Benjamin Jonson

Here you will find the Long Poem To the Memory of My Beloved Author, Mr. William Shakespeare of poet Benjamin Jonson

To the Memory of My Beloved Author, Mr. William Shakespeare

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;
 'Tis true, and all men's suffrage. But these ways
 Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise;
 For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
 Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right;
 Or blind affection, which doth ne'er advance
 The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance;
 Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
 And think to ruin, where it seem'd to raise.
 These are, as some infamous bawd or whore
 Should praise a matron; what could hurt her more?
 But thou art proof against them, and indeed,
 Above th' ill fortune of them, or the need.
 I therefore will begin. Soul of the age!
 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, to make thee a 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 disproportion'd 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 Marlowe's mighty line.
 And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
 From thence to honour thee, I would not seek
 For names; but call forth thund'ring {AE}schylus,
 Euripides and Sophocles to us;
 Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
 To life 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.
 Tri{'u}mph, 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 joy'd 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 Shakespeare, 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 Shakespeare'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 brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance.
 Sweet Swan of Avon! what a sight it were
 To see thee in our waters 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
 Advanc'd, 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 mourn'd like night,
 And despairs day, but for thy volume's light.