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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Elizabethan Verse. 1907.

An Ode to Himself

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

That eats on wits and arts, and that 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.