Classicum (c.1573)

There is the slightest hint in this poem of Melville advocating resistance to tyranny, but it is striking that this is one of the only instances in his written works where he does so. Melville may have been aware at this point of George Buchanan's draft treatise on secular tyrannicide and popular sovereignty, the De Iure Regni Apud Scotos Dialogus (Edinburgh, 1579; completed in draft in 1569). If he was, he chose not to make its arguments a central part of his contribution to the French-Genevan propaganda movement, which is telling in itself. See Reid, 'Early Polemic', pp. 71-2. Metre: elegiac couplets.

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Ad libertatem quid obest tibi, Gallia? Vis, fraus,
et lupus et lupa cum sanguineis catulis.
Ad libertatem quid adest tibi, Gallia? Jus, fas,
mensque manusque virum. Nunc quid abest? Animus.

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The trumpet call

What is hindering you, France, in your pursuit of liberty? Violence, deceit, and both a wolf and whore with their bloody whelps. a What aids you, France, in your pursuit of liberty? Right, divine law, and the mind and hands of men. Now what ability is missing? Resolution.



a: 'she-wolf': often a metaphor for the Pope/Rome (perhaps also an allusion to prostitution). Here the reference to a male and a female wolf and to 'bloody whelps' could suggest the Papacy and Catherine de Medici. See d2_MelA_021.