Sylva III: Domus Ledintona (c.1567)
The Maitland family home was Lethington Tower, near Haddington in East Lothian, which had been granted to the Maitlands by royal charter in 1345 (it was confiscated on their forfeiture by the Regent Lennox in 1571, and not restored until 1584). This poem, recording Thomas' love for his home after a long period abroad, suggests that it may have been written on his return to Scotland in 1567. The Maitlands wrote several poems about their properties, which can be found in the Maitland Quarto; the closest analogue to this one is 'Virgil his village Mantua' (fos 106v-109v), which praises Lethington and which may have been written by one of the family (see the forthcoming STS edition of the Maitland Quarto, ed. Joanna Martin).
This piece has an interesting extended conceit at lines 37-69, where the four winds (led by Aeolus) and Phoebus (the sun) each take turns to assault the tower, to no avail. The imagery here is assuming the reader has a close accquaintance with Aeneid I.50-141, where Aeolus, keeper of the winds, releases them from their cave at Juno's behest against Aeneas' fleet. The poem can also usefully be compared to Hercules Rollock's poem on the estate of Thomas Sackville, Baron Buckhurst (d2_RolH_008) for the extended description (at lines 81-128) of the splendour and wealth of the household. Metre: hexameter.
Sylva III: Domus Ledintona
1Sta domus antiquis in caelum erecta columnis, 1
fortunata domus, 2 cui sanctae pignora gentis, 3
tot tibi faelices dominos, patriaeque parentes
contigit aethereas proferre in luminis oras. 4
5Utque tuae augustae memorantur plurima formae
saecula, luctificam sic aversata ruinam,
exaequa innumeros mundi feliciter annos.
Tu me recluso genitricis carcere ventris, 5
vitalem tenero ducentem pectore rorem,
10prima tuos intra (partu gratante) penates 6
parvum onus hospitio dignata admittere tuto es.
Inde tui, quamvis glaciali frigore 7 vinctae
bis denae fluxere hyemes, totidemque peractis
cursibus, aestivas Phœbus vomit ore favillas;
15nulla meam tetigit Lethaea oblivio mentem.
Iamque peregrinis rediens procul hospes ab oris
quam te avide aspicio? Quam optatae ad lumina portae
thura calent, venerorque Lares? Quam postibus ore
admoto cupide pressis do basia labris? 8
20Teque cano, domus alma, domus (dubiumne) politi
ingenio artificis, domini praestantis honore
an genio miranda magis. Num tanta putanda est
arx opus humanum, 9 an manibus fabricata Deorum, 10
prisca Caledonias colerent cum Numina terras? 11
25O quantos animos generoso pectore clausos
ille aluit, primus tantae fundamina 12 molis
qui posuit, ventisque moram qui fecit, et alto
vertice turrigerae distinxit nubila rupis, 13
pressit et ingenti subjectam pondere terram.
30Ilicet armatus rabioso fulmine dextram
Iupiter effracto Pindum prosternat Olympo,
eversasque Alpes fumantem immittat in Aetnam,
aethereas contra dures interrita flammas.
Vidi ego sulphureo liquefactas turbine turres;
35aeratas ruere, et strages cumulare nefandas,
cum tu illaesa fores, saevisque impervia flabris.
Saepe pater ventos clausis qui fraenat in antris
Aeolus iratus, 14 tanquam tua gloria laedat,
concutit insanis obstantia saxa procellis.
40Horrifer hinc Boreas rauco cum murmure stridens
saxa rotat volvitque faces, et turbine saevo
irruit, hinc Zephyri, latus hinc furiosior Eurus
urget, et arx omnis violento grandinis ictu 15
plangitur, et nimbis pluvioque madescit ab Austro: 16
45sed furit incassum Zephyri moderator et Euri;
nec potis horriferis turrim prosternere flabris;
nec Boream pavet illa magis, quam vere novato
concutit immotas quercus levis aura Favoni.
Sic penitus duro virtus latet insita saxo.
50Mitior at Phœbus, fusis cum currit habenis,
ignivomo jacit ore faces, et lucida tela 17
torquens, nativo splendentem marmore turrim
provocat, et leni gaudet sua spicula 18 reflecti
verbere, nec totas radios admittere valvas.
55Mane illam Oceani madidis de crinibus undas 19
excutiens, croceumque recens cum ponit amictum,
aspicit, et vultu tanquam gratante salutat. 20
Mox dum caelestis spatiosi in marmore circi
flectit equos, postquam supra caput astitit aedis,
60cum medium scandit sitibundi Hyperionis orbem: 21
cursum inhibens dextra laxas adducit habenas, 22
et jacit exiguas primum inter septa favillas,
mox lusu servente instat, plenaque pharetra 23
in media educit vibrandas claustra sagittas.
65Ast ubi pertaesum grati certaminis, et dum
respuit arx clausis Phœbi flammata fenestris
spicula, confestim telis facibusque retractis
laetior Oceani repetitas pergit ad undas:
dumque fugit, tepido demulcet tecta calore.
70Est etiam sacram Genius qui sospitat aedem,
tutelare domus Numen, quo praeside saeva
constat ab innocuis arceri incendia tectis.
Namque ubi Saxonidae praeceps fuit impetus hosti,
et patriam, et patrios flamma populare penates, 24
75congessere faces, et quo labefacta fragore
horrendo rueret subjecto turris ab igni,
sulphureo arcanas distendunt pulvere venas:
illa nec offensis (dictu mirabile) 25 muris
emicat: aerei medio in discrimine tecti,
80fissa locum flammae tanquam per viscera fecit.
Aspice praeterea pinnis decorata superbis
ut procul ostentant formosas culmina turres
invidiosa aliis, et despectare videntur
undique nubiferi vicina cacumina montis. 26
85Ille licet Sesto ratibus qui junxit Abydon, 27
quique refodit Athon, 28 et saxa ingentia rupit,
volveret ingentes numeroso milite montes:
non (reor) Eois intrat qua Phœbus ab arvis, 29
sit potis occultare fores, nec mole superna
90obruat oppositam congestis vallibus arcem.
Tantum erecta micant alti fastigia tecti.
Quid memorem ornatum? quid, quam pretiosa supellex 30
fulguris emissi radiis praestinguat ocellos,
eloquor? Haud Pario fœdantur marmore muri, 31
95nec caelata nitent flammanti tecta pyropo: 32
indigenis contenta bonis, non indiga luxus 33
externi, gestit merito formoso videri.
En vivi ut filicis venae compagibus haerent
arctius, et plani jungit tignacula ligni
100apta strues, saxis ut conformata politis,
culmina structuris sese regalibus aequant.
Aula patet populo, cumque invidiosa superbis
atria porticibus, 34 mollique cubilia somno,
lataque in innumeros portenditur area passus.
105Intus ab excelsis tecti laquearibus aureis, 35
aurea qua pendent variis simulacra figuris,
solertis Combiris opus, pendere tapetas
auro intertextos 36 rutilo, vestesque videbis,
quales fatali quondam in certamine palmae
110aemula victricis temeraria nevit Arachne.
Argento radiantque tori, mensasque politas
aureus illustrat vasorum plurimus ordo.
Hic epulis onerare toros, hic turba choraeas
exercere solet festis redimita coronis. 37
115Exhilarant hic ludi animos, lususque venusti:
et Venus ipsa locum chara sibi legit in arce.
Fortunata domus! Cujus fundamina circum
tam bene cum invicto conspirat robore cultus.
Illa (scio) quondam planis animosa virago
120mirificam struxit turrim Babylonis in arvis:
regia sit Priami, sit quas pater alluit arces
Nilus, 38 et immensae veteris palatia Romae
ostentabat opes, sed sit fas vera fateri,
fallor ego, aut non, quam planis animosa virago
125mirificam struxit turrim Babylonis in arvis,
aut arces Phariae, veterisve palatia Romae
se tibi praetulerint: Priamo neque regna tenente
128Laomedonteae conferret regia Trojae. 39
Sylva III: Lethington House
1Stand, house built on ancient pillars into heaven, house of great fortune, to whom it has been granted to bring forth from yourself so many children of a blessed race, lucky lords, and fathers of the nation into the heavenly shores of light. And as your noble outlines are called to mind by so many ages, so now you, having repulsed sorrow-bringing ruin, make equal the countless years of the age with happiness. After I had escaped from the prison of my mother's womb, you were the first deemed worthy to receive a small burden, drawing life-giving dew from a tender breast, among your household gods (with rejoicing at my delivery), within a secure home. From whence, although twice ten winters, bound by icy cold, have flowed past, [p168] and with just as many courses run Phoebus has spewed out summery embers from his mouth, no Lethe-like forgetfulness a of you has shrouded my mind. And now, as a visitor returning from foreign shores far off, how eagerly do I look upon you, how do I worship the incense burning in the lamps of your doorway, long desired, and your Lares, b how passionately do I give kisses to your doorposts, with lips pressed and mouth placed against them? And I sing of you, noble house, a house (no doubt) to be wondered at more for the talent of its skilled architect, or the honour of its pre-eminent master, or its own genius. Surely such a citadel is not to be thought the work of mortals, but rather built by the hands of gods, when ancient deities inhabited Caledonian lands?
25O he nourished so many souls closed up within his noble breast, who first established the foundations of such a pile, and who obstructed the winds, and who divided the clouds with a lofty peak of tower-bearing rock, and pressed down the subservient earth with its remarkable weight. Straightaway let Jupiter, his right hand armed with ravening thunderbolt, cast down Pindus c onto broken Olympus, and throw the overturned Alps into smoking Etna: may you endure, undaunted, against heavenly fires. I have seen bronze towers, liquified by a sulphurous hurricane, collapse and become reduced to unmentionable piles of rubble, while you remain unhurt and impervious to the cruel blasts. Often old Aeolus (who keeps the winds bridled in sealed caves), d enraged by how much your glory offends, strikes against rocks impervious to his crazed storms. Hence terror-causing Boreas, e hissing with a rough whisper, whirls rocks about and turns over torches, and hence he rushes in with a fierce whirlwind from Zephyr, and hence Eurus, f even more furious, presses upon the flank, and every tower shudders with the violent thud of hail, and is drenched with clouds from rainy Auster: g but to no avail does the controller of Zephyr and Eurus rage: nor is he able to cast down the tower with his terror-bringing blasts; nor does it quake any more before Boreas than when, in early Spring, a light breeze from the breath of Favonius h shakes the unmoved oaks. Such strength lies settled deep within the enduring rock.
50But when, with reins loosened, the more gentle Phoebus rushes in; he casts burning brands from his flame-spouting mouth, and whirling missiles of blazing light throws down a challenge to that tower, resplendent in its native marble, [p169] and rejoices that his darts are deflected with a gentle stroke, and that all the gates give no admission to his rays. At dawn, shaking the waves from his ocean-drenched curls, when he first puts on his yellow cloak, he sees it, and greets it with such a rejoicing countenance. Soon after, as he turns his horses across the spacious expanse of the heavenly course, when he has stood above the head of the house, he then ascends to the middle arch of the thirst-filled sun; checking his course, he draws up the loosened reins in his right hand, and first throws slender embers against the walls: then, with the game growing in excitement, he presses in and sends full quivers and vibrating arrows against the midst of the gates. But when, having grown thoroughly bored of the pleasing contest, and while the citadel spits back Phoebus' fiery darts from its closed windows, straightaway with his missiles and torches resheathed he proceeds the more happily to seek again the ocean waves: and as he flees, he soothes the roofs with his luke-warm heat.
70But there is a spirit who defends the sacred temple, the guardian-spirit of the house, under whose supervision it is established that the fierce conflagrations be kept off of the innocent roofs. For when the foremost threat belonged with the Saxon enemy, to plunder with fire the nation and the national spirits, they heaped on torches, and the tower shook with the terrifying din which rushed up from the fire below, and they stretched out secret veins filled with sulphurous powder: it did not (wondrous to tell) flash over the stricken walls, but held the site of the fire in a central partition of the bronze roof, as if through burst entrails. i
81Furthermore, look upon the roofs, adorned with proud turrets, envied by others, as they show off to a great distance the beautiful towers, and seem to look down on all sides upon the neighbouring peaks of the cloud-bearing mountain. He who joined Abydos to Sestos with rafts, and who dug a trench upon Athos, j and burst apart the massive rocks, and would turn over the massive mountains with a great many a soldier, even he (I think), where Phoebus enters from the Eastern fields, would not be able to conceal the doors, nor with a weight from above overwhelm the opposing tower, with valleys all around. So brightly shine the battlements erected on the high roof.
What should I relate of its decoration? Why tell how its most esteemed ensemble blinds the eyes with rays as if shot from the lightning? The walls are not disgraced with Parian marble, k nor do the carved ceilings glitter with bronze gold: contented with native goods, nor demeaned by foreign excess, its beauty delights, rightly, to be seen. Look, as veins of living granite cling fast to the joints, and a structure of planed wood joins together well-fitted little beams, so that the gables, fashioned from polished stone, are themselves the equal of royal buildings. The hall lies open to the people, and an envy-causing atrium with proud galleries, and beds for gentle sleep, and its wide space is revealed by innumerable steps. Deep within, where golden statues hang with a variety of figures from the bronzed ceilings of the highest roof, you will see the work of skilled Combirus, l the tapestries that hang interwoven with reddish gold, and garments of such quality as once Arachne, the rash rival of the victress, spun in a fatal contest for glory. m And couches shine with silver, and many a golden rank of vases embellish polished tables. Here the crowd, girt round with festal garlands, are wont to burden couches with banquets and to amuse themselves with dances. Here play and charming sport lighten minds, and even Venus chooses for herself a residence in the beloved castle. House of good fortune! Around whose foundations such great devotion accords with unconquered strength. That spirited warrior-maiden n (I know) once erected a miraculous tower on the level planes of Babylon: let Priam's o royal residence be, let the towers which father Nile washes be, and let the immense wealth that was displayed in the palaces of ancient Rome be, but let it also be right to speak truth: I am mistaken, or not, if ever the spirited virgin who erected the miraculous tower on the level planes of Babylon, or the towers of Pharoah or the palaces of ancient Rome, would have preferred themselves to you: nor, when Priam ruled the kingdoms, did the magnificence of Laoemdontean Troy afford any comparison.
1: 'antiquis columnis': Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum IV.16.8.2
2: 'fortunata domus' (in same metrical position): Propertius, Elegies III.20.9
3: 'pignora gentis' (in same metrical position): Lucan, Bellum Civile IX.906
4: 'in luminis oras' used frequently by Lucretius (eg, De Rerum Natura I.22, V.224), but here likely recalling Vergil, Aeneid VII.659-60: 'quem Rhea sacerdos/ furtivum partu sub luminis edidit oras'.
5: 'carcere...genetricis': Valerius, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia V.4.7.22
6: 'intra penates': Valerius, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia VIII.7(ext).6.7
7: 'glaciali frigore' (in same metrical position): Ovid, Metamorphoses IX.582
8: Martial, Epigrammata X.42.5-6: Fortius inpressi quotiens tibi basia quinque, Barbatus labris, Dindyme, fio tuis.'
9: 'aetas humanum nec videt illud opus': Carmina Tibulliana [sp.] III.4.26
10: 'tela reponuntur manibus fabricata cyclopum': Ovid, Metamorphoses I.259
11: 'talibus et fibris numina prisca coli': Martial, Epigrammata III.24.12
12: Rare word, found in Vergil, Georgics IV.161; Manilius, Astronomica I.728; Ovid, Metamorphoses V.361, 15.433; Fasti IV.835
13: 'ceu duo nubigenae cum vertice montis ab alto': Vergil, Aeneid VII.674
14: The sequence that follows draws heavily on Vergil, Aeneid I.50-141; see introduction.
15: 'grandinis ictu' (in same metrical position): Germanicus, fragmenta Aratea IV(3+4).142
16: 'nubibus adsiduis pluviaque madescit ab Austro': Ovid, Metamorphoses I.66
17: 'lucida tela' found uniquely, but frequently, in Lucretius, De Rerum Natura (eg I.147)
18: 'spicla' in original text
19: 'madidis...crinibus': Valerius, Argonautica V.414
20: The preceding three lines play on Vergil, Aeneid 4.584-5 and 9.459-60: 'Et iam prima novo spargebat lumine terras/ Tithoni croceum linquens Aurora cubile.'
21: Echoes Vergil, Aeneid VIII.97: 'sol medium caeli conscenderat igneus orbem'
22: 'laxas...habenas': Vergil, Aeneid I.63
23: 'plena pharetra' used (in various declensions) in Vergil, Aeneid V.311; Ovid, Epistulae ex Ponto I.2.84, IV.13.35; Silius Italicus, Punica II.113, XII.710
24: 'i nunc, Ausonios ferro populare penates': Silius Italicus, Punica IV.787
25: Used frequently by Vergil, eg Aeneid IV.182.
26: Fit quoque uti montis vicina cacumina caelo': Lucretius, De Rerum Natura VI.459
27: Sestos and Abydos discussed in Livy, Ab Urbe Condita XXXII.33.71' Lucan, Bellum Civile II.674, VI.55; Ovid, Heroides XVIII.127, Tristia I.10.28.
28: 'deferret Athon': Lucan, Bellum Civile II.677
29: 'Eois...arvos' (in same metrical position): Martial, Epigrammata VIII.26.1
30: 'prestiosa supellex': Curtius, Historiae Alexandri Magni X.1.24.5
31: 'Pario marmore': Horace, Odes I.19.6; Ovid, Metamorphoses III.419, Epistulae ex Ponto IV.8.31-2; Seneca, Phaedra 797; Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica V.187
32: 'clara micante auro flammasque imitante pyropo': Ovid, Metamorphoses II.2
33: 'terra suis contenta bonis, non indiga mercis': Lucan, Bellum Civile VIII.446
34: 'invidiosa...atria': Martial, Spectacula II.3
35: 'dependent lychni laquearibus aureis': Vergil, Aeneid I.726; see also the line following.
36: 'auro...intertextam': Vergil, Aeneid VIII.167
37: 'redimita coronis' (in same metrical position): Ovid, Fasti III.269
38: 'Nile Pater': Tibullus, Elegies I.7.23
39: 'Laomeodonteae luimus periuria Troiae': Vergil, Georgics I.502
a: In the ancient Greek afterlife, souls drank from the river Lethe to forget all memories of their previous lives.
b: Gods of the household.
c: Range of mountains in west central Greece, beginning at the border with Albania and ending at the Gulf of Corinth.
d: See note to Latin translation.
e: The north wind.
f: Zephyr: the west wind; Eurus: the east wind.
g: The south wind, reputed to bring inclement weather.
h: The Latin equivalent of Zephyr.
i: This likely refers to an attack on Lethington during the various Anglo-Scottish conflicts that affected Lothian so acutely from the 1540s onwards, and it appears that an attempt to set fire to the tower resulted in it being contained to a roof space. However, it is interesting to note that on 16 May 1570 another Maitland property - Blyth, a barony in Lauderdale awarded to Richard Maitland in 1537 - was attacked by a coalition of English and King's Party forces led by Roland Foster, Captain of Wark Castle. The attack resulted in wide-spread spoliation of the livestock in the barony, and was a form of retribution directed against William Maitland for his leadership of the Queen's Party. We are grateful to Dr Joanna Martin for this information, drawn from her upcoming edition of the Maitland Quarto.
j: The Persian king Xerxes I (r.486-465BC) created a pontoon bridge across the Hellespont (from Sestos to Abydos) and dug a canal through the isthmus of Mount Athos in preparation for an invasion of the Greek mainland, which set out from Sardis early in 480BC.
k: The marble from the island of Paros in the southern Aegean was famed for its quality.
l: This appears to be a reference to a contemporary mason, but who is otherwise unknown.
m: Arachne was a mortal woman and weaver who challenged Athena (goodess of crafts and wisdom) to a weaving contest. There are several versions of the myth, including one where Athena wins (this may be why Maitland describes her as 'victricis'). However, in Ovid's account (Metamorphoses VI.1-145) Arachne wins, and Athena destroy's Arachne's embroidery in a fit of rage. Devastated, Arachne hangs herself, but Athena restores her to life and transforms her into a spider.
n: Semiramis, legendary queen of King Ninus and successor as ruler of Assyria. Semiramis was widely (and mistakenly) believed to be responsible for many of the great monuments in Western Asia and Asia Minor, including the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
o: King of Troy.