1. In 1982 Peter Sharratt and P. G. Walsh performed an important service to Humanistic letters by publishing George Buchanan, Tragedies, containing texts and translations of Buchanan’s Jephtha and Baptistes, and also his Latin translations of Euripides’ Medea and Alcestis. This volume, however, did not contain quite all of Buchanan’s dramatic productions. There remain his pompae, short entertainments written for performance at the court of Mary Queen of Scots.
2. In classical Latin, pompa is a word employed to designate a processional or parade. Absent a Neo-Latin lexicon, certainty is impossible, but it may be supposed that the word came to designate a mimetic performance that did not rise to the level of a play because of its short length and absence of plot, because the characters often come across the stage or impromptu performance area one at a time, thus forming a kind of procession (the same is true of the pompae that accompany Thomas Watson’s 1581 Latin translation of Sophocles’ Antigone). A kind of theoretical justification is provided for this interpretation by David Wiles, who in Chapter III of his A Short History of Western Performance Space (Cambridge, 2003) identifies “processional space” as a distinct kind of space for dramatic (or, perhaps more accurately, mimetic) performance. Although this understanding of the word is tentative and may be altered by further investigation, it would seem that in the present context the proper translation of the word pompa is “masque”.
3. The first four items included here appear, and are identified as pompae, in the standard early collections of Buchanan’s poetry near the end of the third Book of his Epigrams, beginning with Georgii Buchanani Scoti Poemata omnia innumeris pene locis ex ipsius autographo castigata et aucta (Edinburgh 1615, unpaginated: I am informed they also appear in the volume Georgeii Buchanani...Franciscanus et fratres, Elegiarum liber I, etc., printed at Geneva in 1581, but I have not seen that volume). Masque I, entitled Apollo et Musae Exules (“Apollo and the Muses as Exiles”) is not tied to any specific event, and it would be futile to speculate on the occasion for which it was written. The idea of their exile is explained by a remark by Polydore Vergil in his Anglica Historia, writing of the reign of Henry VII (XXVI.51), Iisdem temporibus perfecta literae similiter Latinae atque Graecae ex Italia bellis nefariis exclusae, exterminatae, expulsae, sese trans Alpes per omnem Germaniam, Galliam, Angliam, Scotiamque effuderunt [“In those days polished letters, both Latin and Greek, were excluded, uprooted, and banished from Italy by its criminal wars, and made their way over the Alps, flowing throughout all Germany, France, England, and Scotland”]. The insight that the focus of Humanism had shifted to northern Europe led to the conceit that Apollo and the Muses had fled there as a sanctuary, found in other British literature of the Renaissance, perhaps most memorably in John Sanford’s masque Apollonis et Musarum Εὐκτικὰ Εἰδύλλια, written for the royal visit to Oxford in 1592. Indeed, Sanford’s strategy of assigning a separate lyric poem to each of the Muses raises the suspicion that he may have been influenced by the present masque. NOTE 1
4. This masque is printed as a simple elegiac poem in all editions, so, were this not advertised in the title, the reader would have no way of realizing it was a performance piece. This has the effect of making it appear that Apollo is the only speaker, which would be strange for a masque, NOTE 2 and might provoke a suspicion that the piece is fragmentary in such a way that only one speech is preserved. But in all probability it is complete, and the indications of speakers have been lost. There are twenty-two lines, i. e. eleven elegiac couplets, and each couplet is a separate statement that concludes with a full stop. It therefore seems likely that Apollo speaks the first pair of couplets, and that each of the remaining nine is spoken by a separate Muse. I have edited the pompa according to this understanding. Admittedly, the attribution of some couplets to individual Muses is clear and unambiguous (such as those assigned here to Thalia, Melpomene, Clio, and Urania), but others are considerably more arbitrary and subject to debate. I am nevertheless confident that this presentation succeeds in revealing Buchanan’s intentions.
5. Masque II was written for the festivities accompanying Mary’s marriage to Lord Darnley in July 1565. The subject is Mary’s consequent separation from the “four Maries” in her retinue, as debated by the gods. The absence of any mention of the bridegroom is conspicuous.
6. As with the first pompa, nothing about Masque III, Pompae Equestres, suggests the occasion for which it was written. At the end the knights carrying Pallas on their crests appear to be suggesting to Mary that Cupid’s darts are to be shunned. This suggests it comes from a time prior to her marriage, and perhaps contains veiled hints that she should devote herself to statecraft and not be hasty in looking for a consort, and possibly not indulge in frivolity in a more general sense.
7. Masque IV, the only polymetric one of the printed pompae, was performed during celebrations accompanying the baptism of Mary’s son James. Again, some may find significance in the fact that the father is not mentioned. According to the Memoires of the diplomat Sir James Melville (published at London in 1752), pp. 171f., this was performed on 17 December, 1566. It employed machinery devised by Bestien Pages. The audience included: Queen Mary; the infant Prince James, [Sir Christopher?] Hatton, Marin Liguiche, and Francis Russell, Earl of Bedford. According to Melville the satyrs offended the English observers by wagging their tails at them, which was taken as an act of derision. This masque bears a striking to the equally polymetric one written by John Leland for the celebrations attendant upon the birth of the future Edward VI in 1537, which I have edited under the conjectural title Pompa Nympharum, and one wonders whether the present masque was written under Leland’s influence, particularly because these two masques were written to celebrate such similar occasions.
8. The item identified here as Masque V was not printed in full in any edition of Buchanan’s poetry, nor identified as a pompa. The second section (13ff.) is printed as an independent poem under the title In Castitatem in the Miscellaneous section of the 1615 Edinburgh edition. Likewise, the third section (29ff.) appears several pages later as another independent poem entitled Mutuus Amor. But the masque is preserved in its entirety and given a performance context by Thomas Randolph, the English ambassador, in the course of a letter written to Lord William Cecil on 27 February 1564 (New Style). NOTE 3 The letter also serves to explain the point of the masque. Randolph’s mission was to urge upon Mary marriage to Elizabeth’s favorite Robert Dudley, soon to be created Earl of Leicester. He did not formally broach this proposal until the spring of that year, but the end of this masque, recommending close relations between Mary and Elizabeth, may have been intended to pave the way for this campaign. In any event, Buchanan can be seen attempting to steer the queen towards entering into an alliance with a Protestant nation. The moralizing warning against eroticism offered Mary at 13ff. is not dissimilar to that given at Masque III.31ff.
9. I know no further Italian verse by Buchanan, and it is possible that this is a collaborative effort. If so (as Dr. Martin Wiggins of the Shakespeare Institute has pointed out to me) the obvious candidate for Buchanan’s collaborator would be Mary’s secretary David Rizzio.
10. Buchanan subsequently emerged as a leading propagandist and theoretician for the cabal of Protestant noblemen who removed Mary from the throne, and was a prominent figure in the administration of the Earl of Moray. A number of his vitriolic attacks on Mary, designed to justify her deposition, are included in the Philological Museum. It is therefore possible for a reader, having read these masques with all their courtly flattery, to imagine that Buchanan was guilty of monstrous hypocrisy. But it seems preferable to take him at his word and think that he became alienated from Mary for the reasons he said he did: indignation at her possible involvement in the murder of Lord Darnley and the measures she and Lord Bothwell took to forestall any adequate investigation of that murder. Since these masques come from the years before that crucial turning-point in his political thinking, Buchanan’s sincerity does not come into question.
11. Masque V was drawn to my attention by Dr. Martin Wiggins of the Shakespeare Institute, and I am also indebted to him for bibliographical information. I am likewise indebted to Elena Semenzato for furnishing a translation of the Italian portion of Masque V.
NOTE 1 Not that this was his only source of inspiration: polymetric choruses of Muses are familiar in Continental Neo-Latin Literature: Erasmus, Constantinus Hugenius (Huygens), etc. Without polymetrics, was used in England by Watson and Sanford, as noted above, and by Gabriel Harvey in Smithus, vel Lachrymae Musarum (1578) and Spenser in The Teares of the Muses (1591).
NOTE 2 More precisely, there was a kind of masque in which a speaker, a so-called “trucheman,” describes the activities of the other masquers as they perform in silence: see Michael Pincombe, “Two Elizabethan Masque-Orations by Thomas Pound,” Bodleian Library Record 12 (1987) 349 - 80 for specimens of this kind, and George Gascogne published his similar “Device of a Masque for the Richt Honorable Viscount Montacute” in his 1572 Hundreth Sundry Flowers. This form of masque, which Pincombe identifies as “recititative,” is very different from the normal “processional” type, in which the individual masquers speak. The fact that in this present masque individual Muses speak of themselves in the first person proves what we could in any event conclude on the basis of the word pompa, that this one belongs to the “processional” variety.
NOTE 3 Brit. Lib. MS. Cotton Caligula B x, fol. 258r, printed by Robert Keith, History of the Affairs of State in Scotland (Edinburgh 1845) II.211. Cf. also Calendar of State Papers 1563-8, 34,41,47.