Ben Jonson

"Sejanus His Fall Act 3. Scene 3"

Another Room in the same.


To marry Livia! will no less, Sejanus,
Content thy aim? no lower object? well!
Thou know'st how thou art wrought into our trust;
Woven in our design; and think'st we must
Now use thee, whatsoe'er thy projects are:
'Tis true. But yet with caution and fit care.
And, now we better think——who's there within?

Enter an Officer.


To leave our journey off, were sin
'Gainst our decreed delights; and would appear
Doubt; or, what less becomes a prince, low fear.
Yet doubt hath law, and fears have their excuse.
Where princes' states plead necessary use;
As ours doth now: more in Sejanus' pride,
Than all fell Agrippina's hates beside.
Those are the dreadful enemies we raise
With favours, and make dangerous with praise;
The injured by us may have will alike,
But 'tis the favourite hath the power to strike;
And fury ever boils more high and strong,
Heat with ambition, than revenge of wrong.
'Tis then a part of supreme skill, to grace
No man too much; but hold a certain space
Between the ascender's rise, and thine own flat,
Lest, when all rounds be reach'd, his aim be that.
'Tis thought. [Aside.]
Is Macro in the palace? see:
If not, go seek him, to come to us.—— [Exit Offi.]
He must be the organ we must work by now;
Though none less apt for trust: need doth allow
What choice would not. I have heard that aconite,
Being timely taken, hath a healing might
Against the scorpion's stroke: the proof we'll give:
That, while two poisons wrestle, we may live.
He hath a spirit too working to be used
But to the encounter of his like; excused
Are wiser sov'reigns then, that raise one ill
Against another, and both safely kill:
The prince that feeds great natures, they will slay him;
Who nourisheth a lion must obey him.——
Be-enter Officer, with MACRO.
Macro, we sent for you.

I heard so, Caesar.

Leave us awhile.—— [Exit Officer.]
When you shall know. good Macro,
The causes of our sending, and the ends,
You will then hearken nearer; and be pleas'd
You stand so high both in our choice and trust.

The humblest place in Caesar's choice or trust,
May make glad Macro proud; without ambition.
Save to do Caesar service.

Leave your courtings.
We are in purpose, Macro, to depart
The city for a time, and see Campania;
Not for our pleasures, but to dedicate
A pair of temples, one to Jupiter
At Capua; th' other at Nola, to Augustus:
In which great work, perhaps our stay will be
Beyond our will produced...Now since we are
Not ignorant what danger may be born
Out of our shortest absence in a state
So subject unto envy, and embroil'd
With hate and faction; we have thought on thee,
Amongst a field of Romans, worthiest Macro,
To be our eye and ear: to keep strict watch
On Agrippina, Nero, Drusus; ay,
And on Sejanus: not that we distrust
His loyalty, or do repent one grace
Of all that heap we have conferred on him;
For that were to disparage our election,
And call that judgment now in doubt, which then
Seem'd as unquestion'd as an oracle-
But, greatness hath his cankers. Worms and moths
Breed out of too much humour, in the things
Which after they consume, transferring quite
The substance of their makers into themselves.
Macro is sharp, and apprehends: besides,
I know him subtle, close, wise, and well-read
In man, and his large nature; he hath studied
Affections, passions, knows their springs, their ends,
Which way, and whether they will work: 'tis proof
Enough of his great merit, that we trust him.
Then to a point, because our conference
Cannot be long without suspicion——
Here, Macro, we assign thee, both to spy,
Inform, and chastise; think, and use thy means,
Thy ministers, what, where, on whom thou wilt;
Explore, plot, practise: all thou dost in this
Shall be, as if the Senate, or the laws
Had given it privilege, and thou thence styled
The saviour both of Caesar and of Rome.
We will not take thy answer but in act:
Whereto, as thou proceed'st, we hope to hear
By trusted messengers. If't be inquired,
Wherefore we call'd you, say you have in charge
To see our chariots ready, and our horse.——
Be still our loved and, shortly, honour'd Macro.

I will not ask, why Caesar bids do this;
But joy that he bids me. It is the bliss
Of courts to be employ'd, no matter how;
A prince's power makes all his actions virtue.
We, whom he works by, are dumb instruments,
To do, but not inquire: his great intents
Are to be served, not search'd. Yet, as that bow
Is most in hand, whose owner best doth know
To affect his aims; so let that statesman hope
Most use, most price, can hit his prince's scope.
Nor must he look at what, or whom to strike,
But loose at all; each mark must be alike.
Were it to plot against the fame, the life
Of one, with whom I twinn'd; remove a wife
From my warm side, as loved as is the air;
Practise sway each parent; draw mine heir
In compass, though but one; work all my kin
To swift perdition; leave no untrain'd engine,
For friendship, or for innocence; nay, make
The gods all guilty; I would undertake
This, being imposed me, both with gain and ease:
The way to rise is to obey and please.
He that will thrive in state, he must neglect
The trodden paths that truth and right respect;
And prove new, wilder ways: for virtue there
Is not that narrow thing, she is elsewhere;
Men's fortune there is virtue; reason their will;
Their license, law; and their observance, skill.
Occasion is their foil; conscience, their stain;
Profit their lustre; and what else is, vain.
If then it be the lust of Caesar's power,
To have raised Sejanus up, and in an hour
O'erturn him, tumbling down, from height of all;
We are his ready engine: and his fall
May be our rise. It is no uncouth thing
To see fresh buildings from old ruins spring.


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