Principis Scoto-Britannorum natalia (1594)

In 1594 Melville published another poem celebrating a major royal event (for the first, see d2_MelA_002), this time the birth of James' first son Henry on 19 February. The Principis Scoti-Britannorum Natalia was published at the royal press of Robert Waldegrave in a small pamphlet that also contained 'The amulet' (see d2_MelA_008). Unlike the Stephaniskion, James did not commission this poem and there is no evidence that it formed part of the formal baptismal celebration at Stirling in the same year. But Melville did petition the king to have it published under royal warrant, and James gave his assent to this at some point before 18 August. The Natalia was thus not a 'court poem' in the standard sense. It was, though, a tribute to the triumph and glory of the Stewart dynasty as it stood poised to inherit all the kingdoms of the British Isles through a lineal claim that had been established almost a century earlier with the marriage of James IV to Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII. As Paul McGinnis and Arthur Williamson have shown, the poem celebrated, in the boldest terms, Melville's expectation that James and his son Henry (the future Henry IX of England, and I of Britain) would soon ascend to the throne of a federated British and protestant kingdom. Melville hoped that this godly 'Scoto-Britannic' nation, entering into a federation with the other protestant nations of Europe, would usher in a glorious final battle with the 'antichristian' forces of Catholic Spain and Italy. The poem was reprinted in the DPS, and also in the collection of poetry published in Mellon, Sedan. For further discussion and an alternative translation, see Buchanan, Political Poetry, pp. 31-33, 276-281. Metre: alcaic stanzas.

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Principis Scoto-Britannorum natalia

1Vernantis anni in limine primula
veris tenelli cum rosa luteum
pingit virorem, et rore florem
caeligeno saturat comantem;

5florentis aevi in lumine primula
pulcherrimarum nunc rosa virginum,
flos virginum, flos fœminarum
rore poli irriguus sereni.

9Vernante regis floriduli satu,
florentis Annae praeviridi sinu,
enixa florem in lucis auras
purpureum roseo renidens. 1

13Regina regi mista potentibus
caeli faventis nutibus. O diem
laetum! O serenae lucis auram!
O niveum nitidumque solem

17qui primus aura lampadis aureae
affulsit ori germinis aurei:
quem primulum primo tenellis
luminibus tener hausit infans. 2

21Infans paterna debitus indole
sceptris avitis: debitus inclytis
ortu Britannis rex supremo
iure Caledoniisque priscis.

25Quos Tueda lati fluminis alveo 3
divisit ante, et littoris uvidi
Solvaeus amne: et Zeviotae
sideribus juga montis aequans:

29fas jungit et jus Scoto-Britannicum,
lex jungit et res Scoto-Britannica!
Scoto-Britanno rege, princeps
in populo vocat unus unum

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33Scoto-Britannum! Gloria nunc quibus
quantisque surget Scoto-Britannica
rebus? Nec aevi terminanda
limitibus, spatiisve cœli!

37Caelestis arae cornua numinis
rorata summi sanguine sanciunt
Scoto Britannis asserenda
vindicibus, patrioque Marte

41claranda; fastu donec Iberico
late subacto, sub pedibus premas
clarus triumpho delibuti
Geryonis triplicem tiaram.

45Qua nunc revinctus tempora Cerberus
Romanus atra conduplicat face
de rupe Tarpeja fragores
Tartareos tonitru tremendo. 4

49Quo terram inertem, quo mare barbarum, 5
Orcumque, et oras territat igneas
septem, potitus verna sceptris,
et solio, gemini draconis.

53Quid sanctus ardor Christiadum queat,
contra Antichristi mancipia, ultimus
testatur orbis, cum Lemanno,
cum Rhodano, et Sequana, et Garumna!

57Quid Danicae non efficient manus,
sub prole Dana Scoto-Britannicis
fulta maniplis fœderatae
pro patria haud timidis perire?

61Ventisque, et undis praeda Britannicis,
virisque, et armis ludibrium novum
debes Britannis, o superba
Hesperiae geminae corona?

65Diu crevit arbos maxima quam brevis
evertit hora. Carpit aeneam
aerugo lamnam. Fit minutis
praeda avibus leo fortis ingens.

69Fastus triumphos jactet Ibericus,
fraus vim venenis misceat Itala
et ferro, et aere, et plumbo, et auro,
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73Romanus Orcum Iuppiter: ocyus
ferox Iberus, mollior Italus,
grexque eviratus, purpurato
cum Iove corruerint caduci,

77armante Iova numine vivido
dextram coruscam: et fulmine luridum
trudente ad Orcum 6 ter sacratum
Pontificem, atque Italum, atque Iberum.

81Sic fastuosos indigenas poli
caliginosis compedibus dedit:
sic conscelestum absorpsit orbem
diluvio: Phariumque regem

85mersit profundo. Scilicet impotens
rivalis alti conditor aetheris
orbisque rector; fraudis atrae
impatiens, tumidique fastus

89ultor. Beatus rex ter, et amplius,
carusque caelo et civibus, in Deo
qui spiritus mole insolentes
92imperii posuisse gaudet.

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On the birth of the prince of the Scoto-Britons

1On the threshold of the reborn year, when the first rose of delicate spring embroiders its golden greenery, and flushes with dew its blossom that is decked in heavenly dew;

5 on the threshold of this budding time now the first rose of the most beautiful maidens, the very blossom of those maidens, the blossom of womankind itself has been watered by the dew of bright heaven.

9From the renewing seed of a flowering king, from the fertile valley of the Queen of Spring, a Queen Anne b , smiling on her rosey king, has borne a flower clad in royal purple into the light of day.

13The queen was coupled with the king through the mighty will of an approving heaven. O Happy day! O the bright light of a joyous day! O the white and glimmering sun

17which first dawned with its ray of golden light on the face of a golden blossom: and which the tender child first consumed with his tender little eyes.

21With his father's genius the child is destined for the ancestral throne: from birth, with the highest right he is destined to be king to both the celebrated Britons and the ancient Caledonians.

25Those whom before the Tweed divided with the deep channel of its wide river, and the Solway divided with the tidal streams of a well-watered shore: and whom the tops of the Cheviot hills, which touch the heavens, divided:

29 now divine law and Scoto-Britannic justice unite, now common law and a Scoto-Britannic state unite! Under a Scoto-Britannic king, one prince calls them together into one Scoto-Britannic people!

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33To what great deeds shall Scoto-Britannic glory soar? A glory not to be defined by the boundaries of time, nor the expanse of the universe!

37They sanctify the horns of the heavenly altar that have been filled with the blood of the highest power, which will be defended by these Scoto-Britannic avengers, and which will be made famous by their native valour;

41 as, with Spanish arrogance overcome far and wide, glorious in victory you press underfoot the annointed triple tiara of that Geryon.

45His temples bound by this tiara, the Roman Cerberus redoubles in gloomy flashes from the Tarpeian rock c the thunder that is hellish with dreadful roar.

49In this way this slave, who has taken possession of the seven kingdoms and the throne of the twin dragon, terrifies the sleepy earth and the savage seas, and hell and the fiery regions.

53What the holy passion of the sons of Christ is capable of against the minions of the Antichrist, this farthest region bears witness, beside Léman, the Rhone, and the Seine, and the Garonne! d

57What will Danish troops not achieve federated under a Danish offspring who is supported by a band of Scoto-Britons unafraid to die for the homeland?

61Now pillaged by British winds and waves and men, are you not due another sport for British arms, you proud crowns of twin Spain?

65The greatest tree that grew for a long time falls very quickly in a moment. Rust decays the bronze sword. The huge and strong lion becomes prey for the tiny birds.

69Let Spanish arrogance boast of its victories, let Italian deceit mix power with evil and, fomenting wars with iron, and bronze,Link to an image of this page  [p100] and lead, and gold, let the Roman Jupiter

73assail the whole underworld: since more swiftly will the doomed soft Italian, ferocious Spaniard, and their unmanly flock perish with their Jove clad in purple, while Jehovah

77 empowers his gleaming right hand through his living divinity, and his lightning strikes the thrice accursed Pope, and Italian, and Iberian down to the pale shades of Orcus.

81Just so did God deliver heaven's arrogant own into gloomy chains: e just so did he devour a wicked world with a flood: f and also he plunged the Egyptian king

85 into the depths. g Clearly the creator of high heaven and the ruler of the world is unable to tolerate a rival; he is impatient of dark deceit, and an avenger of puffed-up pride.

89Thrice happy is the king, and more, he is dear to heaven and his citizens, who delights in causing those souls haughty with the power of empire to turn to god.



1: cf. Catullus, Carmina LXI.186-8

2: cf. Virgil, Aeneid IV.661

3: Virgil, Aeneid VII.33

4: cf. Virgil, Aeneid V.694

5: Horace, Odes III.4.45 and II.19.17

6: Horace, Odes III.4.74-75. This particular poem by Horace (III.4) seems to have been at the forefront of Melville's mind when writing this poem. See note 5 above.


a: Melville puns on the name 'Anne' and the Latin word 'annus' here, and draws attention to both 'flourishing Anne' and 'flourishing time of year'. We have attempted to express this conflation of time of year and person through the title 'queen'. Its employment allows us to see something of Melville's pun on a specific time of year (Spring) and a name (Anne), though Melville's original executes its task in a much less prosaic fashion.

b: Anne of Denmark, who James married in 1589.

c: The rock that traitors were thrown to their death from in ancient Rome.

d: This recalls the opening lines of Melville's 'Ad Novissimos Galliae Martyres , 1572' (d2_MelA_017), but with the addition of the Genevan Léman.

e: A reference to the war in heaven and the fall of Lucifer, or Satan, in Revelation 12:7-10.

f: God flooded the earth for 40 days and nights, sparing only the patriarch Noah and his ark, in Genesis 6-9.

g: Pharaoh and his men were drowned in the Red Sea when it closed over them after Moses and the children of Israel had passed safely through the parted waters, in Exodus 14:21-30.