1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 3:258.



The minor poetry of Ben Jonson is extremely beautiful. This is partly mixed with his masques and interludes, poetical and musical rather than dramatic pieces, and intended to ratify the imagination by the charms of song, as well as by the varied scenes that were brought before the eye; partly in very short effusions of a single sentiment, among which two epitaphs are known by heart. Jonson possessed an admirable taste and feeling in poetry, which his dramas, except the Sad Shepherd, do not entirely lead us to value highly enough; and, when we consider how many other intellectual excellences distinguished him, wit, observation, judgment, memory, learning, we must acknowledge that the inscription on his tomb, "O rare Ben Jonson!" is not more pithy than it is true.