Verse > Anthologies > Hunt and Lee, eds. > The Book of the Sonnet
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Hunt and Lee, comps.  The Book of the Sonnet.  1867.
 
To the King’s Household on Their Withholding His Allowance of Sack
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
WHAT 1 can the cause be, when the King hath given
  His poet sack, the Household will not pay?
Are they so scanted in their store? or driven,
  For want of knowing the poet, to say him nay?
Well, they should know him, would the King but grant        5
  His poet leave to sing his Household true:
He ’d frame such ditties of their store and want,
  Would make the very Greencloth to look blue,
And rather wish, in their expense of sack,
  So the allowance from the King to use,        10
As the old bard should no canary lack:
  ’T were better spare a butt, than spill his muse;
For in the genius of a poet’s verse
  The King’s fame lives. Go now, deny his tierce. 2
 
Note 1. To which he was entitled as Poet Laureate. [back]
Note 2. The tierce was not denied, but it is said to have been further withheld, till Ben wrote a more civil request. The misgovernment of all the Stuarts often caused their exchequers to run dry; and perhaps the poet offended higher persons than he suspected, by this amusing but confident remonstrance. One can imagine the momentary perplexity and confusion of the King—Charles the First—if the verses were shown him, between his regard for his Laureate’s praises, and annoyance at his irritability. [back]
 
 
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