Amuletum (1594)

Originally published with the Principis Scoti-Brittanorum Natalia (Edinburgh, 1594; see d2_MelA_010), this poem shares much of the same themes and ideas as its counterpart. The poem is a meditation on the power of Satan who, according to Melville, is currently enjoying previously unheard-of liberty in the world and gives aid to both the predatory empire of Philip II as it colonises the Americas, and to the Papacy. The 'amulet' of the title refers to the elaborate (and to Melville, idolatrous) religious paraphernalia that accompanies the Catholic liturgy and to the trappings of wealth in ordinary life that haunt Melville with thoughts of avarice. Metre: alcaic stanzas.

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1Invise luci laetificae, et nimis
dilecte nocti luctificae, polo
qui pulsus alto cum catervis
Link to an image of this page  [p94] lucifugis in opaca regna,

5gaudes tenebris semper, et invides
caelum serenum civibus integris:
mortalibusque aegris probrosam
perniciem meditatus urges:

9blandum venenum sensibus ingerens
qua fraude, qua vi: quidlibet impotens
sperare: cognatumque virus
exsinuas operis pudendis:

13tu fraudis author, tu scelerum artifex 1
et diritatis vae deus; et parens
mendaciorum, et perduellis
terrigenum superumque regi. 2

17Per te, solutis legibus, amnium
ritu vagatur prona licentia,
urbesque, gentesque, et potentes 3
flagitiis populos inundat.

21Per te superbus praedo perambulat
Hispanus altum Nerea puppibus:
et fœta gemmis regna et auro
indigenis rapit interemptis.

25Per te, sacrato fœdere, Pontifex
Romanus atri et fulminis ignibus
orbem trementem terret, arcesque
aethereas, jaculator audax. 4

29Te fœderati relligionibus
diris, adorant suppliciis Iovem.
Te propter humanis Cyclopes
visceribus saturantur uncti. 5

33Te propter uncto de grege rasulus
vertex fatigat sideream domum
clamore rauco: et nisu anhelo
tergeminos tonat ore Divos. 6

37Te propter arae, templaque odoribus
halant Sabaeis, et genium Deûm 7
mentitur auri lamna, formis
omnigenis pecudum et ferarum.

41Quid me renatum luce, satum Deo 8
Dei expiatum sanguine, redditum
Link to an image of this page  [p95] caelo, redonatum saluti,
perpetuis tenebris adurges?

45Seu Phœbus auram lumine purpurat,
seu vesper umbra lumen adobruit,
fingis videnti dormienti
falsa modis simulachra miris. 9

49Me nunc inani ludis imagine,
fallacis aurae nunc specie illicis
pellacis auri: nunc inescas
deliciis fugientis aevi.

53Non mentis ullum, non animi decus,
aut arte partum, aut caelitus editum,
non ulla virtus fraudulosis
pura tuis vacat a venenis.

57Hinc instat amplae bulla superbiae,
quem tollit altae fama scientiae,
hinc mergit imo fluctuantem
mens humilis sine spe profundo.

61Sic cuncta misces livide, et invides
bonum benignis: et tenebris diem
extinguis: et tranquillam atroci
pacem animi jugulas duello.

65Sed cur procellis trado procacibus
portare voces trans Styga lividam?
Cur hostis infesti superbis
ludibriis mea dicta mando?

69I nunc, facesse hinc bellua septiceps,
antique serpens eripe te morae, 10
quo justa Romanae reposcit
72umbra lupae, inferias Philippi.

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The amulet

1Hateful to the gladdening light, and exceedingly beloved by the menacing night, you who were cast out from high heaven with Link to an image of this page  [p94] your band of light-shunners to the twilight regions,

5 you always rejoice in the gloom, and you begrudge virtuous citizens bright heaven; expertly you generate shameful calamities for sick men:

9pouring persuasive poison into the mind with such deception and force: capable of aspiring to anything: and you spread out related bile in your despicable deeds:

13 you are an author of deception, a weaver of wickedness and, alas, the god of misfortune; and also the father of lies, and the enemy to the king of angels and men.

17At your command, with regulation dissolved, self-indulgence spreads out headlong like a flood, and it submerges the cities, and the nations, and the powerful in shameful acts.

21At your command the proud Spanish pirate a wanders far and wide over the sea on his ships: and, after the natives have been slain, he plunders those regions rich with jewels and gold.

25At your command, through your consecrated pact, the Pope both terrifies the trembling earth with the fires of a gloomy thunderbolt, and also recklessly hurls it at the heavenly citadel.

29Those formally attached to your abominable rites worship you in prayers as if Jove. Because of you the cyclops, soaked in mortal flesh, b are stuffed full.

33Because of you the shaveling, c his head above the annointed flock, jeers at the heavenly home with grating bray: and he invokes the threefold gods with thundering voice. d

37Because of you the altars, and the temples emit Sabaean e smells, and sheets of gold falsely imitate the divine nature of the Gods, in the forms of all kinds of farm animals and wild beasts.

41Why do you propel me to the eternal shades, I who have been born again in the light,Link to an image of this page  [p95] sprung from God, purified by His blood, restored to heaven, and back to salvation?

45Whether Phoebus adorns the sky with light, or the evening star f conceals the light in shade, in wondrous ways you fashion deceptive images for the waking and the dreaming.

49Now you trick me with your worthless apparitions, now you entice me with a show of deceiving gold, of enticing life-giving air: now you try to trap me with the delights of mortal life.

53Neither anything of the intellect, nor the glory of the soul, either born of mortal toil or sprung from heaven, nor any other natural virtue is free from your deceptive poison.

57Hence does the bubble of overpreening pride bloat him whom the reputation of a deep wisdom raises up, and hence does his weak intellect submerge the presumptous man into the deepest depths without hope.

61In this way you throw everything into confusion maliciously, and you begrudge the good man the benefits of his good behaviour: and you obliterate the day with dark night: and you slaughter the tranquil peace of the soul with savage discord.

65But why do I entrust the wild winds to carry my voice beyond the livid Styx? Why do I surrender my words to the arrogant derisions of the hated enemy?

69Go now, take yourself away from here, seven-headed beast, g tear yourself away, ancient serpent, to the place where the shade of the Roman Wolf h demands its obsequies, Phillip's sacrifices.



1: Seneca, Troades 750

2: Jean Salmon Macrin, Carmina I.5.4

3: Horace, Odes I.35.10

4: Horace, Odes III.4.56

5: Virgil, Aeneid III.623

6: Virgil, Aeneid IV.510

7: Virgil, Aeneid I.416-7

8: For this line and the next: Virgil, Aeneid VI.125, '...sate sanguine divum...'

9: This and the previous line are a fusion of: Augustine, Confessions X.30 ('...dormienti falsa visa...'); and Lucretius, De Rerum Natura I.123 (...simulacra modi pallentia miris')

10: Horace, Odes III.29.5


a: Phillip II. On the Scottish response to the Catholic world empire, see Buchanan, Political Poetry, pp. 11-31.

b: In Homer's Odyssey (book 9), the cyclopes were savage one-eyed giants who live in caves and had no regard for law or civilisation. Odysseus' band encounters one of them, Polyphemus, upon their travels, who imprisons them in his cave. He eats two of them raw before they are able to blind him during a drunken stupor and escape.

c: A reference to the monastic tonsure, and the pope.

d: Presumably Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, as opposed to the Judeo-Christian god.

e: An ancient Semitic people who ruled Saba in south-west Arabia until overrun by Persians and Arabs in the 6th century AD. The Sabaeans, or Shebans, are described as producers of incense in Jeremiah 6:20: 'To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me' (King James Version).

f: The moon.

g: The first beast of Revelation (13:1), often interpreted by reformers as a metaphor for the Catholic Church. See d2_MelA_054.

h: The pope.