Poetry about Elizabeth Sidney, Ben Jonson 2

TO ELIZABETH, COUNTESS OF RUTLAND. & AN EPIGRAM

Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson

TO ELIZABETH, COUNTESS OF RUTLAND.

That poets are far rarer births than kings

Your noblest father proved: like whom, before

Came not that soul exhausted so their store.

Hence was it that the destinies decreed

(Save that most masculine issue of his brain)

No male unto him, who could so exceed

Nature, they thought, in all that he would feign;

At which she, happily displeased, made you:

On whom, if he were living now, to look,

He should those rare and absolute numbers view

As he would burn, or better far, his book.

AN EPIGRAM

TO THE HONOURED [ELIZABETH,] COUNTESS OF [RUTLAND]

The wisdom, madam, of your private like

Wherewith this while you live a widowed wife,

And the right ways you take unto the right,

To conquer rumour and triumph on spite;

Not only shunning by your act to do

Aught that is ill, but the suspicion too,

Is of so brave example, as he were

No friend to virtue could be silent here.

The rather when the vices of the time

Are grown so fruitful, and false pleasures climb

By all oblique degrees that killing height

From whence they fall, cast down with their own weight.

And though all praise bring nothing to your name,

Who, herein studying conscience and not fame,

Are in yourself rewarded; yet ’twill be

A cheerful work to all good eyes, to see

Among the daily ruins that fall foul,

Of state, of fame, of body, and of soul,

So great a virtue stand upright to view,

As makes Penelope’s old fable true:

Whilst your Ulysses hath ta’en leave to go,

Countries and climes, manners and men to know.

Only your time you better entertain,

Than the great Homer’s wit for her could feign;

For you admit no company but good,

And when you want those friends, or near in blood,

Or your allies, you make your books your friends,

And study them unto the noblest ends,

Searching for knowledge, and to keep your mind

The same it was inspired, rich, and refined.

These graces, when the rest of ladies view,

Not boasted in your life, but practised true,

As they are hard for them to make their own,

So are they profitable to be known:

For when they find so many meet in one,

It will be shame for them, if they have none.

This page was added on 30/11/2007.

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