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creased his reputation. A rapid succession of pieces of great excellence placed him in the first rank of dramatic writers. Fairer prospects of emolument opened to him on the accession of James I. From that period be almost abandoned the stage, and employed himself in the production of his series of beautiful masques for the amusement of the Court and of the nobility. This species of writing Jonson may claim the credit of having brought to perfection, and it may almost be said to have died with him.
It was during these happier years that he acquired those habits of conviviality to which his enemies have given a less gentle name. His company was courted by all the talent of the time, and the suppers of the " Mer. maid" are mentioned with enthusiasm by those who had enjoyed their keen encounters of contending wits. Much of the obloquy against Jonson has arisen from a result of a journey he undertook to Scotland in 1618. He had visited the poet Drummond of Hawthornden. Drummond's notes of their conversations were published partially, under the sanction of his son, in 1711, long after his own and Jonson's death. They contained strictures, reckoned to be malignant, on many of Jonson's contemporaries and on some of his patrons. Jonson's biographer, Gifford, falls furiously on Drummond for the treachery implied in the noting down of confidential conversations, as these have been the foundation of aspersions of the worst kind on Jonson's character.
The death of James deprived Jonson of a kind and indulgent patron. He had succeeded Daniel in the hitherto honorary office of laureate, and received for it a small pension ; but he was neglected by Charles I., and the concluding years of his life were spent under the pressure of poverty and disease, during which, however, his indefatigable pen was seldom unemployed. He died in 1637, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. The flagstone over his grave was inscribed by some familiar friend with the words “ Oh rare Ben Jonson."
Gifford heroically defends Jonson from the calumnies heaped on his memory, especially by the commentators of Shakespeare, and vindicates for his author the possession of qualities that commanded the affection and respect of the first men of the time, and caused his death to be felt as a public loss. He seems to have been a man of strong and independent character ; somewhat rough and arrogant in manner, but liberal and kind-hearted in temper, with the frankness and bluntness of a true Englishman. His works display a veneration for all that is high-minded and virtuous ; his learning is so prodigious that his commentators pant with difficulty after his footsteps. He has not been popular since his own age ; Gifford assigns for this various reasons. - See Vol. I. p. 135, et seq. His characters want individuality, and illustrate“ humours" rather than minds. His wit is brilliant, “ but does not make the heart laugh." His two tragedies, Sejanus and Catiline, lofty, ornate, and correct in the costume of Roman manners, are frigid and passionless. “ In the plots of his comedies he is deserving of undisputed praise.” Aristophanes, Terence, and Plautus are his models. At the head of his comedies in reputation stand
“ The Fox, the Alchemist, and Silent Woman,
Done by Ben Jonson, and outdone by no man." His language is nervous and masculine ; “ perhaps," says Dryden, “he did a little too much Romanize our tongue.” His masques abound in passages of the most airy and animated beauty.
1 A tavern in Cornhill. ? See a defence of Drummond and the conversations themselves in a publication of the Shakespeare Society, by D. Laing, Est
3 For a judicious estimate of the merits of Jonson, see the Retrospective Review, vol. i. p. 181.
FROM "CYNTHIA'S REVELS."
SONG OF HESPERUS.
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Bless us then with wished sight,
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
FROM CATILINE'S ADDRESS TO HIS ARMY.
ACT V. sc. 5.
You might have lived in servitude or exile,
FROM EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR.
FROM THE EPILOGUE TO “EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR."
Yet humble as the earth do I implore,
* may suffer most late change
FROM "THE FOREST."
FAREWELL TO THE WORLD.
That hour upon my morn of age,
I know thy forms are studied arts,
Thy subtle ways be narrow straits,
And what thou call'st thy gifts, are baits.
I know too, though thon strut and paint,
Yet thou art both shrunk up and old,
And all thy good is to be sold.
I know thou whole art but a shop
Of toys and trifles, traps and snares,
Yet thou art falser than thy wares.
2 Intrigue. 3 Compare Milton's “ Peace, with turtle-wing." Nativity Hymn, 50. Suspicion.
5 Compare Shakespeare, Henry VIII. Act V. Sc. 4. Craniner's Prophecy ;-" This royal infant," &c.
And, knowing this, should I yet stay,
Like such as blow away their lives,
Enamoured of their golden gyves ?
Nor for my peace will I go far,
As wanderers do, that still do roam ;
Here in my bosom, and at Lome.
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
And I'll not look for wine.
Doth ask a drink divine :
I would not change for thine.
Not so much honouring thee,
It could not withered be;
And sent'st it back to me,
Not of itself but thee.
FROM "THE UNDERWOODS."
TO THE HOLY TRINITY.
O Holy, blessed, glorious Trinity
Help, help to lift
O take my gift.
1 This song is a translation from a “ Collection of Love Letters” by the Greek sophist Philostratus,
FROM THE UNDERWOODS.
All-gracions God, the sinner's sacrifice,
An offering meet
To thee more sweet?
To worship thee!
"All's done in me !"
For acts of grace!
Of seeing your face.
Oh grant it me!
One God to see.
My Maker, Saviour, and my Sanctifier !
O then how blest!
Sball I there rest.