A Fit of Rhyme against Rhyme

By Ben Jonson 1572–1637 Ben Jonson
Rhyme, the rack of finest wits,
That expresseth but by fits
         True conceit,
Spoiling senses of their treasure,
Cozening judgment with a measure,
         But false weight;
Wresting words from their true calling,
Propping verse for fear of falling
         To the ground;
Jointing syllabes, drowning letters,
Fast'ning vowels as with fetters
         They were bound!
Soon as lazy thou wert known,
All good poetry hence was flown,
         And art banish'd.
For a thousand years together
All Parnassus' green did wither,
         And wit vanish'd.
Pegasus did fly away,
At the wells no Muse did stay,
         But bewail'd
So to see the fountain dry,
And Apollo's music die,
         All light failed!
Starveling rhymes did fill the stage;
Not a poet in an age
         Worth crowning;
Not a work deserving bays,
Not a line deserving praise,
         Pallas frowning;
Greek was free from rhyme's infection,
Happy Greek by this protection
         Was not spoiled.
Whilst the Latin, queen of tongues,
Is not yet free from rhyme's wrongs,
         But rests foiled.
Scarce the hill again doth flourish,
Scarce the world a wit doth nourish
         To restore
Phoebus to his crown again,
And the Muses to their brain,
         As before.
Vulgar languages that want
Words and sweetness, and be scant
         Of true measure,
Tyrant rhyme hath so abused,
That they long since have refused
         Other cæsure.
He that first invented thee,
May his joints tormented be,
         Cramp'd forever.
Still may syllabes jar with time,
Still may reason war with rhyme,
         Resting never.
May his sense when it would meet
The cold tumor in his feet,
         Grow unsounder;
And his title be long fool,
That in rearing such a school
            Was the founder.

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Poet Ben Jonson 1572–1637


SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Ben  Jonson


Ben Jonson’s “Song to Celia” is known to millions as “Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.” Jonson was educated at the prestigious Westminster School in London. He took up acting, and by 1597 he was writing original plays. Jonson’s first widely acclaimed play, Every Man in His Humour, included William Shakespeare in its cast.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire


SCHOOL / PERIOD Renaissance

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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