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Inviting a Friend to Supper
by
Ben Jonson


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Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house and I
Do equally desire your company;
Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast
With those that come; whose grace may make that seem
Something, which else could hope for no esteem.
It is the fair acceptance, sir, creates
The entertainment perfect, not the cates.
Yet shall you have, to rectify your palate,
An olive, capers, or some better salad
Ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen,
If we can get her, full of eggs, and then
Lemons, and wine for sauce; to these, a coney
Is not to be despaired of, for our money;
And though fowl now be scarce, yet there are clerks,
The sky not falling, think we may have larks.
I’ll tell you of more, and lie, so you will come:
Of partridge, pheasant, woodcock, of which some
May yet be there; and godwit, if we can;
Knat, rail and ruff, too. Howsoe’er, my man
Shall read a piece of Virgil, Tacitus,
Livy, or of some better book to us,
Of which we’ll speak our minds, amidst our meat;
And I’ll profess no verses to repeat;
To this, if aught appear which I not know of,
That will the pastry, not my paper, show of.
Digestive cheese and fruit there sure will be;
But that which most doth take my muse and me
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,
Which is the Mermaid’s now, but shall be mine;
Of which had Horace or Anacreon tasted,
Their lives, as do their lines, till now had lasted.
Tobacco, nectar, or the Thespian spring
Are all but Luther’s beer to this I sing.
Of this we will sup free, but moderately;
And we will have no Poley or Parrot by;
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men,
But at our parting we will be as when
We innocently met. No simple word
That shall be uttered at our mirthful board
Shall make us sad next morning, or affright
The liberty that we’ll enjoy tonight.

This poem is in the public domain.

 

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Ben Jonson (1573 - 1637) was born in London and is generally thought to be England’s first poet laureate. A well educated man, he explored first bricklaying, then soldiering, then acting as a career before becoming a playwright and poet. A contemporary of Shakespeare (Jonson’s assessment of Shakespeare was that he was "a naturally gifted writer who failed to discipline himself."), Jonson was an extremely successful and popular playwright himself. His strength was satire and comedy. But while his plays tended to be bold and controversial, Jonson’s poetry is typically gentle and introspective. Quite the party animal, Jonson’s volatile temper brought him several stints in prison, at least one fatal duel, and innumerable arguments.

 


Post New Comment:
paradea:
I like this!
Posted 07/28/2014 09:32 AM
jayne:
That's Samuel Johnson, not Ben Jonson, credited with the first dictionary.
Posted 07/28/2014 08:12 AM
KevinArnold:
He's good, and he wrote the first English dictionary, did he not? But these lines confirm he was in a bit over head if he wanted to compete with the Bard. Of course, we all fall short. If Jayne hadn't included his comment on Shakespeare, I might have been more generous, but the deft art of the Bard is not challenged with ] lines such as: To this, if aught appear which I not know of, That will the pastry, not my paper, show of
Posted 07/27/2014 11:40 PM


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