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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.


More great poems below...

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.
?


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.


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.


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 ?


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.


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.
]


by Ben Jonson | |

To William Roe


LXX.
 — TO WILLIAM ROE.

When nature bids us leave to live, 'tis late
Then to begin, my ROE!  He makes a state
In life, that can employ it; and takes hold
On the true causes, ere they grow to old.
Delay is bad, doubt worse, depending worst;
Each best day of our life escapes us, first:
Then, since we, more than many, these truths know;
Though life be short, let us not make it so.


by Ben Jonson | |

On Don Surly


XXVIII.
 ? ON DON SURLY.
  
Don SURLY, to aspire the glorious name
Of a great man, and to be thought the same,
Makes serious use of all great trade he knows,
He speaks to men with a rhinocerote's nose,
Which he thinks great ; and so reads verses too :
And that is done, as he saw great men do.
He has tympanies of business in his face,
And can forget men's names, with a great grace.
He will both argue, and discourse in oaths,
Both which are great : and laugh at ill-made clothes ;
That's greater, yet : to cry his own up neat.
He doth at meals, alone, his pheasant eat,
Which is main greatness ; and at his still board
He drinks to no man : that's, too, like a lord.
He keeps another's wife, which is a spice
Of solemn greatness ; and he dares, at dice,
Blaspheme God greatly ; or some poor hind beat,
That breathes in his dog's way : and this is great.
Nay more, for greatness sake, he will be one
May hear my epigrams, but like of none.
SURLY, use other arts, these only can
Style thee a most great fool, but no great man.


[AJ Notes:
cry his own up neat, facilely praise his own clothes.
still board, quiet table.
]


by Ben Jonson | |

To Fool, or Knave


LXI.
 — TO FOOL, OR KNAVE.

Thy praise or dispraise is to me alike ;
One doth not stroke me, nor the other strike.



by Ben Jonson | |

To Sir Cod


L.
 ? TO SIR COD.
  
Leave, COD, tobacco-like, burnt gums to take,
Or fumy clysters, thy moist lungs to bake :
Arsenic would thee fit for society make.



by Ben Jonson | |

Song To Celia

  

V.
— SONG.
— TO CELIA.
             


He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain.
        5
Suns that set, may rise again:
But if once we lose this light,
'Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys ?
Fame and rumor are but toys.
         10
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies ;
Or his easier ears buguile,
So removed by our wile ?
'Tis no sin love's fruit to steal,         15
But the sweet theft to reveal :
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.


While we may, the sports of love ;
Time will not be ours for ever :
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain.
        5
Suns that set, may rise again:
But if once we lose this light,
'Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys ?
Fame and rumor are but toys.
         10
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies ;
Or his easier ears buguile,
So removed by our wile ?
'Tis no sin love's fruit to steal,         15
But the sweet theft to reveal :
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.


by Ben Jonson | |

On Spies


LIX.
 — TO FOOL, OR KNAVE.
SPIES, you are lights in state, but of base stuff,
Who, when you've burnt yourselves down to the snuff,
Stink, and are thrown away.
End fair enough.



by Ben Jonson | |

To Sir Luckless Woo-All


XLVI.
 ? TO SIR LUCKLESS WOO-ALL.
  
Is this the sir, who, some waste wife to win,
A knight-hood bought, to go a wooing in?
'Tis LUCKLESS, he that took up one on band
To pay at's day of marriage.
By my hand
The knight-wright's cheated then !  he'll never pay :
Yes, now he wears his knighthood every day.


by Ben Jonson | |

To my Muse


LXV.
 — TO MY MUSE.

Away, and leave me, thou thing most abhorr'd
That hast betray'd me to a worthless lord ;
Made me commit most fierce idolatry
To a great image through thy luxury :
Be thy next master's more unlucky muse,
And, as thou'st mine, his hours and youth abuse,
Get him the time's long grudge, the court's ill will ;
And reconcil'd, keep him suspected still.
Make him lose all his friends ; and, which is worse,
Almost all ways to any better course.
With me thou leav'st an happier muse than thee,
And which thou brought'st me, welcome poverty :
She shall instruct my after-thoughts to write
Things manly, and not smelling parasite.
But I repent me : stay — Whoe'er is raised,
For worth he has not, he is tax'd not praised.


by Ben Jonson | |

On My First Daughter

On My First Daughter
by Ben Jonson

Here lies, to each her parents' ruth,
Mary, the daughter of their youth;
Yet all heaven's gifts being heaven's due,
It makes the father less to rue.

At six months' end, she parted hence
With safety of her innocence;
Whose soul heaven's queen, whose name she bears,
In comfort of her mother's tears,
Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:
Where, while that severed doth remain,
This grave partakes the fleshly birth;
Which cover lightly, gentle earth!


by Ben Jonson | |

On Bawds and Usurers


LVII.
 — ON BAWDS AND USURERS.


If, as their ends, their fruits were so, the same,
Bawdry and Usury were one kind of game.