Bricmaldus ad supplicium tractus primo tyrannum, deinde proceres ante mactatos, ac tandem Christum alloquitur (c.1573)

François Briquemault, signeur de Beauvais (c.1502-1572), was one of Coligny's lieutenants and an important field commander in the early wars. His service in the wars in Italy earned him a knighthood and the rank of colonel and gentleman of the chamber. He was instrumental in convincing Coligny to join forces with Condé at the outset of the first war, and while he did not play a large role in the second war, he was highly active in the third, taking part in conflicts at Jazeneuil, La Roche-Abeille, Lusignan, Poitiers, Vézelay, Bourges and d'Arnay-le-Duc, among others. He was involved in the negotiations and planning of the Spanish war from an early stage (see d2_MelA_018), and was with Coligny and Charles IX in Paris in the months prior to the massacres. On the night of the massacres he was able to reach the residence of the English ambassador in the Rue des Bernardins disguised as a groom. Charles IX had him arrested for treason and he was found guilty of lèsé-majesté and of colluding with Coligny to murder the royal family on 24 October, though an attempt to obtain a confession of this accusation by torture was unsuccessful. He was executed three days later before the king at the Place de Grèves. His trial is discussed, and reference made to his advanced age, in Francois Hotman's De Furoribus Gallicis (Geneva, 1573), which may have been a potential source for Melville. Eugène and Emile Haag, La France Protestante (10 vols, Geneva: Slatkin Reprints, 1966), vol. 2, pp 130-136; Junko Shimizu, Conflict of Loyalties: Politics and Religion in the Career of Gaspard de Coligny Admiral of France, 1519-1572 (Geneva, 1970), pp. 75n, 93n, 94, 98n, 100, 102, 145, 151n, 152, 156, 166; Robert M. Kingdon, Myths about the St Bartholomew's Day Massacres 1572-1576 (Cambridge, MA/London, 1988), pp. 93, 118; Henri Noguères, The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, trans. C. E. Engel (London, 1962), pp. 156-57; Nicola Sutherland, The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew and the European Conflict, 1559-1572 (London, 1973), pp. 133, 138, 168-9, 177-8, 340; A True and Plaine Report of the Furious Outrages of Fraunce ('Stirling' [London], 1573), pp. lxxviii-lxxxi. Metre: elegiac couplets.

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Bricmaldus ad supplicium tractus primo tyrannum, deinde proceres ante mactatos, ac tandem Christum alloquitur

1Ergo istas procerum tot funera caede recenti 1
sanguineas armant in mea fata manus? 2
Et vim, saevus, adhuc obtentu juris inumbras? 3
Quaeris et extorques, plectis et exanimas.
5Torque, extorque, plecte, neca sub crimine ficto
insontem. Sonti non licet esse mihi.
Mene aevi maturum immaturo dare letho? 4
Mature aeternum vivere concilias!
Mene etiam sub nocte necas? Mihi conscia mentis
10lumina sincerae sidera nocte micant!
Nequicquam, truculente, crucis mihi dedecus affers,
hoc decus hoc nostrum: hac itur in astra via. 5
O socii, quondam lectissima robora sanctae
militiae, et sacri lumina rara chori, 6
15fracti armis, fessi rerum, tot funera passi, 7
emeritas tangat laurus ut ista comas: 8
salve sancta cohors, caelestibus aucta maniplis.
Christe, tuis turmis adsocia hanc animam.
Tu mihi, tu vitam peperisti morte perennem,
20tecum ego vivere amem: tecum obeam ego libens. 9

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Briquemault, having been dragged to his execution, addresses the tyrant, then the nobles already butchered, and lastly Christ

So do the countless murders of the nobles in the recent slaughter prepare those bloody hands of yours for my own demise? And, brute, do you a still conceal your violence under the cover of law? You hunt and you torture, you beat and you choke. Twist, torture, beat and slay the innocent with made-up crime. It is not right for me to be among the guilty. Do you intend to give me over in my maturity to premature destruction? While in your ripe years you design to live forever! b Perhaps you will even slay me in the night? But for me the stars, lights aware of my sincere mind, shine in the night! c Aggressor, you bring me no shame of the cross, this glory is ours: through this route one ascends to the stars. O comrades, once the most select forces of the holy soldiery, and the remarkable light of the sacred choir, broken by wars, wearied by your lot, having endured so many disasters, may this laurel touch your veteran curls: hail the blessed cohort, increased with heavenly foot soldiers. Christ, join this soul to your squadrons. In death, you brought forth eternal life for me. Let me love to live with you: let me willingly die with you.



1: Virgil, Aeneid II.718

2: Ovid, Amores II.14.4

3: Virgil, Aeneid XI.66

4: Virgil, Aeneid V.73

5: Virgil, Aeneid IX.641

6: Virgil, Aeneid IX.189

7: Virgil, Aeneid I.232

8: 'cingat' for 'tangat' in Mellon, Sedan

9: Horace, Odes III.9.24


a: Charles IX.

b: A reference to the fact that Briquemault was seventy when he was executed.

c: Present tense employed by Melville for dramatic effect. It has been replaced here and in the previous line with the future tense to more clearly delineate intention.