Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, EPISTLE TO KATHERINE, LADY AUBIGNY, by BEN JONSON



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EPISTLE TO KATHERINE, LADY AUBIGNY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Tis grown almost a danger to speak true
Last Line: Because nor it can change, nor such a mind.


'Tis grown almost a danger to speak true
Of any good mind, now: there are so few.
The bad, by number, are so fortified,
As what they have lost to expect, they dare deride.
So both the praised, and praisers suffer: yet,
For others' ill, ought none their good forget.
I, therefore, who profess myself in love
With every virtue, wheresoe'er it move,
And howsoever; as I am at feud
With sin and vice, though with a throne endued;
And, in this name, am given out dangerous
By arts, and practice of the vicious,
Such as suspect themselves, and think it fit
For their own cap'tal crimes, t'indict my wit;
I, that have suffered this; and, though forsook
Of Fortune, have not altered yet my look,
Or so myself abandoned, as because
Men are not just, or keep no holy laws
Of nature, and society, I should faint;
Or fear to draw true lines, 'cause others paint:
I, madam, am become your praiser. Where,
If it may stand with your soft blush to hear
Yourself but told unto yourself, and see
In my character, what your features be,
You will not from the paper slightly pass:
No lady, but, at some time, loves her glass.
And this shall be no false one, but as much
Removed, as you from need to have it such.
Look then, and see yourself. I will not say
Your beauty; for you see that every day:
And so do many more. All which can call
It perfect, proper, pure, and natural,
Not taken up o' the doctors, but as well
As I, can say, and see it doth excel.
That asks but to be censured by the eyes;
And, in those outward forms, all fools are wise.
Nor that your beauty wanted not a dower,
Do I reflect. Some alderman has power,
Or cozening farmer of the customs so,
To advance his doubtful issue, and o'erflow
A prince's fortune: these are gifts of chance,
And raise not virtue; they may vice enhance.
My mirror is more subtle, clear, refined,
And takes, and gives the beauties of the mind.
Though it reject not those of Fortune: such
As blood, and match. Wherein, how more than much
Are you engaged to your happy fate,
For such a lot! That mixed you with a state
Of so great title, birth, but virtue most,
Without which, all the rest were sounds, or lost.
'Tis only that can time, and chance defeat:
For he, that once is good, is ever great.
Wherewith, then, madam, can you better pay
This blessing of your stars, than by that way
Of virtue, which you tread? What if alone?
Without companions? 'Tis safe to have none.
In single paths, dangers with ease are watched:
Contagion in the press is soonest catched.
This makes, that wisely you decline your life,
Far from the maze of custom, error, strife,
And keep an even, and unaltered gait;
Not looking by, or back (like those, that wait
Times, and occasions, to start forth, and seem)
Which though the turning world may disesteem,
Because that studies spectacles, and shows,
And after varied, as fresh objects goes,
Giddy with change, and therefore cannot see
Right, the right way: yet must your comfort be
Your conscience, and not wonder, if none asks
For truth's complexion, where they all wear masks.
Let who will follow fashions, and attires,
Maintain their liegers forth, for foreign wires,
Melt down their husbands' land, to pour away
On the close groom, and page, on New Year's Day,
And almost all days after, while they live;
(They find it both so witty, and safe to give).
Let them on powders, oils, and paintings, spend,
Till that no usurer, nor his bawds dare lend
Them, or their officers: and no man know,
Whether it be a face they wear, or no.
Let them waste body, and state; and after all,
When their own parasites laugh at their fall,
May they have nothing left, whereof they can
Boast, but how oft they have gone wrong to man:
And call it their brave sin. For such there be
That do sin only for the infamy:
And never think, how vice doth every hour,
Eat on her clients, and some one devour.
You, madam, young have learned to shun these shelves,
Whereon the most of mankind wrack themselves,
And, keeping a just course, have early put
Into your harbour, and all passage shut
'Gainst storms, or pirates, that might charge your peace;
For which you worthy are the glad increase
Of your blessed womb, made fruitful from above,
To pay your lord the pledges of chaste love:
And raise a noble stem, to give the fame
To Clifton's blood, that is denied their name.
Grow, grow, fair tree, and as thy branches shoot,
Hear, what the muses sing about thy root,
By me, their priest (if they can aught divine)
Before the moons have filled their triple trine,
To crown the burthen which you go withall,
It shall a ripe and timely issue fall,
To expect the honours of great Aubigny:
And greater rites, yet writ in mystery,
But which the Fates forbid me to reveal.
Only, thus much, out of a ravished zeal,
Unto your name, and goodness of your life,
They speak; since you are truly that rare wife,
Other great wives may blush at: when they see
What your tried manners are, what theirs should be.
How you love one, and him you should; how still
You are depending on his word, and will;
Not fashioned for the court, or strangers' eyes;
But to please him, who is the dearer prize
Unto himself, by being so dear to you.
This makes, that your affections still be new,
And that your souls conspire, as they were gone
Each into other, and had now made one.
Live that one, still; and as long years do pass,
Madam, be bold to use this truest glass:
Wherein, your form, you still the same shall find;
Because nor it can change, nor such a mind.





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