Ben Jonson

"The Poetaster Act 4. Scene 7"

An open Space before the Palace.

Enter OVID.

Banish'd the court! Let me be banish'd life,
Since the chief end of life is there concluded:
Within the court is all the kingdom bounded,
And as her sacred sphere doth comprehend
Ten thousand times so much, as so much place
In any part of all the empire else;
So every body, moving in her sphere,
Contains ten thousand times as much in him,
As any other her choice orb excludes.
As in a circle, a magician then
Is safe against the spirit he excites;
But, out of it, is subject to his rage,
And loseth all the virtue of his art:
So I, exiled the circle of the court,
Lose all the good gifts that in it I 'joy'd.
No virtue current is, but with her stamp,
And no vice vicious, blanch'd with her white hand.
The court's the abstract of all Rome's desert,
And my dear Julia the abstract of the court.
Methinks, now I come near her, I respire
Some air of that late comfort I received;
And while the evening, with her modest veil,
Gives leave to such poor shadows as myself
To steal abroad, I, like a heartless ghost,
Without the living body of my love,
Will here walk and attend her: for I know
Not far from hence she is imprisoned,
And hopes, of her strict guardian, to bribe
So much admittance, as to speak to me,
And cheer my fainting spirits with her breath.

[appears above at her chamber window.] Ovid? my love?

Here, heavenly Julia.

Here! and not here! O, how that word doth play
With both our fortunes, differing, like ourselves,
Both one; and yet divided, as opposed!
I high, thou low: O, this our plight of place
Doubly presents the two lets of our love,
Local and ceremonial height, and lowness:
Both ways, I am too high, and thou too low,
Our minds are even yet; O, why should our bodies,
That are their slaves, be so without their rule?
I'll cast myself down to thee; if I die,
I'll ever live with thee: no height of birth,
Of place, of duty, or of cruel power,
Shall keep me from thee; should my father lock
This body up within a tomb of brass,
Yet I'll be with thee. If the forms I hold
Now in my soul, be made one substance with it;
That soul immortal, and the same 'tis now;
Death cannot raze the affects she now retaineth:
And then, may she be any where she will.
The souls of parents rule not children's souls,
When death sets both in their dissolv'd estates;
Then is no child nor father; then eternity
Frees all from any temporal respect.
I come, my Ovid; take me in thine arms,
And let me breathe my soul into thy breast.

O stay, my love; the hopes thou dost conceive
Of thy quick death, and of thy future life,
Are not authentical. Thou choosest death,
So thou might'st 'joy thy love in the other life:
But know, my princely love, when thou art dead,
Thou only must survive in perfect soul;
And in the soul are no affections.
We pour out our affections with our blood,
And, with our blood's affections, fade our loves.
No life hath love in such sweet state as this;
No essence is so dear to moody sense
As flesh and blood, whose quintessence is sense.
Beauty, composed of blood and flesh, moves more,
And is more plausible to blood and flesh,
Than spiritual beauty can be to the spirit.
Such apprehension as we have in dreams,
When, sleep, the bond of senses, locks them up,
Such shall we have, when death destroys them quite.
If love be then thy object, change not life;
Live high and happy still: I still below,
Close with my fortunes, in thy height shall joy.

Ay me, that virtue, whose brave eagle's wings,
With every stroke blow stairs in burning heaven,
Should, like a swallow, preying towards storms,
Fly close to earth, and with an eager plume,
Pursue those objects which none else can see,
But seem to all the world the empty air!
Thus thou, poor Ovid, and all virtuous men,
Must prey, like swallows, on invisible food,
Pursuing flies, or nothing: and thus love.
And every worldly fancy, is transposed
By worldly tyranny to what plight it list.
O father, since thou gav'st me not my mind,
Strive not to rule it; take but what thou gav'st
To thy disposure: thy affections
Rule not in me; I must bear all my griefs,
Let me use all my pleasures; virtuous love
Was never scandal to a goddess' state.—
But he's inflexible! and, my dear love,
Thy life may chance be shorten'd by the length
Of my unwilling speeches to depart.
Farewell, sweet life; though thou be yet exiled
The officious court, enjoy me amply still:
My soul, in this my breath, enters thine ears,
And on this turret's floor Will I lie dead,
Till we may meet again: In this proud height,
I kneel beneath thee in my prostrate love,
And kiss the happy sands that kiss thy feet.
Great Jove submits a sceptre to a cell,
And lovers, ere they part, will meet in hell.

Farewell all company, and, if l could,
All light with thee! hell's shade should hide my brows,
Till thy dear beauty's beams redeem'd my vows.


Ovid, my love; alas! may we not stay.
A little longer, think'st thou, undiscern'd?

For thine own good, fair goddess, do not stay.
Who would engage a firmament of fires
Shining in thee, for me, a falling star?
Be gone, sweet life-blood; if I should discern
Thyself but touch'd for my sake, I should die.

I will begone, then; and not heaven itself
Shall draw me back. [Going.

Yet, Julia, if thou Wilt, A little longer stay.

I am content.

O, mighty Ovid! what the sway of heaven
Could not retire, my breath hath turned back.

Who shall go first, my love? my passionate eyes
Will not endure to see thee turn from me.

If thou go first, my soul
Will follow thee.

Then we must stay.

Ay me, there is no stay
In amorous pleasures; if both stay, both die.
I hear thy father; hence, my deity.
[Julia retires from the window.
Fear forgeth sounds in my deluded ears;
I did not hear him; I am mad with love.
There is no spirit under heaven, that works
With such illusion; yet such witchcraft kill me,
Ere a sound mind, without it, save my life!
Here, on my knees, I worship the blest place
That held my goddess; and the loving air,
That closed her body in his silken arms.
Vain Ovid! kneel not to the place, nor air;
She's in thy heart; rise then, and worship there.
The truest wisdom silly men can have,
Is dotage on the follies of their flesh.


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