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6 A tell-tale in their company
They never could endure,
Their mirth, was punish'd sure;
To pinch such black and blue :
Such justices as you !
As rare Ben' chiefly shone as a dramatist, we need not recount at length the events of his life. He was born in 1574; his father, who had been a clergyman in Westminster, and was sprung from a Scotch family in Annandale, having died before his birth. His mother marrying a bricklayer, Ben was brought up to the same employment. Disliking this, he enlisted in the army, and served with credit in the Low Countries. When he
, came home, he entered St John's College, Cambridge; but his stay there must have been short, since he is found in London at the age of twenty, married, and acting on the stage. He began at the same time to write dramas. He was unlucky enough to quarrel with and kill another performer, for which he was committed to prison, but released without a trial. He resumed his labours as a writer for the stage; but having failed in the acting department, he forsook it for ever. His first hit was, 'Every Man in his Humour,' a play enacted in 1598, Shakspeare being one of the actors. His course afterwards was chequered. He quarrelled with Marston and Dekker,- he was imprisoned for some reflections on the Scottish nation in one of his comedies, -he was appointed in 1619 poet-laureate, with a pension of 100 marks, -he made the same year a journey to Scotland on foot, where he visited Drummond at Hawthornden, and they seem to have mutually loathed each other,—he fell into habits of intemperance, and acquired, as he said himself, A mountain belly and a rocky face.'
His favourite haunts were the Mermaid, and the Falcon Tavern, Southwark. He was engaged in constant squabbles with his contemporaries, and died at last, in 1637, in miserably poor circumstances. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, under a square tablet, where one of his admirers afterwards inscribed the words, 'O rare Ben Jonson!'
Of his powers as a dramatist we need not speak, but present our readers with some rough and racy specimens of his poetry.
EPITAPH ON THE COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE.
Underneath this sable hearse
THE PICTURE OF THE BODY.
Sitting, and ready to be drawn,
limb takes like a face
Send these suspected helps to aid
Yet something to the painter's view,
Work by my fancy, with his hand.
Draw first a cloud, all save her neck,
Then let the beams of that disperse
(FROM "THE FOREST.') Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show Of touch or marble; nor canst boast a row Of polish'd pillars, or a roof of gold: Thou hast no lantern, whereof tales are told; Or stair, or courts; but stand’st an ancient pile, And these grudged at, are reverenced the while. Thou joy’st in better marks of soil and air, Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair. Thou hast thy walks for health as well as sport; Thy mount to which the dryads do resort, Where Pan and Bacchus their high feasts have made Beneath the broad beech, and the chestnut shade; That taller tree which of a nut was set At his great birth where all the Muses met. There, in the writhed bark, are cut the names Of many a Sylvan token with his flames. And thence the ruddy Satyrs oft provoke The lighter Fauns to reach thy Ladies' Oak. Thy copse, too, named of Gamage, thou hast here That never fails, to serve thee, season'd deer, When thou would’st feast or exercise thy friends. The lower land that to the river bends,
Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed:
make The better cheeses, bring them, or else send By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands; and whose baskets bear
way With his brave son, the Prince; they saw thy fires Shine bright on every hearth, as the desires Of thy Penates had been set on flame To entertain them; or the country came, With all their zeal, to warm their welcome here. What (great, I will not say, but) sudden cheer Did'st thou then make them! and what praise was
heap'd On thy good lady then, who therein reap'd The just reward of her high housewifery;