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'Tis a sweet madness runs along with them,
To think, all that are aim'd at still are struck:
Then, where the shaft still lights, make that the mark:
And so each fear or fever-shaken fool
May challenge Teucer's hand in archery.
Good troth, if I knew any man so vile,
To act the crimes these Whippers reprehend,
Or what their servile apes gesticulate,
I should not then much muse their shreds were liked;
Since ill men have a lust f hear others' sins,
All good men have a zeal to hear sin shamed.
But when it is all excrement they vent,
Base filth and offal; or t/irf/*, notable
As ocean-piracies, or highway - stand s ;
And not a crime there tax'd, but is their oim,
Or what their own foul thoughts suggested to them;

304 Ben Jonson's Plays

And that, in all their heat of taxing others,

Not one of them but lives himself, if known,

Improbior satiram scribente cinaedo,

What should I say more, than turn stone with wonder !

Nas. / never saw this play bred all this tumult:
What was there in it could so deeply offend,
And stir so many hornets ?

Aut. SJiall I tell you ?

Nas. Yes, and ingenuously.

Aut. Then, by the hope
Which I prefer unto all other objects,
I can profess, I never writ that piece
More innocent or empty of offence.
Some salt it had, but neither tooth nor gall,
Nor was there in it any circumstance
Which, in the setting down, I could suspect
Might be perverted by an enemy's tongue;
Only it had the fault to be caWd mine;
That was the crime.

Pol. No ! why, they say you tax'd
The law and lawyers, captains and the players,
By their particular names.

Aut. It is not so.

I used no name. My books have still been taught
To spare the persons, and to speak the vices.
These are mere slanders, and enforced by such
As have no safer ways to men's disgraces.
But their own lies and loss of honesty:
Fellows of practised and most laxative tongues,
Whose empty and eager bellies, in the year,
Compel their brains to many desperate shifts,
(I spare to name them, for their wretchedness
Fury itself would pardon). These, or such,
Whether of malice, or of ignorance,
Or itch f have me their adversary, I know not,
Or all these mixt; but sure I am, three years
They did provoke me with their petulant styles
On every stage: and I at last unwilling,
But weary, I confess, of so much trouble,
TJiought I would try if shame could win upon 'em;
And therefore chose Augustus Ccesar's times,
When wit and arts were at their height in Rome,
To shew that Virgil, Horace, and the rest
Of those great master-spirits, did not want
Detractors then, or practicers against them:
And by this line, although no parallel,
I hoped at last they would sit down and blush;
But nothing I could find more contrary.
And though the impudence of flies be great,

The Poetaster 305

Yet this hath so provoked the angry wasps,
Or, as you said, of the next nest, the hornets,
That they fly buzzing, mad, about my nostrils,
And, like so many screaming grasshoppers
Held by the wings, fill every ear with noise.
And wliat ? those former calumnies you mentioned.
First, of the law: indeed I brought in Ovid
Chid by his angry father for neglecting
TJie study of their laws for poetry:
And I am warranted by his own words:

Saepe pater dixifc, studium quid inutile tentas ?
Mseonides nullas ipse reliquit opes.

And in far harsher terms elsewhere, as these:

Non me verbosas leges ediscere, non ine
Ingrato voces prostituisse foro.

But how this should relate unto our laws,
Or the just ministers, with least abuse,
I reverence both too much to understand !

Then, for the captain, I will only speak
An epigram I here Jiave made: it is
UNTO TRUE SOLDIERS. That's the lemma: mark it.
Strength of my country, whilst I bring to view
Such as are mis-call'd captains, and wrong you,
And your high names; I do desire, that thence,
Be nor put on you, nor you take offence:
I swear by your true friend, my muse, I love
Your great profession which I once did prove;
And did not shame it with my actions then,
Xo more than I dare now do with my pen.
He that not trusts me, having vow'd thus much,
But's angry for the captain, still: is such.

Now for the players, it is true, I tax'd them,
And yet but some; and those so sparingly,
As all the rest might have sat still unquestioned,
Had they but had the wit or conscience
To think well of themselves. But impotent, they
Thought each man's vice belonged to their whole tribe;
And much good do't them ! What they have done 'gainst me,
I am not moved with: if it gave them meat,
Or got them clothes, 'tis well; that was their end.
Only amongst them, I am sorry for
Some better natures, by the rest so drawn,
To run in that vile line.

Pol. And is this all !
Will you not answer then the libels ?

Aut. No.

Pol. Nor the Untrussers ?

306 Ben Jonson's Plays

Aut. Neither.

Pol. Y'are undone then.

Aut. With whom ?

Pol. The world.

Aut. The bawd f

Pol. It will be taken
To be stupidity or tameness in you.

Aut. But they that have incensed me, can in soul
Acquit me of that guilt. They know I dare
To spurn or baffle them, or squirt their eyes
With ink or urine; or I could do worse,
Arm'd with Archilochus* fury, write Iambics,
Should make the desperate lashers hang themselves;
Ehime them to death, as they do Irish rats
In drumming tunes. Or, living, I could stamp
Their foreheads with those deep and public brands ,
That the whole company of barber -surgeons
Should not take off with all their art and plasters.
And these my prints should last, still to be read
In their pale fronts; when, what they write 'gainst me
Shall, like a figure drawn in water, fleet,
And the poor wretched papers be employed
To clothe tobacco, or some cheaper drug:
This I could do, and make them infamous.
But, to what end ? when their own deeds have marked 'em;
And that I know, within his guilty breast
Each slanderer bears a whip that shall torment him
Worse than a million of these temporal plagues:
Which to pursue, were but a feminine humour t
And far beneath the dignity of man.

Nas. 'Tis true; for to revenge their injuries,
Were to confess you felt them. Let them go,
And use the treasure of the fool, their tongues,
Who makes his gain, by speaking worst of best.

Pol. 0, but they lay particular imputations

Aut. As what ?

Pol. That all your writing is mere railing.

Aut. Ha?

If all the salt in the old comedy
Should be so censured, or the sharper wit
Of the bold satire termed scolding rage,
What age could then compare with tlwsefor buffoons ?
What should be said of Aristophanes,
Persius, or Juvenal, whose names we now
So glorify in schools, at least pretend it . ?
Have they no other ?

Pol. Yes; they say you are slow,
And scarce bring forth a play a year.

Aut. 'Tis true.

The Poetaster 307

I would they could not say that I did that /

There's all the joy that I take in their trade,

Unless such scribes as these might be proscribed

Th' abused theatres. They would think it strange, now,

A man should take but colts -foot for one day,

And, between whiles, spit out a better poem

Than e'er the master of art, or giver of wit,

Their belly, made. Yet, this is possible,

If a free mind had but the patience,

To think so much together and so vile.

But that these base and beggarly conceits

Should carry it, by the multitude of voices,

Against the most abstracted work, opposed

To the stuff' d nostrils of the drunken rout !

0, this would make a learn'd and liberal soul

To rive his stained quill up to the back,

And damn his long-watch'd labours to the fire;

Things that were born when none but the still night

And his dumb candle, saw his pinching throes;

Were not his own free merit a more crown

Unto his travails than their reeling claps.

This 'tis that strikes me silent, seals my lips,

And apts me rather to sleep out my time,

Than I would waste it in contemned strifes

With these vile Ibides, these unclean birds,

That make their mouths their clysters, and still purge

From their hot entrails. But I leave the monsters

To their own fate. And, since the Comic Muse

Hath proved so ominous to me, I will try

If TRAGEDY have a more kind aspect;

Her favours in my next I will pursue,

Where, if I prove the pleasure but of one,

So he judicious be, he shall be alone

A theatre unto me; Once I'll say

To strike the ear of time in those fresh strains,

As shall, beside the cunning of their ground,
Give cause to some of wonder, some despite,

And more despair, to imitate their sound.
/, that spend half my nights, and all my days,

Here in a cell, to get a dark paleface,
To come forth worth the ivy or the bays,

And in this age can hope no other grace
Leave me ! There's something come into my thought,
Tint must and shall be sung high and aloof,
Safe from the wolfs black jaw, and the dull r/.x-.y'* J>tf.

Xas. / reference these raptures, and obey thet/i.

[The scene closes.




MY LORD, If ever any ruin were so great as to survive, I think this be
one I send you, The Fall of Sejanus. It is a poem, that, if I well remember,
in your lordship's sight, suffered no less violence from our people here,
than the subject of it did from the rage of the people of Rome; but with
a different fate, as, I hope, merit : for this hath outlived their malice, and
begot itself a greater favour than he lost, the love of good men. Amongst
whom, if I make your lordship the first it thanks, it is not without a just
confession of the bond your benefits have, and ever shall hold upon me,
Your lordship's most faithful honourer. BEN JONSON.


THE following and voluntary labours of my friends, prefixed to my book,
have relieved me in much whereat, without them, I should necessarily
have touched. Now I will onlv use three or four short and needful notes,
and so rest.

First, if it be objected, that what I publish is no true poem, in the strict
laws of time, I confess it: as also in the want of a proper chorus; whose
habit and moods are such and so difficult, as not any, whom I have seen,
since the ancients, no, not they who have most presently affected laws,
have yet come in the way of. Nor is it needful, or almost possible in these
our times, and to such auditors as commonly things are presented, to
observe the old state and splendour of dramatic poems, with preservation
of any popular delight. But of this I shall take more seasonable cause
to speak, in my observations upon Horace his Art of Poetry, which, with
the text translated, I intend shortly to publish. In the mean time, if in
truth of argument, dignity of persons, gravity and height of elocution,
fulness and frequency of sentence, I have discharged the other offices of
a tragic writer, let not the absence of these forms be imputed to me,
wherein I shall give you occasion hereafter, and without my boast, to
think I could better prescribe, than omit the due use for want of a con-
venient knowledge.

The next is, lest in some nice nostril the quotations might savour
affected, I do let you know, that I abhor nothing more; and I have only
done it to shew my integrity in the story, and save myself in those common
torturers that bring all wit to the rack; whose noses are ever like swine,
spoiling and rooting up the Muses' gardens; and their whole bodies like
moles, as blindly working under earth, to cast any, the least, hills upon

Whereas they are in Latin, and the work in English, it was presupposed
none but the learned would take the pains to confer them: the authors
themselves being all in the learned tongues, save one, with whose English
side I have had little to do. To which it may be required, since I have
quoted the page, to name what editions I followed: Tacit. Lips, in quarto,
Antwerp, edit. 1600; Dio. folio, Hen. Steph. 1592. For the rest, as
Sueton., Seneca, etc., the chapter doth sufficiently dkect, or the edition
is not varied.


Sejanus 309

Lastly, I would inform you, that this book, in all numbers, is not the
same with that which was acted on the public stage; wherein a second
pen had good share : in place of which, I have rather chosen to put weaker,
and, no doubt, less pleasing, of mine own, than to defraud so happy a
genius of his right by my loathed usurpation.

Fare you well, and if you read farther of me, and like, I shall not be
afraid of it, though you praise me out.

Neque enim mihi cornea fibra est.

But that I should plant my felicity in your general saying, good, or well
etc., were a weakness which the better sort of you might worthily contemn,
if not absolutely hate me for. BEN JONSON;

and no such,
Palma negata macrum, donata reducit opimuni.


.^ELIUS SEJANUS, son to Seius Strabo, a gentleman of Rome, and born at
Vulsinium; after his long service in court, first under Augustus; after-
ward, Tiberius; grew into that favour with the latter, and won him by
those arts, as there wanted nothing but the name to make him a co-partner
of the empire. Which greatness of his, Drusus, the emperor's son, not
brooking; after many smothered dislikes, it one day breaking out, the
prince struck him publicly on the face. To revenge which disgrace, Livia,
the wife of Drusus (being before corrupted by him to her dishonour, and
the discovery of her husband's counsels) Sejanus practiseth with, together
with her physician called Eudemus, and one Lygdus an eunuch, to poison
Drusus. This their inhuman act having successful and unsuspected
passage, it emboldeneth Sejanus to further and more insolent projects,
even the ambition of the empire; where finding the lets he must encounter
to be many and hard, in respect of the issue of Germanicus, who were
next in hope for the succession, he deviseth to make Tiberius' self his
means, and instils into his ears many doubts and suspicions, both against
the princes, and their mother Agrippina; which Caesar jealously hearken-
ing to, as covetously consenteth to their ruin, and their friends. In this
time, the better to mature and strengthen his design, Sejanus labours to
marry Livia, and worketh with all his ingine, to remove Tiberius from the
knowledge of public business, with allurements of a quiet and retired hie;
the latter of which, Tiberius, out of a proneness to lust, and a desire to
hide those unnatural pleasures which he could not so publicly practise,
embraceth: the former enkindleth his fears, and there gives him first
cause of doubt or suspect towards Sejanus: against whom he raiseth in
private a new instrument, one Sertorius Macro, and by him underworketh,
discovers the other's counsels, his means, his ends, sounds the affections of
the senators, divides, distracts them: at last, when Sejanus least looketh,
and is most secure; with pretext of doing him an unwonted honour in the
senate, he trains him from his guards, and with a long doubtful letter, in
one day hath him suspected, accused, condemned, and torn in pieces by
the rage of the people.


Ben Jonson's Plays































Servi, etc.





SCENE I. A State Room in the Palace.
Enter SABINUS and SILIUS, followed by LATIARIS.

Sab. Hail, Cams l Silius !

Sil. Titius Sabinus, 2 hail !
You're rarely met in court.

Sab. Therefore, well met.

Sil. 'Tis true: indeed, this place is not our sphere.

Sab. No, Silius, we are no good inginers.
We want their fine arts, and their thriving use
Should make us graced, or favour'd of the times:
We have no shift of faces, no cleft tongues,
No soft and glutinous bodies, that can stick,
Like snails on painted walls; or, on our breasts,
Creep up, to fall from that proud height, to which
We did by slavery, 3 not by service climb.
We are no guilty men, and then no great;
We have no place in court, office in state,
That we can say, 4 we owe unto our crimes:

1 De Caio Silio, vid. Tacit. Lips. edit, quarto; Ann. Lib. i. p. n, Lib
ii. p. 28 et 33.

2 De Titio Sabino, vid. Tacit. Lib. iv. p. 79.

8 Tacit. Ann. Lib. i. p. 2. * Juv. Sat. i. v. 75.

Sejanus 3 1 1

We burn with no black secrets, 1 which can make
Us dear to the pale authors; or live fear'd
Of their still waking jealousies, to raise
Ourselves a fortune, by subverting theirs.
We stand not in the lines, that do advance
To that so courted point.

Enter SATRIUS and NATTA, at a distance.

Sil. But yonder lean
A pair that do.

Sab. [salutes Latiaris.] Good cousin Latiaris. 2

Sil. Satrius Secundus, 3 and Pinnarius Natta, 4
The great Sejanus' clients: there be two,
Know more than honest counsels; whose close breasts,
Were they ripp'd up to light, it would be found
A poor and idle sin, to which their trunks
Had not been made fit organs. These can lie,
Flatter, and swear, forswear, deprave, 5 inform,
Smile, and betray; make guilty men; then beg
The forfeit lives, to get their livings; cut
Men's throats with whisperings; sell to gaping suitors
The empty smoke, that flies about the palace;
Laugh when their patron laughs; sweat when he sweats;
Be hot and cold with him; change every mood,
Habit, and garb, as often as he varies;
Observe him, as his watch observes his clock;
And, true, as turquoise in the dear lord's ring,
Look well or ill with him: 6 ready to praise
His lordship, if he spit, or but p fair,
Have an indifferent stool, or break wind well;
Nothing can 'scape their catch.

Sab. Alas ! these things
Deserve no note, conferr'd with other vile
And filthier flatteries, 7 that corrupt the times;
When, not alone our gentries chief are fain
To make their safety from such sordid acts;
But all our consuls, 8 and no little part
Of such as have been praetors, yea, the most
Of .senators, 9 that else not use their voices,
Start up in public senate and there strive
Who shall propound most abject things, and base.

1 Juv. Sat. iii. v. 49, etc.

3 De Latiari, cons. Tacit. Ann. Lib. iv. p. 94, et Dion. Step. edit. fol.
Lib. Iviii. p. 711.

3 De Satrio Secundo, et

4 Pinnario Natta, leg. Tacit. Ann. Lib. iv. p. 83. Et de Satrio cons.
Senec. Consol. ad Marciam.

6 Vid. Sen. de Benef. Lib. iii. cap. 26.

Juv. Sat. iii. ver. 105, ftc. 7 Vid. Tacit. Ann. Lib. 1. p. 3.

Tacit. Ann. Lib. iii. p. 69. * Pedarii.

312 Ben Jonson's Plays

So much, as oft Tiberius hath been heard,
Leaving the court, to cry, 1 O race of men,
Prepared for servitude ! which shew'd that he,
Who least the public liberty could like,
As lothly brook'd their flat servility.

Sil, Well, all is worthy of us, were it more,
Who with our riots, pride, and civil hate,
Have so provok'd the justice of the gods:
We, that, within these fourscore years, were bora
Free, equal lords of the triumphed world,
And knew no masters, but affections;
To which betraying first our liberties,
We since became the slaves to one man's lusts;
And now to many: 2 every minist'ring spy
That will accuse and swear, is lord of you,
Of me, of all our fortunes and our lives.
Our looks are call'd to question, 3 and our words,
How innocent soever, are made crimes;
We shall not shortly dare to tell our dreams,
Or think, but 'twill be treason.

Sab. Tyrants' arts

Are to give flatterers grace; accusers, power;
That those may seem to kill whom they devour.


Now, good Cremutius Cordus. 4

Cor. [salutes Sabinus ] Hail to your lordship !

Nat. [whispers Latiaris.] Who's that salutes your cousin ?

Lat. 'Tis one Cordus,
A gentleman of Rome: one that has writ
Annals of late, they say, and very well.

Nat. Annals ! of what times ?

Lat. I think of Pompey's, 5
And Caius Caesar's; and so down to these.

Nat. How stands he affected to the present state ?
Is he or Drusian, 6 or Germanican,
Or ours, or neutral ?

Lat. I know him not so far.

Nat. Those times are somewhat queasy to be touch'd.
Have you or seen, or heard part of his work ?

Lat. Not I; he means they shall be public shortly.

1 Tacit. Ann. Lib. iii. p. 69.

z Lege Tacit. Ann. Lib. i. p. 24. de Romano, Hispano, et caeteris, ibid,
et Lib. iii. Ann. p. 61 et 62. Juv. Sat. x. v. 87. Suet. Tib. cap. 61.

3 Vid. Tacit. Ann. i. p. 4, et Lib. iii. p. 62. Suet. Tib. cap. 61. Senec.
de Benef. Lib. iii. cap. 26.

4 De Crem. Cordo, vid. Tacit. Ann. Lib. iv. p. 83, 84. Senec. Cons, ad
Marciam. Dio. Lib. Ivii. p. 710. Suet. Aug. c. 35. Tib. c. 61. Cal. c. 16.

6 Suet. Aug. cap. 35.

*_Vid. de faction. Tacit. Ann. Lib. ii. p. 39. et Lib. iv. p. 79.

Sejanus 3 i 3

Nat. O, Cordus do you call him ?

Lat. Ay. [Exeunt Natta and Satrius.

Sab. But these our times
Are not the same, Arruntius. 1

Arr. Times ! the men,

The men are not the same: 'tis we are base,
Poor, and degenerate from the exalted strain
Of our great fathers. Where is now the soul
Of god-like Cato ? he, that durst be good,
When Csesar durst be evil ; and had power,
As not to live his slave, to die his master?
Or where's the constant Brutus, that being proof
Against all charm of benefits, did strike
So brave a blow into the monster's heart
That sought unkindly to captive his country ?
0, they are fled the light ! Those mighty spirits
Lie raked up with their ashes in their urns,
And not a spark of their eternal fire
Glows in a present bosom. All's but blaze,
Flashes and smoke, wherewith we labour so,
There's nothing Roman in us; nothing good,
Gallant, or great: 'tis true that Cordus says,
' Brave Cassius was the last of all that race."

DRUSUS passes over the stage, attended by HATERITJS, etc.

Sab. Stand by! lord Drusus. 2

Hat. The emperor's son! give place.

Sil. I like the prince well.

Arr. A riotous youth; 3
There's little hope of him.

Sab. That fault his age

Will, as it grows, correct. Methinks he bears
Himself each day more nobly than other;
And wins no less on men's affections,
Than doth his father lose. Believe me, I love him;
And chiefly for opposing to Sejanus. 4

Sil. And I, for gracing his young kinsmen so, 5
The sons 6 of prince Germanicus: 7 it shews
A gallant clearness in him, a straight mind,
That envies not, in them, their father's name.

1 De Lu. Arrun. isto vid. Tacit. Ann. Lib. i. p. 6. et Lib. iii. p. 60. et
Dion. Rom. Hist. Lib. 58.

2 Lege de Druso Tacit. Ann. Lib. i. p. 9. Suet. Tib. c. 52. Dio. Rom.
Hist. Lib. Ivii. p. 699.

3 Tacit. Ann. Lib. iii. p. 62.

4 Vid. Tacit. Ann. Lib. iv. p. 74. ' Ann. Lib. iv. p. 75. 7 ft.

Nero, Drusus, Caius, qui in castris gcnitus, et C'.ili^ul.i nominatus.
Tacit. Ann. Lib. i.

7 De Gcnnanico Cons. Tacit. Ann. Lib. i. p. 14. et Dion. Rom. Hist. Lib.
Ivii. p. 694.

314 Ben Jensen's Plays

Arr. His name was, while he lived, above all envy;
And, being dead, without it. 0, that man !
If there were seeds of the old virtue left,
They lived in him.

Sil. He had the fruits, Arruntius,
More than the seeds: * Sabinus, and myself
Had means to know him within; and can report him.
We were his followers, he would call us friends;
He was a man most like to virtue; in all,
And every action, nearer to the gods,
Than men, in nature; of a body as fair
As was his mind; and no less reverend
In face, than fame: 2 he could so use his state,
Tempering his greatness with his gravity,
As it avoided all self-love in him,
And spite in others. What his funerals lack'd
In images and pomp, they had supplied
With honourable sorrow, soldiers' sadness,
A kind of silent mourning, such, as men,
Who know no tears, but from their captives, usa
To shew in so great losses.

Cor. I thought once,

Considering their forms, age, manner of deaths,
The nearness of the places where they fell,
To have parallel' d him with great Alexander:
For both were of best feature, of high race,
Year'd but to thirty, and, in foreign lands,
By their own people alike made away.

Sab. I know not, for his death, how you might wrest it:
But, for his life, it did as much disdain
Comparison, with that voluptuous, rash,
Giddy, and drunken Macedon's, as mine
Doth with my bondman's. All the good in him,
His valour and his fortune, he made his;
But he had other touches of late Romans,
That more did speak him: 3 Pompey's dignity,
The innocence of Cato, Caesar's spirit,

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