BEN JONSON: 1573-1637.

Ben Jonson, the posthumous son of a clergyman in Westminster, in early

life worked as a bricklayer with his stepfather, but, disliking the occupation, he enlisted as a soldier, and served in the Low Countries. On his return, he became an actor in London, and began to write for the stage. His plays consist of the tragedies of The Fall of Sejanus and Catiline, and the comedies of Every Man in His Humour, Volpone or The Fox, Epicene or The Silent Woman, and The Alchemist. Jonson also brought to perfection the compositions called Masques, which were generally founded on some story from the Greek or Roman mythology, and formed a favourite amusement of the court. Jonson became poet-laureate in 1619. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, and the flagstone over his grave was inscribed with the words, 'O rare Ben Jonson !


[The conspiracy of Catiline against the Roman Commonwealth was put an end to by a battle fought in Etruria between Catiline, at the head of 12,000 men, and the Roman army, commanded by Petreius.]

Petreius. The straits and needs of Catiline being such,
As he must fight with one of the two armies
That then had near enclosed him, it pleased fate
To make us the object of his desperate choice,
Wherein the danger almost poised the honour :
And, as he rose, the day grew black with him,
And fate descended nearer to the earth,
As if she meant to hide the name of things
Under her wings, and make the world her quarry.
At this we roused, lest one small minute's stay
Had left it to be inquired what Rome was ;
And (as we ought) armed in the confidence
Of our great cause, in form of battle stood,
Whilst Catiline came on, not with the face
Of any man, but of a public ruin :
His countenance was a civil war itself ;
And all his host had, standing in their looks,
The paleness of the death that was to come;
Yet cried they out like vultures, and urged on,
As if they would precipitate our fates.
Nor stayed we longer for 'em, but himself

Struck the first stroke, and with it fled a life,
Which out, it seemed a narrow neck of land
Had broke between two mighty seas, and either
Flowed into other; for so did the slaughter;
And whirled about, as when two violent tides
Meet and not yield. The furies stood on hills,
Circling the place, and trembling to see men
Do more than they ; whilst pity left the field,
Grieved for that side, that in so bad a cause
They knew not what a crime their valour was.
The sun stood still, and was, behind the cloud
The battle made, seen sweating, to drive up
His frighted horse, whom still the noise drove backward :
And now had fierce Enyo,l like a flame,
Consumed all it could reach, and then itself,
Had not the fortune of the commonwealth,
Come, Pallas-like, to every Roman thought;
Which Catiline seeing, and that now his troops
Covered the earth they ’ad fought on with their trunks,
Ambitious of great fame, to crown his ill,
Collected all his fury, and ran in-
Arined with a glory high as his despair
Into our battle, like a Libyan lion
Upon his hunters, scornful of our weapons,
Careless of wounds, plucking down lives about him,
Till he had circled in himself with death :
Then fell he too, t embrace it where it lay.
And as in that rebellion 'gainst the gods,
Minerva holding forth Medusa's head,
One of the giant brethren felt himself
Grow marble at the killing sight; and now,
Almost made stone, began to inquire what flint,
What rock, it was that crept through all his limbs ;
And, ere he could think more, was that he feared :
So Catiline, at the sight of Rome in us,
Became his tomb; yet did his look retain
Some of his fierceness, and his hands still moved,
As if he laboured yet to grasp the state
With those rebellious parts.

1 War, the goddess of war,


From the masque of Cynthia's Revels. [Diana, as sister of the sun-god Apollo, was regarded as the goddess of the moon. She was called Cynthia from Mount Cynthus, in the isle of Delos, the place of her birth.]

Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,

Now the sun is laid to sleep ;
Seated in thy silver chair,

State in wonted manner keep.
Hesperus 1 entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright!
Earth, let not thy envious shade

Dare itself to interpose ;
Cynthia's shining orb was made

Heaven to clear when day did close;
Bless us then with wished sight,
Goddess excellently bright!

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,

And thy crystal shining quiver ;
Give unto the flying hart,

Space to breathe, how short soever ;
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright!

JOSEPH HALL: 1574-165 6.

Hall, Bishop of Norwich, is noted for his Satires, which Pope affirms 'to be

the best poetry and the truest satire in the English language.' He is also distinguished as a prose-writer. (See Readings in English Prose, p. 24.)

THE POOR GALLANT. From his Satires.

Seest thou how gaily my young master goes,
Vaunting himself upon his rising toes ;
'Tis Ruffio: Trow'st thou where he dined to-day?
In sooth I saw him sit with Duke Humphrey.?


1 The evening, the west, 2 In St Paul's Cathedral, an open public place in the time of Queen



Many good welcomes, and much gratis cheer,
Keeps he for every straggling cavalier ;
An open house, haunted with great resort ;
Long service mixt with musical disport.
Many fair younker with a feathered crest,
Chooses much rather be his shot-free guest,
To fare so freely with so little cost,
Than stake his twelvepence to a meaner host.
Hadst thou not told me, I should surely say
He touched no meat of all this livelong day.
For sure methought, yet that was but a guess,
His eyes seemed sunk for very hollowness,
But could he have-as I did it mistake-
So little in his purse, so much upon his back?
So nothing in his maw? yet seemeth by his belt
That his gaunt gut no too much stuffing felt.
Seest thou how side it hangs beneath his hip?
Hunger and heavy iron makes girdles slip.
Yet for all that, how stiffly struts he by,
All trapped in the new-found bravery.
The nuns of new-won Calais his bonnet lent,
In lieu of their so kind a conquerment.
What needed he fetch that from furthest Spain,
His grandame could have lent with lesser pain ?
Though he perhaps ne'er passed the English shore,
Yet fain would counted be a conqueror.
His hair, French-like, stares on his frighted head,
One lock amazon-like dishevelled,
As if he meant to wear a native cord,
If chance his fates should him that bane afford.
All British bare upon the bristled skin,
Close notched is his beard, both lip and chin ;
His linen collar labyrinthian set,
Whose thousand double turnings never met :
His sleeves half hid with elbow pinionings,
As if he meant to fly with linen wings.

Elizabeth, there was a tomb, erroneously supposed to be that of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, which was the resort of gentlemen upon town who had occasion to look out for a dinner. When unsuccessful in getting an invitation, they were said to dine with Duke Humphrey.


(Francis Beaumont : 1686–1616, and John Fletcher : 1676-1625.) Beaumont and Fletcher were two men of good birth and education, who

wrote plays in company. Fifty-two dramatic compositions were th result of their literary partnership. They share with Ben Jonson the second rank in English dramatic literature.

PALAMON AND ARCITE1 From The Two Noble Kinsmen.

Pal. How do you, noble cousin ?
Arc. How do you, sir ?

Pal. Why, strong enough to laugh at misery,
And bear the chance of war yet; we are prisoners,
I fear, for ever, cousin.

Arc. I believe it,
And to that destiny have patiently
Laid up my hour to come.

Pal. Oh, cousin Arcite,
Where is Thebes now? where is our noble country?
Where are our friends and kindreds ? never more
Must we behold those comforts, never see
The hardy youths strive for the games of honour,
Hung with the painted favours of their ladies,
Like tall ships under sail ; then start amongst them,
And as an east wind leave them all behind us
Like lazy clouds, whilst Palamon and Arcite,
Even in the wagging of a wanton leg,
Outstript the people's praises, won the garlands
Ere they have time to wish them ours. Oh, never
Shall we two exercise, like twins of honour,
Our arms again, and feel our fiery horses
Like proud seas under us, our good swords now-
Better the red-eyed god of war ne'er wore-
Ravished our sides, like age, must run to rust,
And deck the temples of those gods that hate us ;
These hands shall never draw them out like lightning
To blast whole armies more!

Arc. No, Palamon,
Those hopes are prisoners with us; here we are,

1 Captives in Greece.

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