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Sejanus and Catiline. But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law ... If I would compare him with Shakespeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct poet, but Shakespeare the greater wit. I admire him, but I lore Shakespeare.
Milton has very happily expressed the characteristic differences of the two dramatists in L'Allegro, who counts it among the reasonable pleasures of life to visit the theatre
• If Jonson's learned sock be on,
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild.' The most interesting fact in the personal life of Jonson is his connection with Shakespeare; in particular, in the history of the celebrated Mermaid Club, which met at the tavern of that name and counted also among its members Raleigh, Beaumont, and Fletcher. His best comedies are Every Man in His Humour, Volpone, The Silent Woman, and The Alchemist.
THE GENIUS OF SHAKESPEARE.
To draw no envy, Shakspeare, 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.
'Tis true, and all men's suffrage.
Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise ;
For silliest ignorance on these would light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right:
Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
The truth, but gropes, and urges all by chance :
Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
And think to ruin, where it seemed to raise.
But thou art proof against them, and, indeed,
Above the ill-fortune of them, or the need.
I therefore will begin : Soul of the age !
The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!
My Shakspeare, 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,
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,
I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
Or sporting Kyd, or Marlow's mighty line.
And though thou had small Latin and less Greek,
From thence to honour thee I will not seek
For names : but call forth thundering Æschylus,
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,
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.
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,
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,
But antiquated and deserted lie,
As they were not of Nature's family.
Yet must I not give Nature all; thy art,
My gentle Shakspeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the poet's matter Nature be,
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 :
Or, for the laurel, he may 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 Shakspeare's mind and manners brightly shines
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,
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,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage,
Which since thy flight from hence hath mourned like
And despairs day, but for thy volume's light!
To the Memory of my beloved Master, William Shakspeare, and
what he hath left us.
It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be,
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear.
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May:
Although it fall and die that night,
It was the plant and flower of light!
In small proportions we just beauties see:
And in short measures life may perfect be.
HERE lies, to each her parents' ruth,
Mary, the daughter of their youth :
Yet all heaven's gifts being heaven's due,
It makes the father less to rue.
At six months' end she parted hence,
With safety of her innocence :
Whose soul heaven's queen (whose name she bears),
In comfort of her mother's tears,
Hath placed among her virgin train:
Where, while that severed doth remain,
This grave partakes the fleshly birth,
Which cover lightly, gentle earth.
On my first Daughter.
QUEEN and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep; Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep. Hesperus entreats thy light, Goddess excellently bright!
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose : Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close. Bless us then with wished sight, Goddess excellently bright!
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal shining quiver ; Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever: Thou that mak'st a day of night, Goddess excellently bright!
STILL to be neat, still to be drest,
As you were going to a feast;
Still to be powdered, still perfumed :
Lady, it is to be presumed,
Though art's hid causes are not found,
All is not sweet, all is not sound.
Give me a look, give me a face,
That makes simplicity a grace :