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FEAR no more the heat o' the sun,
Home art gone, and ta'en thy wages:
Fear no more the frown o' the great, Thou art past the tyrant's stroke; Care no more to clothe, and eat; To thee the reed is as the oak: The sceptre, learning, physick, must All follow this, and come to dust.
Fear no more the lightning flash,
No exorciser harm thee!
THE Poems of Ben Jonson have been published once before as a separate collection, and several times as a part of his complete works. During his lifetime, in 1616, the Epigrams and The Forest were published in a folio volume with dramas and masques; shortly after his death appeared another volume of his dramas and masques together with Underwoods. This was published in 1641. It bears many marks of carelessness and lack of editorial supervision. The Underwoods includes translations and separate poems and entertainments, huddled together in a disorderly fashion; and the conviction is forced upon the reader that Jonson began the collection of his minor poems under this title, but left his work unfinished, and that some unknown person sent it to press and added at the end whatever he could lay hold of in Jonson's unpublished papers. The result is that there is a marked difference in the authority of the text in the two folios: that of 1616 is re
markably free from error; that of 1641 remarkably free from accuracy. A more ingenious concealment of meaning through the dislocation of punctuation could hardly be devised than that which prevails in the folio of 1641.
The first and only great editor of Jonson's works was Gifford. He had been preceded by the Rev. Peter Whalley in 1756; but Whalley was an uncritical editor, and his work was of little use to Gifford except as affording him opportunity for cudgelling his unfortunate predecessor. Gifford's edition appeared in 1816, but a recent edition (Bickers and Son, 1875), which aimed at being an exact reprint, had the advantage of being supervised by the competent hand of Lieutenant-Colonel F. Cunningham, who has added many valuable notes and made excellent use of such material as has been accumulated since Gifford's time. Mr. Procter (Barry Cornwall) also edited a single volume edition, and there have been others. The only edition of Jonson's poems as distinct from his plays that we have seen is by Mr. Robert Bell, in the series published by George Bell and Sons. Mr. Bell follows Gifford in the main, but with reference to the folios, and he adds many useful notes.
The present edition differs in some respects from Bell's and from that portion of Gifford's which has to do with the poems. The folio of 1616 has been very carefully followed, and the