De Catharina Medicaea (c.1574)

Like Andrew Melville and a host of Huguenot propagandists, Rollock indulged in writing two epigrams against Catherine de Medici and the Valois family, particularly for their role in sanctioning the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 22-24 August 1572 (see d2_MelA_017 for further details; see d2_RolH_022 for Rollock's second epigram). Rollock compares Charles IX, Henri III, and François Duc d'Alençon to the three titans of Greek myth - Zeus, Neptune and Pluto - who narrowly escape being eaten by their father Cronos and go on to rule over the earth, sea and underworld, but argues that all three are in thrall to Rome. The portrayal of Charles IX as Zeus and Henri III as Neptune 'over the Scythian Bridge', a reference to Henri III's brief election to the crown of Poland between May 1573 and May 1575 (the Scythian bridge originally crossed the Danube river, here symbolically standing as the river between France and Poland), suggests that this was written in early 1574, as Charles IX died in May 1574 and Henri III was only physically present as ruler of Poland beteween January and June 1574. Metre: elegiac couplets.

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De Catharina Medicaea

1Tres enixa mares fertur Saturnia conjux
faucibus et rapidi surripuisse patris:
quos cum non caperent immensa volumina caeli,
tres mundum triplici sub ditione regunt.
5Iuppiter astra tenet, Neptunus regnat in undis,
et Pluto in Stygios jus habet omne lacus.
Sic, Henrice, patrem triplici te pignore fecit,
Ausonidum conjunx quae data gente tibi est.
Natorum cecinit fortunae praescia mater,
10se totidem reges quot peperisse mares.
Seu fortem Medaea dedit mala gentis origo,
sive haec vana sibi somnia finxit anus:
et jam certa dies sperati carminis instat
nempe suos populos primus et alter habet.
15Aemulus ille Iovis, Franci moderaminis haeres
sceptra suae gentis sanguine tuta facit.
Hic, quasi Neptunus, Scythico contermina ponto
regna tenet, fratri par feritate suo.
Tertius inferno socialia Regulus ambit
Link to an image of this page  [p382] 20regna Iovi, sub quo nescius axe iacent.
Ambigit, et nati nescit dare nomina terris
mater: at alta mihi si licet ore loqui;
ad Styga Roma trahit, Romae est vicinus Avernus,
pontifices Romae gens dedit ista prius.
25Romulidas puer ergo roget vel, ne sit inane
26augurium, fasces Dis dabit ipse suos.

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On Catherine de Medici

Juno, a zealous wife, bore three males that had stolen away from the throat of their devouring father: the three, since they could not seize the massive eddies of heaven, ruled the earth under a triple dominion. Jupiter controlled the skies, Neptune ruled over the waves, and Pluto held all sway over Lake Styx. So, Henry, a the wife who was given to you from the Italian race made you a father with a triple promise. The foreknowing mother recited the fortune of her sons, that she would give birth to as many kings as men. Either Medea, the evil source of her race, granted her destiny, or this old woman fashioned vain dreams for herself: and now she comes to the appointed days of her long-awaited prayer as undoubtedly one and then the other rules her people. That rival of Jupiter, the heir of temperate François b makes the sceptres secure with the blood of his race. The other, like Neptune, c controls the neighbouring kingdoms with the Scythian bridge, the equal of his brother in savageness. The third petty king d canvasses Link to an image of this page  [p382]the confederate kingdoms of Jupiter in hell, not realising under which axis they lie. The mother wavers, e and does not know how to give names to the lands of her son: but if I am allowed to speak with a lofty mouth; Rome draws to the Styx, the Avernus is in Rome's neighbourhood, that race first gave pontiffs to Rome. Thus the boy may ask Romulus whether, lest the prophecy is empty, Dis himself will give over his position of office.



a: Henri II of France (r. 1547-1559).

b: Charles IX (r. 1560-1674) succeeded his brother Francois II (r.1559-1560), and was on the throne at the time of the St Bartholomew's Day Massacres.

c: Henri III - see introduction.

d: Presumably Alençon, though what Rollock means by this reference is unclear.

e: As she pronounces her prophecy.