John Lindsay of Balcarres, lord Menmuir (1552-1598) began his career as an advocate in the 1570s and was appointed a lord of session in 1581. He was an active parliamentarian from 1583 onwards and was appointed to two privy council commissions for visitation to the University of St Andrews in the later 1580s, to which he was also appointed chancellor in 1587. In 1596 he reached the zenith of his power, becoming part of the committee of financial regulators known as the Octavians in January 1596, and being appointed as keeper of the privy seal and secretary in March and May respectively. In November 1596 the second minister in St Andrews, Robert Wallace, condemned Balcarres publicly in sermons for arbitrarily dealing with the trial of the outspoken minister of Edinburgh, David Black, who at that time was removed from office for seditious sermons. Balcarres demanded an apology from Melville and the St Andrews presbytery between January and March 1597, a request which Melville summarily refused to countenance. Balcarres was able to take his revenge later that year at the visitation of St Andrews which began on 7 July 1597 and which established a ruling council for the university, led by him, that would make it much more accountable to royal policy. It also removed Melville from the office of rector, severely criticised the form and content of theological teaching, and deprived one of Melville's central allies in St Salvator's college, the lawyer William Welwood. This poem was originally sent to Balcarres on 17 November 1597 (NLS, Balcarres Papers, vol. 8, fos 67r-68v), and shows that Melville was chastened, but angry, at the treatment he had received from Balcarres. He beseeches the chancellor, in the guise of the university herself, to desist from his course of action. However, it was to no avail; the process of bringing the university to heel would continue in a subsequent visitation in 1599. See Alan R. MacDonald, 'Lindsay, John, of Balcarres, Lord Menmuir (1552-1598)', ODNB; Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, pp. 160-171. Metre: phalacean hendecasyllables.
Ad Dominum Joannem Lindesium, Universitatis Andreanae cancellarium; eum compellat academia (17 November 1597)
Ad Dominum Ioannem Lindesium, Universitatis Andreanae cancellarium; eum compellat academia
1Lindesi jubar inclyti Senatus,
sol regni bone, regii et Senatus;
qui Divumque hominumque juris aequi
norma, et regula veritatis alma es:
5Phœbi, et Palladis, et novem sororum
doctarum soboles, pater, patronus:
[p122] Cancellarius universitatis
florentis varia eruditione,
ad fanum vetus, ad recens sacellum,
10fanum ad Reguli, ad Andreae sacellum.
In te quid meus Andreas? Quid in te
Melvinus potuit tuus? Quod illum
noxae dedideris, quod ille nostri
cultor debuerit minus malignae
15sorti ludibrium, nec error illum
excusaverit. Aut levare culpa
non lata officium, necessitasve
legis compede quiverit soluta?
Quod si, per duo lustra transmarinum
20nil tyrocinium, nihil labores
duri, militiae domi sacratae
per saevas hyemes quaterque senos
anfractus reditusque Solis, illum
mactarit meritis honoribus; nec
25dignum reddiderit minutulo aere,
pauco et tritico, et hordeo, atque avena;
qua se, qua famulum suum, et caballum,
cœni a sordibus, a famis vorace
dente, et frigoris horrida procella
30tectum vindicet. At favor patroni
tanti ne sinat exui misellum
fortunis semel omnibus clientem;
exutum e patrio exulare caelo
infamemque fera perire fama
35mali nominis, et nota nepotis.
To Lord John Lindsay, chancellor of the University of St Andrews; the university upbraids him
Celebrated Lindsay, light of the Senate, a Good man, sun of the kingdom and of the royal Senate: you who are the standard of fair law of both the gods and men, and the gracious measure of truth: the offspring, the father, and the patron of Phoebus, and Pallas, and the nine learned sisters: [p122] Chancellor of a university flourishing with all kinds of learning, In both the ancient temple, and the newer shrine, in the temple of Rule, and the shrine of Andrew. b What has my Andrew done to you, What has your Melville done to you, that you have delivered him to harm, so that he, our lesser cultivator, c will be made the laughing-stock of malign chance, and no mistake will be excused him, and since neither any great fault nor necessity existed to remove him from office, after all the safeguards of law were removed? So it seems if, after a ten year overseas apprenticeship, and hard labour among the consecrated soldiery at home through savage winters and twenty-four orbits and returns of the sun, d he has in no way been rewarded with the honours he deserves; nor has he been paid back his worth with the least brass farthing, or a small amount of wheat, and barley, and oats; whereby he might claim a shelter for himself, for his servant, and his nag, from the squalor of mud, and the voracious bite of famine, and the dreadful tempest of cold. But do not let the favour of such a great patron allow that his wretched client should be at once deprived from all fortunes; deprived from his ancestral sky to wander and to die as a man of ill-repute with the savage notoriety of an evil name, and the reputation of a spendthrift.
b: 'Ancient temple' - St Salvator's College (founded 1450); 'newer shrine' - St Mary's (1555); 'temple of Rule' - St Leonard's (1513), which was originally a training college for the local Dominican order; 'the shrine of Andrew' - the corporate university itself, founded 1410x1414.
c: Melville is implying here that he has played a substantial role in the development of the university post-reformation. See Reid, Humanism and Calvinism, passim.
d: Melville had spent c.1563-1574 studying and teaching in Paris, Poitiers, and Geneva, and after that had taught at Glasgow (1574-1580) and St Andrews (1580-1606). When he wrote this poem (1597), he was thus entering his twenty-fourth year of educational service in Scotland.