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
 
Epode (from The Forest)
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
NOT 1 to know vice at all, and keep true state,
    Is virtue and not Fate;
Next to that virtue, is to know vice well,
    And her black spite expel.
Which to effect (since no breast is so sure        5
    Or safe, but she ’ll procure
Some way of entrance) we must plant a guard
    Of thoughts to watch and ward
At the eye and ear, the ports unto the mind,
    That no strange or unkind        10
Object arrive there, but the heart, our spy
    Give knowledge instantly
To wakeful reason, our affections’ king:
    Who, in th’ examining,
Will quickly taste the treason, and commit        15
    Close the close cause of it.
’Tis the securest policy we have
    To make our sense our slave.
But this true course is not embraced by many—
    By many? scarce by any.        20
For either our affections do rebel,
    Or else the sentinel,
That should ring larum to the heart, doth sleep;
    Or some great thought doth keep
Back the intelligence, and falsely swears        25
    They are base and idle fears
Whereof the loyal conscience so complains.
    Thus, by these subtle trains
Do several passions invade the mind,
    And strike our reason blind.        30
 
Note 1. The following is only the earlier (general) part of this fine Epode, ‘sung to deep ears.’ [back]
 
 
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