1603 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Hugh Holland, "Ben Johnson. Ode" Holland, Pancharis (1603) sigs A7v-A10.



Who saith our Times nor have, nor can
Produce us a blacke Swan?
Behold, where one doth swim;
Whose Note, and Hue,
Besides the other Swannes admiring him,
Betray it true:
A gentler Bird, then this,
Did never dint the breast of Tamisis.

Marke, marke, but when his wing he takes,
How faire a flight he makes!
How upward, and direct!
Whil'st pleas'd Apollo
Smiles in his Sphaere, to see the rest affect,
In vaine to follow:
This Swanne is onely his,
And Phoebus love cause of his blacknesse is.

He shew'd him first the hoofe-cleft Spring,
Neere which, the Thespiad's sing;
The cleare Dircaean Fount
Where Pindar swamme;
The pale Pyrene, and the forked Mount:
And, when they came
To brookes, and broader streames,
From Zephyrs rape would close him with his beames.

This chang'd his Downe; till this, as white
As the whole heard in sight,
And still is in the Brest:
That part nor Winde,
Nor Sunne could make to vary from the rest,
Or alter kinde.
"So much doth Virtue hate,
For stile of rareness, to degenerate."

Be then both Rare, and Good; and long
Continue thy sweete Song.
Nor let one River boast
Thy tunes alone;
But prove the Aire, and saile from Coaste to Coast:
Salute old Mone,
But first to Cluid stoope low,
The Vale, that bred thee pure, as her Hills Snow.

From thence, display thy wing againe
Over Ierna maine,
To the Eugenian dale;
There charme the rout
With thy soft notes, and hold them within Pale
That late were out.
"Musicke hath power to draw,
Where neither Force can bend, nor Feare can awe."

Be proofe, the glory of his hand,
(Charles Montjoy) whose command
Hath all beene Harmony:
And more hath wonne
Upon the Kerne, and wildest Irishry,
Then Time hath donne,
Whose strength is above strength;
And conquers all things, yea, it selfe, at length.

Who ever sipt at Baphyre river,
That heard but Spight deliver
His farre-admired Acts,
And is not rap't
With entheate rage, to publish their bright tracts?
(But this more apt
When him alone we sing)
Now must we plie our ayme; our Swan's on wing.

Who (see) already hath ore-flowne
The Hebrid Isles, and knowne
The scatter'd Orcades;
From thence is gon
To utmost Thule: whence, he backes the Seas
To Caledon,
And over Grampius mountaine,
To Loumond lake, and Twedes blacke-springing fountaine.

Haste, Haste, sweete Singer: Nor to Tine,
Humber, or Owse, decline;
But over Land to Trent:
There coole thy Plumes,
And up againe, in skies, and aire to vent
Their reeking fumes;
Till thou at Tames alight,
From whose prowde bosome, thou began'st thy flight.

Tames, prowde of thee, and of his Fate
In entertaining late
The choise of Europes pride;
The nimble French;
The Dutch whom Wealth (not Hatred) doth divide,
The Danes that drench
Their cares in wine; with sure
Though slower Spaine; and Italy mature.

All which, when they but heare a straine
Of thine, shall thinke the Maine
Hath sent her Mermaides in,
To hold them here:
Yet, looking in thy face, they shall begin
To loose that feare;
And (in the place) envie
So blacke a Bird, so bright a Qualitie.

But should they know (as I) that this,
Who warbles PANCHARIS,
Were CYCNUS, once high-flying
With Cupids wing;
Though, now by Love transform'd, and dayly dying:
(Which makes him sing
With more delight, and grace)
Or thought they, Leda's white Adult'rers place

Amongst the starres should be resign'd
To him, and he there shrin'd;
Or Tames be rap't from us
To dimme and drowne
In heav'n the Signe of old Eridanus:
How they would frowne!
But these are Mysteries
Conceal'd from all but cleare Propheticke eyes.

It is inough, their griefe shall know
At their returne, nor Poe,
Iberus, Tagus, Rheine,
Scheldt, nor the Maas,
Slow Arar, nor swift Rhone; the Loyre, or Seine,
With all the race
Of Europes waters can
Set out a like, or a second to our Swan.