As’t please the Thracian Boreas to blow, so turns our ayerie conscience, to, and fro.

The opening of John Marston’s second satire in his The Scourge of Villanie, titled ‘Difficile est Satyram non scribere‘ (Hard is it not to write Satire).  The title is a famous tag from Juvenal’s first Satire (line 30) and, as there, carries the double sense of ‘hard to stop myself’ and ‘hard to talk of matters without it becoming, by their nature, a satire’.  

There’s apparently a new edition of all Marston’s works in preparation by a team headed out of the University of Leeds but I’m stuck with an unannotated facsimile of the 1599 first edition (that is also available online here).  I modernized a bit of spelling for the second iteration below and glossed a bit of vocab.  This is a misleadingly clear sampling of his style.

I cannot hold, I cannot, I, indure
To view a big womb’d foggie clowde immure
The radiant tresses of the quickning sun:
Let Custards* quake, my rage must freely run.
Preach not the Stoickes patience to me;
I hate no man, but mens impietie.
My soul is vext, what power will’th desist?
Or dares to stop a sharpe fangd Satyrist?
Who’le coole my rage? Who’le stay my itching fist,
But I will plague and torture whom I list.
If that the three-fold walls of Babilon
Should hedge my tongue, yet I should raile upon
This fustie* world, that now dare put in ure*
To make JEHOVA but a coverture
To shade ranck filth, loose conscience is free,
From all conscience, what els hath libertie?

As’t please the Thracian Boreas to blow,
So turns our ayerie conscience, to, and fro.

I cannot hold, I cannot, I, endure
To view a big-womb’d foggie clowde immure
The radiant tresses of the quickening sun:
Let Custards* quake, my rage must freely run.
Preach not the Stoic’s patience to me;
I hate no man, but men’s impietie.
My soul is vex’d, what power will it desist?
Or dares to stop a sharp fanged Satirist?
Who’ll cool my rage? Who’ll stay my itching fist,
But I will plague and torture whom I list.
If that the three-fold walls of Babylon
Should hedge my tongue, yet I should rail upon
This fusty* world, that now dare put in ure*
To make JEHOVA but a coverture
To shade rank filth, loose conscience is free,
From all conscience, what else hath liberty?

As’t please the Thracian Boreas to blow,
So turns our airy conscience, to, and fro.

4 – Custard – fearful or cowardly person
13 – fustie – stale, having lost freshness … showing signs of age/neglect
13 – ‘put in ure’ – into use or practice

I must have liberty withal, as large a charter as the wind, to blow on whom I please

A part of a speech of Jacques in As You Like It (2.7):

I must have liberty
Withal, as large a charter as the wind,
To blow on whom I please; for so fools have;
And they that are most galled with my folly,
They most must laugh. And why, sir, must they so?
The ‘why’ is plain as way to parish church:
He that a fool doth very wisely hit
Doth very foolishly, although he smart,
Not to seem senseless of the bob: if not,
The wise man’s folly is anatomized
Even by the squandering glances of the fool.
Invest me in my motley; give me leave
To speak my mind, and I will through and through
Cleanse the foul body of the infected world,
If they will patiently receive my medicine.

Because the syntax grows squishy around the middle, here’s the Arden gloss on He that…: He who is wounded by the fool’s well-aimed blow behaves very stupidly if he does not pretend – even while he is smarting under the wound – that the shaft has missed its mark.

There’s a possible echo of this image in a near-contemporary play I happen also to be reading, John Marston’s The Malcontent (1.3):

See, here he come. Now shall you hear the extremity of a malcontent: he is as free as air; he blows over every man.

These expressions alien to our thoughts which by virtue of that very fact reveal them

From the final volume of Proust, Le Temps Retrouvé/Time Regained (pg 401 of v.4 in the new Pléiade) The translation is the modern library:

Meanwhile, two very smart clients, in white tie and tails and wearing overcoats—two Russians, as I guessed from the very slight accent with which they spoke—were standing in the doorway and deliberating whether they should enter. It was visibly the first time that they had been to the place, to which no doubt they had come on somebody’s recommendation, and they appeared torn between desire, temptation and extreme fright. One of the two—a good-looking young man—kept repeating every ten seconds to the other, with a smile that was half a question and half an attempt at persuasion: “Well! After all, what do we care?” But though no doubt he meant by this that after all they did not care about the consequences, it is probable that he cared rather more than he implied, for the remark was not followed by any movement to cross the threshold but by a further glance at his companion, followed by the same smile and the same “After all, what do we care?” And in this “After all, what do we care?” I saw a perfect example of that portentous language, so unlike the language we habitually speak, in which emotion deflects what we had intended to say and causes to emerge in its place an entirely different phrase, issued from an unknown lake wherein dwell these expressions alien to our thoughts which by virtue of that very fact reveal them. I remember an occasion when Françoise, whose approach we had not heard, was about to come into the room while Albertine was completely naked in my arms, and Albertine, wanting to warn me, blurted out: “Good heavens, here’s the beautiful Françoise!” Françoise, whose sight was no longer very good and who was merely going to cross the room at some distance from us, would no doubt have noticed nothing. But the unprecedented phrase “the beautiful Françoise,” which Albertine had never uttered before in her life, was in itself enough to betray its origin; Françoise sensed that the words had been plucked at random by emotion and had no need to look to understand what was happening; she went out muttering in her dialect the word poutana.


Pendant ce temps, deux clients très élégants, en habit et cravate blanche sous leurs pardessus – deux Russes, me sembla-t-il à leur très léger accent – se tenaient sur le seuil et délibéraient s’ils devaient entrer. C’était visiblement la première fois qu’ils venaient là, on avait dû leur indiquer l’endroit et ils semblaient partagés entre le désir, la tentation
et une extrême frousse. L’un des deux – un beau jeune homme – répétait toutes les deux minutes à l’autre avec un sourire mi-interrogateur, mi-destiné à persuader : « Quoi ! Après tout on s’en fiche ? » Mais il avait beau vouloir dire
par là qu’après tout on se fichait des conséquences, il est probable qu’il ne s’en fichait pas tant que cela car cette parole n’était suivie d’aucun mouvement pour entrer mais d’un nouveau regard vers l’autre, suivi du même sourire et du même après tout on s’en fiche. C’était, ce après tout on s’en fiche, un exemplaire entre mille de ce magnifique langage, si différent de celui que nous parlons d’habitude, et où l’émotion fait dévier ce que nous voulions dire et épanouir à la place une phrase tout autre, émergée d’un lac inconnu où vivent ces expressions sans rapport avec la pensée et qui par cela même la révèlent. Je me souviens qu’une fois Albertine, comme Françoise, que nous n’avions pas entendue, entrait au moment où mon amie était toute nue contre moi, dit malgré elle, voulant me prévenir : « Tiens, voilà la belle Françoise. » Françoise qui n’y voyait plus très clair et ne faisait que traverser la pièce assez loin de nous ne se fût sans doute aperçue de rien. Mais les mots si anormaux de « belle Françoise » qu’Albertine n’avait jamais prononcés de sa vie, montrèrent d’eux-mêmes leur origine, elle les sentit cueillis au hasard par l’émotion, n’eut pas besoin de regarder rien pour comprendre tout, et s’en alla en murmurant dans son patois le mot de « poutana ».

There is no excellent knowledge without mixture of madnesse. And what makes a man more madde in the head then wine?

From Thomas Nashe’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament

Bacchus. Wherefore didst thou call mee, Vertumnus? hast any drinke to giue mee? One of you hold my Asse while I light: walke him vp and downe the hall, till I talke a word or two.

Summer. What, Bacchus: still animus in patinis, no mind but on the pot?

Bacchus. Why, Summer, Summer, how would’st doe, but for rayne? What is a faire house without water comming to it? Let mee see how a smith can worke, if hee haue not his trough standing by him. What sets an edge on a knife? the grindstone alone? no, the moyst element powr’d upō it, which grinds out all gaps, sets a poynt vpon it, & scowres it as right as the firmament. So, I tell thee, giue a soldier wine before he goes to battaile, it grinds out all gaps, it makes him forget all scarres and wounds, and fight in the thickest of his enemies, as though hee were but at foyles, amongst his fellows. Giue a scholler wine, going to his booke, or being about to inuent, it sets a new poynt on his wit, it glazeth it, it scowres it, it giues him acumen. Plato saith, vinum esse fomitem quēdam, et incitabilem ingenij virtutisque. Aristotle saith, Nulla est magna scientia absque mixtura dementiæ. There is no excellent knowledge without mixture of madnesse. And what makes a man more madde in the head then wine? Qui bene vult ποεῖν, debet ante πίνειν, he that will doe well, must drinke well. Prome, prome, potum prome: Ho butler, a fresh pot. Nunc est bibēdum, nunc pede libero terra pulsanda: a pox on him that leaues his drinke behinde him; hey Rendouow.

And some notes, since I can’t help but trace down the Latin sources:

animus in patinis – lifted and shifted from Terence’s The Eunuch (4.7) where patina has its more normal meaning of plate = dinner

vinum esse – ‘wine is a sort of tinder, and stimulant of capacity and excellence’ – a near quote from Aulus Gellius 15.2 (Gellius has ignitabulum, not incitabilem), a section titled “That Plato in the work which he wrote On the Laws expressed the opinion that inducements to drink more abundantly and more merrily at feasts were not without benefit.” In that context, however, the line is part of an argument put forth by an ‘idiot’ (nebulo) that Gellius refutes.

Nulla est magna – translated immediately afterward – a rendering of Aristotle’s Problemata 30 taken from Senecea’s De Tranquilitate Animi 15.16. There’s a difference in the phrasing which might mean Nashe is using someone’s paraphrasing – Seneca has ‘nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit.’

Qui bene vult – my only guess here is a modification of a Latin proverb – Qui bene vult fari, debet bene praemeditari (he who wishes to speak well ought to plan well)

Prome, prome – likewise I have no guess on a source past a scrap of a drinking song in the style of carmina burana samples

Nunc est bibēdum – the only immediately recognizable reference – Horace’s Carmina 1.37.

For amongst all the worthy books of achievements, I do not call to mind that I yet read of a grocer-errant

From the opening act Francis Beaumont’s The Knight of the Burning Pestle, as the audience within the play – the citizen grocer and his wife – respond to their apprentice playing the role of the first grocer-errant. Despite the obvious similarity to Don Quixote, there doesn’t seem any influence past what one scholar put as ‘notional inspiration.’ Part I had been published in 1605 (with the first English translation appearing in 1612) and this appeared on stage a couple of years later in 1607.

Wife. Oh, husband, husband, now, now there’s Rafe; there’s Rafe

Enter Rafe, like a grocer in’s, with two prentices [Time and George] reading Palmerin of England.

Citizen. Peace, fool! let Rafe alone.—Hark you, Rafe; do not strain yourself too much at
the first.—Peace!—Begin, Rafe.

Rafe. [Reads.] Then Palmerin and Trineus, snatching their lances from their dwarfs, and clasping their helmets galloped amain after the giant; and Palmerin, having gotten a sight of him, came posting amain, saying, ‘Stay, traitorous thief! for thou may’st not so carry away her, that is worth the greatest lord in the world;’ and with these words gave him a blow on the shoulder, that he stroke him besides his elephant. And Trineus, coming to the knight that had Agricola behind him, set him soon besides his horse, with his neck broken in the fall; so that the princess, getting out of the throng, between joy and grief, said, “All happy knight, the mirror of all such as follow arms, now may I be well assured of the love thou bearest me.” I wonder why the kings do not raise an army of fourteen or fifteen hundred thousand men, as big as the army that the Prince of Portigo brought against Rosicleer, and destroy these giants; they do much hurt to wandering damsels, that go in quest of their knights.

Wife. Faith, husband, and Rafe says true; for they say the King of Portugal cannot sit at his meat, but the giants and the ettins will come and snatch it from him.

Cit. Hold thy tongue.—On, Rafe!

Rafe. And certainly those knights are much to be commended, who, neglecting their possessions, wander with a squire and a dwarf through the deserts to relieve poor ladies.

Wife. Ay, by my faith, are they, Rafe; let ’em say what they will, they are indeed. Our knights neglect their possessions well enough, but they do not the rest.

Rafe. There are no such courteous and fair well-spoken knights in this age: they will call one “the son of a whore,” that Palmerin of England would have called “fair sir;” and one that Rosicleer would have called “right beauteous damsel,” they will call “damned bitch.”

Wife. I’ll be sworn will they, Rafe; they have called me so an hundred times about a scurvy pipe of tobacco.

Rafe. But what brave spirit could be content to sit in his shop, with a flappet of wood, and a blue apron before him, selling mithridatum and dragon’s-water to visited houses, that might pursue feats of arms, and, through his noble achievements, procure such a famous history to be written of his heroic prowess?

Cit. Well said, Rafe; some more of those words, Rafe!

Wife. They go finely, by my troth.

Rafe. Why should not I, then, pursue this course, both for the credit of myself and our company? for amongst all the worthy books of achievements, I do not call to mind that I yet read of a grocer-errant: I will be the said knight. —Have you heard of any that hath wandered unfurnished of his squire and dwarf? My elder prentice Tim shall be my trusty squire, and little George my dwarf. Hence, my blue apron! Yet, in remembrance of my former trade, upon my shield shall be portrayed a Burning Pestle, and I will be called the Knight o’ th’ Burning Pestle.

‘Tis all one to be a witch as to be counted one

From The Witch of Edmonton, a 1621 play by Thomas Dekker, John Ford, and William Rowley based on the story of the ‘witch’ Elizabeth Sawyer, largely as told by Henry Goodcole in a pamphlet from the same year (online here but in poor format). The most interesting departure from the source is in Sawyer’s starting point – the play giving her the surprisingly sensitive ‘they called me a monster so I made myself one’ psychology sequence. Here are her introductory speeches from 2.1.1-15 and 2.1.114-135

And why on me? Why should the envious world
Throw all their scandalous malice upon me?
‘Cause I am poor, deformed and ignorant,
And like a bow buckled and bent together
By some more strong in mischiefs than myself,
Must I for that be made a common sink
For all the filth and rubbish of men’s tongues
To fall and run into? Some call me ‘witch’,
And being ignorant of myself they go
About to teach me how to be one, urging
That my bad tongue – by their bad usage made so –
Forspeaks their cattle, doth bewitch their corn,
Themselves, their servants, and their babes at nurse.
This they enforce upon me, and in part
Make me to credit it.
…..
Still vexed? Still tortured? That curmudgeon Banks
Is ground of all my scandal. I am shunned
And hated like a sickness, made a scorn
To all degrees and sexes. I have heard old beldams
Talk of familiars in the shape of mice,
Rats, ferrets, weasels and I wot not what,
That have appeared and sucked, some say, their blood.
I’m now ignorant. Would some power good or bad
Instruct me which way I might be revenged
Upon this churl, I’d go out of myself
And give this Fury leave to dwell within
This ruined cottage, ready to fall with age,
Abjure all goodness, be at hate with prayer
And study curses, imprecations,
Blasphemous speeches, oaths, detested oaths,
Or anything that’s ill, so I might work
Revenge upon this miser, this black cur
That barks and bites and sucks the very blood
Of me and of my credit. ‘Tis all one
To be a witch as to be counted one.
Vengeance, shame, ruin light upon that canker!

Sit up late till it be early, drink drunk till I am sober, sink down dead in a Tavern, and rise in a Tobacco shop

From Thomas Middleton’s A Mad World, My Masters. The comedy is mostly in the action so the whole is stronger in performance than in reading but the character portraits have some gold in them. This one did get a recent reworked adaptation by the RSC but it looks like critics found it generally too strong a departure from the original.

Dick Follywit’s self-assessment in 1.1, clearly echoing some of Falstaff’s in Henry IV part 1, 3.3:

Hang you, you have bewitch’d me among you. I was as well given till I fell to be wicked, my Grandsire had hope of me, I went all in black, swore but o’ Sundays, never came home drunk, but upon fasting nights to cleanse my stomach; ‘slid now I’m quite altered, blown into light colours, let out oaths by th’ minute, sit up late till it be early, drink drunk till I am sober, sink down dead in a Tavern, and rise in a Tobacco shop. Here’s a transformation: I was wont yet to pity the simple, and leave ’em some money; ‘slid, now I gull ’em without conscience; I go without order, swear without number, gull without mercy, and drink without measure.

Falstaff’s for comparison:

O, thou hast damnable iteration and art indeed able
to corrupt a saint. Thou hast done much harm upon
me, Hal; God forgive thee for it! Before I knew
thee, Hal, I knew nothing; and now am I, if a man
should speak truly, little better than one of the
wicked. I must give over this life, and I will give
it over: by the Lord, and I do not, I am a villain:
I’ll be damned for never a king’s son in
Christendom.

And later in the same scene an expansion by another character, Master Penitent Brothel

Here’s a mad-brain o’the’ first, whose pranks scorn to have precedents, to be second to any, or walk beneath any mad-cap’s inventions; h’as play’d more tricks than the cards can allow a man, and of the last stamp, too; hating imitation, a fellow whose only glory is to be prime of the company, to be sure of which he maintains all the rest. He’s the carrion, and they the kites that gorge upon him. But why in others do I check wild passions, and retain deadly follies in myself? I tax his youth of common receiv’d riot, Time’s comic flashes, and the fruits of blood; And in myself soothe up adulterous motions, and such an appetite that I know damns me, yet willingly embrace it.

And prove new, wilder ways: for virtue there is not that narrow thing, she is elsewhere;

From Ben Jonson’s Sejanus His Fall, the speech of Macro – Sejanus’ toppler and successor – at the end of Act 3.

MACRO.
I will not ask, why Cæsar bids do this;
But joy that he bids me. It is the bliss
Of courts to be employ’d, no matter how;
A prince’s power makes all his actions virtue.
We, whom he works by, are dumb instruments,
To do, but not inquire: his great intents
Are to be served, not search’d. Yet, as that bow
Is most in hand, whose owner best doth know
To affect his aims; so let that statesman hope
Most use, most price, can hit his prince’s scope.
Nor must he look at what, or whom to strike,
But loose at all; each mark must be alike.
Were it to plot against the fame, the life
Of one, with whom I twinn’d; remove a wife
From my warm side, as loved as is the air;
Practise sway each parent; draw mine heir
In compass, though but one; work all my kin
To swift perdition; leave no untrain’d engine,
For friendship, or for innocence; nay, make
The gods all guilty; I would undertake
This, being imposed me, both with gain and ease:
The way to rise is to obey and please.
He that will thrive in state, he must neglect
The trodden paths that truth and right respect;
And prove new, wilder ways: for virtue there
Is not that narrow thing, she is elsewhere;
Men’s fortune there is virtue; reason their will;
Their license, law; and their observance, skill.
Occasion is their foil; conscience, their stain;
Profit their lustre; and what else is, vain.
If then it be the lust of Cæsar’s power,
To have raised Sejanus up, and in an hour
O’erturn him, tumbling down, from height of all;
We are his ready engine: and his fall
May be our rise. It is no uncouth thing
To see fresh buildings from old ruins spring.

But that is not my fault. It only proves that the characters of prophet and poet are implied in each other

A fuller edition of a quote found in the introduction of the Yale Ben Jonson edition of Sejanus His Fall, from William Hazlitt’s Lectures on the Literature of the Age of Elizabeth (online here). It was cited in relation to the unavoidability of politicizing material that is political at its core but I repeat it more for joy of Hazlitt’s style, however out of fashion it all is now.

His tragedy of’ The Fall of Sejanus,’ in particular, is an admirable piece of ancient mosaic. The principal character gives one the idea of a lofty column of solid granite, nodding to its base from its pernicious height, and dashed in pieces by a breath of air, a word of its creator-feared, not pitied, scorned, unwept, and forgotten. The depth of knowledge and gravity of expression sustain one another throughout: the poet has worked out the historian’s outline, so that the vices and passions, the ambition and servility of public men, in the heated and poisoned atmosphere of a luxurious and despotic court, were never described in fuller or more glowing colours. I am half afraid to give any extracts, lest they should be tortured into an application to other times and characters than those referred to by the poet, Some of the sounds, indeed, may bear (for what I know) an awkward construction: some of the objects may look double to squint-eyed suspicion. But that is not my fault. It only proves that the characters of prophet and poet are implied in each other; that he who describes human nature well once, describes it for good and all, as it was, is, and, I begin to fear, will ever be. Truth always was, and must always remain, a libel to the tyrant and the slave.

All this beforehand counsel comprehends. But will is deaf and hears no heedful friends

From Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece (491-504), Tarquin’s all too self-aware self-justification – though I think he here acts as most of us (in milder situations, of course) and summons argument enough to crest into momentary self-delusion but not so much as to free him from later reflection. So feels the sense of the narrator’s ‘Drunken Desire must vomit his receipt / Ere he can see his own abomination’ in the aftermath (703-4).

“I see what crosses my attempt will bring;
I know what thorns the growing rose defends;
I think the honey guarded with a sting;
All this beforehand counsel comprehends.
But will is deaf and hears no heedful friends;
Only he hath an eye to gaze on beauty
And dotes on what he looks, ’gainst law or duty.

“I have debated, even in my soul,
What wrong, what shame, what sorrow I shall breed,
But nothing can affection’s course control
Or stop the headlong fury of his speed.
I know repentant tears ensue the deed,
Reproach, disdain, and deadly enmity,
Yet strive I to embrace mine infamy.”