Melville bases this poem on the common belief found in Protestant propaganda that the fragile peace of St Germain-en-Laye, agreed at the end of the third war of religion in 1570, allowed the Catholic regime latitude to plan and execute the massacres. This idea is expressed clearly in a tract in Simon Goulart's three-volume collection of pamphlets and accounts of the massacres, Memoires de l'Estat de France sous Charles IX (1576; 1577 (twice); revised and expanded 1578) entitled 'Preparations for the Massacres', which suggests the plots for the massacres were approved at three separate council meetings held by Charles IX and Catherine de Medici in the early months of 1572. Robert M. Kingdon, Myths about the St Bartholomew's Day Massacres 1572-1576 (Cambridge, MA/London, 1988), p. 254; Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, Volume Two: The Age of Reformation (Cambridge, 1978), pp. 305, 307-9. Metre: elegiac couplets.
Pax Gallica (c.1573)
Texuit hanc technam impietas: ansam dedit excors
nobilitas. Passa est credula simplicitas:
qua regnat late impietas. Longe exulat exspes
nobilitas: perit, heu, prodita simplicitas.
Faelix cui tantum favet indulgentia caeli 1
ut male contextum rite retexat opus.
Ut pulsa impietate, focis succedat avitis
nobilitas: regnet libera simplicitas.
The French peace
Impiety contrived this trick: senseless nobility gave it an opportunity. Trustful innocence suffered: as a result, impiety widely rules. Despairing, nobility lives in exile far away; alas, betrayed, innocence perishes. Fortunate is he whom the indulgence of heaven favours so much that he duly unravels the poorly woven work. With impiety expelled, let nobility succeed to the ancestral hearths: let innocence reign freely.
1: Virgil, Georgics II.345