Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN EPIGRAM. TO THE HONOURED --, COUNTESS OF --, by BEN JONSON

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AN EPIGRAM. TO THE HONOURED --, COUNTESS OF --, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The wisdom, madam, of your private life
Last Line: It will be shame for them, if they have none.

The wisdom, Madam, of your private life,
Wherewith this while you live a widowed wife,
And the right ways you take unto the right,
To conquer rumour, and triumph on spite;
Not only shunning by your act, to do
Aught that is ill, but the suspicion too,
Is of so brave example, as he were
No friend to virtue, could be silent here.
The rather, when the vices of the time
Are grown so fruitful, and false pleasures climb
By all oblique degrees, that killing height
From whence they fall, cast down with their own weight.
And though all praise bring nothing to your name,
Who (herein studying conscience, and not fame)
Are in yourself rewarded; yet 'twill be
A cheerful work to all good eyes, to see
Among the daily ruins that fall foul,
Of state, of fame, of body, and of soul,
So great a virtue stand upright to view,
As makes Penelope's old fable true,
Whilst your Ulysses hath ta'en leave to go,
Countries, and climes, manners, and men to know.
Only your time you better entertain,
Than the great Homer's wit, for her, could feign;
For you admit no company, but good,
And when you want those friends, or near in blood,
Or your allies, you make your books your friends,
And study them unto the noblest ends,
Searching for knowledge, and to keep your mind
The same it was, inspired, rich, and refined.
These graces, when the rest of ladies view
Not boasted in your life, but practised true,
As they are hard, for them to make their own,
So are they profitable to be known:
For when they find so many meet in one,
It will be shame for them, if they have none.

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