Ben Jonson

June 11, 1572 - August 6, 1637


Ode To Sir William Sidney On His Birthday

by Ben Jonson

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,
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 ne may think on that
Which I do tell;
When all the noise
Of these forced joys,
Are fled and gone,
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,
T' outstrip your peers:
Since he doth lack
Of going back
Little, whose will
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:
Nor weary, rest
On what's deceas't.
For they, that swell
With dust of ancestors, in graves but dwell.

'Twill be exacted of your name, whose son,
Whose nephew, whose grandchild 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
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 bonfires! then
The birthday shines, when logs not burn, but men.


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