Ben Jonson

(11 June 1572 – 6 August 1637 / London / England)

Xii: Epistle To Elizabeth Countesse Of Rutland - Poem by Ben Jonson

Madame,

VVhil'st that, for which all vertue now is sold,
And almost every vice, almightie gold,
That which, to boote with hell, is thought worth heaven,
And for it, life, conscience, yea soules are given,
Toyles, by grave custome, up and downe the Court,
To every squire, or groome, that will report
Well, or ill, only, all the following yeere,
Just to the waight their this dayes-presents beare;
While it makes huishers serviceable men,
And some one apteth to be trusted, then,
Though never after; whiles it gaynes the voyce
Of some grand peere, whose ayre-doth make rejoyce
The foole that gave it; who will want, and weepe,
When his proud patrons favours are asleepe;
While thus it buyes great grace, and hunts poore fame;
Runs betweene man, and man, 'tweene, dame, and dame;
Solders crackt friendship; makes love last a day;
Or perhaps lesse: whil'st gold beares all this sway,
I, that have none (to send you) send you verse.
A present which (if elder Writs reherse
The truth of times) was once of more esteeme,
Than this, our guilt, nor golden age can deeme,
When gold was made no weapon to cut throats,
Or put to flight Astrea, when her ingots
Were yet unfound, and better plac'd in earth,
Than, here, to give pride fame, and peasants birth.
But let this drosse carry: what price it will
With noble ignorants, and let them still,
Turne, upon scorned verse, their quarter-face:
With you, I know, my offring will finde grace.
For what a sinne 'gainst your great fathers spirit,
Were it to think, that you should not inherit
His love unto the Muses, when his skill
Almost you have, or may have, when you will?
Wherein wise Nature you a dowrie gave,
Worth an estate, treble to that you have.
Beauty, I know, is good, and blood is more;
Riches thought most: But, Madame, think what store
The world hath seene, which all these had in trust,
And now lye lost in their forgotten dust.
It is the Muse alone, can raise to heaven,
And, at her strong armes end, hold up, and even,
The soules, she loves. Those other glorious notes,
Inscrib'd in touch or marble, or the cotes
Painted, or carv'd upon our great-mens tombs,
Or in their windowes; doe but prove the wombs,
That bred them, graves: when they were borne, they dy'd,
That had no Muse to make their fame abide.
How many equall with the Argive Queene,
Have beauty knowne, yet none so famous seene?
Achilles was not first, that valiant was,
Or, in an armies head, that lockt in brasse,
Gave killing strokes. There were brave men, before
Ajax, or Idomen, or all the store,
That Homer brought to Troy; yet none so live:
Because they lack'd the sacred pen, could give
Like life unto 'hem. Who heav'd Hercules
Unto the starrs? or the Tyndarides?
Who placed Jasons Argo in the skie?
Or set bright Ariadnes crowne so high?
Who made a lampe of Berenices hayre?
Or lifted Cassiopea in her chayre?
But only Poets, rapt with rage divine?
And such, or my hopes faile, shall make you shine.
You, and that other starre; that purest light,
Of all Lucina's traine; Lucy the bright.
Than which, a nobler heaven it selfe knowes not.
Who, though shee have a better Verser got,
(Or Poet, in the Court account) than I,
And, who doth me (though I not him) envy,
Yet for the timely favours shee hath done,
To my lesse sanguine Muse, wherein she hath wonne
My gratefull soule, the subject of her powers,
I have already us'd some happy houres,
To her remembrance; which when time shall bring
To curious light, to notes, I then shall sing,
Will prove old Orpheus Act no rule to be:
For I shall move stocks, stones, no lesse than he.
Then all, that have but done my Muse least grace,
Shall thronging come, and boast the happy place
They hold in my strange poems, which, as yet,
Had not their forme touch'd by an English wit.
There like a rich, and golden Pyramede,
Borne up by statues, shall I roare your head,
Above your under-carved ornaments,
And show, how, to the life, my soule presents
Your forme imprest there: not with tickling rimes,
Or Common-places, filch'd, that take these times,
But high, and noble matter; such as flies
From braines entranc'd, and fill'd with extasies;
Moods, which the god-like Sydney oft did prove,
And your brave friend, and mine so well did love.
Who, wheresoere he be ---


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 9, 2010



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