Here, then, is a short sampling of the play's poetry, starting at the bottom of the heap and working upward.
Poetry that falls on its face, by a would-be poet who lacks talent or skill:
To thee, the purest object of my sense,
The most refined essence heaven covers,
Send I these lines, wherein I do commence
The happy state of turtle-billing lovers.
Mock-poetry, given as a joke:
From Catadupa and the banks of Nile,
Where only breeds your monstrous crocodile,
Now are we purposed for to fetch our style.
Now for something more serious: piece of Old Knowell's advice. Old Knowell was first played by William Shakespeare himself, and the character walks a fine comic line between wisdom and foolishness. Knowell's speeches are some of the best poetry in the play, which makes it all the more ironic that he views his son's interest in poetry as “vain” and possibly dangerous. Here he is saying something pretty sensible about how people shouldn't rely on any inherited respect that comes with their family name:
Stand not so much on your gentility,
Which is an airy and mere borrowed thing
From dead men's dust and bones, and none of yours
Except you make or hold it.
The biggest portion of high-end poetry is reserved for Master Kitely, a rich merchant under the influence of a Othello-like jealousy. In fact, Kitely's name in Jonson's first version of the play was Thorello, making influence on Shakespeare's later tragedy seem very possible.
He makes my house here common as a mart,
A theatre, a public receptacle
For giddy humor and diseasèd riot;
And here, as in a tavern, or a stews,
He and his wild associates spend their hours
In repetition of lascivious jests,
Swear, leap, drink, dance, and revel night by night,
Control my servants: and indeed, what not?
A new disease? I know not, new or old,
But it may well be called poor mortals' plague;
For like a pestilence it doth infect
The houses of the brain.
Oh, Beauty is a project of some power . . .
She will infuse true motion in a stone,
Put glowing fire in an icy soul,
Stuff peasants' bosoms with proud Caesar's spleen,
Pour rich device into an empty basin,
Bring youth to Folly's gate, there train him in,
And after all extenuate his sin.
Here is the young Edward Knowell defending poetry from the bad opinions of his father and other characters in the play:
But view her in her glorious ornaments,
Attired in the majesty of art,
Set high in spirit with the precious taste
Of sweet philosophy, and, which is most,
Crowned with the rich traditions of a soul
That hates to have her dignity profaned
With any relish of an earthly thought:
Oh, then how proud a presence doth she bear!
There's also a substantial amount of Latin in the play, including this, a quotation from the great Roman poet Virgil's Eclogues that Clement uses to end the play: it is spoken by the shepherd who judges a pastoral poetry contest and means “Turn off the fountains [of poetic inspiration], boys: the fields have drunk enough.”:
Claudite iam rivos, pueri, sat prata biberunt