Votum (n.d.)

A short piece that showcases Melville's 'devotion' to poetry and his desire to be filled up with poetic inspiration by the Muses. Metre: elegiac couplets.

Link to an image of this page  [p120]


Non ego Parnassi cupiam juga, non juga Pindi,
aut optem Aonias aut Heliconis aquas. 1
Una Theocrenes riget unda, et recreet aura,
una Theocrene satque superque mihi. 2
Flumine quae mentem saturet, quae flamine pectus
impleat, hinc Suadae plena medulla meae. 3

Link to an image of this page  [p120]

My devotion

I do not long for the peaks of Parnassus, nor the peaks of Pindus, Nor do I desire the Aonian or Heliconian springs. a Let Theocrenes alone direct me with its water, and let it refresh me with its air, b to be on the banks of the Theocrenes alone is enough for me. Let it fill my mind with its stream, and let it fill up my heart with its breeze, from this source is the very essence of my eloquence. c



1: Virgil, Eclogues X.11-12

2: Silius Italicus, Punica XVII.613

3: Cicero, Brutus 59; Quintilian, Insitutiones II.15.4 and XI.3.31. The quote is attributed to Ennius in both Cicero and Quintilian. For the semantic implications of 'suada' see note below.


a: The mountains of Parnassus and Pindus refer to the muses of poetry in general, and the Aonian spring often refers more specifically to elegiac poetry.

b: A pun on the common lair of the muses, 'Hippocrenes', 'the horse's spring'. So we have 'Theocrenes', 'God's Spring'.

c: This phrase in its original context (see Latin text above) refers to 'persuasiveness' and only by extension 'eloquence'. However, the context of flowing poetry and poetic inspiration must leave the emphasis on poetic, rather than rhetorical, efficacy.