Sylva II: de sacello quodam musis & musica dedicato Pictavii (c.1577?)

At some point before July 1573, Rollock gave up his position as a regent at King's College Aberdeen (see d2_RolH_006) and travelled to France, where he remained until Spring 1579. Rollock was in Poitiers studying law from at least 1576 onwards, most likely at the Collège de Puygarreau (see d2_RolH_016 d2_RolH_017, d2_RolH_021, and d2_RolH_027). He produced 13 poems and epigrams directly connected with the town and several of its notable figures, the earliest being his pamphlet Panegyris de pace in Gallia constituenda (Poitiers, 1576), dedicated to the royal governor of Poitou, Pierre Ratus (the poem is not published in the DPS, and exists as a single copy in Edinburgh University Library). The current piece is the first of 11 in the DPS from his Poitiers period, and on one level appears to be a straightforward panegyric celebrating the city as a centre of arts and culture, with Rollock advising the muses to give up their wild home on Mount Parnassus for the refined urban living of the town. However, there may be a second layer of meaning as its dedicatee is possibly Léon Sacher (the title being a play on 'sacellum', 'shrine'), who received a doctorate in medicine at Poitiers in 1577, and was a contemporary of Rollock's at the exact time when he was most engaged in writing poetry in Poitiers. Sacher had an eclectic range of interests in the arts. He has been identified as the author of a two-volume collection of writings on Christian morality (Christianissimi compendii ... libri duo, Poitiers, 1550), and had an extensive library, of which Pierre Rambaud published an inventory (see Prosper Boissonade, Histoire de l'Université de Poitiers (Poitiers, 1932), p. 202). This may have been intended as a congratulary piece to celebrate Sacher's degree, and the odd interjection at l.38-43 of the image of a man wearied by the life of a bachelor could be a further reference to Sacher. However, beyond the evidence of the text this suggestion is wholly without corroboration. Furthermore, a mitigating factor against it is the fact that Sacher's award was initially contested as some of the arguments used in the defence of his degree were formulated in French and not Latin (he was only successfully reinstated in 1590), which means that a poem celebrating the event might have been in poor taste. Metre: hexameter.

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SYLVA II: de Sacello quodam Musis et Musica dedicato Pictavii

1Alma Iovis soboles, et Phœbi cura, Camœnae,
quid vos informi nascentes marmore fontes, 1
quid nemora, et pronis volventes vallibus amnes, 2
aut juga celsa juvant salebroso impervia clivo?
5Illa etenim incerto loca sunt obnoxia caelo
perque vices algore rigent, aestuque fatiscunt:
et bruma instabiles veris populatur honores.
Non illic hominum cœtus, non hospita Divis
atria, non teneris custodia tuta puellis. 3
10Verum, ubi culta viris patulas urgentur in auras
mœnia, et unanimes cogit concordia cives,
haec loca, Pierides, nulli insicianda Deorum,
sunt vestris celebranda choris: ponendaque tandem
rusticitas: potior mos est urbanus agresti.
15Parnassi gemino surgentem vertice molem,
quasque fugacis equi liquidas dedit ungula lymphas, 4
et decus Aonii ruris, Pimplaeaque lustra
linquite, et assuetis jam tandem absistite lucis: 5
ante quidem ignotae Musarum altaribus urbes:
20faelici auspicio jam primum e montibus altis
vos, Divae, in sua templa vocant. Accurrite, festis
caesariem implicitae foliis, et sacra canentes.
Haec est hospitio quae vos invitat amico,
non temnenda domus, vestris nec honoribus impar.
25Scire sacrae libet aedis opes, araeque ministros?
Non saxa hic pedibus, fateor, peregrina superbis
calcantur; Pario non surgunt marmore pilae;
pondera devexis nullus cervicibus Atlas 6
fulcit; nec rutilum splendet laquearibus aurum. 7
30Verum, hic casta fides, ausisque intacta nefandis
pectora, caelicolumque choris miscenda juventus,
quae dulces acri Musarum exerceat artes
ingenio: et gratae deducat murmura vocis.
Qualia nec Siculo molles in marmore fingunt
Link to an image of this page  [p351] 35Sirenes, nec qui fidibus Plutonia regna
detinuit, nec qui potuit salientia saxa
primus in excelsos Thebarum attollere muros.
Et si olim steriles pigeat sine prolibus annos
volvere, nec semper marcendum est caelibe vita.
40Hic aderit jucunda jocis, vultuque venusta
progenies, placidis non insicianda puellis:
quae neque vim faciat, nec sollicitata recuset
virginis e gremio gemmentes carpere flores.
Ergo haec, quae nostri pietas rarissima saecli
45nominibus posuit vestris sacraria, Musae,
deliciis nec egena suis. Alterna tenentes
brachia et ad numerum candentia crura moventes
intrate, et fano sedes hoc sigite, multo
amplexae vestri cultorem ardore juventam.
50Vos etiam, decus o caeli, Latonia proles,
ingeniis ambo celebres, amboque potentes:
si bene de vobis meruit nostri agminis ordo,
si vobis gratos juvenilis turba labores
occipit, este una faciles. Nec curta supellex
55numina vestra vetet rudibus succedere tectis.
Hic, vobis requies, arcanas edere fortes
hic juvet humanum quoties migratis in orbem:
faelicique locum genio praestate perennem.
Qui sibi amat numeris mulcere mollibus aures,
60quive avet ad numeros operosum effingere carmen,
haec delubra colat, vestrumque hic numen adoret.
Et dehinc venturi fateatur temporis aetas,
concordi Phœbum, et Musas, Phœbique sororem,
pace sub augustis patienter vivere tectis,
65auspiciis ut deinde regant melioribus orbem.

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Sylva II: On a certain shrine, devoted to the Muses and Music of Poitiers

Camena, offspring of Jove, and the dear concern of Phoebus, why do fountains emerging from the shapeless sea, why do groves, and rivers rolling through low valleys, or lofty peaks impassable with rough slopes please you? The fact is these places are exposed to the uncertain heavens and by turns they stiffen with cold, and sag with heat: and winter lays waste to the unstable honours of spring. In these places there is no assembly of men, nor chambers hospitable to the Gods, nor places of safe-keeping for tender young girls. No, rather where walls built for men are thrust into the wide open air, and where harmony drives together citizens in one mind, these places, muses, should be despised by none of the Gods, and should be celebrated by your choirs: and really, country life should be put aside: urban living is more preferable to rural. Leave behind the weight rising from the twin peak of Parnassus, and the flowing waters which the hoof of the fleeing horse gave, a and the honour of the Aonian countryside, and the Pimplean woods b and now at last stand apart from the usual groves: Admittedly cities were previously unknown before the altars of the muses: now for the first time, Goddesses, they call you with good auspices into their temples from the high mountains. Rush down, your dark hair entangled with festal leaves, and singing sacred songs. This house, which invites you with friendly hospitality, should not be condemned, and is not unequal to your dignity. Is it pleasing to know the riches of the sacred temple, and the ministers of the altar? Not here, I confess, are foreign c rocks trodden beneath proud feet; pillars made from the marble of Paros d do not rise up; no Atlas props up its weight on his sloping neck; nor does glittering gold shine on panelled ceilings. Instead, here there is chaste faith, and breasts untouched by unspeakable outrages, e and youths who should be mixed with the choir of the heaven-dwellers, who keep themselves busy with sharp intellect in the sweet arts of the muses: and bring forth the tones of their thankful voices. Such soft tones the Sirens did not fashion in the Sicilian sea, Link to an image of this page  [p351] nor he who held off the kingdoms of Pluto with his pipes, f nor he who was first able to lift up the rocks leaping against the highest walls of the Thebans. g And if one day you were to tire of living through barren years without offspring, you need not always be wearied by the bachelor life. Here will come a family, joyful with jokes and charming in countenance, and not to be denied by a taciturn band of girls: they would neither instigate violence, nor when tempted decline to pluck bejewelled flowers from the lap of a virgin. This, then, muses, is what the rarest piety of our ages has placed in shrines in your name, nor are they wanting in their own treasures. Enter, holding arms interlinked and gleaming legs moving to the beat, and fix your seats in this shrine, after embracing your young worshipper with a great deal of love. Yet you, o honour of heaven, offsping of Leto, h are famous in both kinds of character, and powerful in both: if the rank and file of our army deserved well from you, if our juvenile mob enters upon labours pleasing to you: be, as one, gentle with them. Nor will the imperfect furniture impede your divine presence from coming under rough roofs. Here, in this place repose will rejoice to bring forth powerful mysteries for as many of you as pass over to the human world: be pre-eminent in this place forever, in happy spirit. He who loves to soothe his ears with soft music, or he who longs to fashion difficult song for music, let the former worship at your temples, and the latter venerate your divine presence. And henceforth let the age of time to come acknowledge that Phoebus, and the Muses, and Phoebus' sister, in harmonious peace, live contentedly under your august roofs, and henceforth let them rule the world with better governance.



1: Statius, Silvae I.2.155

2: Virgil, Georgics II.485

3: Appears as tHta in the text

4: Cf. Melville, Gathelus 35-36: d2_MelA_001

5: 'c' in original text corrupted.

6: Statius, Thebaid VII.4

7: Statius, Silvae III.3.103


a: Hippocrene, the horse's spring: the Castalian Spring on Parnassus was believed to have originated from a centaur rodding the ground and, most importantly for the current context, the home of the Muses.

b: The Pimpla was another spring sacred to the muses.

c: Imported.

d: Greek island in the middle of the Aegean, famed for its white marble.

e: i.e., the French Wars of Religion.

f: Orpheus, son of Apollo and the muse Calliope, renowned as a musician. Orpheus used his music to persuade Persephone to allow his wife Eurydice to return from the underworld, which she granted on the condition that he never look back at his wife on their return to the land of the living. Unfortunately, he did, and his wife was snatched back to the depths.

g: Reference to the legend of Amphion and Zethus. Both were responsible for the construction of the walls of Thebes. The stones which Zethus could not lift onto the wall (too large) were literally charmed onto the wall by the alluring power of the music coming from Amphion's lyre. Given Rollock's extensive employment of Horace's Ars Poetica throughout his work, it is likely that 394-6 is the chief inspiration here.

h: Apollo and Diana. Ovid, Tristia V.1.57, uses this epithet for both.