Gasper Colinius, Galliarum thalassiarcha (c. 1573)

Gaspard de Coligny (1519-1572), signeur de Châtillon and admiral of France, was a leading Huguenot military commander and diplomat in the early French Wars of Religion. Following the death of Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé at the battle of Jarnac on 15 March 1569, Coligny became de facto leader of the Huguenots. After the peace of St-Germain-en-Laye (1570) which concluded the third war (see the third poem in the cycle below) he returned to court, where he earned the favour of Charles IX for his attempts to unite the various religious factions, along with William of Orange and the Netherlandish protestants, in an abortive war against Spain. His assassination (see introduction to d2_MelA_017) was the catalyst for the massacres. Coligny's body was mutilated, dragged through the streets, burned, and thrown in the Seine, but not before a group of Catholics had conducted a mock trial over it. On Coligny, see Junko Shimizu, Conflict of Loyalties: Politics and Religion in the Career of Gaspard de Coligny Admiral of France, 1519-1572 (Geneva, 1970), passim. The importance Melville attached to Coligny is reflected in the fact that only he gets a cycle of epigrams in the Carmen Mosis, although Coligny's lieutenant Briquemault and his family are the subject of two of the poems in the collection (see d2_MelA_019 and d2_MelA_020).

A central theme of the earliest Protestant propaganda following the massacres was the portrayal of Coligny as the pious martyr, first seen in a portrait of his life in François Hotman's De Furoribus Gallicis (1573), which was then expanded and reissued by Hotman as the Gasparis Colinii Castellonii Magni Quondam Franciae Amiralii Vita in 1575. However, in the same year as De Furoribus Gallicis was published, a small twelve-page pamphlet of elegiac poetry for Coligny was anonymously printed at Geneva. This pamphlet, entitled Epicedia Illustri Heroi Caspari Colinio ... A Doctis Piisque Poetis Decantata, was widely believed to have been compiled by Melville's friend and fellow Academy professor, François Portus (see d2_MelA_053). The names of the authors of the fourteen poems, except for Theodore Beza, were given only by their initials. However, the third poem here, appearing under the initials 'A.M.S' (for Andreas Melvinus Scotus), was included in the collection at fo. A4v (p. 7). Metre: elegiac couplets.

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Gasper Colinius, Galliarum thalassiarcha

1Quem Mars fulmineus nequit atro turbine belli,
hunc pellax Erebo pax sata, nocte necat.
Quem si luce foret congressus et orbis et Orcus,
luce retro fugiens orbis et Orcus eat.
5Talis erat, cum ter-sacrum fraus regia bellum
ter ciet, et ter vis regia victa jacet.
At pax, at nox hoc potuit, quod tam fera Martis
arma, tot annorum non potuere vices.
Siccine juratas potuisti fallere dextras,
10o rex? An virtus, tollere fraude suos?
An pietas, mactare suos? Laniare fideles 1
relligio? Christi perdere membra, fides?
Scilicet hoc rerum convulso cardine regnum 2
perstet: et angustum tollat in astra caput. 3
15Scilicet hoc scelerum sub iniquo pondere, tellus
sustineat cœli non labefacta minas.
O furor! O rabies! Quid enim? Jam Tartara non sunt
Tartara. Jam terrae quid nisi Tartara sunt?
Ergo tuis cœlum es: caelum sua Tartara dira
20monstra manent: pœnas Styx nova quaere novas!


1Nulla necis nova me facies inopinave terret. 4
Mecum ego praecepi mente, peregi animo 5
cuncta catus. Fœdasque polum glomerare procellas
prospexi in scopulos naufragus e scopulis. 6
5Nec, praevisa licet, vaesano turbine saeva
tempestas trepida suasit abire fuga.
Non miserae me lucis habet tam dira cupido: 7
sola manet Christi de grege cura mihi.
Curis aerumnis, noctemque, diemque fatigo 8
10hactenus, et patriae et relligionis amans.
Nunc instat rerum una quies et meta laborum
parta salus mihi: me in limine portus habet.
Sat regi regnoque datum. Mihi vivere Christo
14dulce fuit: Christo nunc mihi dulce mori.

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1Vita ego vivus eram tibi Gallia; mortuus, ah! Mors
sum tibi, quam volui vivere morte mea.
Dum tu in caede mea quaeris tibi saeva salutem,
tu me quo stabas stante, cadente cadis.
5Extinxti me, teque simul fera Gallia. Sed tu 9
per te versa jaces: sto redivivus ego.
Disce tuo sapere exemplo. 10 Debes mihi faelix
8quod fueras: debes tu tibi quod misera es.

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Gaspard de Coligny, admiral of France

He whom Mars, god of lightning cannot conquer with the black whirlwind of war, instead is slain by seductive peace, begotten in the night by Erebus. If both the world and Orcus were to encounter him in the light of day, then the world and Orcus would flee, running away backwards from his light. Such a man was he that when royal fraud thrice stirred up a thrice-sacred war, three times the royal power lay defeated. But peace, but night was able to do this, which such savage weapons of Mars could not do in the course of so many years. How were you able to break your sworn oaths in such a way, o king? a Is this your idea of virtue, to kill your own subjects by fraud? Or piety, to mangle the pious? Religion, to butcher the faithful? Faith, to destroy the limbs of Christ? I suppose with the universe turned upside down that this kingdom may persist: and its narrow head may raise itself up to the stars. I suppose that under this uneven weight of wickednesses, the earth, unshaken, may support such threats to heaven. O frenzy! O madness! But why? Now Tartarus is no longer Tartarus. For what land is it, if not Tartarus? Therefore you are a heaven to your people: and its own Hell, its own monsters, await this heaven: new Styx, seek new punishments!

The same man

No new or unexpected appearance of death frightens me. With foresight I have anticipated all and have gone over it in my mind. And from the rocks on which I have been shipwrecked, from the rocks I perceived beforehand the foul storms that accumulate in the heavens. b Nor, although foreseen, did the savage hurricane persuade me, with its frenzied whirlwind, to run away in hurried flight. Such an abominable lust for wretched life does not possess me: my concern remains solely with the flock of Christ. Up to now I have worried with hardships and anxieties, both night and day, while loving both country and religion. Now the sole rest from affairs and the end of work presses upon me, my salvation earned: I am at the harbour-mouth. Enough has been given to the king and to the kingdom. It has been sweet to me to live for Christ: now it is sweet to me to die for Christ.

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The same man

In life I was your life, France; dead, ah! I am your death, though I wanted you to live by my death. Although you seek your salvation in my violent slaughter, when I was standing you were standing, with my falling you fall. You killed me, France, and yourself at the same time. But you lie overturned by your own means: I stand brought to life again. Learn to understand from your lesson. You owed it to me that you were happy: you owe it to yourself that you are wretched.



1: 'pios' for 'suos' in Mellon, Sedan

2: 'hoc rerum...cardine' Melville uses this phrase at 'De Davidis Blakii Profectione', 32. Taken from Virgil, Aeneid I.671. 'Convulso' for 'avulso' in Mellon, Sedan

3: cf. 'te duce sublime tollat in astra caput' Erasmus, Magistro Enghelberto Leydensi 26. Also, there is a textual divergence in this line: 'augustum' for 'angustum' in Mellon, Sedan

4: This line and the next are taken, largely unaltered, from Virgil, Aeneid VI.103-5

5: 'percepi' for 'praecepi' in Mellon, Sedan

6: 'perspexi' for 'prospexi' in Mellon, Sedan

7: Virgil, Aeneid VI.721

8: Virgil, Aeneid VIII.94

9: 'tua' in Mellon, Sedan

10: Propertius, Elegies III.11.8


a: Charles IX.

b: The nautical metaphor is obviously being used to commemorate Coligny's position as Admiral of France.