In Obitum Ducis BUCKINGAMII a Filtono cultro exstincti, 1628

George Villiers, the first duke of Buckingham, was stabbed to death in the hall of the Greyhound Inn on 23 August 1628 by John Felton. Felton had served in the fleet under Buckingham that had mounted a failed campaign against French Catholic forces (commanded by Cardinal Richelieu) off the island of Ré in 1627, and blamed Buckingham for his debts and lack of advancement (as did many sailors during his tenure as lord high admiral). However, he was decisively spurred into action by a remonstrance read in parliament on 17 June 1628 which accused Buckingham of ineptness and corruption. Ayton makes reference to the accusations against Buckingham at lines 29-32. For other details of Villier's life, see d1_AytR_015.

This poem also includes untitled verses on Ayton's pursuit of the provostship of Eton College (d1_AytR_014), which have been mistakenly appended to the original text in the DPS. See note to line 35 for more details. Metre: elegiac couplets.

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In Obitum Ducis BUCKINGAMII a Filtono cultro exstincti, 1628

1Dum classe amissos reparatum is classe triumphos,
magnaque stat flatu vela datura tuo;
fit tibi pro lauro merces, Dux magne, cupressus,
classis et officium cymba Charontis obit.
5Scilicet humanam vultu mentita figuram
invidia eximiis semper iniqua viris,
in te audet cultro infami, quod nulla tacere,
et quod nulla velint saecla probare scelus.
Dumque Dei obtendit nutum, patriaeque salutem,
10vindictae mactat sacra cruenta suae.
Sed sceleri semper Deus est sua dira cupido, 1
publicaque obtendit, dum sua damna gemit.
Nam nihil est commune Deo cum sanguine, nullum
placari numen caedis odore velit.
15Afflavit parricidam furialis Erynnis,
armavitque trucem saeva Megaera manum.
Quicquid eras, quicquid querula de plebe fuisti
promeritus, non sic percutiendus eras.
Non tua cujusquam rubuit vel dextera letho,
20linguave, apud Reges grata, potensque duos.
Officiis multos obstrinxit, 2 injuria paucos
attigit, aut si quos, absque cruore fuit.
Si tua credulitas non succubuisset ineptis
consiliis, Regni dum grave pondus obis,
25si tibi quanta fides, constantia tanta fuisset,
si sors fortunae sida ministra tuae;
par animo et factis summis Heroibus isses,
nec posset de te terra Britanna queri.
Nunc quia pauca domi non sunt bene gesta, forisque
30paucula successus non habuere suos:
creditur esse dolus, fuerat quae culpa: putatur
esse scelus, lapsus qui juvenilis erat.
Rumpatur livor, dicam quod sentio, certe
imprudens potius quam sceleratus eras.

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35Aetonum si Aetona ambit, si Aetonus et illam,
quis male disjungat quos bene jungit amor?
Nominibus si fata latent, affinia amantum
nomina, quis nutum Numinis esse neget?
Maxime Rex fatis accede, beabis amantes,
40Aetono Aetonae si paranymphus eris.

Per Musas te Aetona rogat, Rex optime, ut illas
splendori antiquo restituisse velis.
Per Musas quoque te supplex Aetonus adorat,
ut Musis illum restituisse velis.
45Utrumque efficies, unum si feceris, hoc est,
46Aetonum Aetonae si sociare velis.

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On the death of the Duke of Buckingham, who was killed with a knife by Felton, 1628

1As you proceed with the fleet to restore the triumphs taken from the fleet, and its great sails stand ready to yield to your blast, the funereal cypress wreath falls to you, great duke, in place of the laurel, and Charon's ferry takes on the business of the fleet. Envy, always unfair to the best of men, having clearly assumed a human shape in appearance, ventures against you with an infamous knife, because no age would stop talking about you, and because no age would approve the crime. While it says that the favour of God and the safety of the fatherland is its concern, it makes the offering at the blood-stained altars for its own revenge. But for the wicked their own grim desire is God, and they say it is on behalf of the nation as they wail about their own injuries. For God has nothing in common with blood, no deity wishes to be pacified by the stench of slaughter. The raging furies encouraged the parricide, and fierce Megaera armed the savage hand. Whatever you were, and whatever you deserved from the querelous plebs, you should not have been struck in this way. Your right hand was not bloodied by the death of anyone, and your speech was pleasing and persuasive for two kings. a You controlled many in your duties, harm came to few - and if there were any, it was bloodless. If your faith did not succumb to stupid counsel, as you encountered the grave matters of state; if you had as much faith as you had constancy; if the casting of your fortune has been a faithful mistress: then matching the greatest heroes in thought and deeds you would have gone, and Britain would not have been able to bewail your fate. Now since a few things have not been done well at home, and a very few things have not had a happy outcome abroad, b it is believed that what was actually a mistake is evidence of evil intent; it is thought that what was actually a childish lapse is wickedness. It is an outbreak of envy - I shall say what I think - for without doubt you were more rash than wicked.Link to an image of this page  [p75]

35If Eton seeks Ayton, c if Ayton also seeks it, who would unhappily uncouple those whom love had happily joined? If their fates are hidden within their names, if the names of these lovers are related, who would deny that it is the will of the divinity? Great King, yield to the fates; you will bless the lovers, if you will be the bridesman of Eton for Ayton.

41Through the Muses Eton asks you, best King, to consent to restore them to their ancient splendour. Through the Muses, Ayton in supplication also implores you to consent to restore him to the Muses. You will accomplish both, if you do this one thing: if you consent to join Ayton to Eton.



1: Virgil, Aeneid IX.185

2: 'obstrinxti' in original text


a: James VI and I, and Charles I.

b: The failure of the expedition to Ré, but also probably to a similar abortive attack against the Spanish at Cadiz two years earlier.

c: Lines 35-46 are clearly a separate poem, referring to Ayton's attempts in 1623-4 to secure the provostship of Eton for himself. The page break appears to have confused the typesetter,who has neglected to supply a title for the piece. The mistake is not noted by Gullans, who assumes that these lines (along with lines 13-14 and 19-22) are part of an extended version of the poem, which also exists in MS Rawl. poet. 26, f. 38v. See Gullans (ed.), Ayton, pp. 338-339.