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  • Title: Prefatory Materials (Folio 1, 1663)

  • Copyright Internet Shakespeare Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-proift purposes; for all other uses contact the Coordinating Editor.
    Author: Ben Jonson
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Prefatory Materials (Folio 1, 1663)

    To the memory of my beloued,
    The AVTHOR
    what he hath left vs.
    TO draw no enuy (Shakespeare) on thy name,
    Am I thus ample to thy Booke, and Fame:
    125While I confesse thy writings to be such,
    As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too much.
    'Tis true, and all mens suffrage. But these wayes
    Were not the paths I meant vnto thy praise:
    For seeliest Ignorance on these may light,
    130 Which, when it sounds at best, but eccho's right;
    Or blinde Affection, which doth ne're aduance
    The truth, but gropes, and vrgeth all by chance;
    Or crafty Malice, might pretend this praise,
    And thinke to ruine, where it seem'd to raise.
    135These are, as some infamous Baud, or Whore,
    Should praise a Matron. What could hurt her more?
    But thou art proofe against them, and indeed
    Aboue th' ill fortune of them, or the need.
    I, therefore will begin. Soule of the Age!
    140 The applause! delight! the wonder of our Stage!
    My Shakespeare, rise; I will not lodge thee by
    Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lye
    A little further, to make thee a roome:
    Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe,
    145And art aliue still, while thy Booke doth liue,
    And we haue wits to read, and praise to giue.
    That I not mixe thee so, my braine excuses;
    I meane with great, but disproportion'd Muses:
    For, if I thought my iudgement were of yeeres,
    150 I should commit thee surely with thy peeres,
    And tell, how farre thou didstst our Lily out-shine,
    Or sporting Kid, or Marlowes mighty line.
    And though thou hadst small Latine, and lesse Greeke,
    From thence to honour thee, I would not seeke
    155For names; but call forth thund'ring AEschilus,
    Euripides, and Sophocles to vs,
    Paccuuius, Accius, him of Cordoua dead,
    To life againe, to heare thy Buskin tread,
    And shake a Stage: Or, when thy Sockes were on,
    160 Leaue thee alone, for the comparison
    Of all, that insolent Greece, or haughtie Rome
    sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
    Triumph, my Britaine, thou hast one to showe,
    To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.
    165He was not of an age, but for all time!
    And all the Muses still were in their prime,
    When like Apollo he came forth to warme
    Our eares, or like a Mercury to charme!
    Nature her selfe was proud of his designes,
    170 And ioy'd to weare the dressing of his lines!
    Which were so richly spun, and wouen so fit,
    As, since, she will vouchsafe no other Wit.
    The merry Greeke, tart Aristophanes,
    Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
    175But antiquated, and deserted lye
    As they were not of Natures family.
    Yet must I not giue Nature all: Thy Art,
    My gentle Shakespeare, must enioy a part.
    For though the Poets matter, Nature be,
    180 His Art doth giue the fashion. And, that he,
    Who casts to write a liuing line, must sweat,
    (such as thine are) and strike the second heat
    Vpon the Muses anuile: turne the same,
    (And himselfe with it) that he thinkes to frame;
    185Or for the lawrell, he may gaine a scorne,
    For a good Poet's made, as well as borne.
    And such wert thou. Looke how the fathers face
    Liues in his issue, euen so, the race
    Of Shakespeares minde, and manners brightly shines
    190 In his well torned, and true-filed lines:
    In each of which, he seemes to shake a Lance,
    As brandish't at the eyes of Ignorance.
    Sweet Swan of Auon! what a sight it were
    To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
    195And make those flights vpon the bankes of Thames,
    That so did take Eliza, and our Iames!
    But stay, I see thee in the Hemisphere
    Aduanc'd, and made a Constellation there!
    Shine forth, thou Starre of Poets, and with rage,
    200 Or influence, chide, or cheere the drooping Stage;
    Which, since thy flight frõ hence, hath mourn'd like night,
    And despaires day, but for thy Volumes light.
    Vpon the Lines and Life of the Famous
    205Scenicke Poet, Master WILLIAM
    THose hands, which you so clapt, go now, and wring
    You Britaines braue; for done are Shakespeares dayes:
    His dayes are done, that made the dainty Playes,
    210Which made the Globe of heau'n and earth to ring.
    Dry'de is that veine, dry'd is the Thespian Spring,
    Turn'd all to teares, and Phoebus clouds his rayes:
    That corp's, that coffin now besticke those bayes,
    Which crown'd him Poet first, then Poets King.
    215If Tragedies might any Prologue haue,
    All those he made, would scarse make one to this:
    Where Fame, now that he gone is to the graue
    (Deaths publique tyring-house) the Nuncius is.
    For though his line of life went soone about,
    220 The life yet of his lines shall neuer out.