Another of Melville's anti-Catholic and apocalyptic poems (see also d2_MelA_011, d2_MelA_027, d2_MelA_028, d2_MelA_044, d2_MelA_054), this time a poetic summary of the description of the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17-18. Metre: elegiac couplets.
Murice bis tincta, et gemmis, auroque superba,
ebria sanctorum et mersa cruore hominum,
montibus incumbis septem et compluribus undis,
regibus imperitas Caesaribusque ferox.
Queis tu plena tuis stupris pocula aurea misces,
qui te odere, velut te coluere prius.
Caelatum lupa fronte gerit mysterium in auro,
nec dubitas an sis mystica adhuc meretrix.
A savage, proud in gold, and in gems, and in the murex a twice dipped, drenched and drunk on the blood of holy men, you lay upon the seven hills and a great many waters, and you command kings and caesars. You mix together golden cups filled with your defilements, with which they hate you, just as they formerly worshipped you. The whore b bears the heavenly mystery upon her brow in gold, yet you still doubt whether or not you c are the mysterious whore.
a: Melville is referring here to the imperial purple dye produced from the shells of the murex, a mollusc local to Tyre in Southern Phoenicia, which grew brighter and stronger with exposure to sunlight, rather than fading like most ancient dyes. The implication is that the papacy has taken the robe of imperial rule upon itself.
b: Allegory for the Pope or papacy.
c: The Pope.