Ben Jonson

  U  N  D  E  R  W  O  O  D  S .



TO make the doubt clear, that no woman's true,
Was it my fate to prove it strong in you ?
Thought I but one had breath'd the purer air,
And must she needs be false, because she's fair ?
Is it your beauty's mark, or of your youth,
Or your perfection, not to study truth ?
Or think you heaven is deaf, or hath no eyes,
Or those it hath wink at your perjuries ?
Are vows so cheap with women ?  or the matter
Whereof they are made, that they are writ in water,
And blown away with wind ?  or doth their breath,
Both hot and cold at once, threat life and death ?
Who could have thought so many accents sweet
Tuned to our words, so may sighs should meet
Blown from our hearts, so many oaths and tears
Sprinkled among, all sweeter by our fears,
And the divine impression of stol'n kisses,
That seal'd the rest, could now prove empty blisses ?
Did you draw bonds to forfeit ? sign to break ?
Or must we read you quite from what you speak,
And find the truth out the wrong way ? or must
He first desire you false, would wish you just ?
O, I profane !  though most of women be
The common monster, thought shall except thee,
My dearest love, though froward jealousy
With circumstance might urge the contrary.
Sooner I'll think the sun would cease to cheer
The teeming earth, and that forget to bear ;
Sooner that rivers would run back, or Thames
With ribs of ice in June would bind his streams ;
Or Nature, by whose strength the world endures,
Would change her course, before you alter yours.
   But, O, that treacherous breast !  to whom weak you
Did trust our counsels, and we both may rue,
Having his falsehood found too late !  'twas he
That made me cast you guilty, and you me ;
Whilst he, black wretch, betray'd each simple word
We spake, unto the cunning of a third !
Curst may he be, that so our love hath slain,
And wander wretched on the earth, as Cain ;
Wretched as he, and not deserve least pity !
In plaguing him, let misery be witty.
Let all eyes shun him, and he shun each eye,
Till he be noisome as his infamy ;
May he without remorse deny God thrice,
And not be trusted more on his soul's price ;
And after all self-torment, when he dies,
May wolves tear out his heart, vultures his eyes,
Swine eat his bowels, and his falser tongue,
That utter'd all, be to some raven flung ;
And let his carrion corse be a longer feast
To the king's dogs, than any other beast !
   Now have I curst, let us our love revive ;
In me the flame was never more alive.
I could begin again to court and praise,
And in that pleasure lengthen the short days
Of my life's lease ; like painters that do take
Delight, not in made works, but whilst they make.
I could renew those times when first I saw
Love in your eyes, that gave my tongue the law
To like what you liked, and at masques or plays,
Commend the self-same actors the same ways ;
Ask how you did, and often with intent
Of being officious, grow impertinent ;
All which were such soft pastimes, as in these
Love was as subtly catch'd as a disease.
But, being got, it is, a treasure sweet,
Which to defend, is harder than to get ;
And ought not be profaned on either part,
For though 'tis got by chance, 'tis kept by art.

[ AJ Notes:
   This elegy is in all likelihood not Jonson's, but Donne's.
   The Cambridge History of English and American Literature states:
But the sixteenth, “To make the doubt clear that no woman’s true,”
was included in Ben Jonson’s posthumous Underwoods, and it
is not impossible that the three which there accompany it are also
Donne’s. As Swinburne has pointed out, they are more in his style
than in that of Jonson.   On the other hand,  no MS. collection of
Donne’s poems includes them....  ]

«Compare with Donne's Elegy XVI and read Chambers' “Notes” on the same.»


Jonson, Ben.  The Works of Ben Jonson.
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co., 1853. 828.

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