Upon Ben Jonson

by Edmund Waller

Mirror of poets! mirror of our age!
Which her whole face beholding on thy stage,
Pleased and displeased with her own faults, endures
A remedy like those whom music cures.
Thou hast alone those various inclinations
Which Nature gives to ages, sexes, nations;
So trac├Ęd with thy all-resembling pen,
That whate'er custom has imposed on men,
Or ill-got habit (which deforms them so,
That scarce a brother can his brother know)
Is represented to the wond'ring eyes
Of all that see, or read, thy comedies.
Whoever in those glasses looks, may find
The spots return'd, or graces, of his mind;
And by the help of so divine an art,
At leisure view, and dress, his nobler part.
Narcissus, cozen'd by that flatt'ring well,
Which nothing could but of his beauty tell,
Had here, discov'ring the deformed estate
Of his fond mind, preserved himself with hate.
But virtue too, as well as vice, is clad
In flesh and blood so well, that Plato had
Beheld, what his high fancy once embraced,
Virtue with colours, speech, and motion graced.
The sundry postures of thy copious Muse
Who would express, a thousand tongues must use;
Whose fate's no less peculiar than thy art;
For as thou couldst all characters impart,
So none could render thine, which still escapes,
Like Proteus, in variety of shapes;
Who was nor this nor that; but all we find,
And all we can imagine, in mankind.


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