A year after graduating MA from St Andrews in 1568, Rollock was appointed as a regent to King's College, Aberdeen. This made him one of the first protestant teachers at the university (alongside the new principal Alexander Arbuthnott and sub-principal James Lawson, and his fellow regent George Paterson) following a purge of the Catholic staff by the regent Moray (P. J. Anderson, Officers and Graduates of University and King's College, Aberdeen (New Spalding Club, Aberdeen, 1893), p. 52; David Stevenson, King's College, Aberdeen, 1560-1641: From Protestant Reformation to Covenanting Revolution (Aberdeen, 1995), pp. 25-30). Rollock taught at King's until at least 19 April 1572 when he signed the college register, and it was during this period that he wrote this lament on the state of Scotland, making it his second earliest known poem (the first is a prefatory epigram in Alexander Hepburn's Grammaticae artis prima rudimenta (Antwerp 1568)). The first half of the poem condemns the complete inversion of the normal boundaries of society as a result of the Marian civil war, using the imagery and tropes of Lucan's De Bello Civili. Like Patrick Adamson, who had been appointed as a visitor to the north by the general assembly in December 1563 and wrote a poem in the following year attacking the widespread Catholic recusancy that he witnessed (De Papistarum Ineptiis Superstitionibus, seu: Ad Papistas Aberdonenses (Edinburgh, 1564)), it appears that Rollock also found Catholicism alive and well in the north-east. The second half of his poem is a diatribe against both the specific situation in Scotland and the pope's repeated attempts to win nations over through cunning, witchcraft and the agents (both foreign monarchs and Catholic priests) he keeps in his thrall. The poem can be securely dated to late 1572 or early 1573 as it references the deaths of the first three regents of the young James VI (the earls Moray, Lennox and Mar) and the accession of James Douglas, the fourth Earl of Morton as regent, along with the death of John Knox. These latter two events both took place on Monday 24 November 1572. However, the poem makes no mention of the Pacification of Perth which ended the civil war in March 1573 (see Jane Dawson, Scotland Re-formed 1488-1587 (Edinburgh, 2007), pp. 264-282, 353-4); George R. Hewitt, Scotland Under Morton, 1572-80 (Edinburgh, 1982), pp. 15, 19. Metre: hexameter.
On the wretched state of Scotland, on account of its internal wars, contempt for God, and the pernicious group of Papists dwelling there
SYLVA IV: de misero Statu Scotiae, propter intestina bella, verbi Dei fastidium, et perniciosam Papistarum in ea commorationem.
1Heu quo, fata, ruunt? Sic stant decreta Tonantis,
Scotorum toties servata evertere regna?
Siccine jam tandem delebit Numinis ira?
Quem Nilus populum septenis fudit ab oris,
5quassatum terrae variis pelagique procellis?
Quaeque diu incertis erravit sedibus exul,
donec post varios casus tandem aspera fata
indulgent requiem, monstratque 1 Britannia sedes,
quas valida tenuere manu bis mille per annos,
10non domiti ducibus Latiis, et Caesaris armis,
Pictorumque odiis, et saevi fraudibus Angli? 2
Sed quae te audaci toties servavit ab hoste
Scotia, nunc armata tua est in viscera 3 virtus.
Tu tibi bella moves, peregrino libera ferro.
15Sponte peris, nec te quisquam tibi saevior hostis.
Heu, odiis in se ipsa ruit tua lecta juventus,
agmina saepe tuos fuse populantia fines
quae dare terga fugae docuit, sine vulnere victrix
adversumque hosti sua stringit in ilia ferrum. 4
20Nulla fides uteri sociis: non sanguinis ordo,
non prodest genialis Hymen; fert obvia proli
tela parens; rerumque inverso fœdere natus
it contra, patrioque intingit sanguine ferrum.
Talibus heu cecidere odiis grassante furore
25indomitique duces audaxque ad vulnere miles:
et regni proceres, et inops sine nomine vulgus,
millia quot nunquam peregrinis obruta telis
hostilique manu. Quo quisque est promptior armis, 5
hoc mage vicinus letho est: qui cominus hostem
30ferre timet, cadit ignitae sub pondere glandis.
Astra horrent immane scelus, spumantiae tabo
flumina tota rubent: et multo funere tellus
fœta novos sibi miratur prodire timores.
Sola thoro conjunx luget viduata maritum:
35et dolet ante diem proles orbata parentem.
Nec domitum studiis, nec promptum ad munera pacis
ingenium juvenile jacet. Sine conjuge, virgo
mœsta gemit, fraudata thori genialis honore.
Vulcano populante domos, et munere messis,
40tecta inculta jacent Dominis, et rura colonis.
Oppida diffusis opibus, quassata ruinis,
civibus ejectis, prohibente negotia Marte,
senta situ 6 squallent, praedonum exposta ruinis.
Iamque suum cecidisse genus, stirpemque recisam,
45seque sua obsessum indignatur gente teneri
ille Caledoniae (faelici sydere) gentis
rex (tribus heu annis totidem tutoribus orbus).
Proditione duo, vi morbi tertius aeger
occubuit, Superum fato testante furorem.
50Insoliti novitate mali furit acrior hostis,
iam subitis procerum sibi cuncta infanda ruinis
indulgens. Rursum ergo feris concurritur armis:
moliturque novus turbam expugnare rebellem
prorex: isque armis regalia sceptra tuetur.
55Obruimur plagis, et pullulat hydra malorum.
Dat strages elapsa novo primordia bello.
Nec tunc has posuere sibi (graviora supersunt)
ingeniosa tuas ad clades numina metas,
Scotia. Nempe leve est patriae rectoribus orba
60quod titubes, laxisque erres sine lege lupatis,
quodque tuos misero bello depasceris artus:
sed quae olim toto secreverat orbe Britannos 7
relligio, ad sedes animos ductura perennes,
nunc languet, sensimque jacet, suffusa tenebris
65libertas pietatis abest: saturasque per aures
atque animos errat divini nausea verbi.
Iamque Orco redit impietas: ruptisque catenis,
interclusa diu Superum terrore, revixit.
Nempe alii procerum sibi relligionis habenas
70discutiunt, alii prius eructata resorbent
dogmata Romanae gentis, ritusque prophanos.
Hostibus ut noceant immiscent sydera terris,
et diro accersunt sceleratos fœdere reges.
Praemia quae quondam, sacris praeconibus ardens,
75decrevit populus, miles nunc impius haurit:
ereptaeque animi medicis in corporis hostes
effunduntur opes. Si fors fœlicia vertit
interea pius ille pater, custosque salutis,
nuntius aeternae pacis, tuba sida Tonantis
80Knoxius, unde prius venit, remeavit ad oras
caelicolum, gentem eversam urbisque perosae
ne doleat pœnas, meritis sed gaudeat astris.
Vulnera prisca novis (lente coitura) patescunt
ictibus, et pœnas geminat nova plaga priores.
85Non aliter quam cum fugientibus imminet undis
unda sequens, dum se in communia littora volvunt,
et conjuratae terrarum evertere molem
saxa cavant, montesque parant aequare cavernis.
Quid miserae facietis oves custode perempto?
90Quid canibus caesis? Rapient ursaeque lupique
noxia turba gregem rictuque leaena cruento.
Orba igitur regni ducibus, Superumque ministris,
gens collapsa jaces hostilibus obvia telis:
praeda parata neci, fortisque incerta futurae.
95Quoque magis crucior, urgentibus undique fatis
sanguine non satur est odiis civilibus hausto
Mars, sed bella tibi peregrinis concitat armis,
inque tuum exitium totum ferus evocat orbem.
Non de libertate tibi, vel limite regni
100certandum: nec enim armis armenta tegenda,
non conjux, nec opes, nec patris gaudia proles,
grataque vix hosti fuerit tuus hostia sanguis:
majus alit monstrum, petit his majora trophaeis:
sola parte tui victa meliore placebis.
105Nempe animum, soli natum servire Tonanti,
vi cohibere parat, mentique imponere leges:
quodque Deo debes humanis flectere fraenis.
Cordibus insevit tenues natura favillas
luminis, hasque animo jussit fulgescere toto:
110scilicet humanis homines ut pectora tollant
altius, utque animis animantia caetera vincant.
Ecce, tamen! Prodit, Stygiis qui fluctibus ignes
obruat, extinctaque inducat luce tenebras.
Ille est invisus Superis, Erebique minister
115pape miser: qui ut lapsa Latinae nomina gentis,
quae quondam steterant, multis celebrata triumphis,
cernit, et Italicis populos se solvere fraenis:
ignavus, desperat avitis viribus orbem
posse suum fieri. Patriis sed honoribus impar
120ne penitus lateat, reficit vim callidus astu:
hoc unum volvens animo, qua fraude doloque
quassati imperii ditionem extendere possit.
Non aliter quam qui olim ultricia fortis ad arma
ductor erat, senio mœret cecidisse lacertos:
125quoque potest solo, reficit conamine vires.
Ergo animi princeps et relligionis haberi
vult author, certusque aeternas ductor ad arces
praesul: et incautum nova dogmata spargit in orbem,
atque ita dat populis obliquo jura meatu,
130quae coram excutiunt, et aperte ferre recusant.
Illa olim armatas quae effudit Roma cohortes,
insignesque ducum peperit virtute triumphos.
Nunc tibi divini nutrit sub imagine cultus,
cum monachis, miseros fucorum examina mystas,
135et pictis varie pannis insignia monstra.
Tales Papa fovet famulos, perque omnia regna
ire jubet, toti ut spargant diplomata mundo,
et populis diri propinent pocula succus.
Qui si haurire negent homines, et hausta remittant,
140caelesti antidoto Stygium purgante venenum;
ecce tonans mystes Latii mandata tyranni,
carminibus diris animos jam devovet Orco,
carnificemque vocat, qui lentis ustulet artus
ignibus, aut alias sumat de corpore pœnas.
145Si qua gente suus Romanis forte ministris
iam non constet honos, sed dira anathemata sordent;
dum cultus ratio divini purior exit:
quae quondam caput orbis erat, sua nomina labi
rursum Roma fremit: nec fraudi cedere gentes
150indignatur, at arte simul conatur et armis
vincere, quos sola pietatis imagine nescit,
aut solis fraenare armis. Nam lumina regum
praestigiis, magicaque (infandum) fascinat arte.
Roma ipsa imbellis ciet ad certamina gentes;
155secureque ad signa vocat regna obvia regnis.
Ut fratres Medea boum de faucibus ortos
perdomuit, vicitque invictos Marte venenis:
vertit et in dominos quae tela tulisset Iason.
Quis furor hic vobis praestrinxit lumina, reges?
160Sub juga dum gentes alio Titane perustas
mittitis, et vestris pereginas additis oras:
sponte tamen Latio vultis servire tyranno,
ejus ad imperium pacem Martemve colentes.
Scotia sana magis, mentisque soluta tenebris,
165postquam quo liceat cœlum contendere cursu
noverit, et sanctae rimata est dogmata legis,
quum priscos numeraret avos virtute serenos,
et secum invictae versaret nomina gentis.
Servitium Italiae jam tandem ferre recusat,
170corpus opesque una exolvens mentemque tenebris,
se fruitur, Papaeque negat servire superbo.
Aemula Scotorum, sensim vicinia virus
Romanum eructat, recti vestigia callis
sectatur, longique erroris taedia solvit.
175Ille ferox Romam ut gravibus nutare ruinis
conspicit, arte sua socialis semina belli
spargit, et ire jubet violentis viribus Austrum
in Boream. Gentes Romani signa sequuntur
principis, insontesque parant vastare Britannos.
180Proh Superi, quo sancta fides pietasque recessit!
Et quo mersa jacet divina Ecclesia fundo!
Grex Christi, et Superum cultrix vult Roma videri,
armatos ferro et flammis immittit ovili.
Heu, deploratis quo labere Scotia rebus!
185Quove potes clypeo Superum cohibere furorem,
inque tuum exitium limatum avertere fulmen?
Sub juga jam venies, Romano praeda tyranno,
mens tenebris captiva gemet, corpusque catenis.
Sed miser est, laetus qui non sua vulnera sentit:
190nam neque fata cavet, nec Phœbi saucius artem
quaerit, ut invento vincat medicamine morbum.
Ecce! Assueta rigent Scotorum pectora plagis,
et jam caesa diu vestit praecordia callus,
secureque suis pœnis se involvere gaudent,
195dum peregre saevis venientem viribus ultro
accelerant Martem, et feriunt sua pectora ferro.
Nec mœrent praesente malo, trepidantve futuro,
sed patriae tristes ita caede et sanguine vultus
impavidi fœdant, ut jam nova crimina Phœbus 8
200miretur, tellusque immanes horreat ausus,
et stupeat casus, quales male perdita caeso
nec vidit Mario, nec Caesare Roma furente.
Hinc caelum, atque Erebus lentos ad fulmina divos
dira vocant, meritasque volunt nos pendere pœnas.
205Ergo, diu minitans, tandem vindicta Tonantis
obruet impavidos, et ferior acrius uret:
quodque interna lues peregrinaque bella minantur.
Tandem antiqua Deus delebit nomina gentis,
servatamque diu feriet graviore ruina.
210Dira patent cladis praenuncia signa futurae,
undique bella ruunt circumcrepitantibus armis.
Nulla fugae latebra est, nec spes est ulla salutis.
Tu modo, magne Deus, populi miserere nocentis,
eripe tam diris fatis graviora merentem,
215flecte lupum stabulis, ad vitae pascua coge
palantem sine lege gregem, Dominoque rebellem,
217inque suos artus hostilem verte furorem.
On the wretched state of Scotland, on account of its internal wars, contempt for God, and the pernicious group of Papists dwelling there
Alas, fates, where do you run off to? Do the commands of the Thunderer stand thus, to overturn so many times the kingdoms of the Scots, formerly kept safe? Is this the people whom the Nile poured forth from seven shores, a thrown violently on sea and shore by various tempests? And the exile who had wandered for a long time through transitory lands, until the unkind fates at last, after a variety of misfortunes, allowed a respite, and Britain revealed a homeland,
which has been held by a strong hand through two thousand years, uncowed by Latin leaders, or Caesar's arms, or the animosity of the Picts, or the deceits of the savage English? But Scotland, your courage, which kept you safe so many times from the bold enemy, has now been directed against your own insides. b You excite yourself with war, free from foreign sword. You perish by your own volition, and you do not have any enemy more fierce than yourself. Alas, your very own beloved youth rushes against itself in hatred, and after the victor taught the armies frequently ravaging all across your lands to turn their backs in flight, now unwounded it unsheathes the sword directed against the enemy towards its own belly. No faith is entertained among friends: no rank of blood, or pleasant wedding does any good; parents throw missiles in the way of their offspring; and with society's compact turned upside down their children go against them, and stain their sword with their father's blood. Alas fierce leaders and a reckless soldiery have fallen to injury amid such hatreds and with a madness raging far and wide: and the nobles of the kingdom, and the needy mob without title, with hostile hand throw so many thousands of missiles which never rushed down from foreigners. Wherever each man is very ready for battle, there he is nearer to death: he who at close quarters fears to take on the enemy, falls under the weight of a flaming cannonball. The enormous crime terrifies the stars, and entire rivers foaming with gore run red: and the earth, teeming with many a funeral, is stunned at the new terrors it brings forth for itself. The wife bereaved of her spouse mourns alone on their wedding-bed: and the orphaned child grieves for its parent before the day. Youth lies dead, unmastered by education, its character unreadied for the rewards of peace. Without a spouse, the sorrowful virgin groans, deprived of the honour of the pleasant wedding-bed. With Vulcan ravaging the houses, and the rewards of the harvest, the fields of the lords lie untilled, and the country fields of the husbandman. Towns - with their wealth scattered, shaken to ruins, their citizens thrown out, with Mars forbidding business - grow squalid with rough filth, exposed to the depredations of thieves. And now the king (under a fortunate star) of the Caledonian race himself is angry that his race has fallen, that the stock has been pruned back, c (alas, bereft over three years of as many guardians), and that he has been besieged by his own race.
After a double betrayal, an unhappy third succumbs to the violence of sickness, d with their fate testifying to the fury of the Gods. A more bitter enemy rages with the strangeness of an peculiar evil, now allowing everything unspeakable for the sudden ruin of the nobles. And thus it rushes backwards with savage arms: and a new regent e attempts to expel the rebel mob: and he defends the royal sceptre with arms. We fall upon it with blows, and a Hydra of evils sprouts forth. The dismembered butchery marks the beginning of a new war. Not even then, Scotland, did the cunning divinities place limits upon themselves in relation to your calamities (graver events follow). It is, I suppose, unimportant that deprived of the governors of the nation you totter, and with the wolfsteeth relaxed f you wander without law, and that you nourish your limbs with wretched war: but the religion which once had set apart the British from the whole world, g that will lead souls to everlasting thrones, now languishes, and gradually falls, and choked with shadows the freedom of piety is absent: and contempt for the divine word wanders through choked ears and minds. And now godlessness has returned from Hell: and with all restraints burst apart, and with fear of the Gods long shut away, has been reborn. For some of the nobles have torn the bridles of religion off themselves, while others have reswallowed the dogmas of the Roman race which they had previously thrown up, along with its profane rituals. The stars mingle with the lands so that they cause harm to the enemy, and summon wicked kings into a dire covenant. The rewards which the people, burning with sacred prayers, had formerly fixed upon, the impious soldier now draws up: and these supports for body and soul have been snatched from their practitioners, h and are lavished upon their enemies. Meanwhile, if happy fortune comes to pass, then that pious father, guardian of salvation, envoy of eternal peace, and faithful trumpet of the Thunderer Knox, i has returned from where first he came to the shores of the heaven-dwellers, so that he does not lament his race overthrown or the sorrows of a hateful city, but rather rejoices in the deserved stars. Ancient wounds (which will mend slowly) are laid open to new assaults, and new blows double earlier pains. It is the same as when a wave crashes down, being followed by receding waves as they roll themselves onto the same shores,
and having conspired to overturn the mass of the lands they wear down the rocks, and prepare to make the mountains level with the grottoes. Why have you made the sheep wretched after killing their keeper? Why have you slaughtered with dogs? The noxious mob of she-bears and wolves and hyenas carry away the flock with a bloody grin. Thus, o race, deprived of your kingdom's leaders, and of the ministers of the gods, j you lie prostrate in the path of enemy missiles: prey ripe for destruction, and unsure of your future fate. And I am tortured more, and with the fates urging on both sides Mars is not sated with the blood already drawn by civil hatred, but rouses wars against you with foreign arms, and the beast k calls forth the whole world to take part in your destruction. You should not fight for your freedom, or the boundary-line of your kingdom: for neither will your home protected with arms, or your wife, or riches, or the offspring joyful to their father, or your blood have been a sacrifice scarcely pleasing to the enemy: worse nourishes the monster, he seeks greater things than these tokens: with only one part of you will you please him as a sacrifice. Namely he prepares to hold your soul, born to serve the Thunderer alone, with force, and to set down laws over your mind: and that which you owe to God is set beneath human reins. Nature sowed weak embers of light into our hearts, and commanded that these shine forth in the whole mind: it is true that men lift their breasts higher, and with human minds they conquer other living things. l Yet see! He comes forth, who smothers flames with the Stygian floods, and after extinguishing the light leads in the shadows. The pope is that wretch hated by the Gods, and the minister of Erebus: he who decided, since the name of the Latin race had diminished, which once had stood out, celebrated with many triumphs, to loose the people from Italian bonds: a coward, he despaired of being able to make the world his with his ancestral forces. m But lest he lie completely hidden, n unequal to the honours of his fathers, slyly and with cunning he renews his strength: turning this alone over in his mind, he was able to extend the dominion of his empire assailed by his fraud and wyles. He is not dissimilar to the leader who had once had arms deadly with strength, who laments that his throwing power had diminished with old age: and powerful in one thing alone, he renews his strength through struggle.
Thus he wishes to be held up as the chief agent of the soul and of religion, and as the lead bishop fixed to the eternal towers: and he spits forth new dogmas into a heedless world, and thus he gives laws to the people indirectly, o which the people publicly drive out, and openly refused to bear. p He is the Rome that once poured forth armed cohorts, and which produced triumphs famous for the courage of their leaders. Now he nourishes you beneath an imitation of divine worship, with monks, wretched mystae, swarms of bees, and monsters decorated in a variety of ways with painted rags. The pope fosters such slaves, and commands that they go out through every kingdom, so that they spread dictates through the whole world, and give goblets of dire sap to the people to drink. If men refuse to draw these goblets up, and send back that which has been drawn up, with a heavenly antidote purging the Stygian poison, then behold, the acolyte thundering the commands of the Latin tyrant now dedicating souls with dire songs to Orcus, and summoning the butcher, q who scorches the limbs with slow fires, or exacts other penalties from the body. If there is perhaps a race in which his honour does not agree with Roman ministers, but they despise his dreadful anathema; while a purer reckoning of divine worship goes forth: Rome, which once was the head of the world, rages that its name falls backwards: nor is it angered that tribes yield to deceit, but rather it attempts to conquer with art and arms at the same time, those whom it does not know how to bridle with its imitation of piety alone, or with arms alone. For it bewitches the luminaries of kingdoms with sleight of hand, and (abomination) with the art of magic. Rome, not fit for war itself, stirs the races to strife and heedless calls kingdoms, that oppose kingdoms, to its standard. As Medea r subjugated the brothers risen from the deceits of bulls, and conquered with poison those unconquered by Mars: and turned the weapons which Jason had thrown against the lords. What madness is this, kings, that dulls your lights? As you send the scorched races under the yokes of another Titan, and you add foreign regions to your own: even then, you willingly want to serve the Latin tyrant, cultivating peace or war for his empire. Scotland is saner, and freed from such darkness of mind,
where it will be known in posterity that heaven was allowed to direct the course of affairs, and the dogma of sacred law has been laid open, after listing its ancient ancestors serene with courage, and pondering the heroes of its unconquered race. Now at last it refuses to give service to Italy, body and resources as one setting loose the mind from darkness, and it takes delight in itself, and refuses to serve the proudness of the Pope. The neighbours of the Scots, after their example, gradually vomit up the Roman slime, follow in the footsteps of the right path, and dissolve the offensiveness of long error. As that savage sees that Rome totters amid its great ruins, he sprinkles the seeds of social war by means of his art, and orders the South to go against the North with violent forces. s Races follow the standard of the Roman prince, and prepare to lay waste to the guiltless Britons. Oh Gods, where has sacred faith and piety retreated to! And plunged into what depths does the divine Church now lie! Romes wishes to seem the flock of Christ, and cultivator of the Gods, and sends men armed with sword and fire into the sheepfold. Alas Scotland, where do you fall with matters hopeless? And beneath what shield can you keep back the madness of the Gods, and repulse the thunderbolts primed for your ruin? Now you come under the yokes, plunder for the Roman tyrant: your mind, a prisoner in the darkness, and your body, in chains, both lament. But he is wretched, who wounded does not feel his own wounds: for he neither takes care over his fortunes, nor injured seeks Phoebus' art, so that he overcomes the sickness after finding a remedy. Look! The breasts of the Scots, accustomed to the blows, stiffen and now, after a long time, a callous covers over wounded hearts, and free from care they rejoice to wrap themselves up in their own pain, while they hasten to meet war-like Mars who comes with savage forces from far abroad, and they gird their breasts with iron. Nor do they mourn for present evil, or fear for the future, but undaunted they mar the sad countenance of their own nation with slaughter and blood, so that Phoebus is now amazed at new atrocities, and the world is horrified at immense outrages, and calamity stuns, evilly lost in slaughter such as Rome did not see when Marius or Caesar were raging. t Hence heaven, and Erebus call forth sad gods
to dire thunderbolts, and wish to weigh us down with deserved penalties. Thus the vengeance of the Thunderer, long menacing, will at last rush down upon the undaunted, and at length he will more keenly scorch them; and where foreign plagues and internal war menace. At last God will wipe out the ancient name of your race, and will strike down upon Rome, protected for a long time under its great ruins. u Dire signs foretelling future slaughter appear. And all around wars rush in with weapons clattering. There is no hiding-place for retreat, or any hope of salvation. Only you, great God, take pity on your people doing harm, pluck out she who is so deserving of graver things from such dire fortunes, turn the wolf from the sheepfold, drive the flock wandering without law into the pasture of life, turn the rebel to the Lord, and hostile fury against its own limbs.
1: 'varios...monstratque' closely follows Virgil Aeneid I.204-5
2: 'Donec...Angli'. Note the close verbal, contextual, and thematic similarities to this section from the Declaration of Arbroath: 'Undeque veniens post mille et ducentos annos a transitu populi israelitici per mare rubrum sibi sedes in Occidente quas nunc optinet, expulsis primo Britonibus et Pictis omnino deletis, licet per Norwagienses, Dacos et Anglicos sepius inpugnata fuerit'.
3: A phrase often used for civil discord from Virgil onwards. This passage is especially close to Quintillian, Declamationes Minores 321.9. See also Virgil, Aeneid VI.833, and Lucan, Bellum Civile I.3
4: Ovid, Metamorphoses IV.119
5: Ovid, Metamorphoses I.126
6: Virgil, Aeneid VI.462
7: Virgil, Eclogues I.66
8: fœdanr in original text
a: Here and in the eight lines following Rollock summarises the origin myth of Scotland, where the Greek prince Gathelus (the 'exile' mentioned in l.5) and the Egyptian princess Scota flee the plagues and persecution of Old Testament-era Egypt and sail east with the Stone of Scone (also known as 'Jacob's Pillow'). For a full account, see d2_MelA_001. Rollock also references the fact that Scotland had never been conquered by an external invading force, though it is interesting that he sees the Picts as one of these would-be conquerors, alongside the Roman Empire and the English, rather than as 'natives' of Scotland.
b: Reference to civil discord. See Latin note above for the use of this phrase in a civil war context.
c: The young James VI, who at the time of writing was no more than six years old and whose first three regents - Moray, Mar, and Lennox - had either been killed or died suddenly (Regent Moray governed from August 1567 to January 1570, Lennox from July 1570 until September 1571, and Mar from September 1571 until October 1572). The 'stock' ('stirpem') could be a reference to his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, who although not dead had been forced to abdicate in favour of James in July 1567. She escaped in May the following year and fled to England, where she was arrested and held until her execution for treason 20 years later. James' accession is 'fortunate' ('faelici') as a young protestant boy-king has replaced the Catholic queen.
d: The regents Moray and Lennox were both assassinated; Mar died suddenly after a short illness.
e: James Douglas, fourth Earl of Morton, regent from 1572 to 1578.
f: A jagged bit, used for bridling difficult horses.
g: England adopted a Protestant church settlement under Henry VIII in the early 1530s which survived despite attempts by the Catholic Queen Mary (1553-1558) to reverse this. Scotland outlawed Catholic worship and adopted a national Protestant confession of faith at the 'Reformation Parliament' of August 1560.
h: i.e, the ministers who had saved the immortal souls of the soldiers with the gospel.
i: John Knox (c. 1514-1572), one of the leading figures of the early reformation in Scotland, who died on 24 November 1572.
j: As we would expect in any heavily classicising verse, Rollock uses the pagan pantheon to refer to the Christian divinity.
k: The Antichrist or Beast of Revelation, identified here with the papacy. See the discussion which follows
l: Rollock concedes that God has endowed man with reason above all other creatures, but that does not mean that a human (i.e., the Pope) should rule in his name as a human representative of the divine.
m: i.e., the people of Italy are not sufficient for the pope to conquer the world.
n: Confined to Italy.
o: He does so at a remove through his bishops and kings.
p: Although he sets decrees, no-one actually listens to them.
r: In Greek mythology, princess of Colchis who used potions to help Jason obtain the Golden Fleece from her father Aeetes, and murdered her younger brother in order to help the Argonauts escape from Colchis. When Jason deserted her for Creusa, the daughter of King Creon of Corinth, she took revenge by killing Creon, Creusa, and her own children, and fled to Athens. She is here presented as the archetype of a scheming and vengeful woman.
s: The Protestant northern half of Europe against the Catholic south.
t: Gaius Marius fought against Lucius Cornelius Sulla in two civil wars in 88-87BC and 82-81BC, while Julius Caesar fought against Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus in another between 49 and 45BC.
u: See 'great ruins' above, where Rollock says the pope totters through them. Here the 'great ruin' (singular) is what has both preserved Rome/the pope, and what God will bring to Rome with his attack. Unfortunately the poetic parallelism of the Latin, both stylistic and semantic, is impossible to replicate.