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A SONG ON GALLIA VICTRIX
For this reason the assembly of the eternal gods nurtures its plan for the leadership of men. The French have as king a godlike man. Therefore, wishing the first-born to be given precedence, they bestow on him the rule of the gods, then inspire Hegate’s thoughts.
Acted at Poitiers on 8 August, after the repairing of what the civil war had bequeathed, and the French had been united in spirit, the law on Amnesty having been passed, Louis de Ste-Marthe being Seneschal and the town Mayor Marc Jarno, at the games of the College of Puygarreau, the Rector being Emery Sabourin.
THE FOUR ELEMENTS
TO THE MOST NOBLE, RENOWNED AND WORTHY GENTLEMAN WALTER STEWART LORD BLANTYRE, RIGHT DESERVING TREASURER OF THE MOST SERENE PRINCE JAMES VI KING OF SCOTS
OU free my anxious mind of care, renowned sir, freely affording me, by the dignity of your name and your easy manners, the patronage that I seek: I summon you away from your responsibilities for Scottish affairs to consider the French state, whose bloodied face has so suddenly brightened, that it scarcely betrays any scars of its wounds: this most unexpected and long-awaited change of circumstances has been welcomed with applause by all orders of society. Thanks to this heaping up of blessings, I saw myself summoned to take part in the rejoicing. For I am not one of those who take less delight in what benefits the state than in what profits private individuals. Nor do I feel myself more strongly bound to my fellow Scots than to the citizens of France, who immediately offer us, as foreigners, the same rights as their own natives. It was therefore the work of a few days for me to compose these verses, which though unworthy of your name, I nonetheless determined to set forth for you. For to whose consideration can I better submit the benefits which are conferred by a supreme sovereign on his subjects, than to yours? Alone amongst so many royal ministers, you are of such godly intellect, that in championing peace, of which others despaired, you have never erred in your counsel. Other men of elevated and wise spirit have borne testimony until their dying breath that for that very reason, you shine on your own among the stars, and stand out for intellect amongst all these gifted Odysseuses — in whom our Scotland so abounds that I have never disdained to call her Ithaca. That apart, you will ponder on this little gift from a very minor scion of your family. In this admittedly trifling matter, I am pursuing gain of intellect rather than of advanced fortunes, and will remain eternally bound to you and yours in eternally faithful service. WILLIAM HEGATE
They say that Cupid is always busiest among the roses and that this is where he finds his richest repasts, to show that the love that we feel down here rises and feeds itself on the roses of our own time; and they say that amongst the flowers, the bee loads its back with a mass of sweetness, as if with baggage, to show that the honey that is most esteemed is to be found amongst the flowers of eloquent language. And then they say, to show that fine human speech is sweeter than sugar where love gives us life, that the bee wounded one of the hands of Love, but you have brought these two so well into accord this day, making the one at home in your own time, and the other in your book, that people might say that they had never known discord.
TO FRANCE, IN PRAISE OF THE AUTHOR
O France, you owe Asclepius a votive cockerel. If you offer yourself entire, O France, will it suffice? I hardly know, but you are bound by a great vow, if you seek to satisfy all your physicians. See, behold how long the line your gods! In reality, this solicitude makes you happy but soon you will be yet happier when the world learns you are dear to all the gods. Henri was the cause of heaven’s love for you, and Hegate will be herald of your immense glory. It was profitable to be sick, medicine beautifies suffering, and in this sense you should wish to suffer a relapse and die. But you should thrive, so that you may lack neither Henri nor Hegate, the latter to gain you the love of mortals, and the former that of the gods.
A POEM ON THE SCOTSMAN WILLIAM HEGATE’S GALLIA VICTRIX
Having long endured the fires of calamitous war, o France, and, as it were, conspiring against your own life, you were finally ready to fall, disintegrating under the weight of devastation, and were almost collapsing, convulsed by intestine hatred. But the outstretched hand of a placated Godhead raises you up from your sickbed, and eases your weariness by restoring peace. Now the mists are dispersed, a friendlier sky has been revealed. An unexpected repose lays your bitter struggles to rest, your people singlemindedly rejoice. In security the multitude exults in the new covenant, aglow in its glad embrace, and each man gives proof of is joy joy with gay applause. Your guest sweetly responds in song to your native people’s hymns and in honeyed measures celebrates your triumph, placing the victor’s laurel crown upon your shining brow. Like a true Amphion, or a more excellent Orpheus, with the music of his sweet singing he leads men’s stony hearts to the laws of civic obedience that must be observed.
JOHN MATHESON, SCOTSMAN
If you view human affairs as being ruled by chance, if you adjudged them indiscriminately allotted from heaven to good men and to bad, then learn from the changeful fate of France the harshness and the prosperity the gods destine for whose who live a meritorious life: unchanging order suddenly born of Chaos, and constant love born of faithless hatred. A kingdom tottering on its foundation stands firm once more, the weather sent from a disordered sky grows calm round about, from the Thunderer’s medicine-chest is come forth healing expected by none. Freedom of movement has replaced the chains of slavery, confusion has given birth to order, and a cosmic upheaval beyond the intellect of men confounds the best judgment of mortal minds.
Any man is familiar with happiness’ gifts who at first hand sees them being given, but, astonished, with a passionate heart he strives to discover the principle which separates such great results from their origin. Yet not even the man who roams the paths of the stars sees what liberated a king already destitute of supplies from Italy’s offspring and the troops of Spain and from the madness of so many rebel citizens, whom error had enclosed in its bulwark.
You should only marvel at God’s power, and at His prudence, beyond our imagining, and His indulgence always ready to forgive, He Who dispersed the enemy armies insolently ranged against us and granted us an outcome transcending all imagination or prayer.
May He who from heaven directs the kingdoms of mortal men remit His anger, looking on our affairs with the benign countenance of His long-standing clemency, may He decree that we hold steadfastly to peace thanks to an eternal covenant, and may He Who has subdued the spirits of our citizens, aroused by these dissensions, and Who has smashed our foreign foe, long preserve our France, from all tumult now set free.
JUP. I am creator of all, powerfully turning the world’s fixed clear lights in the heavens. When I look upon the red-glowing fires of the stars which I have established, flashing with gold in their bejeweled orbits, the works once made with my right hand, I am angry with them, and as their judge, I am enraged at myself for creating an unworthy husbandman and giving him power over all that the fertile earth brings forth.
O delusive life of the children of earth, and souls more fleeting than the passing winds! Proud children with your haughty arrogance, you are able to perish as soon as you are born! And when you slay lesser folk and are full of victory, prideful at the happy outcome, and are enthused by armaments and command that the insignia of triumph be sought out, forgetful of the brevity of future good fortune, and when the earth places no limits on your audacity, you dare (how criminal!) assault the heavens and the gods with impunity and offer up the life you owe to the godhead, a life that should be purer than the light of shining Phoebus and burning fires, tainted with the darkness of filth. Burning with extraordinary greed, what would you desire, mired in the deep filth of your desires? Why do you store up heaps of gold, and divest yourself of whatever made you the equal of the gods of heaven? Why do you, having abandoned me, who sent down the breath of heavenly life into your breast, plunge swiftly into destruction, and continue to walk through the dread streams of the stinking marshes? Unwelcome votive offerings of an impious mind, sent from wretched sickness and a feeble heart, scorning me, the punisher of the wicked, me who wields the power of life and death over all that the world holds in its circumference!
Is it not at my command that the gaping earth swallows up towns, and Neptune, who fears to cross the bounds of the shore with the waves of his waters, hides the sacred gifts of blessed Mother Earth, when his barriers are thrown open? Is it not at my command that the thick and fiery air denies the fields due moisture. or chokes with mud the riches of Attica? All Nature is subject to my commands when I overthrow her laws, and at my words she changes form: the hard rocks open their veins with flowing springs, the sea burns with flames, in the caves of the earth fire envelops rainy darkness, watercourses running in dripping caverns and stormy abysses, I shift the swift winds out of their established homes, and change the places fixed for all things by nature’s laws. I can tell the cold to produce harvests of corn, or the hills to run with new wine in time of frost, bidding him who harvests fruitful fields to bring forth his crops when the winter constricts the sea with its murderous, hoary ice, and the humble vintner to tread the oozing grapes, extracting their limpid nectar and gathering their sweet scents in the springtime. Earth trembles, and, its structure having been revealed, the mountain masses are unmade and fall in unsafe ruins when I hurl deadly thunderbolts from heaven, and horror takes possession of the mountains’ roots and the fiery stars.
And although such power and strength constrain the lands of earth, the waves, and the air, and whatever exists in all places that the sun surveys, whichever way our ploughed Mother, Ceres, sees from heaven, nevertheless rebellious Man, born of worthless origins, provokes the neglected gods to inflict punishment. For although I perceive that the savage beasts that haunt the mountain ranges and hide in dens in the wild woodlands, and those that seek their accustomed food in the fields, acknowledge me lord of all with their hoarse clamour, and all the birds that part the limpid air on whistling wings or whose feathered flight cleaves the realms of the foaming sea, and the massy bulk of rocks and cliffs, and the green countryside whose fertile soil lies all around, and the woods which thrust their branches heavenward — all turn pale and shudder, if they by chance should feel the onbreathing of even a hint of my heavy wrath. But Man, whom I fashioned with a brighter intellect than the rest, and in whose breast the graven image of my divinity shines clear, whom I commanded should be lord of the wealthy earth, whom I bade preside over the waters, obeys nonetheless the abominable promptings of his based desires. My glowing altars lack the solemn honours due them, and those to who I gave gifts without measure, repay my bounty with crimes without end.
And you, France, who proudly equaled the wealth of the sun, who were the only terror of the Italian lands, whose armies were feared by those whom the golden Ganges washed with its sands, and by the black and curly headed race who live beneath the torrid sun, and those mighty bowmen, the martial race of the flighty Parthians, and the Nile which runs into its seven mouths, and whatever the all-seeing sun with its golden light beholds, you alone can state that whatever earth brings forth is yours. But you alone, being more savage, forsake your mighty name and the ancient glory of your ancestors, and also have buried your head, although your were extolled to heaven by your reputation. Behold, now you have conjured forth from the marshes of the Styx and the House of Darkness for this earth, crimes damned to shadows, nor does it shame you that you, who once ruled the nations, obey the dregs of the nations, nor that blazing thunderbolts falling from heaven and rain-clouds sent scudding thanks to fleet gales terrify you. And I abstain from sending fire, nor does the gaping earth swallow up your towns, nor my brother Neptune shake his trident. You are a kingdom formerly unshakable, and I have been slow to anger, and have spared my fierceness long enough. Long enough I have forborne to punish, but now my right hand must be armed with the sword. Now the fearless earth must be shaken and ripped from its deep foundations so that, thanks to your calamity, every race may learn what it means to experience prosperity and adversity alike.
MERC. Bearing my herald’s staff, I convey to all lands whatever sentence stands fixed in the mind of heaven’s king. By my honeyed mouth, Jupiter, my father and the father of men and gods, issues kings with commands that must be carried out. Neither when glowing Phoebus clothes the dark-mantled heavens with his fires, or when weary bodies snatch at slumber or when the woods like still and the beasts of the field or the winged race is silent, together with the liquid lakes and the things that dwell in wild places and thornbrakes, or in forest clearings, and when the stars wheel midway in their gliding orbit and restore spirits forgetful of their heavy labours, do the cares of day or night, now abated, permit me to enjoy quiet and rest. My father Atlas sired me to be busy, and to be the messenger of heaven’s anger, knowing the counsels of the gods, and wield the rod with twin snakes, the gifts of Phoebus. With it I call forth silent shades from the waters of the Styx and send down to the rivers of Pluto’s realm those whose bodily bonds Nature has untied. With it I restrain the heavy rage of kings and with it I lay low the haughty hearts in insolent uproar, just as a massive tower struck by lighting is levelled to the ground, or by tunneling, the mountaintops, their pillars cut asunder, collapse. He gave a chain, joined whereby the ears of mortals follow where he chooses to lead them. By it I once ruled the noble minds of this French nation and, eloquent, drove their minds from pathless darkness and drove away cloudy darkness by exposing error, yet fear that these things will not stand, For I see Father Jove threatening the nations with anger and shaking the sceptre with his dread hand, nor can he longer bear so many crimes unpunished on earth. I shall go, I shall seek to learn the counsels that torment him, and what commands he wishes me to convey, and whether the snaky-haired Furies are to be called forth from their lowest homes, his offspring armed for the destruction of the human race who horrifically punish the crime of Tantalus with due pains.
Eternal ruler of the skies, at whose nod the fabric of the mountains trembles in dissolution, and at whose word both poles blaze with fires and Meroe feels the numb chill, the experience of long time makes me pay heed, since the issuance of some command rests in your mind. If my prophetic mind now sees true, a heavy end soon awaits certain men.
JUP. My son, the insolent audacity and the arrogant pride of puffed-up men disturbs me and France, that concern of heaven, that care of mine, which I made strong in war and abundant in the fruits of the field, and whose wealth I increased, bidding it to rank next to heaven itself in glory, now obeys Dis and is following the ways of error, indulging her unlawful passions, clothing her mind in guile and her body in a splendid cloak of silver and of noble gold. My fixed sentence is to strike her with bloody, unprecedented vengeance.
MERC. Why then should they not be overwhelmed with the waters of a mighty, rushing flood, or their land be burnt up by brandished thunderbolts and they themselves be destroyed by fire hurled from heaven? For fierce Briareus guards the entrance of Hell and the dreadful vulture tears the liver of Tityus. Proud Ixion undergoes the punishment of his boldness, and perpetual labour rolls the boulders; Pelops in the river cannot enjoy the water or the food, nor touch the longed-for dishes in the banquet. Prometheus’s theft on the high peaks of Caucasus, the deceits of Sisyphus show how heavily the Thunderer’s anger falls, and the Danaids show that the faithless will never go unpunished who break the conjugal bond or betray a promise given. If these are lesser crimes that weigh less heavy, further punishment must be added to punishment: thrust down their hateful persons into the Styx, and let yet more splendid dishes torment their mouths with thirst and pale starvation, and let the grim vulture rapaciously tear the reborn liver with its beak and make the punishment still greater.
JUP. Slow to anger, I have beheld the wickedness of the human race with my own eyes, and been slow to punish France prideful with a new religion, nor has it felt the thunderbolts brandished by my hand, but I have spared the avenging punishment in case they would set a limit on the foul forms of their cruel wiicked deeds. But their ferocity grows more uncontrollably and, ungratefully, they never cease to strive with me and pile up deceits upon deceits, and trickery on trickery. Thus the gifts of reason, derived from heaven itself, are undone, black Cocytus with its waters’ slow-moving flood overwhelms the land, and the Stygian marsh, issuing from the kingdom of Dis, occupies those fields I destined by a sempiternal covenant to provide an unshakable place for worship of the gods.
MERC. Command that those who like the entrance to pale Avernus and the pale shades of the Acheron may learn how much living daylight and the darkness of Hell differ. Verily, you wield the thunderbolts with your strong hand and confine Acheron within its own borders. Destroy that which spurns the salvation you offer, and thus it will discover what proffered gifts the arrogance of gentiles has spurned.
IUP. A novel villainy deserves a punishment never before seen. I shall devise torments within their own borders to make these fools appreciate what evils are laid up for the wicked, what is due to the gods, and with what great misfortune they neglect to perform their service. I shall command the soil to bear rich crops and trees in the green meadows to bring forth fruit, but I shall prevent them from being able to harvest them or stave off pale famine and slake their dire thirst with a draught from a clear pool. When July burns the fields and Ceres blesses the earth with gifts, the trees with fruit, and the golden rays of Phoebus’s light seem brighter than his accustomed splendour, tranquil Triton will lift his head from the sea, but I will make them freeze, parched amidst water and cold at their hearths. Strange reapers will harvest their produce, and the black darkness of deepest night will overwhelm their reason. I shall command that they waste away amid sumptuous banquets, and these will be the beginnings of their evil. No moment shall ever be free of tears. Strong youth in the service of their nation shall behold the grim threats of hostile armies, and the rape of virgins, the plundering of the fruits of the fertile soil, blood, devastation, conflagration, sacred and profane confounded — no portion of wretched life shall be safely lived. As a wave thrusts other waves forward, as one tide gives place to the next and day drives out day, so past evils will always be driven forward by fresh ones. Pain will be a companion to pain, grief to grief, and the fury of war will destroy father and son. And lest one of the gods come to their aid in the face of these opposing evils, swiftly set your winged sandals on your feet and speed to convene all the gods whom I deem worthy of the honour of counsel, and to each of whom I have deigned to give a special gift, making them my agents in ruling the globe. I command them to come and be my partners in destroying this villainy. Swiftly bear my commands to them, and forbid them to contrive delays for me.
Go to Act II
A minor Poitevin nobleman and versifier, apparently the translator of a 1610 print of Aretino in prose and verse. His publications include Episémasie [‘Onset’ of an illness], a poem addressed to the Duke of Guise ‘p dremier pair et grand-maître de France’ (1588) ; Anti-Philologie, our Contre-façon, attacking Catholics who refused to recognise Henri IV (1592) ; La Chasteté repentie, a 5 act pastoral in verse, part of his Œuvres poétiques (1602), in which volume this sonnet appears (under ‘Poesies diverses’, p.42) as ‘A Monsieur Hegat escossois, sur sa Trage-comedie Latine, de la France Victorieuse’. was