1637 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Henry King, "Upon Ben. Johnson" Jonsonius Virbius (1637) 16-18.



I see that wreath which doth the wearer arme
Gainst the quick stroakes of Thunder, is no charme
To keepe off deaths pale dart: For (JOHNSON) then
Thou hadst been number'd still with living men:
Times Sythe had feard thy Laurell to invade,
Nor thee this Subject of our sorrow made.

Amongst those many Votaries that come
To offer up their Garlands at thy Tombe,
Whilst some more lofty Pens in their bright Verse,
(Like glorious Tapers flaming on thy Herse)
Shall light the dull and thanklesse World to see,
How great a maime it suffers, (wanting thee;)
Let not thy learned shadow scorne, that I
Pay meaner Rites unto thy Memory:
And since I nought can adde but in desire,
Restore some sparks which leapt from thine owne fire.

What ends soever other Quils invite,
I can protest, it was no itch to write,
Nor any vaine ambition to be read,
But meerely love and justice to the dead,
Which rais'd my famelesse Muse; and caus'd her bring
These drops, as tribute throwne into that Spring,
To whose most rich and fruitfull head we owe
The purest streames of language which can flow.
For 'tis but truth; Thou taughtest the ruder Age,
To speake by Grammar; and reformd'st the Stage;
Thy Comick sock induc'd such purged sense,
A Lucrece might have heard without offence.
Amongst those soaring Wits that did dilate
Our English, and advance it to the rate
And value it now holds, thyselfe was one
Helpt lift it up to such proportion,
That thus refin'd and roab'd it shall not spare
With the full Greeke or Latine to compare.
For what Tongue ever durst, but Ours, translate
Great Tullies Eloquence, or Homers State?
Both which in their unblemishtlustre shine,
From Chapmans Pen, and from thy CATILINE.

All I would aske for thee, in recompense
Of thy successfull toyle, and time's expense
Is onely this poor boone: That those who can
Perhaps read French, or talke Italian,
Or doe the lofty Spaniard affect,
(To shew their skill in forraigne dialect)
Prove not themselves so unnat'rally wise
They therefore should their Mother-tongue despise:
(As if her Poets both for stile and witt,
Not equal'd, or not pass'd their best that writt)
Untill by studying JOHNSON they have knowne
The heighth, and strength, and plentie of their owne.
Thus in what low earth, or neglected roome
So ere thou sleepst, thy BOOKE shall be thy Tombe,
Thou wilt goe downe a happie Coarse, bestrew'd
With thine owne Flowres and feele thy selfe renew'd,
Whilst thy immortall, never with'ring Bayes
Shall yearely flourish in thy Readers praise.
And when more spreading Titles are forgot,
Or, spight of all their Lead and Seare-cloth, rot;
Thou wrapt and shrin'd in thine owne sheets wilt lye,
A Relique fam'd by all Posteritie.