1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ben Jonson

J. H., in "Stanzas, occasion'd by a late Visit to the Poet's Corner, in Westminster-Abbey" Westminster Magazine 7 (June 1779) 303.



With labour, Johnson like a Scholar wrote,
Supported by the Greek and Roman page,
But still th' enfeebled man began to doat,
The poet rais'd strong buildings for the stage.

Strokes of true humour, and of sterling sense,
In his best-modell'd Comedies we find;
By those, to Fame he had a fair pretence,
For those display a penetrating mind.

Lifted on Learning's stilts, he rose to Fame,
But ne'er of Genius felt the plastic glow;
His classic stores, perhaps, may rev'rence claim,
But all our love on Shakespeare we bestow.

In all his best-built plays, tho' language coarse
Gives pain at times to Delicacy's ear;
His Humour, often low, has always force,
And ev'ry stroke of satire is severe.

The various characters his cloth displays,
Are mark'd with strength, and nice dramatic art;
With a firm hand their manners he pourtrays,
And makes them boldly from the canvas start.

What tho' Refinement has unnerv'd the age,
And our old Masters are not warmly prais'd;
Let us remember, that the British Stage
On their foundation has its beauties rais'd.