Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN EXECRATION UPON VULCAN, by BEN JONSON



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AN EXECRATION UPON VULCAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: And why to me this, thou lame lord of fire
Last Line: Thy wife's pox on thee, and bess braughton's too.
Subject(s): Fire


And why to me this, thou lame lord of fire,
What had I done that might call on thine ire?
Or urge thy greedy flame, thus to devour
So many my years' labours in an hour?
I ne'er attempted, Vulcan, 'gainst thy life;
Nor made least line of love to thy loose wife;
Or in remembrance of thy affront, and scorn,
With clowns, and tradesmen, kept thee closed in horn.
'Twas Jupiter that hurled thee headlong down,
And Mars, that gave thee a lantern for a crown:
Was it because thou wert of old denied
By Jove to have Minerva for thy bride,
That since thou tak'st all envious care and pain,
To ruin any issue of the brain?
Had I wrote treason there, or heresy,
Imposture, witchcraft, charms, or blasphemy,
I had deserved, then, thy consuming looks,
Perhaps, to have been burned with my books.
But, on thy malice, tell me, didst thou spy
Any, least loose, or scurrile paper, lie
Concealed or kept there, that was fit to be,
By thy own vote, a sacrifice to thee?
Did I there wound the honours of the crown?
Or tax the glories of the church, and gown?
Itch to defame the state? Or brand the times?
And myself most, in some self-boasting rhymes?
If none of these, then why this fire? Or find
A cause before; or leave me one behind.
Had I compiled from Amadis de Gaul,
The Esplandians, Arthurs, Palmerins, and all
The learned library of Don Quixote;
And so some goodlier monster had begot,
Or spun out riddles, and weaved fifty tomes
Of logogriphs, and curious palindromes,
Or pomped for those hard trifles anagrams,
Or eteostichs, or those finer flammes
Of eggs, and halberds, cradles, and a hearse,
A pair of scissors, and a comb in verse;
Acrostichs, and telestichs, on jump names,
Thou then hadst had some colour for thy flames,
On such my serious follies; but, thou'lt say,
There were some pieces of as base allay,
And as false stamp there; parcels of a play,
Fitter to see the firelight, than the day;
Adulterate monies, such as might not go:
Thou shouldst have stayed, till public fame said so.
She is the judge, thou executioner:
Or if thou needs wouldst trench upon her power,
Thou mightst have yet enjoyed thy cruelty
With some more thrift, and more variety:
Thou mightst have had me perish, piece by piece,
To light tobacco, or save roasted geese,
Singe capons, or poor pigs, dropping their eyes:
Condemned me to the ovens with the pies;
And so, have kept me dying a whole age,
Not ravished all hence in a minute's rage.
But that's a mark, whereof thy rites do boast,
To make consumption, ever, where thou go'st;
Had I foreknown of this thy least desire
To have held a triumph, or a feast of fire,
Especially in paper: that, that steam
Had tickled your large nostril: many a ream,
To redeem mine, I had sent in; enough,
Thou shouldst have cried, and all been proper stuff.
The Talmud, and the Alcoran had come,
With pieces of the Legend; the whole sum
Of errant knighthood, with the dames, and dwarfs;
The charmed boats, and the enchanted wharfs;
The Tristrams, Lancelots, Turpins, and the Peers,
All the mad Rolands, and sweet Oliveers;
To Merlin's marvels, and his cabal's loss,
With the chimera of the Rosy-Cross,
Their seals, their characters, hermetic rings,
Their gem of riches, and bright stone, that brings
Invisibility, and strength, and tongues:
The art of kindling the true coal, by lungs;
With Nicholas Pasquil's Meddle with your match,
And the strong lines, that so the time do catch,
Or Captain Pamphlet's horse, and foot, that sally
Upon the Exchange, still out of Pope's Head Alley.
The weekly corrants, with Paul's seal; and all
The admired discourses of the prophet Ball:
These, hadst thou pleased either to dine, or sup,
Had made a meal for Vulcan to lick up.
But in my desk, what was there to excite
So ravenous, and vast an appetite?
I dare not say a body, but some parts
There were of search, and mastery in the arts.
All the old Venusine, in poetry,
And lighted by the Stagerite, could spy,
Was there made English: with the Grammar too,
To teach some that, their nurses could not do --
The purity of language; and among
The rest, my journey into Scotland sung,
With all the adventures; three books not afraid
To speak the fate of the Sicilian maid
To our own ladies; and in story there
Of our fifth Henry, eight of his nine year;
Wherein was oil, beside the succour spent,
Which noble Carew, Cotton, Selden lent:
And twice twelve years stored up humanity,
With humble gleanings in divinity;
After the Fathers, and those wiser guides
Whom faction had not drawn to study sides.
How in these ruins, Vulcan, thou dost lurk,
All soot, and embers! Odious, as thy work!
I now begin to doubt, if ever grace,
Or goddess, could be patient of thy face.
Thou woo Minerva! Or to wit aspire!
'Cause thou canst halt, with us, in arts, and fire!
Son of the wind! For so thy mother gone
With lust conceived thee; father thou hadst none:
When thou wert born, and that thou look'st at best,
She durst not kiss, but flung thee from her breast.
And so did Jove, who ne'er meant thee his cup:
No mar'l the clowns of Lemnos took thee up,
For none but smiths would have made thee a god.
Some alchemist there may be yet, or odd
Squire of the squibs, against the pageant day,
May to thy name a Vulcanale say;
And for it lose his eyes with gunpowder,
As the other may his brains with quicksilver.
Well fare the wise men yet, on the Bankside,
My friends, the watermen! They could provide
Against thy fury, when to serve their needs,
They made a Vulcan of a sheaf of reeds,
Whom they durst handle in their holiday coats,
And safely trust to dress, not burn their boats.
But, O those reeds! Thy mere disdain of them,
Made thee beget that cruel stratagem,
(Which, some are pleased to style but thy mad prank)
Against the Globe, the glory of the Bank,
Which, though it were the fort of the whole parish,
Flanked with a ditch, and forced out of a marish,
I saw with two poor chambers taken in
And razed; ere thought could urge, this might have been!
See the world's ruins! Nothing but the piles
Left! And wit since to cover it with tiles.
The Brethren, they straight noised it out for news,
'Twas verily some relic of the stews:
And this a sparkle of that fire let loose
That was locked up in the Winchestrian goose
Bred on the Bank, in time of popery,
When Venus there maintained the mystery.
But, others fell, with that conceit by the ears,
And cried, it was a threatening to the bears;
And that accursed ground, the Parish Garden:
Nay (sighed a sister) 'twas the nun, Kate Arden,
Kindled the fire! But, then did one return,
No fool would his own harvest spoil, or burn!
If that were so, thou rather wouldst advance
The place, that was thy wife's inheritance.
O no, cried all. Fortune, for being a whore,
Scaped not his justice any jot the more:
He burnt that idol of the Revels too:
Nay, let Whitehall with Revels have to do,
Though but in dances, it shall know his power;
There was a judgement shown too in an hour.
He is true Vulcan still! He did not spare
Troy, though it were so much his Venus' care.
Fool, wilt thou let that in example come?
Did she not save from thence, to build a Rome?
And what hast thou done in these petty spites,
More than advanced the houses, and their rites?
I will not argue thee, from those of guilt,
For they were burnt, but to be better built.
'Tis true, that in thy wish they were destroyed,
Which thou hast only vented, not enjoyed.
So wouldst thou have run upon the Rolls by stealth,
And didst invade part of the Commonwealth,
In those records, which were all chronicles gone,
Will be remembered by six clerks, to one.
But, say all six, good men, what answer ye?
Lies there no writ, out of the Chancery,
Against this Vulcan? No injunction?
No order? No decree? Though we be gone
At Common Law: methinks in his despite
A court of Equity should do us right,
But to confine him to the brew-houses,
The glasshouse, dye-fats, and their furnaces;
To live in sea coal, and go forth in smoke;
Or lest that vapour might the city choke,
Condemn him to the brick kilns, or some hill --
Foot (out in Sussex) to an iron mill;
Or in small faggots have him blaze about
Vile taverns, and the drunkards piss him out;
Or in the bellman's lantern, like a spy,
Burn to a snuff, and then stink out, and die:
I could invent a sentence, yet were worse;
But I'll conclude all in a civil curse.
Pox on your flameship, Vulcan; if it be
To all as fatal as't hath been to me,
And to Paul's steeple; which was unto us
'Bove all your fireworks had at Ephesus,
Or Alexandria; and though a divine
Loss remains yet, as unrepaired as mine.
Would you had kept your forge, at Etna still,
And there made swords, bills, glaives, and arms your fill;
Maintained the trade at Bilbo; or elsewhere;
Struck in at Milan with the cutlers there;
Or stayed but where the friar, and you first met,
Who from the devil's arse did guns beget;
Or fixed in the Low Countries, where you might
On both sides do your mischiefs with delight;
Blow up, and ruin, mine, and countermine,
Make your petards, and granats, all your fine
Engines of murder, and receive the praise
Of massacring mankind so many ways.
We ask your absence here, we all love peace,
And pray the fruits thereof, and the increase;
So doth the king, and most of the king's men
That have good places: therefore once again,
Pox on thee, Vulcan, thy Pandora's pox,
And all the evils that flew out of her box
Light on thee: or if those plagues will not do,
Thy wife's pox on thee, and Bess Braughton's too.





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