1632
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Epithalamion celebrating the Nuptials of Mr. Hierome Weston.

Underwoods consisting of divers Poems. [In] The Workes of Benjamin Jonson. The Second Volume.

Ben Jonson


The full title is given as "Epithalamion: or, a Song: celebrating the Nuptials of that noble Gentleman, Mr. Hierome Weston, Son, and Heire, of the Lord Weston, Lord High Treasurer of England, with the Lady Frances Stuart, Daughter of Esme D. of Lenox Deceased, and Sister of the Surviving Duke of the same Name."

Virginia Tufte: "Jonson's third and last epithalamium, written about five years before his death, is his longest, a poem of twenty-four eight-line stanzas.... The poem is dignified and restrained, the author commenting at one point that he dare not speak in 'Language fescinnine.' His use of a concluding alexandrine and lines of varying length suggests Spenser's Epithalamion, but the form is more rigid and the matter more prosaic" Poetry of Marriage (1970) 216-17.

James A. Riddel and Stanley Stewart: "Indeed, critics have come to see how deeply Jonson's 'Epithalamion' (Und. 75) is indebted to its great Spenserian predecessor text. Both poems recognize the proximity of the wedding day to the summer solstice, and Jonson's wedding song follows Spenser's in its invocation to the sun: 'Though thou hast past thy Summer standing' (the wedding at Roehampton took place on 25 June 1632)" Jonson's Spenser (1995) 30.



Though thou hast past thy Summer standing, stay
A-while with us, bright Sun, and helpe our light;
Thou canst not meet more Glory, on the way,
Betweene thy Tropicks, to arrest thy sight,
Then thou shalt see to day:
We wooe thee, stay
And see, what can be scene,
The bountie of a King, and beautie of his Queene!

See, the Procession! what a Holy day
(Bearing the promise of some better fate)
Hath filed, with Caroches, all the way,
From Greenwich, hither, to Row-hampton gate!
When look'd the yeare, at best,
So like a feast?
Or were Affaires in tune,
By all the Spheares consent, so in the heart of June?

What Beavie of beauties, and bright youths at charge
Of Summers Liveries, and gladding greene;
Doe boast their Loves, and Brav'ries so at large,
As they came all to see, and to be seene!
When look'd the Earth so fine,
Or so did shine,
In all her bloome, and flower;
To welcome home a Paire, and deck the nuptiall bower?

It is the kindly Season of the time,
The Month of youth, which calls all Creatures forth
To doe their Offices in Natures Chime,
And celebrate (perfection at the worth)
Mariage, the end of life,
That holy strife,
And the allowed warre:
Through which not only we, but all our Species are.

Harke how the Bells upon the waters play
Their Sister-tunes, from Thames his either side,
As they had learn'd new changes, for the day,
And all did ring th' approches of the Bride;
The Lady Frances, drest
Above the rest
Of all the Maidens faire;
In gracefull Ornament of Garland, Gemmes, and Haire.

See, how she paceth forth in Virgin-white,
Like what she is, the Daughter of a Duke,
And Sister: darting forth a dazling light
On all that come her Simplesse to rebuke!
Her tresses trim her back,
As she did lack
Nought of a Maiden Queene,
With Modestie so crown'd, and Adoration scene.

Stay, thou wilt see what rites the Virgins doe!
The choicest Virgin-troup of all the Land!
Porting the Ensignes of united Two,
Both Crownes, and Kingdomes in their either hand;
Whose Majesties appeare,
To make more cleare
This Feast, then can the Day,
Although that thou, O Sun, at our intreaty stay!

See, how with Roses, and with Lillies shine,
(Lillies and Roses, Flowers of either Sexe)
The bright Brides paths, embelish'd more then thine
With light of love, this Paire doth intertexe!
Stay, see the Virgins sow,
(Where she shall goe)
The Emblemes of their way.
O, now thou smil'st, faire Sun, and shin'st, as thou wouldst stay!

With what full hands, and in how plenteous showers
Have they bedew'd the Earth, where she doth tread,
As if her ayrie steps did spring the flowers,
And all the Ground were Garden, where she led!
See, at another doore,
On the same floore,
The Bridegroome meets the Bride
With all the pompe of Youth, and all our Court beside.

Our Court, and all the Grandees; now, Sun, looke,
And looking with thy best Inquirie, tell,
In all thy age of Journals thou hast tooke,
Saw'st thou that Paire, became these Rites so well,
Save the preceding Two?
Who, in all they doe,
Search, Sun, and thou wilt find,
They are th' exampled Paire, and mirrour of their kind.

Force from the Phoenix then, no raritie
Of Sex, to rob the Creature; but from Man,
The king of Creatures, take his paritie
With Angels, Muse, to speake these: Nothing can
Illustrate these, but they
Themselves to day,
Who the whole Act expresse;
All else we see beside, are Shadowes, and goe lesse.

It is their Grace, and favour, that makes scene,
And wonder'd at, the bounties of this day:
All is a story of the King and Queene!
And what of Dignitie, and Honour may
Be duly done to those
Whom they have chose,
And set the marke upon,
To give a greater Name, and Title to! Their owne!

Weston, their Treasure, as their Treasurer,
That Mine of Wisdome, and of Counsells deep,
Great Say-Master of State, who cannot erre,
But doth his Carract, and just Standard keepe
In all the prov'd assayes,
And legall wayes
Of Tryals, to worke downe
Mens Loves unto the Lawes, and Lawes to love the Crowne.

And this well mov'd the Judgement of the King
To pay, with honours, to his noble Sonne,
To day, the Fathers service; who could bring
Him up, to doe the same himselfe had done.
That farre-all-seeing Eye
Could soone espie
What kind of waking Man
He had so highly set; and, in what Barbican.

Stand there; for when a noble Nature's rais'd,
It brings Friends Joy, Foes Griefe, Posteritie Fame;
In him the times, no lesse then Prince, are prais'd,
And by his Rise, in active men, his Name
Doth Emulation stirre;
To th' dull, a Spur
It is: to th' envious meant
A meere upbraiding Griefe, and tort'ring punishment.

See, now the Chappell opens; where the King
And Bishop stay, to consummate the Rites:
The holy Prelate prayes, then takes the Ring,
Askes first, Who gives her (I Charles) then he plights
One in the others hand,
Whilst they both stand,
Hearing their charge, and then
The Solemne Quire cryes, Joy; and they returne, Amen.

O happy bands! and thou more happy place,
Which to this use, wert built and consecrate!
To have thy God to blesse, thy King to grace,
And this their chosen Bishop celebrate,
And knit the Nuptiall knot,
Which Time shall not,
Or canker'd Jealousie,
With all corroding Arts, be able to untie!

The Chappell empties, and thou may'st be gone
Now, Sun, and post away the rest of day:
These two, now holy Church hath made them one,
Doe long to make themselves, so, another way:
There is a Feast behind,
To them of kind,
Which their glad Parents taught
One to the other, long e're these to light were brought.

Haste, haste, officious Sun, and send them Night
Some houres before it should, that these may know
All that their Fathers, and their Mothers might
Of Nuptiall Sweets, at such a season, owe,
To propagate their Names,
And keepe their Fames
Alive, which else would die,
For Fame keepes Vertue up, and it Posteritie.

Th' Ignoble never liv'd, they were a-while
Like Swine, or other Cattell here on earth:
Their names are not recorded on the File
Of Life, that fall so; Christians know their birth
Alone, and such a race,
We pray may grace
Your fruitfull spreading Vine,
But dare not aske our wish in Language fescennine:

Yet, as we may, we will, with chast desires,
(The holy perfumes of the Mariage bed.)
Be kept alive those Sweet, and Sacred fires
Of Love betweene you, and your Lovely-head:
That when you both are old,
You find no cold
There; but, renewed, say,
(After the last child borne;) This is our wedding day.

Till you behold a race to fill your Hall,
A Richard and a Hierome, by their names
Upon a Thomas, or a Francis call;
A Kate, a Frank, to honour their Grand-dames,
And 'tweene their Grandsires thighes,
Like pretty Spies,
Peepe forth a Gemme; to see
How each one playes his part, of the large Pedigree.

And never may there want one of the Stem,
To be a watchfull Servant for this State;
But like an Arme of Eminence, 'mongst them,
Extend a reaching vertue, early and late:
Whilst the maine tree, still found
Upright and sound,
By this Sun's Noone-sted's made
So great; his Body now alone projects the shade.

They both are slip'd to Bed; Shut fast the Doore,
And let him freely gather Loves First-fruits,
Hee's Master of the Office; yet no more
Exacts then she is pleas'd to pay: no suits,
Strifes, murmures, or delay,
Will last till day;
Night, and the sheetes will show
The longing Couple, all that elder Lovers know.

[pp. 239-43]