Ben Jonson

T  H  E     F  O  R  E  S  T .  

X. — PRÆLUDIUM.     

And must I sing ?  what subject shall I choose ?
Or whose great name in poets' heaven use,
For the more countenance to my active muse?

Hercules ?  Alas his bones are yet sore,
With his old earthly labors :  t' exact more,
Of his dull godhead, were sin.  I'll implore

Phoebus.  No, tend thy cart still.  Envious day
Shall not give out that I have made thee stay,
And founder'd thy hot team, to tune my lay.

Nor will I beg of thee, Lord of the vine,
To raise my spirits with thy conjuring wine,
In the green circle of thy ivy twine.

Pallas, nor thee I call on, mankind maid,
That at thy birth, mad'st the poor smith afraid,
Who with his axe, thy father's midwife plaid.

Go,  cramp dull Mars, light Venus, when he snorts,
Or, with thy tribade trine, invent new sports ;
Thou nor thy looseness with my making sorts.

Let the old boy, your son, ply his old task,
Turn the stale prologue to some painted mask ;
His absence in my verse, is all I ask.

Hermes, the cheater, shall not mix with us,
Though he would steal his sisters' Pegasus,
And rifle him : or pawn his petasus.

                THE PHOENIX ANALYSED.

            Now, after all, let no man
                    Receive it for a fable,
                    If a bird so amiable
            Do turn into a woman.

            Or, by our Turtle's augure,
                    That nature's fairest creature
                    Prove of his mistress' feature
            But a bare type and figure.

Nor all the ladies of the Thespian lake,
(Though they were crushed into one form) could make
A beauty of that merit, that should take.

ODE.  Greek: enthusiastiki.              
        Splendor !  O more than mortal
        For other forms come short all,
        Of her illustrious brightness
        As far as sin's from lightness.

        Her wit as quick and sprightful
        As fire, and more delightful
        Than the stolen sports of lovers,
        When night their meeting covers.

        Judgment, adorn'd with learning,
        Doth shine in her discerning,
        Clear as a naked vestal
        Closed in an orb of crystal.

        Her breath for sweet exceeding
        The phoenix' place of breeding,
        But mix'd with sound, transcending
        All nature of commending.

        Alas then whither wade I
        In thought to praise this lady,
        When seeking her renowning
        My self am so near drowning?

        Retire, and say her graces
        Are deeper than their faces,
        Yet she's not nice to show them,
        Nor takes she pride to know them.

My muse up by commission ;  no, I bring
My own true fire : now my thought takes wing,
And now an EPODE to deep ears I sing.


Jonson, Ben.  The Works of Ben Jonson.
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co., 1853. 804.

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