Monday, November 13, 2023

Elizabeth Melville

Elizabeth Melville (c.1578―c.1640), also known as Lady Culross, is a Scottish poet. The first edition of her Ane Godlie Dreame appeared in 1603, making her the first known woman in Scotland to have her poetry published. Her father, Sir James Melville of Halhill, served in the courts of Mary Queen of Scots, and King James VI (who became England’s James I in 1603).

She described her 60-stanza, 480-line poem as an account of a dream she had had when in deep spiritual anguish. It has been suggested that John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress was influenced by Ane Godlie Dreame.

Elizabeth Melville was active among those resisting English attempts to bring the Presbyterian Kirk under the authority and influence of the Church of England. She wrote the following sonnet for the Calvinist preacher John Welsh, when ― for holding a General Assembly at Aberdeen in July, 1605 ― he was imprisoned in Blackness Castle.

A Sonnet Sent to Blackness
To Mr. John Welsh by the Lady Culross

My Dear Brother with courage bear the cross.
---Joy shall be joined with all your sorrow here;
High is your Hope. Disdain this worldly dross:
---Anew shall you for this wished day appear.

Though it is dark, the sky cannot be clear.
---After the cloud, it shall be calm anon.
Wait on his will who with Blood hath bought you dear
---Extol his name though outward joys be gone.

Look to the Lord: you are not left alone.
---Since he is yours, oft pleasure can you take.
He is at hand and hears your every groan
---End out your fight and suffer for his sake.

---A sight most bright your soul shall shortly see
---When show of glore your rich reward shall be.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.