MacLean, Gerald, editor. The Return of the King : An Anthology of English Poems Commemorating the Restoration of Charles II / edited by Gerald MacLean
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

| Table of Contents for this work |
| All on-line databases | Etext Center Homepage |

John Boys
"Epigram" from
'neas His Descent into Hell
p. 229 [sig Gg2]
30 December

   Titlepage: 'NEAS / HIS / DESCENT / INTO / HELL: / As it is inimitably described by the / Prince of Poets in the sixth / of his 'NEIS. / [rule] / Made English by JOHN BOYS of Hode-Court, Esq; / [rule] / Together with an ample and learned Comment upon the same, / wherein all passages Criticall, Mythological, Philoso-/ phical and Historical, are fully and clearly explained. / To which are added some certain Pieces relating to the / Publick, written by the Author. / [rule] / Invia virtuti nulla est via. -- -- -- Ovid. Met / [rule] / LONDON, Printed for the Author, and are to be sold by Henry Brome / at the Gun in Ivy-lane, 1661. / [ornamental box]

    By his own account, at least, John Boys was among those who took an active part in the final preparations for the king's return. On Tuesday 24 January, just as Monck was reaching Northampton where he received a petition calling for the return of the secluded members, Boys claims to have delivered a speech before the mayor in the Town Hall at Canterbury on behalf of Kent and the City of Rochester calling for a Free Parliament; a transcript of that speech is included in 'neas His Descent (pp. 218-20). This was not an entirely safe thing to do; on Tuesday 7 February, the day after Monck addressed the Commons, several individuals who had petitioned the general or parliament were arrested (Davis 1955: 277). Boys also prepared a speech that he had been planning to deliver to the king at Dover "but forasmuch as he was prevented therein by reason his Majesty made no stay at all in that Town" he had to be content with publishing it (ibid. pp. 226-28).

    Check Oxenden letters for Boys and place seeking during May; p. 232,

    Boys published annotated translations of books 3 and 6 of the Aeneid; 'neas His Errours, or his Voyage from Troy into Italy. An Essay upon the Third Book of Virgils 'neis (London, Printed by T. M. for Henry Broome, at the gun in Ivy-lain, 1661) 1 and 'neas His Descent which treats book 6. 'neas His Descent is dedicated to Edward Hide, who was already Lord High Chancellor at the time the volume appeared; 'neas His Errours is dedicated to his son, Lord Viscount Cornbury and was evidently published second since Boys writes of "the more then merited recpetion my late Essay upon this great Author found with your greater Father . . . hath encouraged me to continue my Addresses to the same Family" (sig A2v).

   'neas His Descent also contains dedicatory poems by Charles Fotherby and Thomas Philipott.

    Both of Boys's volumes invite readers to make the obvious connections between the Virgilian hero and the newly installed king of England. In his commentary to 'neas His Errours, Boys insists that it is the prophetic nature of Virgil's epic that has been fulfilled rather than that he has falsified the original to make the application. He reminds us:

it was not, Reader, the ultimate end of our Poet, in this precendent Poem, barely to deliver the story of 'neas his Errours, or Perigrination from Troy into Italy, with those Accidents which befell him therein. . . . No: our wise Authour had a more covert and mysterious design; and, in this wel-built fabric of his gives us the full prospect of a well-order'd Commonwealth, with all the integral parts thereof; which whilest we endeavour to make out, let not the Reader passe sentence upon us, as guilty of perverting or violating the sense or meaning of our Authour, whose constant manner it is, to have a more remote drift, then what is perceptible to the eye of every vulgar Reader (pp. 52-3).

   Since the action of Aeneid 3 largely takes place on board a ship, Boys has no difficulty inferring that the entire book is an allegory of the commonwealth -- the "integral parts" are Prince Aeneis himself, the Council, the Minister of State, and finally the people (p. 53). Boys glosses each in turn, spending some while on the Prince's piety, wisdom and valour (pp. 54-7). Having done so, Boys changes his addressee from the "reader" in general to the king. "And, now," he writes,

most gracious Soveraign, it is not that I have wrested this Character, in delivering things otherwise, then they are represented by our Authour in the precedent Poem, that, I might direct this Application to your Royal Self: No, should I therefore compare your Majesty with our 'neas, in those three princely qualifications, none could truly object to me either force or flattery. (p. 57)

   Once he has specified Charles's pietry, wisdom and valour, Boys illustrates how a line or two from Virgil's Latin could be taken out of context and made to fit present circumstances. "Here then as the same Poet speaks in the person of Anchises concerning his 'neas in this very book, let us, as prophetically, I hope affirm and conclude, (changing one word) concerning your Sacred Majesty.

Hic Carolina domus Cunctis dominabitur oris,
Et nati natorum, & qui nascentur ab illis:
Great Charles his house, with those who thence descend,
Here far and near its Empire shall extend." (pp. 60-61)
This use of Virgil's text for purposes of divination -- the sortes Virgiliana -- was well established long before the Restoration. Charles I was reported to have consulted the Aeneid for its oracular qualities.

    The flyleaf of the BL copy is signed "Wm Amherst," dated "Novemb: 1660" and priced "3s-0d": the WF copy is priced 1s 4d. Despite the titlepage dating of 1661, Boys's translation evidently appeared late in the previous year -- Thomason dated his copy on 30 December -- and it dutifully includes verses lamenting the death of Prince Henry (pp. 214-15) [in WF, CS and L copies] on Thursday, 13 September.

    Compare: [M. Atkins?] Cataplus: or, Aeneas his Descent into hell. A mock poem in imitation of the sixth book of Virgils Aeneis; copies in O at Harding C 3320; G. Pamph.1273 (4)

    The following epigram appears on p. 229 (Sig. Gg2). Since it is so short, I have also included the Latin version.

[1] Wing V621; L,O,C; CH, NP


Si dives, Rex magne, esset mihi vena Mar"nis,
Si fo/elix vatum principis ingenium,
Ipse fores meus 'neas, titulisq; superbis
Te ornarem, Her"i quos dedit ille suo.

Had I, Great Monarch, Maro's divine spirit,
Or did the Prince of Poets wit inherit,
You should be my 'neas, and what He
His Heroe gave, to you ascrib'd should be.
  Your most humble and obscure,
     but withal most faithful and
       obedient Vassal
       John Boys.

SANCTE PATER -- -- -- -- -- -- Val. Flacc. Argon.I.1
[final tag found in WF; but also in Brome edition at OW, L]