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James' Scratchpad

James O`Neill

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I'm mostly going to use this to collate things James has written/his thoughts on poetry, after spending a week trying and failing to locate my notes from several years ago on the subject.

Influences/likes: Abraham Cowley, the new Gaelic tradition (I haven't written anything to this effect, but James is one of the early "aisling" poets), John Milton (despite his political views), Fletcher and Beaumont (except for Bonduca), Catullus, Martial

James is not especially influenced by the present literary set, finding them derivative of one another and too light in subject matter, despite his admiration of the libertines in general.

Atop a Monument (written August 1677)

Some men are born to the nests of sparrows,
While others shall soar to greater heights,
Yet Fortuna laughs at trite sentiment,
those born by her lofty flight
Are often clipped still by the Lady's fickle winds...

But perhaps maligned Nemesis may smile,
Her escorts, flighty Fates, may breathe
All too easy at our efforts so vain,
So hapless, so eager towards our own notions so Pleased,
That our feeble Hope's gaiety proves more boon than bane.

A Satyr Upon the Common-place (written before coming to court - the target is obvious, but true to the convention at the time, no name is given)

Oh! Of all the servants of the Muses fair!
There is but one of which we must beware,
For their name, dear D-, is but the most apt,
And though My name be trapped, take care,
For our D begins such words that are mapped,
As Desert, Dreary, and most Desol-ate.

For Complex'ty itself 'tis Dismal,
And Drudges along at a rate Abysmal,
Til the reader starving, barren to truth and vigor,
Must to themselves wonder of hymnals,
Of Psalms, and Proverbs, and such de rigeur
That one cannot see more than the boor...

Behind such words dost lurk...

The Pursuit of Diarmid and Gráinne (written August 1677 - based upon the story from the Fenian Cycle, but written in an English influenced form - blank verse in iambic pentameter with an Alexandrine line at the end of each stanza. There are nine stanzas total. James considers this one of his favorite pieces to have written, if not his most important.)

To flight, with luck a geas could fain command,
Diarmid to spurn his pledge, forgo the bonds,
of Finn, for hair of gold, for love yet false.
Gráinne did strive, her mind set 'flame, a hope
Not yet undone. For Kings and Men may fight
To snare young love under the spell, if but
To keep Venus unfree. And so Gráinne
Did set about with great a-do to break,
And be at peace without the chains of Men and Kings.


Profane it is to sing so free, of love, damn'd love,
When Man has no chorus, no verse to cry.
And yet Woman, our fair Gráinne and her Charges
Do so exult in their passion, their joy.
For once when Man was not the true Victor,
'tis but a sin, and so again, did Love
Falter and dry, as a stream is so wont
In drought. For what Man can control,
He craves and chains, and e'er confines a serf.

But exult, dear friend, for our Gráinne yet lives,
And the death of heroes has never Passion dimm'd."

Would that I could see Chloris' lips breathe roses true (written after the August 1677 season, based on an impromptu verse offered during a chaotic gathering in the Privy Garden)

Would that I could see Chloris' lips breathe roses true,
In Elysium's fey fields, perchance, shrouded in dew
And mist, the golden rise of daybreak's parting gift.
Yet each dawn has a dusk, and a thorned rose still draws blood,
And even the fairest garden with rain will be mud.
For Man's great treasure and bane are but one and the same,
An idle eye wanders for the nymph we can tame.


The Rising of the Britons (James' epic about Boudicca, written on and off but essentially completed by the end of 1677. I may put something here should the work never receive attention, but its themes revolve around twisting various allegories until the audience does not who to root for. The Celts=libertines, England, a rather Spinozan view of God, but noted in the poem for their historical atrocities. The Romans="virtuous", traditional moralizers, England's Continental enemies - Fletcher and Beaumont favored them.)

Sonnet to Marcella (in progress, started winter 1677 - subject matter is either several lost loves, James' mercurial temperament, or both. Needs a better rhyme scheme)

I offer up a calf of pur'st gold
To you, Marcella, as pagan forfeit.
So that Levi might now, as once of old,
Put me to sword, strike my heart's dear surfeit
Of obeisance to thee, Marcella. O! NEED WORDS

Kind words repel thee, beloved, cruelty

Calls forth the muse, sorcer’d


To Moloch, love, slip thy blade 'twixt my ribs!


Edited by James O`Neill
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  • 4 months later...

Education (I keep forgetting about this):

-privately tutored most of his childhood. Parents believed temperament unsuited to boarding school environment, given frequency of outbursts. Nominally part of the Church of Ireland, he wouldn't technically be barred from the Royal schools, but they were dominated by Scots settlers. O'Neills having led two rebellions, family did not expect warm welcome.

-Spain: late teenage to 20ish. With a tutor and his cousin Owen (an officer in the Spanish military), studied the quadrivium in an unofficial capacity. This period actually gave him a stronger connection to Gaelic heritage, spending time with the Irish diaspora (rebels, children of rebels)

-Italy: 20 until slightly before his arrival at court. This was more of a Continental tour type deal, except he lived there with Owen for a few years. Also formally studied art at the Accademia e Compagnia delle Arti de Disegno, a guild-run academy for the visual arts where nobles often studies, and received private tutoring in poetic theory, the Italian language, a bit of history, while writing extensively. Saw many cities but stayed in Florence. Left after a scandal with his host's daughter.

Edited by James O`Neill
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  • 1 month later...

Writing ideas:

Talk to Sedley about adapting his epic into a play, maybe get into the theater a bit.

Untitled project for Rochester: a shorter epic, as proposed by R by means of a challenge to James and Anne-Elisabeth. An adaptation of Puss in Boots (at the time, an Italian folktale that hadn't reached Britain) and a tragicomedy, where the cat (named Lord Bellavista - a name for the pompous "captain" character of the commedia dell'arte) has a Quixotic sort of insanity where it envisions itself slaying monsters but is instead terrorizing the populace.

Tam Lin adaptation - Scottish fairy tale. James is pretty fond of stories of the Fair Folk, as this is before the Victorians came in and neutered all the lust and violence from them.

The Tain: self-explanatory!

Red Owen: Owen Roe O'Neill, one of the leaders of the Catholic Confederation, is super interesting. This one could be a mite controversial, but could be a means to garner approval from/for Ormonde. Ormonde's father, after all, is said to have sought an alliance with the O'Neills after the massacre at Drogheda. A bit of revisionist history could benefit the moderate Irish royalist group - Owen Roe could be portrayed as a tragic antihero, perhaps misled, who only too late realized he ought side with the Crown in full - but was then murdered for it (not revisionist, necessarily, but some of the facts could be).

Something bawdy/smut: this might be awkward to write, but I kind of want to try my hand at this

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