Ben Jonson

  U  N  D  E  R  W  O  O  D  S .



What gentle ghost, besprent with April dew,
Hails me so solemnly to yonder yew,
And beckoning woos me, from the fatal tree
To pluck a garland for herself or me ?
I do obey you, beauty !  for in death
You seem a fair one.  O that you had breath
To give your shade a name !  Stay, stay, I feel
A horror in me, all my blood is steel ;
Stiff, stark !  my joints 'gainst one another knock !
He's good as great.  I am almost a stone,
And ere I can ask more of her, she's gone ! —
Alas, I am all marble !  write the rest
Thou would'st have written, Fame, upon my breast :
It is a large fair table, and a true,
And the disposure will be something new,
When I, who would the poet have become,
At least may bear the inscription to her tomb.
She was the Lady JANE, and marchionisse
Of Winchester ;  the heralds can tell this.
Earl Rivers' grand-child — 'serve not forms, good Fame,
Sound thou her virtues, give her soul a name.
Had I a thousand mouths, as many tongues,
And voice to raise them from my brazen lungs,
I durst not aim at that ;  the dotes were such
Thereof, no notion can express how much
Their caract was :  I or my trump must break,
But rather I, should I of that part speak ;
It is too near of kin to heaven, the soul,
To be described !  Fame's fingers are too foul
To touch these mysteries :  we may admire
The heat and splendor, but not handle fire.
What she did here, by great example, well,
T' inlive posterity, her Fame may tell ;
And calling Truth to witness, make that good
From the inherent graces in her blood !
Else who doth praise a person by a new
But a feign'd way, doth rob it of the true.
Her sweetness, softness, her fair courtesy,
Her wary guards, her wise simplicity,
Were like a ring of Virtues 'bout her set,
And Piety the centre where all met.
A reverend state she had, an awful eye,
A dazzling, yet inviting, majesty :
What Nature, Fortune, Institution, Fact
Could sum to a perfection, was her act !
How did she leave the world, with what contempt !
Just as she in it lived, and so exempt
From all affection !  when they urg'd the cure
Of her disease, how did her soul assure
Her sufferings, as the body had been away !
And to the torturers, her doctors, say,
Stick on your cupping-glasses, fear not, put
Your hottest caustics to, burn, lance, or cut :
'Tis but a body which you can torment,
And I into the world all soul was sent.
Then comforted her lord, and blest her son,
Cheer'd her fair sisters in her race to run,
With gladness temper'd her sad parents' tears,
Made her friends joys to get above their fears,
And in her last act taught the standers-by
With admiration and applause to die !
   Let angels sing her glories, who did call
Her spirit home to her original ;
Who saw the way was made it, and were sent
To carry and conduct the compliment
'Twixt death and life, where her mortality
Became her birth-day to eternity !
And now through circumfused light she looks,
On Nature's secret there, as her own books :
Speaks heaven's language, and discourseth free
To every order, every hierarchy !
Beholds her Maker, and in him doth see
What the beginnings of all beauties be ;
And all beatitudes that thence do flow :
Which they that have the crown are sure to know !
   Go now, her happy parents, and be sad,
If you not understand what child you had.
If you dare grudge at heaven, and repent
T' have paid again a blessing was but lent,
And trusted so, as it deposited lay
At pleasure, to be call'd for every day !
If you can envy your own daughter's bliss,
And wish her state less happy than it is ;
If you can cast about your either eye,
And see all dead here, or about to die !
The stars, that are the jewels of the night,
And day, deceasing, with the prince of light,
The sun, great kings, and mightiest kingdoms fall ;
Whole nations, nay mankind !  the world, with all
That ever had beginning there, t' have end !
With what injustice should one soul pretend
T' escape this common known necessity ?
When we were all born, we began to die ;
And, but for that contention, and brave strife
The Christian hath t' enjoy the future life,
He were the wretched'st of the race of men :
But as he soars at that, he bruiseth then
The serpent's head ; gets above death and sin,
And, sure of heaven, rides triùmphing in.

[ AJ Notes:
   Lady Jane Pawlet  (1607-1631), daughter of Thomas, Viscount Savage,
   and wife of John Paulet, 5th Marquis of Winchester, a close friend of
   King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria. She died during pregnancy
   on 15 April 1631.  ]


Jonson, Ben.  The Works of Ben Jonson.
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co., 1853. 843-844.

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