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

February 9

The Murder of Darnley

By William E. Aytoun (1813–1865)

  • Lord Darnley was the second husband of Mary Queen of Scots and her cousin-german. The Queen was at first very fond of him, but he contrived to alienate her affection by his insolence and profligacy, and especially by his share in the murder of her Italian secretary, Rizzio. While convalescing from an attack of small-pox he was removed to a solitary house near Edinburgh, which was blown up with gunpowder by the Earl of Bothwell, on Feb. 9, apparently with the Queen’s knowledge and consent.

  • (From “Bothwell”)

    DOWN came the rain with steady pour,

    It splashed the pools among our feet;

    Each minute seemed in length an hour,

    As each went by, yet uncomplete.

    “Hell! should it fail, our plot is vain!

    Bolton—you have mislaid the light!

    Give me the key—I’ll fire the train,

    Though I be partner of his flight!”

    “Stay, stay, my Lord! you shall not go!

    ’Twere madness now to near the place;

    The soldiers’ fuses burn but slow;

    Abide, abide a little space!

    There’s time enough”—
    He said no more,

    For at the instant flashed the glare,

    And with a hoarse infernal roar

    A blaze went up and filled the air!

    Rafters, and stones, and bodies rose

    In one thick gush of blinding flame,

    And down, and down, amidst the dark,

    Hurtling on every side they came.

    Surely the devil tarried near,

    To make the blast more fierce and fell,

    For never pealed on human ear

    So dreadful and so dire a knell.

    The heavens took up the earth’s dismay,

    The thunder bellowed overhead;

    Steep called to steep. Away, away!—

    Then fear fell on me, and I fled.

    For I was dazzled and amazed—

    A fire was flashing in my brain—

    I hasted like a creature crazed,

    Who strives to overrun his pain.

    I took the least frequented road,

    But even there arose a hum;

    Lights showed in every vile abode,

    And far away I heard the drum.

    Roused was the city, late so still;

    Burghers, half clad, ran hurrying by,

    Old crones came forth, and scolded shrill,

    Men shouted challenge and reply.

    Yet no one dared to cross my path,

    My hand was on my dagger’s hilt;

    Fear is as terrible as wrath,

    And vengeance not more fierce than guilt.

    I would have stricken to the heart

    Whoever should have stopped me then;

    None saw me from the palace part,

    None saw me enter it again.

    Ah! but I heard a whisper pass,

    It thrilled me as I reached the door—

    “Welcome to thee, the knight that was,

    The felon now for evermore!”