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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 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 joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines ;
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As since she will youchsafe 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 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
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
And despairs day, but for thy volume 's light.
On worthy Master Shakespeare, and his poems.'
A mind reflecting ages past, whose clear
And equal surface can make things appear,
Distant a thousand years, and represent
Them in their lively colours, just extent:
To outrun hasty time, retrieve the fates,
Roll back the heavens, blow ope the iron gates
Of death and Lethe, where (confused) lie
Great heaps of ruinous mortality :
In that deep dusky dungeon to discern
A royal ghost from churls ; by art to learn
The physiognomy of shades, and give
Then sudden birth, wondering how oft they live;
What story coldly tells, what poets feign
At second hand, and picture without brain,
Senseless and soul-less shows: to give a stage
(Ample, and true with life) voice, action, age,
As Plato's year, and new scene of the world,
Them unto us, or us to them had hurl'd:
To raise our ancient sovereigns from their hearse,
Make kings his subjects; by exchanging verse
Enlive their pale trunks, that the present age
Joys in their joy, and trembles at their rage :
Yet so to temper passion, that our ears
Take pleasure in their pain, and eyes in tears
Both weep and smile ; fearful at plots so sad,
Then laughing at our fear; abus'd, and glad
To be abus'd; affected with that truth
Which we perceive is false, pleas'd in that ruth
At which we start, and, by elaborate play,
Tortur'd and tickled; by a crab-like way
Time past made pastime, and in ugly sort
Disgorging up his ravin for our sport :-
-While the plebeian imp, from lofty throne,
Creates and rules a world, and works upon
Mankind by secret engines; now to move
A chilling pity, then a rigorous love;
To strike up and stroke down, both joy and ire ;
To steer th' affections; and by heavenly fire
Mould us anew, stol'n from ourselves :-
This, and much more, which cannot be express'd
But by himself, his tongue, and his own breast,
Was Shakespeare's freehold; which his cunning brain
Improv'd by favour of the nine-fold train ;
The buskind muse, the comic queen, the grand
And louder tone of Clio, nimble hand
And nimbler foot of the melodious pair,
The silver-voiced lady, the most fair
Calliope, whose speaking silence daunts,
And she whose praise the heavenly body chants ;
These jointly woo'd him, envying one another,
(Obey' by all as spouse, but lov'd as brother)
And wrought a curious robe, of sable grave,
Fresh green, and pleasant yellow, red most brave
And constant blue, rich purple, guiltless white,
The lowly russet, and the scarlet bright:
Branch'd and embroider'd like the painted spring;
Each leaf match'd with a flower, and each string
Of golden wire, each line of silk; there run
Italian works, whose thread the sisters spun;
And there did sing, or seem to sing, the choice
Birds of a foreign note and various voice :
Here hangs a mossy rock; there plays a fair
But chiding fountain, purled: not the air,
Nor clouds, nor thunder, but were living drawn;
Not out of common tiffany or lawn,
But fine materials, which the muses know,
And only know the countries where they grow.
Now, when they could no longer him enjoy, In mortal garments pent,-death may destroy, They say, his body; but his verse shall live, And more than nature takes our hands shall give : In a less volume, but more strongly bound, Shakespeare shall breathe and speak; with laurel crown'd,
Which never fades ; fed with ambrosian meat,
In a well-lined vesture, rich, and neat.
So with this robe they clothe him, bid him wear it;
For time shall never stain, nor envy tear it.
The friendly admirer of his endowments.
I. M. S.
Upon the Lines, and Life, of the famous Scenic Poet,
Master W. Shakespeare.
Those hands which you so clapp'd, go now and wring,
You Britons brave ; for done are Shake-speare's days :
His days are done that made the dainty plays,
Which made the Globe of heaven and earth to ring.
Dried is that vein, dried is the Thespian spring, Turn'd all to tears, and Phæbus clouds his rays; That corpse, that coffin, now bestick those bays,
Which crown'd him poet first, then poet's king. If tragedies might any prologue have,
All those he made would scarce make one to this ; Where fame, now that he gone is to the grave,
(Death's public tiring-house) the Nuntius is : For, though his line of life went soon about, The life yet of his lines shall never out.
The following are Ben Jonson's lines on the Portrait of
Shakespeare, precisely as they stand on a separate leaf opposite to the title-page of the edition of 1623, and which are reprinted in the same place, with some trifling variation of typography, in the folio of 1632.
TO THE READER.
This Figure, that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
Wherein the Graver had a strife
With Nature, to out-do the life:
O, could he but have drawn his wit
As well in brass, as he hath hit
His face; the Print would then surpass
All, that was ever writ in brass.
But since he cannot, Reader, look
Not at his picture, but his book.