Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
 
Ode to Himself (after the failure of The New Inn)
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
          [Written after the failure of the comedy The New Inn, ‘never acted, but most negligently played by some, the king’s servants; and more squeamishly beheld and censured by others, the king’s subjects,’ January 19, 1629.]

  COME, leave the loathèd stage,
  And the more loathsome age;
Where pride and impudence, in faction knit,
    Usurp the chair of wit!
Indicting and arraigning every day        5
    Something they call a play.
  Let their fastidious, vain
  Commission of the brain
Run on and rage, sweat, censure, and condemn;
They were not made for thee, less thou for them.        10
 
  Say that thou pour’st them wheat,
  And they will acorns eat;
’Twere simple fury still thyself to waste
    On such as have no taste!
To offer them a surfeit of pure bread        15
    Whose appetites are dead!
  No, give them grains their fill,
  Husks, draff to drink or swill:
If they love lees, and leave the lusty wine,
Envy them not, their palate’s with the swine.        20
 
  No doubt some mouldy tale,
  Like Pericles, and stale
As the shrieve’s crusts, and nasty as his fish—
    Scraps out of every dish
Thrown forth, and raked into the common tub,        25
    May keep up the Play-club:
  There, sweepings do as well
  As the best-ordered meal;
For who the relish of these guests will fit,
Needs set them but the alms-basket of wit.        30
 
  And much good do ’t you then:
  Brave plush-and-velvet-men
Can feed on orts; and, safe in your stage-clothes,
    Dare quit, upon your oaths,
The stagers and the stage-wrights too, your peers,        35
    Of larding your large ears
  With their foul comic socks,
  Wrought upon twenty blocks;
Which if they are torn, and turned, and patched enough,
The gamesters share your gilt, and you their stuff.        40
 
  Leave things so prostitute,
  And take the Alcaic lute;
Or thine own Horace, or Anacreon’s lyre;
    Warm thee by Pindar’s fire:
And though thy nerves be shrunk, and blood be cold,        45
    Ere years have made thee old,
  Strike that disdainful heat
  Throughout, to their defeat,
As curious fools, and envious of thy strain,
May, blushing, swear no palsy ’s in thy brain.        50
 
  But when they hear thee sing
  The glories of thy king,
His zeal to God, and his just awe o’er men:
    They may, blood-shaken then,
Feel such a flesh-quake to possess their powers,        55
    As they shall cry: ‘Like ours
  In sound of peace or wars,
  No harp e’er hit the stars,
In tuning forth the acts of his sweet reign,
And raising Charles his chariot ’bove his Wain.        60
 
 
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