Rollock returned home from his studies in law at Poitiers in Spring 1579 (see d2_RolH_004 and d2_RolH_013). While crossing the English channel his ship was attacked by pirates and his belongings stolen, including (as he relates in the following poem) a collection of his writings. As Rollock himself tells us, the English government were able to apprehend the pirates and to return Rollock's papers to him after a search was undertaken for them. Following letters from James VI asking for compensation, Rollock was also awarded £20 sterling (approximately £240 Scots) by the English Privy Council (John Roche Dasent (ed.), Acts of the Privy Council of England, vol. 11 (1578-80) (London, 1895), pp. 141-2). The episode provoked this fawning piece to Elizabeth I, where Rollock begins by arguing (l.1-46) that Elizabeth's virtues and merits are so extensive that to try and capture them in poetry would fail to do them justice, and in any event the attempt would overwhelm such a meagre poet as him. The second half of the poem (l.47-131) turns to an account of the rescue of Rollock's writings from the pirates and their return to their owner, prompting Rollock to swear that he will never publish them for profit and that if he does, each will bear a dedication proclaiming their safe return thanks to Elizabeth. This poem is one of a sequence of six that Rollock wrote during an extended stay in England, though given that Rollock is celebrating the return of his writings it was probably written after the poem to Sir Thomas Buckhurst, where the search is described as ongoing; for further details, see the introduction to d2_RolH_008. Metre: hexameter.
Sylva V: Ad clementissimam Angliae, Franciae , & Hiberniae Reginam, Elizabetham (c.1579-1580)
SYLVA V: ad clementissimam Angliae, Franciae , et Hiberniae Reginam, Elizabetham
1Regnantes alios, ubi primum in luminis auras
elicuit Lucina parens, thalamove jugali
composuit genialis Hymen, vel in horrida trusit
Tracius arma pater, vel manibus intulit Hermes,
5aut aliis vitam torsit fors improba gyris,
turba sagax vatum observat, jejuna canendi
arrepto ut rabies expleri fomite possit,
materiam castis vix deinde habitura Camœnis
in reliqua regum vita (quae deside luxu
10illaudata silet, vel tristibus emicat ausis).
Verum huic diversus rerum, subtemina vitae
dum volvo, regina, tuae, mihi nascitur ordo, 1
quae virtute 2 ortus vincis, thalamosque pudore,
pace minas belli, fatumque superstite fama,
15consilioque vagos fortunae subjicis axes.
Atque avidis adeo subducis trita poetis
pabula, consiliis dum nil moliris adultis
diversum, et vitae stabilem trahis usque tenorem.
Verum, ego fallacis nisi ludor imagine veri,
20non habet unde solo messem sibi Delius optat
uberiore, tui quam sacro pectoris arvo.
Nam certis alii vicibus longumque morati,
[p359] quam segetem heroes sacris severe Camœnis.
Hanc tu perpetuo virtutem prodiga cursu,
25si vacet a primis tibi vitam arcessere cunis
conseris, et nulla ubertim non sufficis hora.
Verum, ut cœlestes volvi concentibus orbes
perpetuis memorant Samii decreta magistri, 3
sed, nusquam discorde sibi, falli auris acumen
30murmure, nec requie jugem prodente sonorem:
sic tu, nulla tibi donec pietatis et aequi
intervalla facis, nusquam et virtute remissa,
niteris ad solidam constanti tramite laudem.
Haerentum vel qua tibi carmen origine ducant,
35aut emissa quibus sistant encomia metis
(tam patet amplus ager), vatum perstringis acumen,
et tumido tenues nimis obruis aequore puppes.
Non igitur quo te celebrem, regina, requiro:
sed terret moles audentem operosa laboris.
40Et miser, ore tenus, medio quasi Tantalus amne,
flumina vel summis metuo libasse labellis, 4
deficiat victus multa ne spiritus unda.
Idque mihi pondus flagrante molestius Aetna
incubat: officiis qui cunctis sola repono
45carmina, tuque omnem mihi sola intercipis usum
carminis, omne meum tibi digna obvertere carmen.
Scilicet ut levibus primum rumoribus aures
percussit sors nostra tuas, ego quamlibet amplis
abfuerim terrae spatiis, te protinus aegre 5
50accepisse ferunt (latronum crimine molles
saevitum in Musas), lectisque instructa libellis
avexisse vado rapidam mihi scrinia gentem.
At simul emicuit tibi regis epistola nostri
(insignis pueri, et laudes referentis avorum)
55questa meos multum angores, rabiemque latronum.
Qui tuus est candor, tibi voce oracula dulci
edita sunt, imis penitus mihi fixa medullis; 6
tota suo quibus est domino praecepta supellex
librorum reddi, et summam cognoscere causae,
60quinque datur, qui jure juvent mea damna, Dynastis.
Iamque mihi reduces deberi agnosco libellos
[p360] candori regina tuo, fideique tuorum,
principis exemplo, passis non aequa, faventum.
Faelicies alius tibi laudet habenas,
65quae, late bello attritis tua caerula circum
viribus Europae, neque saevas imbibis iras
te quibus irritant reges, neque Marte triumphos
arripis objectos facili. Verum otia tristi
prae bello tranquilla ferens, tua regna furentum
70exuviis regum sine ferro et funere ditas.
Mirentur ceston alii sine labe pudicum,
quem vel Dictynnae solvisset lege soluta
libertas, et opes regni, et formosa juventus.
Usque adeo, mirum, tibi publica cura salutis
75insidet (ut potius damnaris virgine sexum
perpetua, et patriam fraudaris germine gentem),
quam populum acciti vexent nova jura tryanni.
Quilibet haec, inquam, miretur commoda tantum
littore clausa tuo, regnis exclusa remotis:
80fas mihi prae reliquis mirari hanc laudibus unam,
disque tuum superis aequare hoc nomine numen:
quod virtuti unas et regno figere metas
angustum arbitrata decus, late omnia lustres.
Non ferro, et flammis, et iniqui turbine belli
85(heu scelus invisum Superis, larvataque virtus,
quae, vulgi arbitrio, rerum est laus prima potitis),
sed tua quo tellus immenso cingitur, instar
oceani, gentes matrem te didis in omnes.
Et tua regna omnis vastum facis orbis asylum,
90quod profugis bello patriaque extorribus ora
hospitibus pateat, quassae velut anchora puppi.
Qui tanquam loton depasti, oblivia terrae
longa bibunt patriae. 7 Laribusque et legibus aequis
assueti, exilio sibi reddita regna fatentur.
95I nunc, et terris in caelica regna relictis
astraeam vatum agmen iners mentire receptam;
et parili comites sibi consuluisse, sequaces
iusque fidemque fuga. Regit illa virgine major
hic virgo, antiqua Bruti sata stirpe Britannos
100iure fideque suos, et plusquam legibus aequis
[p361] progeniem ignotam; potuit quam littoris ora
longum arcere sui, ne tanti mole fatiscant
tantula regna oneris. Verum inconsulta videri
maluit ipsa suae gentis, quam appulsa beatis
105Anglorum ripis prohibere examina portu,
et retro in stricti mucronem vertere ferri.
Hinc tibi pyramidum Nymphae superantia molem,
erigis aeternae laudis monumenta, sepulchrisque
editiora paras insignia Mausolaeis.
110Me semper meminisse tuos, regina, juvabit
hospitibus vultus faciles ac civibus aeque,
et parili pensas utrisque examine leges.
Haec me sorte mea obtestor didicisse magistra,
agnorum ereptus barathro te vindice. Tantae
115sed mihi quando nefas persolvere praemia molis,
viderit ista oculis rerum optimus auctor amicis,
qui pia multiplici cum fœnore facta reponat.
Certe hujus meriti numquam mihi gratia vivo
excidet, incolumnes quin donec adire libellos
120fas mihi luminibus, vel fas mihi pabula mentis
(lumina si torpent) meditari excerpta libellis.
Tu memori, princeps, mihi mente reposta manebis, 8
tu mihi carmen eris, tu nostris multa libellis
scribere; et quisquis fuerit te vindice salvus,
125ille mihi nullo mutabitur aere libellus.
Neve queant seri te non meminisse nepotes, 9
omnem hoc signabit carmen mihi fronte libellum:
'vive, libelle, manu quondam raptate latronum,
sed te facte tuis faelicior ipse periclis; 10
130cui rediisse datum regina vindice salvo,
131regina aeternis merita superare libellis.'
Sylva V: to the most gentle Elizabeth, Queen of England, France, and Ireland
1 The sharp-witted company of poets pay attention to other rulers, when mother Lucina first brought them out into the light of day, or pleasant Hymen placed them on the marriage bed, or the Thracian father a thrust them into grim battle, or Mercury buried them with his hands, or unjust fortune directed their life on some other course, so that their all-consuming rage for versifying can be satisfied by an appropriate inspiration, which hardly afterward will find a theme for virtuous poems in the extant life of kings (which is silent and unpraised in idle luxury, or is conspicuous by its grim ventures). But while I unravel the threads of your life, o queen, a different order of things is born for me; you who conquers the dawn with virtue, and the marriage chamber with chasteness, the menaces of war with peace, and fate with an enduring reputation, and who subjects the wandering wheel of fortune to reason. And you contuinue to disregard worn-out fare from hungry poets, until you bring about nothing other than developed reason, and until you derive a fixed course of life. Yet, unless I am tricked by the image of a false truth, Apollo wants for himself the harvest of a more fertile land, from the holy fields of your heart, but he does not have it. For others have put off their allotted fate for a long time, [p359] and what fruits have they brought forth in sacred poems. Overflowing with virtues you sow these fruits in an everlasting furrow, if you should have time to raise a life from infancy, and you supply these fruits copiously and constantly. For, just as the laws of the Samian teacher b relate that the celestial orbs are spun in constant harmony, c but indeed that the sharpness of tone is not violated by the slightest rumble, or by variance within itself in any place, nor the constant noise by an interposing quiet: so you, while you allow no pause for piety and justice, and with virtue amiss in no place, strive for true glory on an unchangeable course. Whether from whatever starting point your followers' eulogies may conduct a poem for you, or within whatever boundaries the eulogies erect the poem (so expansive does your field show itself), you blunt the poets' sharpness, and you overwhelm their slender boats with your swollen sea. So I do not seek, o queen, to celebrate you thus; indeed the difficult task frightens off he who attempts it. So, wretched, as if Tantalus in the middle of the stream I fear to taste the river with my little lips, lest my inspiration, overcome by so much water, be found wanting. And that burden bears down upon me more dangerously than fiery Etna: d I who repeatedly produce bespoke poems for every occasion, e even from me you alone take away every opportunity for poetry, you who are the fitting object of my every song. Clearly when first the swift report of our misfortune f struck your ears, although I was far away across the wide expanse of the land, they report that you heard with regret (on account of the savage robbers' sin against the gentle Muses) that a fierce mob carried off across the water the chest stocked with my choice literary works. Yet at the same time a letter from our king g came to you (an outstanding boy, who recalls the glory of his ancestors) which bewailed my many misfortunes, and the fury of the brigands. Here is your splendour, your judgements are given out in a sweet voice, and have been fixed in my innermost heart; the whole library has been instructed to be returned to its original master, and to learn its ultimate origin; the task given to the five Lords h to make good my losses lawfully. And now I understand that the returning of the books to me is owed [p360] to your splendour, queen, to the conscientiousness of your favourites, to the prince's letter, to those who suffered injustices.
64 Let someone else praise your blessed government of your kingdom, where, with the powers of Europe worn down far and wide in war around your blue sea, neither are you contaminated by the savage anger with which kings assail you, nor do you seize the triumphs presented by a facilitating war. Yet while preferring peaceful leisure to grim war, you enrich your kingdoms through the booty of the raging kings without sword and death. Let others wonder at your girdle, undefiled, without destruction, which at least freedom from Dictynna's precept, i and the riches of the kingdom and your beautiful youth should have undone. Even now, a wondrous thing, it is public concern for your health that holds firm (since you are rather condemned to perpetual maidenhood, and cheated of an offspring for your nation), and not any new edicts of a foreign tyrant that distress the people. All, I say, would wonder greatly at these advantages which are contained in your country, yet deprived in far off lands. It is right for me to wonder at this one woman because of her other glories, and to equate your divinity to the gods above in this regard: that having decided that a simple dignity determine the limits to virtue in your kingdom, you oversee everything far and wide. For also, neither through the sword, nor in the tempest of unjust war (wickedness hateful to the gods, and virtue enchanting, which, in common opinion, is the foremost glory for the rulers of the world), by which your land is surrounded endlessly, just like the ocean, you spread yourself out as mother to all nations. And you make your kingdom a great refuge for all the world, so that in war your native shores lie open to fugitives and exiled foreigners, j just like a safe port for battered ships. Just as if they had feasted upon the fruits of the lotus, k they drink in a long-enduring forgetfulness of their fatherland. And after having become used to your just gods and laws, they declare that in exile their kingdoms have been restored to them.
95 Go now, and lie to the exiles' former lands that Astraea has been received into the heavenly kingdom; and that her followers have looked to their own safety, following justice and faith in similar flight. Now, born from the ancient stock of Brutus, a greater virgin than Astraea rules her own Britons in justice and faith, and with more than [p361] just laws an unknown race; a race she was able to protect for a long time from her own shore, lest so small a kingdom weaken under the weight of such a burden. For she has preferred to seem inconsiderate of her own nation, than to keep off from her port the exiles who have made for the blessed shores of the English, and to turn them back into the point of an unsheathed sword. And thus you erect for yourself a monument to your eternal glory towering above the structures of the Pyramids and the Nymph, and you make a mark of honour loftier than the tomb of Mausolus. l
110 It will always please me to remember your countenance, o queen, which welcomes foreigners and citizens alike, and you dispense the laws with equal weight to both. Subjected to fortune and snatched from a chasm of anguish with you as liberator, I testify that I have learned these things myself. But since it is not a divine right for me to pay back the rewards of so great an undertaking, the great creator of the universe would have looked upon those rewards with kindly eyes, and he will pay back those pious actions with manifold interest. Without doubt while I live my gratitude for this kindness will never disappear, at least while it is permitted me to read all my writings with my eyes, or (if my eyes dim) to muse over parts from the books, nourishment for my mind. You, princess, will remain stored in my ever-mindful heart, you will be my song, you will be inscribed throughout my writings; and whatever writing will be saved with you as liberator, that will not be sold by me for any money. And lest future generations not be able to remember you, this poem will be stamped on the front of my every book: 'live well, book, who was once seized by a band of robbers, but who is now made very happy through your perils; you whom a queen liberator has allowed to have returned safe, a queen who deserves to endure forever in eternal writings.'
1: A reworking of the well-known transition from the Odyssean to the Iliadic section of Virgil's Aeneid: VII.44-5
2: 'virrute' in original text
4: For this and the previous line see: Virgil, Aeneid I.736-7
5: An echo of Virgil, Eclogues, I.12
6: Ovid, Tristia: I.5.9
7: Virgil, Aeneid VI.715
8: Virgil, Aeneid I.26
9: See: Virgil, Georgics II.58, for the term
10: Cf. Propertius, Elegies II.15.2
a: Mars, or Ares, was father to Thrax, the mythical founder of Thrace.
b: Pythagoras, who was born on the Aegean island of Samos around 580BC and is credited with major advances in mathematics, geometry, medicine and philosophy.
c: Rollock is drawing on the 'geocentric' model of the universe, an idea which actually originated with Parmenides and not Pythagoras (5th century BC). In this model the earth lies at the centre of the universe, around which rotates the outermost sphere of the fixed stars, carrying with it the intermediate spheres of the other heavenly bodies. Each of these spheres were believed to vibrate at a different frequency, but in a harmony with one another that resonated on a celestial scale.
d: The most active volcano in Europe.
e: Rollock had published a poem to celebrate the entry of Henri III into Poitiers in 1577, and had written a range of others for other people and events during his time there that were not published at the time (see introduction to d2_RolH_004 for more details). Rollock's claim that he is able to write a poem for every occasion perhaps suggests he wrote other examples of this type of 'set piece' that have been lost.
f: The attack on Rollock by pirates.
g: James VI.
h: Of the English Privy Council.
i: Dictynna, also identified with Britomartis, the Minoan goddess of mountains and hunting, credited with inventing the nets ('diktya') used in hunting. The implication appears to be that Elizabeth remains free from the snares of marriage.
j: Particularly Protestant religious exiles. See Andrew Pettegree, Foreign Protestant Communities in Sixteenth-Century London (Oxford, 1986).
k: In Odyssey ix, the lotus-eaters were a race living on an island off the coast of North Africa whose main diet was the lotus-flower, the ingestion of which caused apathy and forgetfulness.
l: Ruler of Caria (377-353BC), whose tomb at Halicarnassus was one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.