Friday, November 18, 2011

from "To Penshurst" by Ben Jonson

from “To Penshurst” lines 22-75

The lower land, that to the river bends,
Thy sheep, thy bullocks, kine, and calves do feed;
The middle grounds thy mares and horses breed;
Each bank doth yield thee conies; and the tops
Fertile of wood, Ashore and Sidney’s copps,
To crown thy open table, doth provide
The purpled pheasant, with the speckled side;
The painted partridge lies in every field,
And for thy mess is willing to be killed;
And if the high-swoln Medway fail thy dish,
Thou hast the ponds that pay thee tribute fish,
Fat agèd carps that run into thy net,
And pikes, now weary their own kind to eat,
As loth the second draught or cast to stay,
Officiously at first, themselves betray;
Bright eels that emulate them, leap on land,
Before the fisher, or into his hand.
Then hath thy orchard fruit, thy garden flowers,
Fresh as the air, and new as are the hours:
The early cherry, with the later plum,
Fig, grape, and quince, each in his time doth come;
The blushing apricot, and woolly peach
Hang on thy walls, that every child may reach.
And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They’re reared with no man’s ruin, no man’s groan;
There’s none that dwell about them wish them down,
But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady, though they have no suit.
Some bring a capon, some a rural cake,
Some nuts, some apples; some that think they make
The better cheeses, bring them; or else send
By their ripe daughters, whom they would commend
This way to husbands, and whose baskets bear
An emblem of themselves in plum or pear.
But what can this, more than express their love,
Add to thy free provisions, far above
The need of such? where liberal board doth flow
With all that hospitality doth know!
Where comes no guest but is allowed to eat,
Without his fear, and of thy lord’s own meat;
Where the same beer and bread, and self-same wine,
This is his lordship’s, shall be also mine.
And I not fain to sit, as some this day
At great men’s tables, and yet dine away.
Here no man tells my cups; nor, standing by,
A waiter doth my gluttony envy,
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat,
He knows, below, he shall find plenty of meat;
Thy tables hoard not up for the next day,
Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray
For fire, or lights, or livery; all is there,
As if thou then wert mine, or I reigned here;
There’s nothing I can wish, for which I stay.

Source of the text – Poetical Works of Ben Jonson, edited by Robert Bell.  London: John W. Parker and Son, 1856, pp. 92-3.

TJB: Good housekeeping. In sumptuous yet not-excessive couplets Town Mouse praises his client Country Mouse’s sumptuous yet not-excessive living.

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