Described by J. Derrick McClure as 'an admirable example of the cosmopolitan Scottish scholar', the Aberdonian John Johnston (c.1565-1611) was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and King's College before undertaking a 'grand tour' of the leading Reformed academies on the Continent between 1584 and 1591. Melville used his influence as rector of the University of St Andrews and principal of St Mary's College to secure Johnston's appointment as second master in the college in 1593, and the two were close friends and colleagues until Melville was called to London in 1606. Johnston wrote several religious and literary Latin works, most famous among them his Inscriptiones historicae regum Scotorum (Amsterdam, 1602) and his Heroes ex omni historia Scotica lectissimi (Leiden, 1603), a series of verse tableaus on the historical line of Scottish monarchs and on a range of Scottish military heroes respectively (both are reprinted in full in the DPS). Johnston also produced a cycle of epigrams on British cities which was frequently quoted by William Camden in the final 1603 version of his Britannia. Melville contributed his 'Gathelus' and several verses to the Inscriptiones (see d2_MelA_001, d2_MelA_026, and d2_MelA_030), and these three prefatory epigrams to the Heroes. On Melville and Johnston, see J. Derrick McClure, 'Johnston, John (c.1565-1611)', ODNB; Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, pp. 147-9. Metre: elegiac couplets.
Ad Ioannem Ionstonum de suis Heroibus (1603)
Ad Ioannem Ionstonum de suis Heroibus 1
Mars sine Pallade mors, marcor sine Marte Minerva,
Pallade Mars vivit, Marte Minerva viget.
Te sine nec Pallas nec Mars vivitve vigetve,
per te utrique redux vita vigorque manet.
[p119] Per quem tot tanti heroes vivuntque vigentque,
hinc aeternum, heros maxime, vive, vige.
Quo te Iane loco, qua te regione videbo
tot proceres inter, quos super astra vehis?
Non uno te Iane loco, aut regione videbo.
Iure omnis tuus est et locus et regio.
Ergo omni te Iane loco et regione videbo,
tu spectandus in his omnibus unus ades.
Quisquis in hac tabula et quantus tibi pingitur heros,
qualis ab arte potest, talis ab artifice est.
Quot, quoties pingis, toties te pingis in illis:
sed te, ex te, in te illos pingis ab archetypo.
Tu pictura omnis: tu primaque summaque forma es.
Quisque refert te heros ectypus, archetypum.
To John Johnston on his Heroes
Mars is a corpse without Pallas, Minerva is rotten without Mars, Mars lives in Pallas, Minerva flourishes in Mars. Without you neither Pallas nor Mars either lives or flourishes, through you both a renewed life and vigour endure in both. [p119] Greatest hero, through whom so many kinds of heroes both live and flourish, live and flourish henceforth forever.
John, in what place and in what territory will I see you among so many nobles, whom you draw above the stars? John, I will not see you in a single place or territory. By right every place and territory is yours. Therefore, John, I will see you in every place and territory, you alone who goes into all these places and who deserves to be looked upon.
Whoever and how great the hero depicted by you on this canvas, whatever sort of hero he can be through art, this is from the painter. As often as you paint, so often do you paint yourself amid those heroes: but you paint those men from your soul, in your image and with you as the original. You are the whole picture: you are the first and last point of reference. Each hero who resembles you is a copy of the original.
1: This poem presents further evidence of Melville's poetic influence on other poets. John Dunbar, Epigrammaton Centuriae VI.74, reworks this poem, with only slight modification, into an encomium to Thomas Farnaby. An online edition of the poem by Jamie Reid-Baxter and Dana F. Sutton is available at The Philological Museum.