Gratiarum actio, cum in privatum Cubiculum admitteretur (c. 26 May 1608)

On 16 May 1608 Ayton was made a groom of the privy chamber, which provided him with a salary of £20 and board and livery, and a number of small financial gifts at Christmas and New Year. More importantly, as a member of the king's household, Ayton's new position gave him regular access to the king and privy council (though not to the royal bed chamber, the most intimate of the king's private rooms) and immunity from prosecution in legal cases. This coveted position gave Ayton considerable influence at court, and this poem, purportedly written ten days after his elevation (see lines 7-11), expresses his gratitude. For more details, see Gullans (ed.), Ayton, pp. 21-24. Metre: hexameter.

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Gratiarum actio, cum in privatum Cubiculum admitteretur

1Post male civili servatum more pudorem,
legitimosque dies et tempora lapsa loquendi
sera quidem penito sed prompta e pectoris antro
gratia regalem gestit pensare favorem.

5Mirum equidem infami quisquam sua labra reatu
damnet, et aeterno traducat crimine nomen
heu nimis ingrati. Decimum jam Phoebus ab undis
advexit temone diem, totiesque sub undas
demersit roseo flexos temone jugaleis,
10ex quo voce tua Rex augustissime Regum
copia facta mihi primum calcare cubile,
Link to an image of this page  [p67] obtutus captare sacros, bibere aure loquelas,
doctaque flexanimae gustare oracula linguae,
et tamen haud ullo grati se pectoris ardor
15prodidit indicio, non officiosa rependit
pro tantis vel verba bonis: tantum abfuit eheu,
ut quo par fuerat gestu, quo more decebat
adrepens genibus sacris vestigia vultu
verreret et tactae libaret basia dextrae.

20Siccine semper erit? Sic me sic semper habebit
torpor, et exsensi tabes ignava veterni?
Sic semper tenerae pudibunda modestia frontis 1
legibus officii linguam parere vetabit?
Absit, ab expertis damnum torporis Amyclis
25non colere obnixe nocturna silentia discat
muta Charis, 2 pietas linguae jam vincula solvat.
Ne si forte sacro grates quas debet honori
subtrahat, exurgat culpae Lex Iulia vindex,
principis et laesa de majestate queratur.

30Ergo tibi quod me famulum tam prona voluntas
ascivit, musasque meas erroribus actas
innumeris tandem optato requiescere portu
iusserit Augustae blanda indulgentia curae,
en tibi quas animo grateis, quae vota repono.

35Di te majorem faciant ter maxime Princeps,
nam melior non esse potes, respondeat aura
fortunae meritisque tuis votisque turorum,
ut tu respondes precibus, votisque tuorum, 3
iustitiae pacisque pater, tibi serviat orbis
40non aliter quam tu Superis: nisi serus Olympum
non adeas, et cum repetent te saecula caeli
templa fatiscentem sub pondere honoris et aevi;
tunc fama factisque tuis super aethera vectus
innumera innumero transmittas sceptra nepoti.

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An act of thanks for admittance to the king's private bedchamber

1After observing (poorly) due protocol in the civic fashion, and the correct amount of days, and after the time for praising has arrived (too much delayed indeed, but yet brought forth from the innermost recess of my heart), my thanks eagerly strives to repay your royal favour.

5It is indeed a wonder that anyone would condemn their own lips with a disreputable charge, and traduce their own name with the eternal crime of being excessively ungrateful. Now Phoebus has carried ten days from the waves across the sky, and from the sky submerged his rosy chariot back under the waves just as many, from when, most august king of kings, by your command you first gave me free reign to tread upon the bedchamber,Link to an image of this page  [p67]to obtain the sacred gaze, to drink in its speech with my ear, and consume the learned declarations of a winning tongue; even still the love of my grateful heart has not given itself over to a token of my esteem, nor in return for such bounty has it repaid your kind words. Ah, indeed it was so far from it that, with the fitting gesture, with the fitting custom, while edging forward on supplicant knees, it approached your person, and showered kisses upon your anointed right hand.

20Will it always be thus? Will inactivity always hold me thus, and unfeeling lethargy's unthinking disease also? Will the bashful modesty of my young brow always inhibit my tongue from complying with the conventions of duty? May it be gone, may my silent Muse learn from the Spartans, who paid the penalty for their stupor, not to over-eagerly worship the silence of the night; a may my tongue's obligation now break free of its chains, so that, if perhaps it does not provide the thanks due to your reverend honour, then the avenger of sin, the Lex Julia, b will not arise, nor bewail the injured majesty of the prince.

30Therefore, since your will has been so favourable to ackowledge me as your servant, and the pleasant tenderness of your august love will have finally bid my muses, who have been driven by countless wrong turns, to find their rest in their longed-for harbour, behold the thanks and the prayers that I repay your mind.

35May the gods enlarge you, thrice enlarged prince, c for you cannot be better, let the wind of fortune yield to your merits and the prayers of your people, as you yield to the prayers and entreaties of your people, o father of peace and justice, may the world serve you, in the same way you serve the Gods. May you not head for heaven unless at a later date, and when in time the temples of heaven seek you out, as you strain under the burden of your glory and age, then borne above the ether by your reputation and deeds, may you hand over your innumerable sceptres to your innumerable descendants.



1: Statius, Silvae II.1.43

2: Cf. Ovid, Metamorphoses VII.184.

3: Virgil, Georgics I.47


a: The reference here is unclear.

b: The leges Iuliae were laws in ancient Rome passed by any member of the Julii, but most commonly refer to the laws on marriage, bribery and adultery passed by Augustus in 18-17BC. The reference here is unclear.

c: With the kingdoms of England and Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.