Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sweet Ben

Ben Jonson
Ben Jonson, born June 11 in 1573, a contemporary and in his day peer of Shakespeare and John Donne... An orphan, victim of religious persecution (his Protestant father was executed by Mary), a soldier for the Protestant cause in Holland and by all repute a formidable swordsman, a man of fiery temper who killed another playwright in a duel and nearly hanged for it (his dramatic genius was his salvation (the play Every Man In His Humor is said to have freed him)), who lost several children to childhood deaths (including the son he called 'his best piece of poetry'), an immensely popular poet and playwright who courted prison for his political views and yet was a poet at the Stuart court, who reigned supreme among English writers long after Shakespeare had died until his own death at the age of 64...

"Drink today, and drown all sorrow;
You shall perhaps not do it tomorrow;
Best, while you have it, use your breath;
There is no drinking after death."

To Celia

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
   And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup
   And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
   Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
   I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
   Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope that there
   It could not wither'd be;
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
   And sent'st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
   Not of itself but thee!


(more here)

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