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BEN JONSON, c. 1610, 1619, ?1630

BEN JONSON, c. 1610, 1619, ?1630

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To it, thy language, letters, arts, best life,

Which might with halfe mankind maintayne a strife.

All which I meant to praise, and, yet, I would;

But leaue, because I cannot as I should!



WHO shall doubt, DONNE, where I a Poet bee,

When I dare send my Epigrammes to thee?

That so alone canst iudge, so’alone dost make:

And, in thy censures, euenly, dost take

5 As free simplicitie, to dis-auow,

As thou hast best authoritie, t’ allow.

Reade all I send: and, if I find but one

Mark’d by thy hand, and with the better stone,

My title’s seal’d. Those that for claps doe write,


Let pui’nees, porters, players praise delight,

And, till they burst, their backs, like asses load:

A man should seeke great glorie, and not broad.



with M.DONNES Satyres.

Lucy, you brightnesse of our Spheare, who are

Life of the Muses day, their morning Starre!

If works (not th’Authors) their own grace should look

Whose poems would not wish to be your book?

But these, desir’d by you, the makers ends

Crown with their own. Rare Poems ask rare friends.

Yet, Satyres, since the most of mankind bee

Their unavoided subject, fewest see:

For none ere took that pleasure in sins sense,

But, when they heard it tax’d, took more offence.

They, then, that living where the matter is bred,

Dare for these Poems, yet, both ask, and read,

And like them too; must needfully, though few,

Be of the best: and ’mongst those best are you;

Lucy, you brightnesse of our Spheare, who are

The Muses evening, as their morning-Starre.

(ii) Jonson visited Scotland in 1619 and spent some time conversing

with William Drummond of Hawthornden, a fellow poet. Drummond



wrote down Jonson’s remarks on poets and poetry, a number of

which refer to Donne. We have no means of knowing how faithfully

Drummond reports Jonson’s views but the comments on Donne are

very much in Jonson’s manner (‘Conversations with William

Drummond of Hawthornden’, in Ben Jonson, ed. C.H.Herford and

Percy Simpson, Oxford, 1925, i, pp. 133–47):


that Dones Anniversarie was profane and full of Blasphemies that he

told Mr. Donne, if it had been written of ye Virgin Marie it had been

something to which he answered that he described the Idea of a

Woman and not as she was. that Done for not keeping of accent

deserved hanging.


to me he read the Preface of his arte of Poesie, upon Horace Arte of

poesie, wher he heth ane apologie of a Play of his St Bartholomees

faire, by Criticus is understood Done.


he esteemeth John Done the first poet in the World in some things

his verses of the Lost Chaine, he heth by Heart and that passage of

the calme, that dust and feathers doe not stirr, all was so quiet.

affirmeth Done to have written all his best pieces err he was 25

years old.


Verses on the Pucelle of the Court Mistris Boulstred, whose Epitaph

Done made.


the Conceit of Done transformation or Metempsychosis was that he

sought the soule of that Aple which Eva pulled, and thereafter made

it the soule of a Bitch, then of a sheewolf and so of a woman. his

generall purpose was to have brought in all the bodies of the Hereticks

from ye soule of Cain and at last left it in ye body of Calvin. of this

he never wrotte but one sheet, and now since he was made Doctor

repenteth highlie and seeketh to destroy all his poems.


Dones Grandfather on the mother side was Heywood the



That Done said to him he wrott that Epitaph on Prince Henry

Look to me Faith

to match Sir Ed: Herbert in obscurenesse.




that Done himself for not being understood would perish.

(iii) Jonson also alluded to Donne in Discoveries (Ben Jonson, viii

(1947), p. 618):

And as it is fit to reade the best Authors to youth first, so let them be

of the openest, and clearest. As Livy before Salust, Sydney before


4. John Davies of Hereford

c. 1611, 1612

The Catholic poet Davies of Hereford (?1565–1618), who tried

his hand at whatever kinds of writing were in fashion, seems to

have looked to Donne for a model in satiric poetry, and in funeral

verses too.

(i) Davies addressed a sonnet to Donne in a collection of satiric poems

(The Scourge of Folly, ?1611):

To the no less ingenious then ingenuous Mr. John Dun

Dunne is the Mouse (they say) and thou art Dunne:

But no dunne Mouse thou art; yet thou art one

That (like a Mouse) in steepe high-waies dost runne,

To finde foode for thy Muse to prey upon.

Whose pallat is so dainty in her taste,

That she distasts the least unsavory

Bit: But that’s unlike a Mouse; for, he will wast,

All in his way; and oft himself with it,

Not much unlike some Poets of our Times,

That spoile good paper with their byting Pen,



Like this of mine, but yet my doggrell Rimes

Do byte at none but Monsters like to men:

And that (I know) thy Pen hath rightly donne,

Which doing right, makes bright the Name of Dunne.

(ii) Davies must have read Donne’s The second Anniversary as soon

as it came out for he alludes to it by its particular title Of the Progresse

of the Soule, in a funeral elegy published in the same year. Davies’s

elegy was written on a girl of sixteen, Elizabeth Dutton, who died in

1611 (‘A Funerall Elegie, on the death of the most vertuous, and no

less lovely, Mris Elizabeth Dutton’ in The Muses Sacrifice, or Divine

Meditations, 1612, f.117v-18r):

I must confesse a Priest of Phebus, late,

Upon like Text so well did meditate,

That with a sinlesse Envy I doe runne

In his Soules Progresse, till it all be DONNE.

But, he hath got the start in setting forth

Before me, in the Travell of the WORTH:

And me out-gone in Knowledge ev’ry way

Of the Soules Progresse to her finall stay.

But his sweet Saint did usher mine therein;

(Most blest in that) so, he must needs beginne;

And read upon the rude Anatomy

Of this dead World; that, now, doth putrifie.


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BEN JONSON, c. 1610, 1619, ?1630

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