De rebus Bohemicis (c.1621-1622)

In 1619 King James' son-in-law, the Elector Palatine Frederick V, accepted the crown of Bohemia and joined in the country's rebellion against the holy Roman emperor, Ferdinand II. A year later Frederick and his wife, Elizabeth, were expelled by Ferdinand's forces; and while Protestants across Europe expected James to support his daughter and son-in-law in pursuing their restoration, he absolutely refused, famously denouncing his son-in-law's poor lack of judgment and preferring instead to put his energies into negotiating a peaceful settlement with Habsburg Spain. This poem reflects contemporary perceptions of James' response to the crisis. A full account of the background to the poem, with contemporary English translation, can be found in Gullans (ed.), Ayton, pp. 56-59. Metre: elegiac couplets.

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De rebus Bohemicis

1Dum gener infaustis tentat temerarius ausis
eripere Austriaco colla Bohema jugo;
consilium damnas Iacobe Britannice, et Orbis
ne te consilii participem esse putet;
5permittis generum fatis, causaeque labanti
suppetias sola vel prece ferre negas.
Quin etiam laribus pulsos natamque nepotesque,
aspicis immotis et sine rore genis.
Iustitiae o mirum specimen! De te tamen orbis
10quis musset, liceat dicere pace tua.
Hac ratione potes justus Rex forte videri,
sed non crudelis non potes esse pater.

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On Bohemian affairs

As your son-in-law attempts to remove Bohemia's neck from Austria's yoke, you, James Britannicus, censure the plan, and, in case the world thinks that you were party to the plan, you consign your son-in-law to the fasti, a and you say that you did not provide support for his tottering cause with even a single intervention. Indeed, moreover, you look down upon your daughter and family driven from their native hearths with your countenance unmoved and without tears. What a marvellous example of justice! Yet with your permission I may say what the world whispers concerning you: in this matter perhaps you are able to appear a just king, but you are not able to be an uncruel father.



a: See d1_AytR_002, note b.