189. An Elegy

Ben Jonson. 1573-1637

THOUGH beauty be the mark of praise,
  And yours of whom I sing be such
  As not the world can praise too much,
Yet 'tis your Virtue now I raise.

A virtue, like allay so gone
  Throughout your form as, though that move
  And draw and conquer all men's love,
This subjects you to love of one.

Wherein you triumph yet--because
  'Tis of your flesh, and that you use
  The noblest freedom, not to choose
Against or faith or honour's laws.

But who should less expect from you?
  In whom alone Love lives again:
  By whom he is restored to men,
And kept and bred and brought up true.

His falling temples you have rear'd,
  The wither'd garlands ta'en away;
  His altars kept from that decay
That envy wish'd, and nature fear'd:

And on them burn so chaste a flame,
  With so much loyalty's expense,
  As Love to acquit such excellence
Is gone himself into your name.

And you are he--the deity
  To whom all lovers are design'd
  That would their better objects find;
Among which faithful troop am I--

Who as an off'ring at your shrine
  Have sung this hymn, and here entreat
  One spark of your diviner heat
To light upon a love of mine.

Which if it kindle not, but scant
  Appear, and that to shortest view;
  Yet give me leave to adore in you
What I in her am grieved to want!

The Oxford Book of English Verse, HTML edition