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And as unhurt of envy, as unhit.
Aut. 'Las, good rout!
I can afford them leave to err so still;
I should not then much muse their shreds were liked;
Not one of them but lives himself, if known,
2 Students of Bears-college.] The dogs at the bear-garden. WHAL. 3 This is from Juvenal, as are several other passages in this bitter satire, which need not be pointed out: the names of the speakers have a reference to a line in Martial. A more contemptuous one than Polyposus he could not easily have found.
Nas. I never saw this play bred all this tumult : What was there in it could so deeply offend, And stir so many hornets? Aut. Shall I tell you? Nas. Yes, and ingenuously. Aut. Then, by the hope What I prefer unto all other objects, I can profess, I never writ that piece More innocent or empty of offence. Some salt it had, but neither tooth nor gall, Nor was there in it any circumstance Which, in the setting down, I could suspect Might be perverted by an enemy's tongue; Only it had the fault to be call'd mine; That was the crime.
Pol. No! why, they say you tax'd
Aut. It is not so.
I used no name. My books have still been taught
4 Parcere personis, dicere de vitiis. Mart. WHal.
And therefore chose Augustus Cæsar's times,
And in far harsher terms elsewhere, as these:
But how this should relate unto our laws,
Then, for the captain, I will only speak An epigram I here have made: it is UNTO TRUE SOLDIERS. That's the lemma:8 mark it.
And like so many screaming grasshoppers, &c.] See the Fox. • Renounce this thriftless trade, my father cried:
Mæonides himself—a beggar died. Trist. Lib. 4. Eleg. 10. 7 To learn the wrangling law was ne'er my choice,
Nor, at the hateful bar, to sell my voice.
Amor. Lib. 1. Eleg. xv. 8 That's the lemma.] The subject proposed, or title of the epigram. WHAL.
Strength of my country, whilst I bring to view
Now for the players, it is true, I tax'd them,
I am not moved with: if it gave them meat,
Some better natures, by the rest so drawn,
Your great profession; which I once did prove.] Jonson bore arms in Flanders, where he acquitted himself with reputation. WHAL.
1 Is such,] i. e. such as are miscalled captains. WHAL.
This little piece Jonson afterwards reprinted among his Epigrams. 2 But impotent they, &c.] One might almost suspect that Gay had this passage in his thoughts when he wrote the Beggar's Opera:
"If you mention gift or bribe,
Each cries-that was levelled at me!"
To run in that vile line.] It has been thought that Shakspeare was here alluded to, under the expression of better natures. But I
Pol. And is this all!
Pol. Nor the Untrussers?
Pol. Y'are undone then.
Aut. With whom?
Pol. The world.
Aut. The bawd!
Pol. It will be taken
To be stupidity or tameness in you.
Aut. But they that have incensed me, can in soul
see no reason to confine the phrase to so particular a restriction. It makes good sense to take it in the most obvious meaning: nor does it appear there was any difference now subsisting between Shakspeare and our author.
Thus far Whalley is right. He might have added, to the confusion of the thinkers, that if their ingenious supposition were true, it would go near to prove-not that Jonson was hostile to Shakspeare, but that Shakspeare was captiously disinclined to Jonson. But, in fact, there is no allusion whatever to Shakspeare, or to the company with which he was connected. The commentators are absolutely mad: they will allow Jonson neither to compliment, nor criticise any one but our great poet; and this merely for the pleasure of taxing him with hypocrisy in the one case, and envy in the other. I have already observed that the actors ridiculed belonged to the Fortune play-house; and the critics must have discovered, if their judgment had been half as active as their enmity, a very frequent recurrence throughout the Poetaster, and the Apology, to the poverty and low estimation of this unfortunate
"if it gave them meat,
Or got them clothes, 'tis well; that was their end."
Could this be said of Allen and Shakspeare, of Burbage, Lowin, and Taylor? Without question, the Fortune possessed more actors than the "lean Poluphagus" and the "politic Æsop," and to some of those the poet might allude: "the better natures" were not confined, I trust, in Jonson's days, any more than in our own, to a single person, or even a single theatre.