And with Shakespeare done, can Jonson be far behind?
(Poem #313) Gypsy Songs
The faery beam upon you, The stars to glister on you; A moon of light In the noon of night, Till the fire-drake hath o'ergone you! The wheel of fortune guide you, The boy with the bow beside you; Run ay in the way Till the bird of day, And the luckier lot betide you! To the old, long life and treasure! To the young all health and pleasure! To the fair, their face With eternal grace And the soul to be loved at leisure! To the witty, all clear mirrors; To the foolish, their dark errors; To the loving sprite, A secure delight; To the jealous, his own false terrors!
I like this poem for its affinities with medieval and Old English verse, especially the ritual chants and rhymes of blessing - Jonson captures the feeling of benediction very well indeed, while the mystical/pagan undertones of words like 'faery', 'fire-drake' and of course 'gypsy' add to the overall effect. thomas. [Biography] Ben Jonson, 15721637, English dramatist and poet, b. Westminster, London. The high-spirited buoyancy of Jonson's plays and the brilliance of his language have earned him a reputation as one of the great playwrights in English literature. After a brief term at bricklaying, his stepfather's trade, and after military service in Flanders, he began working for Philip Henslowe as an actor and playwright. In 1598 he was tried for killing another actor in a duel but escaped execution by claiming right of clergy (that he could read and write). His first important play, Every Man in His Humour, was produced in 1598, with Shakespeare in the cast. In 1599 its companion piece, Every Man out of His Humour, was produced. In The Poetaster (1601) Jonson satirized several of his fellow playwrights, particularly Dekker and Marston, who were writing at that time for a rival company of child actors. He collaborated with Chapman and Marston on the comedy Eastward Ho! (1604). A passage in the play, derogatory to the Scots, offended James I, and the three playwrights spent a brief time in prison. Jonson's great period, both artistically and financially, began in 1606 with the production of Volpone. This was followed by his three other comic masterpieces, Epicoene (1609), The Alchemist (1610), and Bartholomew Fair (1614). Jonson became a favorite of James I and wrote many excellent masques for the court. He was the author of two Roman tragedies, Sejanus (1603) and Catiline (1611). With the unsuccessful production of The Devil Is an Ass in 1616 Jonson's good fortune declined rapidly. His final plays were failures, and with the accession of Charles I in 1625 his value at court was less appreciated. His plays, written along classical lines, are marked by a pungent and uncompromising satire, by a liveliness of action, and by numerous humor characters, whose single passion or oddity overshadows all their other traits. He was a moralist who sought to improve the ways of men by portraying human foibles and passions through exaggeration and distortion. Jonson's nondramatic poetry includes Epigrams (1616); The Forrest (1616), notable for the two beautiful songs: `Drink to me only with thine eyes' and `Come, my Celia, let us prove'; and Underwoods (1640). His principal prose work Timber or Discoveries (1640) is a collection of notes and reflections on miscellaneous subjects. Jonson exerted a strong influence over his contemporaries. Although arrogant and contentious, he was a boon companion, and his followers, sometimes called the `sons of Ben,' loved to gather with him in the London taverns. Examples of his conversation were recorded in Conversations with Ben Jonson by Drummond of Hawthornden. -- Infoplease, http://www.infoplease.com/ce5/CE027273.html [Assessment] Ben Jonson occupies by common consent the second place among English dramatists of the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. He was a man of contraries. For "twelve years a papist," he was also--in fact though not in title--Protestant England's first poet laureate. His major comedies express a strong distaste for the world in which he lived and a delight in exposing its follies and vices. A gifted lyric poet, he wrote two of his most successful plays entirely in prose, an unusual mode of composition in his time. Though often an angry and stubborn man, no one had more disciples than he. He was easily the most learned dramatist of his time, and he was also a master of theatrical plot, language, and characterization. -- EB, http://www.brittanica.com/ [Digression] For a minute there I was wondering if this poem was the source of the phrase 'Wheel of Fortune', but Brewer assures me otherwise: Wheel of Fortune (The). Fortuna, the goddess, is represented on ancient monuments with a wheel in her hand, emblematical of her inconstancy. `Though Fortune's malice overthrow my state. My mind exceeds the compass of her wheel.' Shakespeare: 3 Henry VI., iv. 3. -- Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, http://www.bibliomania.com/Reference/PhraseAndFable/