De electione Polonica (c.1573)

The following cycle of three poems appear to have been written around the time of Henri's Polish election (16 May 1573), though why Halkerston would have been so resistant to this is unclear. As with several other Scottish poets (see d2_MelA_021 and d2_RolH_015), Halkerston attacks Catherine de Medici as a figure of hate. However, whereas his Scottish counterparts attack her for her persecution of French Protestants, or Huguenots, Halkerston detests Medici for her willingness to seek compromise on matters of religion and for pursuing crowns for her children while failing to deal with issues at home. In this poem, the Queen is the 'Etruscan mother' being addressed, who presides over the political chaos in France and leaves the country ripe for conquering by the Turks. In the second (d1_HalJ_005), Halkerston sarcastically argues that Henri is as 'good' a choice of ruler for Poland as Bona Sforza, who had been Queen consort to Sigismundus I between 1518 and 1548. Sforza built a powerful faction for herself at the Polish court, and was reputed to have poisoned her daughter-in-law Barbara Radziwill, who was a member of the leading rival family to the Jagellionian dynasty. Sforza had also consistently favoured a close diplomatic alliance with France, and this example of another power-hungry Italian queen, who was herself murdered by poisoning, was no doubt meant as an unflattering comparison to Henri's mother.We are extremely grateful to Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter for identifying Bona Sforza as the subject of this epigram, and for correcting our initial translation accordingly. Finally, Henri is lambasted in the third poem (d1_HalJ_006) for providing the Polish nation with nothing while robbing them of their men and arms. Metre: elegiac couplets.

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De electione Polonica

Insidiae, caedes, perjuria, mater Hetrusca,
affectant profugis proxima regna Scythis.
Ad proceres causam discordes Turca perorat:
'quam bene conveniunt omnia ad excidium!'

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On the Polish election

Your plots, assassinations and perjury, o Etruscan mother, assail the kingdoms nearest to the fugitive Scythians. The Turk pleads his case to the quarreling nobles: 'how well everything comes together for destruction!'