Ad Gul Lessium (n.d.)

William Barclay (b. c.1570, d. in or after 1627), was born in Cullen, Banffshire. A staunch Catholic, in 1586 he attended the Scots College which was briefly established at Pont-à-Mousson under the patronage of Mary Queen of Scots (on the college, see Tom McInally, The Sixth Scottish University: the Scots Colleges Abroad, 1575-1580 (Leiden, 2012, pp. 9, 19-20), then the seminary at Douai in 1593, and finally Leiden University, where he was reportedly a favoured student of Justus Lipsius and contributed a poem to the latter's 1599 edition of the works of Tacitus (on Lipsius, see note below). Barclay was in Paris and teaching by 1598, with plans to enter the priesthood, but was back in Scotland by 1601 where he was arrested for attending Mass and ordered into banishment. He then moved to Nantes and returned to Scotland at an unknown point thereafter as a practitioner of medicine. It is for his medical works in English - Nepenthes, or, The Vertues of Tobacco (1614) and Callirhoe, or, The Well of Spa (1615) - that he is most famous, but he also wrote a range of Latin works, including the Iudicium de certamine G. Eglisemmi cum G. Buchanano (1620), a critical essay assessing the relative merits of the psalm paraphrases produced by George Eglisham and George Buchanan (and finding heavily in favour of the latter). His date of death is unknown, but Thomas Dempster states that he was still alive in 1627 (on Barclay's life, and on which much of the preceding paragraph is based, see Matthew Steggle, 'Barclay, William (b. c.1570, d. in or after 1627)', ODNB; for his writings, see Green et al, Scottish Latin Authors, pp. 52-53, and Leask (ed.), Musa Latina Aberdonensis, vol. 3, pp. 3-19 (the latter features a short biography and several of the poems in the DPS, including this one, with annotations)).

Barclay's contribution to the DPS is notable for being almost exclusively written in hendecasyllables (apart from d1_BarW_005, which is written in second archilochian), and for its originality - there is very little identifiable paraphrasing or adoption of Classical lines, and his abusive poem of the charlatan doctor (d1_BarW_005) has much in the way of striking imagery. The 'William Lessius' who is addressed in this poem is unknown, and he does not appear to have published any known Latin works. However, he appears to have been from the north-east, and to have trained as an advocate. This translation, and those of Barclay's other works, was completed by Charles Mitchell. Metre: phalaecian.

Link to an image of this page  [p137] Ad Gul Lessium

1Lessi, prime sodalium meorum, 1
procul natus in ultimis Britannis,
sed in qua regione non puderet
poetas sua collocare Tempe.
5Isthaec sanguine lavit arva Danus; 2
hic pulchri posuere castra Picti,
hic ver mensibus haud suis, et aestas
quando est horrida, et hinc et inde bruma. 3
Hanc intersecat hostis amnis oram,
10qui fano excidium ultimum minatur;
fano quo nihil axis iste noster
vidit splendidiusque, cultiusque.
Sed o prime sodalium meorum,
in primis popularium tuorum:
15te Moravia tanta non tenebit;
non te Marria sic amata Musis,
non, si audis tibi fana consulentem.
Ito ad jam celebres diu Batavos;
illic Meursius audiatur, illic
20faelix Heinsius, ille, quem magistri
multus Scaligeri polivit usus.
Si fastidia territant aquarum;
ito Lovanium, alteras Athenas;
illic pulpita Lipsium loquentur,
25reddentque illius ossa te eloquentem.
Qui vivus docuit disertiores,
est jam materies disertiorum.
Si tandem jubeat te adire Gallos,
(o sauvissima terra Galliarum)
30si tamen jubeat te adire Gallos
aut fama, aut favor eruditionis,
quaeso videris e via Duacum.
Hinc te, Parrisios agas, ut omnes
iunctim Apollinis haurias liquores.
Link to an image of this page  [p138] 35Si venti paterentur hinc vocantes,
si jam carbasa tensa non tumerent,
o quam Parrisios ad astra ferrem!
Unos Parrisios ad astra ferrem.
Sed fors laudibus a Marone scriptis
40captus, Italiam videre curas.
Lessi, multa habet hoc iter monenda,
cis citraque nivem Alpium potentem.
Sed me Parrisiis tenent amici,
tenent Parrisii meos amicos,
45et me Parrisii meis cum amicis.
Ergo Parisiis redi ad remotos
a mundo altero ad alterum, Britannos.
Hic Regina marisque et insularum,
altrix Anglia pacis, atque belli,
50quaeque nec timet arma nec minatur.
Haec talis te aliquot docebit annis,
seu colas ubi fossa Vandalorum,
quo misit Probus improbos colonos:
nunc regnant sacra sancta literarum,
55et flaventia serus arva tingit 4
flos, qui vincit odore mille Tmolos;
seu vivas ubi doctor ille nostras
subtili peperit volumen arte;
quod volumen ab occidente Sole
60ad Solis penetrat rubentis ortum.
Hic Musea superba ad astra surgunt,
gloriosius hic Apollo degit,
quam olim degit In Atticis Athenis; 5
aut nunc degit in Italis Athenis.
65Ad tuos properas redire Scotos,
tandem dives opum utriusque linguae?
Londinum prius intime videbis;
tot palatia, castra, templa cernes,
uncto vectus et elegante lembo,
70aut curru Iove, vel sorore, digno;
per mundissima 6 strata latus, ibis
ad campos, propria ambulachra Divum,
tot festis ubi millia ambulantum,
Link to an image of this page  [p139] quot fausto duce funderent Iberos.
75Aut turrim aedis Apostoli enimentem
scandas, unde videre microcosmum
possis, atque homines homunciones. 7
His actis propera domum redire,
ut sis, quod cupio, unus e Senatu;
80vel, quod suadeo, candidus petitor;
vel, quod jure merere, sis patronus
disertissimus omnium patronus.
Sic spes altera Curiae ambigentis,
sic eris pater unus innocentum,
85sic eris pavor omnium nocentum:
sic eris, quod es, et quod es futurus,
in primis popularium tuorum
88lessi, prime sodalium meorum.

Link to an image of this page  [p137]

To William Lessius

1Lessius, best of my friends, born far away in furthest Britain, but in a region in which it would not shame the poets to place their Tempe. a The Danes bathed your fields with blood, here the decorated Picts placed their camps; here the spring, with months not its own, and summer, when it is savage, and here and there winter. A hostile river b divides this region, a river which threatens the church c with final destruction, a church which we see is more splendid and refined than any other in our clime. But, best of my friends, you are the best of your people: you great Moray cannot hold, nor can Mar, beloved of the Muses, not even if you hear that it plans a shrine for you. Go now to the celebrated Dutch; let Meursius be heard there, and there too happy Heinsius, whose learning was given its sheen by Scaliger. d If nausea caused by the Dutch waters should alarm, go to Louvain, another Athens; there Lipsius' e pulpits speak, and his bones will return eloquence to you. He who, while alive, instructed the debaters, is now himself the subject of debate. If, nevertheless, either fame or the good-will of the learned drives you to go to France (oh! most pleasant land of the French!), if, nevertheless, they drive you to go to France, I beg you, on the way, to see Douai. From here you may take yourself to Paris, so that you may drink, in turn, the waters of Apollo. If from here the calling winds permit,

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35if now the stretched sail fails to swell, oh! I would praise Paris to the stars, Paris alone I would praise to the stars. But captivated, perhaps, by Maro's f written praises, you desire to see Italy. Lessius, this journey has much to be wary of, with the mighty alplne snows drawing nearer and nearer. But my friends hold me at Paris, Paris holds my friends, my friends and me does Paris hold. Thus I return from one world to another, from Paris to remote Britain. Here is the Queen of seas and of islands, the English foster-mother of peace and of war, who neither fears war, nor threatens it. Such things she shall teach you in a few years, whether you live where the Vandal's ditches are, g in the place where Probus h dispatched his abandoned colonies. Now reign the sacred sanctities of literature, and the lazy flower tinges the yellow fields, i which conquer a thousand butterflies with their scent; j or, if you live where our doctor prepared his volume with subtle art; k a volume which penetrates from the sun's setting to the rise of the blazing sun. Here the Muses rise to the haughty stars, here lives glorious Apollo, rather than living as he once did in Attic Athens; or now lives in Italic Athens. Do you hurry to return to your Scotland, to the riches and wealth, at last, of both tongues? l First you shall see London in detail; so many palaces, castles, temples shall you see, carried upon an elegant skiff, or upon carriage annointed and worthy for Jupiter or his sister; m carried about by the most elegant covering, you will go to the fields, n the true wandering-place of the gods, where there are so many thousands of festivals for those walking about, as many as scatter the Spaniards under their fortunate leader. o Or you shall climb the turreted eminence of the Apostle's cathedral, p

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74from where you can see the city as a microcosm, and the people as manikins. Hurry, once you have done these things, to return homeward, to be - as I desire - a benefit to the senate; or, if I persuade you, to seek office; or, as is your right, to be an advocate, the most argumentative of all advocates. As is the other hope q of the arguing parliament, so you alone will be the protector of the innocent, so you will be the terror of all guilty parties: so you will be, as you are, and as you are about to be, the best of your people, Lessius, and the best of my friends.



1: Horace, Odes II.7.5

2: 'cervix Romanos sanguine lavit equos': Propertius, Elegiae IV.10.38

3: 'inde polo Libyes, hinc bruma temperet annus': Lucan, Bellum Civile, IX.377

4: 'flaventia...arva': Catullus, Carmina LXIV.354

5: 'Athenis Atticis' used frequently by Plautus, eg Miles Gloriosus 100.

6: A term used almost exclusively by Columella (eg De Re Rustica VIII.3.8.4)

7: 'homunciones': rare word, found in Petronius, Satyrica LVI.2.1; Seneca, Epistulae Morales CXVI.7.3


a: Tempe: gorge in north-west Thessaly, Greece, said to be a favourite residence of Apollo and the Muses. Here Barclay applies it to Banffshire.

b: The River Lossie.

c: Elgin Cathedral, which the River Lossie runs adjacent to.

d: Johannes Meursius (1579-1639), professor of Greek at Leiden; Daniel Heinsius (1580-1666), professor of History at Leiden; and the renowned humanist Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609, and who is the subject of d2_MelA_037, d2_MelA_038, d2_RolH_013 and d2_RolH_014.)

e: Justus Lipsius (1547-1606), renowned for his editions of Tacitus (1574) and Seneca (1589-1605), and whose own writinigs, largely neo-Stoic in character, included De Constantia (1584), Manuductio ad Stoicam philosophiam (1604) and Physiologia Stoicorum (1604).

f: Publius Vergilius Maro, or Vergil.

g: The Vandals were a Germanic tribe, but are here being used in a general sense those responsible for the ancient fortifications dotted around the English countryside. Leask believes these are meant to denote ancient sites in Cambridge, perhaps the hill fort site in the Castle area of the city. See Musa Latina Aberdonensis, vol. 3, p. 12.

h: The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Probus (r.161-180), who spent most of his reign in military action against Germanic tribes, and trying to restore Roman colonies in Britain, Upper Germany, and the Danube which had lapsed into disorder on the death of his predecessor, Antoninus Pius. Note the play here on 'Probus' and the 'improbos' colonies.

i: Leask believed this was a reference to the crocus.

j: Leask believed the word 'Tmolos' was a reference to Mount Tmolus in Sardis.

k: Duns Scotus, whose commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard was a standard philosophical and theological work for the late medieval Catholic church. By extension, this is a reference to Oxford, where Scotus was educated and where he lectured around 1300.

l: 'Both tounges' could be Latin and Greek, perhaps implying that Scotland has finally developed its own skilled practitioners of Renaissance humanism and its languages; however, given that both Barclay and Lessius were from Northern Scotland, is this a reference to Scots and Gaelic?

m: Juno.

n: Leask believed this was a reference to Moorfields, one of the last open spaces in the city of London in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century.

o: A possible reference to the Spanish Armada and Philip II, but unclear if the 'fortunate leader' is him or Elizabeth I.

p: St Paul's.

q: Leask believed this was a reference to Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall, the advocate who famously mounted a successful defence of the ministers involved in the General Assembly convened at Aberdeen in 1605 without royal assent, and who had a highly successful law practice in the opening decades of the seventeenth century. See David Stevenson, 'Hope, Sir Thomas, of Craighall, first baronet (1573-1646)', ODNB.