1st Edition

The Poems of Ben Jonson

Edited By Tom Cain, Ruth Connolly Copyright 2022
    1276 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Ben Jonson, who was with Shakespeare and Marlowe one of three principal playwrights of his age, was also one of its most original and influential poets. Known best for the country house poem ‘To Penshurst’ and his moving elegy ‘On my First Son’, his work inspired the whole generation of seventeenth-century poets who declared themselves the ‘Sons of Ben’. This edition brings his three major verse publications, Epigrams (1616), The Forest (1616), and Underwood (1641) together with his large body of uncollected poems to create the largest collection of Jonson’s verse that has been published. It thus gives readers a comprehensive view of the wide range of his achievement, from satirical epigrams through graceful lyrics to tender epitaphs. Though he is often seen as the preeminent English poet of the plain style, Jonson employed a wealth of topical and classical allusion and a compressed syntax which mean his poetry can require as much annotation for the modern reader as that of his friend John Donne. This edition not only provides comprehensive explanation and contextualization aimed at student and non-specialist readers alike, but presents the poems in a modern spelling and punctuation that brings Jonson’s poetry to life.


    Note by the General Editors



    List of Illustrations

    Chronological Table of Jonson’s Life



    POEMS 1597-1616

    1 Song from The Case is Altered

    2 From Thomas Palmer, The Sprite of Trees and Herbs

    3 Prologus, Poem, Songs and Epilogus from Cynthia’s Revels

    4 From Nicholas Breton, Melancholic Humours. In Authorem

    5 An Epistle to a Friend

    6 From England’s Parnassus: Murder. Peace. Riches

    7 [On Thomas Nashe]

    8 From Love’s Martyr. The Phoenix Analysed. Ode ἔνϑουσιαστιϰκὴ

    9 Prologue, Songs and Poems from Poetaster

    10 Ode ‘If men and times were now’

    11 A Speech out of Lucan

    12 From Hugh Holland, Pancharis. Ode ἀλληγοριϰκὴ

    13 B. J. HIS PANEGYRE on the happy entrance of James our sovereign to his

    first high session of Parliament

    14 From Thomas Wright, The Passions of the Mind in General. To the Author

    15 Prologue from Every Man in His Humour

    16 Songs from The Masque of Blackness

    17 Songs and Epithalamion from Hymenaei

    18 Prologue, Songs and Epilogue from Volpone

    19 Song from An Entertainment at Theobalds

    20 Songs from The Entertainment for the Merchant Taylors Company

    21 Songs from The Masque of Beauty

    22 Song and Epithalanion from The Haddington Masque

    23 Charms and Songs from The Masque of Queens

    24 Song from The Entertainment at Britain's Burse

    25 Epitaph on Cecilia Bulstrode

    26 From John Fletcher, The Faithful Shepherdess. To the Worthy Author,

    Master John Fletcher

    27 Prologues and Song from Epicene

    28 Songs from Oberon, The Fairy Prince

    29 Songs from Love Freed from Ignorance and Folly

    30 From Coryate’s Crudities. Certain Opening and Drawing Distichs

    The CHARACTER of the Famous Odcombian

    To the Right Noble Tom Tell-Truth of His Travails

    31 From Coryate’s Crambe. Certain Verses Written Upon Coryate’s Crudities

    32 Songs from Love Restored

    33 From Thomas Farnaby’s Juvenal

    34 From Thomas Farnaby’s Persius

    35 From Thomas Farnaby’s Seneca

    36 A Speech presented unto King James at a Tilting

    37 From John Stephens, Cynthia’s Revenge.

    To His Much and Worthily Esteemed Friend the Author

    38 To the Most Noble, and Above His Titles, Robert, Earl of Somerset

    39 Songs from The Irish Masque at Court

    40 From Christopher Brooke, The Ghost of Richard the Third.

    To His Friend the Author Upon His Richard

    41 From The Husband. To the Worthy Author on The Husband

    42 Prologue, Songs and Epilogue from Bartholomew Fair

    43 Song from Mercury Vindicated

    44 Martial. [Epigram 10.47]

    45 Songs from The Golden Age Restored

    46 From William Browne, Britannia's Pastorals.

    To my Truly-Beloved Friend, Master Browne On His Pastorals



    1. To the Reader

    2 To My Book

    3 To My Bookseller

    4 To King James

    5 On the Union

    6 To Alchemists

    7 On the New Hot-House

    8 On a Robbery

    9 To All to Whom I Write

    10 To My Lord Ignorant

    11 On Something that Walks Somewhere

    12 On Lieutenant Shift

    13 To Doctor Empiric

    14 To William Camden

    15 On Court-Worm

    16 To Brain-Hardy

    17 To the Learned Critic

    18 To My Mere English Censurer

    19 On Sir Cod the Perfumed

    20 To the Same Sir Cod

    21 On Reformed Gamester

    22 On My First Daughter

    23 To John Donne

    24 To the Parliament

    25 On Sir Voluptuous Beast

    26 On the Same Beast

    27 On Sir John Roe

    28 On Don Surly

    29 To Sir Annual Tilter

    30 To Person Guilty

    31 On Bank the Usurer

    32 On Sir John Roe

    33 To the Same

    34 Of Death

    35 To King James

    36 To the Ghost of Martial

    37 On Cheverel the Lawyer

    38 To Person Guilty

    39 On Old Colt

    40 On Margaret Ratcliffe

    41 On Gypsy

    42 On Giles and Joan

    43 To Robert, Earl of Salisbury

    44 On Chuff, Banks the Usurer’s Kinsman

    45 On My First Son

    46 To Sir Luckless Woo-All

    47 To the Same

    48 On Mongrel Esquire

    49 To Playwright

    50 To Sir Cod

    51 To King James, Upon the Happy False Rumour of his Death

    52 To Censorious Courtling

    53 To Old-End Gatherer

    54 On Cheverel

    55 To Francis Beaumont

    56 On Poet-Ape

    57 On Bawds and Usurers

    58 To Groom Idiot

    59 On Spies

    60 To William, Lord Monteagle

    61 To Fool, or Knave

    62 To Fine Lady Would-Be

    63 To Robert, Earl of Salisbury

    64 To the Same, Upon the Accession of the Treasurership to Him

    65 To My Muse

    66 To Sir Henry Cary

    67 To Thomas, Earl of Suffolk

    68 On Playwright

    69 To Pertinax Cob

    70 To William Roe

    71 On Court-Parrot

    72 To Courtling

    73 To Fine Grand

    74 To Thomas, Lord Chancellor Egerton

    75 On Lip the Teacher

    76 On Lucy, Countess of Bedford

    77 To One That Desired Me Not to Name Him

    78 To Hornet

    79 To Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland

    80 Of Life and Death

    81 To Prowl the Plagiary

    82 On Cashiered Captain Surly

    83 To a Friend

    84 To Lucy, Countess of Bedford

    85 To Sir Henry Goodyere

    86 To the Same

    87 On Captain Hazard the Cheater

    88 On English Monsieur

    89 To Edward Alleyn

    90 On Mill, My Lady’s Woman

    91 To Sir Horace Vere

    92 The New Cry

    93 To Sir John Radcliffe

    94 To Lucy, Countess of Bedford, With Master Donne’s Satires

    95 To Sir Henry Savile

    96 To John Donne

    97 On the New Motion

    98 To Sir Thomas Roe

    99 To the Same

    100 On Playwright

    101 Inviting a Friend to Supper

    102 To William, Earl of Pembroke

    103 To Mary, Lady Wroth

    104 To Susan, Countess of Montgomery

    105 To Mary, Lady Wroth

    106 To Sir Edward Herbert

    107 To Captain Hungry

    108 To True Soldiers

    109 To Sir Henry Neville

    110 To Clement Edmondes, On his Caesar’s Commentaries

    111 To the Same, on the Same

    112 To a Weak Gamester in Poetry

    113 To Sir Thomas Overbury

    114 To Mistress Philip Sidney

    115 On the Town’s Honest Man

    116 To Sir William Jephson

    117 On Groin

    118 On Gut

    119To Sir Rafe Shelton

    120 Epitaph on S. P. a child of Q. Elizabeth’s Chapel

    121 To Benjamin Rudyerd

    122 To the Same

    123 To the Same

    124 Epitaph on Elizabeth, L.H.

    125 To Sir William Uvedale

    126 To his lady, then Mistress Cary

    127 To Esmé, Lord Aubigny

    128 To William Roe

    129 To Mime

    130 To Alfonso Ferrabosco, on his Book

    131 To the Same

    132 To Master Joshua Sylvester

    133 On the Famous Voyage


    1 Why I Write Not of Love

    2 To Penshurst

    3 To Sir Robert Wroth

    4 To the World: A Farewell for a Gentlewoman, virtuous and noble

    5 Song To Celia

    6 To the Same

    7 Song That Women are but Men’s Shadows

    8 To Sickness

    9 Song To Celia

    10(a) Proludium

    10 ‘And must I sing?’

    11 Epode

    12 Epistle To Elizabeth, Countess of Rutland

    13 Epistle To Katherine, Lady Aubigny

    14 Ode to Sir William Sidney, on his Birthday

    15 To Heaven

    POEMS 1616-1636

    47 Songs from Christmas His Masque

    48 Songs from The Vision of Delight

    49 Songs from Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue

    50 From George Chapman, The Georgics of Hesiod. To My Worthy and

    Honoured Friend Master George Chapman

    51.1 To Master Ben Jonson in his Journey By Master Craven.

    51.2 This Was Master Ben Jonson’s Answer of the Sudden

    52.1 A Grace by Ben Jonson Extempore Before King James

    52.2 A Form of a Grace

    52.3 Ben Jonson's Grace before King James

    53 Charles Cavendish to His Posterity

    54 Leges Convivales Quod felix, faustumque in Apolline sit

    55 Verses Over the Door at the Entrance into the Apollo

    56 Songs from Pan’s Anniversary, or The Shepherd's Holy-day

    57 Songs from A Masque of the Metamorphosed Gypsies

    58 Ballad from The Masque of Augurs

    59 From James Mabbe, The Rogue. On the Author, Work, and Translator

    60 From Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.

    To the Reader

    61 From Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.

    To the Memory of My Belovèd, The Author Master William Shakespeare

    And What He Hath Left Us

    62 Song from Neptune’s Triumph

    63 To the Memory of That Most Honoured Lady Jane,

    Eldest Daughter to Cuthbert, Lord Ogle, and Countess of Shrewsbury

    64 Prologues and Epilogue from The Staple of News

    65 From Lucan’s Pharsalia. To My Chosen Friend … Thomas May, Esquire

    66 From Michael Drayton, The Battle of Agincourt. The Vision of Ben Jonson

    on the Muses of his Friend Michael Drayton

    67 [Song. Death and Love Paralleled]

    68 Prologue, Song and Epilogues from The New Inn

    69 Ode to Himself

    70 Epitaph on Katherine, Lady Ogle

    71 From Sir John Beaumont, Bosworth Field. On the Honoured Poems

    of His Honoured Friend, Sir John Beaumont, Baronet

    72 From Edward Filmer, French Court Airs. To My Worthy Friend,

    Master Edward Filmer, On His Work Published

    73 Euclia’s Hymn. From Love's Triumph Through Callipolis

    74 Song from Chloridia

    75 An Expostulation with Inigo Jones

    76 To Inigo, Marquis Would-Be: A Corollary

    77 To A Friend: An Epigram of Him

    78.1 Epigram. To my kind friend Mr Ben: Johnson upon his epigram to the Lord Treasurer

    78.2 To My Detractor

    79 From The Northern Lass. To My Old Faithful Servant … The Author

    of this Work, Master Richard Brome

    80.1 Mr Gil to Mr Ben: Johnson upon the occasion of his Magnetic Lady

    80.2 [An Answer to Alexander Gil]

    81 [A Song of Welcome to King Charles]

    82 [A Song of the Moon]

    83 Songs from The King’s Entertainment at Welbeck

    84 From Alice Sutcliffe, Meditations of Man’s Mortality.

    To Mistress Alice Sutcliffe, on Her Divine Meditations

    85 From Joseph Rutter, The Shepherd’s Holiday.

    To My Dear Son and Right Learned Friend, Master Joseph Rutter

    86 From Annalia Dubrensia. An Epigram to My Jovial Good Friend

    Master Robert Dover



    1.1 The Sinner’s Sacrifice to the Holy Trinity

    1.2 A Hymn to God the Father

    1.3 A Hymn on the Nativity of My Saviour

    2 A Celebration of Charis in Ten Lyric Pieces

    2.1 His Excuse for Loving

    2.2 How He Saw Her

    2.3 What He Suffered

    2.4 Her Triumph

    2.5 His Discourse with Cupid

    2.6 Claiming a Second Kiss by Desert

    2.7 Begging Another, on Colour of Mending the Former

    2.8 Urging Her of a Promise

    2.9 Her Man Described by Her Own Dictamen

    2.10 Another Lady’s Exception, Present at the Hearing

    3 The Musical Strife, in a Pastoral Dialogue

    4 A Song

    5 In the Person of Womankind: A Song Apologetic

    6 Another: In Defence of their Inconstancy: A Song

    7 A Nymph’s Passion

    8 The Hourglass

    9 My Picture Left in Scotland

    10 Against Jealousy

    11 The Dream

    12 An Epitaph on Master Vincent Corbett

    13 An Epistle to Sir Edward Sackville, Now Earl of Dorset

    14 An Epistle to Master John Selden

    15 An Epistle to a Friend, to Persuade Him to the Wars

    16 An Epitaph on Master Philip Gray

    17 Epistle To a Friend

    18 An Elegy (‘Can beauty, that did prompt me’)

    19 An Elegy (‘By those bright eyes’)

    20 A Satirical Shrub

    21 A Little Shrub Growing By

    22 An Elegy (‘Though beauty be the mark of praise’)

    23 An Ode. To Himself

    24 The Mind of the Frontispiece to a Book

    25 An Ode to James, Earl of Desmond, Writ in Queen Elizabeth’s Time

    26 An Ode (‘High-spirited friend’)

    27 An Ode (‘Helen, did Homer never see’)

    28 A Sonnet: To the Noble Lady, the Lady Mary Wroth

    29 A Fit of Rhyme against Rhyme

    30 An Epigram on William, Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer of England

    31 An Epigram: To Thomas, Lord Ellesmere, The Last Term He Sat Chancellor

    32 Another to Him (for the same)

    33 An Epigram to the Counsellor that pleaded and carried the cause

    34 An Epigram. To the Smallpox

    35 An Epitaph. On Elizabeth Chute

    36 A Song

    37 An Epistle to a Friend

    38 An Elegy (‘’Tis true, I’m broke!’)

    [39 See Dubia, Headnote.]

    40 An Elegy (‘That love’s a bitter sweet’)

    41 An Elegy (‘Since you must go’)

    42 An Elegy (‘Let me be what I am’)

    43 An Execration upon Vulcan

    44 A Speech According to Horace

    45 An Epistle to Master Arthur Squibb

    46 An Epigram on Sir Edward Coke, When He Was Lord Chief Justice of England

    47 An Epistle Answering to One That Asked to be Sealed of the Tribe of Ben

    48 The Dedication of the King’s New Cellar

    49 An Epigram on the Court Pucelle

    50 An Epigram: To the Honoured –––– Countess of ––––

    51 Lord Bacon’s Birthday

    52a A Poem Sent Me by Sir William Burlase

    52b My Answer: The Poet to the Painter

    53 An Epigram to William, Earl of Newcastle

    54 Epistle to Master Arthur Squibb

    55 To Master John Burgess (‘Would God, my Burgess’)

    56 Epistle To My Lady Covell

    57 To Master John Burgess (‘Father John Burgess’)

    58 Epigram, to My Bookseller

    59 An Epigram to William, Earl of Newcastle

    60 An Epitaph on Henry, Lord La Ware

    61 An Epigram

    62 An Epigram to King Charles, for a hundred pounds he sent me

    in my sickness. 1629

    63 To King Charles and Queen Mary for the Loss of their First-Born:

    An Epigram Consolatory. 1629

    64 An Epigram to Our Great and Good King Charles,

    On His Anniversary Day. 1629

    65 An Epigram on the Prince’s Birth. 1630

    66 An Epigram to the Queen, then lying in. 1630

    67 An Ode, or Song by all the Muses in Celebration of Her Majesty’s Birthday. 1630

    68 An Epigram to the Household. 1630

    69 Epigram. To a Friend and Son

    70 To the Immortal Memory and Friendship of that Noble Pair,


    71 To the Right Honourable, the Lord High Treasurer of England.

    An Epistle Mendicant. 1631

    72 To the King on his Birthday

    73 On the Right Honourable and Virtuous Lord Weston, Lord High Treasurer of England, upon the day he was made Earl of Portland. 17 February 1633

    74 To the Right Honourable Jerome, Lord Weston: An Ode gratulatory, for his return from his embassy, 1633

    75 Epithalamion; or, A Song celebrating the Nuptials of that Noble Gentleman

    Master jerome weston … with the Lady frances stuart

    76 The Humble Petition of Poor Ben to th’ Best of Monarchs,

    Masters, Men, King charles

    77 To the Right Honourable, the Lord Treasurer of England: An Epigram

    78 An Epigram to My Muse, the Lady Digby, on Her Husband, Sir Kenelm Digby

    79 A New Year’s Gift sung to King Charles. 1636

    [80, 81 See Dubia]

    82 To My Lord the King, On the Christening His Second Son james

    83 An Elegy on the Lady Jane Paulet, Marchioness of Winchester

    84 Eupheme, or The Fair Fame Left to Posterity Of That Truly Noble Lady,

    the Lady Venetia Digby, Late Wife of Sir Kenelm Digby, Knight

    84.1 The Dedication of her cradle

    84.2 The Song of Her descent

    84.3 The Picture of the Body

    84.4 The Mind

    84.8 Her hopeful issue

    84.9 An Elegy on My Muse, the truly honoured Lady, the Lady venetia digby

    Being her ᾺΠΟΘΕѠΣΙΣ

    85 The Praises of a Country Life (Horace, Epode 2)

    86 (Horace) Ode the First. The Fourth Book. To Venus

    87 (Horace) Odes, Book 3.9, To Lydia

    88 A Fragment of Petronius Arbiter Translated

    89 Martial, Epigram 8.77 Translated



    Ode ‘Scorn, or some humbler fate’

    A Petition of the Infant Prince Charles

    Poems by other authors included in Underwood


    Bibliography of Works Cited

    Index of Titles

    Index of First Lines


    Tom Cain is Emeritus Professor of Early Modern Literature at Newcastle University. He has worked on Ben Jonson for many years but has also written a study of Tolstoy (1977) and edited Nicholas Hilliard’s Art of Limning (1981), an anthology of Jacobean and Caroline Poetry (1981), and several collections of essays on the early modern period. In 2001, he published an edition of the large collection of poems left in manuscript by Robert Herrick’s patron, Mildmay Fane, Earl of Westmorland, and in 2013, with Ruth Connolly, he edited The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick. He has written essays on Donne and Jonson and edited Jonson’s Poetaster for the Revels Plays (1995) and Sejanus for the Cambridge Works of Ben Jonson. He is currently completing an edition of Ford’s The Lovers Melancholy for the Oxford Complete Works of John Ford, editing a volume of Waugh’s short stories for the Oxford Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh, and writing a biography of John Donne.

    Ruth Connolly is Senior Lecturer in Seventeenth-Century Literature at Newcastle University. She has written essays on the circulation of Stuart lyric poetry in manuscript, on early modern women’s writing and intellectual cultures, and on the poetry of Hester Pulter, Richard Lovelace, and Jonson. In 2011 she edited (with Tom Cain) a collection of essays, ‘Lords of Wine and Oile’: Community and Conviviality in the Poetry of Robert Herrick, and with Christopher Burlinson a special issue of Studies in English Literature 15001900 (Winter, 2012) on editing Stuart poetry. This was followed in 2013 by an edition with Tom Cain of The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick, special issues of The Seventeenth Century on Cavalier writing (2018), and (with Naomi McAreavey) of Literature Compass on the literatures of early modern Ireland (2019). She is currently completing a monograph on the poetics of the body in early modern lyric and researching bookselling in early modern Newcastle.