Quisquis amissam,” Oglethorpe’s first publication and only known poem, laments the death of Queen Anne and celebrates the coronation of King George I. It appeared in 1714 in Pietas Universitatis Oxoniensis in Obitum Serenissimae Reginae Annae et Gratulatio in Augustissimi Regis Georgii Inaugurationem, a volume to which most of the contributors were eminent Oxonians. Oglethorpe’s Sapphic stanzas (a form developed by Horace) are not distinguished, but they are competent. Oglethorpe had had a good classical education at Eton, and at Corpus Christi he had studied with the renowned classical scholar Basil Kennet.1 For some years Latin had provided the medium of his education; and Oglethorpe was apparently a good linguist. French came easy to him; and on his voyage to Georgia in 1736 with the Moravians, he learned some German. Earlier, in 1734, he and August Gottlieb Spangenberg had been forced to converse in Latin.2 His facility in that language he apparently retained. On a visit to the general in 1783, James Boswell recorded that Oglethorpe “quoted several of the Latin poets.”3 But perhaps the most significant aspect of the poem is its declaration of allegiance to the Hanoverian king, for Oglethorpe’s mother, brother, and sisters were all loyal to the Stuart Pretender.
“Quisquís amissam” was reprinted by Rudolf Kirk, in “A Latin Poem by James Edward Oglethorpe,” Georgia Historical Quarterly 32 (1948): 29–31, with a prose translation by Dorothy Flint. My text follows the original, in Pietas Universitatis Oxoniensis. For the translation I am indebted to Robert R. Harris, of the Classics Department at the University of Georgia.4
Quisquis amissam lacrymis Parentem
Heu! pius frustrà repetis, molestum
Auferas planctum, atque, malè ominata
ANNA Se fieri vetat: Illa cœlos
Assidens Divis tenet, inde terras
Spectat, & curat Decus Imperîque
Mortuam stultè querimur, perenni
Fama Quam pennâ vehit, & superbos
Cui dedit nuper titulorum honores
Musa virtutum memor arcet Illam
Luridis Orci tenebris: & alto
Laetus exemplo fit Imago viva
Ille, seu Martis studium fatiget,
Seu colat Pacem, nova sylva Laudum
Crescit, aut Lauro caput aut virenti
Jacobus Oglethorpe Eq. Aur. Fil. è C.C.C. Sup. Ord. Commens.
[All you who piously, yet in vain, alas! recall with tears your lost Mother, away with this tedious dirge, with these lamentations, ill-omened words.
Anna refuses to be bewailed: she herself, seated amongst the saints, holds the heavens whence she looks down upon earth and cares for the glory and the destiny of the British Empire.
Foolishly do we complain that she is dead when Glory bears her up on everlasting wing, and Flanders, conquered, has but recently conferred upon her the honor of proud titles.
The muse, mindful of her virtues, keeps her from the lurid darkness of Orcus, and George, rejoicing in her lofty example, is become the living image of Anna.
Whether he wears out the pursuit of Mars, or whether he cultivates Peace, a fresh forest of Praises springs up; for he is crowned, now with Laurel, now again with verdant Olive.
James Oglethorpe, son of a gold-accoutered knight, of Corpus Christi College. Gentleman-commoner.]