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.
 
An Ode to Himself
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
WHERE 1 dost thou careless lie
  Buried in ease and sloth?
Knowledge that sleeps, doth die
And this security,
  It is the common moth        5
That eats on wits and arts, and that destroys 2 them both.
 
Are all the Aonian springs
  Dried up? lies Thespia waste?
Doth Clarius’ harp want strings,
That not a nymph now sings;        10
  Or droop they as disgraced,
To see their seats and bowers by chattering pies defaced?
 
If hence thy silence be,
  As ’tis too just a cause,
Let this thought quicken thee:        15
Minds that are great and free
  Should not on fortune pause;
’Tis crown enough to virtue still, her own applause.
 
What though the greedy fry
  Be taken with false baits        20
Of worded balladry,
And think it poesy?
  They die with their conceits,
And only piteous scorn upon their folly waits.
 
Then take in hand thy lyre;        25
  Strike in thy proper strain;
With Japhet’s line aspire
Sol’s chariot, for new fire
  To give the world again:
Who aided him, will thee, the issue of Jove’s brain.        30
 
And, since our dainty age
  Cannot endure reproof,
Make not thyself a page
To that strumpet the stage;
  But sing high and aloof,        35
Safe from the wolf’s black jaw, 3 and the dull ass’s hoof.
 
Note 1. From Underwoods, Folio 1640. [back]
Note 2. And (that) destroys: In the original there is a deficient syllable where the brackets enclose. Gifford supplied so, and Whalley, quite: neither of which seems to apt as that. [back]
Note 3. Safe from the wolf’s black jaw, etc. Part of this concluding stanza is to be found at the end of the The Poetaster; Jonson’s dislike of the stage here breaks out; and this is not the only passage in his writings which informs us that necessity alone compelled him to write for the stage. [back]
 
 
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