1638 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, "An Eglogue on the Death of Ben Johnson" Jonsonius Virbius: or the Memorie of Ben Johnson revived (1638) 1-9.



MELIBOEUS.
Hylas, the clear day boasts a glorious Sunne,
Our Troope is ready, and our time is come:
That Fox who hath so long our Lambs destroy'd,
And daily in his prosperous rapine joy'd,
Is earth'd not far from hence; old Aegon's sonne,
Rough Corilas, and lusty Corydon,
In part the sport, in part revenge desire,
And both thy Tarrier and thy Aid require.
Haste, for by this, but that for thee we stay'd,
The Prey-devourer had our prey bin made.

HYLAS.
Oh! Melibaeus, now I list not hunt,
Nor have that vigor as before I wont;
My presence will afford them no reliefe,
That Beast I strive to chase is only griefe.

MELIBOEUS.
What mean thy folded Armes, thy downcast eyes,
Teares which so fast descend, and sighs which rise?
What meane thy words which so distracted fall
As all Thy Joyes had now one Funerall?
Cause for such griefe, can our retirements yeeld?
That followes Courts, but stoopes not to the feeld.
Hath thy stern step-dame to thy sire reveal'd
Some youthful act, which thou couldst wish conceal'd?
Part of thy Herd hath some close thiefe convey'd
From open pastures to a darker shade?
Part of thy flocke hath some fierce Torrent drown'd?
Thy harvest fail'd, or Amarillis frown'd?

HYLAS.
Nor Love nor Anger, Accident nor Thiefe,
Hath rais'd the waves of my unbounded griefe:
To cure this cause, I would provoke the ire
Of my fierce Step-dame or severer Sire,
Give all my Heards, Fields, Flocks, and all the grace
That ever shone in Amarillis face.
Alas, that Bard, that glorious Bard is dead,
Who, when I whilom Cities visited,
Hath made them seeme, but houres which were full dayes,
Whilst he vouchsaft me his harmonious layes:
And when He lived, I thought the countrey then
A torture, and no Mansion, but a Den.

MELIBOEUS.
JOHNSON you meane, unless I much do erre,
I know the Person by the Character.

HYLAS.
You guesse aright, it is too truely so,
From no lesse spring could all these Rivers flow.

MELIBOEUS.
Ah Hylas! then thy griefe I cannot call
A passion, when the ground is rationall.
I now excuse thy teares and sighs, though those
To deluges, and these to tempests rose:
Her great instructor gone, I know the Age
No lesse laments than doth the widdow'd stage,
And only Vice and Folly, now are glad,
Our Gods are troubled, and our Prince is sad:
He chiefly who bestowes light, health, and art,
Feels this sharpe griefe pierce his immortall heart,
He his neglected Lire away hath throwne,
And wept a larger nobler Helicon,
To find his Hearbs, which to his wish prevaile,
For the lesse lov'd should his owne favorite faile:
So moan'd himselfe when Daphne he ador'd,
That arts relieving al, should faile their Lord:

HYLAS.
But say, from whence in thee this knowledge springs,
Of what his favour was with Gods and Kings.

MELIBOEUS.
Dorus, who long had known books, men, and townes,
At last the honour of our Woods and Downes,
Had often heard his Songs, was often fir'd
With their enchanting power, ere he retir'd,
And ere himselfe to our still groves he brought,
To meditate on what his Muse had taught:
Here all his joy was to revolve alone,
All that her Musicke to his soule had showne,
Or in all meetings to divert the streame
Of our discourse; and make his Friend his Theame,
And praising works which that rare Loome hath weav'd,
Impart that pleasure which he had receav'd.
So in sweet notes (which did all tunes excell,
But what he praised) I oft have heard him tell
Of His rare Pen, what was the use and price,
The Bayes of Vertue and the scourge of Vice:
How the rich ignorant he valued least,
Nor for the trappings would esteeme the beast;
But did our youth to noble actions raise,
Hoping the meed of his immortall praise:
Now bright and soone his Muses morning shone,
Her Noone how lasting, and her Evening none:
How speech exceeds not dumbnesse, nor verse prose,
More then His verse the low rough rimes of those,
(For such, his seene, they seem'd), who highest rear'd,
Possest Parnassus ere his power appear'd:
Nor shall another pen his fame dissolve,
Till we this doubtfull Problem can resolve,
Which in his workes we most transcendent see,
Wit, Judgement, Learning, Art, or Industry,
Which Till is Never, so all jointly flow,
And each doth to an equall Torrent grow:
His Learning such, no Author old nor new,
Escapt his reading that deserved his view,
And such his Judgement, so exact his Test,
Of what was best in Bookes, as what bookes best,
That had he joyn'd those notes his Labours tooke,
From each most prais'd and praise deserving Booke,
And could the world of that choise Treasure boast,
It need not care though all the rest were lost:
And such his Wit, He writ past what he quotes,
And his Productions farre exceed his Notes:
So in his workes where ought inserted growes,
The noblest of the plants engrafted showes,
That his adopted Children equall not,
The generous Issue his own Braine begot:
So great his Art, that much which he did write,
Gave the wise wonder, and the Crowd delight,
Each sort as well as sex admir'd his Wit,
The Hees and Shees, the Boxes and the Pit;
And who lesse lik't within, did rather chuse,
To taxe their Judgements than suspect his Muse,
How no spectator his chaste stage could call
The cause of any crime of his, but all
With thoughts and wils purg'd and amended rise,
From th' Ethicke Lectures of his Comedies,
Where the Spectators act, and the sham'd age
Blusheth to meet her follies on the stage;
Where each man finds some Light he never sought,
And leaves behind some vanitie he brought,
Whose Politicks no lesse the minds direct,
Than these the manners, nor with lesse effect,
When his Majestic Tragedies relate
All the disorders of a Tottering state,
All the distempers which on Kingdomes fall,
When ease, and wealth, and vice are generall,
And yet the minds against all feare assure,
And telling the disease, prescribe the Cure:
Where, as he tells what subtle wayes, what friends,
(Seeking their wicked and their wisht for ends)
Ambitious and luxurious Persons prove,
Whom vast desires, or mighty wants do move,
The generall Frame, to sap and undermine,
In proud Sejanus, and bold Catiline;
So in his vigilant Prince and Consuls parts,
He shewes the wiser and the nobler Arts,
By which a state may be unhurt, upheld,
And all those works destroyed, which hell would build.
Who (not like those who with small praise had writ,
Had they not cal'd in Judgement to their Wit)
Us'd not a tutoring hand his to direct,
But was sole workman and sole architect:
And sure by what my Friend did daily tell,
If he but acted his owne part as well
As he writ those of others, he may boast,
The happy fields hold not a happier ghost.

HYLAS.
Strangers will thinke this strange, yet he (deare Youth)
Where most he past beliefe, fell short of Truth:
Say on, what more he said, this gives reliefe,
And though it raise my cause, it bates my griefe,
Since Fates decreed him now no longer liv'd,
I joy to heare him by thy Friend reviv'd.

MELIBOEUS.
More he would say, and better, (but I spoile
His smoother words with my unpolish'd stile)
And having told what pitch his worth attain'd,
He then would tell us what reward it gain'd:
How in an ignorant, and learn'd age he swaid,
(Of which the first he found, the second made)
How He, when he could know it, reapt his Fame,
And long out-liv'd the envy of his Name:
To him how daily flockt, what reverence gave,
All that had wit, or would be thought to have,
Or hope to gaine, and in so large a store,
That to his Ashes they can pay no more,
Except those few who censuring, thought not so,
But aim'd at glory from so great a foe:
How the wise too, did with meere wits agree,
As Pembroke, Portland, and grave Aubigny;
Nor thought the rigidst Senator a shame,
To contribute to so deserv'd a fame:
How great Eliza, the Retreate of those
Who weake and injur'd her protection chose,
Her Subjects joy, the strength of her Allies,
The feare and wonder of her Enemies,
With her judicious favours did infuse
Courage and strength into his younger Muse:
How learned James, whose praise no end shall finde,
(But still enjoy a Fame pure like his Mind)
Who favor'd quiet, and the Arts of Peace,
(Which in his Halcion dayes found large encrease)
Friend to the humblest if deserving Swaine,
Who was himselfe a part of Phoebus Traine,
Declar'd great JOHNSON worthiest to receive
The Garland which the Muses hands did weave
And though his Bounty did sustaine his dayes,
Gave a more welcome Pension in his praise:
How mighty Charles amidst that Weighty care,
In which three Kingdomes as their Blessing share,
Whom as it tends with ever watchfull eyes,
That neither Power may force, nor Art surprise,
So bounded by no shore, grasps all the Maine,
And farre as Neptune claimes, extends his reigne.
Found still some Time to heare and to admire,
The happy sounds of his Harmonious Lire,
And oft hath left his bright exalted Throne,
And to his Muses feet combin'd His owne:
As did his Queene, whose Person so disclos'd
A brighter Nimph then any Part impos'd,
When she did joyne, by an Harmonious choise,
Her gracefull Motions to his Powerfull voice:
How above all the rest was Phoebus fir'd
With love of Arts, which he himselfe inspir'd,
Nor oftener by his Light our Sence was chear'd,
Then he in Person to his sight appear'd,
Nor did he write a line but to supply,
With sacred Flame the Radiant God was by.

HYLAS.
Though none 1 ever heard this last rehearse,
Saw as much when I did see his verse.

MELIBOEUS.
Since He, when living, could such Honors have,
What now will Piety pay to his grave?
Shall of the rich (whose lives were low and vile,
And scarce deserv'd a Grave, much lesse a Pile)
The monuments possesse an ample Roome,
And such a Wonder lye without a tombe?
Raise thou him one in Verse, and There relate
His Worth, thy griefe, and our deplored state,
His great Perfections our great losse recite,
And let them meerely weepe who cannot write.

HYLAS.
I like thy saying, but oppose thy choise;
So great a Taske as this requires a Voice
Which must be heard, and listened to, by all,
And Fames owne Trumpet but appeares too small,
Then for my slender Reede to sound his Name,
Would more my Folly than his praise proclaime,
And when you wish my weaknesse sing his Worth,
You charge a Mouse to bring a Mountaine forth:
I am by Nature form'd, by Woes made Dull,
My Head is emptier then my Heart is full;
Griefe doth my Braine impaire, as Teares supply,
Which makes my face so moist, my Pen so dry.
Nor should this work proceed from Woods and Downes,
But from the Academies, Courts, and Townes;
Let Digby, Carew, Killigrew, and Maine,
Godolphin, Waller, that inspired Traine,
Or whose rare Pen beside deserves the grace,
Or of an equall, or a neighbouring Place,
Answer thy wish, for none so fit appeares
To raise his Tombe, as who are left his Heires:
Yet for this Cause no labour need be spent,
Writing his Workes, he built his Monument.

MELIBOEUS.
If to obey in this, thy Pen be loth,
It will not seeme thy weaknesse, but thy sloth:
Our Townes prest by our Foes invading Might,
Our ancient Druids and young Virgins fight,
Employing feeble Limbes to the best use;
So JOHNSON dead, no Pen should plead excuse:
For Elegies, howle all who cannot sing,
For Tombes bring Turfe, who cannot Marble bring,
Let all their forces mix, joyne Verse to Rime,
To save his Fame from that Invader, Time,
Whose Power, though his alone may well restraine,
Yet to so wisht an end, no Care is vaine;
And Time, like what our Brookes act in our sight,
Oft sinkes the weightie, and upholds the Light:
Besides, to this, thy paines I strive to move
Lesse to expresse his glory then thy Love:
Not long before his Death, our woods he meant
To visit, and descend from Thames to Trent,
Meete with thy Elegy his Pastorall,
And rise as much as he vouchsaft to fall:
Suppose it chance no other Pen do joine
In this Attempt, and the whole worke be thine.
When the fierce fire the rash Boy kindled, raign'd,
The whole world suffer'd; Earth alone complain'd:
Suppose that many more intend the same,
More taught by Art, and better knowne to Fame,
To that great Deluge which so far destroid,
The Earth her Springs, as Heaven his Showrs emploid;
So may who highest Markes of Honour weares,
Admit meane Partners in this Flood of Teares;
So oft the Humblest joine with Loftiest Things,
Nor onely Princes weep the fate of Kings.

HYLAS.
I yeeld, I yeeld, Thy words my thoughts have fir'd,
And I am less perswaded than inspir'd;
Speech shall give Sorrow vent, and that Releefe,
The Woods shall eccho all the Citties griefe:
I oft have verse on meaner Subjects made,
Should I give Presents and leave Debts unpaid?
Want of Invention here is no excuse,
My matter I shall find, and not produce,
And (as it fares in Crowds) I onely doubt,
So much would passe, that Nothing will get out,
Else in this Worke which now my Thoughts intend
I shall find nothing hard, but how to end:
I then but ask fit Time to smooth my Layes,
(And imitate in this the Pen I praise)
Which by the Subjects Power embalm'd, may last,
Whilst the Sun Light, the Earth doth shadowes cast,
And, feather'd by those Wings fly among men,
Farre as the Fame of Poetry and BEN.