Jonson was a skilful satirist of contemporary society, producing Volpone for the stage in 1606 and The Alchemist in 1610. It is highly likely that Shakespeare would have appeared in a production of another of Jonson’s plays, Every Man in His Humour, and, in spite of their professional rivalry, Jonson appeared to hold Shakespeare in high regard. His tribute written on the death of Shakespeare contains the often quoted line ‘He was not of an age but for all time.’

Witty, sociable and scornful of ignorance, Jonson attracted an influential circle of friends and admirers known as the ‘Tribe of Ben’, which included members of the nobility and other writers.

Jonson’s poetry is informed by his classical learning; among his well-known poems is his elegant country­house poem ‘To Penshurst’. He could also, however, write with touching simplicity in poems such as‘My Picture Left in Scotland’ and those written on the death of his children.

Recording commissioned by the Poetry Archive, reproduced here by kind permission of the reader.

Poems by Ben Jonson

Song To Celia

Read by Jean Sprackland
Song To Celia - Ben Jonson - Read by Jean Sprackland