Epicedium in obitum Thomae Rhaedi (1624)
Like Ayton, Thomas Reid (d.1624) built a career for himself at the English court of James VI and I, and the two men were close friends. Reid was born in Kincardineshire and educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and Marischal College, where he graduated around 1600. He went on to hold the office of regent between 1603 and 1607, after a year as master of the grammar school. Reid continued his studies in France, Rostock (where he became a docent in 1608) and Leipzig (where he matriculated in 1613; Ayton recounts this career history in lines 48-70, with what appear to be several additional details).
Reid has several claims to fame. From 1618 he held the post of Latin secretary to the king (discussed at lines 10-12 and 70-99); in 1619, he and Patrick Young published a translation into Latin of James' collected works; and in 1624, just prior to his death, Reid bequeathed his entire collection of books and a gift of 6,000 merks to Marischal College and the town of Aberdeen to establish the first public reference library in Scotland, with a salaried librarian, that was to be open four days a week. Reid was a notable Latin author in his own right and published a series of philosophical disputations and textbooks, chiefly focused on metaphysics, at Rostock between 1609 and 1616 (see Green, Scottish Latin Authors, pp. 224-226, 327 for details). His other works include a funerary sylva for Honora Denny, the wife of Sir James Hay (Memoriae sacrum Castissimis manibus Honoriae, ex Dania et Caecilia, utraque nobilissima ortae familia heroinae, published at London on 16 August 1614 'a few days after she died from a fever caused by childbirth' ('Londini, xvii Kalend. Septemb. MDCXIV. paucis a puerperio diebus febri extinctae sylva funebris'; only known copy: Aberdeen University Library, BK Dor 5; see also d1_AytR_003); a paraphrase of Psalm CIV, first published in William Barclay's Iudicum de certamine G. Eglisemmi cum G. Buchanano ... (London 1620) and posthumously reprinted in Andrew Symson (ed.), Octupla, hoc est, octo paraphrases poeticae Psalmi CIV authoribus totidem Scotis (Edinburgh, 1696); and a short collection of verses in the DPS, which features several short epigrams on Sidney's Arcadia (DPS, vol. 2, pp. 254-265).
Reid's will also shows his closeness to Ayton, who was named as an executor and was gifted a set of silver and gilded plate, Reid's 'newe frenche watche made at Touris by Sarrabat', and a third of a bond of £200 sterling due to Reid from Sir Thomas Big. This funeral elegy was also tied to their friendship - the two men had an agreement that whoever died first should produce an elegy for the other, and this text was originally published at Oxford in 1624 under the title In obitum Thomae Rhaedi, viri undequaque meritissimi, et Serenissimo Regi ab epstolis [sic] Latinis, epicedium (Ayton, ed. Gullans, pp. 70-71; T.P.J. Edlin, 'Reid, Thomas (d. 1624)', ODNB). For an assessment of the following poem, and Ayton's elegy on the physician-poet Raphael Thory (1626; see d1_AytR_004), see Robert M. Cummings, 'The poet as hero: Sir Robert Ayton on Thomas Reid and Raphael Thory', in Kevin J. McGinley and Nicola Royan (eds), The Apparelling of Truth: Literature and Literary Culture in the Reign of James VI (Newcastle, 2010, pp. 207-222). Metre: hexameter.
Epicedium in obitum Thomae Rhaedi
1Scilicet hoc fatum est validae virtutis, et acris
ingenii haec genesis, dum famae extendere metas
ultra busta parat, vitae pomoeria in arctum
contrahit, accersit funus dum funeris expers
5emolitur opus, sit et umbra ut colligat auras.
Sic querimur te Rhaede rapi: dum totus anhelas
mnemosynes clarum fastis inscribere nomen,
et vel privatis juvat impallescere chartis, 1
ut possis prodesse orbi, vel jussa capessis
10regia, et Ausonio donatur epistola cultu
ad reges mittenda alios: sub pondere tanto
ilia paulatim ducis: 2 vis ignea mentis 3
imperia in famulos tam dura exercuit artus,
ut non sufficerent vires conatibus altae
15indolis, et magnae captantis praemia famae.
Sed macie exsangui pallentem lurida tabes
occupat, et lenta carpit praecordia flamma:
consumptam sic saepe facem conspeximus, omnem
dum lucem impendens alienis usibus, alte
20liquitur, et proprias depascitur igne medullas. 4
Si qua tamen spes est victuri nominis ulli,
Si qua Novensilibus vis est concessa Deabus,
cultores sacrare suos, tua posthuma Rhaede
innumerabilibus canescet gloria seclis. 5
25Nempe tibi infanti, qua Scotia vergit ad Arctos,
ipsa fuit Pallas nutrix, dedit ubera, cunas
impulit, adduxit somnos modulamine cantus
Ausonii Grajique: dein cum prima tenellus
tentamenta pedum faceres, per devia Pindi
30tesqua, per Aonios lucos et amoena vireta
fortunatorum nemorum, 6 quae laurus inumbrat,
ipse tibi rexit Phaebus vestigia, toto
Pieridum plaudente choro: tunc firmior annis
faelici auspicio Sophiae per cuncta vagaris
35naturae secreta, vides quaecunque profundis
Democritus putei finxit demersa latebris: 7
mente etiam petis alta poli, velumque reducente
Uranie, humanis impervia visibus audes
rimari, et toto late discurrere caelo. 8
40Subsidiis fretum tantis, talique saburra
libratum juvat a patrio secedere fumo, 9
externasque videre plagas. Sic matre relicta
deserit angusti genitiva cubilia nidi
alarum tyrocinium factura volucris:
45sic tractus alio quaerit sub sole jacentes
mercator, patriae fructus et munera terrae
permutaturus peregrini mercibus orbis.
Gallia visa tibi primum, sed Gallia tantum
visa tibi per transennam (ceu flumina Nili
50delibat canis) 10 attraxit Germania philtro
et precis et pretii, geminaque hac arte morandi
consilium extorsit. Geminas sic inter amicas
eligitur, non quae roseo formosior ore est,
sed quae pervigili studio magis instat, et urget
55fortius affectum, Paphiaeque incendia flammae.
Palladis in castris multa hic cum laude merentem,
et victa de Barbarie sciolisque sophistis
ducentem insignes fama victrice triumphos
Lipsia detinuit longum. Quis credidit illic
60se rite admissum in Phoebi sacraria, Rhaedo
non pandente fores? Quis per dumeta Lycaei
ausus iter tentare, nisi duce et auspice Rhaedo? 11
Nec tibi fama minor qua Balthica littora spectat
Rostochium, paucis istic tibi plurimus annis
65crevit honos, nullo non admirante profundae
doctrinae aggestos tot in uno pectore acervos,
faelicemque viam fandi, quocunque liberet
ore loqui, quocunque habitu producere partus
mentis, et exanimes scriptis animare papyros.
70Aequa tamen tantae virtuti praemia nondum
contigerant, non scena satis contermina luci.
Hanc tibi debebat florentibus inclyta rebus
Anglia, florenti fueras flos debitus aulae,
et decuit tali talem clarere theatro.
75Namque Minervaei quamvis nutritus in umbra,
non tamen in curis fueras civilibus hospes.
Sed te dexteritas genii versatilis aptum
finxerat ex aequo studiis, aulaeve, scholaeve.
Unde capessenti graviorum pondera rerum,
80tradenti et Latiis mandata Augusta tabellis,
incorrupta fides, solers industria, coctum
iudicium, et priscae certans facundia Romae
hic magnum peperere decus, quodque omnia vincit
elogia, hic magno Regi potuisse placere
85contigit, et talem meritis adsciscere testem,
quo nihil in terris sapientius adspicit aether.
Ille tuum eloquium tanto est dignatus honore,
ut tibi, non alii, propriae monumenta lucernae
crediderit vertenda illo sermone, per orbem
90quo peregrinari possent, et regibus esse
pro speculo, non qua sceptris stat meta Britannis,
sed quacunque patent Latiae commerica linguae. 12
Iamque hic ad summum voti venisse cacumen
Rhaede videbaris, nihil amplius addere laudi
95fama tuae poterat, nihil illi aut livor avarus
detrahere, aut Nemesis rebus non aequa secundis:
verum o perfidiam fati! Quod demere laudi
haud potuit, luci et vitalibus abstulit auris.
Et tu Rhaede jaces opera inter mance, minasque
100scriptorum ingentes, 13 queis si suprema fuisset
cum lima porrecta manus, non ulla fuisset
Calliopes toto Sophiaeve illustrior albo,
quam quae Rhaedeum praeferret pagina nomen.
Nunc ceu rapta tuis superant tantummodo bustis
105paucula furtivas schediasmata fusa per horas.
Qualiacumque tamen sunt haec, haec ipsa revincent
esse Caledoniis etiamnum lumen alumnis,
et Genium, quo vel Scoti Subtilis acumen,
vel poterunt dulces Buchanani aequare Camoenas.
110Iamque vale mi Rhaede, (mei ah pars maxima quondam,
nunc caeli pars magna) tuo mihi funere tantum
cordolium inflixit fati importuna tyrannis,
cogat ut inceptas lachrymis abrumpere laudes.
Heu quoties dixi, descendam laetus ad umbras
115Elysias, moriarque libens, modo carmina nostro
inscribat tumulo Rhaedus, nunc ordine verso
naturae votique mei, (proh fata) sub umbras
is prior, et nobis demandas pensa supremi
officii, quae dum multis firmatus ab annis
120nodus amicitiae satagit persolvere, charis
manibus obstrepimus, non justaque justa ferentes
indocta heu doctam pietate lacessimus umbram.
Tu tamen affectu placido libamina nostri
affectus capias, poterit meruisse videri,
125qui propriae famae impensis tua nomina famae
126tradere, et ad seros voluit transferre nepotes.
A lament on the death of Thomas Reid
1Of course this is enduring virtue's fate, and this is the birth of an acute genius: a as it prepares to extend the boundaries of its fame beyond the funeral pyres, it contracts the limits of its life into a narrow passage; then it summons the grave, and freed from the grave, it accomplishes its task; and its cloudy shadow happens to gather its life-giving air.
6I now lament, Reid, that you are thus snatched away: while you tried with all your might to write the famous name of Mnemosyne in the fasti, b whether you were happy to grow pale in reclusive studies, so you could be of benefit to the world, or whether you followed royal orders, and it was given to you to send a letter in a polished Italian fashion c to other kings. Under such a burden, you increasingly struggled for breath. The fiery power of your mind, using only servile limbs, completed such onerous commands that the powers of the highest genius would not satisfy their demands, even as it chased the rewards of a great reputation. Yet a lurid disease took hold of your paling body with a deathly thinness, and with a slow flame devoured you from the inside. We saw that your torch was often thus consumed; while expending all its light in dangerous pursuits, it remained bright, and fed upon its own marrow with its fire.
21However, if ever there is the promise of any survival for one's name, if ever power was given to New Goddesses to consecrate their devotees, d your posthumous glory, Reid, will grow old through countless ages.
25Of course, Athena herself was your nurse when you were young, in that part of Scotland that touches the north. She gave you her breast, she rocked your cradle, she lulled you to sleep with the pleasing rhythmns of Italian and Greek song. Then, while you were tentatively making your first steps through the trackless wilds of Pindar, through the Aonian regions and the pleasant meadows of the blessed groves, which the laurel tree shades, Phoebus himself directed your steps, with the entire troop of the Muses cheering you on. e Then, more surely than your years would suggest, with Wisdom's happy blessing, you explored all of Nature's secrets, and saw each thing that Democritus said was submerged in the dark depths of a well. f You also sought out the heights of the heavens with your mind, and as Urania uncovered the veil, g [p52]you dared to examine those things impervious to human eyes, and to wander far and wide across the entire heavens.
40Aided by such great forces, and steadied by such a support, you wanted to leave your native mist, and to look upon other regions. h In this way a bird, with its mother left behind, abandons the native crib of its little nest, about to make the first attempt with its wings. So too a trader seeks out regions lying under a foreign sun, intending to trade his native produce and the bounty of his land for the rewards of an alien world.
48Firstly you saw Gaul, but Gaul was seen only in passing (like a dog drinking from the River Nile). i For Germany summoned you with the intoxicating potion of both entreaty and job, and through these twin means it changed your plan to tarry. So one is chosen from between these two friends; not the one which is the more beatiful in rosy mouth, but the one which greater excels in constant study, and very vigorously bears down upon base desire and the fires of Venus' flame.
56Here in Leipzig, in the camp of Pallas Athena, you stayed for a long time, as you presided in remarkable triumphs over defeated Stupidity, and the pretentious sophists. Who believed that they would be admitted by right to the inner sanctum of Phoebus, without Reid opening the doors? Who dared to try to pass through the thickets of the Lyceum, j unless Reid was guide and director?
63Nor did you have a lesser reputation in Rostock, which faces the Baltic coast: in only a few years there your very great glory increased; as many wondered at so great the concentration of profound learning collected in one mind, and the happy style of speaking, in whatever language you were happy to speak, in whatever fashion you were happy to bring forth the fruits of your mind, and to bring to life the inanimate page with your words.
70 However, rewards fitting to such a great virtue had not yet come to you; your character was not yet close enough to center stage. England, famous for its flourishing state, held this for you; you were the flower destined for its flourishing court, and it suited such a flower to shine in such a theatre.
75 For although nourished in Minerva's shade, you had nevertheless been a stranger to civil affairs. [p53]But the felicity of your flexible genius had rendered you equally capable in the pursuits of both court and school. Where came the incorruptible fidelity, the wise industry, the deliberated judgment, and the eloquence matching ancient Rome's that brought forth the mighty grace of this man who manages the burdens of very great affairs, and conveys imperial pronouncements on Latin documents? k And this mighty grace mastered every brief, and it fell to him to be able to please a great king, and to have in his corner such a great witness to his talents: for the heavens saw nothing more wise than him on earth. Through your eloquence, he deemed you worthy of such an honour, and consequently entrusted you with the records of his own deeds to shape them with your words, so that through your words his deeds would be able to find an audience across the globe, and to aid kings as an example - not just where the boundaries of British power lies, but also wherever discourse in the Latin tongue takes place.
93Here, then, you appeared to reach the zenith of your wishes; fame had not been able to increase your glory any more, neither had greedy envy been able to lower your repute, nor Nemesis who is unfriendly in happier times. O the treachery of fate! Since it could not detract from your reputation, it deprived you of both light and vital air.
99Now you lie amid works half-finished, and amid great imposing writings. l If only your finishing hand had been applied to these works, no page of poetry and wisdom would have been more illustrious than that which bore the name of Reid!
104Now, only a very few unpolished works that you produced in the occasional stolen hour survive, as if they were rescued from your burning funeral pyre. However, whatever there are, they themselves will prove to be a light for Caledonia's pupils; and prove your genius, which could equal both the cleverness of subtle Scotus, and the delightful poems of Buchanan. m
110So now farewell, my dear Reid (ah, you who were once the greatest part of me, are now the greatest part of heaven), through your death the unwelcome tyrant of fate has inflicted such a grief-laden blow in my heart that it has forced me to break off my praise in tears.
114Alas how often I have said that, should I happily descend into the Elysian shades, [p54]and in readiness die, Reid would then write a poem upon my tomb. Now, with nature's and my own desired order reversed, you go first down into the shades (for shame, fate!), and you entrust to me the task of the final rites, n which, while my bond of friendship, cemented over many years, is anxious to discharge, I nevertheless lament over your dear hands, and not justly executing the just rites, I assail with an unlearned piety your learned (oh woe) shade.
123However, may you receive the offerings of my devotion upon your peaceful body; for he will be able to appear worthy, who wished to hand down your name to posterity at the expense of his own, and to convey it into future generations.
1: Persius, Satires V.62
2: Cf. Horace, Epistles I.1.9.
3: Cf. Lucretius, De Rerum Natura I.72-3
4: This and the previous three lines: Virgil, Aeneid IV.66-7
5: Ovid, Metamorphoses IX.422
6: Virgil, Aeneid VI.638-9
7: Cf, Lactantius, Institutiones Divinae III.28
8: Ayton presents Reid as a new Pythagoras: Ovid, Metamorphoses XV.64
9: Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses XV.35
10: Proverbial: Aesop, Fabulae XXV; and Pliny, Natural History VIII.149
11: Cf. Cicero, Academica II.35; and Virgil, Georgics I.15-16
12: Ayton's appointment as Latin Secretary to James VI and I: Lucan, Bellum Civile VII.348
13: Virgil, Aeneid IV.88-9
a: In the sense of the divinely appointed spirit present in every being.
b: Mnemosyne: muse of history. Fasti: the Roman calendar of dies fasti, dies comitiales, and dies nefasti, which indicated when legal processes and business could and could not take place. However, the term also covers fasti consulares (lists of consuls who gave their name to that year in the calendar), fasti triumphales (lists of triumphs), and fasti sacerdotales (lists of priests). The reference is possibly thinking of the fasti Capitolini, the famous list of consuls and triumphs which were inscribed on the forum Romanum in 18/17BC, and whose records have been proven largely accurate from c.300BC onwards.
c: A reference to Ayton's work translating King James' works into Latin for European-wide consumption.
d: 'Deae Novensilae' were goddesses imported from abroad and not part of the domestic pantheon (ie, the Egyptian cult of Isis into Rome). The implication appears to be that Reid worships new deities (philosophy and Latin literature perhaps?), who in turn would reward him with elevation if they could, but the meaning is far from clear.
e: ie, Reid received an education in Greek and Latin poetry.
f: Drawing on the proverb cited in Lactantius (see Latin text for reference) that religious and philosophical truth lies sunk in a well so deep that it has no bottom.
g: Muse of astronomy, and presumably the veil hiding arcane knowledge. Ayton is referencing a passage in Ovid's Metamorphoses that discusses the philosophy of Pythagoras at length (see Latin text for refrence), and this could simply be a reference to Reid's extended study of metaphysics. However, it also perhaps suggests that Reid studied astronomy at some point.
h: For Reid's career beyond the British Isles, see introduction.
i: Proverb found in Aesop and Pliny (see Latin text for references); dogs living along the Nile would drink water from it very quickly and spend as little time as possible on its bank, to avoid being seized by any crocodiles lurking in the water.
j: School in ancient Athens where Aristotle taught; the preceding passage suggests that Reid was also a regent during his time at Leipzig, though standard accounts of his life note only that he matriculated there.
k: See note b, and introduction.
l: For Reid's literary output, see introduction.
m: The philosopher and theologian Duns Scotus (c.1265-1308); the poet and author George Buchanan (1506-1582).
n: The pact that both men made, where the survivor would write an elegy for the first to die. See Gullans, Ayton, p. 71.