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Best Famous Ben Jonson Poems

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Written 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.


Written 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.


Written 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.


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Written by Ben Jonson | |

To Thomas Earl of Suffolk


LXVII.
 — 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.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

Of Life and Death


LXXX.
 ? 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.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

To King James


XXXIV.
 ? TO KING JAMES.
  (II)  
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.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

To Francis Beaumont

 E  P  I  G  R  A  M  S .
  

LV.
 — TO FRANCIS BEAUMONT.
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.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

On Mungril Esquire


XLVIII.
 ? 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.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

On Banks the Usurer


XXXI.
 ? 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.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

On a Robbery


VIII.
 ? ON A ROBBERY.
  
RIDWAY robb'd DUNCOTE of three hundred pound,
    Ridway was ta'en, arraign'd, condemn'd to die ;
But, for this money, was a courtier found,
    Begg'd Ridway's pardon :  Duncote now doth cry,
Robb'd both of money, and the law's relief,
    ? The courtier is become the greater thief.
?


Written by Ben Jonson | |

To One that Desired Me Not to Name Him


LXXVII.
 ? TO ONE THAT DESIRED ME NOT TO NAME HIM.
  
Be safe, nor fear thyself so good a fame,
That, any way, my book should speak thy name :
For, if thou shame, rank’d with my friends, to go,
I am more ashamed to have thee thought my foe.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

On Court Parrot


LXXI.
 — ON COURT PARROT.

To pluck down mine, POLL sets up new wits still;
Still 'tis his luck to praise me 'gainst his will.


Written by Ben Jonson | by Ben Jonson. You can read it on PoetrySoup.com' st_url='http://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poem/23053/Song_That_Women_Are_But_Mens_Shadows' st_title='Song. That Women Are But Men's Shadows'>|

Song. That Women Are But Men's Shadows

  

VII.
— SONG.
— THAT WOMEN ARE BUT MEN'S
SHADOWS.
 


    Let her alone, she will court you.
Say are not women truly, then,                     5
Styl'd but the shadows of us men ?
At morn and even shades are longest ;
    At noon they are or short, or none :
So men at weakest, they are strongest,
    But grant us perfect, they're not known.
  10
Say, are not women truly, then,
Styl'd but the shadows of us men ?

    Seem to fly it, it will pursue :
So court a mistress, she denies you ;
    Let her alone, she will court you.
Say are not women truly, then,                     5
Styl'd but the shadows of us men ?
At morn and even shades are longest ;
    At noon they are or short, or none :
So men at weakest, they are strongest,
    But grant us perfect, they're not known.
  10
Say, are not women truly, then,
Styl'd but the shadows of us men ?


Written by Ben Jonson | |

To Fine Grand


LXXIII.
 — TO FINE GRAND.

What is't, FINE GRAND, makes thee my friendship fly,
Or take an Epigram so fearfully,
As 'twere a challenge, or a borrower's letter:
The world must know your greatness is my debtor.
Imprimis, Grand, you owe me for a jest
I lent you, on mere acquaintance, at a feast.
Item, a tale or two some fortnight after,
That yet maintains you, and your house in laughter.
Item, the Babylonian song you sing;
Item, a fair Greek poesy for a ring,
With which a learned madam you bely.
Item, a charm surrounding fearfully
Your partie-per-pale picture, one half drawn
In solemn cypress, th' other cobweb lawn.
Item, a gulling imprese for you, at tilt.
Item, your mistress' anagram, in your hilt.
Item, your own, sewn in your mistress' smock.
Item, an epitaph on my lord's cock,
In most vile verses, and cost me more pain,
Than had I made 'em good, to fit your vein.
Forty things more, dear Grand, which you know true,
For which, or pay me quickly, or I'll pay you.


Written by Ben Jonson | |

On Lieutenant Shift


XII.
 ? ON LIEUTENANT SHIFT.
  
SHIFT, here in town, not meanest among squires,
That haunt Pickt-hatch, Marsh-Lambeth, and White-friars,
Keeps himself, with half a man, and defrays
The charge of that state, with this charm, god pays.

By that one spell he lives, eats, drinks, arrays
Himself :  his whole revenue is, god pays.

The quarter-day is come ; the hostess says,
She must have money : he returns, god pays.

The tailor brings a suit home : he it says,
Look's o'er the bill, likes it : and says, god pays.

He steals to ordinaries ; there he plays
At dice his borrow'd money : which, god pays.

Then takes up fresh commodities, for days ;
Signs to new bonds ; forfeits ; and cries, god pays.

That lost, he keeps his chamber, reads essays,
Takes physic, tears the papers : still god pays.

Or else by water goes, and so to plays ;
Calls for his stool, adorns the stage : god pays.

To every cause he meets, this voice he brays :
His only answer is to all, god pays.

Not his poor cockatrice but he betrays
Thus ; and for his lechery, scores, god pays.

But see !  the old bawd hath serv'd him in his trim,
Lent him a pocky whore.
?She hath paid him.


[ AJ Notes:
   l.
9    He it says, he it assays, i.
e.
, tries it on.
   l.
11  Steals to ordinaries, goes to taverns.
   l.
16  Physic, medicine.
   l.
23  In his trim, in his own fashion, i.
e.
, she has given him
           a taste of his own medicine.
   l.
24  Pocky, diseased.
]