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LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY V
MASTER FRANCIS BEAUMONT'S LETTER TO BEN JONSON
The sun (which doth the greatest comfort bring To absent friends, because the selfsame thing They know they see, however absent) is Here our best haymaker! Forgive me this; It is our country's style ! In this warm shine I lie and dream of your full Mermaid Winel 6
- - - - - Methinks the little wit I had is lost 40 Since I saw you! For wit is like a rest Held up at tennis, which men do the best With the best gamesters. What things have weseen Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been So nimble and so full of subtle flame, As if that every one from whence they came Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest And had resolved to live a fool the rest Of his dull lifel Then, when there hath been thrown Wit able enough to justify the town 5o For three days past! Wit, that might warrant be For the whole city to talk foolishly Till that were cancelled ! And, when we were gone, We left an air behind us, which alone Was able to make the two next companies Right witty! though but downright fools, more wise ! When I remember this, and see that now The country gentlemen begin to allow My wit for dry bobs; then I needs must cry, “I see my days of ballading grow nigh!” 6o I can already riddle; and can sing Catches, sell bargains; and I fear shall bring Myself to speak the hardest words I find Over as oft as any, with one wind, That takes no medicines! But one thought of thee Makes me remember all these things to be The wit of our young men, fellows that show No part of good, yet utter all they know! Who, like trees of the guard, have growing souls. Only strong Destiny, which all controls, 7o I hope hath left a better fate in store For me, thy friend, than to live ever poor, Banished unto this home ! Fate, once again, Bring me to thee, who canst make smooth and plain The way of knowledge for me; and then I, Who have no good but in thy company, Protest it will my greatest comfort be To acknowledge all I have to flow from thee! Ben, when these scenes are perfect, we'll taste
EDWARD LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY (1583–1648)
A passing glance, a lightning 'long the skies,
That, ush'ring thunder, dies straight to our sight;
A spark, of contraries which doth arise,
Then drowns in the huge depths of day and night:
Is this small Small call'd life, held in such price
Of blinded wights, who nothing judge aright.
Of Parthian shaft so swift is not the flight
As life, that wastes itself, and living dies.
O! what is human greatness, valour, wit?
What fading beauty, riches, honour, praise? Io
To what doth serve in golden thrones to sit,
Thrall earth's vast round, triumphal arches raise?
All is a dream, learn in this prince's fall,
In whom, save death, nought mortal was at all.
The heaven doth not contain so many stars,
So many leaves not prostrate lie in woods,
When autumn's old and Boreas sounds his wars,
So many waves have not the ocean floods,
As my rent mind hath torments all the night, 5
And heart spends sighs, when Phoebus brings the light.
Why should I been a partner of the light,
Who, crost in birth by bad aspects of stars,
Have never since had happy day nor night?
Why was not I a liver in the woods, Io
Or citizen of Thetis' crystal floods,
Than made a man for love and fortune's wars?
I look each day when death should end the wars,
Uncivil wars, 'twixt sense and reason's light;
My pains I count to mountains, meads, and floods,
And of my sorrow partners make the stars; 16
All desolate I haunt the fearful woods,
When I should give myself to rest at night.
With watchful eyes I ne'er behold the night,
Mother of peace, but ah! to me of wars, 2d
And Cynthia queen-like shining through the woods,
When straight those lamps come in my thought,
My judgment dazzled, passing brightest stars,
And then mine eyes en-isle themselves with floods.
Turn to their springs again first shall the floods,
Clear shall the sun the sad and gloomy night, 26
To dance about the pole cease shall the stars,
The elements renew their ancient wars
Shall first, and be depriv'd of place and light,
Ere I find rest in city, fields, or woods. 3o
End these my days, indwellers of the woods,
Take this my life, ye deep and raging floods;
Sun, never rise to clear me with thy light,
Horror and darkness, keep a lasting night;
Consume me, care, with thy intestine wars, 35
And stay your influence o'er me, bright stars!
In vain the stars, indwellers of the woods, Care, horror, wars, I call, and raging floods, For all have sworn no night shall dim my light.
And paint the sable skies
With azure, white, and red;
Rouse Memnon's mother from her Tithon's
That she thy career may with roses spread; 5
The nightingales thy coming each where sing;
Make an eternal spring,
Give life to this dark world which lieth dead;
Spread forth thy golden hair
In larger locks than thou wast wont before, 10
And, emperor-like, decore
With diadem of pearl thy temples fair;
Chase hence the ugly night,
Which serves but to make dear thy glorious
This is that happy morn, 15
That day, long-wished day,
Of all my life so dark
(If cruel stars have not my ruin sworn,
And fates not hope betray),
Which, only white, deserves 2-
A diamond forever should it mark;
This is the morn should bring unto this grove
My love, to hear and recompense my love.
Fair king, who all preserves,
But show thy blushing beams, 25
And thou two sweeter eyes
Shalt see, than those which by Peneus' streams
Did once thy heart surprise;
Nay, suns, which shine as clear
As thou when two thou did to Rome appear. 30
Now, Flora, deck thyself in fairest guise;
If that ye, winds, would hear
A voice surpassing far Amphion's lyre,
Your stormy chiding stay;
Let zephyr only breathe, 35
And with her tresses play,
Kissing sometimes those purple ports of death.
The winds all silent are,
And Phoebus in his chair,
Ensaffroning sea and air, 4o
Makes vanish every star;
Night like a drunkard reels
Beyond the hills to shun his flaming wheels;
The fields with flow’rs are deck'd in every hue,
The clouds bespangle with bright gold their
Here is the pleasant place, 40
And ev'ry thing, save her, who all should grace.
This life, which seems so fair,
Is like a bubble blown up in the air
By sporting children's breath,
Who chase it everywhere,
And strive who can most motion it bequeath; 5
And though it sometime seem of its own might,
Like to an eye of gold, to be fix’d there,
And firm to hover in that empty height,
That only is because it is so light.
But in that pomp it doth not long appear; Io
For even when most admir'd, it in a thought,
As swell'd from nothing, doth dissolve in nought.
Thrice happy he, who by some shady grove,
Far from the clamorous world doth live his own,
Though solitare, yet who is not alone,
But doth converse with that eternal love.
O how more sweet is birds' harmonious moan, 5
Or the soft sobbings of the widow’d dove,
Than those smooth whisp'rings near a prince's
Which good make doubtful, do the evil approvel
O how more sweet is zephyr's wholesome breath,
And sighs perfum’d, which do the flowers unfold,
Than that applause vain honour doth bequeath !
How sweet are streams to poison drunk in gold !
The world is full of horrors, falsehoods, slights;
Woods' silent shades have only true delights.
A sound of music touched mine ears, or rather
Indeed entranced my soul. As I stole nearer,
Invited by the melody, I saw
This youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute,
With strains of strange variety and harmony,
Proclaiming, as it seemed, so bold a challenge
To the clear quiristers of the woods, the birds,
That, as they flocked about him, all stood silent,
Wondering at what they heard. "I wondered too.
AMET. And so do I; good, on 1
MEN. A nightingale,
Nature's best skilled musician, undertakes
The challenge, and for every several strain
The well-shaped youth could touch, she sung her
He could not run division with more art
Upon his quaking instrument than she,
The nightingale, did with her various notes
Reply to; for a voice and for a sound,
Amethus, 'tis much easier to believe
That such they were than hope to hear again.
AMET. How did the rivals part?
MEN. You term them rightly;
For they were rivals, and their mistress, harmony.
Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last
Into a pretty anger, that a bird, I33
Whom art had never taught cliffs, moods, or notes,
Should vie with him for mastery, whose study
Had busied many hours to perfect practice:
To end the controversy, in a rapture
Upon his instrument he plays so swiftly,
So many voluntaries and so quick,
That there was curiosity and cunning,
Concord in discord, lines of differing method
Meeting in one full centre of delight.
AMET. Now for the bird!
MEN. The bird, ordained to be
Music's first martyr, strove to imitate
These several sounds; which when her warbling
Failed in, for grief down dropped she on his lute,
And brake her heart. It was the quaintest sadness,
To see the conqueror upon her hearse
To weep a funeral elegy of tears;
That, trust me, my Amethus, I could chide
Mine own unmanly weakness, that made me
A fellow-mourner with him.
AMET. I believe thee.
MEN. He looked upon the trophies of his art,
Then sighed, then wiped his eyes, then sighed and
“Alas, poor creature I will soon revenge
This cruelty upon the author of it;
Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood,
Shall never more betray a harmless peace
To an untimely end;” and in that sorrow,
From FAIR VIRTUE, THE MISTRESS OF PHILARETE
FAIR VIRTUE'S SWEET GRACES
Think not, though, my Muse now sings Mere absurd or feigned things! If to gold I like her hair, Or to stars her eyes so fair, Though I praise her skin by snow, Or by pearls her double-row, 'Tis that you might gather thence Her unmatched excellence. Eyes as fair (for eyes) hath she As stars fair (for stars) may be. And each part as fair doth show In its kind as white in snow. 'Tis no grace to her at all, If her hair I sunbeams call; For, were there power in art So to portrait every part, All men might those beauties see As they do appear to me, I would scorn to make compare With the glorious'st things that are. Nought I e'er saw fair enow But the hair the hair to show; Yet some think him over bold That compares it but to gold. He from reason seems to err Who, commending of his dear, Gives her lips the rubies' hue, Or by pearls her teeth doth shew; But what pearls, what rubies can Seem so lovely fair to man As her lips whom he doth love, When in sweet discourse they move? Or her lovelier teeth, the while She doth bless him with a smile? Stars, indeed, fair creatures be! Yet, amongst us, where is he Joys not more, the while he lies Sunning in his mistress' eyes Than in all the glimmering light Of a starry winter's night?
Him to flatter most suppose,
That prefers before the rose,
Or the lilies while they grow,
Or the flakes of new-fall'n snow,
Her complexion whom he loveth;
And yet this, my Muse approveth.
For in such a beauty meets
Unexpressed moving sweets,
That the like unto them no man
Ever saw but in a woman.
Look on moon l on stars! or sun 1
All God's creatures overrun l
See if all of them presents
To your mind, such sweet contents;
Or if you from them can take
Ought that may a beauty make,
Shall one half so pleasing prove
As is hers whom you do love!
Shall I, wasting in despair,
Die, because a woman's fair?
Or make pale my cheeks with care,
'Cause another's rosy are?
Be she fairer than the day,
Or the flowery meads in May 1
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be?
Should my heart be grieved or pined,
'Cause I see a woman kind?
Or a well disposed nature
Joined with a lovely feature?
Be she meeker, kinder than
Turtle dove, or pelican
If she be not so to me,
What care I how kind she be?
Shall a woman's virtues move
Me to perish for her love?
Or her well deserving known,
Make me quite forget mine own?
Be she with that goodness blest
Which may gain her, name of best!
If she be not such to me,
What care I how good she be?