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Ben Jonson, Feltham, And Randolph
by [?]

Ben Jonson, like most celebrated wits, was very unfortunate in conciliating the affections of his brother writers. He certainly possessed a great share of arrogance, and was desirous of ruling the realms of Parnassus with a despotic sceptre. That he was not always successful in his theatrical compositions is evident from his abusing, in their title-page, the actors and the public. In this he has been imitated by Fielding. I have collected the following three satiric odes, written when the reception of his “New Inn, or The Light Heart,” warmly exasperated the irritable disposition of our poet.

He printed the title in the following manner:–

The New Inn, or The Light Heart; a Comedy never acted, but most negligently played by some, the King’s servants; and more squeamishly beheld and censured by others, the King’s subjects, 1629. Now at last set at liberty to the readers, his Majesty’s servants and subjects, to be judged, 1631.”

At the end of this play he published the following Ode, in which he threatens to quit the stage for ever; and turn at once a Horace, an Anacreon, and a Pindar.

“The just indignation the author took at the vulgar censure of his play, begat this following Ode to himself:–

Come, leave the loathed stage,
And the more loathsome age;
Where pride and impudence (in faction knit,)
Usurp the chair of wit;
Inditing and arraigning every day
Something they call a play.
Let their fastidious, vaine
Commission of braine
Run on, and rage, sweat, censure, and condemn;
They were not made for thee,–less thou for them.

Say that thou pour’st them wheat,
And they will acorns eat;
‘Twere simple fury, still, thyself to waste
On such as have no taste!
To offer them a surfeit of pure bread,
Whose appetites are dead!
No, give them graines their fill,
Husks, draff, to drink and swill.
If they love lees, and leave the lusty wine,
Envy them not their palate with the swine.

No doubt some mouldy tale
Like PERICLES,[102] and stale
As the shrieve’s crusts, and nasty as his fish–
Scraps, out of every dish
Thrown forth, and rak’t into the common-tub,
May keep up the play-club:
There sweepings do as well
As the best order’d meale,
For who the relish of these guests will fit,
Needs set them but the almes-basket of wit.

And much good do’t you then,
Brave plush and velvet men
Can feed on orts, and safe in your stage clothes,
Dare quit, upon your oathes,
The stagers, and the stage-wrights too (your peers),
Of larding your large ears
With their foul comic socks,
Wrought upon twenty blocks:
Which if they’re torn, and turn’d, and patch’d enough
The gamesters share your gilt and you their stuff.

Leave things so prostitute,
And take the Alcaeick lute,
Or thine own Horace, or Anacreon’s lyre;
Warm thee by Pindar’s fire;
And, tho’ thy nerves be shrunk, and blood be cold,
Ere years have made thee old,
Strike that disdainful heat
Throughout, to their defeat;
As curious fools, and envious of thy strain,
May, blushing, swear no palsy’s in thy brain.[103]

But when they hear thee sing
The glories of thy King,
His zeal to God, and his just awe o’er men,
They may blood-shaken then,
Feel such a flesh-quake to possess their powers,
As they shall cry ‘like ours,
In sound of peace, or wars,
No harp ere hit the stars,
In tuning forth the acts of his sweet raign,
And raising Charles his chariot ‘bove his wain.'”

This Magisterial Ode, as Langbaine calls it, was answered by Owen Feltham, author of the admirable “Resolves,” who has written with great satiric acerbity the retort courteous. His character of this poet should be attended to:–