1. The Scots-language lyric “Lyk as the dum / Solsequium” is the most widely-recorded of the many shorter poems of Alexander Montgomerie [d. 1598], both in print and in manuscripts musical and poetical. It is a virtuoso tour de force set to a wonderful tune, which is derived from the Italian song “Gentil Madonna” via Nicolas de la Grotte’s setting of “Or voys-je bien” by Antoine de Baif. Two 17th century Latin versions of the poem, by the Scots John Leech [fl.1 617 - 23] and Fr. Thomas Duff O. S. B. [c. 1590 - 1643] are presented here alongside the original.
2 A younger son of Ayrshire aristocrats, Montgomerie is the outstanding vernacular poet of the Scottish Jacobean age: “the maister poet,” according to his own admiring master, the poet-king James VI. In fact, Montgomerie’s poetry was used by James to provide many of the versified examples given in his little textbook of 1584, The Reulis and Cautelis to be observit and eschewit in Scottis Poesie. NOTE 1 The king would go even further in the memorial sonnet he wrote after Montgomerie’s death, calling him “the prince of poets in our land,” and recalling,
...Montgomeries flowand grace,
His suggred stile, his weightie words diuine,
And how he made the sacred sisters nine
There montane quitte to followe on his trace.
Montgomerie’s life and work are discussed in depth by Roderick J. Lyall in his book Alexander Montgomerie, Poetry, Politics, and Cultural Change in Jacobean Scotland (Arizona, 2005). Montgomerie was an intensely musical poet, and music for some thirty of his lyrics is extant, although with only two exceptions, the identity of the composers is unknown. A rich selection of Montgomerie’s songs is available on CD, including the “Solsequium.” NOTE 2
3. The “Solsequium” is both an overtly erotic lyric, and a poem about the relationship between courtiers (Montgomerie) and the sun-king on whose favourable countenance they are dependent. James VI was regularly compared with the sun-god Apollo, patron of the Muses, all his adult life. The lyric is inspired by the dénouement of Ovid’s tale of Clytie in Metamorphoses IV, 256 - 70. Montgomerie’s “heliotrope” is of course not a Mediterranean sunflower, but the marsh marigold, caltha palustris; Buchanan had already compared himself and other courtiers to the marigold vis-a-vis James VI’s father, King Henry Stewart (Lord Darnley, d. 1567): NOTE 3
Caltha suos nusquam vultus a sole reflectit,
Illo oriente patens, illo abeunte latens:
Nos quoque pendemus de te, sol noster, ad omnes
Expositi rerum te subeunte vices.
[“The marigold nowhere turns its face away from the sun; when he rises, she opens, and when he departs, she closes; we too depend on you, our sun, exposed as we are to all the vicissitudes you undergo.”]
Montgomerie’s lyric is recorded in a large number of MSS both poetical and musical; the earliest currently known print of the text dates from 1636, appended to the Wreitton edition of The Cherrie and the Slae. Thereafter the ‘Solsequium’ remained constantly in print right into the early 19th century. It was quoted by several Scots-language poets including James VI, NOTE 4 while Patrick Hannay (the subject of this epigram by John Dunbar) turned Montgomerie’s song into an English-language sonnet. NOTE 5 Montgomerie himself used the melody and verse-form for his splendid metrical paraphrase of Psalm 1, and this virtuosic paraphrasing of Scripture was successfully emulated by the Rev. James Melville in 1597 and 1605, and disastrously by the Rev .William Morray of Crail in 1631. Finally, the tune and verse-form were used by the Fifeshire poet Elizabeth Melville in a long and very singable “Thankisgiuing.” NOTE 6 I have investigated the poem and melody’s remarkably extensive impact in the essay “Montgomerie's ‘Solsequium’ and ‘The Mindes Melodie.’” NOTE 7
4. Some of Montgomerie’s work was translated into Latin after his death. The Scottish Benedictine Fr. Thomas Duff (see below) made an attractive hexameter version of The Cherrie and the Slae, Montgomerie’s large-scale psychomachia, and also made a MS contrafactum sacrum of the ‘Solsequium.’ Very different is the translation of the ‘Solsequium’ made by the eminently secular poet John Leech. His volume Ioannis Leochaei Scoti, musae priores, sive poematum pars prior (London 1620; S. T. C.2 15365.7) begins with a section entitled Eroticon, comprising six Books in all. Books 5 and 6 are composed of elegies, and Elegia III in the sixth book is ‘Heliotropium Montgomerii παραφράσον.’ It appears on pp. 109 - 10, and it is an expansive but faithful translation, not a contrafactum.
5. John Leech was born in the east coast port of Montrose, the birthplace likewise of the presbyterian leader and Latin poet Andrew Melville (for whom see here), a fact Leech saluted in an epigram (IV.42 in the Philological Museum edition):
ANDREAE MELVINO, SS. THEOLOGIAE IN ACADEMIA SEDANENSI PROFESSORI
Iactet Edina suos,Taodunum et Glascua vates,
Quaeque Caledonii nomine gaudet agri.
Sit sua Sterlino, sua sit quoque gloria Pertho,
Et decus Andreae consistet honorque suus.
Tollat Aberbrothea caput, caput inde Brechinum,
Devaque qua videt, aut moenia Dona subit.
Dum vetus et ter pulsa loco Celurca priori
Nos Melvine duos non neget esse suos.
[“Let Edinburgh boast of her poets, Dundee and Glasgow too, and whatever rejoices in the name of Caledonia. Let Stirling have her glory, and let Perth be granted the like; and let St Andrews have her due honour and glory. Let Arbroath lift up her head, and then Brechin, and the town [Aberdeen] that the Dee looks on and the walls whereof the Don washes, provided that Montrose, with its old and thrice-changed site, does not deny us two, Melville, as her own. ”]
In another epigram ()II.72, Leech apostrophised Montrose itself, and several of his poems concern Scotland, the Scots and various individual Scotsmen. But his horizons were very wide, and his range is anything but restricted, to the extent that in 1940, Leicester Bradner wrote that Leech was“'in many ways the most interesting of the Scottish Latinists after Buchanan,” NOTE 8 and in 1965 W. Leonard Grant called him “one of the major names in the history of neo-Latin literature.” NOTE 9 Much more recently, Leech merited a commendatory entry in the O. D. N. B.. Nevertheless, while Leech the poet has left a substantial body of highly variegated work, published between 1617 and 1624, Leech the man remains a somewhat mysterious figure: even the date of his death is unknown, though he likely died young. He had graduated from King’s College, Old Aberdeen, in 1614, as he recalled in epigram I.24: NOTE 10
DE SE, AB EMENSO CURSU SUO PHILOSOPHICO, 1614, IN COLLEGIO REGIO ABREDONENSI
Teutonicum qua Deva subit, qua gemmifer aequor
Dona sub Arctoo longior axi petit,
Qua geminae in geminis surgentes vallibus, urbes,
Mercibus haec, Musis clarior illa suis,
Censentur gemino contingere vertice coelum;
Et curae summis hoc magis esse diis;
Marria me tellus, volventem vidit, ephebum,
Scripta Stagiritae docta, diserta senis,
Tunc Elphinstoniae cuncta erudiere Camoenae:
Et lauro nostras impediere comas.
Pene puer sic Philosophus, me cuncta putabam
Scire unum; et gremio cuncta parere meo.
“Nescio, nunc, qui cuncta sciam: nam vix scio quicquam:
Et scire hoc solum, me scio, scire nihil.”
[“Where the Dee enters the German Sea, where the Don with longer course seeks the sea under the northern sky, where twin towns — one more famous for commerce, the other for learning — rising in twin valleys, are deemed to reach the heavens and be all the dearer to the gods. The lands of Mar saw me, a stripling, turning over old Aristotle’s learned pages. Then the Muses of Elphinstone’s Old Aberdeen instructed me in everything, and crowned my head with laurel. And thus a philosopher while still but a boy, I thought that I, all by myself, knew everything, and that everything came from within me. ‘Now I no longer know that I know everything, for I hardly know anything: and only this I know, that I know nothing!’”]
6. Leask notes that Leech’s Musae Priores are much quoted by Burton in the Anatomie of Melancholy, which indicates something of their succes. It is simply unknown why Sir John Scot decided that the Delitiae would not feature a selection of Leech’s work, for further specimens of which see here and here.
7. Since no holographs of any of Leech’s poetry are known, we have no idea how early in his career Leech may have made his Montgomerie translation. Leech was a gifted practicioner of a whole range of Latin metres; but his paraphrase makes no attempt to emulate the dancing tunefulness which to modern ears is one of most striking features of his original. He writes in Ovidian elegiac couplets, presumably influenced by the poem’s amatory subject-matter and Ovid’s telling of the heliotrope myth in the Metamorphoses.
8. Elegiacs were also chosen for the contrafactum sacrum of “The Solsequium” made by the Scottish Benedictine Thomas Duff. A native of Cullen on the Banffshire coast, he appears to have studied at the Jesuit university in Vilnius, and was already a graduate when he matriculated at Braunsberg in Prussia in 1610. He professed at the Schottenkloster of St. James in Würzburg in 1616. NOTE 12 The volume Cerasum et sylvestre prunum opus poematicum : de virtutum & vitiorum pugna, sive, electio status in adolescentia / authore primo nobili Domino Alexandro Montgomrio Scoto poeta regio, idiomatis materni laureato ; nunc rursus auctum & in Latinos versus translatum per T. D., long thought to be by Thomas Dempster, is now accepted as being Duff's work. It was published at Würzburg in 1631, and the volume also includes two Latin versions of Montgomerie’s magnificent sonnet to the Holy Trinity, “Supreme Essence, beginning Vnbegun.” NOTE 13 The Würzburg publication was reissued at Edinburgh in 1696 and is therefore available in EEBO. It is a highly readable translation of Montgomerie’s allegorical dream-vision The Cherrie and the Slae, first published (incomplete) in 1597. What Duff translated is the later, complete version of the Cherrie, the earliest surviving print whereof, however, dates only from 1636. Duff clearly had access to either a MS or a now lost print of Montgomerie’s revised and completed text. Cerasum et Sylvestre Prunus is “a remarkable work,” in the opinion of Fr. Mark Dilworth, the only person who has also read through the huge mass of Duff’s surviving MS verse. NOTE 14 He writes that Duff’s MS verses “are notable for ingenuity and not for literary inspiration ... Really the medium is everything; there is no poetic vision struggling to find expression in words. Nevertheless, his poems have much to commend them. They do not fall flat, because Duff did not aim higher than he was able to reach. They convey his meaning adequately, in language which does not jar and is at time felicitous” (The Scots in Franconia, p. 234). However, Dilworth acknowledges that much of Duff’s work is “mere versifiying, composed for some occasion such as the feast-day of a fellow monk or the visit of a dignitary or to thank a benefactor” (ibid.)
9. Some of this MS material was published in 1741, NOTE 15 and in 1965, Dilworth published Duff’s five elegiac epigrams In obitum nobilis viri M. Alexandri Montgomrii / Poetae et militis egregii. NOTE 16 As Roderick Lyall explains, these short poems are a major source for biographical information about the courtly makar: “Where we are able to verify the statements Duff makes about Montgomerie in his epitaphs, and most clearly in the case of the poet’s death and its aftermath, he is strikingly accurate. Conversely, there is not point on which he can so far be demonstrated to be in error. I have accordingly assumed that Duff’s information, however he acquired it, was essentially correct” (Alexander Montgomerie, p. 36). Duff’s unpublished MS poetry also includes at least two contrafacta of Scots vernacular verse: the popular song “Lowse thy pock, Laurie” was turned into a tribute to the aged Abbot Whyte of Würzburg, and Montgomerie’s 'Solsequium' became “Κἀποιδία de Solsequio / Ad Iesum solem in praesepio ortum” (“Cradle-song of the Solsequium / To Jesus the Sun risen in the Manger”).
10. Duff’s turning of Montgomerie's eminently secular (and erotic) love song into a religious lyric is far from inexplicable. David Parkinson has pointed out that in the 17th century, “The Solsequium” formed part of a “tiny anthology” of largely spiritual poems printed in the numerous editions of The Cherrie and the Slae. “In this context, ‘The Solsequium’ becomes an allegory of longing for Christ’s presence, through diurnal sureness into nocturnal doubt and back again.”NOTE 17 The idea that one’s sense of the living presence of God comes and goes is something expressed, often with great eloquence, in many Scottish Calvinist writings of the early 17th century; it is at first glance perhaps more surprising to find it in a recusant Roman Catholic setting, but it is fundamental to the spiritual reading of the Old Testament Song of Songs, and is pervasive, for instance, in the poetry of St. John of the Cross. That is precisely what Duff's approach to the poem in his contrafactum. His underlying image of Christ as as the risen Sun, even in the cradle, is a very ancient Christian trope, based on Biblical texts like Isaiah 9:2, “the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and the related Gospel hymns of Zacharias (Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel, Luke 1:68 - 79) and of Simeon (Nunc dimittis, Luke 2: 28 - 32). Duff would also have been fully familiar with the appearances of Christ as the sun (or daystar) in the liturgical offices of Advent and Christmas, e. g. the antiphona major for Vespers on 21st December, O oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
11. As to the respective merits of Leech’s and Duff's paraphrases, Dana Sutton has drawn my attention to the fact that Duff is considerably more “original” than Leech, since — as the sources noted in the Commentary show— the latter lavishly applies the time-honoured method of packing his neo-Latin verse with quotations and tags from and allusions to Roman poetry (as illustrated, for example, by the dramatic and poetic works of William Gager and Milton’s In Quintum Novembris, as annotated in The Philological Museum), while Duff draws far less on Classical authors. Sutton notes that Duff also displays more originality than Leech, not only by the very nature of his contrafactum, but also in some of his phrases, e. g. line 20, pectoris antra line 28, voluptas torquet (“a conundrum worthy of Petrarch”), and line 29, Laetitiae...aurora cupita. Sutton suggests that “perhaps, because he was traversing less well-traveled ground, there was less Roman material he could mine?”
12. The author would like to thank the Universitätsbibliothek Würzburg for supplying him with a scan of Duff’s “Κἀποιδία de Solsequio / Ad Iesum solem in praesepio ortum,” and Dana Sutton and Ian Cunningham for much-appreciated help and suggestions with translation and Roman sources; and both of them and Michael Spiller for discussions of the possible intentions (and probable scribal errors) behind the “Greek” word Κἀποιδία in the manuscript.
NOTE 1 Published as part of The essayes of a prentise, in the diuine art of poesie (Edinburgh, 1584).
NOTE 2 Thus spak Apollo myne: The Songs of Alexander Montgomerie, sung by Paul Rendall (tenor), accompanied by Rob MacKillop (lute), ASV CD GAU 249, tr. 2; The Wode Collection, Sixteenth Century Music by Scottish, English & Continental Composers, Linn Records, CKD 388, tr. 19, sung by Susan Hamilton (soprano) accompanied by David Miller (lute).
NOTE 3 Miscellaneorum Liber, no. 33; see P. J. Ford, George Buchanan, Prince of Poets (Aberdeen, 1982), pp. 174f.
NOTE 4 In “Complainte of his mistressis absence from Court,” ll. 57 - 63.
NOTE 5 See p. 130 of The nightingale Sheretine and Mariana. A happy husband. Eligies on the death of Queene Anne. Songs and sonnets by Patrick Han[n]ay gent. London : Printed [by John Haviland] for Nathaniel Butter, 1622. STC2 12748.
NOTE 6 See Poems of Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, ed. J Reid Baxter (Solsequium Press, Edinburgh, 2010), pp. 28 - 39, 103 - 105.
NOTE 7 In Fresche Fontanis, ed. J Derrick McClure and J Hadley Williams (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012), forthcoming.
NOTE 8 Leicester Bradner, Musae Anglicanae: A History of Anglo-Latin Poetry 1500 - 1925 (New York, 1940, repr. New York, 1966) p. 163.
NOTE 9 W. Leonard Grant, Neo-Latin Literature and the Pastoral (Chapel Hill, 1965) p. 201.
NOTE 10 Musae Priores, 1620, p. 7; a slightly different text is found in Musae Priores, 1621, p.7, and was used by Leask in Musa Latina Aberdonensis.
NOTE 11 David graduated M. A. in 1624. After rising in the university hierarchy, he was driven out due to internal disputes, and became minister of Ellon in 1638. He later moved to England. It is most unlikely that John and David Leech were in any way related to the prolific Scottish Jesuit Andrew Leech, who Latinised his name as Loeaechius, not Leochaeus, and began his poetic career by publishing the 236 lines of his Iovis arbitrium, sive ius haereditarium, Iacobo D. G. primo huius nominis Angliae sexto Scotorum Regi In Angliam, Franciam, & Hyberniam, diuinitus collatum. Ab Andrea Loeaechio Scoto F. D. at London in 1603. As a member of the huge Scottish community resident in the Poland of Sigismund III, Andrew Leech published at least five volumes of poetry there between 1606 and 1609. W. Keith Leask comments (Musa Latina Aberdonensis III p.256) that the epigrams by David Leech appended to John’s long poem Nemo Calendis Maii 1617, presented to King James during his Scottish visit of 1617, must be the work of David Leech of Mounsemille — the addressee of one of John’s epigrams — and not of John’s younger brother (who matriculated only in 1620). This claim is not entirely convincing: clever schoolboys exist.
NOTE 12 See Fr. Mark Dilworth, O. S. B., “New Light on Alexander Montgomerie,” The Bibliotheck 4 (1965), 230 -35 and The Scots in Franconia (Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh, 1974), 235 - 37, and the discussion of Duff in Roderick Lyall, Alexander Montgomerie, pp. 33 - 36.
NOTE 13 See Mark Dilworth, “The Latin Translator of The Cherrie and the Slae,” in Studies in Scottish Literature, v.77 - 82 (1967), and Roderick Lyall, Alexander Montgomerie, p. 34.
NOTE 14 See Würzburg University Library, M.ch.q.62, Thomas Duff: Orationes et carmina, f. 55-56r. The contents of this MS are fully listed in Die Handschriften der Universitätsbibliothek Würzburg, Zweiter Band, Handschriften aus benediktinischen Provenienzen, bearbeitet von Hans Thurn (Wiesbaden, 1973), pp. 170f.
NOTE 15 I. Gropp, Collectio Scriptorum et Rerum Wirceburgensium, vol. I.
NOTE 16 “New Light on Alexander Montgomerie,” The Bibliotheck 4 (1965), 230 - 35. The verses in question were translated into Scots in 1969: Akros, no. 9 (1969), 58f.
NOTE 17 “Alexander Montgomerie, Scottish Author.” in S. Mapstone (ed. ) Older Scots Literature (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 493 - 513, at 499.