Monday, June 11, 2012

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."

Hymn to Diana

QUEEN and huntress, chaste and fair,
   Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
   State in wonted manner keep:
      Hesperus entreats thy light,
      Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
   Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
   Heaven to clear when day did close:
      Bless us then with wishèd sight,
      Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
   And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
   Space to breathe, how short soever:
      Thou that mak'st a day of night—
      Goddess excellently bright.

(more here)

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