Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
Epithalamium
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
  UP! 1 youths and virgins! up, and praise
  The God whose nights outshine his days!
    Hymen, whose hallowed rites
  Could never boast of brighter lights;
    Whose bands pass liberty.        5
Two of your troop, that with the morn were free,
      Are now waged to his war;
        And what they are,
      If you’ll perfection see,
        Yourselves must be.        10
Shine, Hesperus! shine forth, thou wishèd star!
 
  What joys or honours can compare
  With holy nuptials, when they are
    Made out of equal parts
  Of years, of states, of hands, of hearts;        15
    When in the happy choice
The spouse and spoused have foremost voice!
      Such, glad of Hymen’s war,
        Live what they are
      And long perfection see:        20
        And such ours be.
Shine, Hesperus! shine forth, thou wishèd star!
 
  The solemn state of this one night
  Were fit to last an age’s light;
    But there are rites behind        25
  Have less of state and more of kind:
    Love’s wealthy crop of kisses,
And fruitful harvest of his mother’s blisses.
      Sound then to Hymen’s war!
        That what these are,        30
      Who will perfection see
        May haste to be.
Shine, Hesperus! shine forth, thou wishèd star!
 
  Love’s Commonwealth consists of toys;
  His Council are those antic boys,        35
    Games, Laughter, Sports, Delights,
  That triumph with him on these nights:
    To whom we must give way,
For now their reign begins, and lasts till day.
      They sweeten Hymen’s war,        40
        And in that jar
      Make all, that married be,
        Perfection see.
Shine, Hesperus! shine forth, thou wishèd star!
 
  Why stays the bridgegroom to invade        45
  Her that would be a matron made?
    Good-night! whilst yet we may
  Good-night to you a virgin say.
    To-morrow rise the same
Your mother is, and use a nobler name!        50
      Speed well in Hymen’s war,
        That what you are,
      By your perfection, we
        And all may see!
Shine, Hesperus! shine forth, thou wishèd star!        55
 
  To-night is Venus’ vigil kept,
  This night no bridegroom ever slept;
    And if the fair bride do,
  The married say ’tis his fault too.
    Wake then, and let your lights        60
Wake too, for they’ll tell nothing of your nights,
      But that in Hymen’s war
        You perfect are;
      And such perfection we
        Do pray should be.        65
Shine, Hesperus! shine forth, thou wishèd star!
 
  That, ere the rosy fingered Morn
  Behold nine moons, there may be born
    A babe to uphold the fame
  Of Radcliffe’s blood and Ramsay’s name;        70
    That may, in his great seed,
Wear the long honours of his father’s deed.
      Such fruits of Hymen’s war
        Most perfect are;
      And all perfection we        75
        Wish you should see.
Shine, Hesperus! shine forth, thou wishèd star!
 
Note 1. From The Description of the Masque, with Nuptial Songs, celebrating the Happy Marriage of John, Lord Ramsay, with the Lady Elizabeth Radcliffe, 1608. [back]
 
 
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