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.

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.”

These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support me;Two strengthless doves will draw me through the sky

From Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis lines 165-176, a portion of Venus’ attempted seduction. I feel there’s a classical parallel to the images of Venus’ weightlessness (‘These forceless flowers …”) but I can’t right now conjure anything from Ovid or the other likelies and the commentaries don’t help.

‘Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear,
Or, like a fairy, trip upon the green,
Or, like a nymph, with long dishevell’d hair,
Dance on the sands, and yet no footing seen:
Love is a spirit all compact of fire,
Not gross to sink, but light, and will aspire.

‘Witness this primrose bank whereon I lie;
These forceless flowers like sturdy trees support me;
Two strengthless doves will draw me through the sky,
From morn till night, even where I list to sport me:
Is love so light, sweet boy, and may it be
That thou shouldst think it heavy unto thee?

The slippage of meaning in ‘light’ (weightless vs. wanton) is easy to spot. A bit below the surface is the flavor of ‘primrose’ – Shakespeare twice later uses it in ‘dangers of pleasure’ contexts.

Ophelia to Laertes in Hamlet 1.3:

I shall th’ effect of this good lesson keep
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
Do not as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
And recks not his own rede.

And the Porter in Macbeth 2.3:

Knock,
knock; never at quiet! What are you? But
this place is too cold for hell. I’ll devil-porter
it no further: I had thought to have let in
some of all professions that go the primrose
way to the everlasting bonfire
.
[Knocking within]
Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter.

Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

From Henry IV, part 1 (2.4):

PRINCE HENRY
Do thou stand for me,
and I’ll play my father.
FALSTAFF
Depose me? if thou dost it half so gravely, so
majestically, both in word and matter, hang me up by
the heels for a rabbit-sucker or a poulter’s hare.
PRINCE HENRY
Well, here I am set.
FALSTAFF
And here I stand: judge, my masters.
PRINCE HENRY
Now, Harry, whence come you?
FALSTAFF
My noble lord, from Eastcheap.
PRINCE HENRY
The complaints I hear of thee are grievous.
FALSTAFF
‘Sblood, my lord, they are false: nay, I’ll tickle
ye for a young prince, i’ faith.
PRINCE HENRY
Swearest thou, ungracious boy? henceforth ne’er look
on me. Thou art violently carried away from grace:
there is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an
old fat man; a tun of man is thy companion. Why
dost thou converse with that trunk of humours, that
bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel
of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed
cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with
the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that
grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in
years? Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and
drink it? wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a
capon and eat it? wherein cunning, but in craft?
wherein crafty, but in villany? wherein villanous,
but in all things? wherein worthy, but in nothing?
FALSTAFF
I would your grace would take me with you: whom
means your grace?
PRINCE HENRY
That villanous abominable misleader of youth,
Falstaff, that old white-bearded Satan.
FALSTAFF
My lord, the man I know.
PRINCE HENRY
I know thou dost.
FALSTAFF
But to say I know more harm in him than in myself,
were to say more than I know. That he is old, the
more the pity, his white hairs do witness it; but
that he is, saving your reverence, a whoremaster,
that I utterly deny. If sack and sugar be a fault,
God help the wicked! if to be old and merry be a
sin, then many an old host that I know is damned: if
to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh’s lean kine
are to be loved. No, my good lord; banish Peto,
banish Bardolph, banish Poins: but for sweet Jack
Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff,
valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant,
being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him
thy Harry’s company, banish not him thy Harry’s
company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

The character of old Falstaff, even with all his faults, gives me more consolation than the most studied efforts of wisdom

The opening of Oliver Goldsmith’s Reverie at the Boar’s Head Tavern, Eastcheap – part surreal dream dialogue, part moral satire (available online here)

The improvements we make in mental acquirements only render us each day more sensible of the defects of our constitution; with this in view, therefore, let us often recur to the amusements of youth; endeavor to forget age and wisdom, and as far as innocence goes, be as much a boy as the best of them.

Let idle declaimers mourn over the degeneracy of the age; but, in my opinion, every age is the same. This I am sure of, that man in every season is a poor fretful being, with no other means to escape the calamities of the times but by endeavoring to forget them; for if he attempts to resist, he is certainly undone. If I feel poverty and pain, I am not so hardy as to quarrel with the executioner, even while under correction: I find myself no way disposed to make fine speeches, while I am making wry faces. In a word, let me drink when the fit is on, to make me insensible; and drink when it is over, for joy that I feel pain no longer.

The character of old Falstaff, even with all his faults, gives me more consolation than the most studied efforts of wisdom. I here behold an agreeable old fellow, forgetting age, and showing me the way to be young at sixty-five. Sure I am well able to be as merry, though not so comical as he. Is it not in my power to have, though not so much wit, at least as much vivacity? Age, care, wisdom, reflection, begone! I give you to the winds. Let’s have t’other bottle; here’s to the memory of Shakspeare, Falstaff, and all the merry men of Eastcheap!

Such were the reflections that naturally arose while I sat at the Boar’s Head tavern, still kept at Eastcheap. Here, by a pleasant fire, in the very room where old Sir John Falstaff cracked his jokes, in the very chair which was sometimes honored by prince Henry, and sometimes polluted by his immoral merry companions, I sat and ruminated on the follies of youth; wished to be young again, but was resolved to make the best of life while it lasted, and now and then compared past and present times together. I considered myself as the only living representative of the old knight, and transported my imagination back to the times when the prince and he gave life to the revel, and made even debauchery not disgusting. The room also conspired to throw my reflections back into antiquity: the oak floor, the Gothic windows, and the ponderous chimney-piece, had long withstood the tooth of time. The watchman had gone twelve; my companions had all stolen off; and none now remained with me but the landlord. From him I could have wished to know the history of a tavern, that had such a long succession of customers. I could not help thinking that an account of this kind would be a pleasing contrast of the manners of different ages; but my landlord could give me no information. He continued to doze and sot, and tell a tedious story, as most other landlords usually do; and, though he said nothing, yet was never silent: one good joke followed another good joke; and the best joke of all was generally begun towards the end of a bottle. I found at last, however, his wine and his conversation operate by degrees: he insensibly began to alter his appearance; his cravat seemed quilled into a ruff, and his breeches swelled out into a fardingale. I now fancied him changing sexes; and as my eyes began to close in slumber, I imagined my fat landlord actually converted into as fat a landlady. However, sleep made but few changes in my situation: the tavern, the apartment, and the table, continued as before; nothing suffered mutation but my host, who was fairly altered into a gentlewoman, whom I knew to be dame Quickly, mistress of this tavern in the days of Sir John; and the liquor we were drinking, which seemed converted into sack and sugar.

As men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones

From Shakespeare’s Pericles (2.1)

Third Fisherman
…Master, I
marvel how the fishes live in the sea.
First Fisherman
Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the
little ones: I can compare our rich misers to
nothing so fitly as to a whale; a’ plays and
tumbles, driving the poor fry before him, and at
last devours them all at a mouthful: such whales
have I heard on o’ the land, who never leave gaping
till they’ve swallowed the whole parish, church,
steeple, bells, and all.
PERICLES
[Aside] A pretty moral.
Third Fisherman
But, master, if I had been the sexton, I would have
been that day in the belfry.
Second Fisherman
Why, man?
Third Fisherman
Because he should have swallowed me too: and when I
had been in his belly, I would have kept such a
jangling of the bells, that he should never have
left, till he cast bells, steeple, church, and
parish up again.

The new Arden includes a lengthy footnote on the history of the proverb in 28-29 (‘as men do a-land: the great ones eat up the little ones.’) but I’m more interested for the moment in connecting Melville’s reuse of the theme – only reapplied to sharks as better – because more blindly vicious – stand-ins for man. Here is Fleece’s sermon to the sharks (ch. 64).

Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low over the sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other hand he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side in a mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling behind, overheard all that was said.

“Fellow-critters: I’se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin’ ob de lip! Massa Stubb say dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you must stop dat dam racket!”

“Cook,” here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap on the shoulder,—“Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn’t swear that way when you’re preaching. That’s no way to convert sinners, cook!”

“Who dat? Den preach to him yourself,” sullenly turning to go.

“No, cook; go on, go on.”

“Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:”—

“Right!” exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, “coax ’em to it; try that,” and Fleece continued.

“Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you, fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness—’top dat dam slappin’ ob de tail! How you tink to hear, spose you keep up such a dam slappin’ and bitin’ dare?”

“Cook,” cried Stubb, collaring him, “I won’t have that swearing. Talk to ’em gentlemanly.”

Once more the sermon proceeded.

“Your woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don’t blame ye so much for; dat is natur, and can’t be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not’ing more dan de shark well goberned. Now, look here, bred’ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping yourselbs from dat whale. Don’t be tearin’ de blubber out your neighbour’s mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale belong to some one else. I know some o’ you has berry brig mout, brigger dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat de brigness of de mout is not to swaller wid, but to bit off de blubber for de small fry ob sharks, dat can’t get into de scrouge to help demselves.”

“Well done, old Fleece!” cried Stubb, “that’s Christianity; go on.”

“No use goin’ on; de dam willains will keep a scougin’ and slappin’ each oder, Massa Stubb; dey don’t hear one word; no use a-preachin’ to such dam g’uttons as you call ’em, till dare bellies is full, and dare bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get ’em full, dey wont hear you den; for den dey sink in de sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and can’t hear not’ing at all, no more, for eber and eber.”

“Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction, Fleece, and I’ll away to my supper.”

Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his shrill voice, and cried—

“Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill your dam’ bellies ’till dey bust—and den die.”

[Stubb abuses and bullies Fleece at some length about his cooking skill]

“Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch. D’ye hear? away you sail, then.—Halloa! stop! make a bow before you go.—Avast heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast—don’t forget.”

“Wish, by gor! whale eat him, ’stead of him eat whale. I’m bressed if he ain’t more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself,” muttered the old man, limping away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock.

[Parenthetically – I’ve found in teaching that the mocking presentation of Fleece’s dialect is understandably tough to look past. I think it helps to set it alongside Melville’s style in, for example, describing Queequeg as ‘George Washington cannibalistically developed.’ He seeds shock within cultural convention – so here giving Fleece a stereotyped dialect but having him then express the best understanding of human nature of anyone in the novel. So too his parting remark, approved by the narrator, that is an open condemnation of the entire system he lives under.]

O, then we bring forth weeds, when our quick minds lie still

From Antony and Cleopatra (2.1.94-95), a note to myself as I begin a long holiday:

O, then we bring forth weeds,
When our quick minds lie still

And some other Shakespearean uses of weed/weeds as the noun in its not-clothes sense. It is not a favorite but is certainly a repeated metaphor:

Henry IV pt. II – 4.4:


Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds

Henry VI pt. II – 3.1:

Now ’tis the spring, and weeds are shallow-rooted;
Suffer them now, and they’ll o’ergrow the garden
And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.

Measure for Measure – 1.3:

We have strict statutes and most biting laws.
The needful bits and curbs to headstrong weeds,
Which for this nineteen years we have let slip;
Even like an o’ergrown lion in a cave,
That goes not out to prey.

Rape of Lucrece – 920-926:

‘Unruly blasts wait on the tender spring;
Unwholesome weeds take root with precious flowers;
The adder hisses where the sweet birds sing;
What virtue breeds iniquity devours:
We have no good that we can say is ours,
But ill-annexed Opportunity
Or kills his life or else his quality.

Richard II 3.4:

I will go root away
The noisome weeds, which without profit suck
The soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.

Richard III 2.4:

‘Small herbs have grace, great weeds do grow apace:’
And since, methinks, I would not grow so fast,
Because sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.

Hamlet 1.5:

I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That rots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this.

Henry V 4.1:

For our bad neighbour makes us early stirrers,
Which is both healthful and good husbandry:
Besides, they are our outward consciences,
And preachers to us all, admonishing
That we should dress us fairly for our end.
Thus may we gather honey from the weed,
And make a moral of the devil himself.