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Best Famous Ben Jonson Poems

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by Ben Jonson |

His Excuse for Loving

Let it not your wonder move, 
Less your laughter, that I love. 
Though I now write fifty years, 
I have had, and have, my peers. 
Poets, though divine, are men; 
Some have loved as old again. 
And it is not always face, 
Clothes, or fortune gives the grace, 
Or the feature, or the youth; 
But the language and the truth, 
With the ardor and the passion, 
Gives the lover weight and fashion. 
If you then would hear the story, 
First, prepare you to be sorry 
That you never knew till now 
Either whom to love or how; 
But be glad as soon with me 
When you hear that this is she 
Of whose beauty it was sung, 
She shall make the old man young, 
Keep the middle age at stay, 
And let nothing hide decay, 
Till she be the reason why 
All the world for love may die. 

by Ben Jonson |

The Hourglass

Consider this small dust here running in the glass,
By atoms moved;
Could you believe that this the body was 
Of one that loved?
And in his mistress' flame, playing like a fly,
Turned to cinders by her eye:
Yes; and in death, as life, unblessed,
To have it expressed,
Even ashes of lovers find no rest.

by Ben Jonson |

To Celia

Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes, 
And I will pledge with mine; 
Or leave a kisse but in the cup, 
And Ile not looke for wine. 
The thirst, that from the soule doth rise, 
Doth aske a drinke divine: 
But might I of Jove's Nectar sup, 
I would not change for thine. 
I sent thee, late, a rosie wreath, 
Not so much honoring thee, 
As giving it a hope, that there 
It could not withered bee. 
But thou thereon did'st onely breath, 
And sent'st it back to mee: 
Since when it growes, and smells, I sweare, 
Not of it selfe, but thee. 

by Ben Jonson |

To Sir Robert Wroth



   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   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,   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,   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 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,   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,   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,   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 ;   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,   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.   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.
     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

by Ben Jonson |

To Thomas Earl of Suffolk


Since men have left to do praiseworthy things,
Most think all praises flatteries :  but truth brings
That sound and that authority with her name,
As, to be raised by her, is only fame.
Stand high, then, HOWARD, high in eyes of men,
High in thy blood, thy place ; but highest then,
When, in men's wishes, so thy virtues wrought,
As all thy honors were by them first sought :
And thou design'd to be the same thou art,
Before thou wert it, in each good man's heart :
Which, by no less confirmed, than thy king's choice,
Proves that is God's, which was the people's voice.

by Ben Jonson |

Of Life and Death


The ports of death are sins ; of life, good deeds ;
Through which our merit leads us to our meeds.
How wilful blind is he, then, that would stray,
And hath it, in his powers, to make his way !
This world death's region is, the other life's ;
And here, it should be one of our first strifes,
So to front death, as men might judge us past it :
For good men but see death, the wicked taste it.

by Ben Jonson |

To King James


Who would not be thy subject, JAMES, t'obey
A prince that rules by' example, more than sway ?
Whose manners draw, more than thy powers constrain.
And in this short time of thy happiest reign,
Hast purg'd thy realms, as we have now no cause
Left us of fear, but first our crimes, then laws.
Like aids 'gainst treasons who hath found before,
And than in them, how could we know God more ?
First thou preserved wert our king to be,
And since, the whole land was preserv'd for thee.

by Ben Jonson |

To Francis Beaumont

 E  P  I  G  R  A  M  S .  

How I do love thee, BEAUMONT, and thy Muse,
That unto me dost such religion use !
How I do fear myself, that am not worth
The least indulgent thought thy pen drops forth !
At once thou mak'st me happy, and unmak'st ;
And giving largely to me, more thou tak'st !
What fate is mine, that so itself bereaves ?
What art is thine, that so thy friend deceives ?
When even there, where most thou praisest me,
For writing better, I must envy thee.

by Ben Jonson |

On Mungril Esquire


His bought arms MUNG not liked ; for his first day
Of bearing them in field, he threw 'em away :
And hath no honor lost, our duellists say.

by Ben Jonson |

On Banks the Usurer


BANKS feel no lameness in his knotty gout,
His monies travel for him in and out.
And though the soundest legs go every day,
He toils to be at hell, as soon as they.