It is unclear when this generic critique of court life was written, but the reference in lines 3-6 to two years having passed since Ayton's arrival there suggests it was written around 1606. Given that he did not receive his first official appointment until 1608, this poem thus appears to be an expression of his frustration at not advancing by any great means in the interim, while also serving as an apology to King James for not producing better poems in praise of him. Metre: elegiac couplets.
Aulae valedicit (c. 1606?)
1Aula vale, quid me ludis fallacibus umbris,
quid mentem amenti credulitate necas?
Iam bis frigoribus gelidis 1 astricta quievit
terra per hibernas desidiosa moras:
[p68] 5bis Zephyro tepefacta novo pia viscera partu
solvit, 2 et in vernas luxuriavit opes: 3
ex quo grande morae pretium sperare jubebas,
fataque non meritis inferiora meis.
At nunc nil misero restat nisi turba dolorum,
10post infaelicis taedia longa morae.
Fugerunt anni celeres, occasio velox
terga dedit versis non revocanda comis. 4
Quodque magis doleo, tristes fugere Camoenae,
et desolatis rebus adesse negant.
15Quas ego sum toties faciles expertus et aequas,
nunc mihi difficiles sors minus aequa facit.
Usque adeo ut cum jam redeant solennia Iani,
tempus et assueto munera more petat:
vix post discerptos centenis morsibus ungues
20unus ab exhausto pectore versus eat. 5
Adde, quod et justae geminat momenta querelae,
teque facit certi criminis aula ream.
Qui fueram plausu veniens exceptus amico,
sibila nunc in me naris adunca jacit.
25Scilicet ut nunc sunt mores, sordescere virtus
incipit, et vili vilior esse luto,
ni comes assistens vultu fortuna faventi,
sublimem in celsa conditione locet.
Scilicet ut nunc sunt mores, famuletur oportet
30et simulet virtus dissimuletque simul,
aut lacera in triviis discurrat, et obsita pannis
emendicatos ingerat ore cibos.
Si qua est conditio melior virtutis, opimas
magnatum ad mensas macra analecta legit.
35Me tamen haud unquam recto de tramite flectet 6
aut lucri, at nimii caecus honoris amor.
Sed licet obscurus mediaque inhonorus in aula,
virtutem ut colui, qua licet usque colam.
Et quandoque mihi proprio componere vitam
40arbitrio forsan fata benigna dabunt;
privatus vivam potius non cognitus aulae,
surget ubi obscuro pergula parva loco.
Et Phoebo Phoebique vacans ardoribus, omni
[p69] transmittam vacuos ambitione dies:
45quam scelerum auspicio mistus primoribus aulae
inque auro inque ostro conspiciendus eam.
Interea tu testis eris, tu cujus in ore
suada, manu Mavors, corde Minerva sedet,
me quocunque dies fluxi et quantumlibet aevi
50subduxit studiis hactenus aula meis,
aegro ferre animo, non quod lactarit inanem
spe 7 sterili ingratae messis acerba morae:
sed quia non licuit de te bene posse mereri,
in me qui tanti plenus amoris eras.
55Sed quia non licuit per iniquae incommoda fortis
grati animi firmam conciliare fidem:
erga illum qui flos equitum, sol aureus aulae
regis amor, Patriae delitiumque suae,
tam placido semper me aspexit lumine, et unus
60musarum in vernas officiosus erat.
Farewell to court
Farewell, court! Why do you trick me with deceptive shades, why do you destroy my mind with foolish credulity? Now twice bound by freezing frosts the earth has lain still, inactive across Winter's long delay: [p68]twice softened by the Zephyr a it has released its sacred offspring in a new birth, and abounded in Spring's riches, since you used to bid me hope for reward for my stay, and fortunes not unworthy of my merits. Yet now nothing remains for me in my misery except a crowd of woes, after the long weariness of an unhappy stay. The swift years have fled, the quick-passing season has turned its back on the altered leaves and cannot be recalled. And what grieves me more, the sad Muses have fled me, and they refuse to be present amid my forsaken duties. How often I have experienced kindly and willing Muses; and now unkindly fortune has made them unwilling for me. This happens to the extent that, when the festivities of Janus come around, and the season demands gifts in the customary fashion, scarely until my nails have been lacerated by a hundred bites does a single verse emanate from my worn-out heart. b Moreover, the court redoubles the opportunities for just complaint, and makes you complicit in an established crime. I who, upon my arrival, had been received with friendly acclaim, now find out-of-joint noses hissing their contempt at me. Clearly, as is the fashion, virtue begins to be shunned, and is more vile than vile filth; unless attendant fortune, who stands by with a favouring gaze, would place it high in an exalted rank. Clearly, as is the fashion, virtue must serve, and must pretend and at the same time dissemble, or must wander lacerated through the streets, and covered in rags must shovel food obtained by begging into its mouth. Wherever there is a higher place for virtue, it picks at the meagre scraps from the rich tables of the nobles. Nevertheless, never will a blind passion for either money or too many an honour turn me from the right path. Yet although I stand obscure and without honour in the middle of court, as I have tended to virtue, I shall continue to tend to it as much as I can. And whenever the gracious fates will perhaps allow me to arrange my life according to my own desire, I should prefer to live in seclusion, oblivious to court, where a little retreat will be built in an obscure location, and, free from Phoebus, and from the fervour of Phoebus, [p69]pass my days free from all ambition, than to proceed to be seen in gold and purple amid the chiefs of court. Meanwhile, you will be a witness (you, in whose mouth Persuasion sits, in whose hand Mars sits, and in whose heart Minerva sits) c that I bore poorly in my soul all the days and however much of fleeting time the court has thus far deprived from my studies - not because the bitter harvest of the unwelcome stay tricked me in my studipity with empty promises, but rather because I was not allowed to be able fully to be worthy of you; you who were filled with such a love for me. But since, through the troubles of iniquitous fortune, it was not allowed for me to provide a firm token of my grateful mind, therefore I provide that which is the flower of the knights, the golden sun of the court, the lover of the king, and the delight of its fatherland; that which always looked upon me in such a pleasant light, and alone of my muses was ready to serve.
1: Cf. Virgil, Georgics I.48; and Ovid, Metamorphoses I.120.
2: Virgil, Georgics I.43-4
3: Although Virgil, Georgics I.43-8 is clearly at the forefront of Ayton's mind here, Buchanan, Valentiniana 86-8 is the primary textual influence.
4: Cf. Horace, Odes IV.7.1-3.
5: This passage on new year's gifts is one that was admired and reused by the Augustinian monk Ignazio Della Croce in his poem to Prince Francesco Maria Spinella of Scalea (1750).
6: Buchanan, Psalm Paraphrases I.1-2
7: Buchanan, Psalm Paraphrases I.11
a: The god of the west wind, but also metonymic for a soft Spring breeze.
b: On new year's gifts, see also d1_AytR_003.
c: James VI and I.