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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 531

Here are some quotes from Ben Jonson's poem "To Penshurst," written in rhyming couplets:

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Thou art not, Penshurst, built to envious show,
Of touch or marble; nor canst boast a row
Of polished pillars, or a roof of gold;
Thou hast no lantern, whereof tales are told,
Or stair, or courts; but stand’st an ancient pile . . .

The poem opens with a contrast between Penshurst, the home of the literary Sidney family, and other great estates. Penshurst does not, Jonson writes, boast of the marvels in architecture and display of other, more ostentatious, great houses.

Thou joy’st in better marks, of soil, of air,
Of wood, of water; therein thou art fair.

After stating what Penshurst does not have, the poet gets to the heart of the matter—the house instead boasts the beauties of nature, and he will expound on these beauties for the first half of the poem.

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Latest answer posted April 21, 2016, 9:08 pm (UTC)

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Each bank doth yield thee conies; and the tops,
Fertile of wood, Ashore and Sidney’s copse,
To crown thy open table, doth provide
The purpled pheasant with the speckled side;
The painted partridge lies in every field,
And for thy mess is willing to be killed.

In the first half of the poem, the poet speaks about how productive the lands around the house are. The land's woods yield game that winds up on the family's table and gives them ample food. The land is productive, and it is clear that its value lies in its ability to feed the family. The description of the land also alludes to the bounties of the biblical garden of Eden.

And though thy walls be of the country stone,
They’re reared with no man’s ruin, no man’s groan;
There’s none that dwell about them wish them down;
But all come in, the farmer and the clown,
And no one empty-handed, to salute
Thy lord and lady . . .

The walls that the poet describes fencing off the estate are symbols not of exclusion and isolation but of inclusion and welcome. People from the area want to visit the lord and lady and do not resent them but instead celebrate them and visit with gifts.

Here no man tells my cups; nor, standing by,
A waiter doth my gluttony envy,
But gives me what I call, and lets me eat;
He knows below he shall find plenty of meat.

Unlike at many rich people's estates, the guests at Penshurst can eat freely. Waiters do not begrudge them what they ask for, as there is plenty for everyone to eat and the family that lives in the house shares its bounty freely with others.

That found King James when, hunting late this way
With his brave son, the prince, they saw thy fires
Shine bright on every hearth, as the desires
Of thy Penates had been set on flame
To entertain them; or the country came
With all their zeal to warm their welcome here.

The house welcomed King James and his son, who were hunting nearby and saw the chimney. "Penates" is an allusion to the Roman gods of the hearth, and the reference to "Penates" symbolizes the welcoming nature of the house.

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