Amersham
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Latin Epitaphs in St Mary's Church,
Old Amersham

St Mary's
St. Mary's Parish Church
Church Street, Amersham, HP7 0DB
Tel: 01494 729380
There are four clearly visible epitaphs in the main body of the church: two in the Chancel, one in the South Transept and one on the west wall to the left of the tower. Three are directly concerned with members of the Drake family, the fourth (on the west wall) commemorates the Restoration-era poet Philip Ayres, who was closely connected with the Drakes. This latter inscription is badly faded in places.

Two other inscriptions, immediately below the main William Drake epitaph in the Chancel, are now so faded as to be almost completely illegible; the lowest inscription is also partially obscured by the step up to the high altar. I have not attempted to reconstruct these.

Caveat lector: These translations are offered as ‘works in progress’, without any claim to being definitive. In order to elucidate the grammar and syntax of the texts, the English strives for as literal a rendering of the original Latin as possible, even if it lacks elegance as a result.

The grammatical notes are intended both to show the progress of my translations, and to help those who wish to produce their own versions.

Comments and corrections will be gratefully received. Please contact me by email to mark@snazzystuff.co.uk. Mark Walker teaches Latin for Everyday Life, an introductory Latin course run by Bucks Adult Education.
On the east wall of the South Transept, above the door next to the organ:

DEO
OPT. MAX.
IN PIAM MEMORIAM
FREDERICI EDWARDI
TYRWHITT DRAKE
PRESBYTERI
NAT. A.D. V KAL. OCT. MDCCCXXVIII
MORT. A.D. IV KAL. SEPT. MCMIX

MONTACUTI GULIELMI
TYRWHITT DRAKE
NAT. A.D. XIII KAL. FEB. MDCCCXXX
MORT. A.D. VI ID. MART. MCMVIII

GULIELMI HENRICI
TYRWHITT DRAKE
NAT. PRID. NON. QUINT.
MDCCCXXXV
MORT. ID. APR. MDCCCXCVIII

QUOS TRES FILOS GENERE
GEORGIUS TYRWHITT DRAKE
– OB. MDCCCXL –
ET JANE HALSEY CONJUX EJUS
– OB. MDCCCLXIV –
QUORUM ANIMIS PROPITIETUR
JESUS
Translation:
To God
The greatest and best.
In pious memory of
Frederick Edward
Tyrwhitt Drake,
Priest,
Born 27th September 1828,
Died 29th August, 1909,

Of Montague William
Tyrwhitt Drake,
Born 20th January 1830,
Died 10th March 1908,

[And] of William Henry
Tyrwhitt Drake,
Born 6th July 1835,
Died 13th April 1898.

These three sons, offspring
Of George Tyrwhitt Drake
– died 1840 –
And Jane Halsey his wife
– died 1864 –
May Jesus be favourable to their souls
Notes:
1.Deo Opt. Max. – abbreviation of Deo Optimo Maximo, dative case. A Christian variant on the traditional Roman Iuppiter Optimus Maximus. The writer of this inscription is keen to demonstrate their Classical credentials.
2.in piam memoriam – ‘in pious memory of ...’ hence the three names all appear in the genitive case
3.nat a.d. – natus (est) ante diem ... Roman dates are reckoned backwards from three key days in each month: the Kalends, Nones and Ides. Again, a Classical touch.
4.quint – for Quintilis, the old Roman name for July, originally the fifth month
5.mort – for mortuus (est), note that obiit is used as an alternative below
6.quos tres filios – accusative, because the subject of the final sentence is not the three sons, but Jesus, though genitive might make a better reading, i.e. ‘the souls of those three sons ...’?
7.genere – ablative of gens, race or tribe, here meaning ‘offspring’
8.ob. – for obiit (properly mortem obiit, literally ‘met death’)
9.quorum – genitive plural, referring to the three sons
10.animis – dative (or possibly ablative – see below) plural
11.propitietur – passive subjunctive of propitio, propitiare (Eng. ‘propitiate’). The subjunctive expresses a wish or desire here
12.Jesus – nominative, the subject of the verb.
13.The final words read rather awkwardly. The verb propitietur is passive and only found in post-classical sources such as the Vulgate propitietur vobis, Dominus (Leviticus, 23, 28), which is translated in the King James version as: ‘to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God.’ Literally the epitaph sentence means, ‘May Jesus be appeased by their souls’, which doesn’t sound an especially Christian sentiment – though a Roman would doubtless see nothing wrong with the need to appease (propitiate) a god. A Classical Latin writer would probably have used placeo (pass subj placeatur): ‘May Jesus be pleased by their souls’. This would make animis ablative rather than dative.
On the west wall, to the left of the tower:

M. S.
PHILIPPI AYRES ARMIGERI
[_?] PROBI, TEMPERANTIS & DOCTI
LINGUARUMQUE
PRAECIPUE GR: LATIN: GALLIC: HISPAN: & [ITAL_?]
VALDE PERIIT
QUI CUM PRIMOS ANNOS LITERIS DEDISSET
IN SCHOLA WESTMONASTRIENSI,
PUBLICA DEINDE QUAEDAM OFFICIA
MULTA CUM FIDE & LAUDE SUSTINUIT
MAJORAQ. FORSAN OBTINERE POTUIT
SED OPU SPLENDORE FORTITER CONTEMNENS
ET LITERAS POLITIORES AMANS,
PRIVATUS IN OTIO DELITESCERE MANUIT.

HINC MONTACUTO DRAKE ARMIG
IN FILII INSTITUTIONE FIDELITER INSERVIIT.
IN EAQ. FAMILIA AD FINEM USQ. VITAE PER-
-MANSIT
EJUSQ. SUMPTIB. HIC HONORIFICE SEPULTUS EST

NATUS EST COTTINGHAMIAE IN COM: NORTHAMP:
ANNO 1638
SUBITA MORTE CORREPTUS, OBIIT DEC: 1
ANNO 1712.

VIGILATE ERGO QUIA NESCITIS QUA HORA
DOMINUS VESTER VENTURUS SIT
Translation:
Sacred to the Memory
Of Philip Ayres, Esquire
[_?] virtuous, temperate and learned
And of languages
Especially Greek, Latin, French, Spanish and Italian [_?]
to a high degree perished
Who dedicated his first years to literature
In Westminster School
Next a certain public office
He held with much faith and praise
And perhaps he could have obtained a greater
But bravely despising distinguished influence
And loving more polite letters
He endured to hide away in leisure as a private person.
Hence he served Montague Drake, Esquire,
Faithfully in the education of his son
And in that family right up to the end of his life
He remained
And by their expense he was honourably buried here

He was born at Cottingham in the county of Northampton
In the year 1638
Suddenly snatched away by death, he died on December 1st
In the year 1712.

Watch therefore: for ye know not at what hour your Lord doth come
Biographical Note:
Philip Ayres was a minor poet of the 17th century. A friend of Dryden, he attended Westminster School then St. John's College, Oxford. He was a formidable linguist in both ancient and modern languages and translated many continental authors into English. As a poet he was especially fond of the sonnet, and published a multi-lingual collection entitled Emblemata Amatoria (‘Emblems of Love’) with copies of each verse in Latin, English, Italian, and French. As his epitaph mentions, Ayres’ love of literature caused him to turn his back on the ‘rat race’; he spent most of his life as a tutor to the Drake family.

Notes:
1.M.S. – Memoriae Sacrum
2.valde – ‘very much’, ‘to a high degree’, a correct translation may depend on the missing word in the previous line
3.Westmonastriensi – a curious apparently ad hoc formulation for Westminster, presumably either genitive case, ‘in the school of Westminster’, or adjectivally in agreement with in schola, therefore ablative case
4.opu splendore – reading ope instead of opu. It could mean ‘magnificent wealth’, but some sort of distinction in public office seems more appropriate. Hard to see why this expression is in the ablative case though, especially since the balancing phrase literas politiores is accusative. Should we read opes splendores then?
5.politiores – comparative of politus, from the verb polio, ‘to smooth, polish’, hence English ‘polite’
6.delitescere – in Classical sources this unflatteringly means ‘skulk’ or ‘lurk’
7.manuit – translating as ‘endured’ to give the sense that this was something of a sacrifice
8.inservit – verb inservio takes the dative case, hence Montacuto is dative
9.honorifice – adverb
10.Cottinghamiae – locative case
11.in com: – in comitatu
12.vigilate ergo ... dominus venturus sit – Matthew 24:42
On the north Chancel wall, above the Drake Chapel entrance:

Iuxta hic jacent Sepulti
FRANCESCA, GULIELMUS,
ELIZABETHA,
CAROLUS, et DOROTHEA DRAKE,
Infantuli GULIELMI DRAKE,
de SHARDELOES
in Comitatu Bucks Militis;
et ELIZABETHAE Vxoris ejus,
Unicae Filiae GULIELMI
MOUNTACU,
Praenobilis et Capitalis Baronis
Curiae Regis de Scaccario

E Cunabitis Ablati in aeternis
beator
Domiciliis permansuri
Translation:
Next to here lie buried
Francesca, William,
Elizabeth,
Charles and Dorothy Drake,
Infants of William Drake
of Shardeloes
in the county of Bucks, Knight;
and of Elizabeth his wife,
Only daughter of William
Montague,
Famous and Distinguished Baron
of the House of Lords.

Carried away from their cradles they will remain in the
eternal dwellings of the Blessed One.
Notes:
1.jacent (medieval spelling with a ‘j’) for iacent (Classical spelling)
2.Sepulti – nom plural, perfect passive participle of sepelio, sepelire – ‘bury’
3.infantuli – diminutive of infans, nom plural (not attested in Classical Latin)
4.Gulielmi – genitive, ‘children of William’
5.Militis – genitive of miles, agreeing with the first Gulielmi. In Classical Latin, ‘soldier’ but here means ‘knight’
6.Elizabethae – genitive, ‘and [children] of Elizabeth’
7.ejus – Classical eius, ‘his wife’, referring to first William
8.Unicae ... Filiae – genitive agreeing with Elizabethae
9.Praenobilis ... Regis – all genitive, ,agreeing with the second Gulielmi
10.Curiae Regis de Scaccario – a medieval formula, scaccario apparently means ‘exchequer’. Seems to mean the House of Lords (lit. ‘of the senate concerned with the king’s exchequer’)
11.Note that though this is a memorial to the children, their distinguished grandfather features prominently
12.cunabitis – reading cunabulis. Cunabitis looks like the 2nd person future plural form of a verb, but no such verb exists. ‘Cradles’ is surely meant. Cunabula is the source of the Italian word Gondola
13.ablati – past participle plural, ‘they who have been carried away/stolen’
14.permansuri – future participle of permaneo, permanere
15.beator – reading beatoris (genitive) instead of beator (nominative)
On the monument to the left of the high altar:

Guilelmus Drake, Eques & Baronettus, Francisci Drake ex Joann‚ Conjuge filius natu maximus, Avi matrem exasse Haeres, amplissimo fundo & grandi pecunia locupletatus qu‚ Patrem, quo se aere alieno liberaret, liberaliter sublevabat, gratis Pius nec in Fratrem minus Benignus, cui Paterna res ex Testamento cesserat. Aedem Christi Oxį, quam tirocinio Juvenis ornaverat, multis Post annis grati‚ munificentia prosecutus est Senex. Studiorum cultor & fautor libras optimae monetae undiq. conquesivit; Latinas praesertim scriptores, eos puta qui genuinam sapientiam qui Sinceram prudentiam edocerent Hos in diliciis habuit: ex his documenta vitae hausit: horum assiduus dum per oculos licebat, Lector, deficiente oculorum acie (quod diu ante mortem contigit) Anagnost‚ quem ad id alebat, praelegente Auditor, sapere didicit & fari, sibi consulere & Reip. neq enim amaenitares consecrandi grati‚ nec quo tempora, iniquissima illa falleret solum, studiis sese abdidit: Erant alia maiora. Bonus audebat esse temporibus malis Quippe Deo se pium Regi fidum EclesiaŤ obsequentem, quam haec ipsa criminis Loco essent, constanter, uti Virum fortem decuit, non sine aliquo discrimine praestitit: Impios rebellium conatus ex pietate odit, ex prudenti‚ contempsit, ex utr‚q. incolumis evasit. Laqueos conscientiae iniectos domi prudens elusit, peregrŤ vitavit absens: Opes avitas his artibus non ferravit modo, sed & adauxit Cautus rerum suarum administrator, & tamen justus erga omnes beneficius erga bonos, in suos, qu‚ vivus, qua moriens, perquam liberalis; universa vitae munia strenuŤ implevit Ad haec omnia severa lectio, peregrinatio, Literatum otium, & caelebs Vitae insigne adjumentum praebuerunt Nimirum bene latebat ut bene viveret: Nec huic tamen loco deerat, dum latuit, dum abfuit Aluit interea familiam, juvit viciniam, & pauperibus cum in vit‚ tum in morte, Avi Scil. exemplum secutus, multým profuit: Quid multa vir ab omni parte desiderabilis tandem LXIIIį. aetatis Anno migravit ad superna. Tu Lector, Aeternitatem Cogita ~
Translation:
William Drake, Knight and Baronet, eldest son of Francis Drake by his wife Joanna, the mother that made him heir of his grandfather, enriched with a most ample estate and abundant money, by which he liberally supported his father, from whom he had liberated himself with another’s money, dutiful without recompense nor [was he] less generous to his brother, from whom paternal wealth had been withdrawn according to [their father’s] will. Christ Church Oxford, which as a young man in his apprenticeship he had honoured, many years later as an old man he endowed with grateful generosity. A cultivator and patron of learning, he sought out books of the best kind everywhere; especially Latin writers, those, he considered, who taught genuine wisdom [and] sincere knowledge. These he reckoned his favourites: from them he derived examples of life; a constant Reader of them while his eyes allowed, with the failing vision of his eyes (which affected him for a long time before his death), with an assistant reading aloud whom for that purpose he supported, as a Listener he learned to savour [them] and to talk about [them], and to consult with himself and [?in truth itself]. But neither for the sake of worshipping more pleasant things nor because those most adverse times deceived him alone, he withdrew himself from his studies: there were other more important matters. He dared to be good during evil times. Indeed not without some danger he showed himself, firmly as befitted the courage of men, [to be] dutiful to god, faithful to his King, obedient to the church, though those things were in that time characteristic of a crime: on account of his piety he hated the ungodly who had undertaken the rebellion, on account of his prudence he despised them, and as a result of both reasons [i.e. his piety & prudence] he escaped uninjured. At home the prudent man evaded snares of conscience which had been imposed upon him, while absent abroad he shunned them: by skill his ancestral riches were not now plundered, but the cautious administrator of his affairs even increased [them]. And although fair to all, a benefactor of the good, he was especially generous towards those partly living, partly dying; the entire duties of life he performed vigorously. During all these hardships, reading, travelling, literary leisure and the characteristics of a bachelor’s life offered help, so that undoubtedly he lived well while he was well hidden: he was not however remiss while in that place, while he hid, while he was away he supported his family, assisted his neighbours, and did much good to the poor both in life and in death, evidently having followed the example of his grandfather: in conclusion, a desirable man in every part, at length in the 63rd year of his age he crossed over to the celestial regions. You Reader, meditate on Eternity.
Biographical Note:
William Drake was born in 1606, the eldest son of Francis Drake of Esher and Joan, daughter of William Tottell (Tothill). Educated first at Amersham, he went up to Christ Church College, Oxford in 1624. He inherited the estate of his maternal grandfather at Shardeloes and also his father’s Esher estate, which he subsequently sold. He purchased the manor of Amersham in 1637 and became Member of Parliament for the borough in 1640. He received a knighthood and baronetcy in 1641. In 1643, following the Civil War, as a supporter of the doomed king’s cause he fled abroad, only returning with the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. He died in 1669.

Notes:

1.exasse – perfect infinitive of exoro, ‘successfully obtain, persuade’
2.locupletatus – perfect participle of locupleto, ‘to enrich’
3.grandi – reading grande, ablative, assuming pecunia is ablative too, both still governed by ‘enriched with ...’
4.aere alieno – literally ‘with another’s coin’
5.tirocinio – ablative of tirocinium, literally first military service, the rawness of a new recruit.
6.gratia munificentia – assuming munificentia is ablative with gratia.
7.monetae – literally the mint, the place for coining money, i.e. ‘books of the best mint’
8.conquesivit – reading conquisivit, perfect of conquiro, ‘seek out, gather’
9.puta – reading putavit (puta would be the imperative, which doesn’t make sense in this context)
10.in diliciis – reading in deliciis, ‘a favourite’
11.Anagnosta – ablative of anagnostes, a Greek word for a slave who reads to you
12.Reip. – possibly an abbreviation, but of what? I conjecture re ipso – ‘the thing in itself, the real thing’, but other suggestions gratefully received.
13.amaenitares – reading amoenitores, comparative
14.falleret – reading fallerent, taking tempora with iniquissim illa as n. plural
15.Quippe ... praestitit. Taking word order for sense as: Quippe non sine aliquo discrimine praestitit constanter, uti Virum fortem decuit, Deo se pium Regi fidum EclesiaŤ obsequentem, quam haec ipsa criminis Loco essent
16.criminis – characterizing genitive
17.rebellium conatus – nom. singular, but better acc. plural rebelliones conatos with Impios?
18.domi – locative
19.ferravit – reading tulit. The verb fero, ‘carry off, plunder’ is irregular in the perfect.
20.quid multa – a common Classical expression: ‘need I say more’, ‘to sum up’
21.ab omni parte – perhaps, like quid multa, an echo of Horace: Nihil est ab omni parte beatum ‘Nothing is good in every part’?
22.aeternitatem cogita – cogita is imperative, ‘think, ‘consider’, reflect’. Also used by others, for example in Dr Johnson’s epitaph for his benefactor Henry Thrale
23.Below this inscription are two more, now largely illegible and partially obscured
Comments and corrections will be gratefully received. Please contact me by email to mark@snazzystuff.co.uk. Mark Walker teaches Latin for Everyday Life, an introductory Latin course run by Bucks Adult Education.

Translations & notes © Mark Walker

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