Poetic views of the Duke of Buckingham


James VI & I:
To the Duke of Buckingham

Now let us all rejoice sing paeans all
For Buckingham is now made Admiral
And he that rules the horse our strength by land
Our strength by sea the Navy doth command:
So in the heavenly Court that selfsame God -
Neptune I mean - that with his three tooth'd Rod
Brought forth the horse, doth with the same appease
The raging fury of the boisterous seas.
Why then should any grudge that favour graces
The merit of one person with two places
Since it is so amongst the states of heaven
Where none dare doubt but things are carried even.


James Shirley (1596 - 1666):

Epitaph on Buckingham

Here lies the best and worst of fate,
Two Kings' delight, the people's hate,
The courtiers' star, the kingdom's eye,
A man to draw an angel by.
Fear's despiser, Villiers' glory,
The great man's volume, all times' story.


Edmund Waller (1606 - 1687):

Of His Majesty's receiving the news of the Duke of Buckingham's death .

So earnest with thy God! can no new care,
No sense of danger, interrupt thy prayer?
The sacred wrestler, till a blessing given,
Quits not his hold, but halting conquers heaven;
Nor was the stream of thy devotion stopped,
When from the body such a limb was lopped,
As to thy present state was no less maim,
Though thy wise choice has since repaired the same.
Bold Homer durst not so great virtue feign
In his best pattern: for Patroclus slain,
With such amazement as weak mothers use,
And frantic gesture, he receives the news.
Yet fell his darling by the impartial chance
Of war, imposed by royal Hector's lance;
Thine in full peace, and by a vulgar hand
Torn from thy bosom, left his high command.

The famous painter could allow no place
For private sorrow in a prince's face:
Yet, that his piece might not exceed belief,
He cast a veil upon supposed grief.
'Twas want of such a precedent as this
Made the old heathen frame their gods amiss.
Their Phoebus should not act a fonder part
For their fair boy, than he did for his hart;
Nor blame for Hyacinthus' fate his own,
That kept from his wished death, hadst thou been known.

He that with thine shall weigh good David's deeds,
Shall find his passion, not his love, exceeds:
He cursed the mountains where his brave friend died,
But let false Ziba with his heir divide;
Where thy immortal love to thy best friends,
Like that of heaven, upon their seed descends.
Such huge extremes inhabit thy great mind,
Godlike, unmoved, and yet, like woman, kind!
Which of the ancient poets had not brought
Our Charles's pedigree from heaven, and taught
How some bright dame, compressed by mighty Jove,
Produced this mixed divinity and love?



Owen Felltham (1602?- 1668):

On the Duke of Buckingham - slain by Felton23 August 1628.

Sooner I may some fixed statue be,
Than prove forgetful of thy death or thee!
Canst thou be gone so quickly? Can a knife
Let out so many titles and a life?

Now I'll mourn thee! On that so huge a pile
Of state should pash thus in so small a while!
Let the rude Genius of the giddy train,
Brag in a fury that they have stabb'd Spain,
Austria, and the skipping French: yea, all
Those home-bred Papists that would sell our fall:
Th'eclipse of two wise Princes' judgments: more,
The waste, whereby our land was still kept poor.
I'll pity yet, at least thy fatal end,
Shot like a lightning from a violent hand,
Taking thee hence unsumm'd. Thou art to me
The great example of mortality.

And when the times to come shall want a name
To startle greatness, here is Buckingham
Fallen like a meteor: and 'tis hard to say
Whether it was that went the stranger way,
Thou or the hand that slew thee: thy estate
Was high, and he was resolute above that.
Yet since I hold of none engaged to thee,
Death and that liberty shall make me free.
Thy mists I knew not: if thou had'st a fault,
My charity shall leave it in the vault,
There for thine own accounting: 'Tis undue
To speak ill of the dead though it be true.
And this even those that envy'd thee confess,
Thou had'st a mind, a flowing nobleness,
A fortune, friends, and such proportion,
As call for sorrow, to be thus undone.

Yet should I speak the vulgar, I should boast
Thy bold assassinate, and wish almost
He were no Christian, that I up might stand,
To praise th'intent of his misguided hand.
And sure when all the patriots in the shade
Shall rank, and their full musters there be made,
He shall sit next to Brutus, and receive
Such bays as heath'nish ignorance can give.
But then the Christian (poising that) shall say,
Though he did good, he did it the wrong way.
They oft decline into the worst of ill,
That act the people's wish without law's will.


Patroclus = the bosom friend of Achilles. When he heard of Patroclus' death, Achilles mourned so loudly that his mother, the sea-goddess Thetis, heard him from the depths of the ocean and came to comfort him.

In Book 10 of Ovid's Metamorphosis, Hyacinthus was accidentally killed by Phoebus, the Sun-god. Grieved by his death Phoebus made a purple lily spout from the fallen Spartan's blood.

II Samuel 1:17-21 "And David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son: Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil."
II Samuel 19: 29-30: And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land. And Mephibosheth said unto the king, Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house.

pash = to break or dash into pieces

unsumm'd = unsummoned

assassinate = assassin

bay = the fruit of the bay tree or laurel that was used to crown classical  (heathen) heroes.