A Pindaric Ode

Original Text: 
Ben Jonson, The workes of Benjamin Jonson (London: R. Bishop, sold by A. Crooke, 1640). STC 14754. stc Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). Also British Library copy as microfilmed in English Books 1475-1640. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms. P & R 14754 * 20250
2      Thy coming forth in that great year,
3When the prodigious Hannibal did crown
4His rage with razing your immortal town.
5      Thou looking then about,
6      Ere thou wert half got out,
7    Wise child, didst hastily return,
8    And mad'st thy mother's womb thine urn.
9How summ'd a circle didst thou leave mankind
10Of deepest lore, could we the centre find!
11      Did wiser nature draw thee back,
12    From out the horror of that sack;
13Where shame, faith, honour, and regard of right,
14Lay trampled on? The deeds of death and night
15      Urg'd, hurried forth, and hurl'd
16      Upon th' affrighted world;
17    Sword, fire and famine with fell fury met,
18    And all on utmost ruin set:
19As, could they but life's miseries foresee,
20No doubt all infants would return like thee.
21  For what is life, if measur'd by the space,
22       Not by the act?
23Or masked man, if valu'd by his face,
25      Here's one outliv'd his peers
26      And told forth fourscore years:
27    He vexed time, and busied the whole state;
28      Troubled both foes and friends;
29      But ever to no ends:
30    What did this stirrer but die late?
31How well at twenty had he fall'n or stood!
32For three of his four score he did no good.
33      He enter'd well, by virtuous parts
34    Got up, and thriv'd with honest arts;
35He purchas'd friends, and fame, and honours then,
36And had his noble name advanc'd with men;
37      But weary of that flight,
38      He stoop'd in all men's sight
39    To sordid flatteries, acts of strife,
40    And sunk in that dead sea of life,
41So deep, as he did then death's waters sup,
42But that the cork of title buoy'd him up.
43      Alas, but Morison fell young!
44    He never fell,--thou fall'st, my tongue.
45He stood, a soldier to the last right end,
46A perfect patriot and a noble friend;
47      But most, a virtuous son.
48      All offices were done
49    By him, so ample, full, and round,
50    In weight, in measure, number, sound,
51As, though his age imperfect might appear,
52His life was of humanity the sphere.
53  Go now, and tell out days summ'd up with fears,
54       And make them years;
55Produce thy mass of miseries on the stage,
56       To swell thine age;
57      Repeat of things a throng,
58      To show thou hast been long,
59    Not liv'd; for life doth her great actions spell,
60      By what was done and wrought
61      In season, and so brought
62    To light: her measures are, how well
63Each syllabe answer'd, and was form'd, how fair;
65      It is not growing like a tree
66      In bulk, doth make men better be;
67Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
68To fall a log at last, dry, bald, and sear:
69       A lily of a day
70       Is fairer far, in May,
71    Although it fall and die that night,
72    It was the plant and flower of light.
73In small proportions we just beauties see;
74And in short measures life may perfect be.
75      Call, noble Lucius, then, for wine,
76    And let thy looks with gladness shine;
77Accept this garland, plant it on thy head,
78And think, nay know, thy Morison's not dead.
79      He leap'd the present age,
80      Possest with holy rage,
81    To see that bright eternal day;
82    Of which we priests and poets say
83Such truths as we expect for happy men;
84And there he lives with memory, and Ben
85  Jonson, who sung this of him, ere he went
86       Himself, to rest,
87Or taste a part of that full joy he meant
88       To have exprest,
90      Where it were friendship's schism,
91    Were not his Lucius long with us to tarry,
93      Lights, the Dioscuri,
94    And keep the one half from his Harry.
95But fate doth so alternate the design,
96Whilst that in heav'n, this light on earth must shine.
97      And shine as you exalted are;
98    Two names of friendship, but one star:
99Of hearts the union, and those not by chance
100Made, or indenture, or leas'd out t' advance
101      The profits for a time.
102      No pleasures vain did chime,
103    Of rhymes, or riots, at your feasts,
104    Orgies of drink, or feign'd protests;
105But simple love of greatness and of good,
106That knits brave minds and manners more than blood.
107      This made you first to know the why
108    You lik'd, then after, to apply
109That liking; and approach so one the t'other
110Till either grew a portion of the other;
111      Each styled by his end,
112      The copy of his friend.
114    And titles by which all made claims
115Unto the virtue: nothing perfect done,
116But as a Cary or a Morison.
117  And such a force the fair example had,
119The good and durst not practise it, were glad
120       That such a law
121      Was left yet to mankind;
122      Where they might read and find
123    Friendship, indeed, was written not in words:
124      And with the heart, not pen,
125      Of two so early men,
126    Whose lines her rolls were, and records;
127Who, ere the first down bloomed on the chin,
128Had sow'd these fruits, and got the harvest in.


1] Although not so titled by Jonson, a Pindaric ode in which he gives English names to the three divisions, strophe, antistrophe, and epode. See the note on Gray's Progress of Poesy. Sir Lucius Cary (1610-1643) inherited the title of Viscount Falkland in 1632. He lived in scholarly retirement on his estate of Great Tew in Oxfordshire, and was a generous patron of men of letters, including Jonson. Having espoused the Royalist cause in the Civil War, he fell at the battle of Newbury. Henry Morison was united to Cary by a close friendship and by the latter's marriage to his sister; this ode was written shortly after the death of Morison in 1629.
Saguntum. A city in Spain captured by Hannibal, 219 B.C.; Jonson took the subject of the first two stanzas from Pliny's Natural History. Back to Line
24] fact. Deed. Back to Line
64] The metaphor is from scansion and from musical notation. Back to Line
89] asterism. Constellation, i.e. Cary and Morison. Back to Line
92] twilights. The word is here used in its etymological sense, "double lights".
Dioscuri. Castor and Pollux, sons of Zeus and Leda; also, the constellation Gemini. Back to Line
113] surnames. There may be a pun. Back to Line
118] As: that. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP 1.265.