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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 17

The Death of the Duke of Buckingham

By Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

  • George Villiers, second Duke of Buckingham, was a prominent courtier in the reigns of Charles II and James II. He organized the ministry called the “Cabal,” and was satirized by Dryden in his “Absalom and Achitophel.” After squandering great wealth, died at the house of one of his tenants in Yorkshire under the circumstances described, on April 17, 1688.

  • *****
    IN the worst inn’s room, with mat half-hung,

    The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung,

    On once a flock-bed, but repaired with straw,

    With tape-tied curtains never meant to draw,

    The George and Garter dangling from that bed

    Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,

    Great Villiers lies—alas! how changed from him,

    That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!

    Gallant and gay, in Cliveden’s proud alcove,

    The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;

    Or just as gay at council, in a ring

    Of mimic statesmen and their merry King,

    No wit to flatter left of all his store!

    No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.

    There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,

    And fame, this lord of useless thousands ends.