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Old Saturday, April 22, 2006
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Default Commendatory Poems and Prefaces by Shakespeare


Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare
1 Honey-tongued Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue
2 I swore Apollo got them, and none other,
3 Their rosy-tainted features clothed in tissue,
4 Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
5 Rose-cheeked Adonis with his amber tresses,
6 Fair fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
7 Chaste Lucretia virgin-like her dresses,
8 Proud lust-stung Tarquin seeking still to prove her,
9 Romeo, Richard, more whose names I know not
10 Their sugared tongues and power-attractive beauty
11 Say they are saints although that saints they show not,
12 For thousands vows to them subjective duty.
13 They burn in love, thy children; Shakespeare het them;
14 Go, woo thy muse more nymphish brood beget them.
John Weever, Epigrams (1599)

Preface to the Sonnets (1609)
6 BY.
13 T.T.

A never writer to an ever reader: news
1 Eternal reader, you have here a new play never staled
2 with the stage, never clapper-clawed with the palms of
3 the vulgar, and yet passing full of the palm comical, for
4 it is a birth of that brain that never undertook anything
5 comical vainly; and were but the vain names of comedies
6 changed for the titles of commodities, or of plays for pleas,
7 you should see all those grand censors that now style
8 them such vanities flock to them for the main grace of
9 their gravities, especially this author’s comedies, that are
10 so framed to the life that they serve for the most common
11 commentaries of all the actions of our lives, showing such
12 a dexterity and power of wit that the most displeased
13 with plays are pleased with his comedies, and all such
14 dull and heavy-witted worldlings as were never capable
15 of the wit of a comedy, coming by report of them to his
16 representations, have found that wit there that they never
17 found in themselves, and have parted better witted than
18 they came, feeling an edge of wit set upon them more
19 than ever they dreamed they had brain to grind it on. So
20 much and such savoured salt of wit is in his comedies
21 that they seem, for their height of pleasure, to be born
22 in that sea that brought forth Venus. Amongst all there
23 is none more witty than this, and had I time I would
24 comment upon it,though I know it needs not for so
25 much as will make you think your testern well bestowed,
26 but for so much worth as even poor I know to be stuffed
27 in it. It deserves such a labour as well as the best comedy
28 in Terence or Plautus. And believe this, that when he is
29 gone and his comedies out of sale, you will scramble for
30 them, and set up a new English Inquisition. Take this for
31 a warning, and at the peril of your pleasure’s loss and
32 judgement’s, refuse not, nor like this the less for not being
33 sullied with the smoky breath of the multitude; but thank
34 fortune for the scape it hath made amongst you, since
35 by the grand possessors’ wills I believe you should have
36 prayed for them rather than been prayed. And so I leave
37 all such to be prayed for, for the states of their
38 wits’ healths, that will not praise it.
39 Vale.
Anonymous, in Troilus and Cressida (1609)

To our English Terence, Master Will Shakespeare
1 Some say, good Will, which I in sport do sing,
2 Hadst thou not played some kingly parts in sport
3 Thou hadst been a companion for a king,
4 And been a king among the meaner sort.
5 Some others rail; but rail as they think fit,
6 Thou hast no railing but a reigning wit,
7 And honesty thou sow’st, which they do reap
8 So to increase their stock which they do keep.
John Davies, The Scourge of Folly (1610)

To Master William Shakespeare
1 Shakespeare, that nimble Mercury, thy brain,
2 Lulls many hundred Argus-eyes asleep,
3 So fit for all thou fashionest thy vein;
4 At th’ horse-foot fountain thou hast drunk full deep.
5 Virtue’s or vice’s theme to thee all one is.
6 Who loves chaste life, there’s Lucrece for a teacher;
7 Who list read lust, there’s Venus and Adonis,
8 True model of a most lascivious lecher.
9 Besides, in plays thy wit winds like Meander,
10 Whence needy new composers borrow more
11 Than Terence doth from Plautus or Menander.
12 But to praise thee aright, I want thy store.
13 Then let thine own works thine own worth upraise,
14 And help t’ adorn thee with deservèd bays.
Thomas Freeman, Run and a Great Cast (1614)

Inscriptions upon the Shakespeare monument, Stratford-upon-Avon
1 Iudicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
2 Terra tegit, populus maeret, Olympus habet.

3 Stay, passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
4 Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath placed
5 Within this monument: Shakespeare, with whom
6 Quick nature died; whose name doth deck this tomb
7 Far more than cost, sith all that he hath writ
8 Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.
Obiit anno domini 1616,
aetatis 53, die 23 Aprilis

On the death of William Shakespeare
1 Renownèd Spenser, lie a thought more nigh
2 To learnèd Chaucer; and rare Beaumont, lie
3 A little nearer Spenser, to make room
4 For Shakespeare in your threefold, fourfold tomb.
5 To lodge all four in one bed make a shift
6 Until doomsday, for hardly will a fifth
7 Betwixt this day and that by fate be slain
8 For whom your curtains need be drawn again.
9 But if precedency in death doth bar
10 A fourth place in your sacred sepulchre,
11 Under this carvèd marble of thine own,
12 Sleep, rare tragedian Shakespeare, sleep alone.
13 Thy unmolested peace, unsharèd cave,
14 Possess as lord, not tenant, of thy grave,
15 That unto us or others it may be
16 Honour hereafter to be laid by thee.
William Basse (c.1616 - 22), in Shakespeare's
Poems (1640)

The Stationer to the Reader
(in The Tragedy of Othello, 1622)
1 To set forth a book without an epistle were like to the
2 old English proverb, “A blue coat without a badge”, and
3 the author being dead, I thought good to take that piece
4 of work upon me. To commend it I will not, for that
5 which is good, I hope every man will commend without
6 entreaty; and I am the bolder because the author’s name
7 is sufficient to vent his work. Thus, leaving everyone to
8 the liberty of judgement, I have ventured to print this
9 play, and leave it to the general censure.
Thomas Walkley.

To the Reader
1 This figure that thou here seest put,
2 It was for gentle Shakespeare cut,
3 Wherein the graver had a strife
4 With nature to outdo the life.
5 O, could he but have drawn his wit
6 As well in brass as he hath hit
7 His face, the print would then surpass
8 All that was ever writ in brass!
9 But since he cannot, reader, look
10 Not on his picture, but his book.
by Ben Jonson

The Epistle Dedicatory
(in Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, 1623)

6 Earl of Pembroke, etc., Lord Chamberlain to the
7 King’s most excellent majesty,

10 Earl of Montgomery, etc., gentleman of his majesty’s
11 bedchamber; both Knights of the most noble Order
12 of the Garter, and our singular good

14 Right Honourable,
15 Whilst we study to be thankful in our particular for the
16 many favours we have received from your lordships, we
17 are fallen upon the ill fortune to mingle two the most
18 diverse things that can be: fear and rashness; rashness
19 in the enterprise, and fear of the success. For when we
20 value the places your highnesses sustain, we cannot but
21 know their dignity greater than to descend to the reading
22 of these trifles; and while we name them trifles we have
23 deprived ourselves of the defence of our dedication. But
24 since your lordships have been pleased to think these
25 trifles something heretofore, and have prosecuted both
26 them and their author, living, with so much favour, we
27 hope that, they outliving him, and he not having the
28 fate, common with some, to be executor to his own
29 writings, you will use the like indulgence toward them you
30 have done unto their parent. There is a great difference
31 whether any book choose his patrons, or find them. This
32 hath done both; for so much were your lordships’ likings
33 of the several parts when they were acted as, before they
34 were published, the volume asked to be yours. We have
35 but collected them, and done an office to the dead to
36 procure his orphans guardians, without ambition either
37 of self-profit or fame, only to keep the memory of so
38 worthy a friend and fellow alive as was our Shakespeare,
39 by humble offer of his plays to your most noble patronage.
40 Wherein, as we have justly observed no man to come
41 near your lordships but with a kind of religious address,
42 it hath been the height of our care, who are the presenters,
43 to make the present worthy of your highnesses by the
44 perfection. But there we must also crave our abilities to
45 be considered, my lords. We cannot go beyond our own
46 powers. Country hands reach forth milk, cream, fruits,
47 or what they have; and many nations, we have heard,
48 that had not gums and incense, obtained their requests
49 with a leavened cake. It was no fault to approach their
50 gods by what means they could, and the most,though
51 meanest, of things are made more precious when they
52 are dedicated to temples. In that name, therefore, we
53 most humbly consecrate to your highnesses these remains
54 of your servant Shakespeare, that what delight is in them
55 may be ever your lordships’, the reputation his, and the
56 faults ours, if any be committed by a pair so careful
57 to show their gratitude both to the living and the dead
58 as is
59 Your lordships’ most bounden,

To the Great Variety of Readers
1 From the most able to him that can but spell: there
2 you are numbered; we had rather you were weighed,
3 especially when the fate of all books depends upon your
4 capacities, and not of your heads alone, but of your
5 purses. Well, it is now public, and you will stand for your
6 privileges, we know: to read and censure. Do so, but buy
7 it first. That doth best commend a book, the stationer
8 says. Then, how odd soever your brains be, or your
9 wisdoms, make your licence the same, and spare not.
10 Judge your six-penn’orth, your shilling’s worth, your five
11 shillings’ worth at a time, or higher, so you rise to the
12 just rates, and welcome. But whatever you do, buy.
13 Censure will not drive a trade or make the jack go; and
14 though you be a magistrate of wit, and sit on the stage
15 at Blackfriars or the Cockpit to arraign plays daily, know,
16 these plays have had their trial already, and stood out
17 all appeals, and do now come forth quitted rather by
18 a decree of court than any purchased letters of
19 commendation.
20 It had been a thing, we confess, worthy to have been
21 wished that the author himself had lived to have set forth
22 and overseen his own writings. But since it hath been
23 ordained otherwise, and he by death departed from that
24 right, we pray you do not envy his friends the office of
25 their care and pain to have collected and published them,
26 and so to have published them as where, before, you
27 were abused with divers stolen and surreptitious copies,
28 maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealths of
29 injurious impostors that exposed them, even those are
30 now offered to your view cured and perfect of their limbs,
31 and all the rest absolute in their numbers, as he conceived
32 them; who, as he was a happy imitator of nature, was
33 a most gentle expresser of it. His mind and hand went
34 together, and what he thought he uttered with that
35 easiness that we have scarce received from him a blot in
36 his papers. But it is not our province, who only gather
37 his works and give them you, to praise him; it is yours,
38 that read him. And there we hope, to your diverse
39 capacities, you will find enough both to draw and hold
40 you; for his wit can no more lie hid than it could be lost.
41 Read him, therefore, and again, and again, and if then
42 you do not like him, surely you are in some manifest
43 danger not to understand him. And so we leave you to
44 other of his friends whom if you need can be your guides;
45 if you need them not, you can lead yourselves and others.
46 And such readers we wish him.
John Heminges, Henry Condell, in Comedies, Histories,
and Tragedies (1623)

To the memory of my beloved,
what he hath left us
1 To draw no envy, Shakespeare, on thy name
2 Am I thus ample to thy book and fame;
3 While I confess thy writings to be such
4 As neither man nor muse can praise too much:
5 ’Tis true, and all men’s suffrage. But these ways
6 Were not the paths I meant unto thy praise,
7 For silliest ignorance on these may light,
8 Which, when it sounds at best, but echoes right;
9 Or blind affection, which doth ne’er advance
10 The truth, but gropes, and urgeth all by chance;
11 Or crafty malice might pretend this praise,
12 And think to ruin where it seemed to raise.
13 These are as some infamous bawd or whore
14 Should praise a matron: what could hurt her more?
15 But thou art proof against them, and indeed
16 Above th’ ill fortune of them, or the need.
17 I therefore will begin. Soul of the age!
18 The applause, delight, the wonder of our stage!
19 My Shakespeare, rise. I will not lodge thee by
20 Chaucer or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
21 A little further to make thee a room.
22 Thou art a monument without a tomb,
23 And art alive still while thy book doth live
24 And we have wits to read and praise to give.
25 That I not mix thee so, my brain excuses:
26 I mean with great but disproportioned muses.
27 For if I thought my judgement were of years
28 I should commit thee surely with thy peers,
29 And tell how far thou didst our Lyly outshine,
30 Or sporting Kyd, or Marlowe’s mighty line.
31 And though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek,
32 From thence to honour thee I would not seek
33 For names, but call forth thund’ring Aeschylus,
34 Euripides, and Sophocles to us,
35 Pacuvius, Accius, him of Cordova dead,
36 To life again, to hear thy buskin tread
37 And shake a stage; or, when thy socks were on,
38 Leave thee alone for the comparison
39 Of all that insolent Greece or haughty Rome
40 Sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
41 Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show
42 To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
43 He was not of an age, but for all time,
44 And all the muses still were in their prime
45 When like Apollo he came forth to warm
46 Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!
47 Nature herself was proud of his designs,
48 And joyed to wear the dressing of his lines,
49 Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
50 As since she will vouchsafe no other wit.
51 The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
52 Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please,
53 But antiquated and deserted lie
54 As they were not of nature’s family.
55 Yet must I not give nature all; thy art,
56 My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part.
57 For though the poet’s matter nature be,
58 His art doth give the fashion; and that he
59 Who casts to write a living line must sweat
60 Such as thine are and strike the second heat
61 Upon the muses’ anvil, turn the same,
62 And himself with it that he thinks to frame;
63 Or for the laurel he may gain a scorn,
64 For a good poet’s made as well as born.
65 And such wert thou. Look how the father’s face
66 Lives in his issue, even so the race
67 Of Shakespeare’s mind and manners brightly shines
68 In his well turnèd and true-filèd lines,
69 In each of which he seems to shake a lance,
70 As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
71 Sweet swan of Avon! What a sight it were
72 To see thee in our waters yet appear,
73 And make those flights upon the banks of Thames
74 That so did take Eliza and our James!
75 But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
76 Advanced, and made a constellation there!
77 Shine forth, thou star of poets, and with rage
78 Or influence chide or cheer the drooping stage,
79 Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourned like night
80 And despairs day, but for thy volume’s light.
Ben Jonson, in Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1623)

Upon the Lines and Life of the Famous
Scenic Poet, Master William
1 Those hands which you so clapped go now and wring,
2 You Britons brave, for done are Shakespeare’s days.
3 His days are done that made the dainty plays
4 Which made the globe of heav’n and earth to ring.
5 Dried is that vein, dried is the Thespian spring,
6 Turned all to tears, and Phoebus clouds his rays.
7 That corpse, that coffin now bestick those bays
8 Which crowned him poet first, then poets’ king.
9 If tragedies might any prologue have,
10 All those he made would scarce make one to this,
11 Where fame, now that he gone is to the grave
12 Death’s public tiring-house the (nuntius) is;
13 For though his line of life went soon about,
14 The life yet of his lines shall never out.
Hugh Holland, in Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1623)

of the deceased author Master
William Shakespeare
1 Shakespeare, at length thy pious fellows give
2 The world thy works, thy works by which outlive
3 Thy tomb thy name must; when that stone is rent,
4 And time dissolves thy Stratford monument,
5 Here we alive shall view thee still. This book,
6 When brass and marble fade, shall make thee look
7 Fresh to all ages. When posterity
8 Shall loathe what’s new, think all is prodigy
9 That is not Shakespeare’s ev’ry line, each verse
10 Here shall revive, redeem thee from thy hearse.
11 Nor fire nor cank’ring age, as Naso said
12 Of his, thy wit-fraught book shall once invade;
13 Nor shall I e’er believe or think thee dead
14 Though missed until our bankrupt stage be sped
15 Impossible with some new strain t’ outdo
16 Passions of Juliet and her Romeo,
17 Or till I hear a scene more nobly take
18 Than when thy half-sword parleying Romans spake.
19 Till these, till any of thy volume’s rest
20 Shall with more fire, more feeling be expressed,
21 Be sure, our Shakespeare, thou canst never die,
22 But crowned with laurel, live eternally.
Leonard Digges, in Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1623)

To the memory of Master William Shakespeare
1 We wondered, Shakespeare, that thou went’st so soon
2 From the world’s stage to the grave’s tiring-room.
3 We thought thee dead, but this thy printed worth
4 Tells thy spectators that thou went’st but forth
5 To enter with applause. An actor’s art
6 Can die, and live to act a second part.
7 That’s but an exit of mortality;
8 This, a re-entrance to a plaudite.
James Mabbe, in Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1623)

The Names of the Principal Actors in all these Plays
1 William Shakespeare. Samuel Gilburn.
2 Richard Burbage. Robert Armin.
3 John Heminges. William Ostler.
4 Augustine Phillips. Nathan Field.
5 William Kempe. John Underwood.
6 Thomas Pope. Nicholas Tooley.
7 George Bryan. William Ecclestone.
8 Henry Condell. Joseph Taylor.
9 William Sly. Robert Benfield.
10 Richard Cowley. Robert Gough.
11 John Lowin. Richard Robinson.
12 Samuel Cross. John Shank.
13 Alexander Cook. John Rice.

An Epitaph on the Admirable Dramatic Poet, William Shakespeare
1 What need my Shakespeare for his honoured bones
2 The labour of an age in pilèd stones,
3 Or that his hallowed relics should be hid
4 Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
5 Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
6 What need’st thou such dull witness of thy name?
7 Thou in our wonder and astonishment
8 Hast built thyself a lasting monument,
9 For whilst to th’ shame of slow-endeavouring art
10 Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
11 Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
12 Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
13 Then thou, our fancy of herself bereaving,
14 Dost make us marble with too much conceiving,
15 And so sepulchered in such pomp dost lie
16 That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
John Milton (1630), in Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1632)

Upon the Effigies of my Worthy
Friend, the Author Master William
Shakespeare, and his Works
1 Spectator, this life’s shadow is. To see
2 The truer image and a livelier he,
3 Turn reader. But observe his comic vein,
4 Laugh; and proceed next to a tragic strain,
5 Then weep. So when thou find’st two contraries,
6 Two different passions from thy rapt soul rise,
7 Say who alone effect such wonders could
8 Rare Shakespeare to the life thou dost behold.

On Worthy Master Shakespeare and his Poems
1 A mind reflecting ages past, whose clear
2 And equal surface can make things appear
3 Distant a thousand years, and represent
4 Them in their lively colours’ just extent;
5 To outrun hasty time, retrieve the fates,
6 Roll back the heavens, blow ope the iron gates
7 Of death and Lethe, where confusèd lie
8 Great heaps of ruinous mortality;
9 In that deep dusky dungeon to discern
10 A royal ghost from churls; by art to learn
11 The physiognomy of shades, and give
12 Them sudden birth, wond’ring how oft they live;
13 What story coldly tells, what poets feign
14 At second hand, and picture without brain
15 Senseless and soulless shows; to give a stage,
16 Ample and true with life, voice, action, age,
17 As Plato’s year and new scene of the world
18 Them unto us or us to them had hurled;
19 To raise our ancient sovereigns from their hearse,
20 Make kings his subjects; by exchanging verse
21 Enlive their pale trunks, that the present age
22 Joys in their joy, and trembles at their rage;
23 Yet so to temper passion that our ears
24 Take pleasure in their pain, and eyes in tears
25 Both weep and smile: fearful at plots so sad,
26 Then laughing at our fear; abused, and glad
27 To be abused, affected with that truth
28 Which we perceive is false; pleased in that ruth
29 At which we start, and by elaborate play
30 Tortured and tickled; by a crablike way
31 Time past made pastime, and in ugly sort
32 Disgorging up his ravin for our sport,
33 While the plebeian imp from lofty throne
34 Creates and rules a world, and works upon
35 Mankind by secret engines; now to move
36 A chilling pity, then a rigorous love;
37 To strike up and stroke down both joy and ire;
38 To steer th’ affections, and by heavenly fire
39 Mould us anew; stol’n from ourselves
40 This, and much more which cannot be expressed
41 But by himself, his tongue and his own breast,
42 Was Shakespeare’s freehold, which his cunning brain
43 Improved by favour of the ninefold train.
44 The buskined muse, the comic queen, the grand
45 And louder tone of Clio; nimble hand
46 And nimbler foot of the melodious pair,
47 The silver-voicèd lady, the most fair
48 Calliope, whose speaking silence daunts,
49 And she whose praise the heavenly body chants.
50 These jointly wooed him, envying one another,
51 Obeyed by all as spouse, but loved as brother,
52 And wrought a curious robe of sable grave,
53 Fresh green, and pleasant yellow, red most brave,
54 And constant blue, rich purple, guiltless white,
55 The lowly russet, and the scarlet bright,
56 Branched and embroidered like the painted spring,
57 Each leaf matched with a flower, and each string
58 Of golden wire, each line of silk; there run
59 Italian works whose thread the sisters spun,
60 And there did sing, or seem to sing, the choice
61 Birds of a foreign note and various voice.
62 Here hangs a mossy rock, there plays a fair
63 But chiding fountain purlèd. Not the air
64 Nor clouds nor thunder but were living drawn
65 Not out of common tiffany or lawn,
66 But fine materials which the muses know,
67 And only know the countries where they grow.
68 Now when they could no longer him enjoy
69 In mortal garments pent: death may destroy,
70 They say, his body, but his verse shall live,
71 And more than nature takes our hands shall give.
72 In a less volume, but more strongly bound,
73 Shakespeare shall breathe and speak, with laurel crowned,
74 Which never fades; fed with Ambrosian meat
75 In a well-linèd vesture rich and neat.
76 So with this robe they clothe him, bid him wear it,
77 For time shall never stain, nor envy tear it.
The friendly admirer of his endowments", I.M.S., in Comedies,Histories, and Tragedies (1623)

Upon Master WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, the Deceased
Author, and his POEMS
1 Poets are born, not made: when I would prove
2 This truth, the glad remembrance I must love
3 Of never-dying Shakespeare, who alone
4 Is argument enough to make that one.
5 First, that he was a poet none would doubt
6 That heard th’ applause of what he sees set out
7 Imprinted, where thou hast I will not say,
8 Reader, his works, for to contrive a play
9 To him ’twas none the pattern of all wit,
10 Art without art unparalleled as yet.
11 Next, nature only helped him, for look thorough
12 This whole book, thou shalt find he doth not borrow
13 One phrase from Greeks, nor Latins imitate,
14 Nor once from vulgar languages translate,
15 Nor plagiary-like from others glean,
16 Nor begs he from each witty friend a scene
17 To piece his acts with. All that he doth write
18 Is pure his own plot, language exquisite
19 But O! what praise more powerful can we give
20 The dead than that by him the King’s men live,
21 His players, which should they but have shared the fate,
22 All else expired within the short term’s date,
23 How could the Globe have prospered, since through want
24 Of change the plays and poems had grown scant.
25 But, happy verse, thou shalt be sung and heard
26 When hungry quills shall be such honour barred.
27 Then vanish, upstart writers to each stage,
28 You needy poetasters of this age;
29 Where Shakespeare lived or spake, vermin, forbear;
30 Lest with your froth you spot them, come not near.
31 But if you needs must write, if poverty
32 So pinch that otherwise you starve and die,
33 On God’s name may the Bull or Cockpit have
34 Your lame blank verse, to keep you from the grave,
35 Or let new Fortune’s younger brethren see
36 What they can pick from your lean industry.
37 I do not wonder, when you offer at
38 Blackfriars, that you suffer; ’tis the fate
39 Of richer veins, prime judgements that have fared
40 The worse with this deceasèd man compared.
41 So have I seen, when Caesar would appear,
42 And on the stage at half-sword parley were
43 Brutus and Cassius; O, how the audience
44 Were ravished, with what wonder they went thence,
45 When some new day they would not brook a line
46 Of tedious though well-laboured Catiline.
47 Sejanus too was irksome, they prized more
48 Honest Iago, or the jealous Moor.
49 And though the Fox and subtle Alchemist,
50 Long intermitted, could not quite be missed,
51 Though these have shamed all the ancients, and might raise
52 Their author’s merit with a crown of bays,
53 Yet these, sometimes, even at a friend’s desire
54 Acted, have scarce defrayed the seacoal fire
55 And doorkeepers; when let but Falstaff come,
56 Hal, Poins, the rest, you scarce shall have a room,
57 All is so pestered. Let but Beatrice
58 And Benedick be seen, lo, in a trice
59 The Cockpit galleries, boxes, all are full
60 To hear Malvolio, that cross-gartered gull.
61 Brief, there is nothing in his wit-fraught book
62 Whose sound we would not hear, on whose worth look;
63 Like old-coined gold, whose lines in every page
64 Shall pass true current to succeeding age.
65 But why do I dead Shakespeare’s praise recite?
66 Some second Shakespeare must of Shakespeare write;
67 For me ’tis needless, since an host of men
68 Will pay to clap his praise, to free my pen.
Leonard Digges (before 1636), in Shakespeare's Poems (1640)

In remembrance of Master William Shakespeare.
1 Beware, delighted poets, when you sing
2 To welcome nature in the early spring,
3 Your num’rous feet not tread
4 The banks of Avon; for each flower
5 (As it ne’er knew a sun or shower)
6 Hangs there the pensive head.

7 Each tree, whose thick and spreading growth hath made
8 Rather a night beneath the boughs than shade,
9 Unwilling now to grow,
10 Looks like the plume a captive wears,
11 Whose rifled falls are steeped i’ th’ tears
12 Which from his last rage flow.

13 The piteous river wept itself away
14 Long since, alas, to such a swift decay
15 That, reach the map and look
16 If you a river there can spy,
17 And for a river your mocked eye
18 Will find a shallow brook.
Sir William Davenant, Madagascar, with Other Poems (1637)

An Elegy on the death of that famous Writer and Actor,
Master William Shakspeare
1 I dare not do thy memory that wrong
2 Unto our larger griefs to give a tongue;
3 I’ll only sigh in earnest, and let fall
4 My solemn tears at thy great funeral,
5 For every eye that rains a show’r for thee
6 Laments thy loss in a sad elegy.
7 Nor is it fit each humble muse should have
8 Thy worth his subject, now thou’rt laid in grave;
9 No, it’s a flight beyond the pitch of those
10 Whose worthless pamphlets are not sense in prose.
11 Let learnèd Jonson sing a dirge for thee,
12 And fill our orb with mournful harmony;
13 But we need no remembrancer; thy fame
14 Shall still accompany thy honoured name
15 To all posterity, and make us be
16 Sensible of what we lost in losing thee,
17 Being the age’s wonder, whose smooth rhymes
18 Did more reform than lash the looser times.
19 Nature herself did her own self admire
20 As oft as thou wert pleasèd to attire
21 Her in her native lustre, and confess
22 Thy dressing was her chiefest comeliness.
23 How can we then forget thee, when the age
24 Her chiefest tutor, and the widowed stage
25 Her only favourite, in thee hath lost,
26 And nature’s self what she did brag of most?
27 Sleep, then, rich soul of numbers, whilst poor we
28 Enjoy the profits of thy legacy,
29 And think it happiness enough we have
30 So much of thee redeemèd from the grave
31 As may suffice to enlighten future times
32 With the bright lustre of thy matchless rhymes.
Anonymous (before 1638), in Shakespeare's Poems (1640)

To Shakespeare
1 Thy muse’s sugared dainties seem to us
2 Like the famed apples of old Tantalus,
3 For we, admiring, see and hear thy strains,
4 But none I see or hear those sweets attains.

To the same
1 Thou hast so used thy pen, or shook thy spear,
2 That poets startle, nor thy wit come near.
Thomas Bancroft, Two Books of Epigrams and Epitaphs (1639)

To Master William Shakespeare
1 Shakespeare, we must be silent in thy praise,
2 ’Cause our encomiums will but blast thy bays,
3 Which envy could not, that thou didst so well;
4 Let thine own histories prove thy chronicle.
Anonymous, in Wit's Recreations (1640)

To the Reader
1 I here presume, under favour, to present to your view
2 some excellent and sweetly composed poems of Master
3 William Shakespeare, which in themselves appear of the
4 same purity the author himself, then living, avouched.
5 They had not the fortune, by reason of their infancy in
6 his death, to have the due accommodation of proportionable
7 glory with the rest of his ever-living works,
8 yet the lines of themselves will afford you a more authentic
9 approbation than my assurance any way can; to invite
10 your allowance, in your perusal you shall find them
11 serene, clear, and elegantly plain, such gentle strains as
12 shall recreate and not perplex your brain, no intricate or
13 cloudy stuff to puzzle intellect, but perfect eloquence, such
14 as will raise your admiration to his praise. This assurance,
15 I know, will not differ from your acknowledgement; and
16 certain I am my opinion will be seconded by the sufficiency
17 of these ensuing lines. I have been somewhat solicitous
18 to bring this forth to the perfect view of all men, and in
19 so doing, glad to be serviceable for the continuance of
20 glory to the deserved author in these his poems.
John Benson, in Shakespeare's Poems (1640)

Of Master William Shakespeare
1 What, lofty Shakespeare, art again revived,
2 And Virbius-like now show’st thyself twice lived?
3 ’Tis Benson’s love that thus to thee is shown,
4 The labour’s his, the glory still thine own.
5 These learnèd poems amongst thine after-birth,
6 That makes thy name immortal on the earth,
7 Will make the learnèd still admire to see
8 The muses’ gifts so fully infused on thee.
9 Let carping Momus bark and bite his fill,
10 And ignorant Davus slight thy learnèd skill,
11 Yet those who know the worth of thy desert,
12 And with true judgement can discern thy art,
13 Will be admirers of thy high-tuned strain,
14 Amongst whose number let me still remain.
John Warren, in Shakespeare's Poems (1640)
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