Sylva VII: paraenetica de Procerum Scoticorum reditu ab exilio ad Kal. Novemb. anno 1585
A paraeneticon is a subdivision of protreptic (exhortatory) poetry with a specific focus on providing wisdom to the dedicatee or subject, in this case to the coalition of lords who marched on Stirling Castle on 1 November 1585 and ousted Captain James Stewart, the earl of Arran, from his position as King James' chief adviser. This episode marked the end of the most complex and faction-ridden period of James' minority. Between 1578 and 1585 there had been five attempted palace coups, four of which were successful. Arran, son of the laird of Ochiltree and a former mercenary, rose to favour with James VI alongside the king's French kinsman Esmé Stewart, seigneur d'Aubigny, who arrived in Scotland in September 1579. The two men orchestrated the downfall of the regent Morton, culminating in Morton's execution in June 1581. They were also showered with patronage by King James between 1579 and 1581, with James Stewart being awarded the earldom of Arran on 21 April 1581 and Aubigny the dukedom of Lennox on 5 August of the same year. Fears over their growing influence at court, and their suspected links to Mary Stewart and Catholic France, prompted a group of pro-Protestant, pro English nobles to stage a coup d'état on 23 August 1582 known as the Ruthven Raid (named for its lead conspirator, William Ruthven, fourth Lord Ruthven and first earl of Gowrie) which seized James VI and forcibly held him in captivity. Lennox was forced to flee and died shortly after returning to France, while Arran was held captive for the duration of the Raid, which was decisively ended when James escaped to St Andrews whilst on a hunting trip to Falkland in June 1583. Arran resumed his position of power almost immediately, rising to the position of chancellor in September 1584, and exerted a large measure of control over royal policy, which included a repression of the Presbyterian faction within the kirk (through the so-called 'Black Acts' of the parliament of May 1585) and a concerted effort to draw the key burghs in Scotland under royal control (Arran made himself provost of Edinburgh in 1584). The Ruthven lords had attempted unsuccessfully to oust Arran from power by seizing Stirling Castle on 18 April 1584, but when James VI marched against them they panicked and fled to England. A year and a half later a conspiracy masterminded by the courtiers John Maitland of Thirlestane and Patrick Master of Gray, and tacitly supported by the English government, led to the unlikely coalition that marched on Stirling on 1 November, comprising the exiled Ruthven lords, Francis Stewart first Earl Bothwell, John Lord Hamilton, and the Catholics Alexander, sixth Lord Home and John, eighth Lord Maxwell. With the lords enjoying the backing of a substantial army (estimates vary between 3,000 and 8,000 men), Arran was left with no choice but to flee through the Northbrig Port of Stirling, locking the gate behind him and throwing the keys in the Forth. The exiled lords appeared before James on 4 November, and were forgiven for their actions and restored to key positions in the royal government. This bloodless coup marked the emergence of the adult James VI, willing to rule without a close associate or favourite for the first time, although he would continue to rely on key administrators like Thirlestane throughout his personal rule (Jane Dawson, Scotland Re-formed, 1488-1587 (Edinburgh, 2007), pp. 310-314; Maurice Lee, John Maitland of Thirlestane and the Foundation of the Stewart Despotism in Scotland (Princeton, NJ, 1959), pp. 71-79; Andrew Lang, A History of Scotland from the Roman Occupation (3 vols, New York, Edinburgh and London, 1902), vol. 2, pp. 313-317; Gordon Donaldson, Scotland: James V-James VII (Edinburgh, 1994 edn), pp. 172-183; William Law Mathieson, Politics and Religion: a Study in Scottish History from the Reformation to the Revolution (2 vols, Glasgow, 1902), vol. 1, pp. 235-238; Rosalind K. Marshall, 'Hamilton, John, first marquess of Hamilton (1539/40-1604)', ODNB; Rosalind K. Marshall, 'Stewart, James, earl of Arran (c.1545-1596)', ODNB; Rosalind K. Marshall, 'Stuart , Esmé, first duke of Lennox (c.1542-1583)', ODNB; G. R. Hewitt, 'Ruthven raiders (act. 1581-1585)', ODNB).
This sylva is Rollock's most political poem, addressing a major event in the early reign of James VI. It is also the most suprising in terms of its main arguments, especially when they are set in the broader context of his other poems and his career. Rollock had built up several ties with the young king by the time he wrote this: it was likely through the king (possibly with the support of George Buchanan) that Rollock received his first short-lived post as commissary of Dundee on his return to Scotland in 1580, and he also wrote a Latin epigram for James' Essays of a Prentise in the Divine Art of Poesie (Edinburgh, 1584; poem at fo. *iiii verso), which suggests there was a connection of some amity between the two. In 1589, Rollock would be the only poet to write an extended poem celebrating the wedding of James and Anna (see d2_RolH_001) and in his later career he was staunchly pro-monarchy and anti-presbyterian in the verses he wrote defending the king after the Tolbooth Riot (see d2_RolH_002, d2_RolH_020). On the basis of this evidence, one would expect an advisory poem by Rollock on the return of the lords to celebrate the safe deliverance of the king from an evil counsellor and exhort him to rule wisely. In part, this is what Rollock delivers: in the opening sequence (l.1-63) he celebrates the return of the heroic exiles and the removal of Arran as a divine blessing, marked by the passing of the severe plague that afflicted Edinburgh in the same year (see also d2_RolH_010). However, he then appeals directly to the lords, and not to James, to look after the 'two comrades' (l.66-7) who returned with them, religion and justice, by ensuring the full funding of the church and the correct administration of the law courts. It is their duty 'to take care of our king, and to impose laws on the people', because they carry the 'devolved authority' of God (l.88-90, 114-115). While Rollock explicitly states (l.128-131) that it is wrong for the nobility 'to set down the law,/ unless under the direction of the prince', their duties sound extremely similar to those of the 'inferior magistrate' outlined by John Knox or Theodore Beza, where the nobility must defend the persecution of the people from tyranny (especially of a religious kind) in their ruler. This strain of thought stands at odds with Rollock's later description of monarchs as 'Gods among men' ('homines inter...deos') in 'The Praise of Monarchy' ('Laus Monarchiae', d2_RolH_020), and in the remainder of the poem Rollock's advice to the nobility actually sounds extremely similar to ideas propounded by George Buchanan in his 'Dialogue on the Law of Kingship among the Scots' (De Iure Regni apud Scotos Dialogus, Edinburgh, 1579). In l.128-182 he launches into an extended diatribe of the kind of characteristics that make a tyrant - refusal to rule in accordance with established law, failure to set a good moral example to the people, and oppressive and harsh taxation - which should be avoided lest a monarch be seen to rule 'by fear in the fashion of a wild beast' (l.138), a description used by both George Buchanan in the De Iure (Mason and Smith, p. 131) and by Andrew Melville in his 'Stephaniskion' (d2_MelA_002). Moreover, in the closing section of the poem (l.183-263), it is the nobility's responsibility, and not the king's, to keep 'the destructive plague of flatterers and the army of followers' (l.183-185) that has caused such political disturbance in the preceding seven years away from the court, and thus ensure that the spectres of civil war and recusant Catholicism do not rise again. The overall argument is so out of keeping with Rollock's usual support for the absolute rule of the monarch that it is hard to understand his motivations for writing it. The only rational explanation that comes to mind is that Rollock had compelling evidence that the lords were set to rule over Scotland as the next regency government, and felt the need to court them with poetry as a potential patron. Metre: hexameter.
SYLVA VII: PARAENETICA de Procerum Scoticorum reditu ab exilio ad Kal. Novemb. anno. 1585
1Tergeminas inter, quarum solenne Tonanti est,
ulcisci aerumnis humana piacula, clades:
unde Caledoniis inopina effulserit oris
gratia caelicolum, et miserae mollissima genti
5reddita temperies umbrasque imbresque repente
fregerit hibernos, neque non meminisse levati
fas vobis cives, neque me memorasse pigebit.
Nuper enim, vitio caeli, bacchata per urbes 1
perque agros fera pestilitas, contage tremenda
10exhausit populis fœcundi viscera regni.
Et febri sociata, fames late imbuit arva
imbribus assiduis, genialesque obruit herbas,
ut quos eripuit plebs dirae provida pesti,
sentiat esurie tabescere turpiter artus.
15Neve vacet miseris magnatum angoribus ordo,
sic illos odiis citro ultro Martius ardor
accendit, pars fatales ut vindice bello
altera in alterius lethum distringeret enses.
Tot concussa (inquam) et tantis cum Scotia nuper
20nostra malis gemeret, spes ecce ubi nulla salutis,
orta salus luctum in Veneres et gaudia vertit:
dum satrapis pacem, tenui dum pabula plebi,
et puras populo dedit omni Iuppiter auras.
Exilio rediere Duces: quorum agmen, ob altos
25ducit Hamiltonus, regum de stemmate honores.
Cui pulcher socium se infert Angusius heros,
magnus laude sua, et meritis memorandus avorum.
Marrius hinc acer, generosi insigne parentis
pignus, agit partes. Glammisei deinde dynastes,
30virtutem ore gerens, animis ingentibus aequat
corporeos artus, et toto vertice supra est. 2
Tantorum extorris procerum vestigia vulgus
pone legit, patrias ex omni accitus in oras
telluris gremio. Reduces in limine regni,
35flos procerum, regale genus, Bodvvellus, amico
excipit hospitio primus. Puer Hummius, una
indole celsus adest. Et qui Maxellus in armis
Marcelli aeternam meruit cum nomine lucem.
Protenus in varios regni amandata recessus,
40carcere vel caeco deprehensa, vel ignis et undae
queis interdictum est usu de more, cavernis
agmina prosiliunt, objectae exsortia culpae,
immeritisque onerata odiis. Sed qui ore trifauci
aulicus immodicis inhiabat Cerberus offis, 3
45horum opibus saturandus erat, vel sanguinis haustu.
Sterlini audentem saxum in sublime phalangem
millia multa sequi, his tantis auctoribus, ardent.
Qui regem, objicibus nec larga caede remotis,
mirantem numerosque novos, facilesque suorum
50et fortes animos, votis ac voce salutant,
optatamque diu dextram contingere gaudent.
Ille renidenti vultu verbisque serenis,
tot sine fraude virum fortem miseratus iniquam,
suscipit amplexu. Et monitis solatus amicis,
55securos jubet esse animis, patrioque tueri
fortunas ritu, vivant modo legibus aequis,
imperio facili usuros et rege secundo.
Sic tandem, proceres ubi blandi gratia fovit
principis, et populo firmata hinc inde perenni est
60alta quies nexu, caeli regnator apertis
testatur monstris non hoc nisi numine pangi
consulto fœdus, mala dum grassantia sistit
tergemina in Scotos, trisidasque interpolat iras.
Non tamen hanc vestris armis astuque, dynastae,
65Saxonidumve opibus, partam sperate salutem:
sed comites vobiscum una quae nuper eodem
exilio rediere duae, praestare periclis
ut vos incolumes potuere per arva, per undas
ignoti errantes orbis, profugisque potentum
70nectere amicitias et corda ferocia regum.
Sic patrio salvos (populi quod vota volebant)
restituunt caelo, dulcesque habitare penates
principis ore jubent. Nobis autem omnia certae
praesidia extorres secum avexere salutis,
75secum eadem aerumnas reduces retulere levando.
Altera syderei cultrix purissima patris
relligio est, studiosa poli, semperque futuris
prospiciens, hujus post vitae ergastula, saeclis.
Altera mortales (ancilla assecla prioris)
80inter, Iustitia est assertrix juris et aequi,
portus et aura probis, Syrtisque et Scylla nocentum. 4
Vos harum auspiciis, proceres, aliena vagati
per regna incolumes, regressi ad vestra valetis.
Nos harum atroces despectu solvimus arvis
85in patriis pœnas, instauramurque receptu.
Defuncti his igitur curis, pietatis et aequi
non unquam immemores, sortem adnitamur utrique
quisque urgere suam. Vos consuluisse monarchae
quos penes est nostro, legesque imponere plebi,
90divini ardentes in curam ante omnia cultus,
confirmate animos. Quae multos moesta per annos
sorduit in pullis hoc regno Ecclesia vittis,
senta situ, 5
vestris opibus subnixa resurgat,
invidiae spoliis memorique superba trophaeo.
95Carpat ubi populus pia mentis pabula, sacras
instaurate domus; ereptae reddite gazae
divini imperii famulos. Quos convenit olim
antiqua in sanctos usus pietate repostis
fidere fortunis, et sollicitudine solvi
100altius ut Superos rimentur et abdita rerum. 6
Nec nisi captatis suspensi hinc sortibus, ullum
moliri facinus, magnumque audete laborem.
Proxima composito sit Numine cura Senatus,
et reliquae constant qua legum arbitria pompae.
105Huc delecta virum sortiti pectora, quorum
expediat juris dubios prudentia casses,
spemque metumque animus, luctumque et gaudia vincat.
Horum ipsi faciles jurate in carmina, et aequis
cedite consultis, sint quamvis stirpe latentes
110et censu exiles. Nec enim vos fingere judex
arbitrio parat ipse suo, sed legis habena.
Et vestrae si quando inopum cognoscere questus
censurae dabitur, non visque dolusque tribunal,
sed jus fasque regant; semperque vicaria quorum
115pondera portatis, praesentes credite Divos.
Divini interea placidae cum Palladis artes 7
primula et humani ponant vestigia cultus,
vestrum erit ut lectas volvat, curare juventus
scriptorem a tenera classes aetate, Camœnis
120vestrum ornare domos atque hospita tecta Minervae,
tanquam ex Trojano vis unde acerrima pubis
se diffundat equo, populi quae perferat ultro
aerumnas, generique hominum caelestia prodat.
Omnem animo nec enim si quis percenseat orbem,
125ingenii nostris gens ulla feracis honorem 8
praeripiet. Tantum pueris cultura magistris
emolumentum operae, sua Musis gloria constet.
Auctore at quoniam, proceres, nisi principe, vobis
ira jubere nefas, pectus regale monendo
130sollicitate, alta geminos ut mente reponat
hos regnandi usus: Divumque hominumque tueri
praesidio leges. Nec enim conceditur uni
tantus honos exors oneris, neque sola voluntas,
imperio ut pugnent leges matura gerendo est.
135Fraenum hominis ratio, lex hujus regula, legis
lingua magistratus. Qui si rationis aberret
orbe sciens prudens, humani transilit oras
ingenii, rituque ferae formidine regnat.
Unde gravem assuescunt cives odisse timendo,
140et furere ex odiis, vindictae ut cœperit ardor,
fraude trucem excutiunt, manifesto aut Marte, tyrannum.
Fortius excubiis stipantumque agmine reges
munit amor populi, sola qui laude paratur
virtutis. Scelerum obstringit communio paucos
145nec stabiles, melior numerus dum colligit iras. 9
Vixque aliis tutum mandare salubria speret
qui rerum potitur, sua ni tamen ipse facessat
iussa, et quam edictis cives mage moris honesti
instruat exemplo. 10 Jubeat quodcunque probari
150rebor ei, si quid rerum obsignaverit usu.
Et scelerum pœnas censor qua fronte reposcet
aemulus ipse mali? Sibi qui permiserit omnes
flagitii frenos, aliorum in crimina ferrum 11
strinxerit invitus. Unde indulgentia flammas
155excitet audendi, et quid non patrare lacessat
spes veniae fontes? Atque ut munita potenti
robore sit probitas, sceptrisque audacia cedat.
Dum puer, incautis et adhuc miscendus ephebis,
quantum bello habeant nervorum, et pace nitoris
160largae nescit opes, populique et principis ergo,
exhausti imprimis rationem expendite sisci;
inque aula tenui sumptus inhibete profusos
quaestorumque dolos, et plusquam regia dona.
Ecqua etenim probitas alieno praemia speret
165aere urgente ducem? Qua pronam sistet habena
nequitiae rabiem, sceptro qui paupere sordet?
Adde, quod imperio pollens angustia rerum
ingeniosa breves commentis mille fatigat
durae plebis opes. Agitatur crimine civis?
170Audit. Adulantum nova quis portoria narrat?
Annuit. Offensa est majestas? Arripit ansam
praedandi. Fama est discriminis? Aera viritim
imperat, et tenuem tolerantia pabula vitam
extorquet populo. Non his prudentia niti
175prisca tulit quondam nostrorum insignia regum
sordibus, et queruli spoliis ditescere vulgi.
Sed stabili censu, et propriis diadema tueri
fructibus instituit. Vis autem ubi major in hostem
expendenda foret, gratis dare nomina jussit
180militiae populum, pretio neque vendere vires
ductori, innocuis qui nulla extorqueat aera,
turpia quae reliquus commerica sustinet orbis.
Verum has inter opes, famulantisque agmina turbae
palponum, hic moneo, procul o procul exulet aula
185perniciosa lues. Quibus ut sua gratia constet,
et cumulentur opes, facilem regnantis in aurem
mille probis fraudes et crimina inania nectunt.
Si tamen eximie regi quis forte minister
aulicus arridet, jucundo aut agnitus usu,
190virtutum aut merito (quo expungimus ilicet albo
auctores scelerum, dominanti et quotquot iniquis
artibus obrepunt), non vestri stemmatis illum
nobilitate premi verum est, atque impote fastu
quamlibet obscurum. Quis enim, qui nomina jactat
195majorum, si arcessat avos ab origine prima,
non tandem inveniet generis qui occeperit auctor
emicuisse fui? Quis, si interceperis aulae
hunc aditum, speret meritos virtutis honores,
occupet aut reges sibi devincire merendo?
200Quicquid in absentes residem peccasse potentum
perfidiam, innocui praetenta principis umbra,
constiterit, studium atrocis crudele facessat
vindictae. Nostri miserae ne opprobria Romae
usurpent oculi: Reduces regnare cruentos
205exilio: et vicibus Marii, Syllaeque cruentis
plus nimio exhausti, procerum nova funera cernant, 12
caedibus et caedes, ac bellis bella ferendo,
majorum exitiis maneant graviora nepotes.
Si qua tamen scelerum plectenda est vindice poena
210improbitas, modicae metis se claudere vitae
indocilis, pacemque pati, neque flexilis ullo
obsequio; hic saltem privis clementia possit
plus odiis. Quae sola Deos mortalibus aequat.
Et legum lima, et Superum (quem legis amussim
215convenit esse) metus, moestae praeponderet irae.
At vos una olim quos infortunia, et unus
iam lene afflantis fortunae risus, in orbem
cogit amicitiae (sociis ex classe receptis
patricia, quorum hanc vobis vota anxia fortem
220optavere domi) stabili sic pangite nodo
communes studiorum usus, communia regni
consilia, aureoli nunquam ut certamine pomi
dissipet invidae dirus pater. Unde latebris
evolet, exitio incautos qui destinat hastis.
225Scilicet ut pridem vestro vis aemula Marti
cesserit, et capite infames aut carcere poenas
reddiderit, vobis quicunque incenderat auctor,
principis immeritas infensi aut foverat iras.
Non tamen hostis abest. Versatilis opprimet aulae
230alea securos, et jam nunc, objice luxu,
insidias tacita mediatur arundine 13 vestrum
livor in exitium. Gemino qui milite quasvis
impiger expugnat (si invictas) caetera, vires
ambitione; graves aliis quae affectat honores.
235Et fas omne, fame sacra, quae abrumpit habendi 14
haec scelera, hoc virus magnatum in viscera livor
spargit edax. Ut quos peregrini evertere ferri
non potis est acie, civilibus hauriat armis.
Sola fides tantas, privaque cupidine posset
240cura prior populi et regis, restinguere flammas.
Interea, o reliqui populares, munere Divum
parta minis belli requies, genialibus auris
expugnata lues, victa et penuria pastu.
Quaeque his ducendum est longe majora: peregre
245facta redux pietas, et vis impervia legum,
insideant vobis par est ita mente tenaci,
tantorum immemores meritorum ut nullus amicae
fortunae applausus, mora nulla redarguat aevi,
ni lubet actutum sedato arcessere caelo
250fulmina, et infensi sopitos numinis aestus: 15
numinis infensi populo, qui oracula sancto
missa polo fastidit iners, quaeque auribus hausit
verba, finit levibus ferri ludibria ventis;
et populo humani juris qui claustra fatigat,
255nil inter quicquam esse ratus permissa negata,
vel si inter quicquam esse putet, neque mentis honestae
hoc debet studio, neque relligionis amori,
sed sola immanes ausus formidine sistit.
Talem, inquam, populum (procul haec sint omina nostris)
260officiis rerum sibi quo majoribus auctor
obstrinxit, poena urgebit graviore nocentem;
qua tandem elusa, moderari desinet irae,
263et genus officiis poenisque inflexile franget.
Sylva VII: a paraeneticon On the Return of the Scottish Nobles from Exile, 1st November 1585
Jove has a duty to punish human crimes with hardships,
amid triple misfortune: and it will not
grieve me to remember, nor is it right for you,
unburdened citizens, to forget from whence the unexpected
grace of heaven has shone forth on Scottish shores,
or from whence a most gentle harmony has returned
to our wretched people and vanquished wintry clouds and rain storms.
Indeed only recently, due to a crime against heaven,
a savage pestilence a raged through the fields and cities, taking
from the people the very lifeblood of a once plentiful kingdom by a dreaded touch.
And famine, joined with fever, drenched the fields
with unending rains, burying the pleasant crops,
so that it suffers the roots, which the plebs anticipating the dire
plague have ripped out, b to decay repulsively through lack of nourishment.
And lest the order of the nobles be free from miseries,
martial ardor so rouses them everywhere, that one faction,
with war as the avenging force, unsheathed deadly swords to destroy another. c
But look, I say, while recently our dear Scotland was groaning under so many ills,
struck down so many times, and where there was no hope of recovery,
health arose and turned despair to love and joy:
now Jove has given peace to the nobles, food to the starving plebs,
and air free from pestilence to all the people.
24 The Lords have returned from exile: Hamilton, d on account of his high descent from the line of kings, leads their group. The fair hero Angus, e great by his own merit and ennobled by the deeds of his ancestors, joins him close by. Here Mar, remarkable son of a noble father, f plays his part. Then the offspring of Glamis, g exuding courage, his massive spirit equal to his huge limbs, and towering above the rest by a whole head. The exiled mass of such great nobles retrace their steps, having been summoned back from every centre [p366] of the earth to their homeland. Bothwell, the flower of the nobles, h a royal descendant, receives the returning lords on the border of the kingdom with a friendly reception. The boy Home, i uncommonly talented, is present in his company. There too is Maxwell j who earned eternal splendour in combat with the name of Marcellus. Sent away forthwith to the kingdom's various recesses, or detained in a dark cell, or deprived of fire and water as is the custom, the troop now spring forth from their cave, freed from the charges set before them, which saw them oppressed by undeserved animosity. But here was Cerberus, the royal gatekeeper, salivating from his triple-throat at the huge morsels, k who had to be appeased with their riches, or a draught of their blood. Because they are such great leaders, many thousands passionately long to follow their army as they attempt to scale the lofty crag of Stirling. Without much blood spilled the doors were unlocked, and with prayers and shouts they greeted the king, who marvelled at the courteous and stout spirits of his subjects, and they rejoice in touching the much longed-for king's hand. With a beaming face and cheerful words, and without pretence, the king, who lamented the unfair fate of so many men, received them with an embrace. l After having comforted them with friendly advice, he bids them be untroubled in spirits, look to their fortunes in the native fashion, and to now live under just laws, and henceforth enjoy a compliant kingdom and favourable king. Finally, after the grace of an agreeable prince thus favoured the nobles, and a great peace was secured on both sides for the people through their everlasting union, the ruler of heaven declares through manifest omens that this pact is not to be broken unless his divinity m is consulted, as he devises triple evils to attack the Scots, and sharpens his triple-pronged anger.
Yet do not expect that this salvation has been brought forth
by either your martial valour or cunning, or even English wealth, n princes.
Rather the two comrades, o who recently returned with you from the same banishment,
were able to keep you safe from danger as you wandered unknown over land and sea,
and contrive friendships towards exiles in the warlike hearts of powerful kings.
Thus they now restore you safe to native skies (as the prayers
of the people continually wished), and under the direction of the prince they
bid you live in your sweet ancestral homes. However, for us the exiles
have brought with them every safeguard for certain salvation,
and by relieving our troubles upon their return they have restored our defences.
One is religion, the most refined follower of the heavenly father,
a student of heaven, and always looking to
the time to come, beyond the labour camps of this life.
The other is Justice, a champion of law and fairness among
mortals (and a handmaid and follower of religion),
both a haven and a breath of air for the virtuous,
and a Syrtis and Scylla for the guilty. p
You nobles, who roamed unmolested through foreign lands under the protection
of these two, q have now returned well to your own lands.
We divest ourselves of the terrible punishments brought to our native lands
by our neglect of these two, and we are restored by their return.
Thus rid of these troubles, and never forgetful
of piety and fairness, let each and everyone of us
try our hardest to follow our own destiny. You whose charge it is
to take care of our king, and to impose laws on the people,
burning with your zeal for divine worship,
fortify our souls. May the church which has decayed
in this kingdom for so many years, worn down in its grubby vestments,
squalid with neglect, rise up supported by your abundant aid,
perched loftily on the booty of vanquished envy and on a victorious memorial.
Restore the sacred temples, so that the people may pluck pious nourishment
for the mind; restore the stolen treasure to the servants of divine power.
For it was agreed long ago that they depend on their repaid fortune
for the holy practice of ancient piety, and that they be freed from anxieties
so that they may explore the Gods and the secerts of the universe more profoundly.
And unless constrained by oracles you have received, do not
venture to work at any task, or undertake any great toil.
With God put aside may the courts be my next topic,
where the authority of laws accord with the other camp. r
Here have they appointed the choice souls of men, so that their
wisdom may untangle the tricky loopholes of the law,
and their mind overcome hope and fear, joy and lamentation.
Readily swear an oath to the prophecies of these men, and yield
to their fair deliberations, although they are hidden from their family
and without their wealth. The judge, indeed, does not try
to direct you through his own power, but with the reins of the law.
And whenever it falls to your judgement to examine the complaints
of the helpless, let not force and guile direct the proceedings,
but rather justice and right; and always trust in the ever-present
Gods, whose devolved authority you carry.
Meanwhile as the gentle arts of Pallas
lay down the first little steps of human civilisation,
it will be your task to urge on your scribe to recount
the choice ranks of youth from that early age, and
to praise the palaces and covered shelters of Minerva in song,
in the manner of the tale of the most ardent number of youth
spreading forth from the Trojan horse, who took away
their people's troubles, and bequeathed
heavenly rewards to the race of men.
For should anyone examine the whole world,
no nation will take from us the glory of our abundant genius.
The cultivation of children alone is the reward of the
teachers' toils, and let their fame endure in their poetry. s
However, since it is wrong for you, nobles, to set down the law, t
unless under the direction of the prince, rouse up the royal heart
with advice, so that it may restore these twin practices
of ruling: maintaining the laws with the aid of men and Gods.
For such a duty is not yielded to one alone
without difficulty, nor is will alone able to govern,
for the laws may clash with royal command.
Reason is man's bridle, law is his ruler, the language
of law his magistrate. whoever steps outside the limits
of reason knowingly and premeditatedly, he oversteps
the boundaries of human nature, and
he rules by fear in the fashion of a wild beast.
And hence through fear the citizens get into the habit of hating
the oppressive and fierce tyrant, and to rage with hatred,
so that a longing for revenge arises, and
they drive him out with plots, or in open war.
More securely does the love of the people protect
kings with guards and an army of followers, when the love
is obtained from a simple reputation for virtue.
A shared guilt constrains a few waverers,
but a greater number is roused to fury.
And scarcely can he who has supremacy expect that
his salubrious orders commend security for others, unless
he himself carries out his own orders, and
instructs his citizens more by the example of honoured custom
than by decree. I shall think that whatever he orders has been
tested by him, if he should approve anything in the execution of his duties.
And how shall the judge demand punishments for the wicked,
when he himself rivals their wickedness? Whoever would loosen every
restraint on their own disgraceful passion, unwillingly
unsheathes his sword against the offences of others. Where else
would the indulgence of the bold which fans their flames come from,
and what would the hope of pardon rouse the guilty not to do?
And whenever honesty has been guarded by a mighty
power, then boldness would fall before that authority.
As long as the boy, who still must fraternize with rash youths,
does not know how much power great wealth has
in war, and how much elegance in peace, Make sure to
keep an eye on the accounts of the people, and the prince,
and above all the depleted treasury; u
and curtail extravagant expenditure and treasury fraud,
and moreover royal gifts within a poor court.
For should any honesty expect its deserts with foreign
bronze spurring on the leader? How would he resist
the headlong fury of wickedness, when he is poor with a meagre sceptre?
Moreover, a clever small state wielding its authority torments
the meagre wealth of the rough pleb with a thousand wheezes.
Is the citizen vexed by a crime? He judges it. Someone reports of
fresh levies for his sycophants? He allows it. Has his majesty been offended?
He then takes the opportunity for plundering. Is there rumour of some disturbance?
He then orders money from each man, and squeezes from the people the
sustenance that supports their poor lives. The ancient wisdom of our kings
has never tolerated their honour to rely upon such sordidness,
nor to grow rich from the plunder of the querulous mob.
But rather it resolves that the crown is safeguarded
by a fixed income, and its own profits. However, when greater power
may be required to be used against the enemy, it has instructed
the people to enlist in the army with no reward,
and not to sell their forces to a general at a price,
lest he extort any money from the innocent,
which shameful traffic the rest of the world allows.
Just so amid this wealth, and on this matter, I warn you to
banish far, far from your court the destructive plague of flatterers
and the army of followers. So that their own favour remains secure for them,
and wealth may be amassed for them, they spin petty calumnies
and a thousand lies against honest men into the ready ear of the ruler.
Should, however, any court minister happen to be too much in the king's favour,
either through the happy practice of recognition
or through rewards for virtues (with these we immediately remove
the authors of criminality from the roll of honour, and
so they deceive the ruler with so many treacherous
schemes), v then, no matter how obscure he is, they think it right
to hound him with a superiority and haughtiness
unfamiliar to a man of your breeding. Who indeed, who takes pride
in the names of their ancestors, if he were to arraign his forefathers
from the earliest time, will not discover how the creator
of his own race began to shine? Who, if you had seized
this entry to the court, would expect the just deserts of virtue,
or would by merit be first to lay kings under obligation to themselves?
Whichever nobles decides to commit treacheries at home against
the exiles, under the cover of a blameless prince,
would be executing the cruel desire for savage revenge.
Let not our eyes witness wretched Rome's shame:
bloody men returning from exile to govern; and, worn out
by the bloody ups and downs of Marius and Sulla, w
they would see the nobility's new dead,
and by heaping death upon death, and war upon war,
harsher things than ruin would await the next generation.
But if depravity, incapable of living within the
boundaries of a modest life, and of tolerating peace,
and which also is not receptive to any authority,
must be punished by some avenging
punishment for wickedness, then at least for each man
may clemency have more influence than hatred.
For clemency alone renders Gods and men the same.
And may the practice of the laws, and a fear of the Gods
(needed for the proper application of law), bear greater
weight for you than unhappy anger.
But you whom once misfortune alone assailed, and whom now
the smile alone of favourable fortune takes into
friendship's sphere (with allies drawn from the patrician
class, x whose anxious prayers at home longed for
this fate for you), now set up through a fixed bond
a public society of good-will, universal assemblies
for the kingdom, lest ever the dread father
of envy assail us with a battle for the golden apple. y
Thus would he z fly up from the shades, in order to
mark out the reckless for ruin with his pitchfork.
Clearly since long ago his force, vying with you in war,
yielded, and in revenge he handed down the notorious
death penalty or prison, that contriver had attacked you,
or had stoked the unwarranted flames of anger in a hostile prince.
But the enemy is not gone. The returning danger will bear down upon
the complacent at court, and even now, with a bar to extravagance,
on its silent pipes envy is fine-tuning plots
to destroy you. It overcomes all forces (even those usually
invincible) relentlessly accompanied by its twin fighter, ambition;
which itself vies with others for great rewards.
And it violates every law, with its odious appetite,
this wicked disposition for gain. All-consuming envy
pours this poison inside the hearts of the nobility.
And when it cannot overthrow them with the edge of a foreign
blade, it would consume them with civil war.
Loyalty alone, the foremost concern for king and people,
would be capable of removing such great fires from every passion.
Meanwhile, o remaining countrymen, through the Gods'
mercy respite from the menace of war has been brought forth,
plague has been subdued by fair winds, and poverty has been replaced
by plenty. And at length these things must lead in each great matter:
piety returned from abroad, and the impassable force of law,
for it is right that they occupy a place in your steadfast mind,
so that no lapse of time, nor flap of friendly fortune
prove false those forgetful of such great rewards,
lest it is pleasing to send thunderbolts straightaway from
a calm sky, and the sleeping fires of a hostile deity
against god's people, who ignorantly scorn signs
sent from heaven, and listen to each word,
then allow their derision to be borne on the light winds;
against people who test the confines of human law,
thinking that they do not transgress at all,
of if they were to think they conformed, they do not owe
it to the cultivation of an honest mind, nor the love of religion,
but they cause their monstrous ventures through fear alone.
Such people, I say, (may these signs be not at hand for
our people) has the creator of the world bound to himself
through such great toil, and he will bear down upon the guilty
with a very great punishment; finally with that derided,
he will not restrain his anger, and he will break
the stubborn race with work and torment.
1: Virgil, Aeneid X.41
2: Virgil, Aeneid VII.784; see also XI.683
3: For the image of
Cerberus chewing on a tasty morsel ('offa') see Virgil, Aeneid
4: For an example of the dual employment of Syrtis and Scylla see Virgil, Aeneid VII.302
5: Virgil, Aeneid VI.426
6: Horace, Ars Poetica 49
7: Virgil, Aeneid II.15
8: Cf. Virgil, Aeneid XII.840
9: For the expression
see Horace, Ars Poetica 160
10: Horace, Epistles II.1.131. It is noteworthy that this same Horatian phrase is also a favourite of Andrew Melville's, who uses it in the 'Carmen Mosis' (d2_MelA_005), l.44-5, and
the 'Antichristus' (d2_MelA_054), l.7
11: For the expression see
Rutilius Namatianus, De Reditu Suo I.160
12: Ovid, Metamorphoses XIII.518
13: Virgil, Eclogues VI.8
14: Virgil, Aeneid III.55-7
15: Cf. Virgil, Aeneid V.743
a: The plague outbreak of 1585, which was particularly virulent in Edinburgh. See d2_RolH_010.
b: Presumably to stockpile in case of dearth.
c: See the introduction above for discussion of the factional conflicts affecting the court between 1578 and 1587; Rollock also wrote a long poem condemning the Marian civil war of 1567-73 (see d2_RolH_006).
d: John, Lord Hamilton, the third son of James Hamilton, second earl of Arran, later duke of Châtelherault (c.1519-1575). The Hamiltons had fought on Mary's side during the Marian Civil War, and John and his brother Claude were charged in 1579 by Regent Morton with being involved in the assassinations of the regents Moray and Lennox. John fled to France, where he became a friend of Patrick, Master of Gray, and it was through Gray that Hamilton became involved in the 1585 conspiracy. Hamilton's hatred for Captain James Stewart stemmed from the fact that he usurped the title of earl of Arran from his insane elder brother James Hamilton, whom he had been made guardian of in early 1581. Hamilton was the great great grandson of James II (1437-1460), and after James VI was the next heir to the Scottish throne. See Rosalind K. Marshall, 'Hamilton, John', ODNB.
e: Archibald Douglas eighth earl of Angus and fifth earl of Morton, the nephew of James Douglas, fourth earl of Morton (c.1516-1581). A devout Protestant, Angus rose to prominence during his uncle's regency (1572-1578), and was a leading participant in the Ruthven Raid and subsequent attempt to seize the king in April 1584. Rollock is also alluding in the line following to the greatness of the Douglas family as allies of Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Independence. See G. R. Hewitt, 'Douglas, Archibald, eighth earl of Angus and fifth earl of Morton (c.1555-1588)', ODNB.
f: John Erskine, eighteenth or second earl of Mar, whose father had been both keeper of the young James VI at Stirling Castle and regent between 1571 and 1572. Erskine had burst onto the Scottish political scene at the tender age of 16, when he seized control of Stirling Castle for the Morton faction from his uncle Alexander Master of Mar (killing the master's son in the process). Mar fell from favour with the ousting of Morton as regent, and was leading participant in the Ruthven Raid and subsequent attempt to seize the king in April 1584. See Julian Goodare, 'Erskine, John, eighteenth or second earl of Mar (c.1562-1634)', ODNB.
g: Sir Thomas Lyon of Auldbar, master of Glamis, the second son of John Lyon, seventh Lord Glamis (b. c.1521, d. in or before 1559). A committed Protestant, Glamis was a leading figure in the Ruthven Raid and the subsequent assaults against Arran. He is most famous for barring the door at Stirling Castle during the Ruthven Raid, when he remarked to a tearful King James that 'better bairns should weep than bearded men' (Calderwood, History, vol. 2, p. 290). See Rob Macpherson, 'Lyon, Sir Thomas, of Auldbar, master of Glamis (c.1546-1608)', ODNB.
h: Francis Stewart, first earl of Bothwell (1562-1612), James VI's cousin through the illegitimate son of James V, John Stewart, Lord Darnley (c.1531-1563). Bothwell was adept at playing factions in Scottish politics against one another. He remained on friendly terms with both James VI and the Ruthven Raiders during the Ruthven Raid, and in the April 1584 uprising raised 2,000 troops for the king but was suspected by James of being allied with the rebels. Bothwell joined the coalition of nobility in 1585 believing he would be awarded the chancellorship for his part in liberating the king. However, James felt betrayed by him, and the episode marked the end of what had been until then a warm if occasionally tense relationship between the two. The remainder of Bothwell's political career was marked by a series of rebellions against the crown until he was put to flight in early 1595. Rob Macpherson, 'Stewart, Francis, first earl of Bothwell (1562-1612)', ODNB.
i: Alexander Home, first earl of Home was the eldest son of Alexander Home, fifth Lord Home (c.1525-1575), who was forfeited in 1573 for supporting Mary during the civil war. Restored to his father's lands as the sixth earl in 1578, Home took part in the 1585 conspiracy as he had been warded in the previous year in Tantallon Castle by Arran for his involvment in various property feuds and disputes. He would go on to be a loyal servant to King James, being appointed justiciar and lieutenant of all three Scottish Border marches in 1603 and created first Earl of Home in 1605. See Maureen M. Meikle, 'Home, Alexander, first earl of Home (c.1566-1619)', ODNB.
j: John Maxwell, eight Lord Maxwell and (from 1581) earl of Morton. Maxwell proved to be a skilled warden of the west Border march (a post he was appointed to in 1573), but his long running feud with John Johnstone, laird of Johnstone, and his Catholicism (he formally converted in 1584), made him an extremely volatile and difficult noble for the crown to deal with. Arran tried to revoke his rights to the earldom of Morton following a dispute over the lands of Pollok and Maxwellhaugh in early 1585, prompting Maxwell to join the coalition with 1300 men and 700 horses. See J. R. M. Sizer, 'Maxwell, John, earl of Morton (1553-1593)', ODNB. The appelation 'Marcellus' is a reference to Claudius Marcus Marcellus (d. 208BC), one of Rome's most distinguished military leaders, who served in several key campaigns against Hannibal and the Gauls.
k: Arran was also hated for his frequent seizure of the goods and property of other nobility.
l: Although James had no choice but to yield to the lords given their overwhelming military force, they still craved pardon from the king for their actions, which they maintained were directed solely against Arran, in case they should be charged with treason. Melville of Halhill's account of James' response suggests that while he was aggrieved at their actions, he understood the political expediency of the situation and was willing to negotiate a peace: 'The King again, lyk a prince full [of] curage and magnanimite, spak unto them pertly and boistingly, as thoch he had bene victorious over them, calling them traitours, and ther enterpryse plane tresoun. Yet, said he, in respect of ther necessitie, and in hope of ther gud behavour in tymes commyng, he suld remit ther faltis; and the rather because they had used na vengeance nor crewelte at ther incommyng.' Melville, Memoirs, pp. 350-351.
m: A sarcastic reference to the pope.
n: The Ruthven lords had been hosted in England since their exile in April 1584, and it was with Elizabeth's support that they planned their return in October 1585.
o: Religion and justice - see subsequent lines.
p: Syrtis: two great gulfs on the north coast of Africa, feared by sailors for their difficulty to navigate. Scylla: the rock face opposite the mythical whirlpool Charybdis in the Straits of Messina.
q: The Ruthven lords set up a godly community in Newcastle with Andrew Melville and a number of disaffected presbyterian ministers during their exile, with a set order for preaching and discipline, regular sermons throughout the week and on the sabbath, a lecture 'upon the principall grounds of Christian religioun' on the Saturday and one week every month 'dedicated to abstinence and publict humiliatioun'. There were also to be two meetings per week of the kirk session of the community, with 'the noblemen themselves bearing the place of magistrates and rulers, everie one of their owne companie, and all together of the whole'. Calderwood, History, vol. 4, pp. 149-50.
r: Of the temporal sphere, as opposed to the ecclesiastical one presided over by the church.
s: The pursuit of education and poetry as a means to peace and stability is also addressed in the context of the French Wars of Religion in d2_RolH_011.
t: For discussion of the passage which follows, see introduction.
u: The issue of harassing the people with excessive taxation is also addressed in the monologue of Queen Sofie of Denmark to her daughter Anna in Rollock's epithalamium. See d2_RolH_001.
v: Rollock is perhaps thinking of radical ministers like Melville here, but this seems to sit at odd with the tone of the rest of the poem.
w: Gaius Marius and Lucius Cornelius Sulla, who engaged in a civil war for control of Rome in 88-87BC.
x: Their fellow nobles.
y: For the eleventh of his twelve labors, Hercules was sent to fetch the golden apples of the seven Hesperides (daughters of the Titan Atlas and Hesperus), which had been a wedding gift to Hera from the Greek earth goddess Gaia.