Thomas Maitland

Elegy III: to Doctor Louis Duret, that he relieve the sickness of a quartan fever

In May 1570 Maitland was active as a courier of letters from the Earl of Suffolk to his brother William, and in May of the following year was arrested carrying letters back to Suffolk. He was first held at Leith and then in Stirling Castle. He was only released (in late June) after a protracted negotiation for a hostage exchange with sir Patrick Houston of that Ilk, a Renfrewshire laird and kinsman of the Earl of Lennox. Thomas went straight to Aberdeen and joined a mission led by Lord Seton to secure finance and troops from the Duke of Alva to bolster the Marian-held castles of Dumbarton and Edinburgh, which sailed on 23 August 1570. Seton had obtained 10,000 crowns from Alva by 19 November 1570 and gave 7,000 to Thomas, who sailed from Flushing with the gold on 18 December, though it is unknown if the funds he procured eventually went to the direct aid of the castles. Robert Melville, brother of the diplomat-courtier James Melville of Halhill and witness to the planning of the Aberdeen expedition in July 1570, noted in a deposition that he believed Maitland had taken the trip with Seaton because he was 'sickly' and had a desire to see France (on this expedition, see McKechnie, 'Thomas Maitland', 284-293; and CSP Scot, iv, 620-621). There may be some truth in this, as this poem, dedicated to Louis Duret (1527-1586), physician to Charles IX, rather poignantly suggests that Maitland was ill with a quartan fever before he undertook his final fatal journey to Rome (for Duret's biography and published works, see J. Nicéron, Memoires pour server a l'Histoire des Hommes illustres Dans La Republique des Lettres avec un Catalogue Raisonne de leurs Ouvrages, t. 23 (1733), 391-395). The poem centres upon a description of a vision of a 'goddess' (presumably either Febris or Bona Dea) given to Maitland, advising him to seek out Duret's assistance in Paris, and offering him gifts of wealth from his family and poetic tributes from himself if Duret can heal him.We have no idea if this poetic plea ever made it to Duret's hands; there is certainly no indication that it was published as a separate pamphlet at any point. Metre: elegiac couplets.


ELEGIA III: Ad Ludovicum Duretum, medicum, ut febris quaertanae aegritudine levaret

1Respice me nostri medicorum gloria saecli,
pressaque tabifico membra dolore leva.
Respice, namque potes, si me non una fefellit
Pieridum ficta de grege voce soror. 1
5Nuper enim procul hinc ampla sejunctus ab urbe,
urbe magis dici, quae caput Orbis amat:
qua gemit afflictas formosa Aurelia turres,
pinguia caeruleus qua rigat arva Liger:
cum tenerum corpus febris tentavit acuta, 2
10debilitans nervos extenuansque cutem: 3
nec satis exhausto monstri restincta cruore est,
visceribus nostris nec saturata fames:
nec rigidum frigus, gravis aut mitesceret ardor,
sed crucis alternas sustinuere vices:
15tunc ego cum Phœbo, Musas causabar inertes,
numina cultori non satis aequa suo.
Cygneaque Iovem crudelem voce querebar,
qui miseri surda sperneret aure preces. 4
Et reliquos tetigere Deos convitia linguae
20plurima, materiem morbus et ira dedit.
Donec vicinam praedixit Diva salutem,
arguit augusto splendor in ore Deam.
Hanc ego discussa noctis caligine vidi, 5
quae mihi sic vati vaticinata suo est:
25'pone metum 6 nostri cultor Metlane fidelis,
salva tibi en tuto corpore cymba natat.
Ecquis erit flendi finis, num pectora planctu
rumpes, 7 et falsis ora rigabis aquis?
Quid sanctos damnasse Deos, turbamve verendam
30saevitiae Musas insimulasse juvat?
Num genitor nobis herbas, artemque medendi,
aut quicquam praeter carmina culta dedit?
Si cum carminibus morbi medicina veniret,
carmina Pierides, Phœbus et ipse daret.
35Quin age, 8 surge piger, celebrem te confer in urbem,


Sequana bis gemino quam pater amne secat. 9
Hic inter medicos splendet Duretus, ut inter
candida praefulgens Hesperus astra micat.
Cujus consiliis sine spe spirantibus aegris,
40saepe etiam cassis lumine vita 10 redit.
Quippe suas artes docuit quem laetus Apollo,
quae ferat exitium, quae fugat herba luem.
Nec tot fati potens 11 laeto dimisit Apollo,
quot vita functis reddidit ille animam.
45Hic tibi, nil dubita, febrimque salubribus herbis 12
excutiet, vires restituetque tuas. 13
Mitte alias artes, 14 medicorum examina sperne,
solus enim, ut valeas, hic adeundus erit.'
En Durete Deae jussu sperare salutem
50audeo, 15 consiliis fretus et arte tua.
Sic tibi Nestoreos aetas contingat in annos 16
florida, post fatum sic tibi crescat honos:
prome salutiferam 17 fœcundo e pectore vocem,
quae domet horriferae tormina 18 saeva febris.
55Vel si magnatum potior te cura salutis
detinet, et parvis rebus adesse vetat:
saltem finge minas, et atroces ingere voces,
crede mihi, fictas non feret illa minas.
Tum mihi firmatis revirescet viribus aetas
60ornabitque tuum querna corona 19 caput.
Et quanquam gelido natus sub sidere, 20 grates
vix videor meritis posse referre tuis;
attamen enitar, nobis propensa voluntas,
nec minor in grato pectore fervet amor.
65Nec genitor gemmas, fulvi nec dona metalli,
si natum incolumem senserit esse, neget.
Vel si forte tibi Fortunae munera vilent,
sunt mihi, sunt aliae, quae tribuantur, opes.
Mille dabo molles elegos, 21 tibi mille phaleucos,
70et tua Pindarico carmine facta canam.
Quae tibi sit Latiae et Grajae facundia linguae,
doctrinae vires ingeniique tui:
quotque tuo medicos suspendis ab ore docentis, 22
millia quot juventum lingua diserta tenet:


75virtutesque omnes divisus ab orbe Britannus, 23
atque aliae gentes me referente scient.
Tu modo mortiferae febris compesce dolores,
torrida quae lenta viscera tabe 24 coquit.
Herculeus labor 25 est, fateor, sed fama perennis,
80major ab Herculea gloria munus erit.


Elegy III: to Doctor Louis Duret, that he relieve the sickness of a quartan fever

Look upon me, glory of the doctors of our age, and relieve limbs oppressed with feverish sorrow. Look upon me, for truly you can, if a single sister from the flock of the Muses has not deceived me with false words. For recently I was parted far hence from the abundant city a - a city to be spoken of more, which the head of the world b loves, where beautiful Orléans weeps over overthrown towers, c where the sky-blue Loire waters fertile fields - when a keen fever assailed my fragile body, wasting sinews and thinning skin: nor was the appetite of the beast sufficiently quenched with let blood, or sated on my innards: neither great cold or heat can soften my stiff body, though they take equal turns at torment. Then I began to plead my case with Phoebus against the impotent Muses, divinities not nearly equal to their own fosterer. And I began to lament to Jupiter with a swan-like voice, who scorned my wretched prayers with deaf ear. And a great many angry words touched the other gods, and sickness and wrath provided the subject-matter, until the Goddess d foretold salvation near at hand, and splendour covered the Goddess from her noble mouth. I saw her, after the gloom of night had dissipated, who prophecied this as her own prophet. 'Put away fear, Maitland, our faithful cultivator, for a skiff bearing salvation floats near to your secured body. And because there will soon be an end to your crying, surely you won't rend your breast with wailing and drench your face with ungrounded tears? What pleasure is there in having condemned the sacred gods, or having condemned the Muses or the awe-inspiring crowd for cruelty? Why did the creator not give us medicine and the art of healing, or anything besides crafted poems? If the cure could come for sickness from poetry, Phoebus himself and the Muses would give the poems. Go, why don't you? Get up, lazy. Take yourself to the lively city,


which the father Seine cuts twice with a twin river. Here Duret shines among doctors, as Hesperus, e radiating forth, sparkles between bright stars. By his advice life is breathed into those sick without hope, even as he has often restored those deprived of life. Because joyful Apollo taught him his skills, the medicine which can carry away destruction, and which can put plague to flight. Nay, as many times as Apollo has let a soul go to his joyful fate, so has Duret restored it, and life to those discharged. In Paris, no doubt, he will cast out the fever from you with health-bringing medicine, and will rebuild your strength. Put away the other arts, reject doctors' exams, for he alone is the man to go to to make you well.' Behold, Duret, by the Goddess' command I dare to hope for health, relying on your advice and skill. And so may a flourishing life extend as far as the years of Nestor, f and may such an honour extend to you after your death. Bring forth speech bearing salvation from your fertile breast, to subdue the savage gripes of terror-bringing fever. Or if a more important concern for the  health of great men detains you, and forbids you from being at hand for trifling matters, at least make threats, and pour on harsh words; believe me, the fever will not put up with made-up threats. Then will my life grow green again with enduring strength, and an oaken garland will adorn your head. And although born under a cold star, g I scarcely seem able to repay thanks to your merits. But nevertheless, I shall try to repay the good-will extended towards me, and no less a love will burn in my grateful breast. Neither shall my father h deny gems, nor gifts of golden metal, when he has seen that his son is saved from harm. Or if, perhaps, the rewards of Fortune seem worthless to you, there are other riches which are mine and can be given as a tribute. I will give you a thousand pleasant elegiacs, a thousand of Phalaecus, i and I will sing of your deeds in Pindar's meter. j The fluency of the Latin and Greek tounge which belongs to you, the power of your teaching and character, and how your well-learned tounge holds as many doctors hanging, learning from your mouth, as it does thousands of youths,


and all your virtues Britain, sundered from the world, and other races will know, when I tell them. You alone checked the sorrows of death-bringing fever, which cooks entrails scorched with slow-burning decay. It is, I confess, a labour of Hercules; but eternal fame, greater than the glory of Hercules, will be the reward.



1: Ovid, Metamorphoses IX.55

2: 'tenerum...corpus', Catullus, Carmina LXII.51; 'febris...acuta' is a specific term used in Aulus Cornelius Celsus, De Medicina II.4.6.4-5, V.26.31 (first modern edition at Florence in 1478; as can be seen further below, it is likely that Maitland knew this text).

3: A similar image at Ovid, Metamorphoses III.396-397.

4: Propertius, Elegies II.16.48

5: Similar to Lucretius, De Rerum Natura IV.456

6: Carmina Tibulliana III.10.15; the term is also frequently used by Ovid in this metrical position.

7: 'Pectora' and 'rumpit' used in various configurations in Vergil, but see as example Aeneid IX.432

8: Virgil, Eclogues III.52, IV.329; Ovid, Heroides XIV.57

9: Reminiscent of Caesar, De Bello Gallico I.1.2.3

10: Vergil, Aeneid II.85

11: 'Fatipotens' in original text.

12: Tibullus, Elegies II.3.24

13: 'vires...restituet', Quintilian, Declamationes Maiores VII.13.5

14: Manilius, Astronomica II.109

15: Vergil, Aeneid I.451

16: 'annos...Nestoreos', Statius, Silvae I.4.126-127

17: Rare word, used in Appendix Vergiliana, Ciris 477, but chiefly in Ovid, Statius, Apuleius and Martial.

18: Another term specific to Celsus, De Medicina, though also used extensively in Pliny, Naturalis Historia.

19: Ovid, Fasti I.614, Tristia III.1.36

20: 'gelido...sidere', Lucan, Bellum Civile VI.393

21: 'molles elegi', Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto III.4.85

22: 'pendet iterum narrantis ab ore', Virgil, Aeneid IV.77-79

23: Vergil, Eclogues I.66

24: 'aut gravibus morbis et lenta corpora tabe', Manilius, Astronomica I.880

25: Horace, Odes I.3.36; Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 1455; Silius Italicus, Punica I.369


a: Orléans, which appears to have been where Maitland was residing before setting out on his journey to Rome and contracting the fever.

b: In this context, presumably King Charles IX of France (r.1560-1574).

c: Orléans was one of the first towns to be affected by the military action of the Wars of Religion, being seized by the Prince of Condé and his followers on 2 April 1562 and held until it was relieved by royal forces in October of the same year.

d: See introduction.

e: The evening star.

f: King of Pylos, whose advice is sought in the Iliad by the Achaeans on account of his venerable age and wisdom.

g: ie, in the far north.

h: Richard Maitland of Lethington, poet, courtier, and collector of the Maitland Quarto and Folio. See Michael R.G. Spiller, 'Maitland, Sir Richard, of Lethington 1496-1586)', ODNB. []

i: Greek poet whose name is a by-word for the hendecasyllable.

j: Ancient Greek lyric poet (c. 522-443 BC), famed for his odes.