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Guard me, I beseech ye!
[Sleeps. JACHIMO, from the trunk. Jach. The crickets sing, and man's o'er-labor'd sense Repairs itself by rest : our Tarquin thus Did softly press the rushes, ere he wakend The chastity he wounded. ---Cytherea, How bravely thou com’st thy bed! fresh lily, And whiter than the sheets! that I might touch! But kiss; one kiss !—Rubies unparagon'd, How dearly they do 't—'Tis her breathing that Perfumes the chamber thus :—the flame o' the taper Bows towards her; and would under-peep her lids, To see the enclosed lights ; now canopied Under those windows, white and azure, lac'd With blue of heaven's own tint. But my design To note the chamber, I will write all down: Such and such pictures :—there the window : such The adornment of her bed :—the arras, figures, Why, such and such,—and the contents o' the story. Ah, but some natural notes about her body Above ten thousand meaner movables Would testify, to enrich mine inventory. O sleep, thou ape of Death, lie dull upon her! And be her sense but as a monument, Thus in a chapel lying !-Come off, come off;
[Takes off her bracelet. As slippery, as the Gordian knot was hard ! 'Tis mine, and this will witness outwardly, As strongly as the conscience does within, To the madding of her lord. On her left breast, A mole, cinque-spotted, like the crimson drops I’ the bottom of a cowslip. Here's a voucher, Stronger than ever law could make: this secret Will force him think I have pick'd the lock, and ta’en The treasure of her honor. No more. To what end ? Why should I write this down that's riveted, Screw'd, to my memory? She hath been reading late The tale of Tereus; here the leaf's turn'd down Where Philomel gave up :-I have enough To the trunk again, and shut the spring of it. Swift, swift, you dragons of the night, that dawning May bare the raven's eye! I lodge in fear; Though this a heavenly angel, hell is here.
[Clock strikes. One, two, three,-Time, time!
[Goes into the trunk. The scene closes.
BORN, 1574,-DIED, 1637.
IF Ben Jonson had not tried to do half what he did, he would have had a greater fame. His will and ambition hurt him, as they always hurt genius when set in front of it. Lasting reputation of power is only to be obtained by power itself; and this, in poetry, is the result not so much, if at all, of the love of the power, as of the power of love,—the love of truth and beauty, great and potent things they,—not the love of self, which is generally a very little thing. The “supposed rugged old bard,” notwithstanding his huffing and arrogance, had elegance, feeling, imagination, great fancy; but by straining to make them all greater than they were, bringing in the ancients to help him, and aiming to include the lowest farce (perhaps by way of outdoing the universality of Shakspeare), he became as gross in his pretensions, as drink had made him in person. His jealous irritability and assumption tired out the gentlest and most generous of his contemporaries—men who otherwise really liked him (and he them),-Decker for one ; and he has ended in appearing to posterity rather the usurper than the owner of a
He made such a fuss with his learning, that he is now suspected to have had nothing else. Hazlitt himself cannot give him credit for comic genius, so grave and all-in-all does his pedantry appear to that critic, -an erroneous judgment, as it seems to me, who cannot help thinking, that what altogether made Ben what he was projected his ultra-jovial person rather towards comedy than tragedy ; and as a proof of this, his tragedies are all borrowed, but his comedies his own. Twelfth Night and other plays of Shakspeare preceded and surpassed him in his boasted "humor;" but his Alchemist, and especially his Volpone, seem to me at the head of all severer English comedy. The latter is a masterpiece of plot and treatment. Ben's fancy, a power tending also rather to the comic than tragic, was in far greater measure than his imagination; and their strongest united efforts, as in the Witches' Meeting, and the luxurious anticipations of Sir Epicure Mammon, produce a smiling as well as a serious admiration. The three happiest of all his short effusions (two of which are in this volume) are the epitaph on Lady Pembroke, the address to Cynthia (both of which are serious indeed, but not tragic), and the Catch of the Satyrs, which is unique for its wild and melodious mixture of the comic and the poetic. His huge farces, to be sure (such as Bartholomew Fair), are execrable. They seem to talk for talking's sake, like drunkards. And though his famous verses, beginning “Still to
“ Still to be neat, still to be drest,” are elegantly worded, I never could admire them. There is a coarseness implied in their very refinement.
After all, perhaps it is idle to wish a writer had been otherwise than he was, especially if he is an original in his way, and worthy of admiration. His faults he may have been unable to mend, and they may not have been without their use, even to his merits. If Ben had not been Ben, Sir Epicure Mammon might not have talked so high a tone. We should have missed, perhaps, something of the excess and altitude of his expectations of his
Gums of Paradise and eastern air.
Let it not be omitted, that Milton went to the masques and odes of Ben Jonson for some of the elegances even of his digni. fied muse. See Warton's edition of his Minor Poems, passim. Our extracts shall commence with one of these odes, combining classic elegance with a tone of modern feeling, and a music like a serenade.
TO CYNTHIA ;-THE MOON.
Queen of hunters, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid asleep,
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Bless us then with wished sight,
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal shining quiver ;
Thou, that mak’st a day of night,
THE LOVE-MAKING OF LUXURY.
Volpone makes love to Celia.
See, behold, What thou art queen of; not in expectation, As I feed others, but possess'd and crown'd. See here, a rope of pearl ; and each, more orient Than that the brave Ægyptian queen caroused : Dissolve and drink them. See, a carbuncle, May put out both the eyes of our St. Mark; A diamond would have bought Lollia Pauliner, When she came in like star-light, hid with jewels, That were the spoils of provinces ; take these And wear and lose them; yet remains an ea
To purchase them again, and this whole state.
Cel. Good sir, these things might move a mind affected
'Tis the beggar's virtue :
Sir Epicure Mammon, expecting to obtain the Philosopher's Stone,
riots in the anticipation of enjoyment.
Enter MAMMON and SURLY.
Mam. Come on, sir. Now, you set your foot on shore