Querela ad Senatum Parisinum (c.1587)

The exact context of this poetic appeal by King to the Senate of the Sorbonne is unclear, but King was involved in a series of protracted conflicts in the latter half of the 1580s between the Scottish and German contingents in the German Nation at the University of Paris. In April 1587 a complaint was lodged to the recently-elected rector, Dionysius de la Barre of Angers, that the Germans were holding the offices of procurator and entrants (the latter group responsible for electing the rector) for a disproportionate amount of time given the size of the Scottish element within the nation. A decree was passed on 5 May ordering that for the next two years the entrantships would be rotated five times a year. Another controversy arose after Simon Simson, the dean of the nation, and Adam Blackwood tried furtively to replace the seal of the procurator (a two-headed imperial eagle) with the image of the lion rampant at Pentecost 1586, an issue which was scrutinised on 5 June 1587 but was held over for further discussion because it was so 'serious' (gravis) and required a fuller assembly of university staff (for details, including a list of the Scots involved, see C. Egasse Du Boulay, Historia Universitatis Parisiensis...tomus sextus: ab anno 1500 ad annum 1600 (Paris, 1673), pp. 788-90; John Durkan, 'Adam King: a Church Papist', The Innes Review, vol. 52, no. 2 (Autumn 2001), pp. 195-199, at p. 196; another poem on King's experiences in Paris can be found in his MS commentary on Buchanan's De Sphaera, held at Edinburgh University Library (Dk.7.29)). Metre: hexameter.

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Querela ad Senatum Parisinum

1Usque adeo veterum secura licentia legum,
et juris temerata fides, grassatur, honesti
aut recti nullo respectu, Helicone sub ipso
Aonios ut jam fasces, decora alta Dearum
5Francigenum semper virtuti debita, demum
institor imperii, et campo famosus honorum
ambitus arripiat: jaceant neglecta Senatus,
et Latii consulta patris: nullusque merenti
stet favor, ingenuas sic obruit ambitus artes: 1
10et probitas calcatur inops: en jam cui sacri
Socratici indulsere patres velamen honoris
purpureae ne aulaea togae, 2 vetitosque resumi
e merito fasces, alii concederet; astu
Link to an image of this page  [p224] iuratae elusit fidei sacramenta: sibique
15producto imperio, trans legem et tempora clavi
ius omne abrumpit. quem non augusta curulis
sanctio Romanae, sacri non ordinis hujus
iussa, nec unanimi toties Academia voto
quas statuit, leges quicquam movere tumentem
20arreptae ambitione togae; quin jura refigi
clamantum surda voces contemneret aure.

Hoc indignati facinus, quos pronus ab Arcto
circius hinc toto qua abjuncta Britannia mundo, 3
qua Iuverna ferax, minimae qua noctis in aestu
25Orcades, 4 et jam nunc terrarum haud ultima Thule, 5
oceani stagnantur aquis: et Thracius illinc
quos Boreas, alto late qua gurgite Rhenus
fraternis cumulandus aquis se porrigit, Albis
caeruleas qua volvit aquas, qua Vistula Phinnos
30alluit, Euxinas et qua ruit Ister in undas:
sedibus excitos patriis has duxit Athenas,
Musarum studium et primo Parisina sub ortu
Cyrrha, suos non est quos dedignata Quirites,
donavitque tribu, titulisque et honoribus auxit,
35en querimur vestris fucum jam fraude suborta
consultis fieri: rescindi jura togata,
laxarique fidem legum, discedere rectum,
et lati ambitum clavi languescere honorem.

Vos ergo authores legum, rectique sequestres,
40purpurei patres, vos imploramus: et almae
per sacra quae colitis Themidis, Musasque sorores,
reddite nos nobis: redeant ignara nocendi
saecula: jam tandem posita ambitione subacta
fraus cedat priscae fidei: et quae jura dedistis,
45vobis vindicibus maneant immota, precamur.

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A plaintive poem to the Parisian Senate

1Even now an unassailed disregard of the ancient laws still roams the land, and even good faith has been violated with respect for neither honesty or justice, so that beneath Helicon itself a hawker of power snatches the Aonian offices a and the esteemed accolades of the French-born Goddesses which are always set aside for virtue; and infamous corruption also snatches them from the field of honours; and the decrees of the Senate and the Roman father lie neglected, and no acclamation exists for the worthy. Thus has corruption ruined the noble arts; and poor honesty is trampled under foot. Now behold upon whom the venerable fathers have bestowed the robe of Socratic honour, so that no one is permitted to be re-elected in the folds of the purple toga, and re-election in offices have been forbidden.Link to an image of this page  [p224]He affects the oaths with perjured assurance. And having acquired power for himself, he violates every right across the Senate's law and traditions. Neither the venerable decree of the Roman magistracy, nor the commands of this sacred order, nor the laws that the Academy has so often instituted, have moved in any way this man (puffed up, as he is, with the power of his stolen toga) from not despising with a deaf ear the voices of those shouting for the laws to be suspended.

22And we have been moved to fury at this deed, those of us whom, roused out of their native homes, the North-Western wind drove from the North (where Britain, not cut off from the rest of the world, and fertile Ireland, and the Orkneys with its scant darkness in summer, and Thule b not now the last place on earth, are surrounded by the waters of the Ocean), and also those of us whom the Thracian North-East wind (where the Rhine, which must be piled high and wide with its tributary waters, extends itself in its rushing tide, and the Elbe rolls along in clear-blue waters, and the Vistula bathes the Finns, and the Danube falls into the Black Sea) drove to this Athens, and whom the zeal for the Muses and Parisian Delphi under first light rewarded with tribute (though Paris did not forget her own citizens) and enlarged with titles and honours: behold we bewail that a trick has been played on your decrees through a still-present fraud, that civilised laws are stripped, c that faith in the laws are undone, that right is gone, and that the honour of the Senate grows weak after having been subjected to bribery.

39Therefore, you lawmakers, you guardians of right, you senatorial fathers, we impore you, and also you, the nourishing sisters who care for the holy temples of Themis, d return to us, and let an age unfamiliar with wickedness return. Then with bribery finally overcome and put to one side, we pray that fraud may yield to ancient fidelity, and the justice which you gave us may remain immovable with you as its champions.



1: Claudian, Panegyricus Manlio Theodoro Consuli 264

2: Juvenal, Satires X.39

3: Claudian, Panegyricus Manlio Theodoro Consuli 51 is the point of reference here. Claudian's own literary allusion is to Virgil, Eclogues I.40.

4: This and the previous line: Juvenal, Satires II.160-1, though the short night is imparted to the Britons in Juvenal and not just the Northern Isles as here in King.

5: Cf. Virgil, Georgics I.30


a: Aonia was the residence of the Muses on Mount Helicon.

b: Shetland.

c: Literally, 'laws wearing the toga', the symbol of Roman civility and custom.

d: Daughter of Uranus and Gaia, and the personification of justice and order.