Ben Jonson

June 11, 1572 - August 6, 1637

 

A Pindaric Ode

by Ben Jonson

To the immortal memory and friendship of that noble pair, Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H. Morison.

I

The Strophe, Or Turn.

Brave infant of Saguntum, clear
Thy coming forth in that great year,
When the prodigious Hannibal did crown
His rage, with razing your immortal town.
Thou looking then about,
Ere thou wert half got out,
Wise child, didst hastily return,
And mad'st thy mothers womb thine urn.
Haw summ'd a circle didst thou leave mankind
Of deepest lore, could we the centre find!

The Antistrophe, Or Counter-Turn.

Did wiser nature draw thee back,
From out the horror of that sack;
Where shame, faith, honour, and regard of right,
Lay trampled on? the deeds of death and night
Urged, hurried forth, and hurl'd
Upon the affrighted world;
Fire, famine, and fell fury met,
And all on utmost ruin set:
As, could they but life's miseries foresee,
No doubt all infants would return like thee.

The Epode, Or Stand

For what is life, if measured by the space,
Not by the act?
Or maske'd man, if valued by his face,
Above his fact?
Here's one outlived his peers,
And told forth fourscore years:
He vexe'd time, and busied the whole state;
Troubled both foes and friends;
But ever to no ends:
What did this stirrer but die late?
How well at twenty had he fallen or stood!
For three of his fourscore he did no good.

II

The Strophe, Or Turn

He entered well by virtuous parts,
Got up, and thrived with honest arts,
He purchased friends, and fame, and honours then
And had his noble name advanced with men:
But weary of that flight,
He stooped in all men's sight
To sordid flatteries, acts of strife,
And sunk in that dead sea of life,
So deep, as he did then death's waters sup,
But that the cork of title buoyed him up.

The Antistrophe, Or Counter-Turn

Alas! but Morison fell young:
He never fell, -- thou fall'st, my tongue.
He stood a soldier to the last right end,
A perfect patriot and a noble friend;
But most, a virtuous son.
All offices were done
By him, so ample, full, and round,
In weight, in measure, number, sound,
As, though his age imperfect might appear,
His life was of humanity the sphere.

The Epode, Or Stand.

Go now, and tell our days summed up with fears.
And make them years;
Produce thy mass of miseries on the stage,
To swell thine age:
Repeat of things a throng,
To show thou hast been long,
Not lived; for life doth her great actions spell,
By what was done and wrought
In season, and so brought
To light: her measures are, how well
Each syllabe answered, and was formed, how fair
These make the lines of life, and that's her air!

III

The Strophe, Or Turn

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make men better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear:
A lily of a day,
Is fairer far, in May,
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures, life may perfect be.

The Antistrophe, Or Counter-Turn

Call, noble Lucius, then, for wine,
And let thy locks with gladness shine:
Accept this Garland, plant it on thy head,
And think, nay know, thy Morison's not dead.
He leaped the present age,
Possest with holy rage,
To see that bright eternal day;
Of which we priests and poets say
Such truths, as we expect for happy men:
And there, he lives with memory, and Ben.

The Epode, Or Stand.

Jonson, who sung this of him, ere he went,
Himself, to rest,
Or taste a part of that full joy he meant
To have exprest,
In this bright asterism! --
Where it were friendship's schism,
Were not his Lucius long with us to tarry,
To separate these twi-
Lights, the Dioscuri;
And keep the one half from his Harry.
But fate doth so alternate the design,
Whilst that in heaven, this light on earth must shine, --

IV

The Strophe, Or Turn.

And shine as you exalted are;
Two names of friendship, but one star:
Of hearts the union, and those not by chance
Made, or indenture, or leased out t' advance
The profits for a time.
No pleasures vain did chime,
Of rhymes, or riots, at your feasts,
Orgies of drink, or feigned protests:
But simple love of greatness and of good:
That knits brave minds and manners more than blood.

The Antistrophe, Or Counter-Turn.

This made you first to know the why
You liked, then after, to apply
That liking; and approach so one the t' other,
Till either grew a portion of the other;
Each styled by his end,
The copy of his friend.
You lived to be the great sir-names,
And titles, by which all made claims
Unto the Virtue: nothing perfect done,
But as a Cary or a Morison.

The Epode, Or Stand.

And such a force the fair example had,
As they that saw
The good, and durst not practise it, were glad
That such a law
Was left yet to mankind;
Where they might read and find
Friendship, indeed, was written not in words:
And with the heart, not pen,
Of two so early men
Whose lines her rolls were, and records:
Who, ere the first down blooméd on the chin,
Had sowed these fruits, and got the harvest in.

Source:

Plays And Poems, 2nd Edition
Copyright 1886
George Routledge And Son, Broadway, Ludgate Hill, New York: 9 Lafayette Place
 
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