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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 endeavourScotland, 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. Humour was his Benjamin received his education under the learned proper sphere ; and in that he delighted most to 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 drafather. 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 In 1616, he published a folio volume of his works, which he here performed, of killing an enemy in which procured for him a grant from his majesty of single combat, gave him room to boast ever after of the salary of poet-laureat for life, though he did not a degree of courage which has not often been found take possession of the post till three years after. in alliance with poetical distinction.
With high intellectual endowments, he had many On his return, Jonson entered himself at St. unamiable traits in his character, having a high deJohn'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 laureat. 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 his grave, familiarly expressive of the reputation him to the Catholic faith, under which religion he he had acquired among his countrymen : it was, continued for twelve years.
“ O rare Ben Jonson." Six months after his death, After his liberation from prison, he married, and a collection of poems to his honour, by a number applied in earnest to writing for the stage, in which of the most eminent writers and scholars in the nahe appears to have already made several attempts. tion, was published, with the title of “ Jonsonius His comedy of “ Every Man in his Humour," the Virbius; or the memory of Ben Jonson, revived by first of his acknowledged pieces, was performed with the Friends of the Muses." 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 favoured writers of Poetry, speaks of him as the “most learned and that class. judicious writer which any theatre ever had," and
TO WILLIAM CAMDEN.
2. I have been gathering wolves' hairs,
The mad-dogs' foam, and the adders' ears; CAMDEN,
, most reverend head, to whom I owe The spurgings of a dead-man's eyes, All that I am in arts, all that I know.
And all since the evening-star did rise. (How nothing 's that!) to whom my country owes The great renown, and name wherewith she goes. 3. I, last night, lay all alone Than thee the age sees not that thing more grave, O'the ground, to hear the mandrake groan; More high, more holy, that she more would crave. And pluck'd him up, though he grew full low; What name, what skill, what faith hast thou in And, as I had done, the cock did crow.
And frighted a sexton out of his wits.
By day; and, when the child was asleep,
At night, I suck'd the breath; and rose,
FROM CYNTHIA'S REVELS. Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the Sun is laid to sleep ;
State in wonted manner keep :
Dare itself to interpose ;
Heaven to clear, when day did close;
And thy crystal-shining quiver ;
Space to breathe, how short soever : Thou that mak'st a day of night, Goddess excellently bright.
7. A murderer, yonder, was hung in chains,
11. I went to the toad breeds under the wall,
FROM THE SILENT WOMAN.
Srill to be neat, still to be drest,
Yes, I have brought (to help our vows)
ON THE COUNTESS OF PEMBROKE, SISTER TO SIR PHILIP
1. I have been, all day, looking after
UNDERNEATH this marble herse
FROM THE SHEPHERD'S HOLIDAY.
ON LUCY COUNTESS OF BEDFORD.
Thus, thus, begin the yearly rites
All envious, and prophane away,
This morning, timely rapt with holy fire,
I thought to form unto my zealous Muse, What kind of creature I could most desire,
To honour, serve, and love; as poets use. I meant to make her fair, and free, and wise,
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 meant she should be courteous, facile, sweet,
Hating that solemn vice of greatness, pride; I meant each softest virtue there should meet,
Fit in that softer bosom to reside. Only a learned, and a manly soul
I purpos'd her ; that should, with even pow'rs, The rock, the spindle, and the sheers controul
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.
Strew, strew, the glad and smiling ground,
The garden-star, the queen of May,
Drop, drop you violets, change your hues,
That from your odour all may say,
LOVE, A LITTLE BOY.
FROM THE MASQUE ON LORD HADDINGTON'S MARRIACE.
Kiss me, sweet: the wary lover
BEAUTIES, have ye seen this toy,
She, that will but now discover
TO THE SAME.
THIRD GRACE. He hath of marks about him plenty : You shall know him among twenty. All his body is a fire, And his breath a flame entire, That being shot, like lightning, in, Wounds the heart, but not the skin.
Daink to me only with thine eyes, i
And I will pledge with mine;
And I'll not look for wine.
Doth ask a drink divine:
I would not change for thine.
Not so much honouring thee,
It could not withered be.
And sent'st it back to me:
Not of itself, but thee.
FIRST GRACE. At his sight, the Sun hath turned, Neptune in the waters, burned; Hell hath felt a greater heat : Jove himself forsook his seat : From the centre, to the sky, Are his trophies reared high.
Wings he hath, which though ye clip, He will leap from lip to lip,
A BRAHAM Cowley, a poet of considerable dis- virtue of a degree which he obtained, by mandamus, tinction, was born at London, in 1618. His from Oxford, in December, 1657. father, who was a grocer by trade, died before his After the death of Cromwell, Cowley returned birth; but his mother, through the interest of her to France, and resumed his station as an agent in friends, procured his admission into Westminster the royal cause, the hopes of which now began to school, as a king's scholar. He has represented revive. The Restoration reinstated him, with other himself as so deficient in memory, as to have been royalists, in his own country; and he naturally unable to retain the common rules of grammar : it expected a reward for his long services. He had is, however, certain that, by some process, he be- been promised, both by Charles I. and Charles II., came an elegant and correct classical scholar. He the Mastership of the Savoy, but was unsuccessful in early imbibed a taste for poetry; and so soon did it both his applications. He had also the misfortune germinate in his youthful mind, that, while yet at of displeasing his party, by his revived comedy of school, in his fifteenth or sixteenth year, he pub- “ The Cutter of Coleman-street," which was conlished a collection of verses, under the appropriate strued as a satire on the cavaliers. At length, title of Poetical Blossoms.
through the interest of the Duke of Buckingham In 1636 he was elected a scholar of Trinity cold and the Earl of St. Alban's, he obtained a lease of lege, Cambridge. In this favourable 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 of himself no sensibility to rural pleasures, treats this Trinity college. He continued to reside at Cam taste with severity and ridicule, there seems little pridge till 1643, and was a Master of Arts reason to decry a propensity, nourished by the when he was ejected from the university by the pu- favourite strains of poets, and natural to a mind ritanical visiters. He thence removed to Oxford, long tossed by the anxieties of business, and the and fixed himself in St. John's college. It was vicissitudes of an unsettled condition. here that he engaged actively in the royal cause, Cowley took up his abode first at Barn-elms, on and was present in several of the king's journeys and the banks of the Thames; but this place not agreeexpeditions, but in what quality, does not appear. ing with his health, he removed to Chertsey. Here He ingratiated himself, however, with the principal his life was soon brought to a close. According to persons about the court, and was particularly his biographer, Dr. Sprat, the fatal disease was an honoured with the friendship of Lord Falkland. affection of the lungs, the consequence of staying
When the events of the war obliged the queen- too late in the fields among his labourers. Dr. 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. in the family of the Earl of St. Alban's. During that Cowley, with his friend Sprat, paid a visit on an absence of nearly ten years from his native foot to a gentleman in the neighbourhood of Chertcountry, he took various journeys into Jersey, Scot- sey, which they prolonged, in free conviviality, till land, Holland, and Flanders; and it was princi- midnight ; and that missing their way on their repally through his instrumentality that a corre- turn, they were obliged to pass the night under a spondence was maintained between the king and his hedge, which gave to the poet a severe cold and
The business of cyphering and decypher- fever, which terminated in his death. He died on ing their letters was entrusted to his care, and often July 28. 1667, and was interred, with a most hooccupied his nights, as well as his days. It is no nourable attendance of persons of distinction, in wonder that, after the Restoration, he long com Westminster-abbey, near the remains of Chaucer plained of the neglect with which he was treated. and Spenser. King Charles II. pronounced his In 1656, having no longer any affairs to transact eulogy, by declaring, “ that Mr. Cowley had not abroad, he returned to England; still, it is sup- left a 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 celea search for another person, he was apprehended by brity has since vanished, there still remains enough the messengers of the ruling powers, and committed to raise him to a considerable rank among the to custody; from which he was liberated, by that British poets. It may be proper here to add, that generous and learned physician, Dr. Scarborough, as a prose-writer, particularly in the department who bailed him in the sum of a thousand pounds. of essays, there are few who can compare with This, however, was possibly the sum at which he him in elegant simplicity. was rated as a physician, a character he assumed by