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There read I, straight, thy learned LE-That read it! that are ravished; such was I,
Heard the soft airs, between our swains and thee,
Which made me think the old Theocritus,
Did all so strike me, as I cried who can
Like him, to make the air one volary.
And rouse, the marching of a mighty force, Drums against drums, the neighing of the horse,
The fights, the cries, and wond'ring at the jars,
I saw and read it was the BARONS WARS. O how in those dost thou instruct these times,
That rebels' actions are but valiant crimes; And carried though with shout and noise, confess
A wild and an unauthorized wickedness! Sayst thou so, Lucan? but thou scorn'st to stay
Under one title: thou hast made thy way And flight about the isle, well near, by this
In thy admired Periegesis,
Of all that read thy POLY-OLBION ;2
1 The Owl. Published in 4to, 1604. Barons Wars, 1596.
Thy Poly-Olbion.] This is Drayton's principal work, and was once exceedingly popular. It is possessed of considerable merit, and those who may be inclined to smile at its fantastic chorography may yet be pleased to discover many detached passages of high poetic beauty. Drayton was encouraged to proceed with this poem by Prince Henry; and Daniel, who also found in this lamented youth a generous patron, seems to advert to the circumstance with no great complacency.
The poems to which Jonson alludes in the subsequent lines are The Battle of Agincourt, The Miseries of Queen Margaret, the Quest of Cynthia, The Shepherds Syrene, The Moon Calf, and the well-known Nymphidia, or the Court of Fayrie: all published in [one vol.] 1627. The following remarks on Drayton by Granger (bating a little extravagance in the opening sentence) are not ill drawn up, and may fitly
With every song, I swear, and so would die;
Thou hast deserved, and let me read the while
Thy catalogue of ships, exceeding his,
And when he ships them, where to use their arms,
How do his trumpets breathe! what loud alarms!
Look how we read the Spartans were inflamed
With bold Tyrtæus' verse; when thou art named,
So shall our English youth urge on, and cry
Get broken pieces, and fight well by those.
conclude the notes on the subject of this once celebrated poet.
"The reputation of Drayton in the reigns of Elizabeth and James I. stood on much the same level with that of Cowley in the reigns of Charles I. and II., but it has declined considerably since that period. He frequently wants that elevation of thought which is essential to poetry; though in some of the stanzas of his
Barons' Wars' he is scarce inferior to Spenser. In his 'England's Heroical Epistles,' written in the manner of Ovid, he has been in general happier in the choice than the execution of his subjects; yet some of his imitations are more in the spirit of that poet than several of the English translations of him. His 'Nymphidia, or Court of Fayrie,' seems to have been the greatest effort of his imagination, and is the most generally admired of his works. His character among his friends was that of a modest and amiable man. Ob. 1631.”—Biog. Hist. v. i pp. 10, 11.
Yet give me leave to wonder at the birth
And gossip-got acquaintance, as to us
ON MICHAEL DRAYTON.!
TO MY TRULY BELOVED FRIEND, MASTER
BROWNE: ON HIS PASTORALS.3
Some men, of books or friends not speaking right,
May hurt them more with praise than foes
But I have seen thy work, and I know thee:
I find thee write most worthy to be read.
This thy work forth; that judgment mine
And, where the most read books, on au-
Or, like our money-brokers, take up names
Upon the Exchange of Letters, as I would
With the how much they set forth, but t how well.
ever, to justify the expectations of Jonson, and had he found leisure or inclination to cultivate his natural talents for poetry, his success could scarcely have been matter of doubt.
1 On Michael Drayton.] Tradition hath gene-judgment. There was more than enough, howrally fixed on Jonson as the author of this epitaph; nor is it unworthy of his genius or the friendship between him and Drayton, or unlike the style and spirit of his smaller poems.-WHAL. In a MS. in Ashmole's Museum (38), this Epitaph is attributed to Randolph; Aubrey ascribes it to Quarles; it has also been given to others, and with as little judgment. I see no reason to dispute the common opinion.
His name, that cannot die, shall be,
Ου σον μνημα τοδ' εστ', Ευριπίδη, αλλα συ τούδε,
His literary acquirements were considerable, and these, together with his amiable qualities, powerfully recommended him to our author's great friend and patron, the Earl of Pembroke, under whom he is said to have acquired considerable property. The "envious" Ben appears to have felt no jealousy at this, which I notice as a phenomenon that calls for grave inquiry.
Who takes thy volume, &c.] This little piece stands with Jonson's name before Cynthia's Revenge, or Menander's Extasie," 4to, 1613. This tragedy was written by John Stephens, of whom I only know that he was a learned man and a member of the honourable tions him, merely tells us that he lived in the Society of Lincoln's Inn. Langbaine, who menreign of James I. "His play (he says) is one of Browne was but a young man when he pub- the longest that ever was written, and withal the lished his pastorals; they exhibit, among many made this remark, "read or roved," as I never most tedious." Whether Langbaine, when he pretty passages, some of the characteristics of saw the tragedy, I cannot determine.
These lines are prefixed to "Britannia's Pastorals, the second Book," by William Browne, fol. 1616, and 8vo, 1625. They are now added, for the first time, to these volumes.
youth, a gaudy taste, and an undisciplined
1 These lines are prefixed to the "Translation of Hesiod's Works and Days, 4to, 1618." There had always been an extraordinary degree of friendship between Chapman and our author. They united their talents in Eastward Hoe, and when the former was thrown into prison for the political reflections in that piece, Jonson voluntarily accompanied him. He told Drummond in 1619 that "he loved Chapman," and we have just seen how he had complimented him in the preceding year. All this signifies nothing, and the old calumny of " envy, "jealousy," and I know not what, is again served up to the nauseated reader. "Jonson," says the editor of the Theatrum Poetarum of Phillips, 8vo, 1800, "being delivered from Shakspeare (in 1616), began unexpectedly to be disturbed at the rising reputation of a new theatrical rival," p. 252. Chapman was born in 1557 (about twenty years before our author), he was therefore threescore at the death of Shakspeare, and the new theatrical rival at whose rising reputation Jonson began unexpectedly to be disturbed, was one with whom he had lived all his life in strict intimacy, as appears by their mutual correspondence, and who had composed almost the whole of his dramatic works many years before the period in question.
Can the reader discover any trace of "jealousy" in the heartfelt and elegant compliment which Jonson here pays his worthy and honoured friend?" Shame on it! The common decencies of character are overlooked where this great poet is concerned. To belie him is all that is thought necessary; and when ignorance or
Such passage hast thou found, such returns made,
As now of all men it is called thy trade, And who make thither else, rob or invade.
TO MY CHOSEN FRIEND, THE LEARNED TRANSLATOR OF LUCAN, THOMAS MAY, ESQUIRE.
When, Rome, I read thee in thy mighty pair,
Of Fortune's wheel, by Lucan driv'n about,
What gods but those of arts and eloquence,
impudence, or both together, have put forth a clumsy falsehood against him, the slander is greedily hailed by the public as an additional triumph on the side of Shakspeare.
I have yet a word to say to the anonymous editor of this volume (the Theatrum Poetarum). That he is actuated by a spirit of hostility towards Jonson is manifest; but even this will scarcely be admitted as a sufficient apology for quoting a scurrilous attack upon him from a work where it is not to be found. Drummond of Hawthornden, he says, has represented the character of Jonson in "no very unjust light." We are then regaled with the ribaldry of that splenetic hypocrite in a tissue of malicious charges, concluding with this sentence: "In short, Jonson was in his personal character the very reverse of Shakspeare, as surly, illnatured, proud and disagreeable, as Shakspeare, with ten times his merit, was gentle, good-natured, easy, and amiable."-P. 249.
How has the editor the boldness to father this rancorous language upon Drummond, who has not a syllable of it! "See Drummond's Works," he coolly says, at the bottom of page 244: but has he seen them? The fact is, that the passage in question is a wicked fabrication, put into Drummond's mouth by Shiels, the Scotchman, the author of the Lives of the Poets which pass under the name of Theophilus Cibber.
"Now this is worshipful authority!"--but it does very well in Jonson's case, and is indeed quite as worthy of notice, and quite as authentic as most of the matter brought against him.
1 i.e., Hermes.] This complimentary poem, which is signed "Your true friend in judgment and choice, Ben Jonson," is prefixed to May's Translation of Lucan, 1627. May, with whom our author appears to have always lived on terms of the strictest friendship, is selected by Macklin, with his usual good fortune, to father one of his scurrilous attacks upon Jonson; much to the satisfaction of Mr. Steevens, who exults in the clumsy forgery as a decisive proof of "old Ben's malignity to Shakspeare."
May published a continuation of Lucan in 1630, which was reprinted in Holland 1640, with this title, Supplementum Lucani authore Tho. May, Anglo. The first edition has never fallen in my way; the second is prefaced by the following lines, written as I conjecture by our author, though the foreign press has copied his name incorrectly:
Dignissimo Viro Thoma Mayo
Amico suo summè honorando. Terge parentales oculos, post funera mundi Roma tai, nondum tota sepulta jaces. Gloria vivit adhuc radiis evincta coruscis
And weighed your play: untwisted ev'ry thread,
And know the woof and warp thereof; can
Where it runs round, and even; where so well,
So soft, and smooth it handles, the whole piece,
As it were spun by nature off the fleece:
Thou that wouldst find the habit of true passion,
And see a mind attired in perfect strains; Not wearing moods, as gallants do a fashion, In these pied times, only to show their trains,
Look here on BRETON's work, the master print,
Quam tibi perpetuat nobile Vatis opus: Cujus in historia moreris, pariterque triumphas:
Exornantque tuas vulnera sæva genas. Ingenio, Lucane, tuo tua Roma ruinis Auctior, et damnis stat veneranda magis Quam tot terrarum dum sceptra superba teneret Atque triumphati spargeret orbis opes. Sed Romæ quodcunque tue Lucane dedisti, Hoc dedit et Maii subsidialis amor, Qui tibi succurrit vindex, et divite vena Supplevit latices, te moriente, tuos.
2 These lines are placed before the Shepherd's Holiday, a Pastoral Drama, published in 1635. May joined with Jonson in commendation of baine. Rutter, who was probably a man of this piece, which is favourably noticed by Lang. learning, was tutor to the son of the Earl of Dorset, lord chamberlain, and therefore much about the court. He is said to have translated The Cid of Corneille, at the command of Charles I.
8 In Authorem.] This Epigram is printed before a poem of that indefatigable writer, Nicholas Breton, called "Melancholike Hu mours, in verses of diverse natures." 1600. 4to.
Where such perfections to the life do rise; If they seem wry to such as look asquint, The fault's not in the object, but their eyes.
For, as one coming with a lateral view,
Unto a cunning piece wrought perspective,
Wants faculty to make a censure true;
So with this author's readers will it thrive; Which being eyed directly, I divine, His proof their praise 'll incite, as in this line.
TO THE WORTHY AUTHOR, ON THE
It fits not only him that makes a book
Lest a false praise do make their dotage his.
I do not feel that ever yet I had
The art of uttering wares, if they were bad; Or skill of making matches in my life : And therefore I commend unto the Wife, That went before-a Husband. She, I'll swear,
Was worthy of a good one, and this, here, I know for such, as (if my word will weigh) She need not blush upon the marriage day.
The poem to which these lines are prefixed is one of the numerous effusions to which that popular production, The Wife of Sir Thomas Overbury, gave rise. The name of the writer is unknown; the poem itself is extremely rare: indeed, I am not aware of the existence of any other copy than that from which the above transcript was made, in the collection of Mr. Hill. The title of the work is "The Husband: a poem expressed in a complete man." 1614, 8vo.
This sonnet stands before a work by Thomas Wright, called "The Passions of the Mind in general , 1604, and 1620," 4to.
Taken from the complimentary verses prefixed to The Touchstone of Truth, 12m0, Lond. 1630, by T. Warre.
The last nine little pieces are now for the first time added to Jonson's works: I have collected them as I could, and placed them together, without regard to the respective dates of their first appearance, which indeed it was not always easy to ascertain. They are not given out of respect to any intrinsic merit which they may be thought to possess, though they are not without their value on another account. Jonson has been held forth to the world as the very soul of envy, jealous of all merit in others, unwilling and indeed unable to bear a rival candidate for fame. But what is the fact? That in the long list of English poets he is decidedly among the most candid and generous; the most free of his
TO THE AUTHOR.
In picture, they which truly understand, Require (besides the likeness of the thing) Light, posture, heightening, shadow, colouring,
All which are parts commend the cunning hand;
And all your book, when it is throughly scanned,
Will well confess; presenting, limiting Each subtlest passion, with her source and spring,
So bold, as shews your art you can command.
But now your work is done, if they that view The several figures, languish in suspense, To judge which passion's false, and which
Between the doubtful sway of reason and
'Tis not your fault if they shall sense prefer, Being told there Reason cannot, Sense may
TO THE AUTHOR. Truth is the trial of itself,
And needs no other touch; And purer than the purest gold, Refine it ne'er so much.
advice and assistance, the most liberal of his praise. This part of Jonson's character was so well established among his contemporaries, that almost every one who meditated the publication of a book applied to him for a favourable judgment of it. Whence it has happened that there are far more commendatory verses to be met with by our author than by any other writer of those times. This could not escape Dr. Farmer; and to the utter confusion of Steevens and Malone he has had the honesty to acknowledge it. He calls the verses on Shakspeare, "sparing and invidious" as they appear to those critics,
the warmest panegyrick that ever was penned; and in truth," adds he, "the received opinion of the pride and malignity of Jonson, at least in the earlier part of his life, is absolutely groundless; at this time scarce a play or a poem appeared without Ben's encomium, from the original Shakspeare to the translator of Du Bartas," Essay, &c., p. 12. This passage stands at the opening of the second volume of the Variorum Shakspeare, which notwithstanding is filled with abusive ribaldry on the "early malignity" of our author. Such is the consistency of the wretched confederacy against his reputation!
But even Dr. Farmer might have spared his "earlier part at least;" for it is altogether certain that Jonson's encomiums were as liberally bestowed in the decline of his life as at any other period, and that the last productions of his