John Denham

(1615-1669 / England)

On Mr. John Fletcher's Works - Poem by John Denham

So shall we joy, when all whom beasts and worms
Have turn'd to their own substances and forms:
Whom earth to earth, or fire hath changed to fire,
We shall behold more than at first entire;
As now we do to see all thine thy own
In this my Muse's resurrection,
Whose scatter'd parts from thy own race more wounds
Hath suffer'd than Actaeon from his hounds;
Which first their brains, and then their belly fed,
And from their excrements new poets bred.
But now thy Muse enraged, from her urn,
Like ghosts of murder'd bodies, does return
T' accuse the murderers, to right the stage,
And undeceive the long-abused age,
Which casts thy praise on them, to whom thy wit
Gives not more gold than they give dross to it;
Who not content, like felons, to purloin,
Add treason to it, and debase the coin.
But whither am I stray'd? I need not raise
Trophies to thee from other men's dispraise;
Nor is thy fame on lesser ruins built,
Nor needs thy juster title the foul guilt
Of eastern kings, who, to secure their reign,
Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain.
Then was wit's empire at the fatal height,
When labouring and sinking with its weight,
From thence a thousand lesser poets sprung,
Like petty princes from the fall of Rome;
When Jonson, Shakespeare, and thyself, did sit,
And sway'd in the triumvirate of wit.
Yet what from Jonson's oil and sweat did flow,
Or what more easy Nature did bestow
On Shakespeare's gentler Muse, in thee full grown
Their graces both appear, yet so that none
Can say, Here nature ends, and art begins;
But mix'd like th'elements, and born like twins,
So interwove, so like, so much the same,
None this mere nature, that mere art can name:
'Twas this the ancients meant; nature and skill
Are the two tops of their Parnassus' hill.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, September 18, 2010

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