Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
Masque of Pleasure and Virtue
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
COME on, come on, and where you go
So interweave the curious knot
As even the Observer scarce may know
Which lines are pleasure, and which not:
First figure out the doubtful way        5
At which awhile the youth should stay
Where she and Virtue did contend
Which should have Hercules to friend.
Then as all actions of mankind
Are but a labyrinth or maze,        10
So let your dances be entwined,
Yet not perplex men unto gaze:
But measured, and so numerous too,
As men may read each act they do;
And, when they see your graces meet,        15
Admire the wisdom of your feet:
For dancing is an exercise
Not only shows the mover’s wit,
But maketh the beholder wise,
As he hath power to rise to it.        20
O more and more, this was so well
As praise wants half his voice to tell.
Again yourselves compose,
And now put all the aptness on
Of figure, that proportion        25
Or color can disclose:
That, if those silent arts were lost,
Design and Picture, they might boast
From you a newer ground
Instructed by the heightening sense        30
Of dignity and reverence
In their true motions found.
Begin, begin; for look, the pair
Do longing listen to what air
You form your second touch        35
That they may vent their murmuring hymns
Just to the tune you move your limbs,
And wish their own were such.
Make haste, make haste, for this
The labyrinth of Beauty is.        40
  It follows now you are to prove
The subtlest maze of all,—that’s Love,
  And, if you stay too long,
The fair will think you do them wrong.
Go choose among them, with a mind        45
  As gentle as the stroking wind
  Runs o’er the gentler flowers,
  And so let all your actions smile,
  As if they meant not to beguile
  The ladies, but the hours.        50
    Grace, laughter, and discourse may meet,
  And yet the beauty not go less:
  For what is noble should be sweet,
  But not dissolved in wantonness.
    Will you that I give the law        55
    To all your sport, and sum it
It should be such should envy draw,
But overcome it.

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