What needs my Shakespear
for his honour'd Bones,
The labour of an age in piled Stones,
Or that his hallow'd reliques
should be hid
Under a Star-ypointing Pyramid
Dear son of memory, great heir of Fame,
What need'st thou such weak witnes of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thy self a live-long Monument
For whilst to th'shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easie numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalu'd Book,
lines with deep impression took,
Then thou our fancy of it self bereaving,
Dost make us Marble1
with too much conceaving;
And so Sepulcher
'd in such pomp dost lie,
That Kings for such a Tomb would wish to die.
This was John Milton
's first published poem. It was released anonymously in Shakespeare
's second folio
of plays, under the title "An Epitaph
on the admirable Dramaticke Poet, W.SHAKESPEARE," in 1632
. The title "On Shakespear," sans
the trailing "e," is taken from the 1645
edition of the poem; the printings of 1632
spell it the modern way, "Shakespeare."
1 - Smiliar imagery, of the reader changing into a marble statue, appears in Milton's Il Penseroso. It may be referring to the myth of Niobe, who bragged that her children were superior to Leto's children, Diana and Apollo, and was turned to stone as a punishment. Similar allusions are in Shakespeare's own Sonnet 55.