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The Castalian Band was a group of poets, or makars, in the Scottish court of James VI. It was consciously modelled on the French example of the Pléiade and flourished in the decades before the 1603 Union of Crowns. Music played an important part and many members of the circle were musicians. The name is derived from the classical term Castalian Spring and is a symbol for poetic inspiration. It was the one the king used to refer to the group[1] and as a poet himself he was the de facto head of the band.


The Castalian Band

In essence, the Castalian Band was a select circle of favourite poets and musicians of James VI which evolved in the 1580s and 1590s in reflection of the king's personal and literary tastes[2]. Members of the group included:

Membership of the group was fluid, allowing the king, who was the accepted leader or patron, to determine from among poetic aspirants in the court who was "in" and who was "out". Montgomerie came to be the acclaimed leader, this reputedly being "formalised" after he was declared victor in the The Flyting Betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart. He was the particular favourite of James who referred to him in another of his lines of verse as "Beloved Sanders, maistre of our art". Despite this Montgomerie came to be excluded from the group.

The brothers Thomas and Robert Hudson were English poets and musicians who had been attracted to the court of James. The king was also strongly influenced by French literature. The French poet Du Bartas, whose work he had translated, visited the Scottish Court in 1587.

Fringe members of the group, not strictly part of the inner circle, among others included:

Alexander and Ayton came to prominence more properly as poets after the Union of the Crowns.[3]


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  1. ^ One use of the term appears in his lines:
    Quhat drowsie sleepe doth syle your eyes allace
    Ye sacred brethren of Castalian band...
    The Poems of King James VI of Scotland, ed. James Craigie, 2 Vols. Scottish Text Society, 1955 and 1958.
  2. ^ See RDS Jack, Poetry under James VI, in Cairns Craig (1988). p.125.
  3. ^ RDS Jack, in Cairns Craig (1988). p.126.


  • Cairns Craig, general editor (1988). The History of Scottish Literature, Volume I, Origins to 1660. Aberdeen University Press. ISBN 0080377254
  • RDS Jack (1985). Alexander Montgomerie. Scottish Academic Press. ISBN 0707303672


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