Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
 
Descriptive Poems: I. Personal: Great Writers
To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare, and What He Hath Left Us
Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
TO draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
While I confess thy writings to be such
As neither man nor Muse can praise too much.
*        *        *        *        *
                        Soul of the age!        5
The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!
My Shakespeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further off, to make thee room:
Thou art a monument without a tomb.        10
And art alive still, while thy book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses,
I mean with great but disproportioned Muses:
For if I thought my judgment were of years,        15
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd or Marlowe’s mighty line.
And though thou had small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honor thee I will not seek        20
For names; but call forth thundering Eschylus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
To live again, to hear thy buskin tread,
And shake a stage: or when thy socks were on,        25
Leave thee alone for the comparison
Of all, that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.        30
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the Muses still were in their prime,
When, like Apollo, he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury, to charm!
Nature herself was proud of his designs,        35
And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines!
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please:        40
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of nature’s family.
Yet must I not give nature all; thy art,
My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the poet’s matter nature be,        45
His art doth give the fashion; and, that he
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the Muses’ anvil; turn the same,
And himself with it, that he thinks to frame;        50
Or for the laurel gain a scorn;
For a good poet ’s made as well as born.
And such wert thou! Look how the father’s face
Lives in his issue, even so the race
Of Shakespeare’s mind and manners brightly shines        55
In his well turned and true filed lines:
In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our water yet appear,        60
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza and our James!
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanced, and made a constellation there!
Shine forth, thou Star of Poets, and with rage,        65
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage
Which since thy flight from hence hath mourned like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volume’s light!
 
 
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