In Missam (1616)

These four anti-Catholic poems were originally affixed (with a further two introductory verses) to a disputation on the Lord's Supper defended by Melville's student Johannes Heinsius at Sedan around 1616. Mellon (Sedan, pp. 198-99) suggests that they found their way into the DPS as a result of Scotstartvit's editorial colleague Arthur Johnston, who taught alongside Melville at Sedan and probably took the verses with him when he moved back to Scotland (at some point before 1622). Metre: elegiac couplets.

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In Missam

Quaesitum toto orbe diu vox anne Latina,
anne Palestina, an Graecula, Missa foret.
Quaesivere diu docti: nec quaerere cessant
inventum in Latio, in Graecia, et in Syria.
Inventum, at commentum, et nunquam rite repertum 1
in terra, aut caelo. Missane missa Erebo?

In eandem

Rei sacrae sacrum est signum sacrumque sigillum
verbum ubi divinum rite elementa sacrat.
Significant signa, obsignat res sacra sigilla,
conveniunt rebus signa sigilla sacris.
Verum ubi nulla manent sacra signa ubi nulla sigilla,
rem sacram obsignet significetque nihil.

In eandem

Illum virgo semel concepit Numine fœta, 2
quem magno mystes murmure saepe creat. 3
Sed quem virgo parens natum ubere nutriit almo
dente truci mystes saepe trucidat atrox.


'Ire licet, missa est': fuit inde emissa, remissa est
ad genitorem Erebi trans Phlegetonta Iovem. 4

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Against the Mass

The question was asked for a long time the whole world over whether the Mass should be in the Latin language, or in Syriac, or in Greek. a Learned men have discussed, nor are they ceasing to inquire, whether this invention existed in Latium, in Greece, and in Syria. It was an invention, but it was a fraud, and never properly discovered on earth, or in heaven. Was the Mass then not sent from hell?

Against the same thing

The sign and seal of a sacred thing is sacred where the divine word consecrates the elements with proper religious rite. The signs signify the thing, the thing seals up the sacred seals, and the signs and seals are in agreement with the sacred things. In truth, where no sacred signs and no sacred seals remain, nothing may represent and make known the sacred thing.

Against the same thing b

Only once by God's will did a pregnant virgin conceive a man, whom the priest is forever bringing forth with much murmuring. But the savage priest is forever chewing up with his ferocious teeth the child whom the virgin parent fed with her nourishing breast.

Another still

'Go, it is permitted, the mass is done'; c and thus, after it had been sent out, it was returned across the Phlegethon to Jupiter, the father of Erebus.



1: Virgil, Aeneid VI.145

2: For 'illum...semel...quem' cf. Horace, Odes IV.3.1-3

3: 'magno...murmure': Virgil, Aeneid I.55; I.124; IV.160; V.369

4: Virgil, Aeneid VI.404


a: The standard Catholic version of the Bible in the early modern period was the Latin Vulgate, translated in the 4th century by St Jerome. The Old Testament was written in a range of Hebrew variants, including the near-Eastern Syriac and Chaldaic dialects; the texts of the New Testament were originally written in Koine Greek.

b: A clever poem where Melville deftly points out the difference between Catholic and Protestant views of the real presence of Christ in the eucharist, or communion wafer. Melville notes that Christ came to earth 'only once' and by extension is denoting that the eucharist is a symbolic act. Yet Catholic priests, he argues, frequently elevate and worship the wafer in an ornate ceremony as the true body of Christ, which they then proceed to eat.

c: The words that mark the end of the Latin Tridentine Mass.