Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN ELEGY (3), by BEN JONSON



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AN ELEGY (3), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: That love's a bitter sweet, I ne'er conceive
Last Line: If I had writ no word, but 'dear', farewell.


That love's a bitter sweet, I ne'er conceive
Till the sour minute comes of taking leave,
And then I taste it. But as men drink up
In haste the bottom of a medicined cup,
And take some syrup after; so do I,
To put all relish from my memory
Of parting, drown it in the hope to meet
Shortly again: and make our absence sweet.
This makes me, mistress, that sometime by stealth
Under another name, I take your health;
And turn the ceremonies of those nights
I give, or owe my friends, into your rites,
But ever without blazon, or least shade
Of vows so sacred, and in silence made;
For though love thrive, and may grow up with cheer,
And free society, he's born elsewhere,
And must be bred, so to conceal his birth,
As neither wine do rack it out, or mirth.
Yet should the lover still be airy and light,
In all his actions rarified to sprite;
Not like a Midas shut up in himself,
And turning all he toucheth into pelf,
Keep in reserved in his dark-lantern face,
As if that excellent dulness were love's grace;
No, mistress, no, the open merry man
Moves like a sprightly river, and yet can
Keep secret in his channels what he breeds
'Bove all your standing waters, choked with weeds.
They look at best like cream bowls, and you soon
Shall find their depth: they're sounded with a spoon.
They may say grace, and for love's chaplains pass;
But the grave lover ever was an ass;
Is fixed upon one leg, and dares not come
Out with the other, for he's still at home;
Like the dull, wearied crane that (come on land)
Doth, while he keeps his watch, betray his stand.
Where he that knows will like a lapwing fly
Far from the nest, and so himself belie
To others, as he will deserve the trust
Due to that one, that doth believe him just.
And such your servant is, who vows to keep
The jewel of your name, as close as sleep
Can lock the sense up, or the heart a thought,
And never be by time, or folly brought,
Weakness of brain, or any charm of wine,
The sin of boast, or other countermine
(Made to blow up love's secrets) to discover
That article, may not become your lover:
Which in assurance to your breast I tell,
If I had writ no word, but 'dear', farewell.





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