This poem is a response to an elegy by Barclay's fellow Catholic, George Strachan (fl.1592-1634), on the death of Patrick Seton, son of the Laird of Parbroath. Strachan (who was from the Mearns) had a fascinating career studying and teaching in a wide range of French universities and at the Scots College in Rome between 1593 and 1613 (he also briefly entered the service of the Duke of Guise towards the end of this period), and then in the East where he gained facility in a wide range of languages, including Persian and Hebrew. Seton's father died in 1600, and he was sent to the Scots College in Rome by Robert Abercromby, Superior of the Jesuit Scottish mission, in December 1602, where he was Strachan's classmate. His name appears as seventh on the college register, where it is also noted that he died at the college, though no date is given. This must have occurred at some point after 26 January 1604, when he contributed three Latin hexameters to Strachan's album amicorum. Strachan's poem on Seton's death, the 'Lachrymae in obitu Patricii Setoni, Scoti, filii a Parbroto' is one of just a handful of Latin texts he is known to have written; it is reproduced in the DPS (vol. 2, pp. 504-509), and by Leask in his collection of Strachan's poems (Musa Latina Aberdonensis, vol. 3, pp. 338-346). Leask describes the 'Lachrymae' as 'quite one of the gems' (p. 340) in the whole of the DPS, a sentiment that Barclay appears to have shared as he praises it here, and in the short epigram that follows (d1_BarW_005), which puns on the idea of swimming in Strachan's 'tears' (lachrymae). On Strachan, see D. F. Wright, 'Strachan, George (fl. 1592-1634)', ODNB [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/67847]; G. Levi della Vida, George Strachan: memorials of a wandering Scottish scholar of the seventeenth century (Aberdeen, 1956) (especially pp. 8-18, where the 'Lachrymae' and the relationship between Strachan and Seton are discussed in some detail). Metre: phalaecian.
To Mr George Strachan, his countryman, weeping like the sea at the death of Patrick Seton, an outstanding youth.
D. Georgio Strachano populari suo, obitum Patricii Setoni juvenis exspectatissimi undatim lachrymanti
1Absentem fere cogitant amicum 1
vix e millibus hujus aevi amicis
unus, vel duo. Tam novum est amare.
Absentem haud modo cogitas amicum,
5nec mortem modo lachrymas amici;
sed das vivere lachrymis amico.
Te Strachane Setonius beavit,
cujus morte vocaberis disertus:
tu Strachane Setonium beasti,
10cui jam vivere mortuo dedisti.
To Mr George Strachan, his countryman, weeping like the sea at the death of Patrick Seton, an outstanding youth
1Scarcely one or two, in this age, from so many thousands of friends, thinks upon an absent friend. So novel it is, to love. Not only do you think upon an absent friend, not only do you mark a friend's death with tears, but by those tears you give life your friend life.
7Seton blessed you, Strachan, by whose death you shall be named eloquent: and you blessed Seton, Strachan, to whom, though already dead, you gave life.
1: 'absentem...amicum': Vergil, Aeneid IX.389.