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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 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 in 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 elegancies even of his dignified 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.
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 Paulina,
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 ear-ring
To purchase them again, and this whole state.
A gem but worth a private patrimony,
Is nothing : we will eat such at a meal.
The heads of parrots, tongues of nightingales,
The brains of peacocks, and of estriches,
Shall be our food : and, could we get the phenix,
Though nature lost her kind, she were our dish.
Cel. Good sir, these things might move a mind affected
With such delights ; but I, whose innocence
Is all I can think wealthy, or worth th' enjoying,
And which, once lost, I have nought to lose beyond it,
Cannot be taken with these sensual baits :
If you have conscience-
'Tis the beggar's virtue:
If thou had wisdom, hear me, Celia.
Thy baths shall be the juice of July flowers,
Spirit of roses and of violets,
The milk of unicorns, and panthers' breath
Gather'd in bags, and mixt with Cretan wines.
Our drink shall be prepared gold and amber;
Which we will take until my roof whirl round
With the vertigo : and my dwarf shall dance,
My eunuch sing, my fool make up the antic;
Whilst we, in changed shapes, act Ovid's tales ;
Thou, like Europa now, and I like Jove;
Then I like Mars, and thou like Erycine:
So, of the rest, till we have quite run through
And wearied all the fables of the gods.
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
In Novo Orbe: here's the rich Peru:
And there within, sir, are the golden wines,
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!
Do we succeed? Is our day come? and holds it?
Face. The evening will set red upon you, sir;
You have colour for it, crimson: the red ferment
Has done his office : three hours hence prepare you
To see projection.
Mam. Pertinax, my Surly,
Again I say to thee, aloud, BE RICH.
This day thou shalt have ingots; and to-morrow
Give lords the affront.—Is it, my Zephyrus, right?-
Thou’rt sure thou saw'st it blood ?
Face. Both blood and spirit, sir.
Mam. I will have all my beds blown up, not stuff'd:
Down is too hard.—My mists
I'll have of perfume, vapoured 'bout the room
To lose ourselves in; and my baths, like pits,
To fall into : from whence we will come forth,
And roll us dry in gossamer and roses,
Is it arriv'd at ruby?- And my flatterers
Shall be the pure and gravest of divines.-
And they shall fan me with ten estrich tails
A-piece, made in a plume to gather wind.
We will be brave, Puffe, now we have the med'cine.
My meat shall all come in, in Indian shells,
Dishes of agate, set in gold, and studded
With emeralds, sapphires, hyacinths, and rubies,
The tongues of carps, dormice, and camels' heels,
Boil'd in the spirit of sol, and dissolv'd pearl,
Apicius' diet 'gainst the epilepsy :
And I will eat these broths with spoons of amber,
Headed with diamond and carbuncle.
My foot-boy shall eat pheasants, calver'd salmons,
Knots, godwits, lampreys: I myself will have
The beards of barbels serv'd, instead of salads ;
Oild mushrooms; and the swelling, unctuous paps
Of a fat pregnant sow, newly cut off,
Drest with an exquisite and poignant sauce,
For which I'll say unto my cook, “ There's gold;
Go forth, and be a knight.”
Sir, I'll go look
A little, how it heightens.
xit FACE. Mam.
I'll have of taffeta-sarsnet, soft and light
As cobwebs; and for all my other raiment,
It shall be such as might provoke the Persian,
Were he to teach the world riot anew.
My gloves of fishes and birds' skins, perfum'd
With gums of Paradise and eastern air.
Sur. And do you think to have the stone with this ?
Mam. No; I do think t' have all this with the stone !
Sur. Why, I have heard he must be homo frugi,
A pious, holy, and religious man,
One free from mortal sin, a very virgin.
Mam. That makes it, Sir; he is so; BUT I BUY IT.