This poem references two events: the appearance of a comet on the morning of 18 November 1618 that was visible in the sky over Europe for 28 days; and the death of Anne of Denmark at Hampton Court from dropsy on 2 March in the following year. James had also been seriously ill at the same time (to the extent that he was unable to visit his wife in her final days), and here Ayton suggests that her death acts as a form of propitiatory sacrifice for the king's restored health. See Gullans (ed.), Ayton, pp. 48-50 for further details. Metre: elegiac couplets.
Ad Iacobum aegrotantem cum Cometa apparuit ante mortem Reginae (1619)
Ad Iacobum aegrotantem cum Cometa apparuit ante mortem Reginae
1Vidit ut in caelo metuendum Regibus astrum
Anna, repentino corruit aegra metu.
Non tamen aegra sui formidine corruit, omnis
pro charo fuerat cura metusque viro.
5'Tene', inquit, 'vir chare suo petit igne Cometes,
nec fax placari vilius ista potest?
An nihil offensi satiabit Numinis iram,
publica ni pereat te pereunte salus?
Di melius, 1 liceat potius tua fata subire,
10proque viro conjunx victima laeta litet.
Alcestis potuit morituri fata mariti
morte sua ad longos continuare dies.
[p71] Hanc laudem non sola feret.' Vix dixerat, ecce
lurida tabiscus corripit ossa dolor,
15et moritur. Quid nunc metuas Rex maxime, plenum
16nonne piamentum sideris Anna fuit?
To James in his sickness when a comet appeared before the death of the queen
When Anna saw the star that kings should fear in the heavens, she immediately fell ill with fear. Although she fell sick not in dread for herself - her care and concern was for her dear husband. She then said this: 'Was it you, dear husband, that the comet sought out with its fire, and can that torch not be appeased at little cost? Or will nothing assuage the anger of the offended divinity, so that the safety of the people does not perish upon your demise? May the gods forbid, rather let me suffer your fate, and may your wife happily placate, as a victim in her husband's place. Through her own death, Alcestis a was able to extend the destiny of her then soon-to-die husband until a day far off in the future. [p71]May she not bear this honour on her own!' Scarcely had she finished, when behold a wasting affliction seized her paling bones, and she died. Why do you now fear, greatest king? Surely Anna was a completely effective heavenly sacrifice?