Feature of the Month. Two styles compared: Rollock and Melville

David McOmish

These two dedicatory elegiac poems have King James VI (Melville) and Queen Anne (Rollock) as their focus. The first, Andrew Melville's introduction to the Carmen Mosis, was written in 1572. The second, Hercules Rollock's introduction to his Epithalamium on the wedding of James and Anne, dates from 1589. As well as addressing two different periods in the life of Jacobean Scotland (from James' youth through to his marriage), the poems represent and reflect two very different poetic voices. Melville's poem has a close relationship with Virgil, Eclogues IV. The themes and ideological message of Virgil's poem are exploited by Melville to deal with issues of kingship and divine providence, religion and education. The style is elevated (and impersonal) and the tone didactic. It is a fitting introduction to a poem (the Carmen Mosis) which seeks to direct the pious ruler towards the religious and moral obligations expected of a king (using God's example). Hercules Rollock's poem, by contrast, is more playful in tone and more fluid in style. The poem begins with an extended quote from Horace's Ars Poetica, which sets out to encourage his addressee (Queen Anne) to recognise the importance of watching a poet perform in person. Like Melville, Rollock uses poetic tradition to convey part of his message. However, whereas the strength of Melville's message relies on Virgil's thematic and ideological poetic landscape, Rollock's self-deprecating humour is conveyed through a playful interaction with the couplet form itself, and an inversion of the traditional dedicatory rules (the poet is more praised than the addressee!). In the Latin poem we have one line of hexameter followed by a pentameter line (standard elegiac couplet). As you shall see below, Rollock's hexameter lines carry the burden of much of the lofty and epic sentiments in the poem (line five especially - see opening of both Iliad and Aeneid). His pentameter lines are often where we find the mock-self-referential messages praising his art and positioning himself for reward. The interchange between the lofty and humorous, the stilted and the irreverent works very well in elegiac form. Thus it is also a suitable vehicle for Rollock's humorous attempts to convince Anne to allow him to be present at her welcoming party. Rollock's introduction is also a sign of what will come as his wedding poem will have much of the joviality and raciness to be expected when Bacchus, Ceres, and Venus come to the party (their presence and absence at the party give Rollock more ocassion for mirth-making). One should note the striking similarity between the penultimate lines in both poems. Is Rollock consciously playing with, and subverting, the tone and form of Andrew Melville's dedication? This begs the question is Rollock's poem a comic reworking of Melville's? One final note, Ovid plays a prominent role in the main poem, both linguistically and thematically. Perhaps it is possible to detect Ovid's spirit in this introduction, if not necessarily any of his poety.

Andrew Melville: Dedicatio ad regem Iacobum 6

EXtremæ spes sera plagæ, lux aurea gentis
Arctoæ, & sæcli solque jubarque tui:
Tot sceptris atavorum ingens, ingentior, alta
Indole, quam tollit relligionis honos,
Sancte puer, cape sacra meæ primordia Musæ,
Non secus ac grati prima elementa animi.
Parva quidem tanto, fateor, munuscula Regi:
Parva, sed immensi munere magna Dei.
Ipse tibi majora dabis nostro auspice Phœbo:
Forsan & auspiciis nos meliora tuis. 1

Hercules Rollock: Ad Annam Scotorum Reginam.

SEgnius irritant animum si immissa per aures, 2
Quam quæ sunt fidis tradita luminibus;
Nata deinde animo, quæ rumpunt carmina vocem, 3
Ex penita vatum pabula mente trahunt:
Me cecinisse tuos hic orsum absentis amores,
Indice quos animus segniter aure bibit,
Quem tibi posse putes præsenti assurgere vatem
Ore, oculis, animo, quando vivenda venis?
Ipsa mihi in numeros amnem dabis Anna perennē[m],
Et numeris vives Anna Perenna meis. 4

Dedication to King James VI
Much anticipated hope of the farthest region, golden light
of the northern tribe, both the sun and the splendour of your age:
distinguished by the numerous reigns of your ancestors, more
distinguished by your great genius, which respect for religion nurtures.
Blessed Child, take in hand the holy beginnings of my poem,
and as you do, so do you accept the first elements of a grateful mind.
They are, I confess, little trifles for such a great King:
little, but great through a limitless God's work.
With our Apollo directing, you will provide greater works of this kind:
and perhaps we, with your guidance, will produce better ones too.

To Anna, Queen of Scots
If poems received through the ears stir the soul more sluggishly
Than those which are perceived by the trustworthy eyes,
And if poems produced by the soul, which break forth into song,
Derive their nourishments from deep within the hearts of the poets,
Do you think that I, who have already begun here to sing of your love for the man not there,
Which the soul drinks in sluggishly with its attentive ears,
Do you think that I could be the poet who will rise to meet you with
My words, my eyes and my soul, when you arrive into view?
You yourself, Anna, will give to me an everlasting stream for my verses,
And you will live Everlasting Anna in my verses. 5

Notes:

1: This introductory dedication draws heavily on the imagery, language, and themes of Virgil, Eclogues IV.10-20

2: Horace, Ars Poetica 180-1

3: 'rumpunt...vocem': Virgil, Aeneid II.129

4: Rollock calls Anne 'Anna Perenna', who is the deified personification of time's progression. See Ovid, Fasti III.523 and following

5: 'Everlasting Anna': Rollock identifies the Queen with 'Anna Perenna' the deified personification of time's progression. See Ovid, Fasti III.523 and following. The celebration of Anna's cult was associated with sexual license and copious alcohol consumption (see Ovid). This is a suitable invocation given that sex and drink are the two main themes of the poem which follows this introduction