1608
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Epithalamion.

The Description of the Masque. With the Nuptiall Songs. Celebrating the Happy Marriage of John, Lord Ramsey, Viscount Hadington, with the Lady Elizabeth Ratcliffe, Daughter to the Right Honor: Robert, Earle of Sussex. At Court on the Shrove-Tuesday at Night. 1608. Devised by Ben: Jonson.

Ben Jonson


Ben Jonson's second epithalamion was written for the marriage of John Lord Ramsey and Lady Elizabeth Radcliffe; the resemblance to Spenser is general.

Richard Hurd: "The fashion of the time was to interweave as much of antient wit as possible to every new work. Writers were so far from affecting to think and speak in their own way, that it was their pride to make the admired antients think and speak for them. This humour continued very long, and in some sort even still continues; with this difference indeed, that, then, the antients were introduced to do the honours, since to do the drudgery of the entertainment. But several causes conspired to carry it to its height in England about the beginning of the last century. You may be sure then, the writers of that period abound in imitations. The best poets boasted of them as their sovereign excellence. And you will easily credit, for instance, that B. Johnson was a servile imitator, when you find him on so many occasions little better than a painful translator" On the Marks of Imitation (1757) 9-10.

Edward Capell: "in his Epithalamion, it is plain he has derived the manner and part of the matter also from Catullus and Spenser, from the latter of whom he has inserted a distick totidem verbis without having given the least hint of it" Reflections on Originality in Authors (1766) p. 64.

Virginia Tufte: "Seven stanzas of eleven lines each, four lines of which constitute a refrain. Lines are longer, and there is greater variation than in the previous epithalamium. The poems moves more freely, both because of the metrical variety and the fact that Jonson is less closely tied to his sources. Motifs resemble those of Catullus, Heinsius, Bonefonius, the Empero Galiensis, and Statius" Poetry of Marriage (1970) 215.



Up Youthes and Virgins, up, and praise
The God, whose Nights out-shine his daies;
HYMEN, whose hallowed rites
Could never boast of brighter lights:
Whose bands passe libertee.
Two of your troope, that, with the morne were free,
Are, now, wag'd to his warre.
And what they are,
If you'll perfection see,
Your selves must be.
Shine, HESPERUS, shine forth, thou wished Starre.

What Joy, or honors can compare
With holy Nuptialls, when they are
Made out of aequall parts
Of yeares, of states, of hands, of hearts?
When, in the happy choyce,
The Spouse, and Spoused have the formost voyce!
Such, glad of HYMENS warre,
Live what they are,
And long perfection see:
And such ours bee.
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished Starre.

The solemne state of this one Night
Were fit to last an Ages light;
But there are rites behind
Have lesse of state, but more of kind:
Loves wealthy croppe of kisses,
And fruitfull harvest of his Mothers blisses.
Sound then to HYMENS warre:
That what these are,
Who will perfection see,
May haste to bee.
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished Starre.

Loves common wealth consists of toyes;
His councell are those antique boyes,
Games, Laughters, Sports, Delights,
That triumphe with him on these nightes:
To whome we must give way,
For now their raigne beginnes, and lasts till day.
They sweeten HYMENS warre,
And, in that jarre,
Make all, that married bee,
Perfection see.
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished Starre.

Why stayes the Bride-groome to invade
Her, that would be a Matron made?
Good-night, whilst yet we may
Good-night, to you a Virgin, say:
To morrow, rise the same
Your Mother is, and use a nobler name.
Speed well in HYMEN'S warre,
That, what you are,
By your perfection, wee
And all may see.
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished Starre.

To night is VENUS vigil kept.
This night no Bridegroome ever slept;
And if the fayre Bride doo,
The married say, 'tis his fault, too.
Wake then; and let your lightes
Wake too: for they'l tell nothing of your nightes:
But, that in HYMENS warre,
You perfect are.
And such perfection, wee
Doe pray, should be.
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished Starre.

That, ere the rosy-fingerd Morne
Behold nine moones, there may be borne
A Babe, t' uphold the fame
Of Radcliffes blood, and Ramsey's name:
That may, in his great seed,
Weare the long honors of his Fathers deed.
Such fruicts of Hymens warre
Most perfect are;
And all perfection, wee
Wish, you should see.
Shine, Hesperus, shine forth, thou wished Starre.

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