Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN EPISTLE TO A FRIEND, TO PERSUADE HIM TO THE WARS, by BEN JONSON



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AN EPISTLE TO A FRIEND, TO PERSUADE HIM TO THE WARS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Wake, friend, from forth thy lethargy: the drum
Last Line: Who falls for love of god, shall rise a star.
Subject(s): War


Wake, friend, from forth thy lethargy: the drum
Beats brave, and loud in Europe, and bids come
All that dare rouse: or are not loth to quit
Their vicious ease, and be o'erwhelmed with it.
It is a call to keep the spirits alive
That gasp for action, and would yet revive
man's buried honour, in his sleepy life:
Quickening dead nature, to her noblest strife.
All other acts of worldlings, are but toil
In dreams, begun in hope, and end in spoil.
Look on the ambitious man, and see him nurse
His unjust hopes, with praises begged, or (worse)
Bought flatteries, the issue of his purse,
Till he become both their, and his own curse!
Look on the false, and cunning man, that loves
No person, nor is loved: what ways he proves
To gain upon his belly; and at last
Crushed in the snaky brakes, that he had passed!
See, the grave, sour, and supercilious sir
In outward face, but inward, light as fur,
Or feathers: lay his fortune out to show
Till envy wound, or maim it at a blow!
See him, that's called, and thought the happiest man,
Honoured at once, and envied (if it can
Be honour is so mixed) by such as would
For all their spite be like him if they could:
No part or corner man can look upon,
But there are objects, bid him to be gone
As far as he can fly, or follow day,
Rather than here so bogged in vices stay.
The whole world here leavened with madness swells;
And being a thing, blown out of naught, rebels
Against his Maker; high alone with weeds,
And impious rankness of all sects and seeds:
Not to be checked, or frighted now with fate,
But more licentious made, and desperate!
Our delicacies are grown capital,
And even our sports are dangers! What we call
Friendship is now masked hatred! Justice fled,
And shamefastness together! All laws dead
That kept man living! Pleasures only sought!
Honour and honesty, as poor things thought
As they are made! Pride and stiff clownage mixed
To make up greatness! And man's whole good fixed
In bravery, or gluttony, or coin,
All which he makes the servants of the groin,
Thither it flows; how much did Stallion spend
To have his court-bred filly there commend
His lace and starch? And fall upon her back
In admiration, stretched upon the rack
Of lust, to his rich suit and title, Lord?
Aye, that's a charm and half! She must afford
That all respect; she must lie down: nay more,
'Tis there civility to be a whore;
He's one of blood, and fashion! And with these
The bravery makes, she can no honour leese:
To do it with cloth, or stuffs, lust's name might merit;
With velvet, plush, and tissues, it is spirit.
O, these so ignorant monsters! Light, as proud,
Who can behold their manners, and not cloud-
Like upon them lighten? If nature could
Not make a verse; anger; or laughter would
To see them aye discoursing with their glass,
How they may make someone that day an ass,
Planting their purls, and curls spread forth like net,
And every dressing for a pitfall set
To catch the flesh in, and to pound a prick;
Be at their visits, see them squeamish, sick,
Ready to cast, at one, whose band sits ill,
And then, leap mad on a neat pickardil,
As if a brise were gotten in their tail,
And firk, and jerk, and for the coachman rail,
And jealous each of other, yet think long
To be abroad chanting some bawdy song,
And laugh, and measure thighs, then squeak, spring, itch,
Do all the tricks of a saut lady bitch;
For t'other pound of sweetmeats, he shall feel
That pays, or what he will. The dame is steel,
For these with her young company she'll enter,
Where Pitts, or Wright, or Modet would not venter,
And comes by these degrees, the style t'inherit
Of woman of fashion, and a lady of spirit:
Nor is the title questioned with our proud,
Great, brave, and fashioned folk, these are allowed
Adulteries now, are not so hid, or strange,
They're grown commodity upon Exchange;
He that will follow but another's wife,
Is loved, though he let out his own for life:
The husband now's called churlish, or a poor
Nature, that will not let his wife be a whore;
Or use all arts, or haunt all companies
That may corrupt her, even in his eyes.
The brother trades a sister; and the friend
Lives to the lord, but to the lady's end.
Less must not be thought on than mistress: or
If it be thought, killed like her embrions; for,
Whom no great mistress hath as yet infamed
A fellow of coarse lechery, is named
The servant of the serving woman in scorn,
Ne'er came to taste the plenteous marriage horn.
Thus they do talk. And are these objects fit
For man to spend his money on? His wit?
His time? Health? Soul? Will he for these go throw
Those thousands on his back, shall after blow
His body to the Counters, or the Fleet?
Is it for these that Fine-man meets the street
Coached, or on foot-cloth, thrice-changed every day?
To teach each suit, he has the ready way
From Hyde Park to the stage, where at the last
His dear and borrowed bravery he must cast;
When not his combs, his curling irons, his glass,
Sweet bags, sweet powders, nor sweet words will pass
For less security. O, friend, for these
Is it that man pulls on himself disease?
Surfeit? And quarrel? Drinks the tother health?
Or by damnation voids it? Or by stealth?
What fury of late is crept into our feasts?
What honour given to the drunkenest guests?
What reputation to bear one glass more?
When oft the bearer is borne out of door?
This hath our ill-used freedom, and soft peace
Brought on us, and will every hour increase.
Our vices do not tarry in a place,
But being in motion still (or rather in race)
Tilt one upon another, and now bear
This way, now that, as if their number were
More than themselves, or than our lives could take,
But both fell pressed under the load they make.
I'll bid thee look no more, but flee, flee friend,
This precipice, and rocks, that have no end,
Or side, but threatens ruin. The whole day
Is not enough now, but the night's to play:
And whilst our states, strength, body, and mind we waste;
Go make ourselves the usurer's at a cast.
He that no more for age, cramps, palsies, can
Now use the bones, we see doth hire a man
To take the box up for him; and pursues
The dice with glassen eyes, to the glad views
Of what he throws: like lechers grown content
To be beholders, when their powers are spent.
Can we not leave this worm? Or will we not?
Is that the truer excuse? Or have we got
In this, and like, an itch of vanity,
That scratching now's our best felicity?
Well, let it go. Yet this is better, than
To lose the forms, and dignities of men
To flatter my good lord, and cry his bowl
Runs sweetly, as it had his lordship's soul.
Although, perhaps it has, what's that to me,
That may stand by, and hold my peace? Will he
When I am hoarse, with praising his each cast,
Give me but that again, that I must waste
In sugar candied, or in buttered beer,
For the recovery of my voice? No, there
Pardon his lordship. Flattery's grown so cheap
With him, for he is followed with that heap
That watch, and catch, at what they may applaud,
As a poor single flatterer, without bawd,
Is nothing, such scarce meat and drink he'll give,
But he that's both, and slave to boot, shall live,
And be beloved, while the whores last. O times,
Friend fly from hence; and let these kindled rhymes
Light thee from hell on earth: where flatterers, spies,
Informers, masters both of arts and lies;
Lewd slanderers, soft whisperers that let blood
The life, and fame-veins (yet not understood
Of the poor sufferers); where the envious, proud,
Ambitious, factious, superstitious, loud
Boasters, and perjured, with the infinite more
Prevaricators swarm. Of which the store
(Because they are everywhere amongst mankind
Spread through the world) is easier far to find,
Than once to number, or bring forth to hand,
Though thou wert muster-master of the land.
Go quit them all. And take along with thee,
Thy true friend's wishes, Colby, which shall be,
That thine be just, and honest, that thy deeds
Not wound thy conscience, when thy body bleeds;
That thou dost all things more for truth, than glory,
And never but for doing wrong be sorry;
That by commanding first thyself, thou mak'st
Thy person fit for any charge thou tak'st;
That fortune never make thee to complain,
But what she gives, thou dar'st give her again;
That whatsoever face thy fate puts on,
Thou shrink or start not; but be always one;
That thou think nothing great, but what is good,
And from that thought strive to be understood.
So, 'live or dead, thou wilt preserve a fame
Still precious, with the odour of thy name.
And last, blaspheme not; we did never hear
Man thought the valianter, 'cause he durst swear,
No more, than we should think a lord had had
More honour in him, 'cause we have known him mad:
These take, and now go seek thy peace in war:
Who falls for love of God, shall rise a star.





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