In 'Mystomastiga', anno 1596

This poem is directed at Hercules Rollock (see d2_RolH_002 for Rollock's response). In this poem Melville accuses Rollock of only composing work when he is paid - money is the 'hidden spur' ('mystomastiga') that drives him. Rollock is also the 'grammarian' who is attacked in the set of epigrams that immediately follow this poem (d2_MelA_040). Metre: elegiac couplets.

Link to an image of this page  [p117]

In 'Mystomastiga', anno 1596

Avrea Musa tibi sunt aurea carmina, ab auro
omnis amor Musae, carminibusque nitor.
Sed si nullus adest fulvo tibi fulgor ab auro,
nullus amor Musae carminibusque nitor.
Si pendet tibi Musa, tibi si et carmina ab auro, 1
optem ego quid tibi nunc? Aurea vota Midae.

Link to an image of this page  [p117]

Against 'Hidden Spur', in the year 1596

You have a golden Muse and golden poems, but your every love for the Muse, and the brilliance in your poems come from gold. If there is no glitter from gold now present for your golden self, a then there is no Muse and no brilliance in your poems. If your Muse hangs in the balance, if your songs derive their value from gold, what now should I wish in prayer for you? Midas' golden dreams? b



1: Notice the absence of the adjectival 'aurea' next to carmina, first used in l.1. Melville is forcefully asserting that Rollock's poems are not simply golden but are actually made from gold.


a: The Latin plays with the possibility that Rollock the poet is himself 'golden', as well as the gold.

b: A mythical king who prayed to Dionysius for wealth and found his prayers answered when everything he touched turned to gold. Unfortunately, this included all his food and drink, and finally his daughter.