Hercules Rollock, Joseph Scaliger, and Manilius: Rollock's poetry in Poitiers, c. 1576-1579

Steven Reid, Principal Investigator

We saw in last month's feature that Hercules Rollock arrived in France in late 1573 or early 1574, and that he visited La Rochelle and possibly Paris. However, Rollock spent the majority of his time in France in Poitiers, where he studied law from at least early 1576 until Spring 1579. Poitiers was a natural choice for a Scottish student, as Scots had flocked there in droves throughout the sixteenth century, in large part due to the internationally-recognised quality of the legal education the university offered. 1 Rollock's time in Poitiers proved agreeable to his muse: almost a third of his extant work is directly connected with the town, and he built up quite an impressive social circle if the dedicatees in the sequence of epigrams he wrote there is anything to go by. Four of these are addressed to Emery Sabourin, professor of arts and principal of the college of Puygarreau, which was probably Rollock's home college while he studied in Poitiers. 2 Rollock wrote an epitaph for the university professor Jacques Camille (Jacobus Camillus), the author of two editions of works by Cicero and several philosophical tracts dealing with Ramist and scientific method, 3 and a poem praising the poet and mayor of Poitiers in 1579-80, Scévole de Sainte-Marthe (1536-1623), who himself had written verses celebrating the international nature of the student body at the university. 4

Most significantly, Rollock struck up more than a passing friendship with the internationally renowned philologist and chronologer Joseph Juste Scaliger during this period. Scaliger was based at Touffou, an estate approximately 14 miles outside Poitiers, between June 1576 and December 1579, where he produced his celebrated edition of Manilius' Astronomicon. 5 Rollock commemorated this event with an encomium of 20 lines, praising Scaliger as the ancient astronomer reborn for the modern age, which he apparently presented with the gift of a model globe (as the second half of the poem's title, 'cum spherae machina', suggests). This may have been a globe of the world, but could it have been some form of model of the heavenly spheres? It is impossible to know, as no other reference to this gift exists. Regardless, this poem is valuable as evidence that Rollock enjoyed a close level of intimacy with Scaliger, 6 and as evidence that he was part of Scaliger's intellectual circle when he produced what was arguably his most influential and important critical edition of a Classical author:

Aemula Naturae simulatum hunc, Scaliger, orbem
ars ubi compegit, tacite secum anxia volvit,
cuinam hominum proprios merito concedat in usus
tantae molis opus? Verum hoc tu solus honore,
certatim soboles naturae, atque artis alumnus,
qui mactere inventus eras. Tibi machina mentis
orbis ad effigiem teres atque rotunda, nec ausis
turgida famosis, nec fraudum pressa lacunis.
Adde, quod aetherei te nemo peritior orbis
metator, non astra notat vigilantius alter:
(hic te asserte situ testem mihi laudo Manili,
induviis venerande novis, teque amplior ipso)
iamque patri, aeternis famae talaribus auras
sulcanti, soboles instas ita praepete penna:
ut tibi sola domus vivo, sola urna sepulto
apta sit, immensus quam se late explicat orbis.
Ergo tuis cedant meritis cum caetera, vastus
quaecunque orbis apex, dempto nihil orbe supersit:
ecce tuus, reliquo divulsos orbe Britannos
visurus, memorem tibi donat Rollocus orbem.

[Scaliger, when art, rivalling nature, composed this simulated world, silently and carefully it turns over in its mind: 'to whom may the burden of such a great task by right fall for the specific use of men?' Truly, you alone, without doubt the offspring of nature, and the disciple of art, are the man who has been selected to be rewarded. The model of the globe, smooth and well-rounded, is like your mind, neither distended by renowned deeds, nor punctured with holes of deceit. Add to this the fact that no measurer of the heavenly sphere marks out the stars more expertly than you, no other more carefully: (here I praise you, Manilius, my expert, now freed from this life, and who ought now to be revered in your new clothes, even more fully than you were) and now you, the offspring, draw near to your father, 7 whose fame ploughs the airs forever with winged sandals, 8 with your wings outstretched in a similar way: so widely does the vast universe extend itself that its one abode was big enough for you in life, and its one urn ample in death. Therefore, Scaliger, peak of the world, since those other things yield to your merits, which the vast world possesses, and since they are gifts borne to you, may nothing in a empty world remain. Behold your Rollock, about to see the Britons who are separated from the rest of the world, 9 gives you a globe in remembrance of him.]

Rollock also followed up the themes of horror and revulsion war that he explored in his poem on the Marian Civil War in a French context, with his 'Poem of exhortation to the youth of France on the civil war' ('Carmen Paraeneticon, ad juventutem Gallicam de bello civili'), 10 presumably written at some point during the fifth or sixth war (1574-1577). Rollock pleads with the children of France, 'born amid the wavering tumults of the wars' ('Bellorum ancipites sata inter aestus', l. 2, 75) to ensure that they assiduously apply themselves to the education in the liberal arts which their parents desire for them, while they are 'more careless for themselves than their offspring' ('sibi quam soboli supiniores', l. 12) and willing to indulge in the fury of civil war. Only the youth of France, Rollock argues, can lead the nation back to a state of peace, and he urges them to consider 'the soil of your shared nation worn out by unbridled pillage ... the rivers stained with purple gore,/ the fields stagnant with the blood of men, and the corpses in the cities', ('exhaustum indomitis solum rapinis/ communis patriae ... tincta et purpureo fluenta tabo,/ stagnantesque hominum cruore campos,/ urbiumque cadavera', l. 32-35) and to turn from a path of wanton destruction to the cultivation of peace through cultured reflection and poetry. The closing lines of the text show how much Rollock believed in the power of education and the liberal arts as a panacea for all the social ills of France, and how much he valued poetry itself as a means of comfort and intellectual nourishment:

Sed si mente geris patresque, teque,
et ipsam patriam, et vices futurae
pacis: in mediis quieta bellis,
imbelles meditare tu Camoenas:
pacis eximium decus Camoenas,
mentis pabula liberae Camoenas,
custodes vigiles opum Camoenas,
thesauros inopis Laris Camoenas,
et quicquid tibi fors paret, fideles
alumnis comites suis Camoenas. (l. 79-88)

[But if you bear your fathers and yourselves in mind, and the homeland itself, and the succession of future peace: reflect on rest in the middle of wars, on peaceful poetry: poetry, the exceptional honour of peace, poetry, the nourishment of a free mind, poetry, vigilant keeper of works, poetry, a treasure-trove of scanty household gods, and whatever fortune should hold you, poetry with its nurselings will be your faithful companion.]

Rollock followed similar themes in a long poem that provides the first concrete evidence of his settlement in Poitiers, his 'Panegyric on the peace to be established in France', which was published in 1576 in the city. 11 Rollock dedicated this to the royal governor of Poitou, Pierre Ratus, and the poem celebrates the freeing of the Muses from the horrors of war and the accession of Henri III as the beginning of a new age of peace in France. Rollock presumably persevered with this same theme when he penned another longer poem for the entry of Henri into Poitiers in 1577, where the king spent the summer negotiating the peace of Bergerac and the resulting Edict of Poitiers that brought to a close the hostilities of the sixth war of religion. Now lost, Rollock's Invictissimi Galliae et Poloniae regis Henrici III, Pictavium ingredientis pompa was a 200-verse panegyric produced by Rollock on behalf of his fellow students, which further suggests that he was singled out by his peers as a notable poet. 12 It seems ironic, and not a little hypocritical, that Rollock was cheerfully writing a public celebration of the work of the former Duke of Anjou as king when at the same time he continued to produce verses condemning the Valois, such as those regarding the new king's mother. Yet, as we shall see in our next feature, Rollock was often willing to put aside scruples aside if an opportunity for wealth or advancement presented itself.


1: Jean Plattard, 'Scottish Masters and Students at Poitiers in the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century', SHR, vol. 21 (1924), pp. 82-86. Robert Irland (d. 1561) taught law at Poitiers for more than sixty years at the university after settling in the city at the end of the sixteenth century, and his son, Bonaventure (1551-1608?) was appointed as professor of civil law at some point in the 1570s. Elias Donat Mac Rodor, or Macrodore, was another Scottish regent at the university around 1562, and Andrew Melville was a regent and private tutor between 1566 and 1569. The Catholic polemicist and lawyer Adam Blackwood (1539-1613) was appointed in 1580 as counsellor to the parliament of Poitiers in Poitou by Mary Stuart, an office that she retained control of as part of her marriage settlement, and the rhetorician Thomas Bicarton (fl. 1570-1590) was a professor of rhetoric at the college of Puygarreau, to which Rollock was clearly linked, in the 1580s.

2: 'Ad Emericum Saburinum, de nata sibi filia'; 'Ad ejusdem uxorem, de partus difficultate'; 'Xenium, ad primarium Puygaraei collegii moderatorem'; 'Ad Primarium Puygarraei collegii moderatorem, de ipsius Constantia in obsidione urbis', DPS, vol. 2, pp. 382-383, 385. The latter two poems feature acrostics written into the text. In the 1570s Puygarreau was one of the main colleges at the University, and where Thomas Bicarton would become professor of rhetoric shortly after Rollock's departure. Puygarreau was established in 1478 by Fran�oise Gillier, dame de Puygarreau and widow to Jean Bardin, a counselor of the parliament. The college was used as quarters and a storehouse for troops during the war of the League, and fell into decline after this, ultimately being merged with the colleges of Saint-Marthe and Montanaris to form the Jesuit Collége Royal in the city in 1610. M. Ménard, 'Notice sur les Colléges de Poitiers (1)', in Bulletins de la Société des antiquaires de l'Ouest [no vol.] (1842), pp. 209-216, at 211-13; Prosper Boissonade, Histoire de l'Université de Poitiers passé et présent (1432-1932) (Poitiers, 1932), pp. 235-236.

3: 'Tumulus Iacobi Camilli', DPS, vol. 2, pp. 382-383. Camille's works include: Academicarum Quaestionum ... editio (2 vols, Paris, 1568); M.T. Ciceronis De finibus bonorum et malorum liber primus (Paris, 1568); M. T. Ciceronis Academicarum Quaestionum liber primus, illustratus scholiis Iacobi Camilli (Paris, 1570); Dialogus de philosophica doctrina autore Jac. Camillo; interlocutores Ramus et Carpentarius (Poitiers, 1575); Methodica Praeceptio parandae scientiae exarata per Jo. Camillum (Poitiers, 1575). Boissonade describes him as 'peut-être professor dans un college de Poitiers' (p. 253).

4: 'Ad Scevolam Samarthanum, Consiliarum regium, etc.', DPS, vol 2, p. 385. On Sainte-Marthe, see Plattard, pp. 82-83; Boissonade, p. 150; Jean Brunel, 'Saint-Marthe (Gaucher dit Scévole de), in Jo�l Dalan�on (ed.), Dictionnaire de l'Université de Poitiers (Geste, 2012), pp. 393-5; P.M. Dunn, 'Scevole de Ste Marthe of France (1536-1623) and the Paedotrophia', in Archives of Disease in Childhood, vol. 67 (1992): pp: 468-469.

5: M. Manili Astronomicon libri quinque : Iosephus Scaliger Iul. Caes. F. recensuit. Eiusdem Ios. Scaligeri commentarius in eosdem libros, et Castigationum explicationes (Paris, 1579). On Scaliger, see Anthony Grafton, Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship, 2 vols (Oxford, 1983 and 1993).

6: Rollock also wrote Scaliger another poem, praising his wisdom and rhetorical skills, accompanied with a gift of 12 combs of fragrant beeswax for making candles.

7: The equally famous humanist and Latin scholar Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484-1558).

8: In the manner of the messenger-god Mercury. This passage, though, surely owes it imagery and terminology to Virgil, Aeneid VI.15. The Daedalus/Icarus myth is the rather unfortunate comparision that Rollock is trying to make between both sets of father and son.

9: Another example of Rollock's fondness for Virgil, Eclogues I.66.

10: DPS, vol. 2, pp. 376-8.

11: Panegyris de pace in Gallia constitudenda (Poitiers, 1576). This poem does not appear in the DPS.

12: Listed in J. H. Baxter and C. J. Fordyce, 'Books Published Abroad by Scotsmen before 1700', Records of the Glasgow Bibliographical Society, vol. 11 (1933), pp. 1-55, at p. 48. Boissonade states (p. 96) that Rollock published the poem 'au nom des écoliers'.