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
 
Eclogue 4 (from The Shepherd’s Hunting)
By George Wither (1588–1667)
 
Philarete.
NEVER did the Nine impart
The sweet secrets of their art
Unto any that did scorn
We should see their favours worn.
Therefore unto those that say,        5
Were they pleas’d to sing a lay,
They could do ’t, and will not tho’;
This I speak, for this I know:
None e’er drunk the Thespian spring,
And knew how, but he did sing.        10
For, that once infus’d in man
Makes him shew ’t, do what he can.
Nay, those that do only sip,
Or but e’en their fingers dip,
In that sacred fount, poor elves,        15
Of that brood will shew themselves:
Yea, in hope to get them fame,
They will speak, though to their shame.
Let those then at thee repine
That by their wits measure thine;        20
Needs those songs must be thine own,
And that one day will be known.
That poor imputation, too,
I myself do undergo:
But it will appear, ere long,        25
That ’twas Envy sought our wrong:
Who at twice ten have sung more
Than some will do at fourscore.
Cheer thee, honest Willy, then,
And begin thy song again.        30
 
Willy.
Fain I would, but I do fear
When again my lines they hear,
If they yield they are my rhymes,
They will feign some other crimes;
And ’tis no safe vent’ring by,        35
Where we see Detraction lie:
For, do what I can, I doubt,
She will pick some quarrel out;
And I oft have heard defended—
Little said, is soon amended.        40
 
Philarete.
See’st thou not, in clearest days,
Oft thick fogs cloud Heaven’s rays;
And that vapours which do breathe
From the earth’s gross womb beneath,
Seem not to us with black steams        45
To pollute the sun’s bright beams,
And yet vanish into air,
Leaving it, unblemish’d, fair?
So, my Willy, shall it be
With Detraction’s breath on thee?        50
It shall never rise so high,
As to stain thy Poesy.
As that sun doth oft exhale
Vapours from each rotten vale;
Poesy so sometime drains        55
Gross conceits from muddy brains;
Mists of envy, fogs of spite,
’Twixt men’s judgments and her light:
But so much her power may do,
That she can dissolve them too.        60
If thy verse do bravely tower,
As she makes wing she gets power;
Yet the higher she doth soar,
She’s affronted still the more:
Till she to the high’st hath past,        65
Then she rests with fame at last.
Let nought therefore thee affright,
But make forward in thy flight:
For, if I could match thy rhyme,
To the very stars I’d climb:        70
There begin again, and fly
Till I reach’d eternity.
But, alas! my Muse is slow;
For thy place she flags too low:
Yea, the more’s her hapless fate.        75
Her short wings were dipt of late:
And poor I, her fortune rueing,
Am myself put up a mewing:
But if I my cage can rid,
I’ll fly where I never did:        80
And though for her sake I’m crost,
Though my best hopes I have lost,
And knew she would make my trouble
Ten times more than ten times double
I should love and keep her too        85
Spite of all the world could do.
For, though banish’d from my flocks,
And confin’d within these rocks,
Here I waste away the light,
And consume the sullen night,        90
She doth for my comfort stay,
And keeps many cares away.
Though I miss the flowery fields,
With those sweets the springtide yields,
Though I may not see those groves,        95
Where the shepherd’s chant their loves,
And the lasses more excel
Than the sweet voic’d Philomel;
Though of all those pleasures past,
Nothing now remains at last,        100
But Remembrance, poor relief,
That more makes than mends my grief:
She’s my mind’s companion still,
Maugre Envy’s evil will;
(Whence she should be driven, too,        105
Were’t in mortal’s power to do.)
She doth tell me where to borrow
Comfort in the midst of sorrow:
Makes the desolatest place
To her presence be a grace;        110
And the blackest discontents
To be pleasing ornaments.
In my former days of bliss,
Her divine skill taught me this,
That from everything I saw,        115
I could some invention draw:
And raise pleasure to her height,
Through the meanest object’s sight,
By the murmur of a spring,
Or the least boughs rustlëing;        120
By a daisy, whose leaves spread
Shut when Titan goes to bed;
Or a shady bush or tree,
She could more infuse in me,
Than all Nature’s beauties can        125
In some other wiser man.
By her help I also now
Make this churlish place allow
Some things that may sweeten gladness,
In the very gall of sadness.        130
The dull loneness, the black shade,
That these hanging vaults have made,
The strange music of the waves,
Beating on these hollow caves,
This black den which rocks emboss,        135
Overgrown with eldest moss:
The rude portals that give light
More to Terror than Delight:
This my chamber of Neglect,
Wall’d about with Disrespect;        140
From all these and this dull air,
A fit object for despair,
She hath taught me by her might
To draw comfort and delight.
Therefore, thou best earthly bliss,        145
I will cherish thee for this.
Poesy! thou sweet’st content
That e’er heaven to mortals lent:
Though they as a trifle leave thee,
Whose dull thoughts cannot conceive thee,        150
Though thou be to them a scorn,
That to nought but earth are born,
Let my life no longer be
Than I am in love with thee,
Though our wise ones call thee madness,        155
Let me never taste of gladness,
If I love not thy mad’st fits
More than all their greatest wits.
And though some, too, seeming holy,
Do account thy raptures folly,        160
Thou dost teach me to contemn
What makes knaves and fools of them.
 
 
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