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MERCURY VINDICATED.] From the folio, 1616. This is a very ingenious and pleasant little piece, but the author gives neither the date nor the occasion on which it was written. If he paid any attention to time in the arrangement of his Masques, the present must have been produced subsequently to the comedy of the Alchemist.
Loud music. After which the Scene is discovered; being a Laboratory or Alchemist's work-house: VULCAN looking to the registers, while a Cyclope, tending the fire, to the cornets began to sing.
OFT, subtile fire, thou soul of art,
On weaker nature, that through age is
Take but thy time, now she is old,
And the sun her friend grown cold,
She will no more in strife with thee be named.
Look, but how few confess her now,
From every head, almost, how she is frighted!
That it learns to speak and go,
The Song ended, MERCURY appeared, thrusting out his head, and afterwards his body, at the tunnel of the middle furnace: which VULCAN espying, cried out to the Cyclops.
Vul. Stay, see! our Mercury is coming forth; art and all the elements assist!
sophers. He will be gone.
Call forth our philo-
He is scaped.
Dear Mercury! help. He flies.
In which time MERCURY having run once or twice about the room, takes breath, and speaks.
Mer. Now the place and goodness of it protect me. One tender-hearted creature or other, save Mercury, and free him. Ne'er an old gentlewoman in the house, that has a wrinkle about her to hide me in? I could run into a serving-woman's pocket now; her glove, any little hole. Some merciful verdingale among so many, be bounteous, and undertake me: I will stand close up, anywhere, to escape this poltfooted philosopher,' old Smug here of Lemnos, and his smoaky family. Has he given me time to breathe! O the variety of torment that I have endured in the reign of the Cyclops, beyond the most exquisite wit of tyrants! The whole household of them are become Alchemists, since their trade of armour-making fail'd them, only to keep themselves in fire, for this winter; for the mischief a secret that they know, above the consuming of coals, and drawing of usquebagh! howsoever they may pretend, under the specious names of Geber, Arnold, Lully, Bombast of Hohenhein, to commit miracles in art, and treason against nature. And, as if the title of philosopher, that creature of glory, were to be fetched out of a furnace, abuse the curious and credulous nation of metal-men through the world, and make Mercury their instrument. I am their crude, and their sub
1 This polt-footed philosopher.] Splay, or rather club-footed. In the Poetaster, Jonson calls this poor "old Smug of Lemnos" a polt-footed stinkard: so that Howel had reason to put him in mind, in one of his letters, that the burning of his study was a mere act of retaliation on the part of Vulcan.
2 Bombast of Hohenhein,] i. e. Paracelsus.
limate; their precipitate, and their unctuous; their male and their female; sometimes their hermaphrodite: what they list to style me. It is I, that am corroded, and exalted, and sublimed, and reduced, and fetch'd over, and filtered, and wash'd, and wiped; what between their salts and their sulphurs, their oils and their tartars, their brines and their vinegars, you might take me out now a soused Mercury, now a salted Mercury, now a smoaked and dried Mercury, now a powdered and pickled Mercury: never herring, oyster, or cucumber past so many vexations. My whole life with them hath been an exercise of torture; one, two, three, four, and five times an hour have they made me dance the philosophical circle, like an ape through a hoop, or a dog in a wheel. I am their turnspit indeed: they eat and smell no roast-meat but in my name. I am their bill of credit still, that passes for their victuals and house-room. It is through me, they have got this corner of the Court to cozen in, where they shark for a hungry diet below stairs, and cheat upon your under-officers, promising mountains for their meat, and all upon Mercury's security. A poor page of the larder, they have made obstinately believe, he shall be physician for the household next summer: they will give him a quantity of the quintessence, shall serve him to cure kibes or the mormal o' the shin, take away the pustules in the nose, and Mercury is engaged for it. A child of the scullery steals all their coals for them too, and he is bid sleep secure, he shall find a corner of the philosopher's stone for't, under his bolster, one day, and have the proverb inverted. Against which, one day I am to deliver the buttery in, so many firkins of aurum potabile, as it delivers out bombards of bouge to them, between this and that. For the pantry, they 3 The proverb inverted,] i. e. Thesaurus pro carbone: the proverb is Carbo pro thesauro.