Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
 
The Triumph of Charis
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
 
  SEE 1 the Chariot at hand here of Love,
    Wherein my Lady rideth!
  Each that draws is a swan or a dove,
    And well the car Love guideth.
  As she goes, all hearts do duty        5
    Unto her beauty;
  And enamoured, do wish, so they might
      But enjoy such a sight,
  That they still were to run by her side,
Through swords, through seas, whither she would ride.        10
 
  Do but look on her eyes, they do light
    All that Love’s world compriseth!
  Do but look on her hair, it is bright
    As Love’s star when it riseth!
  Do but mark, her forehead’s smoother        15
    Than words that soothe her!
  And from her arched brows such a grace
      Sheds itself through the face,
  As alone there triumphs to the life
All the gain, all the good of the elements’ strife.        20
 
  Have you seen but a bright lily grow
    Before rude hands have touched it?
  Have you marked but the fall of the snow
    Before the soil hath smutched it?
  Have you felt the wool of the beaver,        25
    Or swan’s down ever?
  Or have smelt o’ the bud o’ the brier
      Or the nard in the fire?
  Or have tasted the bag of the bee?
O so white, O so soft, O so sweet is she!        30
 
Note 1. This song is numbered iv., in A Celebration of Charis, in Underwoods. It appears with the first stanza omitted in The Devil is an Ass, acted in 1616. There is an interesting note to this poem by Mr. Quiller-Couch in his Golden Pomp, whose point, I think, is one demanding serious critical attention, though no one, to my knowledge, has taken it up. “I am not aware, he says, “if any critic has noted how constantly and curiously Jonson, especially in the Underwoods, seems to anticipate the best, and something more than the best, manner of Browning. The difficult rapture of Charis’ Triumph, here is a striking instance. Of the lines:
  ‘Do but mark, her forehead’s smoother
        Than words that soothe her,
And from her arched brows such a grace
        Sheds itself through the face,
As alone there triumphs to the life
All the gain, all the good of the elements’ strife.’
it may be fairly said that England has taken two and a half centuries to produce another poet who could conceivably have written them.” I think Mr. Quiller-Couch’s judgment in this criticism comes far nearer the just fitness of literary value in temperament and expression than the general critical opinion which pronounces in Donne’s works the antecedents of those peculiar qualities which have set Browning apart from his contemporaries. The last stanza of this poem was imitated by Suckling in a poem of much weakness, beginning: “Hast thou seen the down in the air, etc.; but in Carew’s Song, given below, I believe we find a successful copy of the model:

  Would you know what’s soft? I dare
Not bring to you the down, or air;
Nor to stars to show what’s bright;
Nor to snow, to teach you white.
  
Nor, if you would music hear,
Call the Orbs to take your ear;
Nor to please your sense, bring forth
Bruisèd nard, or what’s more worth.
  
Or, on food were your thoughts placed,
Bring you nectar for a taste:
Would you have all these in one?
Name my mistress, and ’tis done.
(Poems and Masque, Ebsworth Ed., 1893.)    
 
 
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