Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. II. Ben Jonson to Dryden
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. II. The Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson to Dryden
An Ode to Himself (from Underwoods)
By Ben Jonson (1572–1637)
WHERE dost thou careless lie
    Buried in ease and sloth?
Knowledge that sleeps, doth die;
And this security,
    It is the common moth        5
That eats on wits and arts, and [that] 1 destroys them both.
Are all the Aonian springs
    Dried up? lies Thespia waste?
Doth Clarius’ harp want strings,
That not a nymph now sings;        10
    Or droop they as disgraced,
To see their seats and bowers by chattering pies defaced?
If hence thy silence be,
    As ’tis too just a cause,
Let this thought quicken thee:        15
Minds that are great and free
    Should not on fortune pause;
’Tis crown enough to virtue still, her own applause.
What though the greedy fry
    Be taken with false baits        20
Of worded balladry,
And think it poësy?
    They die with their conceits,
And only piteous scorn upon their folly waits.
Then take in hand thy lyre;        25
    Strike in thy proper strain;
With Japhet’s line 2 aspire
Sol’s chariot, for new fire
    To give the world again:
Who aided him, will thee, the issue of Jove’s brain.        30
And, since our dainty age
    Cannot endure reproof,
Make not thyself a page
To that strumpet the stage;
    But sing high and aloof,        35
Safe from the wolf’s black jaw, and the dull ass’s hoof.
Note 1. ‘That’ conj. [back]
Note 2. Prometheus son of Iapetus. [back]

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