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BENJAMIN JONSON, (or Johnson,) a poet, who, | gives a particular examination of his "Silent Wo during life, attained a distinguished character, was man," as a model of perfection. He afterwards the posthumous son of a clergyman in Westminster, however, seems to make large deductions from this where he was born in 1574, about a month after his commendation. "You seldom (says Dryden) find father's decease. His family was originally from him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavorScotland, whence his grandfather removed to Car- ing to move the passions; his genius was too sullen lisle, in the reign of Henry VIII. and saturnine to do it gracefully. Humor was his Benjamin received his education under the learned proper sphere; and in that he delighted most t› Camden, at Westminster school; and had made represent mechanics." Besides his comedies, Jonson extraordinary progress in his studies, when his mo- composed two tragedies, Sejanus and Catiline, both ther, who had married a bricklayer for her second formed upon ancient models, and full of transhusband, took him away to work under his step-lations; and neither of them successful. His dra. father. From this humble employment he escaped, matic compositions, however, do not come within by enlisting as a soldier in the army, then serving in the scope of the present publication. the Netherlands against the Spaniards. An exploit which he here performed, of killing an enemy in single combat, gave him room to boast ever after of a degree of courage which has not often been found in alliance with poetical distinction.
In 1616, he published a folio volume of his works, which procured for him a grant from his majesty of the salary of poet-laureate for life, though he did not take possession of the post till three years after. With high intellectual endowments, he had many On his return, Jonson entered himself at St. unamiable traits in his character, having a high de John's College, Cambridge, which he was shortly gree of pride and self-conceit, with a disposition to obliged to quit from the scanty state of his finances. abuse and disparage every one who incurred his He then turned his thoughts to the stage, and jealousy or displeasure. Jonson was reduced applied for employment at the theatres; but his to necessitous circumstances in the latter part of talents, as an actor, could only procure for him his life, though he obtained from Charles I. an adadmission at an obscure playhouse in the suburbs. vance of his salary as laureate. He died in 1637, at Here he had the misfortune to kill a fellow-actor the age of 63, being at that time considered as at the in a duel, for which he was thrown into prison. head of English poetry. He was interred in WestThe state of mind to which he was here brought, minster Abbey, where an inscription was placed over gave the advantage to a Popish priest in converting him to the Catholic faith, under which religion he continued for twelve years.
his grave, familiarly expressive of the reputation he had acquired among his countrymen: it was, "O rare Ben Jonson." Six months after his death, a collection of poems to his honor, by a number of the most eminent writers and scholars in the nation, was published, with the title of "Jonsonius Virbius; or the memory of Ben Jonson, revived by the Friends of the Muses."
After his liberation from prison, he married, and applied in earnest to writing for the stage, in which he appears to have already made several attempts. His comedy of "Every Man in his Humor," the first of his acknowledged pieces, was performed with applause in 1596; and henceforth he continued to Although, as a general poet, Jonson for the most furnish a play yearly, till his time was occupied by part merits the character of harsh, frigid, and tedious; the composition of the masques and other enter- there are, however, some strains in which he appears tainments, by which the accession of James was with singular elegance, and may be placed in comcelebrated. Dryden, in his Essay on Dramatic petition with some of the most favored writers of Poetry, speaks of him as the "most learned and that class. judicious writer which any theatre ever had," and
TO WILLIAM CAMDEN. CAMDEN, most reverend head, to whom I owe All that I am in arts, all that I know(How nothing's that!) to whom my country owes The great renown, and name wherewith she goes. Than thee the age sees not that thing more grave, More high, more holy, that she more would crave. What name, what skill, what faith hast thou in things!
What sight in searching the most antique springs!
Pardon free truth, and let thy modesty,
FROM THE SILENT WOMAN. STILL to be neat, still to be drest, As you were going to a feast; Still to be powder'd, still perfum'd: Lady, it is to be presum'd, Though art's hid causes are not found, All is not sweet, all is not sound. Give me a look, give me a face, That makes simplicity a grace; Robes loosely flowing, hair as free: Such sweet neglect more taketh me, Than all th' adulteries of art;
They strike mine eyes, but not my heart.
1. I HAVE been, all day, looking after
A raven, feeding upon a quarter;
And, soon as she turn'd her beak to the south, I snatch'd this morsel out of her mouth.
2. I have been gathering wolves' hairs,
3. I, last night, lay all alone
O' the ground, to hear the mandrake groan; And pluck'd him up, though he grew full low; And, as I had done, the cock did crow.
4. And I ha' been choosing out this skull,
5. Under a cradle I did creep,
By day; and, when the child was asleep,
7. A murderer, yonder, was hung in chains, The sun and the wind had shrunk his veins; I bit off a sinew, I clipp'd his hair,
I brought off his rags, that danc'd i' the air.
8. The screech-owl's eggs, and the feathers black,
9. And I ha' been plucking (plants among)
10. I, from the jaws of a gardener's bitch,
Did snatch these bones, and then leap'd the ditch, Yet went I back to the house again,
Kill'd the black cat, and here's the brain.
11. I went to the toad breeds under the wall
I charm'd him out, and he came at my call;
I scratch'd out the eyes of the owl before,
I tore the bat's wing: what would you have more?
Yes, I have brought (to help our vows)
ON THE COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE, SISTER TO
ON LUCY, COUNTESS OF BEDFORD.
THIS morning, timely rapt with holy fire,
I thought to form unto my zealous Muse,
Of greatest blood, and yet more good than great; I meant the day-star should not brighter rise,
Nor lend like influence from his lucent seat.
I purpos'd her; that should, with even pow'rs, The rock, the spindle, and the shears control
Of Destiny, and spin her own free hours. Such when I meant to feign, and wish'd to see, My Muse bade, Bedford write, and that was she.
Kiss me, sweet: the wary lover
While you breathe. First give a hundred,
TO THE SAME.
DRINK to me only with thine eyes,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst, that from the soul doth rise,
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I sent thee, late, a rosy wreath,
But thou thereon did'st only breathe,
Since when, it grows, and smells, I swear,
FROM THE SHEPHERD'S HOLIDAY.
THUS, thus, begin: the yearly rites
Strew, strew, the glad and smiling ground,
The garden-star, the queen of May,
Drop, drop, you violets, change your hues,
LOVE, A LITTLE BOY
MASQUE ON LORD HADDINGTON'S MARRIAGE
BEAUTIES, have ye seen this toy,
Called Love, a little boy,
Almost naked, wanton, blind,
She, that will but now discover
He hath of marks about him plenty :
And his breath a flame entire,
At his sight, the Sun hath turned,
Wings he hath, which though ye clip,
He will leap from lip to lip,
ABRAHAM COWLEY, a poet of considerable dis- virtue of a degree which he obtained, by mandamus tinction, was born at London, in 1618. His father, from Oxford, in December, 1657.
who was a grocer by trade, died before his birth; After the death of Cromwell, Cowley returned but his mother, through the interest of her friends, to France, and resumed his station as an agent in procured his admission into Westminster school, the royal cause, the hopes of which now began to as a king's scholar. He has represented himself as revive. The Restoration reinstated him, with other so deficient in memory, as to have been unable to royalists, in his own country; and he naturally exretain the common rules of grammar: it is, how-pected a reward for his long services. He had ever, certain that, by some process, he became an been promised, both by Charles I. and Charles II., elegant and correct classical scholar. He early the Mastership of the Savoy, but was unsuccessful imbibed a taste for poetry; and so soon did it germi- in both his applications. He had also the misfortune nate in his youthful mind, that, while yet at school, of displeasing his party, by his revived comedy of in his fifteenth or sixteenth year, he published a "The Cutter of Coleman-street," which was concollection of verses, under the appropriate title of strued as a satire on the cavaliers. At length Poetical Blossoms. through the interest of the Duke of Buckingham In 1636 he was elected a scholar of Trinity col- and the Earl of St. Alban's, he obtained a lease of lege, Cambridge. In this favorable situation he ob- a farm at Chertsey, held under the queen, by which tained much praise for his academical exercises; his income was raised to about 300l. per annum. and he again appeared as an author, in a pastoral From early youth a country retirement had been comedy, called Love's Riddle, and a Latin comedy, a real or imaginary object of his wishes; and, entitled, Naufragium Joculare; the last of which though a late eminent critic and moralist, who had was acted before the university, by the members himself no sensibility to rural pleasures, treats this of Trinity college. He continued to reside at Cam- taste with severity and ridicule, there seems little bridge till 1643, and was a Master of Arts when reason to decry a propensity, nourished by the fahe was ejected from the university by the puritani-vorite strains of poets, and natural to a mind long cal visitors. He thence removed to Oxford, and tossed by the anxieties of business, and the vicissi fixed himself in St. John's college. It was here tudes of an unsettled condition. that he engaged actively in the royal cause, and was present in several of the king's journeys and expeditions, but in what quality, does not appear. He ingratiated himself, however, with the principal persons about the court, and was particularly honored with the friendship of Lord Falkland.
Cowley took up his abode first at Barn-elms, on the banks of the Thames; but this place not agreeing with his health, he removed to Chertsey. Here his life was soon brought to a close. According to his biographer, Dr. Sprat, the fatal disease was an affection of the lungs, the consequence of staying When the events of the war obliged the queen- too late in the fields among his laborers. mother to quit the kingdom, Cowley accompanied Warton, however, from the authority of Mr. Spence, her to France, and obtained a settlement at Paris, gives a different account of the matter. He says, in the family of the earl of St. Alban's. During an that Cowley, with his friend Sprat, paid a visit on absence of nearly ten years from his native coun- foot to a gentleman in the neighborhood of Cherttry, he took various journeys into Jersey, Scotland, sey, which they prolonged, in free conviviality, till Holland, and Flanders; and it was principally midnight; and that missing their way on their rethrough his instrumentality that a correspondence turn, they were obliged to pass the night under a was maintained between the king and his consort. hedge, which gave to the poet a severe cold and The business of ciphering and deciphering their fever, which terminated in his death. He died on letters, was intrusted to his care, and often occu- July 28, 1667, and was interred, with a most honpied his nights, as well as his days. It is no won-orable attendance of persons of distinction, in Westder that, after the Restoration, he long complained minster-abbey, near the remains of Chaucer and of the neglect with which he was treated. In Spenser. King Charles II. pronounced his eulogy, 1656, having no longer any affairs to transact by declaring, "that Mr. Cowley had not left a abroad, he returned to England; still, it is sup-better man behind him in England." posed, engaged in the service of his party, as a me- At the time of his death, Cowley certainly ranked dium of secret intelligence. Soon after his arrival, as the first poet in England; for Milton lay under he published an edition of his poems, containing a cloud, nor was the age qualified to taste him. most of those which now appear in his works. In And although a large portion of Cowley's celebrity a search for another person, he was apprehended by has since vanished, there still remains enough to the messengers of the ruling powers, and committed raise him to a considerable rank among the British to custody; from which he was liberated, by that poets. It may be proper here to add, that as a generous and learned physician, Dr. Scarborough, prose writer, particularly in the department of who bailed him in the sum of a thousand pounds. essays, there are few who can compare with him This, however, was possibly the sum at which he in elegant simplicity.
was rated as a physician, a character he assumed by