1638 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Edmund Waller, "Upon Ben: Johnson, the most excellent of Comick Poets" Jonsonius Virbius: or the Memorie of Ben Johnson revived (1638) 30-31.



Mirror of Poets! Mirror of our Age!
Which her whole Face beholding on thy stage,
Pleas'd and displeas'd with her owne faults endures,
A remedy, like those whom Musicke cures,
Thou not alone those various inclinations,
Which nature gives to ages, sexes, nations,
Hast traced with thy All-resembling Pen,
But all that custome hath impos'd on Men,
Or ill-got Habits, which distort them so,
That scarce the Brother can the Brother know,
Is represented to the wondring Eyes,
Of all that see or read thy Comedies.
Whoever in those Glasses lookes may finde,
The spots return'd, or graces of his minde;
And by the helpe of so divine an Art,
At leisure view, and dresse his nobler part.
Narcissus cozen'd by that flattering Well,
Which nothing could but of his beauty tell,
Had here discovering the deform'd estate
Of his fond minde, preserv'd himselfe with hate,
But Vertue too, as well as Vice, is clad,
In flesh and blood so well, that Plato had
Beheld what his high Fancie once embrac'd,
Vertue with colours, speech and motion grac'd.
The sundry Postures of Thy copious Muse,
Who would expresse a thousand tongues must use:
Whose Fates no less peculiar then thy Art,
For as thou couldst all characters impart,
So none can render thine, who still escapes,
Like Proteus in variety of shapes,
Who was nor this nor that, but all we finde,
And all we can imagine in mankind.