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.