This poem was first published in Melville's Carmen Mosis, ex Deuteron. cap. xxxii, quod ipse moriens Israeli tradidit ediscendum et cantandum perpetuo, Latina paraphrasi illustratum. Cui addita sunt nonnulla epigrammata, et Iobi cap. iii. Latino carmine redditum. Andrea Melvino Scoto auctore (Basle?, 1573/1574). As the title suggests, the collection included this poetic paraphrase of the song delivered by Moses to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 32 and a paraphrase of Job III (see d2_MelA_006), along with a series of epigrams on the St Bartholomew's Day Massacres (see d2_MelA_017 to d2_MelA_025). The exact dating and the securing of an original copy of this text have, despite several years of searching, remained impossible. Melville's biographer Thomas M'Crie had a copy, and believed that the poem 'Ad Carolum, Tyrannum Galliarum', with references to Charles IX's death on 30 May 1574 from tuberculosis, must have been written and sent back to Basle after Melville left Geneva. However, Melville had clearly completed at least a portion of this text in 1573 or earlier as he was in a position to publish the second verse of his epigram cycle on the French admiral, Gaspar Coligny (see d2_MelA_018) in a collection of poetry on Coligny edited by the Genevan academic François Portus, the Epicedia illustri heroi Caspari Colignio, Colignii Comiti, Castilionis Domino, Magno Galliarum Thallasiarchae variis linguis a doctis piisque poetis decantata (Geneva, 1573; the poem can be found at fo. A4v [p. 7]). The introductory dedication to James VI, which is lined separately, is the first recorded piece of poetry that Melville wrote, and the first that he directed towards the king. M'Crie and Mellon both give a comprehensive account of the book's contents, and Mellon reprints the entire text in its original running order: see M'Crie (1856 edn), pp. 24, 40-42, 447, and Mellon, Sedan, pp. 156-168. For a full discussion of the intellectual content of the collection, see Reid, 'Early polemic'. Metre of introduction: elegiac couplets; main poem's metre: hexameter.
Carmen Mosis: Deut. 32 (c.1573)
Dedicatio ad regem Iacobum 6
1Extremae spes sera plagae, lux aurea gentis
arctoae, et saecli solque jubarque tui:
tot sceptris atavorum ingens, ingentior alta
indole, quam tollit relligionis honos.
5Sancte puer, cape sacra meae primordia Musae,
non secus ac grati prima elementa animi. 1
Parva quidem tanto, fateor, munuscula Regi:
parva, sed immensi munere magna Dei.
Ipse tibi majora dabis nostro auspice Phœbo:
10forsan et auspiciis nos meliora tuis. 2
1Vos aeterni ignes, et conscia lumina mundi, 3
palantesque polo flammae; vos humida regna, 4
aeriique super tractus, campique jacentes,
et caelum, et tellus, ego vos nunc alloquor: aures
5arrigite: et celsas dicenti advertite mentes. 5
Qualis rore fluens gemmanti argenteus imber
plurimus, arentes maturis solibus agros
temperat undanti rivo, glebasque subactas 6
evocat in florem, et viridantes elicit herbas, 7
10instauratque novos opulenti ruris honores: 8
talis ab ore fluit sacro vis lactea fandi;
tale polo veniens numeris liquentibus aureum
divitis eloquii flumen manabit in artus,
ossaque, perque imos sensus perque alta pererrans
15pectora, nectareos laeto feret ubere fructus. 9
Et gazam aetherea cumulabit messe perennem.
Quippe Dei pango nomen; cœlique verendum
concelebro numen. Vos ergo Dei venerandum
et nomen celebrate, et numen pangite nostri.
20Non tam fixa arbos altis radicibus haeret,
non rupes immota manet; nec robora ferri 10
dura, nec aeternae solido ex adamante columnae, 11
[p85] quam divina suum veri constantia numen
firmat; et aeternum virtute et mole sua stat. 12
25Quod facit est numeris expletum, est partibus aptum:
undique perfectum tenuem tornatur ad unguem.
Stat pacti sincera fides. Rex magnus Olympi 13
labe caret, culpaeque exors, et criminis expers;
exemplum recti, norma aequi, regula veri.
30At proles corrupta patris vestigia liquit
degener, et scelere obstrinxit mentemque manumque 14
infaelix. Quae tanta animo dementia crevit? 15
Siccine pro meritis grates male grata rependis?
Non rex ille tuus, qui te saevo hoste tyranno
35eripuit? Lethique vias et vincula rupit? 16
Non genitor, non ille auctor, non conditor? Ecquid
finxit humo fragiles artus, pictamque polivit
effigiem, membrisque dedit mentique vigorem,
et sensum aethereum, et libatam caelitus auram?
40Tene sibi cunctis praelatam gentibus unam
selegit? Nunc saecla animo complectere, tecum
nunc reputa annales. Primaeque ab originis aevo
prisca memor pervolve: tuos affare parentes,
percontare senes. Pater hic te temporis acti
45instruet exemplis; quorum est maturior aetas 17
cuncta renarrabunt, atque ordine singula pandent. 18
Principio cœlum, ac terras qui condidit altas 19
arbiter, ut gentes habitandum immisit in orbem,
et genus humanum varias disjecit in oras,
50externis posuit metas et regna colonis
pro numero Isacidum, non ille oblitus et ictum
fœdus et aeternum quo se devinxit amorem.
Namque Iovae sors una, Iovae pars una Iacobi
progenies: quae sola quidem, sed cara parenti.
55Hanc deprensam olim vidua cultoris in ora
per loca senta situ, per dumis aspera duris 20
tesqua, per horrendos saltus et inhospita saxa 21
duxit inerrantem. Non qua via proxima callem 22
difficilem, rupesque altas aditusque malignos 23
60traduxit: longos ac circumflectere cursus
cessantem, et metas Arabum lustrare remotas 24
[p86] instituit. Non ulla morae dispendia tanti 25
quin tecti incedant tuto: ceu pupula, cornu
quam vitreo murus cingit crystallinus; et quam
65non secus ac vallo, teneri munimen ocelli
sepsit utrinque pilis: celsaque crepidine surgunt
hinc atque hinc geminae duo propugnacula moles;
ut bene tuta cavos condantur lumina in orbes. 26
Ac velut alituum princeps, fulvusque tonantis 27
70armiger, implumes et adhuc sine robore nidos
sollicita refovet cura, pinguisque ferinae 28
indulget pastus; mox ut cum viribus alae
vesticipes crevere, vocat si blandior aura,
expansa invitat pluma. Dorsoque morantes
75excipit, attollitque humeris. Plausuque secundo 29
fertur in arva; timens oneri natat impete presso, 30
remigium lentans alarum; incurvaque pinnis 31
vela legens, humiles tranat sub nubibus oras.
Hinc sensim supera alta petit; jam jamque sub astra
80erigitur. Cursusque leves citus urget in auras, 32
omnia pervolitans late loca, et agmine fœtus 33
fertque refertque suos vario. Moremque volandi
addocet; illi autem longa assuetudine docti
paulatim incipiunt pennis se credere cœlo 34
85impavidi. Tantum à teneris valet addere curam.
Haud aliter, si aeterna licet conferre caducis, 35
numinis immensi larga indulgentia tectos
Abramidas tuto per tot discrimina rerum 36
duxit, eos patria cum sollicitudine curans
90incolumes. Non Dis, non adjutoribus usa,
nec duce, nec comite externo: nihil indigus horum
omnipotens genitor. Deserta per avia solus
Rexit oberrantes; solus subvexit in altos
pinguis Idumeae campos. Laetoque fruendam
95ubere tellurem dedit, et proventibus auxit.
100Quid memorem armenti prolem? Quid pinguia narrem
[p87] pascua? Multiplicesque greges oviumque caprarumque,
et tenerum pecus, et lautis obsonia mensis
hœdus, et pingues vitulis cum pinguibus agnos?
Egregia interea gens haec, tua clara, Iacobe,
progenies, stirps sancta, fatur jam ac sarta, refertaque
110et differta nimis, denso distentaque pingui
ecce ferox (ut equus crassa farragine corpus
cui tumet, et surgunt animi sufflante sagina), 42
calcitrat, et crebo dominum pede verberat, ictum
congeminans. Fontemque suae rupemque salutis
115rejicit. Externos ritus peregrinaque sacra,
omnigenumque Deum monstra, ac ludibria caeli 43
suppliciter venerans accendit numinis iram,
et justo livore Dei ciet aemula corda.
Eloquar, an sileam? Scelere atque immanibus ausis 44
120informes laxata sinus, ut adultera, passim
prostituit sese incaestis Cacodaemonis atri
cultibus; et supplex aris mactavit honores. 45
Demens, quae cœli atque suum numenque patremque
abjecit; patremque Deum, numenque paternum;
125ut patribus nec culta, sibi nec cognita, nuper
nata (nefas), portenta colat, vereatur, adoret.
Scilicet haec pietas? Sic vitae dona reponis? 46
Et bene apud memorem veteris stat gratia facti? 47
Ergo ubi siderea genitor sublimis ab arce
130prospexit prolemque suam gentemque superbam 48
in pejus ruere et sese jam saepe repulsum; 49
digna indigna pati, vitiis insensus. Et ira 50
terribilis, tales erumpit pectore voces:
'heu gens prava! Mihi proles malefida! Quid ultra
135demoror? Hinc placidam pacati luminis auram
deflectam; et vultum subducens ora recondam.
Securus, spectabo manent quae fata rebelles.
Olli me divis irritavere profanis,
succendere meum numen per inania rerum.
[p88] 140Fas mihi (fas, inquam, nam fert ita corde voluntas) 51
aemula per vanam succendere pectora gentem.
Ergo, mea subito candenti ignescet ab ira 52
flamma vorax; terraeque vias, Orcique latebras
tartareosque lacus imus pervaserit ardor.
145Et gelidos tractus, et subterranea regna, 53
tellurisque solum, et ruris populabit honores.
Ardebunt montes; eversaque fundamenta
et flammis absumpta leves minuentur in auras.
Dura fames dira macie, sitis arida febre
ardenti, funesta lues feralibus auris
depascet vitam, exuret membra, atteret ossa.
155Languentesque animas sensu torquebit amaror 56
dum necet atra dies et funere mergat acerbo. 57
Nec satis, immittam rictus et rostra ferarum,
alituumque truces rabidis cum dentibus ungues
ceu pecus in tenerum, immanes, mandentque trahentque
160diripientque artus impastae, et viscera carpent. 58
Addam angues: addam liventi armata veneno
agmina, vipereum virus genus acre draconum, 59
ut gentem infandam morsuque ictuque trucident.
Parva loquor. Iam ferri aciem mucrone corusco 60
165distringam insensus, sternentur inertia passim 61
corpora, perque domos et compita. Tristis ubique 62
terror, ubique pavor, et plurima mortis imago. 63
Ferro occumbet flosque virum roburque juventae,
et formae decus atque aevi, sanctusque serenae
170virginitatis honor. Ferro cadet aureus infans:
et qui reptat adhuc, et adhuc qui pendet ab almo
ubere. Tarda gelu saeclisque effœta senectus 64
caniciem immundo turpabit pulvere verrens. 65
Haec ego cum siccis oculis tua vulnera cernens
175sic mecum, extremas, excussum sede, per oras
sparsissem, excisamque domum cum stirpe tulissem, 66
ni me operis tanti vesana ferocia crudi
hostis, et insultans sine more superbia, laude
[p89] fraudaret, primosque sibi raptaret honores, 67
180atque manu magna atque invictis viribus illud 68
diceret omne suis confectum, haud numine nostro! 69
Est genus inconsultum, et mentis lumine cassum,
quale pecus tardum ingenio, et rationis egenum!
Si vel tantillum saperent, si quae ante pedes sunt
185prospicerent, rerum interitus, sua fata viderent.
Quinam age, disjectos premat unus mille, duove
dent decies millena fugae palantia terga, 70
ni vis illa, suos cui quondam cura tueri,
addictos hosti in praedam, inclusosque dedisset
190armorum bellique potens? Non hostica sicut
numina, sic aut victa jacent, aut fessa quiescunt
tandem nostra; nec increpitans hoc dixerit hostis.
Nam quales trudit gemmas Sodomaea propago 71
et Gomorhaeis livescunt collibus uvae
195talis ab hac radice mali densissima sylva 72
erumpit: scelerumque ferax labrusca racemos 73
fert tristi infames succo. Non fellis amari
noxia vis, non dira aconita, aut quicquid acerbi
anguis alit venis, aut ictu vipera saevo 74
200crudescens jacit: illorum contendat acerbis
fructibus, aut baccis vitiorum certet amaris.
Nonne haec cuncta meae conservant condita cellae,
obsignantque serae? Mihi fas depromere soli:
miscere undantem pateram: de faece bibendos
205porgere lethales succos? Unde impius omnis
hauriat exitium, et fundo se proluat imo; 75
dum titubata ruunt dubio vestigia lapsu.
Instat summa dies, instat, fera fata propinquant.' 76
Quippe suos, post tot clades ac dira cadentum
210funera, post varios bellique fugaeque labores, 77
arbiter aetherius solio placatus ab alto 78
respiciet fessos. Et opis miseratus egenos,
iura dabit scelerum vindex, ultorque suorum. 79
His hostem incessit dictis: 'ubi numina tandem,
215numina magna deum? Quibus et spes vestra, fidesque 80
nixa fuit. Quorum dapibus, cum flore Lyaeo,
pinguibus expleti, tauros mactastis ad aras
[p90] ingentes: paterisque merum libastis et auro. 81
Exurgant, in bella ruant: glomerentque sub armis
220auxilia: obtentuque sui vos numinis umbrent.
Me me, adsum qui feci, in me convertite vultus 82
oraque, et attentas intento lumine mentes:
cernite me, mea vis omnis. Nihil ista nec ausint 83
nec poterint. Deus, ecce Deus, qui vulnera figo 84
225dura manu, atque eadem, quanquam lethalia, sano.
Solus ego fontes animas ad tristia trudo 85
tartara: rursus et infernis ego solus ab umbris
pallentes revoco dulces in luminis auras.
Do vitam, tolloque: et lumina morte resigno. 86
230Nec quisquam hanc dextram, qua vi, qua fraude, potentem
effugiat. Dextram attollens ad sidera fabor:
sic aeterna mihi longum stet vita per aevum,
si gladii fulgentis acuta cuspide lamnam
cudero fulmineam, et populis dare jura vocatis 87
235cœpero. Mox hosti infesto atque osoribus ultro
persolvam grates dignas: et praemia reddam 88
debita. Mox mea caesorum de sanguine fuso
ebria tela bibent: et inexsaturabile ferrum
obvia quaeque vorans absumet corpora letho.
240Libratum intorquens, defixumque altius ensem
captorum in jugulo ductorum in corde recondam.'
Vos variis dispersi oris, et fœdere sancto
disclusae gentes, gentem sub fœdere sancto
tollite sublimem laeto super aethera cantu.
245Namque parens rerum, et superi regnator Olympi 89
sanguinis ille quidem fusi caedisque suorum
horrendae memor, hostili de sanguine pœnas 90
248ille suis terraeque suae placabitur ultro.
THE SONG OF MOSES,
Paraphrase of Deuteronomy, 32.
Dedication to King James VI
Much anticipated hope of the farthest region, golden light of the northern tribe, both the sun and the splendour of your age: distinguished by the numerous reigns of your ancestors, extremely distinguished by your great genius, which respect for religion nurtures. Blessed child, take in hand the holy beginnings of my poem, and, so to speak, the first elements of a grateful mind. They are, I confess, little gifts for such a great king: little, but great through a limitless God's gift. Under our Apollo's direction, you will provide greater works of this kind: and perhaps we, under your guidance, will produce better ones too.
1You, eternal fires, and sentient bright lamps of the universe, and wandering flames in the heavens; you, the watery domains and lofty expanses above, and the low-lying fields, I now address you, heaven and earth: lift up your ears, and direct your eminent minds to my words. Just as the torrential silvery rain, falling in aqueous glimmer, revives with gushing water the fields blanched by long summers, and provokes the ploughed earth into bloom, and awakens the budding pastures, and restores the renewed glories of the abundant earth, so the milky vigor of words from a sacred mouth, and a flowing river of rich eloquence coming from heaven, golden with flowing rhythms, will infiltrate the core and marrow of the soul, and wandering through the innermost senses and the depths of the soul, it will bear sweet rewards in abundant plenty. And so it will amass everlasting reserves through a heavenly harvest. For I set forth the name of God; and I praise the divine majesty of heaven, which must be revered. Therefore extol the venerable name, and set forth the divine majesty of our God.
20Not so secure is the tree attached to its deep roots, nor so immovable does the rocky cliff stay; neither so enduring of steel is the oak tree, nor so everlasting are the supports made from the hardest mineral, as is divine [p85] the constancy of the truth which declares its own divinity; and as is eternal the divinity which endures by its own power and virtue.
25 Whatever he does has been performed in perfect harmony, has been assembled in due proportion: in all respects perfection is fashioned to the smallest detail. The uncorrupted assurance of his covenant endures. The great king of Olympus is free from blemish, without fault, irreproachable; he is the image of virtue, the template of justice, the yardstick of truth.
30 But yet the spoiled children have faithlessly abandoned the father's example, and unhappily have given out their minds and bodies to wickedness. Why has such a great madness grown in their soul? Are these the rewards you pay him back with for his services, ungrateful children? Is he not your king, who rescued you from the wicked enemy tyrant? Who ended your captivity and wanderings in the underworld? Is he not the creator, the author, and the founder of all? Did he not fashion your mortal limbs from the earth, not perfect your ornamented form, a not give strength, divine perception, and heaven's vital breath to your body and mind? Did he not select you alone from all the peoples of the world? Now comprehend the current spirit of this age, and consider the history. Go over the ancient records from the time of mankind's first beginning: speak to your parents, interrogate the elderly. In this regard your father will furnish you with examples from times past; of those which come first they will relate all, and then they will lay out the rest one by one.
47 In the beginning the Lord, who made heaven and earth, as he sent the tribes into a world requiring habitation, dispersed humankind into differing regions, and set up boundaries and kingdoms for the tillers of the land according to the number of the sons of Isaac, b having not forgotten both his covenant and the eternal love by which he bound himself to them. For indeed Jehovah's one share, his one portion is Jacob's offspring: which is only a single share, but one dear to the parent.
55Having found them in a region in want of a civilizing hand, wandering through places squalid with neglect, wildernesses bristling with coarse shrub, fearful forests and inhospitable crags, he took them in hand. But he did not bear them across the difficult path, which was the closest route, across the high rocks and too-narrow passes: he instructed the tribe to meander across vast and distant paths, and to espy the far-off borderlands of the Arabs. [p86] No loss of delay was considered too much, and, so that they may march on safely, they are shielded - as if the apple of his eye, which his crystalline wall encases in a glassy shield; like in a palisade, where walls have surrounded the rampart of the tender eye on all sides with hairs: these twin structures erect two bulwarks on a lofty ledge on both sides, so that the lights of the eyes may be safely set in to the hollow globes.
69Also, just like the prince of birds, the tawny armour-bearer of the Thunderer, c envelops the featherless and still-weak chicks in parental warmth, and is the bearer of the nourishments of rich and fatty game; and soon after the mature wings have grown in vigour, when a favourable wind encourages, she tests their soft wings. The hesitant one she picks up and raises onto her shoulders. With an enabling flap of her wings, she is borne through the fields; and attentive to her passengers, with a gentle stroke of her wings and with moderate effort, she glides through the air; and inclining the stooping sails of her wings, she skims the low-lying regions under the clouds. From here, she gently veers towards the heavens, and is now raised up under the stars. Now speedily she rides the airwaves on into the upper sky, soaring far and wide through all regions and, in varying formation, she carries her young back and forth. Thus she teaches them the laws of flying; and thus familiarized with the laws through constant practice, little by little they begin to entrust themselves to the sky on their wings. This then is the extent to which the prince of birds can bestow his instructional attentiveness upon his young.
86Just so, if it is right to compare the divine with the mortal, the abundant tenderness of a limitless God led the sons of Abraham, d safely sheltered, through so many dangerous affairs, directing them safe and sound with parental concern. He employed no other Gods, no other helpers, no guide, nor partner: the omnipotent creator does not need these things. He alone directed the wandering tribes through remote wastelands; he alone carried them through the high plains of fertile Edom. e He gave them land to be enjoyed in abundant plenty, and he augmented its bounty.
96 Should I speak again of the balsam dripping from the fragrant wood, and the green juice of the olive flowing through veins of flintstone? The nectared torrents of honey which are forced from rocks and the rivers of milk overflowing?
100Should I recount the new stocks of cattle? Should I tell of the rich [p87] pastures? The various herds of sheep and goats, and the youthful cattle, and the elegant dishes of kids on sumptuous tables, and the plump lambs with fattened calves?
104 Should I call to mind the vast harvest of bounty and spelt-grain? The stalks heavy with sheaves of corn? Do they not pick the blood-red grapes in swollen bundles? And drink goblets frothing with dark-red Falernian? f
108 Meanwhile, this marvellous tribe, your famous offspring, Jacob, the holy race, sated now, filled and refilled and crammed to excess, now stuffed full and distended with compacted fat, behold wildly (just like the horse whose body swells with dense fodder, and whose passions arise through increased feeding) it lashes out and strikes its lord with repeated kick, redoubling each blow. It rejects the source and bulwark of its salvation. Slavishly worshipping monstrosities of all kinds of Gods, mockeries of heaven, and alien mysteries and foreign rights, it inflames God's anger and provokes God's jealous heart with just envy.
119 Should I speak out or should I be silent? Having loosened their misshapen bosoms in wickedness and monstrous deeds, like a harlot, the children of Israel prostituted themselves in the shameless cults of the malevolent devil; and as suppliants they slew the required sacrifices on the altars. It was made to cast off its own deity and father; the godly father and fatherly god; so that (for shame!) it now worships and adores monsters uncherished by its forefathers, unknown to them, monsters recently born. Is this due piety? Thus do you repay the gift of life? And does the gratitude for his former good deed hold fast in that tribe's memory?
129 Therefore when the exalted creator saw from his starry citadel that his own race and proud tribe were falling from grace, and that he was now repeatedly rejected, and that he endured both the experience due him and shameful blasphemies, he was enraged by these sins. And terrible in his rage, he let out such words from his heart:
134 'Oh perverse tribe! Unfaithful race! Why do I delay longer? From them I shall deflect the pleasant light of the peaceful sun, and in turning away my face, I shall hide my countenance from them. Untroubled, I shall watch what fate awaits the rebels. They have provoked me through these false gods, and they have kindled my divine might with these worthless vanities. [p88] It is divine will for me (divine will, I say: for the will is so borne in my heart) to ignite my passions on account of this worthless tribe.
142 Therefore, an all-consuming fire will kindle from my burning anger, and my innermost ardour will rage through the by-ways of the earth, and the recesses of hell and its infernal lakes. The frozen regions and the kingdoms of the underworld it will ravage, and also the soil of the earth and the charms of the countryside. The mountains will blaze; the foundations, consumed by flames and swept away, will be reduced into thin air.
149 And then I will pile upon those despairing souls a new heap of misfortunes: straightaway I shall shoot arrows, emptying my quiver and completely using up all my weaponry.
152 Harsh hunger with its severe thinness will consume their life, dry thirst with its burning fever will burn up their limbs, and in fatal breezes death-causing plague will waste away their bones. A bitter taste will wrench their waning spirits while dark day ends their life and plunges them into a painful death.
157 Nor does that suffice, for I shall unleash, as if savage beasts into a gentle flock, the gaping jaws and snarling snouts of wilds beasts, and eagles' ferocious talons with their savage spikes, and those huge hungry beasts will drag their limbs away, rip them apart, chew on the remains, and devour the innards.
161 I shall add to this serpents: I shall provide an army, a fearsome class of serpents, armed with envious poison to slaughter that abominable race with their bite and tear.
164 I only speak of small things. I then shall unsheathe a blade of steel with glinting edge, and lifeless bodies will lie scattered everywhere throughout their homes and in the streets. Everywhere there will be gloomy terror, everywhere panic, and very many an image of death.
168 The flower of men and the best part of youth will die by the sword, and so shall the glory of their beauty and age, and the holy splendour of fair maidenhood. The beautiful little child shall fall by the sword: both those who are still crawling, and those now still hanging from the nourishing breast. Slow with numbness and worn out by time, old age will sweep through their hair, disfiguring it with filthy ash.
174When I discern these sufferings of yours with dry eyes, thus will I say to myself: I would have scattered them to the farthest regions, evicted from their home, and borne off the vanquished house and line, if the raving untamed spirit of such a crude enemy, lawlessly taunting and arrogant, had not cheated me of their offerings and praise, [p89] and dragged away the foremost spoils unto themselves, and said that everything was achieved through their own great deeds and unconquerable powers, not under the direction of our divine majesty!
182 For it is a thoughtless race, and is without the light of reason, just like the flock slow in wit, and lacking in reasoning! Perhaps if they could but understand the least amount, if they could but see what was in front of them, they would see their own fate, the extinction of their universe.
186 How, pray tell, would one person pursue a thousand scattered people, or two put to flight ten thousand stragglers,unless that power, formidable in arms and war, for whom once there was a duty of care for his own, had handed them over enslaved and imprisoned, booty for the enemy? Our deity is not overthrown, like those of the enemy which lie prostrate and stilled in exhaustion; even the sneering foe concede this.
193 For just as the blooms the Sodomite race g bears forth and the grapes mature on Gomorrah's hills, so too a very thick forest bursts out from this root of evil: and their fertile vines of wickedness bear grapes notorious for bitter wine. There is no harmful force of bitter gall, nor dire poison, either that which the fierce snake nourishes in the veins, or what the violent viper throws out in savage bite: let them contend for those sour fruits, or let them vie for the bitter berries of sins.
202 Do not my stores keep all those things preserved, long since locked and sealed? Is it not divinely decreed for me alone to draw on them: to mix them in overflowing cup: to serve the lethal wines to be drunk from the dregs? Through this let every impious individual drink dry their life from this world, and drown themselves inside out; as each faltering step hastens their fall. The very last day approaches, it is nigh, the cruel fates draw near.'
209 Indeed after so many disasters and fearful funerals for the fallen, after the varied trials of war and exile, the heavenly judge shall be appeased and shall again turn his countenance towards his now worn out people. And pitying these helpless people, as punisher of sins and avenger of his own, he shall pass judgment.
214 He falls upon the enemy with these words ringing out: 'where now are the divine powers, the great divine powers of your gods? You entrusted your hope and faith to them. Stuffed full by their gluttonous feasts, accompanied by Bacchus' nectar, you slaughtered great bulls on sacrificial altars: and you poured libations of undiluted wine from [p90] a golden goblet and libation cups. Let them rise up, and let them hurl themselves into battle: let them gather up their armies: let them cover you with the shield of their own divine power.
221 Towards me, towards me, I did it and I am here, turn your face and countenance, and your keenly-focused minds towards me: behold me, all the power is mine. They wouldn't dare do that nor would they be able to. God, behold God, I who inflict the wounds with stern hand, and by the same hand, although deadly, I heal. I alone cast down guilty souls to the gloomy underworld: I alone call back the greying shades from the infernal shadows towards the sweet air of the light of day. I give life and I take it away: and I reopen the eyes of the dead. Nor would anyone escape the force of my right hand, either through might, or through guile. Raising my hand high to the heavens I shall speak thus: let eternal life so continue through the ages for me, for after I have hammered out the fiery metal of a sharp-edged glinting sword, and I have begun to distribute justice to those summoned, I then shall repay the hostile enemy and the haters with thanks befitting them: and I shall meet out their just deserts. Soon my missiles will drink and be drunk from the shed sacrificial blood: and my inexhaustible, all-devouring sword shall consume in death each and every person in my way. Brandishing my sword of judgement, I shall bury it fast and deeply into the throat and the heart of a procession of captives.'
242 You scattered tribes from differing lands, cut off from the sacred covenant, raise up in joyous song to the heavens above the tribe exalted under a sacred treaty. For the creator of the universe, the ruler of high Olympus, remembering the spilled blood and fearful deaths of his own people, will be reconciled to his own people and nation through the penalty paid by enemy blood.
1: Both Cicero and Lucretius employ the term 'elementa' to describe the building blocks of both nature (atoms) and writing (letters). See Cicero De Finibus III.19. However, given the didactic nature of this poem as a whole, Horace Satires I.1.26, must be the primary literary allusion.
2: This introductory dedication draws heavily on the imagery, language, and theme of Virgil, Eclogues IV.10-20.
3: Virgil, Aeneid II.154
4: Virgil, Georgics IV.363
5: Virgil, Aeneid V.304
6: Virgil, Georgics I.66; 110
7: Lucretius, De Rerum Natura II.33
8: Virgil, Aeneid V.95
9: 'Divitis...fructus' paraphrase of Virgil, Georgics III.309-10.
10: Virgil, Aeneid VII.586; IV.449. For the sense of 'robora ferri' see Virgil, Aeneid VII.610-1.
11: Virgil, Aeneid VI.552
12: Virgil, Aeneid X.771
13: Virgil, Aeneid V.533
14: cf. Lucan, De Bello Civili VIII.691-2
15: Virgil, Aeneid V.465; Aeneid VI.47. However, the passage seems to be taken unchanged from Vegius, 24.
16: Virgil, Aeneid II.134
17: Horace, Epistles II.1.130-1
18: Virgil, Aeneid VI.723
19: Virgil, Aeneid VI.724
20: Virgil, Aeneid VI.462; IV.526
21: Virgil, Aeneid V.627
22: Virgil, Aeneid VIII.594
23: Virgil, Aeneid XI.525
24: Virgil, Aeneid III.429-30
25: Virgil, Aeneid III.453
26: 'vallo, teneri munimen ocelli / sepsit utrinque pilis' This description of the providential fashioning the eye's fortifications comes form Cicero, De Natura Deorum II.57.
27: Claudian, De Bello Gildonico 467
28: Virgil, Aeneid I.215
29: Virgil, Aeneid V.388
30: Virgil, Aeneid V.215; II.498. For the phrase 'timens oneri', Aeneid II.729; XI.550.
31: Virgil, Aeneid VI.19
32: Statius, Thebaid III.222
33: Virgil, Aeneid VIII.24. Note: Virgil's following lines '...iamque sub auras / erigitur...' precede Melville's passage.
34: Virgil, Aeneid VI.15
35: Virgil, Georgics IV.176
36: Virgil, Aeneid I.204
37: Virgil, Georgics II.118-9
38: Virgil, Georgics I.135
40: Virgil, Georgics II.517
41: cf. Virgil, Eclogues X.27
42: Virgil, Georgics III.205
43: Virgil, Aeneid VIII.698
44: Virgil, Aeneid III.39
45: Virgil, Aeneid III.118
46: Virgil, Aeneid I.253
47: Virgil, Aeneid IV.539
48: cf. Virgil, Aeneid I.523
49: Virgil, Georgics I.200
50: Virgil, Aeneid XII.811; 946
51: Virgil, Aeneid VI.675
52: cf. Virgil, Aeneid IX.66
53: Juvenal, Satires II.149
54: Textual problem: 'novo' for 'nova'
55: Virgil, Aeneid VII.553
56: Virgil, Georgics II.247
57: Virgil, Aeneid VI.429; XI.28
58: This line and the two previous lines are a paraphrase of Virgil, Aeneid IX.330-341.
59: Virgil, Georgics III.264
60: Virgil, Aeneid II.233
61: Virgil, Aeneid II.364
62: Virgil, Aeneid II.365
63: Virgil, Aeneid II.369
64: Virgil, Aeneid VIII.508
65: Virgil, Aeneid XII.611
66: Virgil, Aeneid XI.394
67: Virgil, Aeneid XI.219
68: Virgil, Aeneid VI.394
69: Virgil, Aeneid II.85
70: Virgil, Aeneid XII.738
71: Virgil, Georgics II.335
72: Virgil, Georgics II.17
73: Virgil, Eclogues V.7
74: Virgil, Aeneid IV.1-2
75: Virgil, Aeneid I.738-9
76: Virgil, Aeneid II.324
77: Virgil, Aeneid II.284
78: Virgil, Aeneid XI.301
79: Virgil, Aeneid I.507
80: Virgil, Aeneid II.623
81: Virgil, Georgics II.192
82: Virgil, Aeneid IX.427
83: Virgil, Aeneid IX.428-9
84: Virgil, Aeneid VI.46
85: Virgil, Aeneid X.845
86: This whole passage is paraphrasing Virgil, Aeneid IV.242-4.
87: Virgil, Aeneid V.758
88: Virgil, Aeneid II.537-8
89: Virgil, Aeneid II.279
90: Common Vergilian hexameter ending: Virgil, Aeneid VII.595, 766; IX.422; X.617; XI.592.
a: 'Effigiem' here is also suggesting that man is made as an effigy or image of God.
b: In Genesis 21-8, Isaac (son of Abraham) and his wife Rebekah have twins, Jacob and Esau, who are foretold by God to be founders of two very different nations. Jacob deprives Esau, his elder brother, of his birthright, and Jacob's twelve sons become the ancestors of the twelve tribes of the Hebrew people, while Esau is father to the Edomites (see note e on 'Edom', below). Melville's focus on Jacob may also be an oblique reference to the fact that the Stone of Destiny, which is so intricately bound in to the Scottish origin myth of Gathelus and Scota, was believed to be the stone which served as Jacob's pillow (Genesis 28: 11, 18): see d2_MelA_001.
c: The eagle; one of Jupiter's aspects is the God of Thunder.
d: All of Abraham's descendants who follow the covenant he made with God, hence the children of Israel.
e: Genesis 36 refers to Edom, which belongs to Esau, and is also known as Mount Seir. The kingdom existed 'before there reigned any king over the children of Israel' (36:31), and was located in the collection of lands known today as the Southern Levant, to the south of the Dead Sea and Judea. See Piotr Bienkowski, 'New evidence on Edom in the neo-Babylonian and Persian periods', in John Andrew Dearman and Matt Patrick Graham (eds), The Land that I Will Show You: Essays on the History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East in Honour of J. Maxwell Miller (Sheffield, 2001), pp.198-213.
f: The Falernian territory in Campania, at the foot of Mount Massicus, was famed for its wine.
g: In Genesis 18-19, Sodom and Gomorrah are two of the 'cities of the plain' (Genesis 19:29) that God destroys with fire and brimstone for their wickedness.