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6 A tell-tale in their company
They never could endure,
And whoso kept not secretly
Their mirth, was punish'd sure;
It was a just and Christian deed,
To pinch such black and blue:
Oh, how the commonwealth doth need
Such justices as you !
Asrare 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
Lies the subject of all verse,
Sidney's sister, Pembroke's mother;
Death! ere thou hast slain another,
Learn’d and fair, and good as she,
Time shall throw a dart at thee!
Sitting, and ready to be drawn,
What make these velvets, silks, and lawn,
Embroideries, feathers, fringes, lace,
Where every limb takes like a face
Send these suspected helps to aid
Some form defective, or decay’d;
This beauty, without falsehood fair,
Needs nought to clothe it but the air.
Yet something to the painter's view,
Were fitly interposed; so new,
He shall, if he can understand,
Work by my fancy, with his hand.
Draw first a cloud, all save her neck,
And, out of that, make day to break;
Till like her face it do appear,
And men may think all light rose there.
Then let the beams of that disperse
The cloud, and show the universe;
But at such distance, as the eye
May rather yet adore, than spy.
(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
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:
The middle ground thy mares and horses breed.
Each bank doth yield thee conies, and the tops
Fertile of wood. Ashore, and Sidney's copse,
To crown thy open table doth provide
The purpled pheasant, with the speckled side:
The painted partridge lies in every field,
And, for thy mess, is willing to be kill'd.
And if the high-swollen Medway fail thy dish,
Thou hast thy ponds that pay thee tribute fish,
Fat, aged carps that run into thy net,
And pikes, now weary their own kind to eat,
As loth the second draught or cast to stay,
Officiously, at first, themselves betray.
Bright eels that emulate them, and leap on land,
Before the fisher, or into his hand.
Thou hast thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers,
Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours.
The early cherry with the later plum,
Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come:
The blushing apricot and woolly peach
Hang on thy walls that every child may reach.
And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They're rear'd with no man's ruin, no man's groan;
There's none that dwell about them wish them
But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that think they
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
An emblem of themselves, in plum or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provision, far above
The need of such? whose liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know !
Where comes no guest but is allow'd to eat
Without his fear, and of thy lord's own meat:
Where the same beer, and bread, and selfsame
That is his lordship's shall be also mine.
And I not fain to sit (as some this day
At great men's tables) and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups; nor, standing by,
A waiter doth my gluttony envy:
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat;
He knows below he shall find plenty of meat;
Thy tables hoard not up for the next day,
Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray
For fire, or lights, or livery: all is there,
As if thou, then, wert mine, or I reign'd here.
There's nothing I can wish, for which I stay.
This found King James, when hunting late this
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;