of Fuller and others that he was deprived for a 'factious endeavour to prefer his countrymen of Yorkshire' to the scholarships of his college may be safely rejected.”
 spacerThere seems to be little if anything in this poem to encourage the conjecture that it has anything to do with Millington, and it is far from self-evident why Fletcher would care to rake up such old bones. With considerably greater probability, Leicester Bradner (p. 57) interpreted it as an allegory dealing with a contemporary squabble involving Philip Baker, Provost of King’s College, a man of pronounced Papist leanings which inspired his disobedience of the instructions of Nicholas Bullingham, Bishop of Lincoln and the college Visitor. According to this interpretation, Telthusa represents the college and Daphnis Baker, and Telthusa’s desire to divorce Daphnis is an allegorical expression of the general desire of the college to be rid of the troublemaker. One would therefore imagine this eclogue was written during the tense and contentious period leading up to Baker’s ultimate ejection in February 1570.

spacerXXVIII.19 Hyacinath.

spacerXXVIII.94 The Lebethrides = the Muses.

spacer XXIX and XXX Date and source: printed beginning on the reverse of the title page of Fletcher’s sonnet cycle Licia (Cambridge, 1593). The accompanying translations, by a certain J. H. Clark, M. A., was printed on pp. 78 of Grosart’s 1879 edition.