To the Memory of Shakespeare
Containing some early prefatory poems to Shakespeare's works. The so-called First Folio (Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Published according to the True Originall Copies), edited by John Heminges and Henry Condell in 1623, opens with a frontispice with the best-known portrait of Shakespeare, an engraving by Martin Droeshout:
—a portrait presented by "B. I." (Ben Jonson) in the following poem:
To the Reader.
This Figure, that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakesepare cut ;
Wherein the Grauer had a strife
with Nature, to out-doo the life :
O, could he but haue drawne his wit
As well in brasse, as he hath hit
His face ; the Print would then surpasse
All, that was ever writ in brasse,
But, since he cannot, Reader, looke
Not on his Picture, but his booke.
There follows the editors' dedication to the Earls of Pembroke and of Montgomery, and the foreword they address "To the great Variety of Readers". Ben Jonson's poem prefixed to Mr William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (1623):
To the memory of my beloued,
MR. WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE :
what he hath left vs.
To draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy name,
Am I thus ample to thy Booke, and Fame:
While I confesse thy writings to be such
As neither Man, nor Muse, can praise too much:
‘Tis true, and all mens suffrage. But these wayes
Were not the paths I meant vnto thy praise:
For seeliest ignorance on these may light,
Which, when it sounds at best, but eccho's right ;
Or blinde Affection, which doth ne’er advance
The truth, but gropes, and vrgeth all by chance ; 10
Or crafty Malice, might pretend this praise,
And thinke to ruine where it seem'd to raise.
These are, as some infamous Baud, or whore,
Should praise a Matron: what could hurt her more ?
But thou art proofe against them, and indeed
Aboue th'ill fortune of them, or the need.
I, therefore will begin. Soule of the Age !
The applause ! delight ! the wonder of our Stage !
My Shakespeare, rise ; I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lye 20
A little further, to make thee a roome :
Thou art a Moniment, without a tombe,
And art aliue still, while thy Booke doth liue,
And we have wits to read, and praise to giue.
That I not mixe thee so, my braine excuses ;
I meane with great, but disproportion'd Muses ;
For if I thought my iudgement were of yeeres,
I should commit thee surely with thy peeres:
And tell, how far thou did'stst our Lily out-shine,
Or sporting Kid, or Marlowes mighty line. 30
And though thou hadst small Latine, and less Greeke,
From thence to honour thee I would not seeke
For names, but call forth thundering AEschilus,
Euripides, and Sophocles to vs,
Pacuuius, Accius, him of Cordoua dead,
To life againe, to heare thy Buskin tread,
And shake a Stage; Or, when thy Sockes were on,
Leaue thee alone, for the comparison
Of all, that insolent Greece, or haughtie Rome
sent forth, or since did from their ashes come. 40
Triumph, my Britaine, thou hast one to showe,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time !
And all the Muses still were in their prime
When like Apollo he came forth to warm
Our eares, or like a Mercury to charme !
Nature her selfe was proud of his designes,
And ioy'd to weare the dressing of his lines !
Which were so richly spun and wouen so fit
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other Wit. 50
The merry Greeke, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please,
But antiquated, and deserted lye
As they were not of nature’s family.
Yet must I not giue nature all: Thy Art,
My gentle Shakespeare, must enioy a part.
For though the Poets matter nature be,
His art doth give the fashion. And, that he,
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat
(Such as thine are) and strike the second heat 60
Vpon the Muses anuile : turn the same,
(And himselfe with it) that he thinkes to frame ;
Or for the lavrell, he may gain a scorne,
For a good Poet’s made, as well as borne;
And such wert thou. Looke how the fathers face
Liues in his issue, euen so, the race
Of Shakespeares minde, and manners brightly shines
In his well torned and true filed lines :
In each of which, he seemes to shake a Lance,
As brandish't at the eyes of Ignorance. 70
Sweet Swan of Auon! What a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appeare,
And make those flights vpon the bankes of Thames
That so did take Eliza, and our Iames !
But stay, I see thee in the Hemisphere
Advanc'd, and made a Constellation there !
Shine forth, thou Starre of Poets, and with rage
Or influence, chide, or cheere the drooping Stage ;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourn'd like night,
And despaires day, but for thy Volumes light. 80
Jonson's poem alludes to a well-known elegy for Shakespeare, not included in the First Folio, by William Basse, which would appear in the 1633 edition of John Donne's poems and in Shakespeare's 1640 Poems:
On Mr. Wm. Shakespeare
he dyed in Aprill 1616
Renowned Spencer, lye a thought more nye
To learned Chaucer, and rare Beaumont lye
A little neerer Spenser to make roome
For Shakespeare in your threefold fowerfold Tombe.
To lodge all fowre in one bed make a shift
Untill Doomesdaye, for hardly will a fift
Betwixt this day and that by Fate be slayne
For whom your Curtaines may be drawn againe.
If your precedency in death doth barre
A fourth place in your sacred sepulcher,
Under this carved marble of thine owne
Sleep rare Tragoedian Shakespeare, sleep alone,
Thy unmolested peace, unshared Cave,
Possesse as Lord not Tenant of thy Grave
That unto us and others it may be
Honor hereafter to be layde by thee.
After Ben Jonson's poem, the First Folio includes another sonnet by Hugh Holland. Notice the continuous allusion to the notion of life as drama in this and the other memorial poems.
Vpon the Lines and Life of the Famous
Scenicke Poet, Master WILLIAM
THose hands, which you so clapt, go now, and wring
You Britaines brawe, for done are Shakespeares dayes :
His dayes are done, that made the dainty Playes,
Which made the Globe of heau'n and earth to ring.
Dry'de is that veine, dry'd is the Thespian Spring,
Turn'd all to teares, and Phoebus clouds his rayes :
That corp's, that coffin now besticke those bayes,
Which crown'd him Poet first, then Poets King.
If Tragedies might any Prologue haue,
All those he made, would scarse make one to this :
Where Fame, now that he gone is to the graue
(Deaths publique tyring-house) the Nuncius is.
For though his line on life went soone about,
The life yet of his lines shall neuer out.
The prefatory matter to the First Folio also includes a table of contents or "Catalogve" of the plays, and a variant of the title, The Workes of William Shakespeare, containing all his Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies: Truely set forth, according to their first Originall", which precedes the list of "The Names of the Principall Actors in all these Playes", a list headed by Shakespeare himself. There follows The Tempest, the first play in the book. But there are two additional memorial poems between the Catalogue and the list of actors. The first is by Leonard Digges, and the second by "I. M."(John Marston?).
TO THE MEMORIE
of the deceased Authour Maister
SHake-speare, at length thy pious fellowes giue
The world thy Workes : thy Workes, by which out-liue
Thy Tombe, thy name must . when that stone is rent,
And Time dissoluies thy Stratford Moniment,
Here we aliue shall view thee still. This Booke,
When Brasse and Marble fade, shall make thee looke
Fresh to all Ages : when Posteritie
Shall loath what's new, thinke all is prodegie
That is not Shakes-speares; eu'ry Line, each Verse
Here shall reuiue, redeeme thee from thy Herse.
Nor fire, nor cankring Age, as Naso said,
Of his, thy wit-fraught Booke shall once inuade.
Nor shall I e're beleeue, or thinke thee dead
(Though mist) vntill our bankrout Stage be sped
(Impossible) with some new straine t'out-do
Passions of Iuliet, and her Romeo :
Or till I heare a Scene more nobly take,
Then when thy half-sword parlying Romans spake.
Till these, till any of thy Volumes rest
Shall with more fire, more feeling be exprest,
Be sure, our Shake-speare, thou canst neuer dye,
But crown'd with Lawrell, liue eternally.
To the memorie of M. W. Shake-speare.
VVEE wondred (Shake-speare) that thou went'st so soone
From the Worlds-Stage, to the Graues-Tyring-roome.
Wee thought thee dead, but this thy printed worth,
Tels thy Spectators, that thou went'st but forth
To enter with applause. An Actors Art,
Can dye, and liue, to acte a second part.
That's but an Exit of Mortalitie ;
This, a Re-entrance to a Plaudite.
Digges, an Oxford scholar, would also write a longer poem, posthumousy published as a preface to the 1640 edition of Shakespeare's own Poems (which are not included in the First Folio).
Upon Master William Shakespeare, the Decesaed Authour, and his Poems
Poets are borne not made, when I would prove
This truth, the glad rememberance I must love
Of never dying Shakespeare, who alone
Is argument enough to make that one.
First, that he was a Poet none would doubt,
That heared th'applause of what he sees set out
Imprinted; where thou hast (I will not say
Reader his Workes for to contrive a Play:
To him twas none) the patterne of all wit,
Art without Art unparaleld as yet.
Next Nature onely helpt him, for looke thorow
This whole Booke, thou shalt find he doth not borrow,
One phrase from Greekes, nor Latines imitate,
Not once from vulgar languages Translate,
Nor Plagiari-like from others gleane,
Nor begges he from from each witty friend a Scene
To peece his Acts with, all that he doth writer,
Is pure his owne, plot, language exquisite,
But oh! what praise more powerfull can we give
The dead, then that by him the Kings men live,
All else expir'd within the short Termes date;
How could the Globe have prospered, since through want
Of change, the Plaies and Poems had growne Scant.
but happy Verse thou shall be sung and heard,
When hungry quills shall be such honour bard
Then vanish upstart Writers to each Stage,
You needy Poetasters of this Age,
Where Shakespeare liv'd or spake, Vermine forbeare,
Least with your froth you spot them, come not neere;
But if you needs must write, if poverty
So pinch, that otherwise you starve and die,
On Gods name may the Bull or Cockpit have
Your lame blancke Verse, to keepe you from the grave
Or let new Fortunes younger brethren see,
What they can picke from your leane industry.
I doe not wonder when you offer at
Blacke-Friers, that you suffer; tis the fate
Of richer veines, primer judgements that have far'd
The worse, with this deceased man compar'd.
So have I seene, when Caesar would appeare,
And on the Stage at halfe-sword parley were,
Brutus and Cassius: oh how the Audience,
Were ravish'd, with what wonder they went thence,
When some new day they would not brooke a line,
Of tedious (though well laboured) Catalines;
Sejanus too was irkesome, they priz'de more
Honest Iago, or the jealous Moore.
And though the Fox and subtill alchimist,
Long intermitted could not quite be mist,
Though these have sham'd all the Ancients, and might raise,
Thie Authours merit with a crown of Bayes,
Yet these sometimes, even at a friends desire
Acted, have scarce defrai'd the Seacole fire
And doore-keepers: when let but Falstaffe come,
Hall, Poines, the rest you scarce shall have a roome
All is so pester'd: let but Beatrice
And Benedicke be scene, loe in a trice
The Cockpit Galleries, Boxes, all are full
To heare Malvoglio that crosse garter'd Gull.
Briefe, there is nothing in his wit fraught Booke,
Whose sound we would not heare, on whose worth looke
Like old coynd gold, whose lines, in every page,
Shall passe true currant to succeeding age.
But why do I dread Shakespeares praise recite,
Some second Shakespeare must of Shakespeare write;
For me tis needlesse, since an host of men,
Will pay to clap his praise, to free my Pen.
And those 1640 Poems also include another famous tribute, a sonnet by John Milton which had already appeared in the Second Folio of Shakespeare's works, 1632; written in 1630:
An Epitaph on the admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare
What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones
The labour of an age in pilèd stones,
Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a lifelong monument.
For whilst to th’shame of slow-endeavoring art
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou, our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving;
And so sepulchred in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
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