1658 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Anonymous, "A Letter to Ben. Jonson" Wit Restor'd (1658) 79-81.



Die Johnson, crosse not our Religion so
As to be thought immortall; let us know
Thou art no God; thy works make us mistake
Thy person, and thy great creations make
Us Idoll thee, and cause we see thee do
Eternall things, think thee eternall too,
Restore us to our faith and dye, thy doome
Will do as much good as the fall of Rome:
'Twill crush an heresie, we ne're must hope
For truth till thou be gon, thou and the Pope.
And though we may be certaine in thy fall
To lose both wit and judgement, braines and all,
Thou Sack, nor Love, nor Time recover us
Better be fooles then superstitious.
Dye! to what end should we thee now adore
There is not Schollership to live to more,
Our language is refin'd: professors doubt
Their Greek and Hebrew both shall be put out
And we that Latin studied have so long
Shall now dispute and write in Johnsons tongue,
Nay, courtiers yeeld, and every beautious wench
Had rather speak thy English then her French.
But for thy matter fancy stands agast
Wondering to see her strength thus best at last.
Invention stops her course and bids the world
Look for no more; she hath already hurld
Her treasure all on one, thou hast out-done
So much our wit and expectation,
That were it not for thee, we scarse had known
Nature her selfe could ere so farre have gon.
Dye! seemes it not enough thy verse's date
Is endlesse; but thine own prolonged fate
Must equall it; for shame engross not age
But now (the fith act ended) leave the stage.
And let us clap, we know the Stars that do
Give others one life, give a laureat two.
But thou, if thus thy body long survives,
Hast two eternities, and not two lives.
Die for thine own sake, seest thou not thy praise
Is shortned onely by this length of daies.
Men may talk this, and that, to part the strife,
My tenet is, thou hast no fault but life.
Old Authors do speed best, me-thinks thy warm breath
Casts a thick mist betwixt thy worth, which death
Would quickly dissipate. If thou wouldst have
Thy Bayes to flourish, plant them on thy grave.
Gold now is drosse, and Oracles are stuffe
With us, for why? Thou art not low enough.
We still look under thee. Stoop, and submit
Thy glory to the meanest of our wit.
The Rhodian Colossus, ere it fell,
Could not be scan'd and measured, half so well.
Lie levell to our view, so shall we see,
Our third and richest University.
Art's length, Art's heighth, Art's depth, can ne're be found,
Till thou art prostrate, stretch'd upon the ground.
Learning no farther then thy life extends,
With thee began all Arts, with thee it ends.