Page images

Epics, all acted Heroisms, Martyrdoms-up to that "Agony of bloody sweat," which all men have called divine! O brother, if this is not "worship," then I say, the more pity for worship; for this is the noblest thing yet discovered under God's sky, Who art thou that complainest of thy life of toil? Complain not. Look up, my wearied brother; see thy fellow Workmen there, in God's Eternity; surviving there, they alone surviving: sacred Band of the Immortals, celestial Body-guard of the Empire of Mankind. Even in the weak Human Memory they survive so long, as saints, as heroes, as gods; they alone surviving; peopling, they alone, the immeasured solitudes of Time! To thee Heaven, though severe, is not unkind; Heaven is kind-as a noble Mother; as that Spartan Mother, saying while she gave her son his shield, "With it, my son, or upon it!" Thou too shalt return home, in honour to thy far-distant Home, in honour; doubt it not-if in the battle thou keep thy shield! Thou, in the Eternities and deepest Death-kingdoms, art not an alien; thou every where art a denizen! Complain not; the very Spartans did not complain.


BEN JONSON. ["O RARE BEN JONSON!"-the inscription on his tomb-stone in Westminster Abbey, which a mason cut for eighteen pence to please a looker on when the grave was covering—is a familiar phrase to many who have not even opened the works of this celebrated man. Jonson was born in 1574, and died in 1637. He was a ripe scholar-a most vigorous thinker. There are passages and delineations of character in his plays, which are matchless of their kind;but he is the dramatist of peculiarities, then called "humours; "he is the converse of what he described Shakspere to be-he is "for an age," and not "for all time."]

Lovewit, a housekeeper in London, has fled to the country during a season when the plague was raging. His servant, Face, abusing his opportunities, admits an impostor, Subtle, and his female confederate, Dol, into the house; and there the three worthies carry on a profitable trade by pretending to tell fortunes, and transmute metals into gold. The first Scene exhibits the Alchemist and the Servant in high quarrel. We pass over this scene, and proceed to others which exhibit some of the more remarkable personifications of Jonson's times:SCENE I.

A principal figure in the Alchemist' is Abel Drugger, a tobacco dealer, who wants to learn a quick way to be rich:

Sub. What is your name, say you, Abel Drugger?

Drug. Yes, Sir.

Sub. A seller of tobacco?

Drug. Yes, Sir,

Sub. Umph!

Free of the grocers?

Drug. Ay, an't please you.

Sub. Well

Your business, Abel?

Drug. This, an't please your worship;
I am a young beginner, and am building

Of a new shop, and, like your worship, just

At corner of a street:-Here's the plot on't-
And I would know by art, Sir, of your worship,
Which way I should make my door, by necromancy,
And where my shelves; and which should be for boxes,
And which for pots. I would be glad to thrive, Sir:
And I was wish'd to your worship by a gentleman,
One Captain Face, that says you know men's planets,
And their good angels, and their bad.

If I do see them.

Sub. I do,

Re-enter FACE.

Face. What! My honest Abel?

Thou art well met here.

Drug. Troth, Sir, I was speaking,


Just as your worship came here, of your worship:
I pray you speak for me to master doctor.
Face. He shall do any thing. Doctor, do
This is my friend, Abel, an honest fellow;
He lets me have good tobacco, and he does not
Sophisticate it with sack-lees or oil,
Nor washes it in muscadel and grains,
Nor buries it in gravel under ground,
But keeps it in fine lily-pots, that, open'd,
Smell like conserve of roses or French beans.
He has his mapel block, his silver tongs,
Winchester pipes, and fire of juniper:

A neat, spruce, honest fellow, and no goldsmith.


Sub. He is a fortunate fellow, that I am sure on.

Face. Already Sir, have you found it? Lo thee, Abel!
Sub. And in right way toward riches-

Face. Sir!

Sub. This summer

He will be of the clothing of his company,

And next spring call'd to the scarlet; spend what he can,

Face. What! and so little beard?

Sub. Sir, you must think,

He may have a receipt to make hair come :

But he'll be wise, preserve his youth, and fine for 't;

His fortune looks for him another way

Face. 'Slid, Doctor, how canst thou know this so soon? I am amused at that!

Sub. By a rule, Captain,

In metoposcopy, which I do work by;

A certain star in the forehead, which you see not.

Your chestnut or your olive-colour'd face

Does never fail: and your long ear doth promise.

I knew 't, by certain spots, too, in his teeth,

And on the nail of his mercurial finger.

Face. Which finger's that?

Sub. His little finger.

You were born upon a Wednesday?

Drug. Yes, indeed, Sir.

Sub. The thumb, in chiromancy, we give Venus;

The fore-finger to Jove; the midst, to Saturn;

The ring to Sol; the least, to Mercury,

Who was the lord, Sir, of his horoscope,

His house of life being Libra; which foreshew'd,

He should be a merchant, and should trade with balance. Face. Why, this is strange! Is it not, honest Nab? Sub. There is a ship now, coming from Ormus,

That shall yield him such a commodity

Of drugs-This is the west, this the south?

Drug. Yes, Sir.

Sub. And those are your two sides?

Drug. Ay, Sir.

[Pointing to the plan.

Sub. Make me your door, then, south; your broadside west;

And on the east side of your shop, aloft,

Write Mathlai, Tarmiel, and Baraborat;

Upon the north part, Rael, Velel, Thiel.

They are the names of those mercurial spirits
That do fright flies from boxes.

Drug. Yes, Sir.

Sub. And

Beneath your threshold bury me a loadstone

To draw in gallants that wear spurs: the rest
They'll seem to follow.

Face. That's a secret, Nab!

Why, how now, Abel! Is this true?

Drug. Good Captain,

What must I give?

Face. Nay, I'll not counsel thee.

[Aside to FACE.

Thou hear'st what wealth (he says, spend what thou canst)
Thou'rt like to come to.

Drug. I would gi' him a crown.

Face. A crown! And toward such a fortune? Heart,
Thou shalt rather gi' him thy shop. No gold about thec?
Drug. Yes, I have a Portague, I have kept this half-year.
Face. Out on thee, Nab! 'Slight, there was such an offer.
Shalt keep't no longer, I'll giv't him for thee. Doctor,
Nab prays your worship to drink this, and swears
He will appear more grateful, as your skill

Does raise him in the world.

Drug. I would entreat

Another favour of his worship.

Face. What is 't, Nab?

Drug. But to look over, Sir, my almanack, And cross out my ill days, that I may neither

Bargain or trust upon them.

Face. That he shall, Nab:

Leave it, it shall be done, 'gainst afternoon.

Sub. And a direction for his shelves.

Face. Now, Nab,

Art thou well pleased, Nab?

Drug. "Thank, Sir, both your worships.
Face. Away.-

Why, now, you smoaky persecutor of nature!
Now do you see that something's to be done,
Beside your beech-coal, and your corsive waters,

Your crosslets, crucibles, and cucurbites?


You must have stuff, brought home to you, to work on:
And yet you think I am at no expense

In searching out these veins, then following them,
Then trying them out.

Sub. You are pleasant, Sir.

Dol. I have spied Sir Epicure Mammon

Sub. Where?

Dol. Coming along, at far end of the lane,
Slow of his feet, but earnest of his tongue
To one that's with him.

Sub. Face, go you, and shift.

Dol, you must presently make ready, too.
Dol. Why, what's the matter?

Sub. Oh, I did look for him

With the sun's rising: marvel he could sleep.
This is the day I am to perfect for him

The magisterium, our great work, the stone ;
And yield it, made, into his hands of which
He has, this month, talked as he were possess'd.
And now he's dealing pieces on't away.

I see no end of his labours. He will make
Nature ashamed of her long sleep: when art,
Who's but a step-dame, shall do more than she,
In her best love to mankind, ever could:

If his dream last, he'll turn the age to gold.


[Exit FACE.


The following exhibition of the character of a covetous sensualist is, perhaps, unequalled in the whole range of the drama. We cannot, however, show how thoroughly Jonson has worked up the idea;-his coarseness is unbounded:


Mam. Come on, Sir. Now, you set your foot on shore
In Novo Orbe; here's the rich Peru:

And there within, Sir, are the golden mines,

Great Solomon's Ophir ! he was sailing to 't

Three years, but we have reach'd it in ten months,
This is the day, wherein, to all my friends,

I will pronounce the happy word, Be rich;
Where is my Subtle, there? Within, ho!

Face. (within.) Sir, he'll come to you by and by.
Mam. That is his fire-drake,

His Lungs, his Zephyrus, he that puffs his coals,
Till he firk nature up, in her own centre.

You are not faithful, Sir. This night, I'll change
All that is metal, in my house, to gold:

And, early in the morning, will I send
To all the plumbers and the pewterers,

And buy their tin and lead up; and to Lothbury
For all the copper.

Sur. What, and turn that too?

Mam. Yes, and I'll purchase Devonshire and Cornwall,
And make them perfect Indies! You admire now?

Sur. No, faith.

Mam. But when you see th' effects of the Great Medicine,

Of which one part projected on a hundred
Of Mercury, or Venus, or the Moon,
Shall turn it to as many of the Sun;
Nay, to a thousand, so ad infinitum :
You will believe me.

Sur. Yes, when I see't, I will.

Mam. Do you think I fable with you?
He that has once the flower of the sun,
The perfect ruby, which we call elixir,
Not only can do that, but, by its virtue,
Can confer honour, love, respect, long life;
Give safety, valour, yea, and victory,

I assure you,

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »