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Ant That which is now a horse, even with a thought
Eros. It does, my lord.
Ant. My good knave, Eros, now thy captain is
Hotspur. My cousin Vernon! welcome, by my soul!
Sir Richard Vernon. Pray God, my news be worth a welcome, lord
The Earl of Westmoreland, seven thousand strong,
Is marching hitherwards; with him, Prince John.
Hot. No harm: what more?
Ver. And further, I have learn'd,—
The king himself in person is set forth,
Or hitherwards intended speedily,
With strong and mighty preparation.
Hot. He shall be welcome too. Where is his son,
Ver. All furnish'd, all in arms,
All plum'd like estridges that wing the wind;
As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.
Hot. No more, no more; worse than the sun in March, This praise doth nourish agues. Let them come;
They come like sacrifices in their trim,
All hot, and bleeding, will we offer them;
Up to the ears in blood. I am on fire,
And yet not ours :-Come, let me take my horse,
Harry to Harry shall, hot (query not?) horse to horse,14
14 “ Harry to Harry shall, hot horse to horse.”—I cannot help think. ing that the word hot in this line ought to be not. "Hot horse to horse" is not a very obvious mode of speech, and it is too obvious an image. The horses undoubtedly would be hot enough. But does not Hotspur mean to say that the usual shock of horses will not be sufficient for the extremity of his encounter with the Prince of Wales; their own bodies are to be dashed together, and not merely the horses:
14 Harry to Harry shall, not horse to horse:
so closely does he intend that their combat shall hug.
IMOGEN IN BED.
(Jachimo, dared by Imogen's husband to make trial of her fidelity, hides in her chamber in order to bring away pretended proofs against it.)
Imo. (reading in bed.) Who's there? my woman Helen?
Imo. What hour is it?
Lady. Almost midnight, madam.
Imo. I have read three hours then: mine eyes are weak:
Take not away the taper; leave it burning :
And if thou canst awake by four o' the clock,
To your protection I commend me, Gods!
I beseech ye!
[Sleeps. JACHIMO, from the trunk.
Jach. The crickets sing, and man's o'er-labor'd sense
And whiter than the sheets! that I might touch!
How dearly they do 't-'Tis her breathing that
[Takes off her bracelet.
As slippery, as the Gordian knot was hard!
On her left breast,
Will force him think I have pick'd the lock, and ta'en
[Clock strikes. [Goes into the trunk. The scene closes.
One, two, three,-Time, time!
IF Ben Jonson had not tried to do half what he did, he would have had a greater fame. His will and ambition hurt him, as they always hurt genius when set in front of it. Lasting reputation of power is only to be obtained by power itself; and this, in poetry, is the result not so much, if at all, of the love of the power, as of the power of love,—the love of truth and beauty,— great and potent things they,-not the love of self, which is generally a very little thing. The "supposed rugged old bard," notwithstanding his huffing and arrogance, had elegance, feeling, imagination, great fancy; but by straining to make them all greater than they were, bringing in the ancients to help him, and aiming to include the lowest farce (perhaps by way of outdoing the universality of Shakspeare), he became as gross in his pretensions, as drink had made him in person. His jealous irritability and assumption tired out the gentlest and most generous of his contemporaries-men who otherwise really liked him (and he them),-Decker for one; and he has ended in appearing to posterity rather the usurper than the owner of a true renown. He made such a fuss with his learning, that he is now suspected to have had nothing else. Hazlitt himself cannot give him credit for comic genius, so grave and all-in-all does his pedantry appear to that critic,—an erroneous judgment, as it seems to me,-who cannot help thinking, that what altogether made Ben what he was projected his ultra-jovial person rather towards comedy than tragedy; and as a proof of this, his tragedies are all borrowed, but his comedies his own. *Twelfth Night and other plays of Shakspeare preceded and surpassed
him in his boasted "humor;" but his Alchemist, and especially his Volpone, seem to me at the head of all severer English comedy. The latter is a masterpiece of plot and treatment. Ben's fancy, a power tending also rather to the comic than tragic, was in far greater measure than his imagination; and their strongest united efforts, as in the Witches' Meeting, and the luxurious anticipations of Sir Epìane Mammon, produce a smiling as well as a serious admiration. The three happiest of all his short effusions (two of which are in this volume) are the epitaph on Lady Pembroke, the address to Cynthia (both of which are serious indeed, but not tragic), and the Catch of the Satyrs, which is unique for its wild and melodious mixture of the comic and the poetic. His huge farces, to be sure (such as Bartholomew Fair), are execrable. They seem to talk for talking's sake, like drunkards. And though his famous verses, beginning "Still to be neat, still to be drest," are elegantly worded, I never could admire them. There is a coarseness implied in their very refinement.
After all, perhaps it is idle to wish a writer had been otherwise than he was, especially if he is an original in his way, and worthy of admiration. His faults he may have been unable to mend, and they may not have been without their use, even to his merits. If Ben had not been Ben, Sir Epìane Mammon might not have talked in so high a tone. We should have missed, perhaps, something of the excess and altitude of his expectations of his
Gums of Paradise and eastern air.
Let it not be omitted, that Milton went to the masques and odes of Ben Jonson for some of the elegances even of his dignified muse. See Warton's edition of his Minor Poems, passim. Our extracts shall commence with one of these odes, combining classic elegance with a tone of modern feeling, and a music like a serenade.