A gentleman-like monster, bred … by affectation; and fed by folly

From Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humour (3.4)

Cob. Nay, I have my rheum*, and I can be angry as well as another,
sir.

Cash. Thy rheum, Cob! thy humor, thy humor—thou mistak’st.

Cob. Humor! mack**, I think it be so indeed; what is that humor?
some rare thing, I warrant.

Cash. Marry I’ll tell thee, Cob: it is a gentleman-like monster,
bred, in the special gallantry of our time, by affectation; and fed
by folly.

Cob. How! must it be fed?

Cash. Oh ay, humor is nothing if it be not fed: didst thou never
hear that? it’s a common phrase, ‘feed my humor’.***

* ‘rheum’ a synonym for ‘humor’ that had fallen out of fashion
** ‘mack’ – minced oath for ‘mass’
*** ‘feed my humor’ – cater to my disposition, a fashionable affectation.

Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I do equally desire your company

Ben Jonson’s Inviting a Friend to Supper (Epigram 101 – in volume 8 of the old Herford edition). There are bits of Martial (11.52, quoted below) and Horace (especially Epistle 1.5, also below) recognizable as background predecessors.

Tonight, grave sir, both my poor house, and I
Do equally desire your company;
Not that we think us worthy such a guest,
But that your worth will dignify our feast
With those that come, whose grace may make that seem
Something, which else could hope for no esteem.
It is the fair acceptance, sir, creates
The entertainment perfect, not the cates.
Yet shall you have, to rectify your palate,
An olive, capers, or some better salad
Ushering the mutton; with a short-legged hen,
If we can get her, full of eggs, and then
Lemons, and wine for sauce; to these a cony
Is not to be despaired of, for our money;
And, though fowl now be scarce, yet there are clerks,
The sky not falling, think we may have larks.
I’ll tell you of more, and lie, so you will come:
Of partridge, pheasant, woodcock, of which some
May yet be there, and godwit, if we can;
Knat, rail, and ruff too. Howsoe’er, my man
Shall read a piece of Virgil, Tacitus,
Livy, or of some better book to us,
Of which we’ll speak our minds, amidst our meat;
And I’ll profess no verses to repeat.
To this, if ought appear which I not know of,
That will the pastry, not my paper, show of.
Digestive cheese and fruit there sure will be;
But that which most doth take my Muse and me,
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine,
Which is the Mermaid’s now, but shall be mine;
Of which had Horace, or Anacreon tasted,
Their lives, as so their lines, till now had lasted.
Tobacco, nectar, or the Thespian spring,
Are all but Luther’s beer to this I sing.
Of this we will sup free, but moderately,
And we will have no Pooley, or Parrot by,
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men;
But, at our parting we will be as when
We innocently met. No simple word
That shall be uttered at our mirthful board,
Shall make us sad next morning or affright
The liberty that we’ll enjoy tonight.

Martial 11.52:

You will dine nicely, Julius Cerialis, at my house; if you have no better engagement, come. You will be able to observe the eighth hour;* we will bathe together: you know how near Stephanus’ baths are to me. First, there will be given you lettuce useful for relaxing the stomach, and shoots cut from their parent leeks; then tunny salted and bigger than a small lizard-fish, and one too which eggs will garnish in leaves of rue. Other eggs will not be wanting, roasted in embers of moderate heat, and a lump of cheese ripened over a Velabran hearth, and olives that have felt the Picenian frost. These are enough for a whet: do you want to know the rest? I will deceive you to make you come: fish, mussels, sow’s paps, and fat birds of the poultry-yard and the marsh, which even Stella is not used to serve except at a special dinner. More I promise you: I will recite nothing to you, even although you yourself read again your “Giants” straight through, or your “Pastorals” that rank next to immortal Virgil.

Cenabis belle, Juli Cerialis, apud me;
condicio est melior si tibi nulla, veni.
Octavam poteris servare; lavabimur una:
scis quam sint Stephani balnea juncta mihi.
Prima tibi dabitur ventri lactuca movendo
utilis, et porris fila resecta suis,
mox vetus et tenui major cordyla lacerto,
sed quam cum rutae frondibus ova tegant;
altera non deerunt leni versata favilla,
et Velabrensi massa coacta foco,
et quae Picenum senserunt frigus olivae.
Haec satis in gustu. Cetera nosse cupis?
Mentiar, ut venias: pisces, coloephia, sumen,
et chortis saturas atque paludis aves,
quae nec Stella solet rara nisi ponere cena.
Plus ego polliceor: nil recitabo tibi,
ipse tuos nobis relegas licet usque Gigantas,
rura vel aeterno proxima Vergilio.

And Horace Epistle 1.5:

If you can recline at my table on couches made by Archias, and are not afraid of “a dinner of herbs” only, from a modest dish, I shall expect you, Torquatus, at my house at sunset. You will drink wine that was bottled in Taurus’s second consulate between marshy Minturnae and Petrinum near Sinuessa. If you have aught better, bid it be sent, or submit to orders. Long has my hearth been bright, and the furniture made neat for you. Dismiss airy hopes and the struggle for wealth, and Moschus’s cause. To-morrow, the festal day of Caesar’s birth, gives excuse for sleeping late; without penalty shall we be free to prolong the summer night in genial converse.

Why is fortune mine, if I may not use it? He who, from regard to his heir, pinches and spares overmuch is next door to a madman. I shall begin the drinking and the scattering of flowers, and shall suffer you, if you will, to think me reckless. What a miracle cannot the wine-cup work! It unlocks secrets, bids hopes be fulfilled, thrusts the coward into the field, takes the load from anxious hearts, teaches new arts. The flowing bowl—whom has it not made eloquent? Whom has it not made free even amid pinching poverty?

Here is what I charge myself to provide—and able and willing I am: that no untidy coverlet, no soiled napkin wrinkle up your nose; that tankard and plate become for you a mirror; that there be none to carry abroad what is said among faithful friends; that like may meet and mate with like.

Butra and Septicius I shall have to meet you, and Sabinus, unless a better supper and a goodlier girl detain him. There is room, too, for several “shades”a; but the reek of goats makes too crowded feasts unpleasant.b Write back, pray, how many you would like us to be; then drop your business, and by the back-door give the slip to the client waiting in your hall.

Si potes Archiacis conviva recumbere lectis
nec modica cenare times holus omne patella,
supremo te sole domi, Torquate, manebo,
vina bibes iterum Tauro diffusa palustris
inter Minturnas Sinuessanumque Petrinum.
si melius quid habes, arcesse, vel imperium fer.
iamdudum splendet focus et tibi munda supellex,
mitte levis spes et certamina divitiarum
et Moschi causam: cras nato Caesare festus
dat veniam somnumque dies; impune licebit
aestivam sermone benigno tendere noctem.
Quo mihi fortunam, si non conceditur uti?
parcus ob heredis curam nimiumque severus
adsidet insano, potare et spargere flores
incipiam, patiarque vel inconsultus haberi.
quid non ebrietas dissignat ? operta recludit,
spes iubet esse ratas, ad proelia trudit inertem,
sollicitis animis onus eximit, addocet artes.
fecundi calices quem non fecere disertum?
contracta quem non in paupertate solutum?
Haec ego procurare et idoneus imperor et non
invitus, ne turpe toral, ne sordida mappa
corruget naris, ne non et cantharus et lanx
ostendat tibi te, ne fidos inter amicos
sit qui dicta foras eliminet, ut coeat par
iungaturque pari. Butram tibi Septiciumque,
et nisi cena prior potiorque puella Sabinum
detinet, adsumam. locus est et pluribus umbris:
sed nimis arta premunt olidae convivia caprae,
tu quotus esse velis rescribe et rebus omissis
atria servantem postico falle clientem.

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 the wise world is little else, in nature, but parasites, or sub-parasites

From Ben Jonson’s Volpone (3.1). Mosca the parasite’s apotheosis of parasites.

I fear, I shall begin to grow in love
With my dear self, and my most prosperous parts,
They do so spring and burgeon; I can feel
A whimsy in my blood: I know not how,
Success hath made me wanton. I could skip
Out of my skin, now, like a subtle snake,
I am so limber. O! your parasite
Is a most precious thing, dropt from above,
Not bred ‘mongst clods and clot-poles, here on earth.
I muse, the mystery was not made a science,
It is so liberally professed! almost
All the wise world is little else, in nature,
But parasites, or sub-parasites. And yet,
I mean not those that have your bare town-art,
To know who’s fit to feed ’em; have no house,
No family, no care, and therefore mould
Tales for men’s ears, to bait that sense; or get
Kitchen-invention, and some stale receipts
To please the belly, and the groin; nor those,
With their court-dog-tricks, that can fawn and fleer,
Make their revenue out of legs and faces,
Echo my-Lord, and lick away a moth:
But your fine, elegant rascal, that can rise,
And stoop (almost together) like an arrow;
Shoot through the air, as nimbly as a star;
Turn short as doth a swallow; and be here,
And there, and here, and yonder, all at once;
Present to any humour, all occasion;
And change a visor swifter than a thought!
This is the creature had the art born with him;
Toils not to learn it, but doth practise it
Out of most excellent nature: and such sparks
Are the true parasites, others but their zanies.

The OED gives zany/zanies as “A comic performer attending on a clown, acrobat, or mountebank, who imitates his master’s acts in a ludicrously awkward way; a clown’s or mountebank’s assistant, a merry-andrew, jack-pudding; sometimes used vaguely for a professional jester or buffoon in general.”

Foeda est in coitu et brevis voluptas

Today, a comparison of translations and adaptations, plus a possible personal cryptomnesiac cribbing. I started The Complete Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (ed. David Vieth) earlier and ran across an adaptation of one of Petronius’s more memorable poems.

First, Petronius’ original (poem 28 in the Loeb text) with the Loeb rendering and – since the Loeb’s is more meh than normal – my own five minute effort afterwards. Neither effort does near justice to the playfully allusive legerdemain of the original but together they can give some idea (and, incidentally, I believe there’s a new Loeb edition of Petronius scheduled for later this year so maybe that one will improve the situation).

Foeda est in coitu et brevis voluptas
et taedet Veneris statim peractae.
Non ergo ut pecudes libidinosae
caeci protinus irruamus illuc
(nam languescit amor peritque flamma);
sed sic sic sine fine feriati
et tecum iaceamus osculantes.
Hic nullus labor est ruborque nullus:
hoc iuvit, iuvat et diu iuvabit;
hoc non deficit incipitque semper.

The pleasure of the act of love is gross and brief, and love once consummated brings loathing after it. Let us then not rush blindly thither straightway like lustful beasts, for love sickens and the flame dies down; but even so, even so, let us keep eternal holiday, and lie with thy lips to mine. No toil is here and no shame: in this, delight has been, and is, and long shall be; in this there is no diminution, but a beginning everlastingly.

Filthy and brief is the pleasure taken in sex
and passion carried to its end straightaway disgusts.
And so let us not like rutting beasts
blind and headlong rush to the end
(for desire withers and the flame dies);
But let us lie like this, just like this,
playing idly without end and kissing.
Here is no exertion and no reason to turn red:
This has pleased, does please, and long will please;
This does not cease and ever is just beginning.

Now Ben Jonson’s translation – which I remembered existed but haven’t read in years, similarity of final lines notwithstanding:

Doing, a filthy pleasure is, and short;
And done, we straight repent us of the sport:
Let us not then rush blindly on unto it,
Like lustful beasts, that only know to do it:
For lust will languish, and that heat decay.
But thus, thus, keeping endless holiday,
Let us together closely lie and kiss,
There is no labour, nor no shame in this;
This hath pleased, doth please, and long will please; never
Can this decay, but is beginning ever.

And finally, John Wilmot’s adaptation – which carries the improbable title ‘The Platonic Lady

I could love thee till I die,
Would’st thou love me modestly,
And ne’er press, whilst I live,
For more than willingly I would give:
Which should sufficient be to prove
I’d understand the art of love.

I hate the thing is called enjoyment:
Besides it is a dull employment,
It cuts off all that’s life and fire
From that which may be termed desire;
Just like the bee whose sting is gone
Converts the owner to a drone.

I love a youth will give me leave
His body in my arms to wreathe;
To press him gently, and to kiss;
To sigh, and look with eyes that wish
For what, if I could once obtain,
I would neglect with flat disdain.

I’d give him liberty to toy
And play with me, and count it joy.
Our freedom should be full complete,
And nothing wanting but the feat.
Let’s practice, then, and we shall prove
These are the only sweets of love.