Elegia VI: Deditio arcis Dumbarae ad Regem (late 1567)

The first 'political' poem by Maitland in the DPS, this elegy is addressed to James Stewart, the earl of Moray and first regent for James VI following the forced abdication of Queen Mary. Dunbar Castle had been where Francis Stewart, earl Bothwell took Mary after their forced marriage, and the castle had been held by his adherents after his defeat at the Battle of Carberry Hill (15 June 1567) until it was successfully relieved by siege in the following September. Moray ordered its slighting at the parliament of December 1567, but Maitland appears to have thought that the military action against the town was excessive, and was perhaps prompted to write because the town was within the political orbit of the Maitlands as a Lothian family (for further details, see Calderwood, History, ii, 387; RPC, i, 520, 524, 529, 552, 560-1, 565, 569-76, 715; RPS, A1567/12/34. This poem, along with Maitland's 'Iacobi VI, Scotorum Regis Inauguratio' (d2_MaiT_009), confirms that he had returned to Scotland from his studies on the Continent at some point in early 1567. Metre: elegiac couplets.

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ELEGIA VI: Deditio arcis Dumbarae ad regem

1Fare age, 1 qui Scotos princeps pro rege gubernas,
quid facias saevo fulmine, 2 quidve petas?
Cur tota armatae discurrunt urbe phalanges? 3
Cur rigido totus milite fervet ager?
5Cur contra nostros ponuntur mœnia muros?
Agmina pro foribus cur sua castra locant?
Fallimur? 4 aut nondum tantum provexit Erynnis,
ut rigido ferro pectora cincta geras. 5
Non tibi, quem placidi mitis clementia vultus
10semper adhuc similem fecerat esse Iovi;
usque adeo feritas cordi est, ut sanguine nostro
sit jocus innocuas conscelerare manus. 6
Forte juvat regis valida virtute superbos 7
cogere tam leni subdere colla jugo.
Link to an image of this page  [p152] 15Scilicet hae fuerint divini principis artes,
parcere subjectis, 8 et dare vincla malis.
Sic quondam domito celebres ex orbe triumphos 9
dux Macedum patria clarus in urbe tulit.
Talis erat Theseus, talis Tyrinthius heros, 10
20talis erat Caesar, talis Iacchus erat:
qualem te colit, et cernit domus alta Gatheli,
et gens cum saevo Saxone Ibera pavet.
At non iis lethum virtus nec vincla minantur,
vivere quos regis sub ditione juvat.
25Ille quidem merita punitur morte, rebellis,
exlex, qui regis respuit imperium.
Viribus at frustra aut rigido conabere Marte,
vincere, quos sola vincere voce potes.
Non opera nostra crudeli in funere regis, 11
30regia sulphureo pulvere quassa ruit.
Non nos in quemquam rabidos distrinximus enses,
nec nostris armis vita petita tua est.
Illum pacta fides movit, pavor impulit illum,
claudere tollendas post tua jussa fores.
35Verte in sylvicolas igitur tua fulmina fures,
aut si quis propior regius hostis erit.
Sit potius servare tibi, quos perdere posses,
quam, qui servandi, perdere, cura, forent.
Quis sibi reclusas vel turbine disjicit arces?
40Aut patefacta sibi mœnia sternit humi?
Iupiter in terras nec saeva tonitrua mittit, 12
fulmine nec regum tecta superba premit. 13
Æolus ex antris nuncquam nis numine laeso, 14
effundi ventos per vada falsa finit.
45Tu quoque supplicibus veniam concede, remisso
ianua jam dudum cardine dura patet.
Accipe (sed facilis) regi quam tradimus arcem;
pacis erit dextram pars tetigisse tuam. 15
Sic semper posthac clementia blanda rigorem,
50sic virtus actus temperet usque tuos.
Perge memor posthac princeps mitissime, perge
(magniloquo Vates carmine ut ipse jubet)
'parcere subjectis, et debellare rebelles.' 16
54Sic ex subjectis nemo rebellis erit.

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Elegy VI: the surrender of Dunbar Castle to the king

Pray tell, regent who governs the Scots on behalf of the king, what do you do with fierce cannon-fire, or what do you seek? Why are armed cohorts running all around the whole town? Why does all the land seethe with the unbending soldier? Why are siege-engines placed against our walls? Why do troops settle their camps at the gates? Are we mistaken? Or has the Fury not yet made sufficient advance, so that you bear chests girded with unbending iron? Not to you, whom the gentle peace of a mild face has always made similar to that of Jupiter, is savagery so dear to your heart that it is a joke to defile innocent hands with our blood. Perhaps it pleases the king to compel the proud with ready virtue to put their necks under a gentle yoke. Link to an image of this page  [p152]We all know that these have been the arts of the divine prince, to pardon subjects, and put chains on evil-doers. So once did the famous leader of the Macedonians a bring back celebrated triumphs from the tamed world to the city of his ancestors. Such as Theseus did, b such as the Hero of Tyrinth, c such as did Caesar, such as Jacchus. d Of such a type as you does the high house of Gathelus cherish and observe, and the race of Hiber feels terror at with the fierce Saxon. But neither death, nor imprisonment threatens the courage of these men, who are happy to live at the king's command. He, indeed, punishes rebels with well-earned death, lawless is he who turns away from the king's rule. But in vain would you test or conquer these men with unyielding Mars, whom you can conquer with word alone. Our work is not towards the king's bloody funerals, his palace shaken with gunpowder. We have not drawn out vicious swords against anyone, nor has your life been sought by our arms. Promised fealty moved him, and fear compelled him, to close up the doors that should be opened after you command it. e Turn your thunder, therefore, against the wild forest-dwellers, if there is someone else who will be a more appropriate royal enemy. f See to it that you prefer to spare those whom you could kill, rather than kill those who ought to be spared. Why do you lay open the tower to itself, or rout it with a whirlwind? Why cast down walls, having exposed them to the soil? Jupiter does not send fierce thunder against the earth, nor bears down on the proud roofs of kings with lightning. Aeolus never allows winds to be poured forth out from caves across the salty depths unless he means ill-intent. You also should grant favour to your supplicants, already the hard door opens with the hinge unlocked. Accept (but gently) how we surrender the citadel to the king; it will be a part of the peace to have touched your right hand. Thus, may sweet peace always mollify harshness after this, and action mollify your courage as far as this. Go on, henceforth the most gentle prince, go on (as the poet himself rejoices to say in his epic poem) 'to spare subjects, and to break rebels.' g Thus will no man be rebel among his subjects.



1: Virgil, Aeneid III.362; VI.389

2: 'saevo fulmine', Ovid, Tristia II.1.14

3: Vergil, Aeneid X1.468: 'Ilicet in muros tota discurritur urbe'

4: Common word, but used by Ovid in the same metrical position, and as a question, in Amores I.6.49, III.12.7, and Fasti II.853; see also d2_MaiT_007, line 23.

5: Ovid, Remedia Amoris 19: 'Cur aliquis rigido fodit sua pectora ferro?'

6: 'innocuas manus', Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto II.9.74; Seneca, Hercules Furens 740

7: Frequently used by Virgil: see further notes below.

8: Vergil, Aeneid VI.853 (same metrical position)

9: Ovid, Epicedion Drusi [sp.] 381: 'Quod semper domito rediit tibi Caesar ab orbe'

10: 'Tirynthius heros', Ovid, Metamorphoses VII.410

11: 'crudeli funere', Virgil, Eclogues V.20; Georgics III.623; Aeneid IV.308

12: Germanicus, Fragmenta Aratea IV (III+IV).156: 'saeva tonitrua portat'

13: 'tecta superba' (same metrical position): Ovid, Amores I.6.58

14: This line and the next allude to Aelous, the god of wind, unleashing a storm upon Aeneas and his crew at the behest of Juno, just as they arrive at a friendly harbour. See Aeneid I.152ff.

15: Vergil, Aeneid VII.266: 'pars mihi pacis erit dextram tetigisse tyranni'

16: Virgil, Aeneid VI.583, representing what is perhaps Anchises' most important piece of advice to Aeneas during his visit to the underworld, though the actual line is 'parcere subiectis, et debellare superbos'.


a: Alexander the Great (356-323BC), king of Macedon from 336, and conqueror of the Persian Empire.

b: In Greek mythology, son of Aethra by either King Aegeus of Athens or by the sea god Poseidon, whose many adventures included the slaughter of the Minotaur in the Labyrinth.

c: The ancient fortified city of Tyrinth, or Tiryns, in the Peloponnese was reputed to be the birthplace of Hercules.

d: Winner of a major military victory in the East.

e: ie, those who had held the castle did so out of loyalty to the earl Bothwell.

f: An interesting example of prejudice towards Highlanders, which reflects the views of the later James VI in Basilikon Doron (1598).

g: Virgil: see note to Latin text.