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There with thee, new-welcome saint,
Like fortunes may her soul acquaint,
With thee there clad in radiant sheen,
No Marchioness, but now a Queen.
[First printed anonymously among the Commendatory verses
prefixed to the Shakspeare Folio of 1632, where it is
“ An Epitaph on
the Admirable Dramatick
Poet, W. Shakespeare."]
What needs my Shakspeare for his honoured bones,
The labour of an age in pilèd stones ?
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid ?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong monument.
For whilst to the shame of slow-endeavouring art
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou, our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving,
And so sepulchred in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
John Milton, 1608-1674.
To the Memory of My Beloved
MASTER WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE,
And What He Hath Left us.
[From “ Underwoods : consisting of Divers Poems," 1641, part of
the second folio edition.]
To draw no envy, Shakspeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such,
As neither man, nor Muse, can praise too much.
'Tis true, and all men's suffrage. But these ways
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise ;
For silliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right;
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance ;
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it seem'd to raise.
These are, as some infamous bawd, or whore,
Should praise a matron ; what could hurt her more?
But thou art proof against them, and, indeed,
Above the ill fortune of them, or the need.
I therefore will begin : Soul of the age !
The applause! delight! the wonder of our stage !
My Shakspeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little farther off, to make thee room:
Thou art a monument without a tomb,
And art alive still, while thy book doth live
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses,
I mean with great, but disproportioned, Muses :
For if I thought my judgment were of years,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lily outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlow's mighty line.
And though thou hadst small Latin, and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee, I will not seek
For games: but call forth thund'ring Eschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To live again, to hear thy buskin tread,
And shake a stage : or when thy socks were on,
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all, that insolent Greece, or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines !
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please ;
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of nature's family.
Yet must I not give nature all; thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the poet's matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion; and, that he
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses anvil ; turn the same,
And himself with it, that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel, he may gain a scorn ;
For a good poet's made, as well as born.
And such wert thou ! Look how the father's face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
In his well-turned and true-filed lines :
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet Swan of Avon ! what a sight it were
To see thee in our water yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James !
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanced, and made a constellation there!
Shine forth, thou Star of poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage,
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.
Ben Jonson, 1573 (3)—1637.
[From " Jonsonus Virbius : or the Memorie of Ben Johnson.
Revived by the Friends of the Muses," 1638.]
The Muses fairest Light in no dark time,
The Wonder of a Learned Age; the Line
Which none can pass, the most proportioned Wit
To Nature, the best Judge of what was fit :
The deepest, plainest, highest, clearest Pen;
The Voice most echoed by consenting Men;
The Soul which answered best to all, well said
By others, and which most requital made :
Tuned to the highest Key of Ancient Rome,
Returning all her Musick with his own :
In whom with Nature, Study claimed a Part,
Yet who unto himself owed all this Art:
Here lies Ben Johnson; every Age will look
With Sorrow here, with Wonder on his Book.
TO THE MEMORY OF MR OLDHAM
[Oldham died 9th December 1683, and this poem was printed,
with other commendatory verses, in his “ emains” in verse and prose, which appeared in the following year. ]
Farewell, too little and too lately known
Whom I began to think, and call my own :
For sure our souls were near allied, and thine
Cast in the same poetic mould with mine.
One common note on either lyre did strike,
And knaves and fools we both abhorred alike;
To the same goal did both our studies drive ;
The last set out, the soonest did arrive.
Thus Nisus fell upon the slippery place,
Whilst his young friend performed and won the race.
O early ripe! to thy abundant store
What could advancing age have added more?
It might (what nature never gives the young)
Have taught the numbers of thy native tongue.
But satire needs not those, and wit will shine
Through the harsh cadence of a rugged line.
A noble error, and but seldom made,
When poets are by too much force betrayed.
Thy generous fruits, though gathered ere their prime,
Still showed a quickness; and maturing time
But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of rhyme.
Once more, hail, and farewell ! farewell, thou young
But ah! too short, Marcellus of our tongue !
Thy brows with ivy and with laurels bound :
But fate and gloomy night encompass thee around.