Ode (to himself)

by Ben Jonson

    COME leave the loathed stage,
    And the more loathsome age :
Where pride and impudence (in faction knit)
        Usurpe the chaire of wit !
Indicting, and arraigning every day
        Something they call a Play.
    Let their fastidious, vaine
    Commission of the braine
Run on, and rage, sweat, censure, and condemn :
They were not made for thee, lesse thou for them.

    Say, that thou pour'st them wheat,
    And they will acornes eat :
'Twere simple fury, still, thy selfe to waste
        On such as have no taste !
To offer them a surfeit of pure bread,
        Whose appetites are dead !
    No, give them graines their fill,
    Huskes, draff to drink and swill.
If they love lees, and leave the lusty wine,
Envy them not, their palate's with the swine.

    No doubt some mouldy tale,
    Like Pericles ; and stale
As the Shrieve's crusts, and nasty as his fish—
        Scraps out of every dish
Throwne forth, and rak't into the common tub,
        May keepe up the Play-club :
    There, sweepings doe as well
    As the best order'd meale.
For, who the relish of these guests will fit,
Needs set them but the almes-basket of wit.

    And much good do 't you then :
    Brave plush and velvet-men ;
Can feed on orts : and safe in your stage-clothes,
        Dare quit, upon your oathes,
The stagers and the stage-wrights too (your peeres)
        Of larding your large eares
    With their foule comic socks,
    Wrought upon twenty blocks :
Which if they are torne, and turn'd, and patch't enough,
The gamesters share your gilt, and you their stuffe.—

    Leave things so prostitute,
    And take the Alcaick lute ;
Or thine own Horace or Anacreons lyre ;
        Warm thee by Pindares fire :
And though thy nerves be shrunke, and blood be cold,
        Ere yeares have made thee old,
    Strike that disdaineful heate
    Throughout, to their defeate :
As curious fooles, and envious of thy straine,
May, blushing, sweare no palsy 's in thy braine.

    But when they heare thee sing
    The glories of thy king,
His zeale to God, and his just awe o'er men :
        They may, blood-shaken, then,
Feele such a flesh-quake to possesse their powers
        As they shall cry, ' Like ours,
    In sound of peace or wars,
    No Harp e'er hit the stars,
In tuning forth the acts of his sweet raigne :
And raising Charles his chariot 'bove his Waine.'

The Oxford Book of Seventeenth Century Verse.
H. J. C. Grierson and G. Bullough, eds.
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934. 179-180.

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