Ben Jonson
T  H  E     F  O  R  E  S  T .   


How blest art thou, canst love the country, WROTH,
   Whether by choice, or fate, or both !
And though so near the city, and the court,
   Art ta'en with neither's vice nor sport :
That at great times, art no ambitious guest
   Of sheriff 's dinner, or mayor's feast.
Nor com'st to view the better cloth of state,
   The richer hangings, or crown-plate ;
Nor throng'st (when masquing is) to have a sight
   Of the short bravery of the night ;
To view the jewels, stuffs, the pains, the wit
   There wasted, some not paid for yet !
But canst at home, in thy securer rest,
   Live, with unbought provision blest ;
Free from proud porches, or their gilded roofs,
   'Mongst lowing herds, and solid hoofs :
Along the curled woods, and painted meads,
   Through which a serpent river leads
To some cool courteous shade, which he calls his,
   And makes sleep softer than it is.
Or if thou list the night in watch to break,
   A-bed canst hear the loud stag speak,
In spring, oft roused for thy master's sport,
   Who for it makes thy house his court ;
Or with thy friends, the heart of all the year
   Divid'st, upon the lesser deer :
In Autumn, at the partridge mak'st a flight,
   And giv'st thy gladder guests the sight ;
And in the winter, hunt'st the flying hare,
   More for thy exercise, than fare ;
While all that follow, their glad ears apply
   To the full greatness of the cry :
Or hawking at the river, or the bush,
   Or shooting at the greedy thrush,
Thou dost with some delight the day out-wear,
   Although the coldest of the year !
The whilst the several seasons thou hast seen
   Of flowery fields, of cop'ces green,
The mowed meadows, with the fleeced sheep,
   And feasts, that either shearers keep ;
The ripened ears, yet humble in their height,
   And furrows laden with their weight ;
The apple-harvest, that doth longer last ;
   The hogs return'd home fat from mast ;
The trees cut out in log, and those boughs made
   A fire now, that lent a shade !
Thus Pan and Sylvan having had their rites,
   Comus puts in for new delights ;
And fills thy open hall with mirth and cheer,
    As if in Saturn's reign it were ;
Apollo's harp, and Hermes' lyre resound,
   Nor are the Muses strangers found.
The rout of rural folk come thronging in,
   (Their rudeness then is thought no sin)
Thy noblest spouse affords them welcome grace ;
   And the great heroes of her race
Sit mixt with loss of state, or reverence.
   Freedom doth with degree dispense.
 The jolly wassal walks the often round,
   And in their cups their cares are drown'd :
They think not then, which side the cause shall leese, 
   Nor how to get the lawyer fees.
Such and no other was that age of old,
   Which boasts t' have had the head of gold.
And such, since thou canst make thine own content,
   Strive, Wroth, to live long innocent.
Let others watch in guilty arms, and stand
    The fury of a rash command,
Go enter breaches, meet the cannon's rage,
   That they may sleep with scars in age ;
And shew their feathers shot, and colors torn,
   And brag that they were therefore born.
Let this man sweat, and wrangle at the bar,
   For every price, in every jar,
And change possessions, oftner with his breath,
   Than either money, war, or death :
Let him, than hardest sires, more disinherit,
   And each where boast it as his merit,
To blow up orphans, widows, and their states ;
   And think his power doth equal fate's.
Let that go heap a mass of wretched wealth,
   Purchased by rapine, worse than stealth,
And brooding o'er it sit, with broadest eyes,
   Not doing good, scarce when.he dies.
Let thousands more go flatter vice, and win,
   By being organs to great sin ;
Get place and honor, and be glad to keep
   The secrets that shall break their sleep
And so they ride in purple, eat in plate,
   Though poison, think it a great fate.
But thou, my Wroth, if I can truth apply,
   Shalt neither that, nor this envy :
Thy peace is made ;  and when man's state is well,
   'Tis better, if he there can dwell.
God wisheth none should wrack on a strange shelf :
   To him man's dearer, than t' himself.
And howsoever we may think things sweet,
   He always gives what he knows meet ;
Which who can use is happy :  Such be thou.
   Thy morning's and thy evening's vow
Be thanks to him, and earnest pray'r to find
   A body sound, with sounder mind ;
To do thy country service, thy self right ;
   That neither want do thee affright,
Nor death ;  but when thy latest sand is spent,
   Thou may'st think life a thing but lent.

Jonson, Ben.  The Works of Ben Jonson.
Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Co., 1853. 802.

Backto Works of Ben Jonson

Site copyright ©1996-2003 Anniina Jokinen. All Rights Reserved.
Created by Anniina Jokinen on February 18, 2003.