To Ben Jonson

A poem by Thomas Carew

'Tis true, dear Ben, thy just chastising hand
Hath fix'd upon the sotted age a brand
To their swoll'n pride and empty scribbling due;
It can nor judge, nor write, and yet 'tis true
Thy comic muse, from the exalted line
Touch'd by thy Alchemist, doth since decline
From that her zenith, and foretells a red
And blushing evening, when she goes to bed;
Yet such as shall outshine the glimmering light
With which all stars shall gild the following night.
Nor think it much, since all thy eaglets may
Endure the sunny trial, if we say
This hath the stronger wing, or that doth shine
Trick'd up in fairer plumes, since all are thine.
Who hath his flock of cackling geese compar'd
With thy tun'd choir of swans? or else who dar'd
To call thy births deform'd? But if thou bind
By city-custom, or by gavelkind,
In equal shares thy love on all thy race,
We may distinguish of their sex, and place;
Though one hand form them, and though one brain strike
Souls into all, they are not all alike.
Why should the follies then of this dull age
Draw from thy pen such an immodest rage
As seems to blast thy else-immortal bays,
When thine own tongue proclaims thy itch of praise?
Such thirst will argue drouth. No, let be hurl'd
Upon thy works by the detracting world
What malice can suggest; let the rout say,
The running sands, that, ere thou make a play,
Count the slow minutes, might a Goodwin frame
To swallow, when th' hast done, thy shipwreck'd name;
Let them the dear expense of oil upbraid,
Suck'd by thy watchful lamp, that hath betray'd
To theft the blood of martyr'd authors, spilt
Into thy ink, whilst thou growest pale with guilt.
Repine not at the taper's thrifty waste,
That sleeks thy terser poems; nor is haste
Praise, but excuse; and if thou overcome
A knotty writer, bring the booty home;
Nor think it theft if the rich spoils so torn
From conquer'd authors be as trophies worn.
Let others glut on the extorted praise
Of vulgar breath, trust thou to after-days;
Thy labour'd works shall live when time devours
Th' abortive offspring of their hasty hours.
Thou are not of their rank, the quarrel lies
Within thine own verge; then let this suffice,
The wiser world doth greater thee confess
Than all men else, than thyself only less.

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