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ON OLD COLT.
OR all night-sins, with others' wives unknown,
ON MARGARET RATCLIFFE.
M ARBLE, weep, for thou dost cover
Few so have rued Fate in a brother.] Of this lady, Margaret Ratcliffe, I can give the reader no information. She was probably a collateral branch of the family of the earl of Sussex, for the marriage of whose daughter Jonson wrote the beautiful Masque of the Hue and Cry after Cupid. From a subsequent Epigram I collect that she had five brothers, of whom she had the misfortune to lose four; two in the field, in Ireland, and two by sickness, in the Low Countries.
IPSY, new bawd, is turn’d physician,
And gets more gold than all the college can :
Such her quaint practice is, so it allures, For what she gave, a whore ; a bawd, she cures.
ON GILES AND JOAN.
Th’ observing neighbours no such mood can
Indeed, poor Giles repents he married ever ;
to will and nill The self-same things, &c.] Idem velle atque nolle, ea demum amicitia est.
To ROBERT EARL OF SALISBURY.8
HAT need hast thou of me, or of my muse,
Whose actions so themselves do celebrate ?
I, not the worst, am covetous of thee:
Of adding to thy fame; thine may to me,
And what I write thereof find far, and free From servile flattery, common poets' shame,
As thou stand'st clear of the necessity.
8 Robert earl of Salisbury.] Younger son of lord Burleigh. He and his elder brother, William, were both created earls in the same day. Robert in the morning ; to give his descendants precedency of those of William.
“ This man,” Walpole says, “who had the fortune or misfortune" (why misfortune? but this poor stuff was meant for wit) “ to please both Elizabeth and James the First; who like the son of the duke of Lerma had the uncommon fate of succeeding his own father as prime minister, and who unlike that son of Lerma did not, though treacherous to every body else, supplant his own father, is sufficiently known; his public story may be found in all our histories, his particular in the Biographia.” Cat. of Royal and Noble Authors. In none of these, however, did Walpole look for the “story" of this eminent statesman; but in the ignorant, impure, and scandalous reports of the Weldons, Peytons, and other puritanical disseminators of falsehood, as better suited to the base and envious nature of his own spirit. When the time shall come for Walpole himself to be added to the number of “noble authors,” by a sterner biographer than Mr. Parke, he will, if fairly represented, be found to be one of the most odious and contemptible of the whole “Catalogue.”
ON CHUFFE, BANKS the Usurer's Kinsman.
HUFFE, lately rich in name, in chattels,
He meant they thither should make swift repair,
ON MY FIRST SON.
VAREWELL, thou child of my right hand, and
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy : Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay, Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
9 Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy.] The expression here must be explained : thou child of my right hand shews us his son's name was Benjamin ; that word being usually taken as a compound of two Hebrew words, which imply that meaning. But some modern commentators more justly interpret the word Benjamin to signify the son of days, or of old age. Benjamin was the youngest son, and probably born when his father was advanced in years. WHAL.
My predecessor seems to write without reading what he is about to explain. The title declares the Epitaph to be written on his first son; Benjamin, says the critic, was the youngest son, and probably born when the father was advanced in years! This is sad trifling; but Whalley appears to me to have contented himself, upon all occasions, with second-hand authorities, which are commonly worse than none at all. In one of the spiteful attempts made to injure Jonson by his “friend ” Drummond, he relates the following anecdote, which he had (he says) from the poet's own mouth. “While the plague raged in London, he was on a visit with Camden, at the house of sir Robert Cotton, in the country. Here he saw, in
O, could I lose all father, now ! for why,
To siR LUCKLESS W00-ALL.
as 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. a dream, his eldest son, with the mark of a bloody cross (the token of the plague) on his forehead. Alarmed at this, he prayed to God for him, and went in the morning to Camden's room, and told him what he had seen. Camden desired him not to be dejected, for that it was merely the creation of his own fears : but there came a letter from his wife, to inform him that the child was dead of the plague. Jonson added, that his son appeared to him of a manly stature, and of such growth as he thought he would be at the Resurrection.” There is enough in this narrative to convince any one but the vile calumniator who reports it, that the fond father was not, as he asserts, void of all religion :- but to the purpose of the note. The plague broke out in 1603, the child was then in his seventh year; he was born, therefore, in 1596, when Jonson, instead of being “advanced in years,” was just turned of two and twenty !
The last couplet contains a pretty allusion to the cheerless advice of Martial, in one of his melancholy moods :
Si vitare velis acerba quædam,