Ad Adrianum Damanem, quum Graecos suos versus epithalamio regio proposuit expingere conaretur (1590)

Adriaan Damman was resident ambassador at the court of James VI for the Estates General of the Low Countries, possibly arriving in Anna of Denmark's entourage in 1590. He was also briefly Professor of Humanity at the University of Edinburgh for an unspecified period between 1594 and 1597. In 1590 he published a series of Greek and Latin poems under the collective title Schediasmata Hadr. Dammanis a Bisterveld gandavensis I. De nuptiis serenissimi potentissimique Scot. regis Iacobi VI. et serenissimae virginis Annae Friderici II. Daniae, Nordvegiae et c. regis F. ... (Edinburgh, 1590), which described the marriage of James VI and Anna, the storms and near-shipwreck ('De Tempestate') they faced returning to Scotland, and Anna's entry into Edinburgh and coronation. It is from Damman's account of the coronation ceremony ('In Serenissimae Reginae Annae...Coronationem', fo. G4r) that we know Melville recited his Stephaniskion after the minister Robert Bruce had anointed the Queen and presented her with her crown and regalia, when Melville 'spoke to the king in great and Ausonian [Italian] song, and taught with prudent advice the art of ruling' ('Meluinus, grandique ad Regem carmine fatur/ Ausonio, monitisque docet prudentibus artem/ Imperii'). Melville's poem, praising the talents of Damman for writing a series of Greek verses to open his Schediasmata and self-deprecatingly mocking his own poetic abilities as a puny flood compared to Damman's raging torrent, first appeared as a prefatory epigram to the Schediasmata (fo. 2v). For more on Damman, see Maureen M. Meikle, 'Anna of Denmark's coronation and entry into Edinburgh, 1590', in MacDonald and Goodare (eds), Sixteenth-Century Scotland, pp. 277-94, at 285-6; M'Crie (1819 edn), vol. 1, Note FF, pp. 483-487; Thomas Craufurd, History of the University of Edinburgh, from 1580 to 1646 (Edinburgh, 1808), p. 40. Metre: alcaic stanzas.

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Ad Adrianum Damanem, quum Graecos suos versus epithalamio regio proposuit expingere conaretur.

1Legi et relegi ter, quater, amplius
istas Atellas. Scilicet o tuis
ingrate Musis, o maligne
munificis, Adriane, Musis.

5Non ipsae Athenae sunt magis Atticae
istis Atellis, non Padus alveo
non arva Ganges pleniore
culta secat, segetemve inundat,

9quam quae perenni fonte caput sacrum
dat vena cœlo et per Charitum nemus
et culta Musarum liquentes
volvit aquas Hadrianus amnis.

13At fonte noster vix modico cadens,
haerensque in arcto tramite rivulus,
arensque saepe: et quando serpit
turbidulo lutulentus imbre.

17Tu rore caeli Socratici madens
eιγouνι plaudis Socraticum tibi,
nobis et alludis beatas
20divitias maris, atque Athenas.

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To Adriaan Damman, when he determined to attempt to write his own Greek verses for a royal wedding-poem

1I have read and reread, three, four, or more times those Atellanae a of yours. Clearly, Adriaan, you who are ungrateful to your own muses, impishly you treat the generous muses.

5Athens itself is not more Attic than your Atellanae, neither the Po nor the Ganges b separate their tilled fields with too-full channels, and flood their cornfield,

9 than Adriaan's river flows its clear waters through the grove of the Graces and the tilled fields of the Muses where the spring provides a mouth sacred with everlasting waters for heaven.

13But our river, barely trickling from a modest spring, and confined to its narrow channel, is also often dry: and sometimes it crawls along muddily because of violent rain.

17You, however, soaked by the moisture from a Socratic c heavenly deluge, applaud your Socratic skill as you dissemble, and for us you sport with the happy riches of an ocean, and with Athens.



a: Atellanae were a form of low comedy, named after Atella in Campania, which was home to a series of ancient Greek colonies. Atellanae were written in coarse language and were usually set in provinicial Italian towns. They were performed at Rome in Latin in the time of Sulla (c. 138BC-78BC), though they were originally performed in Oscan, a language spoken in southern Italy until the first century BC. They were known as late as the writings of Juvenal (second and third decades of second century AD). Melville is not implying that the royal wedding ceremony is full of clowns and drunkards, the usual stock characters in these farces (though given the raucous accounts of the wedding festivities that survive, one could be forgiven for thinking this). Instead, he is pointing out that Damman's verses could not be more Greek (Attic) than the heart of Greece itself (Athens) or a type of drama originally performed in a centre of Hellenistic culture.

b: Po: Italy's longest river; Ganges: India's longest river.

c: Socrates (469-399BC), Athenian public figure who contributed massively to intellectual debates in the time of Aristotle and Plato, although he left no first-hand writings himself.