William Shakespeare, Mr William Shakespeares comedies, histories and tragedies..., 'First Folio', 1623 - Ben Jonson's commendation, p. A4v, detail.

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Date:1623

Description:Shakespeare: ‘Sweet Swan of Avon’.

Ben Jonson's poem in the first collected edition of William Shakespeare's plays included the first reference to Shakespeare as the 'swan of Avon' which later became a popular image for the poet and his home town.

A transcript of this page reads:

Of all, that insolent Greece, or haughty Rome
sent forth, or since did from their ashes come.
Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time!
And all the muses still were in their prime,
When like Apollo he came forth to warm
Our ears, or like a Mercury to charm!
Nature herself was proud of his designs,
And joy'd to wear the dressing of his lines!
Which were so richly spun, and woven so fit,
As, since, she will vouchsafe no other Wit.
The merry Greek, tart Aristophanes,
Neat Terence, witty Plautus, now not please;
But antiquated, and deserted lye
As they were not of Natures family.
Yet must I not give Nature all: Thy Art,
My gentle Shakespeare, must enjoy a part.
For though the Poets matter, Nature be,
His Art doth give the fashion. And, that he,
Who casts to write a living line, must sweat,
(such as thine are) and strike the second heat
Upon the muses’anvil: turn the same,
(And himself with it) that he thinks to frame;
Or for the laurel, he may gain a scorn,
For a good Poet's made, as well as borne.
And such wert thou. Look how the father’s face
Lives in his issue, even so, the race
Of Shakespeare’s mind, and manners brightly shines
In his well turned, and true-filed lines:
In each of which, he seems to shake a lance,
As brandished at the eyes of ignorance.
Sweet swan of Avon! what a sight it were
To see thee in our waters yet appear,
And make those flights upon the banks of Thames,
That so did take Eliza, and our James!
But stay, I see thee in the hemisphere
Advanced, and made a constellation there!
Shine forth, thou star of poets, and with rage,
Or influence, chide, or cheer the drooping stage;
Which, since thy flight from hence, hath mourned like night,
And despairs day, but for thy volumes light.
BEN: JONSON.


Full title: William Shakespeare, Mr William Shakespeares comedies, histories & tragedies published according to the True Originall Copies, London, printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, 1623.

The 'Ashburnham' copy owned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.


Timeline

The timeline shows resources around this location over a number of years.

1570s
Henri Estienne, A mervaylous discourse upon... Katherine de Medici…, 1575 - title page
Henri Estienne, A mervaylous discourse upon... Katherine de Medici…, 1575 - title page

Shakespeare may have owned this book. Shakespeare purchased New Place, the largest ...

1590s
William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis, 1594, leaf F4v.
William Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis, 1594, leaf F4v.

Shakespeare’s first published works. The long poem, Venus and Adonis, was ...

1610s
George Tuberville, The Noble Art of Venerie or Hunting, 1611 -  A royal picnic, p.91.
George Tuberville, The Noble Art of Venerie or Hunting, 1611 - A royal picnic, p.91.

A picnic for Shakespeare's royal patron. Among the many engravings of huntsmen ...

1630s
William Shakespeare, Quartos, Love's Labour's Lost, 1631 - title page
William Shakespeare, Quartos, Love's Labour's Lost, 1631 - title page

A play for the Blackfriars Theatre: Shakespeare's Love’s Labour’s Lost. The ...

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Donor ref:SR/OS 37 1623 [1] (32/10627)

Source: The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust - Library

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