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- The Poetaster - 6/49 -


For I am risse here with a covetous hope, To blast your pleasures and destroy your sports, With wrestings, comments, applications, Spy-like suggestions, privy whisperings, And thousand such promoting sleights as these. Mark how I will begin: The scene is, ha! Rome? Rome? and Rome? Crack, eye-strings, and your balls Drop into earth; let me be ever blind. I am prevented; all my hopes are crost, Check'd, and abated; fie, a freezing sweat Flows forth at all my pores, my entrails burn: What should I do? Rome! Rome! O my vext soul, How might I force this to the present state? Are there no players here? no poet apes, That come with basilisk' s eyes, whose forked tongues Are steeped in venom, as their hearts in gall? Either of these would help me; they could wrest, Pervert, and poison all they hear or see, With senseless glosses, and allusions. Now, if you be good devils, fly me not. You know what dear and ample faculties I have endowed you with: I'll lend you more. Here, take my snakes among you, come and eat, And while the squeez'd juice flows in your black jaws, Help me to damn the author. Spit it forth Upon his lines, and shew your rusty teeth At every word, or accent: or else choose Out of my longest vipers, to stick down In your deep throats; and let the heads come forth At your rank mouths; that he may see you arm'd With triple malice, to hiss, sting, and tear. His work and him; to forge, and then declaim, Traduce, corrupt, apply, inform, suggest; O, these are gifts wherein your souls are blest. What? Do you hide yourselves? will none appear? None answer? what, doth this calm troop affright you? Nay, then I do despair; down, sink again: This travail is all lost with my dead hopes. If in such bosoms spite have left to dwell, Envy is not on earth, nor scarce in hell. [Descends slowly.

The third sounding.

[As she disappears, enter PROLOGUE hastily, in armour.

Stay, monster, ere thou sink-thus on thy head Set we our bolder foot; with which we tread Thy malice into earth: so Spite should die, Despised and scorn'd by noble industry. If any muse why I salute the stage, An armed Prologue; know, 'tis a dangerous age: Wherein who writes, had need present his scenes Forty-fold proof against the conjuring means Of base detractors, and illiterate apes, That fill up rooms in fair and formal shapes. 'Gainst these, have we put on this forced defence: Whereof the allegory and hid sense Is, that a well erected confidence Can fright their pride, and laugh their folly hence. Here now, put case our author should, once more, Swear that his play were good; he doth implore, You would not argue him of arrogance: Howe'er that common spawn of ignorance, Our fry of writers, may beslime his fame, And give his action that adulterate name. Such full-blown vanity he more doth loth, Than base dejection; there's a mean 'twixt both, Which with a constant firmness he pursues, As one that knows the strength of his own Muse. And this he hopes all free souls will allow: Others that take it with a rugged brow, Their moods he rather pities than envies: His mind it is above their injuries.

ACT I

SCENE 1--Scene draws, and discovers OVID in his study.

Ovid. Then, when this body falls in funeral fire, My name shall live, and my best part aspire. It shall go so.

[Enter Luscus, with a gown and cap.

LUSC. Young master, master Ovid, do you hear? Gods a'me! away with your songs and sonnets and on with your gown and cap quickly: here, here, your father will be a man of this room presently. Come, nay, nay, nay, nay, be brief. These verses too, a poison on 'em! I cannot abide them, they make me ready to cast, by the banks of Helicon! Nay, look, what a rascally untoward thing this poetry is; I could tear them now.

Ovid. Give me; how near is my father?

Lusc. Heart a'man: get a law book in your hand, I will not answer you else. [Ovid puts on his cap and gown ]. Why so! now there's some formality in you. By Jove, and three or four of the gods more, I am right of mine old master's humour for that; this villainous poetry will undo you, by the welkin.

Ovid. What, hast thou buskins on, Luscus, that thou swearest so tragically and high?

Lusc. No, but I have boots on, sir, and so has your father too by this time; for he call'd for them ere I came from the lodging.

Ovid. Why, was he no readier?

Lusc. O no; and there was the mad skeldering captain, with the velvet arms, ready to lay hold on him as he comes down: he that presses every man he meets, with an oath to lend him money, and cries, Thou must do't, old boy, as thou art a man, a man of worship.

Ovid. Who, Pantilius Tucca?

Lus. Ay, he; and I met little master Lupus, the tribune, going thither too.

Ovid. Nay, an he be under their arrest, I may with safety enough read over my elegy before he come.

Lus. Gods a'me! what will you do? why, young master, you are not Castalian mad, lunatic, frantic, desperate, ha!

Ovid. What ailest thou, Luscus?

Lus. God be with you, sir; I'll leave you to your poetical fancies, and furies. I'll not be guilty, I. [Exit.

Ovid. Be not, good ignorance. I'm glad th'art gone; For thus alone, our ear shall better judge The hasty errors of our morning muse.

Envy, why twit'st thou me my time's spent ill, And call'st my verse, fruits of an idle quill? Or that, unlike the line from whence I sprung, War's dusty honours I pursue not young? Or that I study not the tedious laws, And prostitute my voice in every cause? Thy scope is mortal; mine eternal fame, Which through the world shall ever chaunt my name. Homer will live whilst Tenedos stands, and Ide, Or, to the sea, fleet Simois doth slide: And so shall Hesiod too, while vines do bear, Or crooked sickles crop the ripen'd ear. Callimachus, though in invention low, Shall still be sung, since he in art doth flow. No loss shall come to Sophocles' proud vein; With sun and moon, Aratus shall remain. While slaves be false, fathers hard, and bawds be whorish Whilst harlots flatter, shall Menander flourish. Ennius, though rude, and Accius's high-rear'd strain, A fresh applause in every age shall gain, Of Varro's name, what ear shall not be told, Of Jason's Argo and the fleece of gold? Then shall Lucretius' lofty numbers die, When earth and seas in fire and flame shall fry. Tityrus, Tillage, AEnee shall be read, Whilst Rome of all the conquered world is head! Till Cupid's fires be out, and his bow broken, Thy verses, neat Tibullus, shall be spoken. Our Gallus shall be known from east to west; So shall Lycoris, whom he now loves best. The suffering plough-share or the flint may wear; But heavenly Poesy no death can fear. Kings shall give place to it, and kingly shows, The banks o'er which gold-bearing Tagus flows. Kneel hinds to trash: me let bright Phoebus swell With cups full flowing from the Muses' well. Frost-fearing myrtle shall impale my head, And of sad lovers I be often read. Envy the living, not the dead, doth bite! For after death all men receive their right. Then, when this body falls in funeral fire, My name shall live, and my best part aspire.

Enter OVID senior, followed by Luscus, Tucca, and Lupus.

Ovid se. Your name shall live, indeed, sir! you say true: but how infamously, how scorn'd and contemn'd in the eyes and ears of the best and gravest Romans, that you think not on; you never so much as dream of that. Are these the fruits of all my travail and expenses? Is this the scope and aim of thy studies? Are these the hopeful courses, wherewith I have so long flattered my expectation from thee? Verses! Poetry! Ovid, whom I thought to see the pleader, become Ovid the play-maker!

Ovid ju. No, sir.

Ovid se. Yes, sir; I hear of a tragedy of yours coming forth for


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