« AnteriorContinuar »
BENJAMIN JONSON, (or Johnson,) a poet, who, gives a particular examination of his "Silent Wo during life, attained a distinguished character, was man," as a model of perfection. He afterwards the posthumous son of a clergyman in Westminster, however, seems to make large deductions from this where he was born in 1574, about a month after his commendation. "You seldom (says Dryden) find father's decease. His family was originally from him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavorScotland, whence his grandfather removed to Car-ing to move the passions; his genius was too sullen lisle, in the reign of Henry VIII. and saturnine to do it gracefully. Humor was his Benjamin received his education under the learned proper sphere; and in that he delighted most to Camden, at Westminster school; and had made represent mechanics." Besides his comedies, Jonson extraordinary progress in his studies, when his mo- composed two tragedies, Sejanus and Catiline, both ther, who had married a bricklayer for her second formed upon ancient models, and full of transhusband, took him away to work under his step-lations; and neither of them successful. His drafather. From this humble employment he escaped, matic compositions, however, do not come within by enlisting as a soldier in the army, then serving in the scope of the present publication. the Netherlands against the Spaniards. An exploit which he here performed, of killing an enemy in single combat, gave him room to boast ever after of a degree of courage which has not often been found in alliance with poetical distinction.
In 1616, he published a folio volume of his works, which procured for him a grant from his majesty of the salary of poet-laureate for life, though he did not take possession of the post till three years after. With high intellectual endowments, he had many On his return, Jonson entered himself at St. unamiable traits in his character, having a high deJohn's College, Cambridge, which he was shortly gree of pride and self-conceit, with a disposition to obliged to quit from the scanty state of his finances. abuse and disparage every one who incurred his He then turned his thoughts to the stage, and jealousy or displeasure. Jonson was reduced applied for employment at the theatres; but his to necessitous circumstances in the latter part of talents, as an actor, could only procure for him his life, though he obtained from Charles I an adadmission at an obscure playhouse in the suburbs.vance of his salary as laureate. He died in 1637, at Here he had the misfortune to kill a fellow-actor the age of 63, being at that time considered as at the in a duel, for which he was thrown into prison. head of English poetry. He was interred in WestThe state of mind to which he was here brought, minster Abbey, where an inscription was placed over gave the advantage to a Popish priest in converting his grave, familiarly expressive of the reputation. him to the Catholic faith, under which religion he continued for twelve years.
he had acquired among his countrymen: it was, "O rare Ben Jonson." Six months after his death, a collection of poems to his honor, by a number of the most eminent writers and scholars in the nation, was published, with the title of "Jonsonius Virbius; or the memory of Ben Jonson, revived by the Friends of the Muses."
After his liberation from prison, he married, and applied in earnest to writing for the stage, in which he appears to have already made several attempts. His comedy of "Every Man in his Humor," the first of his acknowledged pieces, was performed with applause in 1596; and henceforth he continued to Although, as a general poet, Jonson for the most furnish a play yearly, till his time was occupied by part merits the character of harsh, frigid, and tedious; the composition of the masques and other enter- there are, however, some strains in which he appears tainments, by which the accession of James was with singular elegance, and may be placed in comcelebrated. Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic petition with some of the most favored writers of Poetry, speaks of him as the "most learned and that class. judicious writer which any theatre ever had." and
TO WILLIAM CAMDEN. CAMDEN, most reverend head, to whom I owe All that I am in arts, all that I know(How nothing's that!) to vhom my country owes The great renown, and name wherewith she goes. Than thee the age sees not that thing more grave, More high, more holy, that she more would crave. What name, what skill, what faith hast thou in things!
What sight in searching the most antique springs!
Pardon free truth, and let thy modesty,
FROM CYNTHIA'S REVELS
QUEEN and huntress, chaste and fair, Now the sun is laid to sleep; Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep: Hesperus intreats thy light, Goddess excellently bright.
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose; Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear, when day did close; Bless us then with wished sight, Goddess excellently bright.
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal-shining quiver; Give unto the flying heart
Space to breathe, how short soever: Thou that mak'st a day of night, Goddess excellently bright.
FROM THE SILENT WOMAN. STILL to be neat, still to be drest, As you were going to a feast; Still to be powder'd, still perfum'd: Lady, it is to be presum'd, Though art's hid causes are not found, All is not sweet, all is not sound. Give me a look, give me a face, That makes simplicity a grace; Robes loosely flowing, hair as free: Such sweet neglect more taketh me, Than all th' adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
1. I HAVE been, all day, looking after A raven, feeding upon a quarter;
And, soon as she tern'd her beak to the south, f snatch'd this mo.sel out of her mouth.
ON LUCY, COUNTESS OF BEDFORD.
THIS morning, timely rapt with holy fire,
I thought to form unto my zealous Muse, What kind of creature I could most desire, To honor, serve, and love; as poets use.
I meant to make her fair, and free, and wise,
Of greatest blood, and yet more good than great; I meant the day-star should not brighter rise,
Nor lend like influence from his lucent seat. I meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet, Hating that solemn vice of greatness, pride; I meant each softest virtue there should meet, Fit in that softer bosom to reside.
Only a learned, and a manly soul
I purpos'd her; that should, with even pow`rs, The rock, the spindle, and the shears control
Of Destiny, and spin her own free hours. Such when I meant to feign, and wish'd to see, My Muse bade, Bedford write, and that was she.
SONG TO CELIA
Kiss me, sweet: the wary lover
While you breathe. First give a hundred,
TO THE SAME.
DRINK to me only with thine eyes,
The thirst, that from the soul doth rise,
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I sent thee, late, a rosy wreath,
As giving it a hope, that there
But thou thereon did'st only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me:
Since when, it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.
FROM THE SHEPHERD'S HOLIDAY.
THUS, thus, begin: the yearly rites
Strew, strew, the glad and smiling ground,
The garden-star, the queen of May,
Drop, drop, you violets, change your hues.
LOVE, A LITTLE BOY
MASQUE ON LORD HADDINGTON'S MARRIAGE
BEAUTIES, have ye seen this toy,
Called Love, a little boy,
Almost naked, wanton, blind,
She, that will but now discover
He hath of marks about him plenty :
And his breath a flame entire,
At his sight, the Sun hath turned,
Wings he hath, which though ye clip,
He will leap from lip to lip.