Ben Jonson : The Forest

Published in the 1616 Folio of the Poet's Works

1. Why I write Not of Love
Some act of Love's bound to rehearse,
I thought to bind him in my verse,
Which when he felt: Away, quoth he,
Can poets hope to fetter me?
It is enough they once did get
Mars and my mother in their net.
I wear not these my wings in vain.
With which he fled me, and again
Into my rhymes could ne'er be got
10 By any art. Then wonder not
That since, my numbers are so cold,
When Love is fled and I grow old.

2.   To Penshurst
Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show
Of touch, or marble; nor canst boast a row
Of polished pillars, or a roof of gold:
Thou hast no lantern whereof tales are told,
Or stair, or courts; but stand'st an ancient pile,
And these grudged at, art reverenced the while.
Thou joy'st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair.
Thou hast thy walks for health as well as sport:
10 Thy mount, to which th'Dryads do resort,
Where Pan and Bacchus their high feasts have made,
Beneath the broad beech, and the chestnut shade;
That taller tree, which of a nut was set,
At his great birth, where all the Muses met,
There, in the writhed bark, are cut the names
Of many a sylvan taken with his flames;
And thence the ruddy satyrs oft provoke
The lighter fauns to reach thy Lady's Oak.
Thy copse too, named of Gamage, thou hast there,
20 That never fails to serve thee seasoned deer
When thou wouldst feast, or exercise thy friends.
The lower land, that to the river bends,
Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed;
The middle grounds thy mares and horses breed.
Each bank doth yield thee conies; and the tops
Fertile of wood, Ashore and Sidneys copp's,
To crown thy open table, doth provide
The purpled pheasant with the speckled side:
The painted partridge lies in ev'ry field,
30 And for thy mess is willing to be killed.
And if the high-swoln Medway fail thy dish,
Thou hast thy ponds, that pay thee tribute fish,
Fat aged carps that run into thy net,
And pikes, now weary their own kind to eat,
As loth the second draught or cast to stay,
Officiously at first themselves betray.
Bright eels that emulate them, and leap on land
Before the fisher, or into his hand.
Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers,
40 Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours.
The early cherry, with the later plum,
Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come;
The blushing apricot, and woolly peach
Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach.
And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They're reared with no man's ruin, no man's groan;
There's none that dwell about them wish them down;
But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed, to salute
50 Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that think they make
The better cheeses, bring them; or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands ; and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum or pear.
But what can this (more than express their love)
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such? whose liberal board doth flow
60 With all that hospitality doth know !
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lord's own meat:
Where the same beer and bread, and self-same wine,
That is his lordship's, shall be also mine.
And I not fain to sit (as some this day,
At great men's tables) and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups; nor standing by,
A waiter, doth my gluttony envy :
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat,
70 He knows below he shall find plenty of meat;
Thy tables hoard not up for the next day,
Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray
For fire, or lights, or livery ; all is there;
As if thou then wert mine, or I reigned here:
There's nothing I can wish, for which I stay.
That found King James, when hunting late, this way
With his brave son the Prince; they saw thy fires
Shine bright on every hearth, as the desires
Of thy Penates had been set on flame
80 To entertain them; or the country came,
With all their zeal, to warm their welcome here.
What (great, I will not say, but) sudden cheer
Didst thou then make'em! and what praise was heaped
On thy good lady then! who therein reaped
The just reward of her high huswifery;
To have her linen, plate, and all things nigh,
When she was far; and not a room, but drest,
As if it had expected such a guest!
These, Penshurst, are thy praise, and yet not all.
90 Thy lady's noble, fruitful, chaste withal.
His children thy great lord may call his own;
A fortune, in this age, but rarely known.
They are, and have been taught religion; thence
Their gentler spirits have sucked innocence.
Each morn and even, they are taught to pray,
With the whole household, and may, every day,
Read in their virtuous parents' noble parts
The mysteries of manners, arms, and arts.
Now, Penshurst, they that will proportion thee
100 With other edifices, when they see
Those proud, ambitious heaps, and nothing else,
May say their lords have built, but thy lord dwells.

Note: Penshurst was the birthplace of Sir Philip Sidney. Jonson is here writing in praise of its present master, Sir Philip Sidney's brother Robert, Viscount Lisle.

3. To Sir Robert Wroth
How blessed art thou, canst love the country, Wroth,
   Whether by choice, or fate, or both;
And, though so near the city, and the court,
   Art ta'en with neither's vice, nor sport:
That at great times, art no ambitious guest
   Of sheriff 's dinner, or mayor's feast.
Nor com'st to view the better cloth of state;
   The richer hangings, or crown plate;
Nor throng'st (when masquing is) to have a sight
10     Of the short bravery of the night;
To view the jewels, stuffs, the pains, the wit
   There wasted, some not paid for yet!
But canst, at home, in thy securer rest,
   Live, with unbought provision blessed;
Free from proud porches, or their gilded roofs,
   'Mongst lowing herds, and solid hoofs:
Alongst the curled woods, and painted meads,
   Through which a serpent river leads
To some cool, courteous shade, which he calls his,
20    And makes sleep softer than it is !
Or, if thou list the night in watch to break,
   Abed canst hear the loud stag speak,
In spring, oft roused for thy master's sport,
   Who, for it, makes thy house his court;
Or with thy friends, the heart of all the year,
   Divid'st, upon the lesser deer;
In autumn, at the partridge makes a flight,
   And giv'st thy gladder guests the sight;
And, in the winter, hunt'st the flying hare,
30    More for thy exercise, than fare;
While all, that follow, their glad ears apply
   To the full greatness of the cry:
Or hawking at the river, or the bush,
   Or shooting at the greedy thrush,
Thou dost with some delight the day outwear,
   Although the coldest of the year!
The whilst, the several seasons thou hast seen
   Of flowery fields, of copses green,
The mowed meadows with the fleeced sheep,
40    And feasts that either shearers keep;
The ripened cars, yet humble in their height,
   And furrows laden with their weight;
The apple harvest, that doth longer last;
   The hogs returned home fat from mast;
The trees cut out in log; and those boughs made
   A fire now, that lent a shade !
Thus Pan, and Sylvan, having had their rites,
   Comus puts in, for new delights;
And fills thy open hall with mirth, and cheer,
50     As if in Saturn's reign it were;
Apollo's harp, and Hermes' lyre resound,
   Nor are the muses strangers found:
The rout of rural folk come thronging in,
   (Their rudeness then is thought no sin)
Thy noblest spouse affords them welcome grace;
   And the great heroes, of her race,
Sit mixed with loss of state, or reverence.
   Freedom doth with degree dispense.
 The jolly wassail walks the often round,
60    And in their cups, their cares are drowned:
They think not, then, which side the cause shall leese,
   Nor how to get the lawyer fees.
Such, and no other, was that age, of old,
   Which boasts to have had the head of gold.
And such since thou canst make thine own content,
   Strive, Wroth, to live long innocent.
Let others watch in guilty arms, and stand
    The fury of a rash command,
Go enter breaches, meet the cannons' rage,
70    That they may sleep with scars in age.
And show their feathers shot, and colours torn,
   And brag, that they were therefore born.
Let this man sweat, and wrangle at the bar,
   For every price, in every jar,
And change possessions, oft'ner with his breath,
   Than either money, war, or death:
Let him, than hardest sires, more disinherit,
   And eachwhere boast it as his merit,
To blow up orphans, widows, and their states;
80    And think his power doth equal Fate's.
Let that go heap a mass of wretched wealth,
   Purchased by rapine, worse than stealth,
And brooding o'er it sit, with broadest eyes,
   Not doing good, scarce when.he dies.
Let thousands more go flatter vice, and win,
   By being organs to great sin,
Get place, and honour, and be glad to keep
   The secrets, that shall break their sleep:
And, so they ride in purple, eat in Plate,
90    Though poison, think it a great fare.
But thou, my Wroth, if I can truth apply,
   Shalt neither that, nor this envy:
Thy peace is made; and, when man's state is well,
   'Tis better, if he there can dwell.
God wisheth, none should wrack on a strange shelf:
   To him, man's dearer, than t'himself.
And, howsoever we may think things sweet,
   He always gives what he knows meet;
Which who can use is happy: such be thou.
100    Thy morning's, and thy evening's vow
Be thanks to him, and earnest prayer, to find
   A body sound, with sounder mind;
To do thy country service, thyself right;
   That neither want do thee affright,
Nor death; but when thy latest sand is spent,
   Thou mayst think life, a thing but lent.

Note: Sir Robert Wroth married Mary, the daughter of Sir Robert Sidney, Viscount Lisle of Penshust. He died in 1614.

4.   To the World
              (A Farewell for a Gentlewoman, Virtuous and Noble)
False world, good night! since thou hast brought 
   That hour upon my morn of age; 
Henceforth I quit thee from my thought, 
   My part is ended on thy stage.
Do not once hope, that thou canst tempt
   A spirit so resolved to tread
Upon thy throat, and live exempt
   From all the nets that thou canst spread.
I know thy forms are studied arts,
10    Thy subtle ways, be narrow straits;
Thy courtesy but sudden starts,
   And what thou call'st thy gifts are baits.
I know too, though thou strut and paint,
   Yet art thou both shrunk up and old,
That only fools make thee a saint,
   And all thy good is to be sold.
I know thou whole art but a shop
   Of toys and trifles, traps and snares,
To take the weak or make them stop:
20    Yet art thou falser than thy wares
And, knowing this, should I yet stay,
   Like such as blow away their lives
And never will redeem a day,
   Enamoured of their golden gyves?
Or having 'scaped, shall I return
   And thrust my neck into the noose,
From whence so lately I did burn,
   With all my powers, myself to loose?
What bird or beast is known so dull
30    That fled his cage, or broke his chain,
And tasting air and freedom, will
   Render his head in there again?
If these, who have but sense, can shun
   The engines that have them annoyed,
Little for me had reason done,
   If I could not thy gins avoid
Yes, threaten, do. Alas! I fear 
   As little as I hope from thee: 
I know thou canst not show nor bear 
40    More hatred than thou hast to me. 
My tender, first, and simple years 
   Thou didst abuse and then betray; 
Since stir'd'st up jealousies and fears, 
   When all the causes were away. 
Then in a soil hast planted me 
   Where breathe the basest of thy fools; 
Where envious arts professed be, 
   And pride and ignorance the schools; 
Where nothing is examined, weigh'd, 
50   But as 'tis rumour'd, so believed; 
Where every freedom is betray'd, 
   And every goodness tax'd or grieved. 
But what we're born for, we must bear: 
   Our frail condition it is such 
That what to all may happen here, 
   If 't chance to me, I must not grutch. 
Else I my state should much mistake 
   To harbour a divided thought 
From all my kind; that, for my sake, 
60    There should a miracle be wrought. 
No, I do know that I was born 
   To age, misfortune, sickness, grief: 
But I will bear these with that scorn 
   As shall not need thy false relief. 
Nor for my peace will I go far, 
   As wanderers do, that still do roam; 
But make my strengths, such as they are, 
   Here in my bosom, and at home.

5.    Song. To Celia
Come my Celia, let us prove,
While we may, the sports of love.
Time will not be ours for ever:
He at length our good will sever.
Spend not then his gifts in vain;
Suns that set may rise again,
But if once we lose this light
'Tis with us perpetual night.
Why should we defer our joys?
10 Fame and rumour are but toys.
Cannot we delude the eyes
Of a few poor household spies?
Or his easier ears beguile,
So removed by our wile?
'Tis no sin love's fruit to steal,
But the sweet theft to reveal;
To be taken, to be seen,
These have crimes accounted been.

6. To the Same
Kiss me, sweet: the wary lover
Can your favours keep, and cover,
When the common courting jay
All your bounties will betray.
Kiss again: no creature comes.
Kiss, and score up wealthy sums
On my lips, thus hardly sundered,
While you breathe.  First give a hundred,
Then a thousand, then another
10 Hundred, then unto the tother
Add a thousand, and so more:
Till you equal with the store,
All the grass that Romney yields,
Or the sands in Chelsea fields,
Or the drops in silver Thames,
Or the stars, that gild his streams,
In the silent summer nights,
When youths ply their stol'n delights.
That the curious may not know
20 How to tell them as they flow,
And the envious, when they find,
What their number is, be pined.

7.  Song. That Women are but Men's Shadows
Follow a shadow, it still flies you;
Seem to fly it, it will pursue:
So court a mistress, she denies you;
Let her alone, she will court you.
Say, are not women truly, then,
Styled but the shadows of us men?
At morn and even, shades are longest;
At noon they are or short or none:
So men at weakest, they are strongest,
10 But grant us perfect, they're not known.
Say, are not women truly, then,
Styled but the shadows of us men?

8. To Sickness
Why, disease, dost thou molest
Ladies, and of them the best?
Do not men, ynow of rites
To thy altars, by their nights
Spent in surfeits: and their days,
And nights too, in worser ways?
Take heed, sickness, what you do,
I shall fear, you'll surfeit too.
Live not we, as, all thy stalls,
10 Spittles, pest-house, hospitals,
Scarce will take our present store ?
And this age will build no more:
Pray thee, feed contented, then,
Sickness, only on us men.
Or if needs thy lust will taste
Womankind; devour the waste
Livers, round about the town.
But, forgive me, with thy crown
They maintain the truest trade,
20 And have more diseases made.
What should, yet, thy palate please?
Daintiness, and softer ease,
Sleeked limbs, and finest blood?
If thy leanness love such food,
There are those, that, for thy sake,
Do enough; and who would take
Any pains; yea, think it price,
To become thy sacrifice.
That distil their husbands' land
30 In decoctions; and are manned
With ten emp'rics, in their chamber,
Lying for the spirit of amber.
That for the oil of Talc, dare spend
More than citizens dare lend
Them, and all their officers.
That, to make, all pleasure theirs,
Will by coach, and water go,
Every stew in town to know;
Dare entail their loves on any,
40 Bald, or blind, or ne'er so many:
And, for thee, at common game,
Play away, health, wealth, and fame.
These, disease, will thee deserve:
And will, long ere thou shouldst starve,
On their beds, most prostitute,
Move it, as their humblest suit,
In thy justice to molest
None but them, and leave the rest.

9.    Song. To Celia
Drink to me only with thine eyes,
   And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
   And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
   Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
   I would not change for thine.
I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
10    Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope that there
   It could not wither'd be;
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
   And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
   Not of itself but thee!

10.  'And must I sing?  What subject shall I choose?'
And must I sing?  What subject shall I choose?
Or whose great name in poets' heaven use,
For the more countenance to my active muse?

Hercules?  Alas his bones are yet sore,
With his old earthly labours.  T'exact more,
Of his dull godhead, were sin.  I'll implore

Phoebus.  No?  Tend thy cart still.  Envious day
Shall not give out, that I have made thee stay,
And foundered thy hot team, to tune my lay.

10  Nor will I beg of thee, lord of the vine,
To raise my spirits with thy conjuring wine,
In the green circle of thy ivy twine.

Pallas, nor thee I call on, mankind maid,
That, at thy birth, mad'st the poor smith afraid,
Who, with his axe, thy father's midwife played.

Go, cramp dull Mars, light Venus, when he snorts,
Or, with thy tribade trine, invent new sports,
Thou, nor thy looseness, with my making sorts.

Let the old boy, your son, ply his old task,

20 Turn the stale prologue to some painted masque,
His absence in my verse, is all I ask.

Hermes, the cheater, shall not mix with us,
Though he would steal his sisters' Pegasus,
And riffle him: or pawn his Petasus.

Nor all the ladies of the Thespian lake,
(Though they were crushed into one form) could make
A beauty of that merit, that should take

My muse up by commission: no, I bring
My own true fire, Now my thought takes wing,

30 And now an epode to deep ears I sing.

11.  Epode
Not to know vice at all, and keep true state,
   Is virtue, and not Fate:
Next, to that virtue, is to know vice well,
   And her black spite expel.
Which to effect (since no breast is so sure,
   Or safe, but she'll procure
Some way of entrance) we must plant a guard
   Of thoughts to watch, and ward
At the eye and ear (the ports unto the mind)
10    That no strange, or unkind
Object arrive there, but the heart (our spy)
   Give knowledge instantly,
To wakeful reason, our affections' king:
   Who (in the examining)
Will quickly taste the treason, and commit
   Close, the close cause of it.
'Tis the securest policy we have,
   To make our sense our slave.
But this true course is not embraced by many:
20     By many? Scarce by any.
For either our affections do rebel,
   Or else the sentinel
(That should ring 'larum to the heart) doth sleep,
   Or some great thought doth keep
Back the intelligence, and falsely swears,
   They are base, and idle fears
Whereof the loyal conscience so complains.
   Thus, by these subtle trains,
Do several passions still invade the mind,
30    And strike our reason blind.
Of which usurping rank, some have thought love
   The first; as prone to move
Most frequent tumults, horrors, and unrests,
   In our inflamed breasts:
But this doth from the cloud of error grow,
   Which thus we overblown
The thing, they here call love, is blind desire,
   Armed with bow, shafts, and fire;
Inconstant, like the sea, of whence 'tis born,
40    Rough, swelling, like a storm:
With whom who sails, rides on the surge of fear,
   And boils, as if he were
In a continual tempest.  Now, true love
   No such effects doth prove;
That is an essence far more gentle, fine,
   Pure, perfect, nay divine;
It is a golden chain let down from heaven,
   Whose links are bright, and even,
That falls like sleep on lovers, and combines
50    The soft, and sweetest minds
In equal knots: this bears no brands, nor darts,
   To murther different hearts,
But, in a calm, and god-like unity,
   Preserves community.
O, who is he, that (in this peace) enjoys
   The elixir of all joys?
A form more fresh, than are the Eden bowers,
   And  lasting, as her flowers:
Richer than time, and as time's virtue, rare:
60    Sober, as saddest care:
A fixed thought, an eye untaught to glance;
   Who (blessed with such high chance)
Would, at suggestion of a steep desire,
   Cast himself from the spire
Of all his happiness?  But soft: I hear
   Some vicious fool draw near,
That cries, we dream, and swears, there's no such thing,
   As this chaste love we sing.
Peace, luxury, thou art like one of those
70    Who, being at sea, suppose,
Because they move, the continent doth so:
   No, vice, we let thee know
Though thy wild thoughts with sparrows' wings do fly
   Turtles can chastely die;
And yet (in this to express ourselves more clear)
   We do not number, here,
Such spirits as are only continent,
   Because lust's means are spent:
Or those, who doubt the common mouth of fame,
80    And for their place, and name,
Cannot so safely sin.  Their chastity
   Is mere necessity.
Nor mean we those, whom vows and conscience
   Have filled with abstinence:
Though we acknowledge, who can so abstain,
   Makes a most blessed gain.
He that for love of goodness hateth ill,
   Is more crown-worthy still,
Than he, which for sin's penalty forbears.
90    His heart sins, though he fears.
But we propose a person like our dove,
   Graced with a phoenix love;
A beauty of that clear, and sparkling light,
   Would make a day of night,
And turn the blackest sorrows to bright joys:
   Whose odorous breath destroys
All taste of bitterness, and makes the air
   As sweet, as she is fair.
A body so harmoniously composed,
100    As if nature disclosed
All her best symmetry in that one feature!
   O, so divine a creature
Who could be false to?  Chiefly, when he knows
   How only she bestows
The wealthy treasure of her love on him;
   Making his fortunes swim
In the full flood of her admired perfection?
   What savage, brute affection,
Would not be fearful to offend a dame
110    Of this excelling frame?
Much more a noble, and right generous mind
   (To virtuous moods inclined)
That knows the weight of guilt: he will refrain
   From thoughts of such a strain.
And to his sense object this sentence ever,
   Man may securely sin, but safely never.

12. Epistle to Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland
Whilst that, for which, all virtue now is sold,
And almost every vice, almighty gold,
That which, to boot with hell, is thought worth heaven,
And, for it, life, conscience, yea, souls are given,
Toils, by grave custom, up and down the court,
To every squire, or groom, that will report
Well, or ill, only, all the following year,
Just to the weight their this day's presents bear;
While it makes huishers serviceable men,
10 And some one apteth to be trusted, then,
Though never after; whiles it gains the voice
Of some grand peer, whose air doth make rejoice
The fool that gave it; who will want, and weep,
When his proud patron's favours are asleep;
While thus it buys great grace, and hunts poor fame;
Runs between man, and man; 'tween dame, and dame;
Solders cracked friendship; makes love last a day;
Or perhaps less: whilst gold bears all this sway,
I, that have none (to send you) send you verse.
20 A present, which (if elder writs rehearse
The truth oftimes) was once of more esteem,
Than this, our gilt, nor golden age can deem,
When gold was made no weapon to cut throats,
Or put to flight Astrea, when her ingots
Were yet unfound, and better placed in earth,
Than, here, to give pride fame, and peasants birth,
But let this dross carry what price it will
With noble ignorants, and let them still,
Turn, upon scorned verse, their quarter-face:
30 With you, I know, my offering will find grace.
For what a sin 'gainst your great father's spirit,
Were it to think, that you should not inherit
His love unto the muses, when his skill
Almost you have, or may have, when you will?
Wherein wise Nature you a dowry gave,
Worth an estate, treble to that you have.
Beauty, I know, is good, and blood is more;
Riches thought most. but, madam, think what store
The world hath seen, which all these had in trust,
40 And now lie lost in their forgotten dust.
It is the muse, alone, can raise to heaven,
And, at her strong arms' end, hold up, and even,
The souls, she loves.  Those other glorious notes,
Inscribed in touch or marble, or the coats
Painted, or carved upon our great men's tombs,
Or in their windows; do but prove the wombs,
That bred them, graves: when they were born, they died,
That had no muse to make their fame abide.
How many equal with the Argive queen,
50 Have beauty known, yet none so famous seen?
Achilles was not first, that valiant was,
Or, in an army's head, that, locked in brass,
Gave killing strokes.  There were brave men, before
Ajax, or Idomen, or all the store,
That Homer brought to Troy; yet none so live:
Because they lacked the sacred pen, could give
Like life unto them.  Who heaved Hercules
Unto the stars?  Or the Tyndarides?
Who placed Jason's Argo in the sky?
60 Or set bright Ariadne's crown so high?
Who made a lamp of Berenice's hail?
Or lifted Cassiopea in her chair?
But only poets, rapt with rage divine?
And such, or my hopes fail, shall make you shine.
You, and that other star, that purest light,
Of all Lucina's train; Lucy the bright.
Than which a nobler heaven itself knows not.
Who, though she have a better verser got,
(Or poet, in the court account) than I,
70 And, who doth me (though I not him) envy,
Yet, for the timely favours she hath done,
To my less sanguine muse, wherein she hath won
My grateful soul, the subject of her powers,
I have already used some happy hours,
To her remembrance; which when time shall bring
To curious light I the notes I then shall sing,
Will prove old Orpheus' act no tale to be:
For I shall move stocks, stones, no less than he.
Then all, that have but done my muse least grace,
80 Shall thronging come, and boast the happy place
They hold in my strange poems, which, as yet,
Had not their form touched by an English wit.
There like a rich, and golden pyramid,
Borne up by statues, shall I rear your head,
Above your under-carved ornaments,
And show, how, to the life, my soul presents
Your form impressed there, not with tickling rhymes,
Or commonplaces, filched, that take these times,
But high, and noble matter, such as flies
90 From brains entranced, and filled with ecstasies;
Moods, which the godlike Sidney oft did prove,
And your brave friend, and mine so well did love.
Who wheresoe'er he be, on what dear coast,
Now thinking on you, though to England lost,
For that firm grace he holds in your regard,
I, that am grateful for him, have prepared
This hasty sacrifice, wherein I rear
A vow as new, and ominous as the year,
Before his swift and circled race be run,
100  My best of wishes, may you bear a son.

Note: Elizabeth Sidney, the daughter of Sir Philip Sidney, married Roger Manners, the Earl of Rutland. They both died childless in 1612.

13. Epistle.  To Katherine, Lady Aubigny
'Tis grown almost a danger to speak true
Of any good mind, now: there are so few.
The bad, by number, are so fortified,
As what they have lost to expect, they dare deride'.
So both the praised, and praisers suffer: yet,
For others' ill, ought none their good forget.
I, therefore, who profess myself in love
With every virtue, wheresoe'er it move,
And howsoever; as I am at feud
10 With sin and vice, though with a throne endued;
And, in this name, am given out dangerous
By arts, and practice of the vicious,
Such as suspect themselves, and think it fit
For their own cap'tal crimes, t'indict my wit;
I, that have suffered this; and, though forsook
Of Fortune, have not altered yet my look,
Or so myself abandoned, as because
Men are not just, or keep no holy laws
Of nature, and society, I should faint;
20 Or fear to draw true lines, 'cause others paint:
I, madam, am become your praiser.  Where,
If it may stand with your soft blush to hear
Yourself but told unto yourself, and see
In my character, what your features be,
You will not from the paper slightly pass:
No lady, but, at some time, loves her glass.
And this shall be no false one, but as much
Removed, as you from need to have it such.
Look then, and see yourself I will not say
30 Your beauty; for you see that every day:
And so do many more.  All which can call
It perfect, proper, pure, and natural,
Not taken up o' the doctors, but as well
As I, can say, and see it doth excel.
That asks but to be censured by the eyes;
And, in those outward forms, all fools are wise.
Nor that your beauty wanted not a dower,
Do I reflect.  Some alderman has power,
Or cozening farmer of the customs so,
40 To advance his doubtful issue, and o'erflow
A prince's fortune: these are gifts of chance,
And raise not virtue; they may vice enhance.
My mirror is more subtle, clear, refined,
And.takes, and gives the beauties of the mind.
Though it reject not those of Fortune: such
As blood, and match. Wherein'   how more than much
Are you engaged to your happy fate,
For such a lot!  That mixed you with a state
Of so great title, birth, but virtue most,
50 Without which, all the rest were sounds, or lost.
'Tis only that can time, and chance defeat:
For he, that once is good, is ever great.
Wherewith, then, madam, can you better pay
This blessing of your stars, than by that way
Of virtue, which you tread?  What if alone?
Without companions? 'Tis safe to have none.
In single paths, dangers with ease are watched:
Contagion in the press is soonest catched.
This makes, that wisely you decline your life,
60 Far from the maze of custom, error, strife,
And keep an even, and unaltered gait;
Not looking by, or back (like those, that wait
Times, and occasions, to start forth, and seem)
Which though the turning world may disesteem,
Because that studies spectacles, and shows,
And after varied, as fresh objects goes,
Giddy with change, and therefore cannot see
Right, the right way: yet must your comfort be
Your conscience, and not wonder, if none asks
70 For truth's complexion, where they all wear masks.
Let who will follow fashions, and attires,
Maintain their liegers forth, for foreign wires,
Melt down their husbands' land, to pour away
On the close groom, and page, on New Year's Day,
And almost all days after, while they live;
(They find it both so witty, and safe to give).
Let them on powders, oils, and paintings, spend,
Till that no usurer, nor his bawds dare lend
Them, or their officers: and no man know,
80 Whether it be a face they wear, or no.
Let them waste body, and state; and after all,
When their own parasites laugh at their fall,
May they have nothing left, whereof they can
Boast, but how oft they have gone wrong to man:
And call it their brave sin.  For such there be
That do sin only for the infamy:
And never think, how vice doth every hour,
Eat on her clients, and some one devour.
You, madam, young have learned to shun these shelves,
90 Whereon the most of mankind wrack themselves,
And, keeping a just course, have early put
Into your harbour, and all passage shut
'Gainst storms, or pirates, that might charge your peace;
For which you worthy are the glad increase
Of your blessed worhb, made fruitful from above,
To pay your lord the pledges of chaste love:
And raise a noble stem, to give the fame
To CIifton's blood, that is denied their name.
Grow, grow, fair tree, and as thy branches shoot,
100 Hear, what the muses sing about thy root,
By me, their priest (if they can aught divine)
Before the moons have filled their triple trine,
To crown the burthen which you go withall,
It shall a ripe and timely issue fall,
To expect the honours of great Aubigny:
And greater rites, yet writ in mystery,
But which the Fates forbid me to reveal.
Only, thus much, out of a ravished zeal,
Unto your name, and goodness of your life,
110 They speak; since you are truly that rare wife,
Other great wives may blush at: when they see
What your tried manners are, what theirs should be.
How you love one, and him you should; how still
You are depending on his word, and will;
Not fashioned for the court, or strangers' eyes;
But to please him, who is the dearer prize
Unto himself, by being so dear to you.
This makes, that your affections still be new,
And that your souls conspire, as they were gone
120 Each into other, and had now made one.
Live that one, still; and as long years do pass,
Madam, be bold to use this truest glass:
Wherein, your form, you still the same shall find;
Because nor it can change, nor such a mind.

Note: Katherine, daughter of Sir Gervase Clifton, married Esme, Lord Aubigny, Duke of Lennox to whom Jonson dedicated Sejanus. She has no apparent connection with the Sidneys.

14. Ode.  To Sir William Sidney, on His Birthday
Now that the hearth is crowned with smiling fire,
   And some do drink, and some do dance,
       Some ring,
       Some sing,
   And all do strive to advance
The gladness higher:
     Wherefore should I
     Stand silent by,
       Who not the least,
10        Both love the cause, and authors of the feast?

Give me my cup, but from the Thespian well,
   That I may tell to Sidney, what
       This day
       Doth say,
   And he may think on that
Which I do tell:
     When all the noise
     Of these forced joys,
       Are fled and gone,

20        And he, with his best genius left alone.

This day says, then, the number of glad years
   Are justly summed, that make you man;
       Your vow
       Must now
   Strive all right ways it can,
To outstrip your peers:
     Since he doth lack
     Of going back
       Little,  whose will

30        Doth urge him to run wrong, or to stand still.

Nor can a little of the common store,
   Of nobles' virtue, show in you;
       Your blood
       So good.
   And great, must seek for new,
And study more:
     Not weary, rest
     On what's deceased.
       For they, that swell

40        With dust of ancestors, in graves but dwell.

'Twill be exacted of your name, whose son,
   Whose nephew, whose grand-child you are;
       And men
       Will, then,
   Say you have followed far,
When well begun:
     Which must be now,
     They teach you, how.
       And he that stays

50        To live until tomorrow hath lost two days.

So may you live in honour, as in name,
   If with this truth you be inspired,
       So may
       This day
   Be more, and long desired:
And with the flame,
     Of love be bright,
     As with the light
       Of bone-fires.  Then

6o         The birthday shines, when logs not burn, but men.

Note: Sir William Sidney was the son of Sir Robert Sidney, Viscount Lisle. He died in 1612.

15.    To Heaven
Good and great God, can I not think of thee
But it must straight my melancholy be?
Is it interpreted in me disease
That, laden with my sins, I seek for ease?
Oh be thou witness, that the reins dost know
And hearts of all, if I be sad for show,
And judge me after; if I dare pretend
To ought but grace or aim at other end.
As thou art all, so be thou all to me,
10 First, midst, and last, converted one, and three;
My faith, my hope, my love; and in this state
My judge, my witness, and my advocate.
Where have I been this while exil'd from thee?
And whither rap'd, now thou but stoop'st to me?
Dwell, dwell here still. O, being everywhere,
How can I doubt to find thee ever here?
I know my state, both full of shame and scorn,
Conceiv'd in sin, and unto labour borne,
Standing with fear, and must with horror fall,
20 And destin'd unto judgment, after all.
I feel my griefs too, and there scarce is ground
Upon my flesh t' inflict another wound.
Yet dare I not complain, or wish for death
With holy Paul, lest it be thought the breath
Of discontent; or that these prayers be
For weariness of life, not love of thee.