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He was more fit for heaven than to survive
Amongst the chaff of this unseason'd age,
Where new fantastic joys do seek to thrive,
By following sensual toys of folly's rage,
Making the gloss of vice true virtue's badge:
He saw that shame, which misery begun it,
Seeing he did it scorn, and scorning shun it.
Hence sprung the venom of impoison'd hate,
Poor malediction's sting, who did despise
Bright honour's stamp, which in his bosom sate,
For that he could not brook to temporize
With humours masked in those times disguise:
But let dogs bark, his soul's above their anger,
They cannot wound his worth with envy's slander.
He sleeps secured, and in blessed slumbers
Of peaceful rest, he careless rests in peace,
Singing loud anthems with the sacred numbers
Of happy saints, whose notes do never cease,
But evermore renewing fresh increase:
While he doth sing, and angel's pleasure take,
We mourn his death, and sorry for his sake.
Not for his sake, but for our hapless own,
Who had so rich a prize and did not know it,
Jewels being had for jewels are not known,
For men in happy fortune do foreslow it,
The value when 'tis lost does chiefly show it:
So wretched is our blindness, and so hateful,
As for the gifts we have we are ungrateful.
Even as a poring scholar, who hath read
Some cosmographic book, and finds the praise
Of some delicious land deciphered,
Casts sundry plots how by what means and ways
He may partake those pleasures; months and days
Being spent, he goes, and ravish'd with the main
Of such delight, he ne'er returns again.
So DEVONSHIRE, by the books of inspiration,
Contemplating the joys of heaven's content,
In serious thoughts of meditation,
Which hé in perfect zeal hath long time spent,
Thirsting to be immortal, hence he went:
He thither comes, and glorying in that sphere,
Unmindful of his home, he triumphs there.
Long may he triumph, overtopping clouds
Of our all-desperate mould's vexation,
Pitying the sorrow which our danger crowds
With joyless taste of true joy's desolation,
While he enjoys his soul's high delectation:
Long may he live whom death now cannot move,
His fame below, his spirit wings above.
Above the reach of human wit's conceit,
Above the censure of depraved spite,
Above earth's paradise's counterfeit,
Above imagination of delight,
Above all thoughts to think, or pens to write:
There doth he dateless days of comfort spend,
Renowned in his life, blest in his end!
In life upright, and therefore rightly good,
Whose glory shin’d on earth, and thence a sun,
By his renown as clear he's understood,
Whose light did set when as his life was done:
Bright as the sun, good ever to advance
The soul of merit, spurning ignorance.
Good in the virtue of his powerful arm,
Which brought more peace to peace, chas'd fears of harm
And while he liv'd a wonder maz’d the light,
Two suns appear'd at once, at once as bright:
For when he died and left his fame behind,
One sun remain'd, the truest sun declined.
Dignum laude virum
Musa vetat mori.
ON THE BEST OF ENGLISH POETS,
So seems a star to shoot; when from our sight
Falls the deceit, not from its loss of light;
We want use of a soul, who merely know
What to our passion, or our sense we owe:
By such a hollow glass, our cozen'd eye
Concludes alike, all dead, whom it sees die.
Nature is knowledge here, but unrefin'd,
Both differing, as the body from the mind;
Laurel and cypress else, had grown together,
And wither'd without memory to either:
Thus undistinguish’d, might in every part
The sons of earth vie with the sons of art.
Whose glory hath filld up the book of fame!
Where in fair capitals, free, uncontrolld,
Jonson, a work of honour lives enroll'd:
Creates that book a work; adds this far more,
'Tis finish'd what imperfect was before.
The Muses, first in Greece begot, in Rome
Brought forth, our best of poets hath callid home,
Nurst, taught, and planted here; that Thames now sings
The Delphian altars, and the sacred springs.
By influence of this sovereign, like the spheres,
Moved each by other, the most low in years)
Consented in their harmony; though some
Malignantly aspected, overcome
With popular opinion, aim'd at name
More than desert: yet in despight of shame
Even they, though foil'd by his contempt of wrongs,
Made music to the harshness of their songs.
Drawn to the life of every eye and limb,
He (in his truth of art, and that in him)
Lives yet, and will, whilst letters can be read;
The loss is ours; now hope of life is dead.
Great men, and worthy of report, must fall
Into their earth, and sleeping there sleep all:
Since he, whose pen in every strain did use
To drop a verse, and every verse a muse,
Is vow'd to heaven; as having with fair glory, .
Sung thanks of honour, or some nobler story.
The court, the university, the heat
Of theatres, with what can else beget
Belief, and admiration, clearly prove
Our PoEt first in merit, as in love:
Yet if he do not at his full appear,
Survey him in his Works, and know him there.
' It does not appear that Ford bad any personal friendship with Jonson ; though he might perhaps have known and been known to him; since Ben bad, as he says, from his first entrance into life, cultivated an acquaintance with the most celebrated professors of the law. As far, however, as respects their dramatic career, they have nothing in common; for Jonson had, in some measure, withdrawn from the stage many years before Ford's first published piece appeared on it. Jonson produced but one play (the Staple of News) during the long period of fourteen years, (from 1616 to 1630;) nor would be, perhaps, have returned to the theatre, had not disease and its concomitant, want, compelled his 'faint and faltering tongue,' as he pathetically says, to have recourse to it, for the means of an immediate though temporary relief. It is evident, however, that our poet entertained a great degree of kindness and respect for Jonson; with whose friends he seems to have been chiefly conversant.