A Part of an Ode

Ben Jonson, English 1573 - 1637

From The Oxford Book of English Poetry


To the Immortal Memory and Friendship of that noble pair, Sir Lucius Cary and Sir H. Morison.

It is not growing like a tree
In bulk, doth make man better be;
Or standing long an oak, three hundred year,
To fall a log at last, dry, balk, and sere:
A lily of a day
Is fairer far in May
Although it fall and die that night;
It was the plant and flower of light.
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures, life may perfect be.

Call, noble Lucius, then for wine,
And let thy looks with gladness shine:
Accept this garland, plant it on thy head,
And think – nay, know – thy Morison's not dead.
He leap'd the present age,
Possest with holy rage
To see that bright eternal Day
Of which we Priests and Poets say
Such truths as we expect for happy men;
And there he lives with memory – and Ben

Jonson: who sung this of him, ere he went
Himself to rest,
Or tast a part of that full joy he meant
To have exprest
In this bright Asterism,
Where it were friendship's schism –
Were not his Lucius long with us to tarry –
to separate these twy
Lights, the Dioscuri,
And keep the one half from his Harry.
But fate doth so alternate the design,
Whilst that in Heav'n this light on earth must shine.

And shine as you exalted are!
Two names of friendship, but one star"
Of hearts the union: and those not by chance
Made, or indenture, or leased out to advance
The profits for a time.
No pleasures vain did chime
Of rimes or riots at your feasts,
Orgies of drink or feign'd protests;
But simple love of greatness and of good,
That knits brave minds and manners more than blood.

This made you first to know the Why
You liked
, then after, to apply
That liking, and approach so one the t'other
Till either grew a portion of the other:
Each styled by his end
The copy of his friend.
You lived to be the great surnames
And titles by which all made claims
Unto the Virtue – nothing perfect done
But as a Cary or a Morison.

And such the force the fair example had
As they that saw
The good, and durst not practice it, were glad
That such a law
Was left yet to mankind,
Where they might read and find
FRIENDSHIP indeed was written, not in words,
And with the heart, not pen,
Of two so early men,
Whose lines her rules were and records:
Who, ere the first down bloomed on the chin,
Had sow'd these fruits, and got the harvest in.