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From Midden Fecht to Civil War: Drummond of Hawthornden's Polemo-Middinia


This essay presents the case for William Drummond of Hawthornden's disputed authorship of the seventeenth-century comic, 'macaronic' poem, Polemo-Middinia by means of detailed examination of early editions and manuscript versions of the poem. In so doing, it offers a new historical contextualisation of the poem, identifying the pseudonymous names of its main protagonists to show that they were not entirely fictitious but rooted in a contemporary dispute about land. This involved Sir John Scot of Scotstarvit (1585-1670), a renowned patron of culture in early modern Scotland. In addition, the essay suggests that Drummond's decision to revise and publish the work a considerable period after its first creation was based on him seeing in it a new coded political message relevant to the contemporary civil war. A remarkable anomaly in the Scottish print culture of the period, the poem's appearance in the years of 'the troubles' sheds new light on Drummond's political and intellectual position at this time, as well as his diversity as a writer.