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Mit. Stay your mind. .
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 iniqua
That heaven's horrid thunders cannot wake?
Cor. Be not too bold.
Asp. You trouble me—and with a whip of steel, Print wounding lashes in their iron ribs. I fear no mood stamp'd in a private brow, When I am pleased tunmask a public vice. I fear no strumpet's drugs, nor ruffian's stab, Should I detect their hateful luxuries : No broker's, usurer's, or lawyer's gripe, Were I disposed to say, they are all corrupt. I fear no courtier's frown, should I applaud
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 of himself, and even not agreeable to his own taste. WHAL.
Either Whalley has not expressed himself clearly, or I do not understand him. If by taste he means natural inclination, as he seems to do, he is evidently incorrect; for Jonson was assuredly not led to Seneca (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 oị his supple hams.
Mit. Forbear, good Asper; be not like your name.
Asp. O, but to such whose faces are all zeal, And, with the words of Hercules, invades Such crimes as these! that will not smell of sin, But seem as they were made of sanctity! Religion in their garments, and their hair Cut shorter than their eye-brows !8 when the conscience Is vaster than the ocean, and devours More wretches than the counters.
Mit. Gentle Asper,
5 And with the words of Hercules, invade, &c.] Among the ancients, everything 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 Hoe, where Wolf describing the penitence of Quicksilver in tue Counter, says, “He has cut his hair too; he is so well given, and has such good gifts.”. A. v.
Contain your spirit in more stricter bounds,"
breath had power
thronged round till now! Gracious and kind spectators, you are welcome; Apollo and the Muses feast your eyes With graceful objects, and may our Minerva Answer your hopes, unto their largest strain ! Yet here mistake me not, judicious friends; I do not this, to beg your patience, Or servilely to fawn on your applause, Like some dry brain, despairing in his merit. Let me be censured by the austerest brow, Where I want art or judgment, tax me freely : Let envious censors, with their broadest eyes, Look through and through me, I pursue no favour ; Only vouchsafe me your attentions, And I will give you music worth your ears.
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."
O, how I hates the monstrousness of time,
Mit. In faith this humour will come ill to some,
Mit. Answer, what?
Asp. I will not stir your patience, pardon me,
Cor. O, do not let your purpose fall, good Asper;
I Asp. Ha, what? what is't ? Cor. For the abuse of humour. Asp. O, I crave pardon, I had lost my thoughts. & How I hate, &c.] Jonson began already to take a high tone: -but whatever may be thought of his confidence, it is impossible not to be pleased with the spirit of this nervous speech. It is altogether in the best manner of antiquity; and, if it was spoken by Jonson, as is not very improbable, he might have informed the audience that they were unsuspectingly listening to the manly language
of the Grecian stage. Or the founder of Cripplegate.] That the founder of Cripplegate was lame, must, if taken at all, be taken on the poet's word. Stow, somewhat better authority in a case of this nature, says that it was so called from the number of lame persons, who usually took their station there for the purpose of begging. The name (Porta Contractorum) is very ancient.