Ben Jonson

11 June 1572 – 6 August 1637 / London / England

Ode To Sir William Sydney, On His Birthday

Now that the harth is crown'd with smiling fire,
And some do drink, and some do dance,
Some ring,
Some sing,
And all do strive t'advance
The gladnesse higher:
Wherefore should I
Stand silent by.
Who not the least,
Both love the cause, and authors of the feast.
Give me my cup, but from the Thespian Well,
That I may tell to Sydney, what
This day
Doth say,
And he may think on that
Which I do tell:
When all the noyse
Of these forc'd joyes,
Are fled and gone,
And he, with his best Genius left alone.
This day says, then, the number of glad yeares
Are justly summ'd, that make you man;
Your vow
Must now
Strive all right ways it can,
T'out-strip your peeres:
Since he doth lack
Of going back
Little, whose will
Doth urge him to run wrong, or to stand still.
Nor can a little of the common store,
Of nobles vertue, shew in you;
Your blood
So good
And great, must seek for new,
And study more:
Nor weary, rest
On what's deceast.
For they, that swell
With dust of ancestors, in graves but dwell.
'Twill be exacted of your name, whose sonne,
Whose nephew, whose grand-child you are;
And men
Will, then,
Say you have follow'd farre,
When well begun:
Which must be now,
They teach you, how.
And he that stayes
To liue untill to morrow 'hath lost two dayes.
So may you live in honor, as in name,
If with this truth you be inspir'd;
So may
This day
Be more, and long desir'd:
And with the flame
Of love bee bright,
As with the light
Of bone-fires. Then
The Birth-day shines, when logs not burne, but men.
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