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EVERY MAN OUT OF HIS HUMOUR.
After the second sounding.*
Enter CORDATUS, ASPER, and MITIS.2
Cor. Nay, my dear Asper.
Mit. Stay your mind.
Who is so patient' of this impious world,
That he can check his spirit, or rein his tongue?
That heaven's horrid thunders cannot wake?
After the second sounding. These several soundings are in the modern theatre termed first, second, and third music. WHAL. When Whalley wrote this, the theatres opened at four o'clock; since they adopted a later hour they have only given the public first and second music.
Enter ASPER, MITIS, and CORDATUS.] The two latter of these Jonson calls the Grex, or Chorus. Like that of the Greeks, they remain on the stage during the whole of the action but they perform a part not known to the ancient drama. They stand distinct from the scene, and occupy the place of critics. Under the name of Asper the poet intended to shadow out himself; but he has afforded us no traces of Mitis and Cordatus. 3 Who is so patient, &c.] This is from Juvenal:
Nam quis iniquæ
Tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se?
Hell gaping under us, and o'er our heads
Who can behold such prodigies as these,
Cor. Be not too bold.
Asp. You trouble me—and with a whip of steel,
4 Black, ravenous ruin, with her sail-stretch'd wings,] There is a sublimity in this and the preceding lines, which shews us that Jonson could have reached a nobler flight in the greater kinds of poetry, had he not cramped his genius by confining it, in conformity to the prejudices of the age, to a model unworthy WHAL. of himself, and even not agreeable to his own taste.
Either Whalley has not expressed himself clearly, or I do not understand him. If by taste he means natural inclination, as he scems to do, he is evidently incorrect; for Jonson was assuredly not led to Séneca (the model to whom he alludes) by "the prejudices of the age ;" but by choice, and a viciousness of judgment peculiar, at this period, to a few recluse scholars. After all, sublimity" is not Jonson's element; nor can his utmost efforts support him in it long. Strong sense, keen satire, and a full vein of humour less remarkable for elegance than vigour, are his distinguishing characteristics, and appear with unrivalled excellence in the piece before us. The "flights" of which Whalley speaks, have been attempted with more success by others.
The easy flexure of his supple hams.
Tut, these are so innate and popular,
That drunken custom would not shame to laugh,
Cut shorter than their eye-brows!' when the conscience
Is vaster than the ocean, and devours
More wretches than the counters.
5 And with the words of Hercules, invade, &c.] Among the ancients, every thing bold and undaunted was termed Herculean thus Justin, in the preface to his Epitome, ascribes the intrepidity of Hercules to Trogus Pompeius: Nonne nobis, Pompeius Herculea audacia orbem terrarum adgressus videri debet? WHAL.
Jonson, however, has taken the expression immediately from Juvenal:
sed pejores, qui talia verbis Herculis invadunt.
and their hair
Cut shorter than their eyebrows!] This too is from Juvenal, whose admirable description of the feigned Stoicks, Jonson evidently had in view in many parts of this dialogue. But the immediate objects of his satire, as Whalley justly observes, were the Puritans, who, among other singularities, affected to cut their hair short, and close to their heads; whence they had afterwards the appellation of Roundheads. This practice is alluded to in Eastward Hoc, where Wolf describing the penitence of Quicksilver in the Counter, says, "He has cut his hair too; he is so well given, and has such good gifts." A. V.
Mit. Gentle Asper,
Contain your spirit in more stricter bounds,'
Cor. Unless your breath had power
To melt the world, and mould it new again,
Asp. [turning to the stage.] I not observed this
Gracious and kind spectators, you are welcome ;
With graceful objects, and may our Minerva
7 Contain your spirit in more stricter bounds,] This expression is blamed by Dryden, who thinks that few writers of his time would be guilty of it. This may be true; but in Jonson's and, indeed, every preceding age, nothing was more common than to join the signs of the comparative and superlative degrees to the degrees themselves. That it did not originate either in negligence or ignorance may be learned from the poet, who thus speaks of it in his Grammar, a work of great skill, and profundity of research.
"Furthermore, these adverbs more and most are added to the comparative and superlative degrees themselves, which should be before the positive. Thus Sir Thomas More," She saw the cardinal more readier to depart than the remnant; for not only the high dignity of the civil magistrate, but the most basest handicraft are holy, when they are directed to the honour of God." And this is a certain kind of English atticism, or eloquent phrase of speech, imitating the manner of the most ancientest and finest Grecians, who for more emphasis and vehemency's sake, used so to speak."