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pose than those of any other English writer except Milton, the lyrical part of them, though always adequate, rarely challenges special admiration. The extract in heroic couplets from the Hymenæi furnishes a typical instance of the thought expended by Jonson upon what in most other hands would have been a mere conventional personification ; the short adagio from the Fortunate Isles shows how fully competent he was to marry words to the required movement of dance or song. A longer extract from Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue would have been necessary to bring into fullest relief what was owed to Jonson by the writer of the greatest—without rival or parallel-of all English masques. Is it inconceivable that our poets should recur, less tentatively than they have hitherto done, to a poetic form so peculiarly suitable for giving expression to the more varied intellectual life of these latter times as was that which Jonson virtually secured to our literature ?
Among his detached pieces the Epigrams were the favourites of 'honest' Ben Jonson himself,—the ripest,' as he called them, 'of his studies.' It is unnecessary to point out (though the poet had to do so in the admirable lines addressed to his ‘mere English'critic) that his conception of the forms and functions of an epigram was the wider one entertained by the Ancients; and that therefore his purpose in the large majority of these poems is not to work rapidly up to a point at the close. If this be borne in mind, the felicitous terseness of these Epigrams, and of those pieces in the Underwoods which belong to the same class, will not be denied the admiration which it deserves. Some are witty, in the narrower sense of the term,-nearly all in the broader. Their sarcasm, where they contain such, directs itself against various types of men and womenamong them, much to Jonson's credit, rather against those whom he might have been expected to flatter than those whom he might have been expected to assail. But the Fastidious Brisks were as genuine an abomination to Ben Jonson as the Zeal-of-the-land Busies, and this though he to some extent depended for his bread as well as for his sack upon the good-will of the Court and courtiers. And it may be said in passing that though like all his brother-dramatists he was loyally devoted to the Crown', he was free-spoken even to the most august of his patrons, and constantly recurs to the commonplace but wholesome maxim that it is the
1 He has been credited (but erroneously) with the authorship of the National Anthem.
love, not the fear, of his subjects upon which a monarch ought to rely. But Jonson's satirical epigrams are both less effective and less elaborate than those of a directly opposite tendency. Few of our Jacobean or Caroline poets have equalled him in pregnancy of panegyric—whether his theme was the praise of statesmen like the clder or the younger Cecil, or of men of letters varying in kind and degree from Selden, whom he salutes as 'monarch of letters,' to the poet's fellow-dramatists. Nor was he less happy when the object of his poetic homage was a gentle woman, like the Countess of Bedford celebrated in the lines cited below. And his Epitaphs, among which room could only be found here for two of the most pathetic, remain unsurpassed, not only for a condensed force which we are accustomed to find in Jonson, but also for a tender grace which he is not so usually supposed to have possessed.
In the collection called the Forest, small as it is, Jonson has done the greatest justice to the variety of poetic styles of which (in addition to the dramatic) he was capable. He here excuses himself for not writing of love, partly on the favourite poets' plea of growing age; and in truth his muse was comparatively a stranger to Eros. Yet the little chaplet of tributes to 'Charis’ put together by Jonson in 1624 and inserted in the Underwoods, and some charming original and translated pieces to be found elsewhere, show him not only to have written graceful love-poetry himself, but to have furnished examples of it to his younger contemporaries. Herrick was in his way almost as much indebted to Jonson as Milton was in his. As a translator or adapter of Classical originals, Jonson was in his element ; his re-settings of favourite gems from Catullus and others were doubtless true labours of love. For the ‘bricklayer' (as his opponents delighted to be historically justified in calling him) had the early nurture of a scholar; and through life he remained deeply grateful to the famous Camden, his master at Westminster. That among the Latin poets Horace should have specially attracted him, is easily to be accounted for ; in some of his original Epistles he has all the brightness and all the urbanity of his Roman model—in the fine Epode included in the Forest he rises to a moral dignity beyond the reach either of Horace or of his later imitators.
For not even a slight summary like the present should exclude from mention among Jonson's characteristics the firm and steady tone of his morality. In his earlier manhood he twice changed his faith-without the faintest suspicion of interested motives attaching to his conversion-and in his later days he seems to have remained a close student of theology, inclining now to
*those wiser guides Whom fashion had not drawn to study sides.' But to a conscientious desire for truth he added a humility of soul towards things divine, which stands in strange and touching contrast to the high mettle and quick temper of his bearing in most other matters. Critics have been known to cry out against having to hear too much about the robustness of Ben Jonson ; but his manliness is inseparable from him, and, as the lines To Heaven show, he was not ashamed even of his piety.
A. W. WARD.
ECHO'S LAMENT OF NARCISSUS.
[From Cynthia's Revels (acted 1600), Act I, Sc. 1.]
Yet slower, yet; O faintly, gentle springs :
Droop herbs and flowers,
O, I could still,
Drop, drop, drop, drop,
[From Volpone ; or, The Fox (acted 1605), Act I. Sc. 6.]
Come, my Celia, let us prove,
1 Compare Catullus, Carmen V. The allusion (not taken from Catullus) in the concluding lines is to a famous Spartan law.
'Tis no sin love's fruits to steal ;
[From Epicæne; or, The Silent Woman, Act I, Sc. 1; 1609.]
Still to be neat, still to be drest,
CHARIS' TRIUMPH. [One of the ten pieces forming A Celebration of Charis in Underwoods.
The last two stanzas are sung or said by Wittipol in The Devil is an
Wherein my Lady rideth !
And well the car Love guideth.
Unto her beauty;
But enjoy such a sight,
Through swords, through seas, whither she would ride. · A translation from the Latin of Bonnefonius (Jean Bonnefons).