England’s Stilicho: Claudian’s Political Poetry in Early Modern England

Two recent articles on Payne Fisher, the Latin poet laureate of the Cromwellian Protectorate, have alluded in passing to the range and nuance of Fisher’s engagement with previous Latin poetry.Footnote 1 Fisher’s verse, which is markedly unVirgilian in style, draws upon a very wide range of classical and late-antique models, including Lucan, Statius, Silius Italicus, Valerius Flaccus and Prudentius, as well as earlier Neo-Latin poets such as George Buchanan and Mantuan (Baptista Spagnuoli), and even works (by John Milton, Caspar Barlaeus and Charles I) published within the previous decade.Footnote 2 By far the most frequent source, however, and the one which appears to have suggested a distinctive form as well as many specific quotations, is the political poetry of Claudian.

This relationship is significant, firstly, because its political force and point suggests a major role for an author who has been largely excluded from studies of classical reception in the period, but whose cultural importance is borne out, as this article aims to demonstrate, by a full examination of extant sources; secondly, because Fisher’s political verse of the late 1640s and early 1650s, in which he maps out his artistic relationship with Claudian and increasingly refines it to suggest a specific comparison between Cromwell and Stilicho, represents an innovative redirection of the panegyric tradition. Thirdly, Fisher’s work in Latin very shortly precedes the emergence in English of a distinctively Claudianic subgenre of poems of formal political panegyric-epic, and of medium to long length, as exemplified by Andrew Marvell’s poem The First Anniversary of the Government under O. C. (1655) and, a decade later, John Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis (1666).Footnote 3 Fisher’s work, though now almost completely forgotten, appears to have been a key conduit for the formal appropriation in English of Claudianic poetry.

There has been almost no dedicated scholarship on the reception of Claudian in early modern England.Footnote 4 Therefore in order to explicate both the extent and the political power of Fisher’s engagement with Claudian, and its possible influence, this article begins with a survey of the place of Claudian (especially, but not only, his political verse) in the literary culture of the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, drawing on both print and manuscript sources. The second half of the article is dedicated to the case of Fisher himself, with a particular emphasis on his ground-breaking works of the early 1650s and commenting briefly on the relationship between his work in Latin and the emergence of the form in English from the mid-1650s onwards.

Claudian in English Literary Culture, 1500-1650

Although almost completely absent from the modern classical syllabus, Claudian was a classic of the medieval classroom, both because of the extensive presence of extracts of his work in influential florilegia and also because the De raptu Proserpinae was for several centuries a standard text in the so-called Liber Catonis, a popular school reader.Footnote 5De raptu Proserpinae was still commonly read at school in the sixteenth century, and its influence is perceptible in many works of epic and short epic, such as Jacopo Sannazaro’s De partu Virginis. A passage of Claudian’s De consulatu Stiliconis, dating from 1445, is one of only two surviving translations of classical verse into English dating from before 1500.Footnote 6

Where it has been discussed, the reception history of Claudian has traditionally been divided between the translation and imitation of the non-political verse (primarily De raptu Proserpinae and the shorter poems, including ‘The Phoenix’ [Carmina minora 27] and ‘The Old Man of Verona’ [Carmina minora 20]), on the one hand, and the major political works, both panegyric and satiric, on the other.Footnote 7 Both remained demonstrably important in early modern England. In the final pages of his magisterial monograph on Claudian, Cameron discusses in some detail the evidence for the medieval readership of Claudian, and stresses the particular importance in England of the Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti, especially Theodosius’s speech on kingship (214-352); but his examples are drawn largely from texts dating from the twelfth to fifteenth centuries, and his brief discussion of the seventeenth century is focused mainly on prose.Footnote 8

Ben Jonson strikingly uses a paraphrase of the same lines from Claudian (De consulatu Stiliconis III.113-15) both in the text for his celebratory pageant for the entry of James I to London (Arches of Triumph, 1604) and in his almost exactly contemporaneous exploration, in the 1603 play Sejanus, of the sinister but still in some sense divinely endorsed power of the wicked emperor Tiberius.Footnote 9 Jonson’s own working copy of Claudian has survived, and the pattern of underlinings accord quite closely with the points made by Cameron: the single most marked-up text is Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti.. But the volume as a whole is heavily marked: all the political poems as well as the De raptu Proserpinae have many underlinings.Footnote 10

Jonson’s interest is far from unique. Surviving manuscripts and archives offer plentiful evidence for the very widespread reading of Claudian in early modern England, dominated not by the shorter Carmina minora, but by the political poetry. Many commonplace books and classical anthologies include substantial selections from Claudian. In the large collection of classical Latin verse extracts prepared by the future Charles I as a gift for his father, for instance, Claudian is the fourth most cited author (after Ovid, Seneca and Horace), with more quotations (44) than Virgil (41) or any other epic poet. Quotations from Claudian are particularly prominent under headings that might be of particular relevance to a future king, including ‘De regno’ (two extracts from Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti), ‘De principibus’ (again two from Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti), ‘De praelatione’ (four from Claudian, including a further two from Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti), ‘De potentia’ (two, one from Panegyricus de tertio consulatu Honorii Augusti and one from De sepulcro speciosae, a poem no longer attributed to Claudian) and ‘De virtute’ (two from the beginning of the Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli, a passage discussed further below, and one from Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti).Footnote 11 Claudian’s invective is also represented in this collection, with extracts from In Rufinum under, among others, ‘De peccato’, ‘De proditione’ and ‘De ruina’.

Although Prince Charles’s collection does include some lines from Claudian’s shorter poems (one quotation from De raptu Proserpinae. and one from ‘de sene Veronensi’ [Carmina minora 20] for instance), the great majority of citations are from the works of political panegyric (Panegyricus de tertio consulatu Honorii Augusti; Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti; De consulatu Stiliconis; Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli) and invective (In Rufinum). By far the largest number of citations from a single work (16) are from Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti, which accords both with Cameron’s observations (based mostly on an earlier period) on the importance of this text in English culture and also with more general patterns of the citation of Claudian in manuscript material of this period (on which see further below). Moreover, this collection demonstrates that a belief in Claudian’s Christianity, though now contested by scholars (only one explicitly Christian poem is included in modern editions), was central to his reception in early modernity: in this anthology of strictly classical extracts, the whole of Miracula Christi is the only item under the heading ‘De Christo’ (fol. 19v) and a quotation from In Rufinum is the first entry under ‘De Deo’.Footnote 12

Given Charles’s personal enthusiasm for Claudian, he must have been particularly flattered by a clever poem included in MS London, British Library Royal 12 A LVII, a volume of 31 Latin poems presented to Charles by boys at Westminster School on the occasion of his coronation in 1626:

Claudiani umbra querula} Hos ego versiculos feci} De Laud: Stil: 3.} de 6o cons. Hon:

Agnosco (vates maxime) agnosco tuos

Aegyptiace, verosque versiculos simul

Rerum potito, Musa, Stiliconi, tua

Honorioque saepè blandita est nimis:

Stiliconis ac Honorii nomen, stylo

Poeta rade, pone Stewardum, et sape,

Historia vera sic erit, et encomium.Footnote 13

[I know your work well (great poet) I know well,

Egyptian, the truth of your poems;

But when Stilico was in power, your Muse

Too often flattered him excessively, as she did Honorius:

With your pen, poet, scratch out the names of Stilicho and of Honorius,

Put instead ‘Stewart’, and be wise:

That way you’ll have a true history, and a real encomium.]

The epigram suggests that the last of the poems in praise of Stilicho and Honorius (Book III of De consulatu Stiliconis and Panegyricus de sexto consulatu Honorii Augusti) were a step too far and that the house of Stuart would be more appropriate recipient of such verse.Footnote 14 Many other manuscripts attest to familiarity with Claudian, and an assumption of familiarity in those addressed. By and large, the pattern of references accords with that noted above: Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti, most often Theodosius’s speech to Honorius on true kingship (214-352), is the single most cited text, especially (for obvious reasons) in a royal context. An early example is MS Cambridge, University Library Mm.IV.39, which preserves various poems and speeches composed for the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Cambridge in 1564: the speech on fol. 32v cites Claudian Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti. Similar examples can be found from manuscripts dating from throughout the seventeenth century.Footnote 15 In general, we find more references to the political poetry (both panegyric and invective) than to the non-political verse, though ‘De sene Veronensi’ (Carmina Minora 20) is not the only one of Claudian’s shorter poems that are popular, especially in the latter part of the seventeenth century.Footnote 16

The standing in which Claudian was held as a Latin stylist is demonstrated by contemporary criticism; in a letter dated 1 February 1640, the Dutch Latin poet and critic Caspar Barlaeus writes ‘Virgilium, Lucanum, Claudianum imitandos censeam in Epico carmine’ (fol. 11v); the letter goes on to include two quotations from Claudian, both (typically enough) from the kingship speech in Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti (lines 269 and 294).Footnote 17 Though Barlaeus cites Virgil and Lucan alongside Claudian, his own hexameter panegyric verse (discussed further below) is strongly indebted to Claudian. Claudian’s invective verse was also being critically appraised: a mid-seventeenth manuscript collection of letters from famous authors includes a letter from Nicolaas Heinsius to Alberto Robieno on Claudian’s In Eutropium, dated 1645.Footnote 18

Given this wealth of evidence that Claudian’s political verse was very widely read, quoted and discussed, why do we find this so little reflected in English literature of the period and in the scholarly guides to that literature? There is I believe a clear answer to this: that until the 1650s, and perhaps specifically until Marvell’s First Anniversary, Claudianic panegyric-epic was an almost exclusively Latin genre in England as elsewhere in Europe.Footnote 19 Not only that, but many of the Latin poems composed in this tradition, especially in the early period, were prepared and presented in manuscript rather than print. These two features of the genre – often in manuscript, and almost exclusively written in Latin – has meant that a literary form which was, in practice, standard, has become almost invisible to critics and historians. Recent scholarly consensus, for instance, has been that Marvell’s First Anniversary does not belong to a recognizable genre.Footnote 20

In practice, there are a large number of surviving examples of British Latin short panegyric-epic, dating mostly from the latter sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries, and found in both manuscript and print sources.Footnote 21 Poems of this kind are generally addressed either to the monarch themselves, or to a prominent member of the royal family.Footnote 22 As is often the case in Neo-Latin genres, these poems typically have more in common with other Latin examples of the form from elsewhere in Europe than they do with contemporary poetry in English.Footnote 23 Indeed, poets often addressed Latin panegyric to foreign monarchs: examples on English themes include the collection Triumphalia de victoriis Elizabethae regina Angliae (1588), commemorating the Armada, and several works by Dutch authors, such as Adolph van Dans, Eliza (1619?)), Caspar Barlaeus, Britannia Triumphans (1626) and Hugo Grotius, Inauguratio Regis Britanniarum (on James I), which were certainly read in England.Footnote 24

Caspar Barlaeus, from 1631 the Professor of Philosophy and Rhetoric at the Amsterdam Athenaeum, was a leading intellectual of the age and his Britannia Triumphans, first published in 1626 but frequently reprinted, is a particularly clear example of self-conscious Claudianic style. A pointed opening passage, in which the poet asks for forbearance for his work on the basis of literary precedent, incorporates references to most of Claudian’s extant political panegyric:

Non abnuit amnes

Calliope, cum docta canunt commenta Serenam,

Et Pelusiacae turgent Stilicone Camoenae,

Et Latii cantatur apex, aut templa futuro

Assurgunt Tiberina Duci: seu Mallius annum

Consul init, Geticisque insignis Honorius armis

Grandiloquo praecone tumet; vel laetior aether

Adspicit Arcadium, vel magni fata Probini,

Et decantati trabeas miratur Olybri.


[Calliope does not reject the rivers

When learned rhetoric sings of Serena,

And the Pelusiacan [i.e. Egyptian] Muses are inspired by Stilico,

And the peak of Latium is the subject of song, or the temples of the Tiber

Rise for a future Lord: if Mallius begins the year

As consul, or Honorius, honoured by the capture of Getic weapons,

Is vaunted by a boastful herald; or heaven looks gladly

Upon Arcadius, or the fate of great Probinus,

And wonders at the consulate of Olybrius, the subject of lengthy song.]Footnote 25

Not all claims to be heir to the tradition of Claudian are as overt. Alabaster and Fisher share an allegorical opening motif of the poet as an intrepid sailor, potentially overwhelmed by the scale of his subject (Alabaster, Elisaeis, pp. 14-18; Fisher, Marston Moor, pp. 1-3 and Irenodia gratulatoria sig. B3r). Though the Latin style of these poets, and therefore of the two passages, is markedly different, they are both probably recalling the enigmatic allegorical preface to De raptu Proserpinae, which has traditionally been taken to refer to the poet himself, launching upon a new poetic project.Footnote 26

Similarly, the conventional scene, derived principally from In Rufinum I, in which the forces of darkness – led in Claudian by Allecto – gather and decide upon a wicked scheme, sometimes after extensive discussion (the ‘Council in Hell’), has been associated in existing scholarship specifically with English ‘Gunpowder Plot’ poems (as well as Milton’s Paradise Lost), though it is more properly a standard feature of the characterization of the enemy in Latin poems in the Claudianic tradition.Footnote 27 English examples of this motif dating, for clarity, from before 1605, include Alabaster’s Elisaeis (c. 1591), lines 132-52 and George Carleton’s Ad serenissimam Elizabetham Angliae Franciae et Hiberniae Reginam. Carmen panegyricum (1592).Footnote 28 As has been pointed out, it is also a feature of several influential Latin poems by earlier Italian poets, including Jacopo Sannazaro (De partu Virginis) and Marco Girolamo Vida (Christias).Footnote 29 Later examples include, as well as the many Latin Gunpowder Plot poems, the fifth book of Venceslaus Clemens, Gustavis (Leiden, 1632) and Fisher’s Marston Moor (1650, pp. 3-7), discussed further below.Footnote 30

In the main existing critical discussion of Clemens’s Gustavis, Hans Helander relates the poem only very generally to Claudian.Footnote 31 The scene in the Gustavis where Relligio, accompanied by Piety and Faith, appear in a bedraggled and desperate state to plead with Jupiter for the salvation of Germany is, however, a version of the memorable scene in De bello Gildonico in which personified Rome, and then Africa, plead (successfully) with the Olympian gods for mercy.

The specifically royal associations of Claudianic panegyric in early modern culture were sharpened for writers in the context of the English civil war: this is clear from Henry Birkhead’s choice of a pointed epigraph from Claudian for his anonymously published Poematia of 1645.Footnote 32 The epigraph, ‘Carmen amat, quisquis, carmina digna gerit’ (‘whoever achieves deeds worthy of a poem, loves poetry’) is a quotation from the preface to De consulatu Stiliconis III (line 6). The verse collection is strongly royalist, with an opening poem addressed to James, Duke of York, epigrams on themes such as ‘De proditoribus’ (‘On Traitors’) and with a final dithyrambic ode commemorating Archbishop Laud. In this context, praise of Stilicho is meant to suggest the glory and honour of fighting on behalf of the king. Indeed, William Alabaster had used the same line as the epigraph to the first (and, it turned out, only) book of his poem in praise of Elizabeth I, the Elisaeis.Footnote 33

Fisher and Claudian

Claudian and the Demonization of Cromwell

This is the cultural setting in which Fisher began to write Latin verse in imitation of Claudian in the mid-late 1640s: a milieu in which the specifically Claudianic Latin verse genres of panegyric, political invective and formal epithalamia were well established and frequently composed by authors both in England and elsewhere in Europe. It was a form with strong traditional associations with royalty, though the Czech poet John Sictor’s experiments with verse in this form for the Mayor of London, combined of course with the precedents offered by Claudian himself, provided at least a hint of broader possibilities which became particularly important in the context of the Commonwealth.Footnote 34

The earliest examples of Fisher’s experiments with Claudianic hexameter verse are found in two copies of (almost) the same verse collection, both manuscript presentation volumes now in the British Library dating from 1647/8.Footnote 35 These collections, which contain both Latin and English verse in a variety of forms, and were no doubt designed to show off the range of his poetic skills, both include two items indebted to Claudian in particular: an hexameter poem on the Gunpowder Plot (On the Gunpowder-Treason) and the first version of the poem (here entitled De obsidione Praelioque Eborocensi vulgo Marstonmoore [sic] appellato, ‘On the Siege and Battle at York, called in the Common Language Marstonmoore’), which would later be greatly expanded as Marston Moor.Footnote 36 There is an English version of the Siege of York poem (An Abstract of Yorke: Seige and Fight, interestingly in blank verse), though not of the Gunpowder Plot poem. As discussed above, the Gunpowder Plot poem is an intrinsically Claudianic genre, and this is especially true of Fisher’s fragment, which is almost entirely taken up the evocation of the underworld. More original is his use of Claudian also in De obsidione: this is a straightforwardly royalist poem, which turns to Claudian in order to demonize Cromwell.

When Cromwell first appears in De obsidione, he is linked allusively not with the traditions of straightforward panegyric, but with Claudian’s In Rufinum:

Vix iam somniferis elata cubilibus alto

Impulerat coelo gelidas Aurora tenebras,

Rorantes excussa comas; rutilantibus armis

Agmina quam Adversis campo fulsere Maniplis.

Stat cuneis defixa Acies; et fulgida ferro                          5

Ingeminat splendore solum, coelumque corusco

Primus honoratis Ductor Mancest’re cateruis

Anteuolas aciem: validoque hortamine pulsans

Pectora moliris primae fundamina pugnae.

Tum formidando Coromell cui fulgur in ore                   10

Et Bellum Ciuile sedet sub fronte minaci

Proximus ingreditur; Thorace et Casside tectus:

Ferrea Compago laterum; totosque per artus

Ferrea clauigeris surgebat lamina nodis.

Nec minus horribiles ferro micuere cohortes:                   15

Dissiluisse nouo penitus Telluris hiatu

Cyclopum Portenta putes; simulachra mouere

Credideres, viuoque viros spirare Metallo.

Hinc ferro stipata acies, longo ordine Belli

Constitit, Aduersis et se ostentauerat armis.Footnote 37                   20

[Scarcely had Aurora, just now arisen from her chambers of sleep, driven the cold shades from the height of the heaven, and shaken out her dewy locks, than the ranks began to shine on the plain, their weaponry glowing red, visible to the enemy companies.

The battle-rank stands arranged in wedge-formations; the shine from the armour makes the ground and the heaven seem double with the glistening splendour of iron.

You, Earl of Manchester, with your honoured companies, were the first to fly before the battle line: and stirring their hearts with powerful encouragement, you set in motion the first beginning of the battle. Then Cromwell, the lightning bolt on his dreadful face, and Civil War sitting on his menacing forehead, came next; covered by a breast-plate and a helmet; his sides covered in a network of iron; and iron plates joined by bolts were rising over all his limbs. No less did the cohorts flash with iron, a horrible sight: you would think that strange horrors of the Cyclopes had leapt forth from a sudden gaping of the Earth; you would believe that images were moving, and that men were breathing in living metal. So in dense ranks of iron did the battle-line draw up, in the long ranks of war, and displayed itself to the opposing army.]

There is a complex series of allusions at work in this passage: the italicized Bellum Ciuile resting upon Cromwell’s forehead suggests Lucan, but much of the rest is structured by borrowings from Statius’s Thebaid. Lines 1-3 are indebted to Thebaid II.134-6; line 16 is borrowed in its entirety from Thebaid VIII.19, the scene in which Amphiaraus arrives in the underworld; the phrase ‘totosque per artus’ may recall the description of Tydeus at Thebaid I.416 (‘totosque infusa per artus / Major in exiguo regnabat corpore virtus’). Cromwell’s notorious ‘ironsides’ armour – a soubriquet supposedly coined by Prince Rupert in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Marston Moor – is sketched in a vivid pair of lines (13-14) which combine an allusion to Statius’s description of the House of Mars (Thebaid VII.43) with a passage in Claudian (In Rufinum 357-62) on the awe inspired by troops in full armour:

hic steriles delubra notat Mavortia silvas

horrescit tuens, ubi mille Furoribus illi

cingitur averso domus immansueta sub Haemo.

ferrea compago laterum, ferro apta teruntur

limina, ferratis incumbunt tecta columnis

(Statius, Thebaid VII.40-4)

[Here he marks barren woods, Mars’s shrine, and shudders as he looks. There under distant Haemus is the god’s ungentle house, girt with a thousand Rages. The sides are of iron structure, the trodden thresholds are fitted with iron, the roof rests on iron-bound pillars.]Footnote 38

conjuncta per artem

Flexilis inductis animatur lamina membris,

Horribilis visu. Credas simulacra moveri

Ferrea, cognatoque viros spirare metallo.

Par vestitus equis. Ferrata fronte minantur,

Ferratosque levant securi vulneris armos

(Claudian, In Rufinum II.357-362)

[ … the limbs within give life to the armour’s pliant scales so artfully conjoined, and strike terror into the beholder. ’Tis as though iron statues moved and men lived cast from that same metal. The horses are armed in the same way; their heads are encased in threatening iron, their forequarters move beneath steel plates protecting them from wounds.]Footnote 39

The vignette of Cromwell’s appearance, which verges on allegory, carries ominous allusive associations: he is a version of the House of Mars (that is, the physical manifestation of personified War, in Thebaid VII.40-4, cited above) and the scene reminds the poet of Amphiaraus in the underworld (Thebaid VIII.19), as well as a moment of particular menace in Claudian. The description of the beauty of the imperial army drawn up outside Constantinople in In Rufinum 2 immediately precedes the moment when Rufinus is torn apart by those same soldiers. Even in this plainly royalist poem, Fisher does not paint Cromwell straightforwardly as Rufinus – the network of allusions suggests rather Cromwell’s great, and somewhat sinister, military power. The allusive atmosphere conveys, above all, the overwhelming sensory experience of a great war, by turns beautiful and horrific.

From Manuscript into Print: Marston Moor (1650)

The printed version of Marston Moor which appeared in 1650, published by Benlowes, was massively expanded, now extending to 1,367 lines in five metra (short ‘books’).Footnote 40 Though Fisher removed almost nothing (apart from the description of Cromwell discussed above) from his first attempts, and effectively preserved a core of royalist lament which runs through the poem, his depiction of the Parliamentarians’ victory was such a success that it secured Fisher a paid career as the official poet of the Council of State and then of the Protectorate for the rest of the 1650s.

Marston Moor makes extensive allusive use of Claudian, whose works are drawn upon more than any other poet.Footnote 41 Fisher began by adding an extended set-piece of the ‘Council in Hell’ (pp. 4-7) an element which (as noted above) had by this point become a standard feature of patriotic panegyric-epic, not an element confined to the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ poems with which it has mostly been associated by recent critics.Footnote 42 Fisher’s lavish version of the scene is particularly dependent upon Claudian, from which it borrows both structural elements and specific lines. Mars summons personifications of evil (p. 4) just as Allecto does in Claudian (In Rufinum I.28-44); Mars is compared to Jupiter unleashing the winds (p. 7), as Rufinus is compared to Aeolus (In Rufinum II.22-6).Footnote 43 The opening of the scene is a particularly vivid example of Fisher’s allusive technique and the extent of the borrowing from Claudian:

His ubi Conventis Stipata est Curia Monstris,

Extemplo ominuit rapido Diademate Mavors

Imbutam quatiens Titanum Caedibus Hastam.

Torva quidem Facies, et non adeunda Senectus:

Terribiles Horrore Jubae; conoque Corusco                          5

Scintillare Faces; fremuitque adamantinus Ordo

Dentis, ut Armorum Fragor, ictáque cuspide cuspis.

Postquam jussa quies, suasítque silentia terror,

IPSE (Catervatim Comitum Cingente Coronâ)

Horrendas quatiens galeato in vertice Cristas                   10

Talibus excussam patescit vocibus Iram:

‘Surgite Concordes Socii, coeptísque favete:

Ulterius pigeat, pigeat latuisse pudendo

Pulvere, et Ignotis animas traxisse tenebris.

Siccine securos semper spectabimus Anglos?’                   15

(Marston Moor 1650: pp. 4-5)

[When the Council was packed with the gathered monsters,

At once Mars towered over them with a swift Diadem

Shaking a Spear dyed with Titan gore.

His grim face, and his Old age made him fearful to approach:

His crests were terrible with horror, and the torches

Glittered on the Flashing peak of his helmet; and the adamantine Row

Of his teeth clashed, like the Crash of Armour, like spear struck upon spear.

After he had ordered calm, and terror had persuaded them to silence,

HE HIMSELF (with a crown of companions wreathing him in their companies)

Shaking dreadful crests on his helmeted peak

He laid bare his Anger, shaken out with these words:

‘Rise up Allies of the same heart, and bless what we have undertaken:

It would be more shameful, more shameful to have lain low in shaming

Dust, and to have dragged our souls amidst the shades of the unknown.

Are we always to look upon the English, safe as they now are and free from care?’]

In this fifteen-line extract, lines 1, 13-14 and 15 are all direct borrowings from Claudian, taken from corresponding points in the Council in Hell scene in In Rufinum I (I.40, 58-9 and 45). These borrowings range from almost direct quotation (‘His ubi conventis stipata est Curia Monstris’ (Marston Moor, p. 4); ‘torvaque collectis stipatur curia monstris’ (In Rufinum I.40)), to a comparable construction with only the opening word in common (‘Siccine securos semper spectabimus Anglos?’ [Marston Moor, p. 5], ‘Siccine tranquillo produci saecula cursu, / sic fortunatas patiemur vivere gentes?’ [In Rufinum I.45-6]), to a parallel with no specific echoes, but making the same rhetorical point (‘Ulterius pigeat, pigeat latuisse pudendo / Pulvere’ [Marston Moor, p. 5]; ‘at nos indecores longo torpebimus aevo / omnibus eiectae regnis!’ [In Rufinum I.58-9]).

Typically for Fisher, the Claudianic structure of the scene is spliced with a further borrowing, this time from the early Christian poet Prudentius, whose allegorical Psychomachia was a popular poem in the early modern period, and one to which Fisher alludes on several occasions. Line 10, describing Mars, is derived from Prudentius’s description of ‘Ira’ (personified Rage).

hanc procul Ira tumens, spumanti fervida rictu,

sanguinea intorquens subfuso lumina felle,

ut belli exsortem teloque et voce lacessit,

impatiensque morae conto petit, increpat ore,

hirsutas quatiens galeato in vertice cristas.

(Prudentius, Psychomachia, 113-17, ‘Ira’)

[On her from a distance swelling Wrath, showing her teeth with rage and foaming at the mouth, darts her eyes, all shot with blood and gall, and challenges her with weapon and with speech for taking no part in the fight; irked by her holding back, she hurls a pike at her and assails her with abuse, tossing the shaggy crests on her helmeted head.]

Finally, the passage pays tribute to one of the most recent versions of the genre by incorporating an allusion to Milton’s In Quintum Novembris. Lines 6-7 are taken, without alteration, from Milton’s poem, where they describe Satan himself: ‘adamantinus ordo / Dentis, ut armorum fragor, ictaque cuspide cuspis’ (In Quintum Novembris 38-9).Footnote 44

There is an intrinsic and unexpected ambiguity to this scene. Both in Claudian and in the many previous Neo-Latin examples, scenes of this type are politically unambiguous: the forces of evil plot trouble (military attack, or terrorism) to be launched by a minion of Hell (typically, in Protestant versions, the pope or an agent of the pope; in Claudian, Rufinus) against the virtuous nation. But the poem introduced here is in fact strikingly even-handed: though successful in its praise of Cromwell – and increasingly focused on Cromwell in the later 1656 revision – it has its roots in an entirely royalist earlier poem which, as we have seen, was unhesitating in linking Mars, here an agent of evil, with Cromwell himself.Footnote 45

Moreover, the pattern of Fisher’s use of Claudian in the poem reveals its underlying royalism: one facet of the complex allusive politics of the poem that helps to make it such a startling read. Much more than in his later poems, Fisher in Marston Moor draws predominantly upon Claudian’s negative rather than positive portrayals: near the end of the poem, the confusion of the royalist army in defeat is like a whale without a pilot-fish (Marston Moor 64), alluding to In Eutropium II.423-31; mid-battle, Alexander Lesley, Earl of Leven and Lord General of the Scottish Covenanting Army, as he vainly attempts to rally his troops and bring them to order, is compared to a shepherd trying to recall bees with a gong (Marston Moor 51-2) in an image used of Alaric (the enemy of Stilicho) in Panegyricus de sexto consulatu Honorii Augusti 259-64. The suggested equation of the Scots and Alaric is a clever one: in 1644, at the time of the battle, the Scots were allies of Parliament – and indeed their contribution was key to that major Parliamentarian victory – whereas by the time of the publication of Marston Moor, in 1650, they were enemies of Cromwell. Stilicho had fought in alliance with Alaric earlier in his career, before Alaric changed sides and became his enemy. In this way, the simile borrowed from Claudian to describe Alaric alludes to the changing relationship of the Scots to Cromwell: both allies (at the time of the action of the poem) and enemies (at the time of the poem’s composition).

Indeed, the only extended straightforwardly panegyric or celebratory adaptation of Claudian in Marston Moor describes not the eventual Parliamentarian victory but rather a moment of (although short-lived) hope and celebration for the Royalists.Footnote 46 When Prince Rupert raises the siege and relieves York, the city’s celebration are described in a memorable personifying simile adapted from Claudian, Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti 523-29, in which Rome, adorning itself to welcome Honorius like a girl being dressed for the arrival of her suitor, has become the city of York welcoming Rupert:

Ac velut officiis trepidantibus ora Puellae

Adveniente Proco, mater sollertior ornans;

Prima Comas sparsosque studet componere Crines,

Incessos docet inde novos, fandique Pudorem:

Mox sua dilectâ Cervice monilia transfert,

Atque onerat nitidas gemmis fulgentibus aures.

Sic oculis placitura Tuis, dignissime Princeps

Vrbs micat, & laetos sumunt sibi Moenia vultus.

Heu quantum variata Tuo fortuna regressu,

Dum color atque calor vivus redit arcibus aegris,

Laetáque semirutis assurgunt Tecta Columnis!

(Marston Moor, p. 37)

[And just as a shrewd mother decorates a girl’s face

With nervous care at the approach of her suitor;

And is careful above all to do her hair and spread the locks carefully,

Then teaches her a new way of walking, and modesty of speech:

Soon she transfers her own necklaces to her daughter’s beloved neck,

And weighs down her ears with shining gems.

Thus in order to be pleasing to Your eyes, most worthy Prince

The city [of York] glitters, and the Walls take upon themselves a happy expression.

Oh how her fortune was transformed by your return!

As colour and living warmth returns to the sickened citadels,

And the happy roofs rise up with their half-destroyed Columns!]

Ac velut officiis trepidantibus ora puellae

Spe propiore tori mater sollertior ornat

Adveniente proco vestesque et cingula comit

Saepe manu viridique angustat iaspide pectus

Substringitque comam gemmis et colla monili

Circuit et bacis onerat candentibus aures:

Sic oculis placitura tuis insignior auctis

Collibus et nota maior se Roma videndam


(Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti 523-31)

[As a solicitous mother at the approach of her daughter’s suitor

Does all she can, with nervous activity, to adorn

Her child’s appearance: repeatedly she adjusts her clothes and sash,

Wraps her daughter’s breast with green jasper,

Ties up her hair with jewels, and sets a necklace

On her neck, and loads her ears with shining pearls;

So Rome, in hope of pleasing your eyes, offers herself

To your gaze in a more glorious fashion, her hills built up

And herself seeming larger than you have yet known her.]

All the same, there is something troubling about this personification: insofar as the arrival of Prince Rupert suggests a marriage, it is a doomed one for the royalists. York was relieved on 1 July 1644, and the battle, ending in disaster for the king’s armies, took place just outside the city the following day.

In short, even in the published version of Marston Moor (1650), which was so successful with Cromwell, the almost exclusively negative use of Claudian preserves the core of lament inherited from the original royalist poem. Although Fisher removes the near demonization of Cromwell found in the earliest version of the poem, there is no outright celebration of him either, and the only celebratory passage of Claudian is reserved for the royalists. In other words, though Fisher has adapted his poem to reflect and honour the victorious Cromwell, its allusive patterns are conservative: preserving the traditional association between formal Latin panegyric and a royal addressee.

Cromwell becomes Stilicho

In Fisher’s poems for Cromwell in the following years, however, and especially with the start of the personal Protectorate in 1653, he increasingly turned to Claudian for positive rather than negative images – celebration rather than satire or lament, as he works out a mode of Claudianic panegyric suitable for a non-royal addressee. In particular, he develops in these years a sophisticated literary equivalence between Cromwell and Stilicho, with obvious political utility: like Cromwell, Stilicho was a de facto ruler who was explicitly not a monarch.Footnote 47

This equivalence is worked out both allusively, and explicitly. In his Anniversarium, extant only in the Piscatoris poemata (1656), but presumably written for the anniversary of the Protectorate in December 1654, Fisher makes the relationship between Cromwell and Stilicho (and himself and Claudian) quite plain:

Tunc faciles in coepta novem fluxere sorores,

Et Musis patuere adytus, cum Carmine Praeco

Grandilo quus, Stylico vestras super aethera laudes

Tollebat. Geticis cum Consul Honorius armis,

Mallius aut Reducem Pompis solennibus annum

Induerant; quis Vate prior fulgentia Rostra

Clarius intravit? paribusve furoribus actus

Annua sceptriferi cantavit Festa Probini,

Bisque triumphati trabeas celebravit Olybri?

Haec veteres cecinere Patres: sed nostra Thalia

Majus opus meliusque movet; de Cardine Mundi

Nempe alio, mihi Consul adest; mihi Mallius alter;

Alter adest Stylico.

(Fisher, Anniversarium, in Piscatoris Poemata, sigs B1v-B2r)

[Then the nine sisters flowed readily into new topics,

And the shrines were laid open to the Muses, when a herald, boastful in song,

Was raising your praises, Stilicho, above the heavens.

When Consul Honorius, with captured Getic weapons,

Or when Mallius were adorning the year on its return with solemn processions;

Who entered the gleaming stage with more renown

Than a Poet? or, driven by equal furies of inspiration,

Sang the annual rites of sceptre-breaing Probinus,

And celebrated the consulship of Olybrius, who had twice triumphed?

These things were the subjects of song for the ancestors. But our Thalia [Muse]

Is embarking upon a greater and a better work: she is singing

About another man who is the hinge of the World [i.e. of crucial importance], for I have another Consul;

A different Mallius; a second Stilicho.]

The passage is both generally and specifically reminiscent of the example of the same motif in Barlaeus’s Britannia Triumphans, quoted above: the phrase ‘Praeco Grandiloquus’ and the term ‘trabeas’ (used here as in Barlaeus in a sense specific to Claudian, indicating a consulship) are both apparently borrowed directly from Barlaeus’s poem.Footnote 48 Although the passage cites a range of Claudian’s panegyric – for Honorius, Mallius, Probinus and Olybrius – it starts and ends with Stilicho, emphasising the particular appropriateness of this comparison.

By the opening passage of Apobaterion, a poem written to mark the arrival of Marquès de Lede, Ambassador Extraordinary of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria, governor of the Spanish Netherlands, in the spring of 1655, the equivalence is well enough established that Fisher can declare: ‘Cedite maiores. Priscae silescite chartae; / Non mihi iam Stylico tanti’ (‘Ancestors give way. Be silent, ancient works; / Stilicho means less to me now’ [that is, because Cromwell has outdone him], sig. b1r). The most striking instance of this equivalence is the engraving printed in the Irenodia gratulatoria of 1652 (Fig. 1). Alongside the portrait of Cromwell on the battlefield is a quotation, ‘Similem Quae protulit Aetas / Consilio vel Marte VIRUM’ (‘What age has produced his equal either in wisdom or in war?’), with a pointer indicating the source: ‘Claud: lib. de laud. Stil.’Footnote 49 In his 1656 collected works (Piscatoris poemata), Fisher even revised Marston Moor to include the link between Cromwell and Stilicho, adding a description of Cromwell as ‘a man even greater than Mars’, echoing the description of Stilicho in these terms (e.g., De consulatu Stiliconis II.367-70; De bello Getico 468), as well as the imagery of the 1652 engraving.

Fig. 1

Engraving in Inrenodia Gratulatoria (1652).

Alongside direct references of this kind, Fisher increasingly attributes to Cromwell features associated particularly with Stilicho in Claudian: at the end of Irenodia gratulatoria, for instance, Cromwell is ‘vigilantior Ipse’ (sig. H3v) even more watchful, although at this point withdrawn from active combat, just as Claudian describes Stilicho as a kind of divine guardian, ever alert: ‘sed fortior obstat / cura ducis. quis enim divinum fallere pectus / possit et excubiis vigilantia lumina regni?’ (‘But [Stilicho’s] more enduring vigilance put a stop to [Alaric’s attempts to attack again]. For who could possibly deceive his godlike heart / and his eyes, always vigilant for safety of the kingdom, even in the watches of the night?’, Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti 232-4).Footnote 50

In the Inauguratio Olivariana of 1654, Fisher compares Cromwell to Titan and Hercules, and describes him as holding up the people single-handed: ‘Ille Pater Patriae, Libertatisque reductor, / Ceu novus Alcides, ruituram à Culmine gentem / Supposita cervice tulit’ (‘That Father of the Fatherland, the restorer of Liberty / Like a new Hercules, bears upon his neck the weight of a people on the verge of collapse’, sig. A2r), with an echo of De consulatu Stiliconis I.142-3 (‘ancipites rerum ruituro culmine lapsus / aequali cervice subis: sic Hercule quondam / sustentate polum melius librata pependit / machina’, ‘With a strength equal to his you bear up the tottering structure of the empire, which is threatening to collapse: so once did the frame of the world hang better balanced, when Hercules had held it up’).Footnote 51

As Christiansen has shown, Claudian frequently attributes similes of support and strength to Stilicho (and sometimes Theodosius), though not to Honorius.Footnote 52 Similarly, the Clemency and Piety attributed to Stilicho (e.g., Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli 166-71) are made a recurring feature of the praise of Cromwell (e.g., Inauguratio Olivariana 1654, sig. B1v), and a passage on Stilicho’s ingenuity (De bello Gildonico I.318-20) stands behind the praise of Cromwell’s virtus in Fisher’s Anniversarium (1656, sig. F2r). Claudian’s descriptions of Stilicho as a star to sailors (e.g., In Eutropium II.507-8; In Rufinum I.275-7) and a steersman (e.g., De consulatu Stiliconis I.286-90) find multiple parallels in Fisher.Footnote 53 Claudian’s comparison of Stilicho to a cautious surgeon (De bello Getico 120-3; De consulatu Stiliconis II.204-5) is echoed by Fisher’s depiction of Cromwell in similar terms in an image added to the revised version of Irenodia gratulatoria published in Piscatoris poemata (1656, sig. Ee2v): a good example of Fisher revising the imagery of his earlier work in line with that of the Protectorate verse.

From time to time, Fisher makes use of other examples in Claudian of non-royal addressees. One passage in Inauguratio Olivariana (1654, sig. B4v), for instance, compares Cromwell to the bright peak of Olympus, never obscured by cloud, in a passage borrowed in large part from Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli 205-13 (a poem on the consulship of Fl. Manlius Theodorus in 399). In a particularly sophisticated passage from the same poem, Fisher uses a combination of Claudian and (again) the contemporary Dutch poet Caspar Barlaeus to tackle the sensitive question of Cromwell’s refusal to accept the crown. After a series of panegyric comparisons, to the stars and to the Phoenix (cf. Claudian Carmina Minora 27), the section concludes:

moderatior at Tu [Cromwell]

Aerios plausus, vacui crepitacula vulgi,

Despicis, & dignos Tibi quos concessit Honores

Anglia, concelas, dum vis Privatus haberi

Qui cunctos praestans, meritis virtutibus anteis,

Solis ad exemplum, qui fusis lumina Terris

Dividit, oblitúsq; sui, communia curat

Commoda, nec sibi sed mundo splendescere gestit.

(Fisher, Inauguratio Olivariana, sig. A3v)

[But with greater moderation you [Cromwell]

Look down upon airy applause, the rattle of the vacuous crowd,

And you conceal the Honours England has granted you, deserved as they are,

As you, who excel all others, who exceed everyone in virtue,

Prefer to be considered a Private citizen,

In the manner of the Sun who spreads and shares its light

Upon the earth, and forgetful of itself, cares only

For the common good, and seeks to make resplendent, not himself, but the world.]

This is a careful blending of two passages. The first two lines have several points in common with the much-quoted opening passage of Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli on Virtue as its own reward:

Ipsa quidem Virtus pretium sibi, solaque late

Fortunae secura nitet nec fascibus ullis

erigitur plausuve petit clarescere vulgi.

nil opis externae cupiens, nil indiga laudis,

divitiis animosa suis inmotaque cunctis

casibus ex alta mortalia despicit arce.

attamen invitam blande vestigat et ultro

ambit honor:

(Claudian, Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli 1-8)

[Virtue is its own reward; alone with its far-flung splendour it mocks Fortune; no honours raise it higher nor does it seek glory from the applause of the mob. External wealth cannot arouse its desires, it asks no praise but makes its boast of self-contained riches, and unmoved by all changes in fortune it looks down upon the world from a lofty citadel. Yet importunate honours pursue it, and offer themselves unsought … ]

This is combined with a larger and more readily recognizable number of borrowings from a recent poem of Barlaeus, in praise – significantly – not of the king, but of his second-in-command, Cardinal Richelieu, and published only in 1645:

quos demat honores

Regia, dissimulas. tibi vis privatus haberi,

Dum cunctis, Armande, praes. …

Solis ad exemplum, cunctis qui lumina terris

Dividit, oblitusque sui communia curat

Commoda, nec sibi, sed nobis mortalibus ardet.Footnote 54

The words with which Fisher describes Cromwell as remaining a private citizen are borrowed from Barlaeus; but Barlaeus himself is here building upon Claudian, who praises Manlius Theodorus on the grounds that ‘frons privata manet nec se meruisse fatetur, / quae crevisse putat’ (‘Your look appearance remains that of a private citizen, and does not acknowledge that it has in fact earnt, / What it thinks has simply grown [naturally or spontaneously]’, Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli 245-6).

Fisher as Claudian

If Stilicho is Cromwell, then Fisher is Claudian, and this is particularly evident in the shaping of the 1656 collection, Piscatoris poemata, which reprints all Fisher’s previous major works (Marston Moor, Irenodia gratulatoria and Inauguratio Olivariana), as well as several of the more minor ones. Just as Claudian reworked particularly useful images more than once, so Fisher too reused images, specific similes, or even entire lines, for a new addressee. At In Eutropium I.163-6 Claudian compares Eutropius’s ruthless treatment of those who had brought him to power to Phalaris, the Sicilian tyrant who had Perillos, the designer of his brazen bull, put to death in the device he had designed; Fisher uses versions of these lines to describe two consecutive enemies: first the Scots (Irenodia gratulatoria 1652, sig. B3v) and then the Dutch (Inauguratio Olivariana 1654, sig. Dd4r). This kind of repeated deployment of the same allusion is clearest in Piscatoris poemata, which prints both poems.

The overall impression of Piscatoris poemata is that of a ‘Claudianic’ career: Fisher even includes in the volume an early exercise in Claudianic epithalamium, a poem on the marriage of Col. Thomas Tomkins and Lucy Neale, which took place in 1643 and, though not included in the manuscript presentation volumes now in the British Library, was presumably first written in that year.Footnote 55 In this striking passage, Fisher reworks Claudian’s Epitathalamium de Nuptiis Honorii Augusti for Honorius and Maria:

Et Venerem Vegetiva coluntFootnote 56, omnisque vicissim

Felix arbor amat, dum mutua brachia pandunt

Nexibus implicitis, coeunt in chara Cupressi

Foedera, Populeae succumbit Populus umbrae.

Vitibus & Vites, Alnoque assibilat Alnus.

(Fisher, Piscatoris poemata, sig. C2v)

[Even the plants revere Venus, and every happy

Tree loves in its turn, as they spread out their branches together

In closely-woven embrace; the Cypresses enter together

The dear pledges [of marriage]; the Poplar succumbs to the Poplar’s shade,

Vine to vine, and Alder whispers to Alder.]

vivunt in Venerem frondes omnisque vicissim

felix arbor amat; nutant ad mutua palmae

foedera, populeo suspirat populus ictu

et platani platanis alnoque adsibilat alnus.

(Claudian, Epitathalamium de Nuptiis Honorii Augusti 65-8)

[The very leaves live for love and in his season every happy tree experiences love’s power: palm bends down to mate with palm, poplar sighs its passion for poplar, plane whispers to plane, alder to alder.]

In this way Fisher demonstrates his mastery of the full range of Claudianic genres. He also revised his earlier work for the 1656 volume, adding, as we have seen, elements to both Marston Moor and Irenodia gratulatoria, his two earliest major works, designed to reinforce the association between Cromwell and Stilicho.

Claudianic Verse in English

By the mid-1650s Fisher had succeeded in adapting Claudianic panegyric, traditionally addressed to monarchs, to the praise of Cromwell, a man who refused to be king, and whose power derived principally from his military achievements. Edmund Waller’s Panegyric, entered on the Stationers’ Register in May 1655 alongside Marvell’s ‘First Anniversary’, was published, like most of Fisher’s official poetry of the period, by Thomas Newcomb. Waller’s poem prints as an epigraph on its title page the two lines from the preface to Book III of De consulatu Stiliconis, used for the same purpose by Alabaster in the early 1590s and by Birkhead in 1645: ‘Gaudet enim virtus testes sibi jungere Musas, / Carmen amat quisquis Carmine digna gerit’ (5-6). Those same lines which, given the long history of royal panegyric, could function as a byword for ardent royalism for Birkhead, are now straightforwardly applicable to Cromwell, and here make explicit the genre to which Waller’s poem belongs.Footnote 57

Marvell’s First Anniversary is one of the most impressive, as well as one of the earliest, attempts to transfer Claudianic panegyric into English. The two most extended (and implicitly related) similes for Cromwell in the poem compare him to a star or the sun (101-4 and 325-46) and, most famously, to the steersman of the ship (265-78):

So have I seen at sea, when whirling winds,

Hurry the bark, but more the seamen’s minds,

Who with mistaken course salute the sand,

And threat’ning rocks misapprehend for land;

While baleful Tritons to the shipwrack guide,

And corposants along the tacklings slide.

The passengers all wearied out before,

Giddy, and wishing for the fatal shore;

Some lusty mate, who with more careful eye

Counted the hours, and every star did spy,

The helm does from the artless steersman strain,

And doubles back into the safer main.


Both of these images are used repeatedly by Claudian, as for instance the comparison of Stilicho to a brave sailor who takes responsibility in a storm when no-one else will do so:

… ceu flamine molli

tranquillisque fretis clavum sibi quisque regendum

vindicat; incumbat si turbidus Auster et unda

pulset utrumque latus, posito certamine nautae

contenti meliore manu seseque pavere

confessi (finem studiis fecere procellae):

haud aliter Stilicho, fremuit cum Thracia belli

tempestas, cunctis pariter cedentibus unus

eligitur ductor

(Laus Serenae, Carmina minora 30.201-9)

[As when on a calm sea

Every sailor claims his right to take the tiller,

But if the blustering south wind bears down upon them, and

They are buffeted by the waves on either side, then the vying for control ceases and the sailors

Admitting their fear accept a more skilful hand (for the storm sets a limit on their enthusiasm);

Just so did Stilicho, when the storm of war raged in Thrace,

Was selected as commander, with all rivals ceding to him.]

Similarly, Stilicho is like a steersman (arbiter alni) in a storm, steering the entire empire away from disaster, at De consulatu Stiliconis I.286-90; a star for sailors in a storm (In Rufinum I.275-7); and his hair shines like a star heralding salvation for besieged Rome (De bello Getico 457-60); Manlius Theodorus is also like a skilled steersman (Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli 42-50); Honorius is compared to a star at the top of the sky (Panegyricus de sexto consulatu Honorii Augusti 18-24). Cromwell’s recovery from his coaching accident is compared to impact of the returning sun upon primitive men, experiencing night and return of the day for the first time (325-46); Honorius is compared at length to the outburst of light amid an unnatural darkness at Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti 172-91.

In previous work, I have demonstrated the extent to which Marvell’s use of these stock images from Claudian is repeatedly mediated by his reading of Fisher: the steersman image, for instance, appears multiple times in Fisher’s work of the early 1650s, most insistently in the Irenodia gratulatoria of 1652, with nine instances of the motif in that poem alone.Footnote 58 But it is Marvell’s achievement to bring Claudianic panegyric so successfully into English. Fisher perhaps recognized the significance of this transition. The final item in Piscatoris poemata of 1656 is a poem of lavish praise for Waller’s ‘Panegyric’ (sigs A1r-A4r), pointing out, in particular, its achievement in the vernacular.

Whereas the experiments in English formal verse panegyric composed by Ben Jonson and Samuel Daniel for the coronation of James I in 1603 did not mark the emergence of a true English genre to stand alongside the Latin, from the mid-1650s onwards we do find an increasingly mature English form: Waller’s Panegyric and Marvell’s First Anniversary were followed by, among others, Dryden’s Heroic Stanzas (on the death of Cromwell in 1658) as well as Marvell’s poem on the same occasion (A Poem upon the Death of his Late Highness the Lord Protector) and Waller’s Of a War with Spain, and Fight at Sea (1658). At the Restoration, we find a wealth of formal verse panegyric in both Latin and English.Footnote 59 The return of the king permits, of course, a concomitant return to a more traditional royalist mode, but the English form is now securely established alongside the Latin: Dryden’s Astraea Redux and To His Sacred Majesty are both indebted to Claudian at many points.Footnote 60 Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis is, in its form, closer to Claudian than to either Lucan or Virgil, and in its attempt to reinforce a patriotic identification with the city of London itself – to which the poem is, unusually, dedicated – it is also indebted to Claudian’s insistent concern for, and frequent personification of, Rome herself.Footnote 61

Fisher’s appropriation of Claudianic panegyric-epic in his poems for Cromwell in the 1650s is of fascinating complexity and political sophistication. His work offers a rare instance in which we have fairly complete evidence for the development of a poetic style, including revision and republication of existing works, in direct response to changes in political events. His resilient creativity in the face of a rapidly evolving political context is comparable to similar shifts during this period in the work and orientation of Marvell, Cowley and Dryden. But we cannot begin to assess the originality of what Fisher is doing without understanding the generic context in which he was working, and the framework offered by the lively and, by the time of his writing, already long tradition of Renaissance and early modern Latin panegyric-epic in the style and tradition of Claudian.

This article has aimed to fill in at least the key features of that tradition, as well as offer an analysis of Fisher’s particular contribution to it, demonstrating not only the sophistication with which Fisher uses Claudian, but also the extent to which his verse draws upon contemporary poets – such as Milton and Barlaeus – whose work he recognized as belonging to the same Claudianic tradition as his own. An understanding of the early modern imitation of Claudian is essential to any appreciation of what Fisher is doing, but not only for that: the Claudianic context helps us to read the great wealth of British Neo-Latin panegyric verse dating from both before and after Fisher (including, for instance, the ‘Gunpowder plot’ poems which have typically been studied in isolation); it helps immeasurably in the reading of so-called Renaissance ‘short epic’ or ‘epyllion’ as a whole, especially though not only in Latin; it also demonstrates the international currency of this form, in which poets routinely learnt from and imitated one another across national boundaries, and frequently both expected and intended to be read by addressees of other nations. Finally it illuminates the style and sources, and demarcates the originality, of a wide range of English verse, especially of the later seventeenth century, which most readers now find hard to access or appreciate. Claudian was not so much a possible, as the obvious model for formal panegyric verse in early modern Europe, and any reading of such poetry, whether in Latin or the vernacular, must take that as a starting point.


  1. 1.

    V. Moul, ‘Revising the Siege of York: Payne Fisher’s Marston-Moor and the Development of Cromwellian Poetics’, The Seventeenth Century, 31, 2016, pp. 311-31, and ‘Andrew Marvell and Payne Fisher’, Review of English Studies, 68, 2017, pp. 524-48.

  2. 2.

    Marston Moor (1650) includes a quotation borrowed from Milton, In Quintum Novembris, published in the Poems (1645); Irenodia gratulatoria (1652) applies to Cromwell an image famously used of Charles I in the Eikon Basilike (a work purportedly by Charles I himself, published in 1649); Inauguratio Olivariana (1654) alludes at least twice to the work of Caspar Barlaeus, in one instance to a poem (Panegyris de laudibus . . . Richelii Ducis) published only in 1641. Moul, ‘Revising the Siege of York’ (n. 1 above), discusses the range of allusive sources combined in Marston Moor.

  3. 3.

    J. D. Garrison, Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric, Berkeley, ca, 1975, discusses Dryden’s use of Claudian (and some sixteenth century Latin panegyric) at length; Marvell’s First Anniversary is discussed on pp. 134-40.

  4. 4.

    The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature, II: 1558-1660, ed. P. Cheney and P. Hardie, Oxford, 2015, e.g., has no chapter on Claudian or on panegyric-epic specifically, though Claudian is mentioned in passing in the chapter on epic: P. Hardie, ‘Epic Poetry’, pp. 225-52 (225, 228, 230, 242). L. Enterline’s chapter on ‘Elizabethan Minor Epic’ (or ‘epyllion’) makes no mention of Claudian at all, understanding this form – of which only English examples are discussed – only in terms of Virgil and Ovid, although the only ancient mythological minor epic regularly read in early modern schools was Claudian’s De raptu Proserpinae. The fullest treatment of the reception of Claudian’s political poetry in English literature remains Garrison, Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric (n. 3 above), which, despite the title, devotes a significant proportion of the book to formal panegyric before Dryden. Peter Davidson, The Universal Baroque, Manchester, 2007, p. 47, notes the importance of Claudian as a model for ‘baroque Latin’. The coverage of early modernity in the final chapter of A. Cameron, Claudian: Poetry and Propaganda at the Court of Honorius, Oxford, 1970, is discussed further below. A. Miller, Roman Triumphs and Early Modern English Culture, Basingstoke, 2001, is not focused primarily on poetry but recognizes the importance of Claudian on pp. 36-7. A handful of articles have focused on the reception or translation of a single piece of Claudian or on a particular English author: S. Gillespie, ‘Two Seventeenth-Century Translations of Dark Roman Satires: John Knyvett’s Juvenal I and J. H.’s In Eutropium 1’, Translation and Literature, 21, 2012, pp. 43-66; ‘Claudian’s Old Man of Verona: An Anthology of English Translations with a New Poem by Edwin Morgan’, Translation and Literature 2, 1993, pp. 87-97, assembles translations dating from between 1629 (Sir John Beaumont) and 1992, including those by Thomas Randolph (1638), Mildmay Fane (1648), Abraham Cowley (1668) and Henry Vaughan (1678). On the Restoration translations of Claudian made by Thomas Ross, see C. Bond, ‘The Phoenix and the Prince: The Poetry of Thomas Ross and Literary Culture in the Court of Charles II’, Review of English Studies, 60, 2009, pp. 588-604. Keith Sidwell’s recent editions of O’Meara’s Ormonius and the anonymous Poema de Hibernia both point out many allusions to Claudian: The Tipperary Hero: Dermot O’Meara’s Ormonius (1615), ed. K. Sidwell and D. Edwards, Turnhout, 2011; Poema de Hibernica: A Jacobite Latin Epic on the Williamite Wars (Dublin City Library and Archive, Gilbert MS 141), ed. P. Lenihan and K. Sidwell, Dublin, 2018. Scholarship dealing with Claudian’s reception in Renaissance literature more broadly includes: G. Braden, ‘Claudian and his Influence: The Realm of Venus’, Arethusa, 12, 1979, pp. 203-31; S. Döpp, ‘Claudian und die lateinische Epik zwischen 1300 and 1600’, Res Publica Litterarum 12, 1989, pp. 39-50; M. Fuhrmann, ‘Claudian in der Neuzeit: Geschmackswandel und Übergang von der rhetorischen zur philologischen Betrachtungsweise’, in Aetas Claudianea. Eine Tagung an der Freien Universität Berlin vom 28. bis 3. Juni 2002, ed. W.-W. Ehlers et al., Munich, 2004, pp. 207-23 and F. Felgentreu, ‘Claudian (Claudius Claudianus)’, in Brill’s New Pauly Supplements I.5: The Reception of Classical Literature, ed. C. Walde, in collaboration with B. Egger, Leiden, 2012, pp. 123-7.

  5. 5.

    R. Copeland, ‘The Curricular Classics in the Middle Ages’, in The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature, I: 800-1558, ed. R. Copeland, Oxford, 2016, pp. 21-34.

  6. 6.

    MS London, British Library [hereafter BL], Add. 11814, printed edition in E. Flügel, ‘Eine Mittelenglische Claudian-Übersetzung (1445)’, Anglia, 28, 1905, pp. 255-99, and discussion in A. S. G. Edwards, ‘The Middle English Translation of Claudian’s De consulatu Stiliconis’, in Middle English Poetry: Texts and Traditions: Essays in Honour of Derek Pearsall, ed. A. Minnis, York, 2001, pp. 267-78. The translation explicitly compares the addressee of the English translation, Richard Duke of York, to Stilicho.

  7. 7.

    As for instance in Felgentreu, ‘Claudian’ (n. 4 above).

  8. 8.

    Cameron, Claudian, pp. 419-33 (n. 4 above). He also discusses briefly the cluster of seventeenth century translations of Claudian’s ‘De sene Veronensi’ (Carmina minora 20). The abbreviations used to refer to Claudian’s works in this article are those used by Cameron and listed on pp. xi-xii.

  9. 9.

    Sejanus I.389-94. The use of Claudian in Arches of Triumph is discussed in The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson, ed. D. Bevington, M. Butler and I. Donaldson, II, Cambridge, 2012. Garrison, Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric, pp. 85-91 (n. 3 above) discusses Jonson’s Panegyre (1603) in relation to Samuel Daniel’s panegyric verse of the same year. R. S. Peterson, Imitation and Praise, rev. ed., Farnham, 2011, pp. 44-5, 68-9, 88, also discusses links to Claudian in relation to Jonson Epigrams 14 and 76.

  10. 10.

    By contrast, the various marriage poems, the poem on Serena, Stilicho’s wife, and most of the Carmina minora are only lightly marked, if at all; the exceptions are ‘De sene Veronensi’ (Carmina minora 20) and three epigrams (on a man with gout, and two on a poor lover, Carmina minora 13, 14 and 15). The volume is the Pulman edition (Antwerp: Plantin, 1585): Oxford, Bodleian Library [hereafter Bod.], 80 c 90 Art. Sel.

  11. 11.

    MS BL, Royal 12 D VIII, dating from before 1625. Sir Thomas Elyot, The Book named the Governour (1531) particularly recommends Claudian for the education of princes (Book II, chapter 1), and James I also quotes from Claudian in Basilikon Doron (1599) urging Prince Henry to follow the teaching on kingship in Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti 214-352: The Basilikon Doron of King James VI, ed. J. Craigie, I, Edinburgh and London, 1944, p. 53.

  12. 12.

    Miracula Christi is no longer considered to be by Claudian. It was included, however, in early modern editions.

  13. 13.

    At fol. 10r. The poem is in iambic trimeters, and is presumably intended to recall the appearance of a ghost or deity in a Latin play, whom the speaker then addresses. Most Latin drama of the period is in this metre.

  14. 14.

    Although Westminster may not have been typical, such a creative use of Claudian suggests that the political verse, as well as De raptu Proserpinae, could also be read at school.

  15. 15.

    MS Cambridge, Trinity College, Cambridge R.3.60 (c. 1600) quotes IV Cons. 222-5 on fol. 12r; MS Leeds, Brotherton Library BC Lt 13 (1680) quotes both Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti and N Rufinum 1 (fols 23r and 57r, both extracts appear twice). MS Leeds, Brotherton Library BC Lt q 18 (mid-17th century) includes eight extracts attributed to Claudian in a section titled ‘Epigrammes or sentences epigrammelike’ (fols 6v-8v). Of these, three are, in fact, not by Claudian (quotations from Juvenal, Propertius and Lucan), and the remaining five comprise two from Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti., one from De consulatu Stiliconis, one from Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli and one from In Rufinum. This balance between panegyric and satiric poems is roughly typical. The confusion between Juvenal’s Satires and Claudian’s political invective, though surprising to a modern classicist, is also quite common, suggesting that Claudian’s invective was strongly associated in early modernity with the tradition of verse satire more generally. English translations in manuscript include MSS Bod., Rawl. poet. 114, fol. 114r (John Morrice, part of the first book of In Rufinum) and Rawl. poet. 154, fol. 49v, ‘Claudian his Panegyrick upon the Fourth Consulship of Honorius’, dated 1665, and on fols 27r and 38v ‘A Translation of Claudian’s First Book against Eutropius’, dated 1664.

  16. 16.

    MS Bod., Rawl. poet. 166 (c. 1625-30), p. 64, includes a translation of ‘In sphaeram Archimedes’ (Carmina minora 51). In a late example, Charles Caesar quotes a poem then attributed to Claudian, the ‘Carmen de Christo’ in his commonplace book of 1705 (MS BL, Add 43410, fol. 174v). Quotations or translations from the ‘Phoenix’ (Carmina minora 27) are also quite common (e.g., in MS Bod., Sancroft 26 (1691), p. 17).

  17. 17.

    MS BL, Add 23719, fols 5-12. Barlaeus (Caspar van Baerle) was at this point Professor of Philosophy at Amsterdam.

  18. 18.

    MS BL, Harley 4933, fol. 21r.

  19. 19.

    Though see Garrison, Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric (n. 3 above), pp. 84-99, on the experiments with formal English panegyric by Samuel Daniel and Ben Jonson, both composed for the coronation of James I in 1603. Throughout his career, Jonson systematically attempted to ‘Anglicize’ already popular Neo-Latin forms (e.g., epigrams, ‘silva’ collection of mixed verse, Pindaric odes). Despite these experiments, both formal panegyric and Pindaric odes remained largely Neo-Latin genres until mid-century.

  20. 20.

    See, e.g., The Poems of Andrew Marvell, ed. N. Smith, rev. ed., London, 2007, p. 285. Miller, Roman Triumphs, p. 177 (n. 4 above), however, correctly identifies the genre of the poem: ‘The generic models of Marvell’s First Anniversary are the consular panegyrics of Claudian.’ Garrison, Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric, p. 134 (n. 3 above), implicitly makes the same point when he stresses the ‘traditional’ features of the poem. Oddly, some recent criticism has emphasized the poem’s Pindaric features (that is, points in common with panegyric lyric) without relating this insight to the tradition of panegyric verse in hexameter, a much closer formal analogue for the poem; see especially S. P. Revard, Politics, Poetics, and the Pindaric Ode: 1450-1700, Tempe AZ, 2009, pp. 106-21. The difficulty in identifying Claudianic poems in an English literary context has been exacerbated by the fact that most Anglophone classicists do not read Claudian or other late antique Latin poets. As a result, even many readers with a classical training do not recognize either Claudianic style or (more generally) the form he made his own.

  21. 21.

    Influential early examples include Erasmus’ Gratulatorium carmen (1504, printed with his prose treatise on the topic) and Thomas More, Carmen gratulatorium (1509, on the coronation of Henry VIII), both discussed in Garrison, Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric, passim (n. 3 above). Later sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century print examples include Nicholas Allen, Carmen encomiasticum Elizabethae (London, 1571); John Echlin, De regno Angliae, Franciae, Hiberniae . . . panegyricon ([Edinburgh], 1603); Adam King, In Iacobum sextum Scotorum regem panegyris (Edinburgh, 1603); Francis Herring, In foelicissimum serenessimi ac potentissimi principis, Iacobi primi . . . poema gratulatorium (London, 1603); Thomas Dempster, Panegyricus . . . Iacobo I (London, 1615); Samuel Kell, Carmen gratulatorium ad . . . Iacobum (Edinburgh, 1617); Peter Du Moulin, Carmen heroicum ad regem (London, 1625); Ioannes Sictor, Panegyricon britannicum (London, 1626); Andrew Boyd, Ad augustissimum monarcham Carolum armen panegyricum (Edinburgh, 1633; unusually followed by an English verse paraphrase); Alexander Gill, Gratulatoria dicata sereniss. ac potentiss. Carolo regi (London, 1641). Examples of short Claudianic panegyric poems included within mixed collections of verse are found, e.g., in the Oxford University collection Academiae Oxoniensis pietas (Oxford, 1603), pp. 63-8 and 184-7. The anonymous single-sheet, In illustrissimi comitis Leicestrensis Oxoniensis Academiae cancellarij … carmen gratulatorium (Oxford, 1585), on the Earl of Leicester, is only 36 lines long but draws upon stock scenes of panegyric (compare the opening with Panegyricus de tertio consulatu Honorii Augusti 126-30); similarly the poem at fol. 14r-v of the Cambridge collection Irenodia Cantabrigiensis (Cambridge, 1641) is a concise version of several conventional motifs. Formal epithalamia are also frequently indebted to Claudian in particular (e.g., Sir Thomas Craig, Henrici illustrissimi … epithalamium (an epithalamium for Henry and Mary Queen of Scots) (Edinburgh, 1565) and Hadrianus Junius, Philippeis (1554, on the marriage of Philip II of Spain and Queen Mary I); a brief account of the Claudianic elements of the latter poem can be found in Felgentreu, ‘Claudian’, pp. 123-7 (n. 4 above). For manuscript examples, the BL Royal collection includes a particularly large number, mostly in presentation volumes: Royal 12 A LXI (1604, anonymous, to James I); Royal 12 A VII (Nicolas Denisot, c. 1547, on the accession of Edward VI; largely lifted from earlier Neo-Latin authors, on which see H. Vredeveld, ‘The Fairytale of Nicolas Denisot and the Seymour Sisters’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, 67.1, 2018, https://doi.org/10.30986/2018.143); Royal 12 A XXXVI and XXXVII (Thomas Bastard, 1603, for James I); Royal 12 A XLIII (George Carleton, c. 1597, to Queen Elizabeth) and Royal 12 A LVI (also Carleton, after 1603, to James I). Examples from other collections include MS Cambridge, Trinity College Cambridge O.6.1, pp. 46-8; London, National Archives, SP 78/94/56, fol. 170r-v (1633, addressed to King Louis XIII of France); MS Bod., Douce 387, fols 75r-80v (1594-5, to Ernest, Archduke of Austria). Manuscript epithalamia are found in Royal 12 A XXVII (1613) and Royal 12 A XXXV (1613). This is by no means a complete list.

  22. 22.

    Interesting exceptions to this rule are Gulielmus Gohaeus, Carmen panegyrikon (London, 1621), commemorating the visit of Honoré d’Albert, Duc de Chaulnes, representing the French King Louis XIII, and John Sictor’s poem in honour of Richard Fenn, Mayor of London, Panegyricon inaugurale praetoris regii sive maioris reipublicae Londinensis R. Fenn, published in both London (by Thomas Harper) and Cambridge (by Roger Daniels) in 1638. The London edition also includes a panegyric Latin poem by Edward Benlowes, who later paid for the 1650 publication of Marston Moor. Both these examples prefigure Fisher’s use of the form for panegyric not only of Cromwell, but also of Bradshaw, Whitelocke and foreign dignitaries including Mazarin (Epinicion, vel elogium, 1658) and the Marquis de Lede (Apobaterion, 1655).

  23. 23.

    Allusion of this type could reach back in time as well as between countries. Fisher’s simile of a hunter scattering crows (Irenodia gratulatoria, 1652, sig. C2r), e.g., is borrowed from a formal panegyric of Baptista Mantuanus (1447-1516), Carmen panegyricum in Robertum Sanseverinatem.

  24. 24.

    The Triumphalia volume is attributed to ‘N. Eleutherius’, presumably a pseudonym. It is a mixed collection of verse, but includes two long poems in the Claudianic panegyric tradition at pp. 3-22 (anonymous), and 32-41 (by Julius Riparius, unknown). It is discussed in Miller, Roman Triumphs (n. 4 above), pp. 72-6. Grotius’s Inauguratio was printed in his Poemata collecta (Leiden, 1637), pp. 72-98. Fisher’s poetry of the 1650s borrows from both Grotius and Barlaeus, as demonstrated below.

  25. 25.

    Serena was the wife of Stilicho; the poem in her praise (Carmina Minora 30) is considered part of Claudian’s political verse by Felgentreu, ‘Claudian’ (n. 4 above). ‘Commenta’ here means ‘rhetorical figures’. ‘Mallius’ is Manlius Theodorus, consul in 399 and subject of Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli. Arcadius was Easter Roman Emperor from 395-408, and eldest son of Theodosius. Probinus and Olybrius were brothers and consuls together in 395. They are jointly addressed in Claudian’s Panegyricus dictus Probino et Olybrio consulibus.

  26. 26.

    Alabaster’s language at this point also recalls Palingenius, Zodiacus Vitae, II.458-60, a very popular school text in Elizabethan England.

  27. 27.

    Several further scenes of In Rufinum have similar settings: In Rufinum I ends with a debate between the fury Megaera and Iustitia (354-87) and In Rufinum II ends with Minos, the judge of the underworld, consigning Rufinus to the deepest part of Tartarus for ever (496-527).

  28. 28.

    MS BL, Royal 12 A XLIII. Printed edition in John Nichols’s The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I. A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources, III: 1579-1595, ed. Elizabeth Goldring et al., Oxford, 2014, pp. 657-74.

  29. 29.

    See O. H. Moore, ‘The Infernal Council’, Modern Philology, 16, 1918, pp. 1-25; M. Hammond, ‘“Concilia Deorum” from Homer through Milton’, Studies in Philology, 30, 1933, pp. 1-16. For discussion of Milton’s In Quintum Novembris and other English Gunpowder Plot poems (including those by Campion, Herring, Fletcher and Pareus), see E. Haan, ‘Milton’s In Quintum Novembris and the Anglo-Latin Gunpowder Epic’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, 41, 1992, pp. 221-95 and (second part), Humanistica Lovaniensia, 42, 1993, pp. 368-93, and J. K. Hale, ‘Milton and the Gunpowder Plot: In Quintum Novembris Reconsidered’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, 50, 2001, pp. 351-66. Neither Haan nor Hale mentions Claudian as a model. J. W. Binns gives a list of the Gunpowder Plot poems in Intellectual Cultlure in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: Latin Writings of the Age, Leeds, 1990, p. 457, n. 31, but there remain a large number of unstudied examples in manuscript, especially from the mid- to later seventeenth century. Fisher’s own Gunpowder Plot poem (only in manuscript; see n. 35 below) is another example of the form.

  30. 30.

    On Clemens, see H. Helander, ‘The Gustavis of Venceslaus Clemens’, in Germania Latina: Latinitas Teutonica. Politik, Wissenschaft, humanistische Kultur von späten Mittelalter bis in unsere Zeit. Germania Latina, ed. E. Kessler and H. C. Kuhn, Munich, 2003, pp. 609-22, and W. Poole, ‘Down and Out in Leiden and London: The Later Careers of Venceslaus Clemens (1589-1637) and Jan Sictor (1593-1652), Bohemian Exiles and Failing Poets’, The Seventeenth Century, 28, 2013, pp. 163-85.

  31. 31.

    Helander does not offer any specific parallels to Claudian, but does comment: ‘It is quite clear that Clemens owes much to Claudian too. It is my firm opinion that Claudian’s spirit moves upon the face of the whole work’ (Helander, ‘Gustavis of Venceslaus Clemens’, n. 30 above).

  32. 32.

    [Henry Birkhead], Poematia (n.p., 1645). Birkhead was a fellow of All Souls, and the volume was probably published in Oxford. It bears no author’s name, though the Bodleian copy digitized by EEBO has been annotated on the title-page: ‘Scripsit Henricus Berket è Coll. Omn. Anim. Oxon.’ On the significance of Claudian’s prefaces, see F. Felgentreu, Claudians praefationes: Bedingungen, Beschreibungen und Wirkungen einer poetischen Kleinform (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1999) and C. Ware, ‘Claudian: The Epic Poet in the Prefaces’, in Latin Epic and Didactic Poetry, ed. M. Gale, Swansea, 2004, pp. 101-201. Cameron, Claudian (n. 4 above), pp. 435-7, notes a similarly royalist deployment of Claudian as an epigraph to Sir Robert Filmer’s Anarchy of a Limited or Fixed Monarchy (1648) and Patriarcha, or the Natural Power of Kings (c. 1640; pub. 1680) as well as in several political tracts from the mid-seventeenth century.

  33. 33.

    M. O’Connell, ‘The Elisaeis of William Alabaster’, Studies in Philology, 76, 1979, pp. 1-77.

  34. 34.

    One of the commendatory poems printed in Marston Moor (1650) is signed by Sictor (sig. a3v). Claudian’s own poems include panegyric addressed to the consuls Probinus, Olybrius and Manlius Theodorus, as well as Stilicho and Honorius.

  35. 35.

    MSS BL, Add 19863 and Harley 6932. These manuscripts, their dates, contents and dedicatees are described in more detail in Moul, ‘Revising the Siege of York’ (n. 1 above).

  36. 36.

    Fisher had himself fought at Marston Moor, on the losing royalist side. The poem is 276 lines long in MS BL, Add 19863, and 278 lines long in MS BL, Harley 6932.

  37. 37.

    MS BL, Add 19863 fol. 12r-v; I have quoted this MS rather than the text as it appears in BL, Harley 6932 as the minor differences between the manuscripts suggests that the Add MS version is fractionally earlier. The text here reproduces the spelling, punctuation, accentuation and italicization of the manuscript; ‘-q;’ has been expanded for clarity, as have tildes.

  38. 38.

    Text and translations are from Statius, Thebaid: Books 1-7, ed. and transl. D. R. Shackleton Bailey, Cambridge MA, 2004.

  39. 39.

    Text and translations from Claudian: Volume I, ed. and transl. M. Platnauer, Cambridge, ma, 1922, with some modernizing alterations.

  40. 40.

    The term was, ironically, probably borrowed from Peter Du Moulin’s vociferously royalist lament, Ecclesiae Gemitus, which is also divided into multiple metra.

  41. 41.

    At least 16 unambiguous allusions to or borrowings from Claudian, balanced in this work, more than in later ones, by a significant dependence also on Statius’s Thebaid (12 identified allusions). The full range of reference is very wide: I have identified allusions in the poem also to Lucan (3), Silius Italicus (4), Valerius Flaccus (1) and Prudentius (2), and this is certainly not a complete list. Modern sources include the Latin poetry of Milton (discussed below) and George Buchanan. Fisher noticeably avoids direct allusion to Virgil, though many of the passages he borrows from later authors are themselves indebted to Virgil.

  42. 42.

    Dana Sutton’s introduction to Milton’s In Quintum Novembris, the most studied of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ poems, for instance, sets out clearly how Milton’s hell fits into a broader tradition of what he calls ‘historical epic’, but does not mention Claudian at all: http://philological.bham.ac.uk/milton/intro.html. See also Haan, ‘Milton’s In Quintum Novembris’ and Hale, ‘Milton and the Gunpowder Plot’ (both n. 28 above).

  43. 43.

    As there is no modern edition of the poem, and neither the 1650 nor 1656 editions are lineated, I have given the page numbers, and lineated longer quoted passages. Page numbers refer to the 1650 edition unless otherwise noted.

  44. 44.

    Milton’s lines themselves include phrases from Lucan (1.569) and Statius (the memorable ‘cuspide cuspis’ is from Thebaid 8.399). Cowley has a similar description at Davideis I.129-30. This is not the only borrowing from In Quintum Novembris in Marston Moor. The lines ‘Persequitur trepidam nemorosa per Avia Praedam / Nocte per Illuni, et somno Nictantibus astris’ (p. 21) are only slightly adapted from In Quintum Novembris 21-2. Fisher makes it clear that his Claudianic poem and Milton’s belong to the same genre. As this passage is one that dates back to the early manuscripts, Fisher must have read Milton’s 1645 Poems very soon after publication, and been particularly impressed by Milton’s Latin verse. Fisher’s lively and inventive scene deserves to be set aside the various Gunpowder poems as a possible intermediate source for Milton’s further development of the idea in Paradise Lost.

  45. 45.

    Fisher was perhaps exploiting here the irony of the general Protestant appropriation of Claudianic panegyric: whereas in Claudian it is Rome that is threatened, in many Protestant versions of the form, Rome becomes the source of the threat. The most famous version of this type of scene in English, in Books I and II of Paradise Lost, must have had a markedly political connotation to its early readers.

  46. 46.

    During the siege, Sir Thomas Glemham’s attempts to defend York from her besiegers are compared to the efforts of a fearless steersman in a storm; this is another clear example of the adaptation of a stock motif from Claudianic panegyric, though the context is not straightforwardly celebratory. For versions of this motif in Fisher, see n. 53 below; in Marvell, see discussion below and Moul, ‘Marvell and Fisher’ (n. 1 above).

  47. 47.

    Though there is not space to explore it fully here, there is an interesting transitional period, noticeable especially in the Irenodia gratulatoria of 1652, in which stock tropes of Claudianic panegyric of (especially) Stilicho, such as preventing disaster by holding up the world, or steering the ship of state between obstacles or through a storm, are applied to Bradshaw (as President of the Council of State) as well as Cromwell: in that poem, for instance, both the Council (sig. B1v) and Cromwell (sig. B4r) are represented as protecting and preserving England.

  48. 48.

    For ‘trabea’ meaning ‘consulship’ (rather than a robe of office), see In Rufinum I.249; Preface to In Eutropium 2.10, De consulatu Stiliconis II.3. The phrase ‘nostra Thalia’ is also found in Claudian (Preface to De bello Getico 2).

  49. 49.

    The quotation is in fact from Panegyricus dictus Manlio Theodoro consuli 162-3.

  50. 50.

    Marvell’s similar imagery in The First Anniversary is discussed in Moul, ‘Marvell and Fisher’ (n. 1 above), and briefly below.

  51. 51.

    See also In Rufinum I.273-4, and (of Theodosius) Panegyricus de quarto consulatu Honorii Augusti 55-62.

  52. 52.

    P. G. Christansen, The Use of Images by Claudius Claudianus, The Hague and Paris, 1969, esp. pp. 16-26.

  53. 53.

    Cromwell as pilot: Irenodia gratulatoria (1652), sigs B1v, H1v, I3v; IO (1654), sigs A1v and G2v; Anniversarium (in Piscatoris poemata, sigs B1r-v, C1r-v). In earlier poetry, versions of the same image are applied first to a royalist, Sir Thomas Glemham, attempting to defend York against its besiegers (Marston Moor, 30-1), and then Bradshaw, President of the Council of State (IG (1652), 91). Cromwell as star: Inauguratio Olivariana (1654), sig. A1v. See further, including on these images in the contemporaneous English verse of Andrew Marvell, see briefly below and, more fully, Moul, ‘Marvell and Fisher’ (n. 1 above).

  54. 54.

    Caspar Barlaeus, Panegyris De laudibus Eminentissimi Cardinalis, Armandi Ioannis Plessiaci, Richelii Ducis, Franciae Patris, &c, Amsterdam, 1645, p. 132.

  55. 55.

    Its first publication is in Miscellania quaedam, a volume with its own title page dated 1650, but only now extant as the final part of the volume Marston Moor.

  56. 56.

    This memorable phrase, literally ‘Even vegetable things worship Venus’, perhaps suggested the ‘vegetable love’ of Marvell’s To his Coy Mistress (‘My vegetable love should grow / Vaster than empires, and more slow’, 11-12), thought to date from between the late 1640s and mid 1650s, a period in which Marvell was demonstrably reading Fisher with some attention.

  57. 57.

    The poem was also published in the same year by Richard Lowndes. That less polished edition has no epigraph from Claudian, and prints the poem divided into four line stanzas. Both features make its generic identity less obvious. Waller’s panegyric circulated widely in manuscript (29 copies noted in CELM online: http://celm2.dighum.kcl.ac.uk/authors/walleredmund.html), and is sometimes accompanied by the Claudian quotation (as in MS BL, Burney 390, fol. 22r). E. Holberton, Poetry and the Cromwellian Protectorate: Culture, Politics, and Institutions, Oxford, 2008, pp. 90-1, comments briefly on Waller’s relationship to Claudian.

  58. 58.

    V. Moul, ‘Andrew Marvell and Payne Fisher’, Review of English Studies, 68, 2017, pp. 524-48 https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgw144.

  59. 59.

    Many are included in the two university collections published that year, Britannia Rediviva (Oxford) and Academiae Cantabrigiensis Sostra (Cambridge). Claudian was the principal classical source for the coronation celebrations for Charles II in 1661; see The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II … by John Ogilby, ed. R. Knowles, Binghamton NY, 1988, p. 50.

  60. 60.

    Discussed in relation to Claudian (and some sixteenth century Latin panegyric) by Garrison, Dryden and the Tradition of Panegyric (n. 3 above), pp. 155-75.

  61. 61.

    On which see Christiansen, Use of Images (n. 52 above), pp. 49-57.


The first half of this article draws in part upon data gathered as part of the Leverhulme Trust funded research project ‘Neo-Latin Verse in English Manuscripts, c. 1550-1700’. Research on this scale would be impossible without external funding, and I am very grateful to the Leverhulme Trust for supporting this project. Thanks are also due to Alcina Saleem who helped with the compilation of some relevant data.

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Moul, V. England’s Stilicho: Claudian’s Political Poetry in Early Modern England. Int class trad 28, 23–50 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12138-019-00529-z

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