Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A SESSIONS OF THE POETS, by JOHN SUCKLING



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A SESSIONS OF THE POETS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A sessions was held the other day
Last Line: When he lends any poets about the town.
Subject(s): Poetry & Poets


A SESSIONS was held the other day,
And Apollo himself was at it, they say,
The laurel that had been so long reserv'd
Was now to be given to him best deserv'd.
And
Therefore the wits of the town came thither,
'Twas strange to see how they flock'd together,
Each strongly confident of his own way,
Thought to gain the laurel away that day.

There was Selden, and he sate hard by the chair;
Wenman not far off, which was very fair;
Sandys with Townshend, for they kept no order;
Digby and Shillingsworth a little further.
And
There was Lucan's translator too, and he
That makes God speak so big in 's poetry;
Selwin and Waller, and Bartlets both the brothers;
Jack Vaughan and Porter, and divers others.

The first that broke silence was good old Ben,
Prepar'd before with canary wine,
And he told them plainly he deserv'd the bays,
For his were call'd works, where others' were but plays.
And
Bid them remember how he had purg'd the stage
Of errors that had lasted many an age;
And he hopes they did not think The Silent Woman,
The Fox and The Alchemist, outdone by no man.

Apollo stopp'd him there, and bade him not go on,
'Twas merit, he said, and not presumption,
Must carry 't; at which Ben turned about,
And in great choler offer'd to go out.
But
Those that were there thought it not fit
To discontent so ancient a wit;
And therefore Apollo call'd him back agen,
And made him mine host of his own New Inn.

Tom Carew was next, but he had fault
That would not well stand with a laureat;
His Muse was hard-bound, and th' issue of 's brain
Was seldom brought forth but with trouble and pain.
And
All that were present there did agree,
A laureate Muse should be easy and free,
Yet sure 'twas not that, but 'twas thought that His Grace
Consider'd he was well he had a cup-bearer's place.

Will D'Avenant, asham'd of a foolish mischance
That he had got lately travelling in France,
Modestly hop'd the handsomeness of 's Muse
Might any deformity about him excuse.
And
Surely the company would have been content,
If they could have found any precedent;
But in all their records either in verse or prose,
There was not one laureate without a nose.

To Will Bartlet sure all the wits meant well,
But first they would see how his snow would sell:
Will smil'd and swore in their judgments they went less,
That concluded of merit upon success.

Suddenly taking his place agen,
He gave way to Selwin, who straight stepp'd in,
But, alas! he had been so lately a wit,
That Apollo hardly knew him yet.

Toby Matthews (pox on him, how came he there?)
Was whispering nothing in somebody's ear;
When he had the honour to be nam'd in court,
But, sir, you may thank my Lady Carlisle for 't:

For had not her care furnish'd you out
With something of handsome, without all doubt
You and your sorry Lady-Muse had been
In the number of those that were not let in.

In haste from the Court two or three came in,
And they brought letters, forsooth, from the Queen;
'Twas discreetly done, too, for if th' had come
Without them, th' had scarce been let into the room.

This made a dispute, for 'twas plain to be seen
Each man had a mind to gratify the Queen;
But Apollo himself could not think it fit:
There was difference, he said, betwixt fooling and wit.

Suckling next was call'd, but did not appear,
But straight one whisper'd Apollo i' th' ear,
That of all men living he car'd not for 't,
He lov'd not the Muses so well as his sport;

And priz'd black eyes, or a lucky hit
At bowls, above all the trophies of wit;
But Apollo was angry, and publicly said,
'Twere fit that a fine were set upon 's head.

Wat Montague now stood forth to his trial,
And did not so much as suspect a denial;
But witty Apollo ask'd him first of all,
If he understood his own pastoral.

For, if he could do it, 'twould plainly appear
He understood more than any man there,
And did merit the bays above all the rest;
But the Monsieur was modest, and silence confess'd.

During these troubles, in the crowd was hid
One that Apollo soon miss'd, little Cid;
And having spi'd him call'd him out of the throng,
And advis'd him in his ear not to write so strong.

Then Murray was summon'd, but 'twas urg'd that he
Was chief already of another company.

Hales set by himself most gravely did smile
To see them about nothing keep such a coil;
Apollo had spi'd him, but knowing his mind
Pass'd by, and call'd Falkland that sate just behind.
But
He was of late so gone with divinity,
That he had almost forgot his poetry;
Though to say the truth (and Apollo did know it)
He might have been both his priest and his poet.

At length who but an Alderman did appear,
At which Will D'Avenant began to swear;
But wiser Apollo bade him draw nigher,
And when he was mounted a little higher,

He openly declar'd that it was the best sign
Of good store of wit to have good store of coin;
And without a syllable more or less said,
He put the laurel on the Alderman's head.

At this all the wits were in such a maze
That for a good while they did nothing but gaze
One upon another: not a man in the place
But had discontent writ in great in his face.

Only the small poets clear'd up again,
Out of hope, as 'twas thought, of borrowing;
But sure they were out, for he forfeits his crown,
When he lends any poets about the town.





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