1606
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Epithalamion.

Hymenaei: or the Solemnities of Masque, and Barriers, magnificently performed on the Eleventh, and Twelfth Nights, from Christmas; at Court: To the auspicious celebrating of the Marriage-Union, betweene Robert, Earle of Essex, and the Lady Frances, second Daughter to the most Noble Earle of Suffolke. By Ben: Jonson.

Ben Jonson


The conclusion of a ceremony written for the first marriage of Robert Devereux, third earl of Essex (1591-1646) and Lady Frances Howard, with learned notes. There is no specific imitation of Spenser's Epithalamion.

Virginia Tufte: "Eleven of the fifteen stanzas borrow their leading themes from Catullus. Main themes of the remaining four stanzas appear to come from Claudian, Johannus Secundus, the Emperor Gallienus, and Spenser" Poetry of Marriage (1970) 209-10.

E. Felix Schelling: "Hymenaei is an allegory in which the Humors and Affections issuing from a microcosm or globe figuring a man, offer to disturb the rites at Hymen's altar, whereat Reason interferes. Thereupon Juno appears seated in state and splendor above the 'rack' of the clouds, Iris and her rainbow beneath with the eight lady masquers, Juno's 'powers,' as they are termed. These descend from either side of the stage on floating clouds and, joining the Humors and Affections, are reconciled and the rites proceed" Elizabethan Drama (1908) 2:106.



Glad time is at his point arriv'd,
For which Loves hopes were so long-liv'd.
Lead, HYMEN, lead away;
And let no Object stay,
Nor Banquets (but sweete kisses)
The Turtles from their Blisses.
Tis CUPID calls to arme;
And this his last Alarme.
Shrinke not, soft VIRGIN, you will love,
Anone, what you so feare to prove.
This is no killing Warre,
To which you pressed are;
But faire and gentle strife
Which Lovers call their Life.
Tis CUPID cryes to arme;
And this his last alarme.
Helpe Youths, and Virgins, helpe to sing
The Prize, which HYMEN here doth bring,
And did so lately rap
From forth the Mothers lap,
To place her by that side
Where shee must long abide.
On HYMEN, HYMEN call,
This Night is HYMEN'S all.
See, HESPERUS is yet in view!
What Starre can so deserve of you?
Whose light doth still adorne
Your Bride, that, ere the Morne,
Shall farre more perfect bee,
And rise as bright as Hee;
When (like to him) her Name
Is chang'd, but not her Flame.
Haste, tender Lady, and adventer;
The covetous House would have you enter,
That it might wealthy bee,
And you, her Mistresse see:
Hast your owne good to meete;
And lift your golden feete
Above the Threshold, high,
With prosperous Augury.
Now, Youths, let goe your pretty armes;
The Place within chant's other charmes.
Whole showers of Roses flow;
And Violets seeme to grow,
Strew'd in the Chamber there,
As VENUS Meade it were.
On HYMEN, HYMEN call,
This Night is HYMEN'S all.
Good Matrons, that so well are knowne
To aged Husbands of your owne,
Place you our Bride to night;
And snatch away the Light:
That shee not hide it dead
Beneath her Spouse's Bed;
Nor he reserve the same
To helpe the funerall Flame.
So, now you may admit him in;
The Act he covets, is no Sinne,
But chast, and holy Love,
Which HYMEN doth approve:
Without whose hallowing Fires
All Aymes are base Desires.
On HYMEN, HYMEN call,
This Night is HYMEN'S all.
Now, free from Vulgar spight, or Noyse,
May you enjoy your mutuall joyes;
Now, You no Feare controules,
But Lippes may mingle Soules;
And soft Embraces binde,
To each, the others Minde:
Which may no Power untie,
Till One, or both must die.
And, looke, before you yeeld to slumber,
That your Delights be drawne past number;
"Joyes, got with strife, increase."
Affect no sleepy peace;
But keepe the Brides faire eyes
Awake, with her owne Cries,
Which are but Mayden-feares:
And Kisses drie such teares.
Then, Coyne them, twixt your Lippes so sweete,
And let not Cockles closer meete;
Nor may your Murmuring Loves
Be drown'd by CYPRIS Doves:
Let Ivie not so bind
As when your Armes are twin'd:
That you may Both, e're Day,
Rise perfect every way.
And, JUNO, whose great Powers protect
The Marriage-Bed, with good effect
The Labour of this Night
Blesse thou, for future Light;
And, Thou, thy happy charge,
Glad GENIUS, enlarge:
That they may Both, e're Day,
Rise perfect everie way.
And VENUS, Thou, with timely seede
(Which may their after-Comforts breede)
Informe the gentle Wombe;
Nor, let it prove a Tombe:
But, e're ten Moones be wasted,
The Birth, by CYNTHIA hasted.
So may they Both, e're Day,
Rise perfect everie Way.
And, when the Babe to light is showne,
Let it be like each Parent knowne;
Much of the Fathers Face,
More of the Mothers Grace:
And either Grand-Sires Spirit,
And Fame let it inherit.
That Men may blesse th' Embraces,
That joyned two such Races.
Cease Youths, and Virgins, you have done;
Shut fast the Dore: And, as They soone
To their Perfection hast,
So may their ardors last.
So eithers strength out-live
All losse that Age can give:
And, though full Yeares be tolde,
Their Formes growe slowly olde.

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