IN his Epigrammes in the Oldest Cut, and Newest Fashion (1599), poet and antiquarian John Weever (1576–1632) often employs puns on the names of the subjects of the epigrams, many of them fellow students and professors from his Cambridge days, and contemporary and historical literary figures. Epigram 11 from the fourth week (4:11) concerns the production of a poet with an attached epithet suggesting that the poet is not who he purports to be. In Spurium quendam scriptorem Apelles did so paint faire Venus Queene, That most supposde he had faire Venus seene, But thy bald rimes of Venus sauour so, That I dare sweare thou dost all Venus know. The title translates as ‘To Spurius, a certain writer’. E. A. J. Honigmann, who identified many of the subjects of Weever’s poems based upon Weever’s proclivity for puns and by using Venn’s Alumni Cantabrigienses, speculated that the epithet referred to John or Philip Spurling, pensioners at Trinity College circa 1596.1 However, a closer look at the poem and its antecedents indicates that Weever was cleverly punning across languages. The genealogy of Weever’s poem begins with a rondeau composed by the French poet Clément Marot ca. 1527, ‘A la fille d’ung Painctre d’Orléans belle entre les autres’, in which he praised the daughter of a painter from Orleans. A translation follows. Au temps passé, Apelles, Painctre sage, Feit seullement de Venus le visage Par Fiction, mais (pour plus hault attaindre) Ton Pere a faict de Venus (sans rien faindre) Entierement la face & le corsage. Car il est Painctre & tu es son ouvrage, Mieulx ressemblant Venus de forme & d’aage, Que le Tableau qu’Apelle voulut paindre Au temps passé. Vray est qu’il feit si belle son ymage, Qu’elle eschauffoit en Amour maint courage; Mais celle là que ton Pere a sceu taindre, Y mect le feu, & a dequoy l’estaindre: L’aultre n’eut pas ung si gros advantage Au temps passé. Wise Apelles, the painter, long ago Imagined Venus, limning just her face. Your father, aiming higher, sought to trace Not just her mien, but all that lies below Unfeigned by fantasy. His painter’s verve Made you a living masterpiece to match The youthful Venus, with those shapely curves Apelles greatly strove, but failed, to catch Long ago. So true to beauty the image his art Crafted, it stokes love’s fires in many a heart; But the one your Father has tinted seems To light a fire and furnish, too, the means To quench it, what the Greek could not impart Long ago.2 Marot’s poem is saying that the living daughter of the painter from Orleans (‘made’ by her father in the generative sense) is a more satisfying work of art than a painting of Venus by Apelles, because she not only shares with the image of the goddess the means to inflame passion—beauty, she also possesses the means to gratify it, that is, a real body. Marot’s work proved so popular that it inspired other poets to try their hand at the same theme, which in turn inspired still others—Nicholas Bourbon, 1533; Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (inspired by Bourbon), ca. 1535–6; Gilbert Ducher, 1538; Theodore Beza, 1548; and Timothe Kendall (inspired by Beza), 1577; and more. There is no need to go into all of them; the ones that relate to Weever’s are those of Beza and Kendall, which were his direct inspirations.3 Here is Beza’s poem, followed by a loose translation: Ad Cl. Marotum Tam doctè Venerem diuinus pinxit Apelles Illi vt credatur visa fuisse Venus. At tantam sapiunt Venerem tua scripta, Marote, Vt tibi credatur cognita tota Venus. To Clement Marot The divine Apelles painted Venus so expertly That it may be believed Venus had been seen by him really. But Marot, your verses savour so much of Venus That it may be believed all of Venus is known to you. In the phrase ‘Venus is known to you’, ‘know’ is in the carnal sense. Beza’s is a poem about a poem, saying that Marot’s poem gives the impression that he has seen and possibly had sexual relations with the girl he writes about. Kendall interprets Beza thusly: To Cl. Marotus Apelles learned hand, so fine Did paint fair Venus Queene: That every one susposd that he, Had Venus vewd and seen. But workes of thine Marotus lewd, Of Venus sauour so; That euery one sure deemes, that thou Dost all of Venus know. Kendall makes Beza’s suggestion even more explicit, calling Marot’s poem ‘lewd’ and claiming that ‘euery one sure deemes’ that Marot knew ‘all of Venus’, again speaking in the carnal sense. Weever translated Beza, but knew Kendall’s epigram. Weever’s is more polished and succinct than Kendall’s, yet his diction echoes Kendall’s so closely (‘Venus Queene’, ‘of Venus sauour so’, ‘dost all Venus know’) that it is certain he used it as a model.4 More importantly, Weever changes the title and appears on the surface to direct the poem to some other poet than Marot. In with the accusative of a name can, of course, often mean ‘against’ (In Ciceronem, ‘Against Cicero’). However, as often in Weever’s titles, the adversative sense is absent. In simply means ‘apropos’, ‘on’. Quendam is the accusative singular, masculine of quidam, meaning a certain person, somebody. Spurium is the accusative case of spurius, which adjectively can mean either ‘bastard’, ‘illegitimate’ (child), or false. Here it is capitalized as a name in the title, which translates to ‘On a certain writer Spurious’. The key to Weever’s cryptic appellation lies in observing Weever’s practice for the other epigrams in the volume. Honigmann and Whipple both point out that Weever’s favourite form of wordplay is the pun, especially on names.5 Honigmann divides the title addressees into ‘straight’ names, that is, those that refer to named persons, and ‘joke’ names, those that use puns to refer to possible real persons.6 He gives some examples of ‘joke’ names: Monoceros for T. Horne (In Monocerotem, 1:15), De Ore for J. Oraford (3:10), and Galbus for H. Gale (In Galbum 5:13), and many others.7 This hints that Spurious might point to a pun. The poem is an imitation of Beza’s Ad Cl. Marotum. All of Weever’s epigrams have Latin titles, but this poem already had one. Weever replaced Ad Cl. Marotum with In Spurium quendam scriptorem, so Spurium must gloss Marotum, rendering that name as ‘False’/Spurius. But why would Marotum be ‘false’? Simply because of his surname, ‘Marot’. The French pronunciation is homophonous with Maro, which would have suggested to any lettered Elizabethan ear the cognomen, or surname, of the Roman poet Publius Vergilius Maro, otherwise known as Virgil, to whom almost two decades later Shakespeare was likened in his monument inscription. Marot was false because, though a poet, with his surname being the same as Virgil’s, he was no Virgil, and in that sense, at least, he was spurious. Hence In Spurium quendam scriptorem. Weever also might have had an allusive undercurrent in mind. ‘Spurius’ in Weever’s title is in the accusative case, ‘spurium’. Spurium (neuter noun having the same shape as the masculine adjective in the accusative case), according to Isidore of Seville, meant the female genitalia.8 As a classicist, Weever would have known this, so his title could have had the added shading of Marot’s subject—that part of a woman which can both inflame and quench carnal passion. Footnotes 1 E. A. J. Honigmann, John Weever: A Biography of a Literary Associate of Shakespeare and Jonson, Together with a Photographic Facsimile of Weever’s Epigrammes (1599) (Manchester, 1987), 124. It should be noted that Spurius was a legitimate Latin name. In fact the father of Lucretia, of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece, was Spurius Lucretius Tricipitinus. 2 Grateful thanks to my friend and colleague, Nishidani, for his help with this article by translating the poems in Old French and Latin into superb English poetry. In fact he deserves co-credit for the article, which he modestly declined. 3 The chief source for Weever’s epigrams is Martial, but he also borrows from Ausonius, Catullus, and the Renaissance epigrammists Marullo, Beza, Johannes Secundus, Parkhurst, Buchanan, Stroza, and Sir Thomas More, as well as Kendall. 4 This is not the only poem in Weever's volume that follows Kendall; epigrams 5:3, 5:11, 5:20, and 7:9 were also based upon Kendall’s previously published epigrams. See Hoyt H. Hudson, ‘Edward May’s Borrowings from Timothe Kendall and Others’, The Huntington Library Bulletin, No. 11 (April 1937), 23–58, 50 n.2. 5 Honigmann, John Weever, 13; Thomas King Whipple, ‘Martial and the English Epigram from Sir Thomas Wyatt to Ben Jonson’, University of California Publications in Modern Philology, ii (1925), 279–414, 357. 6 Honigmann, John Weever, 13–14. 7 Honigmann, John Weever, 121, 123, 125. 8 Etymologies, IX.v.24. © The Author(s) (2018). Published by Oxford University Press. 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Notes and Queries – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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