Joseph Hall

(1574 - 1656 / England)

Virgidemarium (excerpt)


With some pot-fury, ravish'd from their wit,
They sit and muse on some no-vulgar writ:
As frozen dunghills in a winter's morn,
That void of vapours seemed all beforn,
Soon as the sun sends out his piercing beams,
Exhale out filthy smoke and stinking steams;
So doth the base, and the fore-barren brain,
Soon as the raging wine begins to reign.
One higher pitch'd doth set his soaring thought
On crowned kings, that fortune hath low brought;
Or some upreared, high-aspiring swain,
As it might be the Turkish Tamberlain:
Then weeneth he his base drink-drowned spright
Rapt to the three-fold loft of heaven height,
When he conceives upon his feigned stage
The stalking steps of his great personage,
Graced with huff-cap terms and thund'ring threats,
That his poor hearers' hair quite upright sets.
Such soon as some brave-minded hungry youth
Sees fitly frame to his wide-strained mouth,
He vaunts his voice upon an hired stage,
With high-set steps and princely carriage;
Now swooping in side-robes of royalty,
That erst did scrub in lousy brokery.
There if he can with terms Italianate,
Big-sounding sentences and words of state,
Fair patch me up his pure iambic verse,
He ravishes the gazing scaffolders.
Then certes was the famous Corduban
Never but half so high tragedian.
Now, lest such frightful shows of Fortune's fall,
And bloody tyrant's rage, should chance appall
The dead-struck audience, midst the silent rout,
Comes leaping in a self-misformed lout,
And laughs, and grins, and frames his mimic face,
And justles straight into the prince's place;
Then doth the theatre echo all aloud,
With gladsome noise of that applauding crowd.
A goodly hotch-potch! when vile russetings
Are match'd with monarchs, and with mighty kings
A goodly grace to sober tragic muse,
When each base clown his clumsy fist doth bruise,
And show his teeth in double rotten row,
For laughter at his self-resembled show.
Meanwhile our poets in high parliament
Sit watching every word and gesturement,
Like curious censors of some doughty gear,
Whispering their verdict in their fellow's ear.
Woe to the word whose margent in their scroll
Is noted with a black condemning coal.
But if each period might the synod please,

Ho!--bring the ivy boughs, and bands of bays.
Now when they part and leave the naked stage,
'Gins the bare hearer, in a guilty rage,
To curse and ban, and blame his likerous eye,
That thus hath lavish'd his late halfpenny.
Shame that the Muses should be bought and sold,
For every peasant's brass, on each scaffold.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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