I see that wreath which doth the wearer arm
'Gainst the quick strokes of thunder, is no charm
To keep off deaths pale dart. For, Johnson then
Thou hadst been number'd still with living men.
Times sithe had fear'd thy Lawrel to invade,
Nor thee this subject of our sorrow made.
Amongst those many votaries who come
To offer up their Garlands at thy Tombe;
Whil'st some more lofty pens in their bright verse
(Like glorious Tapers flaming on thy herse)
Shall light the dull and thankless world to see,
How great a maim it suffers wanting thee;
Let not thy learned shadow scorn, that I
Pay meaner Rites unto thy memory;
And since I nought can adde, but in desire
Restore some sparks which leapt from thine own fire.
What ends soever others quills invite,
I can protest, it was no itch to write,
Nor any vain ambition to be read,
But meerly Love and Justice to the dead
Which rais'd my fameless Muse; and caus'd her bring
These drops, as tribute thrown into that spring,
To whose most rich and fruitful head we ow
The purest streams of language which can flow.
For 'tis but truth, thou taught'st the ruder age
To speake by Grammar, and reform'dst the Stage:
Thy Comick Sock induc'd such purged sence,
A Lucrece might have heard without offence.
Amongst those soaring wits that did dilate
Our English, and advance it to the rate
And value it now holds, thy self was one
Helpt lift it up to such proportion.
That thus refin'd and roab'd, it shall not spare
With the full Greek or Latine to compare.
For what tongue ever durst, but ours, translate
Great Tully's Eloquence, or Homers State?
Both which in their unblemisht lustre shine,
From Chapmans pen, and from thy Catiline.
All I would ask for thee, in recompence
Of thy successful toyl and times expence,
Is onely this poor Boon: that those who can
Perhaps read French, or talk Italian,
Or do the lofty Spaniard affect;
To shew their skill in Forrein Dialect,
Prove not themselves so unnaturally wise,
They therefore should their Mother-tongue despise.
(As if her Poets both for style and wit
Not equall'd, or not pass'd their best that writ)
Untill by studying Johnson they have known
The height and strength and plenty of their own.
Thus in what low earth or neglected room
Soere thou sleep'st, thy book shall be thy tomb.
Thou wilt go down a happy Coarse, bestrew'd
With thine own Flowres; and feel thy self renew'd,
Whil'st thy immortal never-with'ring Bayes
Shall yearly flourish in thy Readers praise.
And when more spreading Titles are forgot,
Or spight of all their Lead and Sear-cloth rot,
Thou wrapt and Shrin'd in thine own sheets, wilt ly
A Relick fam'd by all Posterity.
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"To my dead friend Ben Johnson" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 23 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/17687/to-my-dead-friend-ben-johnson>.