Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Elizabethan Verse
William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Elizabethan Verse.  1907.
A Nymph’s Passion
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
  I LOVE, 1 and he loves me again,
    Yet dare I not tell who;
  For if the nymphs should know my swain,
    I fear they’d love him too;
      Yet if he be not known,        5
    The pleasure is as good as none,
For that’s a narrow joy is but our own.
  I’ll tell, that if they be not glad,
    They may not envy me;
  But then if I grow jealous mad        10
    And of them pitied be,
      It were a plague ’bove scorn;
    And yet it cannot be forborne
Unless my heart would, as my thought, be torn.
  He is, if they can find him, fair        15
    And fresh, and fragrant too,
  As summer’s sky or purgèd air,
    And looks as lilies do
      That are this morning blown:
    Yet, yet I doubt he is not known,        20
And fear much more that more of him be shown.
  But he hath eyes so round and bright,
    As make away my doubt,
  Where Love may all his torches light,
    Though Hate had put them out;        25
      But then t’ increase my fears
    What nymph soe’er his voice but hears
Will be my rival, though she have but ears.
  I’ll tell no more, and yet I love,
    And he loves me; yet no        30
  One unbecoming thought doth move
    From either heart I know;
      But so exempt from blame
    As it would be to each a fame,
If love or fear would let me tell his name.        35
Note 1. From Underwoods, 1640. “A Nymph’s Passion is not only pretty and ingenious, but in the structure of its peculiar stanza may remind a modern reader of some among the many metrical experiments or inventions of a more exquisite and spontaneous lyric poet, Miss Christina Rossetti.” (A. C. Swinburne, A Study of Ben Jonson.) Prof. Schelling points out the influence of Donne in this poem of Jonson’s, and cites his Witchcraft by a Picture and Confined Love. (A Book of Elizabethan Lyrics.) [back]

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