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Poem by Ben Jonson

An Ode to Himself

Where dost Thou carelesse lie
    Buried in ease and sloth ?
Knowledge that sleeps, doth die ;
And this security,
    It is the common moth
That eats on wits and arts, and destroys them both :

Are all the Aonian springs
    Dried up ?  lies Thespia waste ?
Doth Clarius' harp want strings,
That not a nymph now sings ?
    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 :
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
Of worded balladry,
And think it poesy ?
    They die with their conceits,
And only piteous scorn upon their folly waits.

Then take in hand thy lyre,
    Strike in thy proper strain,
With Japhet's line aspire
Sol's chariot for new fire,
    To give the world again :
Who aided him, will thee, the issue of Jove's brain.

And since our dainty age
    Cannot endure reproof,
Make not thyself a page
    To that strumpet the stage,
But sing high and aloof,
Safe from the wolf's black jaw, and the dull ass's hoof. 

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson's other poems:
  1. Epitaph on the Countess of Pembroke
  2. On Poet-Ape
  3. A Hymn to God the Father
  4. To Censorious Courtling
  5. Porth Ceiriad Bay

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