Ben Jonson

(1572-1637)

My Picture Left in Scotland

Borrowed from the site of Slate magazine, where you can also find a recording of Robert Pinsky reading the poem. But I have restored the spelling of the first edition, drawing on Helen C. White et al., eds, Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose  (New York: Macmillan, 1951).

       In our contemporary discourse, literacy and culture sometimes tend to be associated with the act of reading: What comes in through the ear, that organ of the Walkman, may be considered less reflective or intellectual. For Ben Jonson, writing this brilliant poem early in the 17th century, the opposite is true: the ear is the avenue of the spirit, while the eye is duped by mere seeming. What he means about the ear he demonstrates in sentences that skim and dance across the lines and rhymes, flamenco-style, or like Michael Jord an creating space where there was none.

--Robert Pinsky


I now thinke, Love is rather deafe, than blind,
       For else it could not be,
                 That she,
Whom I adore so much, should so slight me,
       And cast my love behind:
I'm sure my language to her, was as sweet,
             And every close did meet
           In sentence, of as subtile feet
                 As hath the youngest Hee,
       That sits in shadow of Apollo's  tree.
Oh, but my conscious feares,
           That flie my thoughts betweene,
           Tell me that she hath seene
       My hundreds of gray haires,
       Told seven and fortie yeares,
       Read so much wast, as she cannot imbrace
       My mountaine belly and my rockie face,
And all these through her eyes, have stopt her eares.


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