1638 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Joseph Rutter, "An Elegy upon Ben: Johnson" Jonsonius Virbius: or the Memorie of Ben Johnson revived (1638) 40-41.



Now thou art dead, and thy great wit and name
Is got beyond the reach of Chance or Fame,
Which none can lessen, nor we bring enough
To raise it higher, through our want of stuffe;
I find no roome for praise, but Elegie,
And there but name the day when thou didst dye,
That men may know thou didst so, for they will
Hardly beleeve disease or age could kill
A body so inform'd, with such a soule,
As, like thy verse, might Fate itself controule.
But thou art gon, and we like greedy Heires,
That snatch the fruit of their dead Fathers cares,
Begin t' enquire what meanes thou left'st behind
For us pretended Heires unto thy mind.
And my-selfe not the latest 'gan to looke
And found the Inventory in thy Booke;
A stock for writers to set up withall:
That out of thy full Comedies, their small
And slender wits by vexing much thy writ
And their owne braines, may draw good saving wit,
And when they shall upon some credit pitch,
May be thought well to live, although not rich.
Then for your Songsters, Masquers, what a deal
We have? enough to make a Common-weale:
Of dauncing Courtiers, as if Poetry
Were made to set out their activity.
Learning great store for us to feed upon,
But little fame; that, with thy selfe is gon,
And like a desperate debt, bequeath'd, not paid
Before thy death has us the poorer made.
Whilst we with mighty labor it pursue,
And after all our toile, not find it due.