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commemorate the death of Edmund Campion, can be read as a sustained
meditation on the united remembrance of martyrs both in heaven and on
earth.23 As we saw in the previous poem, this goes along with an admission
of authorial incapacity. The opening of the ballad stresses the limitations
of writing as a medium for commemoration:
Why doe I use my paper ynke and pen,
and call my wyttes to counsell what to say?
such memoryes weare made for mortall men,
I speake of sayntes whose names shall not decay.
An angells Trumpe weare fytter for to sound
theyre glorious deathe yf suche on earthe wear founde.
Pardon my want: I offer noughte but will,
theyre register remaynethe safe above.
Campion exceeds the compasse of my skyll.
Yet let mee use the measure of my love,
And geve me leave in lowe and homelie vearse
His highe attemptes in England to reherse.

Trumpets, a common iconographical attribute of fame, are as indispensable
to the self-de¬nition of the panegyrist as oaten reeds to the pastoral poet.
This poet is making a very different statement from that contained in the
poem on Peter Elcius™s martyrdom, even though both connect trumpets
with the idea of authorial incapacity; here, trumpets are the instruments
of angels, and illustrate how the kind of fanfare that Campion deserves
cannot be achieved on earth. Missing from most accounts of early modern
rumour and news-dissemination is an awareness of the perceived super-
natural dimension of communication. But here, the ballad-writer presents
Martyrs and confessors 123
himself, in a way that one is obliged to take literally, as only supplementing
what heaven has to say about Campion. In the company of all who spread
Campion™s fame on earth, his overriding concern is to participate in the
corrective processes of heaven. In keeping with the fact that Catholics were
dissidents, his notion of fame is both angelic and disorderly:

Yee thought perhapps, when learned Campion dyes,
his pen must cease, his sugred townge be still.
But yow forget how lowd his deathe yt cryes,
how farre beyond the sownd of tounge or quill.
yow did not know how rare and great a good
yt was to write those precious guiftes in bloode.
Lyvyng he spake to them that present weare,
his wrytinges took theyre censure of the vew.
now fame reportes his lerninge far and neere,
and now his deathe con¬rmes theyre doctryne trew,
his vyrtues now are written in the skyes,
and often red with hollye inward eyes.

Saints™ virtues are both written and declared in heaven, sustaining
Campion™s own use of both oral and written media “ ˜With tounge and
pen the truthe he tawghte and wrote™ (l.31) “ but the relationship between
heavenly fame and earthly rumour is particularly close. Popular report is
perceived as part of the judicial process, where a cloud of witnesses has
the chance to correct earthly injustice by declaring Campion™s virtues and
quashing adverse criticism. Hence, when the poet condemns the Protestant
ballad-writer William Elderton along with the judge and jury at Campion™s
trial, it is no mere commentary on his literary skills to jeer ˜thy scurrill
ballads are too bad to sell™ (l.98). In this unusually self-re¬‚exive ballad, the
line ˜On every gate his martyrdome wee fynde™ (l.130), as well as remind-
ing the audience of how Campion™s remains were displayed, could also be
interpreted as referring to the public posting of illicit Catholic ballads “
and if so, would be a rare piece of evidence about their distribution.24 It
occurs in the following passage, which by describing how rumour subverts
the intentions of those who wish to obscure Campion™s memory, provides
an almost schematic description of the Catholic oral challenge. Particu-
larly striking is the use of prosopopoeia to describe a real-life devotional
activity: within a culture where “ as the introduction to this book describes “
local topography was so often consciously exploited as a mnemonic aid to
124 Oral Culture and Catholicism
the veneration of saints, to describe the London streets and the Tower of
London as speaking in Campion™s defence was not just a ¬gure of speech:
All Europe wonders at so rare a man.
England was ¬lled with rumore of his end.
And London most for yt was present then,
When constantly three sayntes theyre lyves did spend
The streates, the steppes, the stones yow hallde them by,
Proclaymes the cawse, whearfore thease martyrs dye.
The Tower dothe tell the trewthe he did defend,
the barre beares witnesse of his giltlesse mynde.
Tyburne did try he made a pacient end.
On every gate his martyrdome wee fynde.
In vayne ye wrought that would obscure his name,
for heaven and Erthe will still record the same.

mot toes, m otets a nd m a rt y rdom 2 5
Whatever Foxe and his disciples might have assumed, the Marian martyrs
had no monopoly on quoting Scripture. Biblical verses frequently came to
be associated with particular Catholic heroes, in cases where those individ-
uals had quoted them at trials, executions or other public events. Making
his scaffold-speech, Campion took as his text ˜We are made a spectacle, or
a sight, unto God, unto his Angels, and unto men™, a reference which was
taken up by ballad writers on both sides of the religious divide.26 As shown
in a ballad preserved by William Blundell on the martyrdom of Robert
Anderton, the Psalms were an especially popular source for appropriate
verses. In this passage, the martyr quotes twice from the Psalms:
When that his Judgment passed was
hee spoke theise words most sweete
[O holy lord of Saboth god
with whom I nowe shall meete].
And senge this verse; [no honoure lord
no honour give to us
But to thy sacred name shewe it];
& then in prose spoke thus;
[Againste me strangers risen are
the stronge my soule have sought
not settinge god before theire sight
who dearly hath them bought.
Behould how god my helper is
& safegard of my soule
Martyrs and confessors 125
A sheeld most suer at all assayes].
In spiritte hee spake this whoule . . .27

If the ballad preserves anecdotal evidence as to what actually happened at
the trial, this would give us a fascinating glimpse of a prospective martyr
deliberately choosing the medium of song to express joy at his death sen-
tence. Either way, the ballad makes suggestive distinctions between singing
and speaking, verse and prose. Giving voice to his delight at the sentence
of death, Anderton sings a portion of the ¬rst verse of Psalm 115: ˜Not unto
us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory™; then, immedi-
ately afterwards, recites two verses from Psalm 54: ˜For strangers are risen
up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul: they have not set God
before them . . . Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that
uphold my soul™ (v.3“4). While the accusation is described as spoken in
prose, Anderton™s thanksgiving is sung: a point which, given the fact that
a ballad has to be written in metre, the ballad writer is obliged to spell
out.28 Exploiting their ready-made context, both quotations are carefully
selected as points of entry to a polemical lesson which both sympathetic
and unsympathetic observers would have understood: Psalm 115 goes on
to condemn the worshippers of idols who ˜have mouths, but they speak
not; eyes have they, but they see not™ (v.5), while Psalm 54 continues both
to indict Anderton™s accusers, ˜[God] shall reward evil unto mine enemies;
cut them off in thy truth™, and to anticipate the re¬‚ections of an incipient
martyr, ˜I will freely sacri¬ce unto thee: . . . For he hath delivered me out of
all trouble; and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies™ (v.5“7).
But the action of singing when sentenced to death is most important of
all; Anderton anticipates heaven in his disclaimer of personal glory, raising
himself into an angelic register where prayer is all song.
There is evidence that Catholic composers chose texts for motets on
the basis of anecdotal association. A theological collection in the Bodleian
Library, compiled by one ˜Thomas Jollett™, preserves a four-part setting
attributed to William Byrd “ though probably not by him “ of the psalm
verse chanted by Mark Barkworth on his way to execution in 1601, ˜Haec
est dies quam fecit Dominus exultemus et laetamur in ea.™29 According to
this account, Barkworth sang a version of the verse over and over again,
˜Haec est dies: haec est dies, hec est dies domini, gaudiamus, gaudiamus,
gaudiamus et letaemur in ea™, with another priest, Roger Fieldcock, chiming
in, ˜Et letaemur in ea.™30 In addition, after an account of Henry Garnet™s life
and death, there is a setting by Jollett himself of words said by Garnet at his
execution, ˜Adoramus te Christe.™31 Both settings would have possessed a
126 Oral Culture and Catholicism
powerful occasional force to coexist with the revealed content of Scripture.32
Jollett™s chosen text, ˜We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you; because
by your cross you have redeemed the world™, operates on two levels of
speci¬c reference.33 Firstly, it attributes christological devotion to Garnet,
explaining his heroic death; secondly, it is Jollett™s chosen prayer to a God
who is praised through the deeds of his martyrs. In the case of the other
motet, the initial choice of text was Barkworth™s;34 but as Anderton™s use of
Non Nobis Domine might suggest, the language of rewriting and adaptation,
so often used to explain how text was appropriated to occasion in early
modern literary culture, is inappropriate to a martyr™s declarative singing.
Personal use of the psalms and liturgy on the way to execution proclaims
an identi¬cation with Christ and his followers, and therefore an ecstatic
relinquishing of any claim to individuality. More appropriate is the idea
of selection, stressing the individual as chooser but not as originator. Even
outside the immediate context of a religious service, this is essentially a
liturgical choice, where one selects portions from a sacred text because of
their appropriateness to a particular day, season or historical occasion. To the
implied audience, the text would have operated “ like the words of any other
devotional motet “ as an inspiration for personal re¬‚ection, which would
have been steered by how much they knew of the reasons for Jollett™s choice.
Motets were often “ to use the contemporary term “ private music.35
The ability to second-guess the responses of a coterie audience might have
affected the musical setting of biblical texts, as well as their choice and
adaptation. Musicologists have long emphasised the affective qualities of
Byrd, and his concern to maximise his chosen texts™ semantic expressiveness
is explicitly set out in his dedication to Book I of his Gradualia. Here, he
describes sacred words as having ˜such a profound and hidden power . . . that
to one thinking upon things divine and diligently and earnestly pondering
them, the most suitable of all musical measures occur (I know not how)
as of themselves and suggest themselves spontaneously to the mind that
is not indolent and inert™.36 For instance, there may “ as Joseph Kerman
has suggested “ be a direct relation between Byrd™s religious nonconformity
and his pioneering use of dissonance; musical harmony was a commonplace
metaphor for concord, while disharmony could be used to express political
This illustrates how motets could be used to voice general discontent as
well as commenting on a speci¬c occasion.38 The words for motets tended
to be biblical, but because the choice was subject to less liturgical prescrip-
tiveness, it was easier to select those most susceptible to a contemporary
application.39 Psalm-texts ¬gured largely, and in a well-known exchange of
Martyrs and confessors 127
motets between Byrd and Philippe de Monte, Kapellmeister to the Holy
Roman Emperor, both composers take their texts from the most famous
psalm of Israel™s captivity, Psalm 137.40 The analogy of English Catholicism “
or other religious minorities “ with Israel in Egypt is a commonplace; and
here, the reference to suppressed songs can be read as alluding to banned
worship. Textual selection and textual rearrangement point up the allusion.
De Monte initiated the conversation as follows:
Super ¬‚umina Babylonis illic sedimus et ¬‚evimus dum recordaremur tui Sion.
Illic interrogaverunt nos, qui captivos abduxerunt nos, verba cantionum. Quo-
modo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena? In salicibus in medio eius
suspendimus organa nostra. (Ps.137, v.1,3,4,2)41

The verses are rearranged to allow Verse 2 to come at the end, pointing up
the personal allusion to Byrd, and even rendering eloquent the silence at
the end of the piece when the instruments have been hung up. But in his
answer, Byrd reverts to the original order of the verses within the psalm,
allowing the Scriptures to guide his formal expression of hope.
Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena? Si oblitus fuero tui,
Hierusalem, oblivioni detur dextra mea; adhaeret lingua mea faucibus meis, si
non meminero tui. (2a pars) Si non proposuero Hierusalem in principio laetitiae
meae. Memor esto, Domine, ¬liorum Edom in die Hierusalem. (Ps.137, v.4“7a)42

Psalms were sung across denominational divides as lyrical expressions of
sectarian de¬ance; and because of its greater musical eloquence, the motet
extended the idea further. Remarking on the large number of penitential
texts which Byrd set to music, Joseph Kerman sees these as commenting
on the contemporary Catholic plight; certainly, these and many other texts
quoted in this chapter would have been readily interpretable by contem-
poraries as relevant to English Catholicism, because references to Babylon
and Jerusalem, or lamentation and persecution, are so common in the
community™s polemical literature.43 But if the story of Barkworth had not
survived, one would not guess that the more joyful text of ˜Haec est dies™
had a speci¬c relevance to one of the English martyrs; and one wonders
how many other motets by Catholic composers might have been derived
from similar occasions.
Both martyr-ballads and motets would have encouraged people towards
exemplarity, perhaps even acting as a means by which members of an
audience could keep one another up to the mark in future. An active, even
a critical, interaction of this kind can sometimes be traced in the texts.
One ballad, on the deaths of Nicholas Garlick, Robert Ludlam and Robert
128 Oral Culture and Catholicism
Simpson, includes a response to previous versions of the story that, if left
unaddressed, would have undermined Simpson™s exemplarity. Narration
of the episode serves a double function: Simpson™s momentary lapse of
courage is made to conduce to his eventual triumph, but ideally, it would
also have taught the audience how not to act. The ballad™s author knew
how performativity worked:44
And what tho SIMSON seem™d to yeeld
for doubt and dreede to dye:
He rose againe, and woone the ¬eld,
and dyed most constantly.
His watching, fasting, shirt of haire;
his speech his death and all
Do record give, and witnesse beare,
he wail™d his former fall.45

b l essed co n sci e nc es
Ballads could also foreground the role of the confessor in ways that involved
both veneration and role playing. Some describe a particular heroic episode
and praise the steadfastness of its protagonist, while others play out a pro-
cess of exhortation, often by employing two different voices. The ballad
˜The Bless`d Conscience™ has as its hero Thomas Hoghton, who ¬‚ed from
England around 1570 when recusants began being harassed in Lancashire,
and lived in France and the Low Countries until his death in 1580.46 Of
the version of this ballad printed in Ancient Ballads and Songs of Lancashire
(1st edn 1865), the compiler John Harland says that it was taken from the
recitation of a Lancashire ¬ddler.47 What we have is a modi¬ed text, and the
degree of alteration must remain speculative.48 The original ballad could
date from any time after Hoghton™s death, and even while admitting the
dif¬culty of disentangling genuine oral tradition from later antiquarian
speculation, one needs to bear in mind that the biographical details it gives
could be correct.49 The story begins in an outdoor ˜private place™, where
Hoghton is accosted by an unnamed visitant who warns him to depart. He
makes preparations and leaves:
Oh! Hoghton high, which is a bower
Of sports and lordly pleasure,
I wept, and left that lofty tower
Which was my chiefest treasure.
To save my soul and lose the rest,
It was my true pretence:
Martyrs and confessors 129
Like frighted bird, I left my nest,
To keep my consci`nce . . .
Thus merry England have I left,
And cut the raging sea,
Whereof the waves have me bereft
Of my so dear country.
With sturdy storms and blustering blast
We were in great suspense;
Full sixteen days and nights they last
And all for my conscience.
(stanzas 9, 11)

From the continent he asks his relatives to compensate the servants that
have accompanied him, and his brother Richard obliges. This stress on
Hoghton™s concern for the welfare of his subordinates, lasting “ as we have
the text “ for nine stanzas out of a total of twenty-two, may be designed
to appeal to a popular audience and anticipate criticism that Hoghton had
not ful¬lled his seigneurial role.50 Philip V. Bohlman has commented on
the way in which oral tradition can act as a repository for a community™s
shared values, and determine ˜the social acceptability . . . of these values
through a continuous process of sifting and winnowing™; but one should
also acknowledge how those values can be endorsed by adding ethical glosses
to a story.51
The ballad needs to have two voices: that imputed to Hoghton, and
the commentator™s, who frames Hoghton™s testimony and voices the praise
necessary to the poem™s existence as a moral artefact, which it would be
improper for Hoghton himself to voice. The end of the poem sees these
voices juxtaposed. Dying, Hoghton gives his audience a last injunction “
˜Farewell, farewell! good people all, / And learn experi`nce; / Love not
too much the golden ball, / But keep your consci`nce!™ (stanza 21) “
which is immediately followed by the voice of the commentator, exhorting
the listeners to behave like Hoghton. But though the epithet ˜confessor™
consigns Hoghton to heaven, it is also something of a pre-emptive strike,
emphasising the degree of self-sacri¬ce involved in ¬‚eeing “ an action which
could, after all, easily be seen as unheroic:
All you who now this song shall hear,
Help me for to bewail
The wight, who scarcely had his peer,
Till death did him assail.
His life a mirror was to all,
His death without offence;
130 Oral Culture and Catholicism
˜Confessor™, then, let us him call,
O blessed consci`nce!
(stanza 22)

Another Catholic ballad of banishment is voiced alternately by two lovers.
The male lover explains why he must go abroad: ˜Tis long of Englands
strang division / and the altering of religion / that I am exposd to danger
/ and to travell like a stranger . . .™53 In the second half of the ballad, his
mistress sets out her determination to follow him:
If to the Sea thou make thy venture
I in the Ship will allsoe enter
or if thou one the Shore wilt tarry,
I the selfe same mind doe carry.
soe thou vowchsafe to take me to thee
speake but the word and ile goe with t[hee] . . .
Since thou standest ¬rme to the old religion
my selfe am of the same condition
England weel leave and march togeathe[r]
noe earthly creature shall know whether54
conscience moves mee to come to thee
now thou hast spoke Love Ile goe with thee[.]

The obligations of gender, which could potentially work against confessor-
ship, here result in a new recruit to the old faith. The attitude of this speaker
is summed up in her promise ˜I will stately [i.e. ˜stoutly™] ¬ght thy quarrell™:
conscientious demands are real, but resolve into a matter of standing by
one™s man.

confe s sorsh ip, m a rt yrdo m an d t h e powe r o f n am e s
The theme of exile in these ballads shows how religious constancy can
have two contrasting topographical effects, obliging one either to ¬‚ee, or to
stand one™s ground with an unambiguous proclamation of allegiance. Post-
Reformation Catholics often acted in the latter way by erecting denomi-
nationally speci¬c signs and inscriptions on houses and other sites. Theirs
was an age in which it was natural to do so. Historians and literary scholars
have long been sensitive to the interplay between word and image in the
Renaissance, and in recent years this has been supplemented by an aware-
ness of how inscriptions at this period tend to exploit the location of
words in a space, and on a physical surface.55 As with any text, inscriptions
depend crucially on their audience for meaning; and since they are more
Martyrs and confessors 131
static than most texts, their physical location dictates that audience in the
¬rst instance. But if this is a limitation, oral transmission can compensate
for it, and amplify an inscription™s effect. Though an inscription, like any
conversation piece, can only suggest oral occasions and not respond to
them, this can be an advantage. At their most successful, inscriptions can
associate a particular building or site ineluctably with Catholicism, accept-
ing and capitalising upon the element of in¬‚exibility in the medium: after
all, in¬‚exibility can signify constancy when carved in stone, and serve as an
emblem of confessorship. In 1674, for instance, two spinster sisters living at
Aldcliffe Hall near Lancaster placed a stone on the house reading ˜Catholicae
virgines nos sumus: mutare vel tempore spernimus™ (We are Catholic vir-
gins who scorn to change with the times), and their house became known
locally as ˜The Catholic Virgins™.56 The best-known building erected by an
Elizabethan Catholic, Thomas Tresham™s Triangular Lodge at Rushton in
Northamptonshire, is the most sophisticated example of this trend which
remains to us. Simultaneously punning on Tresham™s own name and notions
of the Holy Trinity, it exhibits a combination of blatancy and enigma that
commentators have found exceptionally provocative.57
Though Tresham took it to exaggerated lengths, it was not unusual
for confessors and martyrs to pun on their own names. Examples sur-
vive in conversational exchanges which went on hagiographical record; a
retort of the martyr John Boast58 during his trial, for instance, survives
among the material drawn upon by Challoner in his Memoirs of Missionary
the Lord President . . . made . . . a prolix speech concerning the long search that
had been made for him . . . but that now, to his great satisfaction, he had taken him
at last. To which speech Mr. Bost in the end replied with a smiling countenance:
And after all this, my Lord, you have but gotten Boast, “ alluding to the Earl™s boast
in having used such diligence for his apprehension.59

Jokes of this kind were an effective means for an incipient martyr to turn
the tables on his accusers, demonstrating a recollected and cheerful spirit
in the face of death; moreover, they were an effective trigger for anecdote.

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