Ben Jonson

"Sejanus His Fall Act 1. Scene 2"

                               (The former scene continued.)
            A Gallery discovered opening into the state Room.


Here he will instant be: let's walk a turn;
You're in a muse, Eudemus.

Not I, sir.
I wonder he should mark me out so! well,
Jove and Apollo form it for the best. [Aside.

Your fortune's made unto you now, Eudemus,
If you can but lay bold upon the means;
Do but observe his humour, and—believe it—
He is the noblest Roman, where he takes——


Here comes his lordship.

Now, good Satrius.

This is the gentleman, my lord.

Is this?
Give me your hand—we must be more acquainted.
Report, sir, hath spoke out your art and learning:
And I am glad I have so needful cause,
However in itself painful and hard,
To make me known to so great virtue.——Look,
Who is that, Satrius?

[Exit Sat.]

I have a grief, sir,
That will desire your help. Your name's Eudemus!



It is, my lord.

I hear you are
Physician to Livia, the princess.

I minister unto her, my good lord.

You minister to a royal lady, then.

She is, my, lord, and fair.

That's understood
Of all her sex, who are or would be so;
And those that would be, physic soon can make them:
For those that are, their beauties fear no colours.

Your lordship is conceited.

Sir, you know it,
And can, if need be, read a learned lecture
On this, and other secrets. 'Pray you, tell me,
What more of ladies besides Livia,
Have you your patients?

Many, my good lord.
The great Augusta, Urgulania,
Mutilia Prisca, and Plancina; divers——

And all these tell you the particulars
Of every several grief? how first it grew,
And then increased; what action caused that;
What passion that: and answer to each point
That you will put them?

Else, my lord, we know not
How to prescribe the remedies.

Go to,
you are a subtile nation, you physicians!
And grown the only cabinets in court,
To ladies' privacies. Faith, which of these
Is the most pleasant lady in her physic?
Come, you are modest now.

'Tis fit, my lord.

Why, sir, I do not-ask you of their urines,
Whose smell's most violet, or whose siege is best,
Or who makes hardest faces on her stool?
Which lady sleeps with her own face a nights?
Which puts her teeth off, with her clothes, in court?
Or, which her hair, which her complexion,
And, in which box she puts it; These were questions,
That might, perhaps, have put your gravity
To some defence of blush. But, I enquired,
Which was the wittiest, merriest, wantonnest? H
armless intergatories, but conceits.——
Methinks Augusta should be most perverse,
And froward in her fit.

She's so, my lord.

I knew it: and Mutilia the most jocund.

Eud. 'Tis very true, my lord.

And why would you
Conceal this from me, now? Come, what is Livia?
I know she's quick and quaintly spirited,
And will have strange thoughts, when she is at leisure:
She tells them all to you.

My noblest lord,
He breathes not in the empire, or on earth.
Whom I would be ambitious to serve
In any act, that may preserve mine honour,
Before your lordship.

Sir, you can lose no honour,
By trusting aught to me. The coarsest act
Done to my service, I can so requite,
As all the world shall style it honourable:
Your idle, virtuous definitions,
Keep honour poor, and are as scorn'd as vain:
Those deeds breathe honour that do suck in gain.

But, good my lord, if I should thus betray
The counsels of my patient, and a lady's
Of her high place and worth; what might your lordship,
Who presently are to trust me with your own,
Judge of my faith?

Only the best I swear.
Say now that I should utter you my grief,
And with it the true cause; that it were love,
And love to Livia; you should tell her this:
Should she suspect your faith; I would you could
Tell me as much from her; see if my brain
Could be turn'd jealous.

Happily, my lord,
I could in time tell you as much and more;
So I might safely promise but the first
To her from you.

As safely, my Eudemus,
I now dare call thee so, as I have put
The secret into thee.

My lord——

Protest not,
Thy looks are vows to me; use only speed,
And but affect her with Sejanus' love,
Thou art a man, made to make consuls. Go.

My lord, I'll promise you a private meeting
This day together.

Canst thou?


The place?

My gardens, whither I shall fetch your lordship

Let me adore my AEsculapius.
Why, this indeed is physic! and outspeaks
The knowledge of cheap drugs, or any use
Can be made out of it! more comforting
Than all your opiates, juleps, apozems,
Magistral syrups, or—— Be gone, my friend,
Not barely styled, but created so;
Expect things greater than thy largest hopes,
To overtake thee: Fortune shall be taught
To know how ill she hath deserv'd thus long,
To come behind thy wishes. Go, and speed.

[Exit Eudemus.

Ambition makes more trusty slaves than need.
These fellows, by the favour of their art,
Have still the means to tempt; oft-times the power.
If Livia will be now corrupted, then
Thou hast the way, Sejanus, to work out
His secrets, who, thou know'st, endures thee not,
Her husband, Drusus: and to work against them.
Prosper it, Pallas, thou that better'st wit;
For Venus hath the smallest share in it.

Enter TIBERIUS and DRUSUS, attended.

[to Haterius, who kneels to him.]
We not endure these flatteries; let him stand;
Our empire, ensigns, axes, rods and state
Take not away our human nature from us:
Look up on us, and fall before the gods.

How like a god speaks Caesar!

There, observe!
He can endure that second, that's no flattery.
O, what is it, proud slime will not believe
Of his own worth, to hear it equal praised
Thus with the gods!

He did not hear it, sir.

He did not! Tut, he must not, we think meanly.
'Tis your most courtly known confederacy,
To have your private parasite redeem,
What he, in public, subtilely will lose,
To making him a name.

Right mighty lord—— [Gives him letters.

We must make up our ears 'gainst these assaults
Of charming tongues; we pray you use no more
These contumelies to us; style not us
Or lord, or mighty, who profess ourself
The servant of the senate, and are proud
T' enjoy them our good, just, and favouring lords.

Rarely dissembled!

Prince-like to the life.

When power that may command, so much descends,
Their bondage, whom it stoops to, it intends.

Whence are these letters?

From the senate.

So. [Lat. gives him letters.
Whence these?

From thence too.

Are they sitting now?

They stay thy answer, Caesar.

If this man
Had but a mind allied unto his words,
How blest a fate were it to us, and Rome!
We could not think that state for which to change,
Although the aim were our old liberty:
The ghosts of those that fell for that, would grieve
Their bodies lived not, now, again to serve.
Men are deceived, who think there can be thrall
Beneath a virtuous prince: Wish'd liberty
Ne'er lovelier looks, than under such a crown.
But, when his grace is merely but lip-good.
And that, no longer than he airs himself
Abroad in public, there, to seem to shun
The strokes and stripes of flatterers, which within
Are lechery unto him, and so feed
His brutish sense with their afflicting sound,
As, dead to virtue, he permits himself
Be carried like a pitcher by the ears,
To every act of vice: this is the case
Deserves our fear, and doth presage the nigh
And close approach of blood and tyranny.
Flattery is midwife unto prince's rage:
And nothing sooner doth help forth a tyrant,
Than that and whisperers' grace, who have the time,
The place, the power, to make all men offenders.

He should be told this; and be bid dissemble
With fools and blind men: we that know the evil,
Should hunt the palace-rats or give them bane;
Fright hence these worse than ravens, that devour T
he quick, where they but prey upon the dead:
He shall be told it.

Stay, Arruntius,
We must abide our opportunity;
And practise what is fit, as what is needful.
It is not safe t' enforce a sovereign's ear:
Princes hear well, if they at all will hear.

Ha, say you so? well! In the mean time, Jove,
(Say not, but I do call upon thee now,)

'Tis well pray'd.

[having read the letters.]
Return the lords this voice,——
We are their creature,
And it is fit a good and honest prince,
Whom they, out of their bounty, have instructed
With so dilate and absolute a power,
Should owe the office of it to their service.
And good of all and every citizen.
Nor shall it e'er repent us to have wish'd
The senate just, and favouring lords unto us,
Since their free loves do yield no less defence
To a prince's state, than his own innocence.
Say then, there can be nothing in their thought
Shall want to please us, that hath pleased them;
Our suffrage rather shall prevent than stay
Behind their wills: 'tis empire to obey,
Where such, so great, so grave, so good determine.
Yet, for the suit of Spain, to erect a temple
In honour of our mother and our self,
We must, with pardon of the senate, not
Assent thereto. Their lordships may object
Our not denying the same late request
Unto the Asian cities: we desire
That our defence for suffering that be known
In these brief reasons, with our after purpose.
Since deified Augustus hindered not
A temple to be built at Pergamum,
In honour of himself and sacred Rome;
We, that have all his deeds and words observed
Ever, in place of laws, the rather follow'd
That pleasing precedent, because with ours,
The senate's reverence, also, there was join'd.
But as, t' have once received it, may deserve
The gain of pardon; so, to be adored
With the continued style, and note of gods,
Through all the provinces, were wild ambition.
And no less pride: yea, even Augustus' name
Would early vanish, should it be profaned
With such promiscuous flatteries. For our part,
We here protest it, and are covetous
Posterity should know it. we are mortal;
And can but deeds of men: 'twere glory enough,
Could we be truly a prince. And, they shall add
Abounding grace unto our memory,
That shall report us worthy our forefathers,
Careful of your affairs, constant in dangers,
And not afraid of any private frown
For public good. These things shall be to us
Temples and statues, reared in your minds,
The fairest, and most during imagery:
For those of stone or brass, if they become
Odious in judgment of posterity,
Are more contemn'd as dying sepulchres,
Than ta'en for living monuments. We then
Make here our suit, alike to gods and men;
The one, until the period of our race,
To inspire us with a free and quiet mind,
Discerning both divine and human laws;
The other, to vouchsafe us after death,
An honourable mention, and fair praise,
To accompany our actions and our name:
The rest of greatness princes may command,
And, therefore, may neglect; only, a long,
A lasting, high, and happy memory
They should, without being satisfied, pursue:
Contempt of fame begets contempt of virtue.


Most divine!

The oracles are ceased,
That only Caesar, with their tongue, might speak.

Let me be gone: most felt and open this!

Cor. Stay.

What! to hear more cunning and fine words,
With their sound flatter'd ere their sense be meant?

Their choice of Antium, there to place the gift
Vow'd to the goddess for our mother's health,
We will the senate know, we fairly like:
As also of their grant to Lepidus,
For his repairing the AEmilian place,
And restoration of those monuments:
Their grace too in confining of Silanus
To the other isle Cithera, at the suit
Of his religious sister, much commends
Their policy, so temper'd with their mercy.
But for the honours which they have decreed
To our Sejanus, to advance his statue
In Pompey's theatre, (whose ruining fire
His vigilance and labour kept restrain'd
In that one loss,) they have therein out-gone
Their own great wisdoms, by their skilful choice,
And placing of their bounties on a man,
Whose merit more adorns the dignity,
Than that can him; and gives a benefit,
In taking, greater than it can receive.
Blush not, Sejanus, thou great aid of Rome,
Associate of our labours, our chief helper;
Let us not force thy simple modesty
With offering at thy praise, for more we cannot,
Since there's no voice can take it.
No man here Receive our speeches as hyperboles:
For we are far from flattering our friend,
Let envy know, as from the need to flatter.
Nor let them ask the causes of our praise:
Princes have still their grounds rear'd with themselves,
Above the poor low flats of common men;
And who will search the reasons of their acts,
Must stand on equal bases. Lead, away:
Our loves unto the senate.

[Exeunt Tib., Sejan., Natta, Hat., Lat., Officers, etc.



Great Pompey's theatre was never ruin'd
Till now, that proud Sejanus hath a statue
Rear'd on his ashes.

Place the shame of soldiers,
Above the best of generals? crack the world,
And bruise the name of Romans into dust,
Ere we behold it!

Check your passion; Lord Drusus tarries.

Is my father mad,
Weary of life, and rule, lords? thus to heave
An idol up with praise! make him his mate,
His rival in the empire!

O, good prince.

Allow him statues, titles, honours, such
As he himself refuseth!

Brave, brave Drusus!

The first ascents to sovereignty are hard;
But, entered once, there never wants or means,
Or ministers, to help the aspirer on.

True, gallant Drusus.

We must shortly pray
To Modesty, that he will rest contented——

Ay, where he is, and not write emperor.

Re-enter SEJANUS, SATBIUS, LATIARIS, Clients, etc.

There is your bill, and yours; bring you your man.
[To Satrius.
I have moved for you, too, Latiaris.

Is your vast greatness grown so blindly bold,
That you will over us?

Why then give way.

Give way, Colossus! do you lift? advance you?
Take that! [Strikes him.

Good! brave! excellent, brave prince!

Nay, come, approach. [Draws his sword.
What, stand you off? at gaze?
It looks too full of death for thy cold spirits.
Avoid mine eye, dull camel, or my sword
Shall make thy bravery fitter for a grave,
Than for a triumph. I'll advance a statue
O' your own bulk; but 't shall be on the cross;
Where I will nail your pride at breadth and length,
And crack those sinews, which are yet but stretch'd
With your swoln fortune's rage.

A noble prince!

A Castor, a Castor, a Castor, a Castor!

[Exeunt all but Sejanus.

He that, with such wrong moved, can bear it through
With patience, and an even mind, knows how
To turn it back. Wrath cover'd carries fate:
Revenge is lost, if I profess my hate.
What was my practice late, I'll now pursue,
As my fell justice: this hath styled it new.


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