Ben: Jonson Page


Mercury Vindicated from the Alchymists.

Back Forward



                Masques. 377


M E R C U R Y

Vindicated from the

A L C H Y M I S T S,

A T   C O U R T,

By Gentlemen, the King's Servants.


A
Fter the lowd musick, the Scene discovered; being a Labo-
 ratory, or Alchymists work-house:
Vulcan looking to the
Registers, while a
Cyclope, tending the fire, to the Cornets be-
gan to sing.

C Y C L O P E.

S
Oft, subtil fire, thou soul of Art,
      Now do thy part
 On weaker Nature, that thro age is lamed.
             Take but thy time, now she is old,
             And the Sun her friend grown cold,
She will no more, in strife with thee be named.

Look, but how few confess her now,
             In cheeke or brow!
From every head, almost, how she is frighted!
             The very age abhors her so,
             That it learns to speak and go
As if by art alone it could be righted.

The Song ended, Mercury appeared, thrusting out his head, and
   afterward his body, at the Tunnel of the middle furnace;
   which
Vulcan espying, cried out to the Cyclope.

V U L C A N.

S
Tay, see! our Mercury is coming forth; Art and all the
 Elements assist. Call forth our Philosophers. He will
be gone, he will evaporate. Dear Mercury! help. He
flies. He is scap'd. Precious golden Mercury, be fixt; be
not so volatile. Will none of the Sons of Art appear?

In which time Mercury having run once or twice about the
   room, takes breath, and speaks.

M E R C U R Y.

N
O W the place and goodness of it protect me. One
 tender-hearted creature, or other, save Mercury,
and free him. Ne're an old Gentlewoman i' the house,
that has a wrinkle about her, to hide me in? I could run
into a Serving-womans pocket now; her glove, any little
hole. Some merciful Verdingale among so many, be
bounteous, and undertake me: I will stand close up, any
where, to escape this polt-footed Philosopher, old Smug here
of Lemnos, and his smoaky family. Has he given me time
to breath? O the variety of torment that I have endured

[column break]

in the reign of the Cyclops, beyond the most exquisite wit
of Tyrannes. The whole houshold of 'hem are become Al-
chymists
(since their trade of armour-making fail'd them)
only to keep themselves in fire, for this Winter; for the
mischief of Secret, that they know, above the consuming
of coals, and drawing of Uskabah. Howsoever they may
pretend under the specious names of Geber, Arnold, Lully,
Bombast of Hohenhein,
to commit miracles in Art, and Trea-
son against Nature. And, as if the title of Philosopher, that
creature of glory, were to be fetch'd out of a furnace,
abuse the curious and credulous Nation of metal-men
through the world, and make Mercury their instrument.
I am their Crude, and their Sublimate; their Precipitate,
and their Unctuous; their Male and their Female; some-
times their Hermaphrodite: what they list to stile me. It is
I, that am corroded, and exalted, and sublim'd, and re-
duc'd, and fetch'd over, and filtred, and wash'd, and
wip'd; what between their salts and their sulphures, their
oyls and their tartars, their brines and their vinegars, you
might take me out now a sous'd Mercury, now a salted
Mercury, now a smoak'd and dry'd Mercury, now a poul-
dred and pickel'd Mercury: never Herring, Oyster, or
Coucumervariant spelling of 'Cucumber' past so many vexations: my whole life with
'hem hath been an exercise of torture; one, two, three,
four and five times an hour ha' they made me dance the
Philosophical circle like an Ape thorow a hoope, or a dog
in a wheel. I am their turn-spit indeed: they eat or smell
no roast-meat but in my name. I am their bill of credit
still, that passes for their Victuals and House-room. It is
through me, they ha' got this corner o' the Court to coozen
in, where they shark for a hungry dyet below stairs, and
cheat upon your under-Officers, promising mountains for
their meat, and all upon Mercuries security. A poor Page
o' the Ladder, they have made obstinately believe, he
shall be Physician for the houshold next Summer: they will
give him a quantity of the quintessence, shall serve him to
cure kibes or the mormall o' the shin, take away the pu-
stles i' the nose, and Mercury is ingag'd for it. A child o'
the Scullery steals all their coals for 'hem too, and he is bid
sleep secure, he shall find a corner o' the Philosophers stone
for't, under his bolster, one day, and have the Proverb in-
verted. Against which, one day I am to deliver the Buttry
in so many Firkins of Aurum potabile, as it delivers out Bom-
bards of Budge to them, between this and that. For the
Pantry, they are at a certainty with me, and keep a Tally,
an Ingot, a Loaf, or a wedge of some five pound weight,
which is nothing of nothing, a trifle. And so the Black-
guard                          




378 Masques.                    


guard are pleased with any lease of life (for some 999)
especially those o' the boyling-house, they are to have
Medeas kettle hung up, that they may souse into it when
they will, and come out renew'd like so many strip'd
Snakes at their pleasure. But these are petty Engage-
ments, and (as I said) below the staires; Marry above
here, perpetuity of beauty, (do you hear, Ladies)
health, riches, honour; a matter of Immortality is no-
thing. They will calcine you a grave matron (as it
might be a mother o' the maids) and spring up a young
Virgin, out of her ashes, as fresh as a Phnix: Lay you
an old Courtier o' the coales like a sawsedge, or a bloat
herring, and after they ha' broil'd him enough, blow a
soul into him with a pair of bellows, till he start up in-
to his Galliard, that was made when Monsieur was here.
They profess familiarly to melt down all the old sinners
o' the Suburbs once in a half-year, into fresh Gamesters
again. Get all the crack'd Maiden-heads, and cast 'em
into new Ingots, half the Wenches o' the Town are Al-
chymy.
See, they begin to muster again, and draw their
Forces out against me! The Genius of the place defend
me. You that are both the Sol and Jupiter of this
Sphear, Mercury invokes your Majesty against the sooty
Tribe here; for in your favour only, I grow recover'd
and warm.

At which time Vulcan entring with a troop of thredbare Al-
   chymists, prepares them to the first Antimasque.

V U L C A N.

B
Egin your charm, sound musick, circle him in, and
 take him: If he will not obey, bind him.

They all danc'd about Mercury with variety of changes,
   whilst he defends himself with his
Caduceus, and after the
   dance, spake.

M E R C U R Y.

I
T is vain Vulcan, to pitch your net in the sight of the
 fowl thus: I am no sleepy Mars, to be catch'd i' your
subtile toys. I know what your aimes are, Sir, to tear
the wings from my head, and heels, lute me up in a glass,
with my own seals, while you might wrest the Caduceus
out of my hand, to the adultery and spoil of Nature, and
make your accesses by it, to her dishonor, more easie.
Sir, would you believe it should be come to that height
of impudence, in Mankind, that such a nest of fire-worms
as these are (because their Patron Mulciber heretofore
has made stools stir, and Statues dance, a dog of brass to
bark, and (which some will say, was his worst act, a
Woman to speak) should therefore with his heats call'd
Balnei, Cineris, or Horse-dung, profess to outwork the
Sun in vertue, and contend to the great act of generation,
nay almost creation? It is so, tho. For, in yonder vessels
which you see, in their laboratory, they have inclos'd
Materials, to produce Men, beyond the deeds of Deuca-
lion,
or Prometheus (of which, one, they say, had the Phi-
losophers stone,
and threw it over his shoulder, the other
the fire, and lost it.) And what men are they, they are
so busie about, think you? not common ordinary crea-
tures, but of rarity and excellence, such as the times
wanted, and the Age had a special deal of need of: such,
as there was a necessity, they should be artificial; for
Nature could never have thought or dreamt o'their com-
position. I can remember some o' their titles to you, and
the Ingredients do not look for Paracelsus man among 'em,
that he promised you out of white bread, and dele-wine,
for he never came to light. But of these, let me see; the
first that occurs; a Master of the Duel, a Carrier of the
differences. To him went spirit of ale, a good quantity,
with the Amalgama of sugar and nutmegs, oyl of Oaths,
sulphure of quarrel, strong Waters, Valour precipitate,

[column break]

vapor'd o'er the helm with Tobacco, and the rosin of
Mars with a dram o' the business, for that's the word of
tincture, the business. I do understand the business. I
do find an affront i' the business. Then another is a Fen-
cer i' the Mathematicks, or the Towns cunning-man, a
creature of art too; a supposed Secretary to the Stars;
but, indeed, a kind of lying Intelligencer from those parts.
His materials, if I be not deceived, were juyce of Alma-
nacks, extraction of Ephemerides, scales of the Globe, filings
of Figures, dust o'the twelve Houses, conserve of Que-
stions, salt of Confederacy, a pound of Adventure, a
grain of Skill, and a drop of Truth. I saw Vegitals too,
as well as Minerals, put into one glass there, as Adders-
tongue, Title-bane, Nitre of Clients, Tartar of false
Conveyance, Aurum palpabile, with a huge deal of talk,
to which they added tincture of Conscience, with the fa-
ces of Honesty; but for what this was, I could not learn;
only I have over-heard one o' the Artists say, out o' the
corruption of a Lawyer was the best generation of a Bro-
ker in suits: whether this were he or no, I know not.

V U L C A N.

T
Hou art a scorner, Mercury, and out of the pride of
 thy protection here, mak'st it thy study to revile
Art, but it will turn to thine own contumely soon. Call
forth the Creatures of the first class, and let them move
to the harmony of our heat, till the slanderer have seal'd
up his own lips, to his own torment.

M E R C U R Y.

L
E T 'hem come, let 'hem come, I would not wish a
 greater punishment to thy impudence.

There enters the second Antimasque of imperfect Creature, with
   helmes of lymbecks on their heads: Whose dance ended,

M E R C U R Y  proceeded.

A
R T thou not asham'd, Vulcan, to offer in defence of
 thy fire and Art, against the excellence of the Sun
and Nature, creatures more imperfect than the very flies
and insects, that are her trespasses and scapes? Vanish
with thy insolence, thou and thy impostors, and all men-
tion of you melt, before the Majesty of this light, whose
Mercury henceforth I profess to be, and never again the
Philosophers. Vanish, I say, that all who have but their
senses, may see and judge the difference between thy ri-
diculous Monsters and his absolute features.

At which the whole Scene changed to a glorious bowre, wherein
   
Nature was placed, with Prometheus at her feet; and the
   twelve Masquers, standing about them. After they had been
   a while viewed,
Prometheus descended, and Nature after
   him, singing.

N A T U R E.

             
H
O W young and fresh am I to night,
 To see't kept day by so much light,
And twelve my sons stand in their Makers sight?
   Help, wise Prometheus, something must be done,
   To shew they are the Creatures of the Sun,
                That each to other
                Is a brother,
And Nature here no stepdame, but a mother.
Cho.     Come forth, come forth, prove all the numbers
         then,
    That make perfection up, and may absolve you
         men.

But                




                Masques. 379


   But shew thy winding ways and arts,
   Thy risings, and thy timely starts
Of stealing fire from Ladies eyes and hearts.
   Those softer circles are the young mans heaven,
   And there more Orbs and Planets are than seven,
               To know whose motion
               Were a Notion
As worthy of youths study, as devotion.
Cho.   Come forth, come forth, prove all the time will gain,
  For Nature bids the best, and never bade in vain.

The first Dance.

After which this Song.

P R O M E T H E U S.   N A T U R E.

Pro.
H
O W many, 'mongst these Ladies here,
 Wish now they such a mother were!
Nat.                Not one I fear,
And read it in their laughters.
There's more I guess would wish to be my daughters.
Pro. You think they would not be so old, for so much glory.
Nat.                I think that thought so told
               Is no false piece of story,
'Tis yet with them, but Beauties noon,
They would not Grandames be too soon.
Pro.                Is that your Sexes humor?
'Tis then since Niobe was chang'd, that they have left that tumor.

Cho.Move, move again, in forms as heretofore.
Nat.                'Tis form allures.
Then move, the Ladies here are store.

[column break]

Pro.  Nature is motions mother, as she is yours.
Cho. The spring, whence order flows, that all directs,
And knits the causes with th' effects.

The maine Dance.
Then dancing with the Ladies.
Then their last Dance.
                       

          After which, Prometheus calls to them in song.

P R O M E T H E U S.

                  
W
Hat have you done
   So soon?
And can you from such beauty part?
   You'll do a wonder more than I.
   I woman with her ills did fly;
   But you their good, and them deny.
Cho.           Sure each hath left his heart
In pawn to come again, or else he durst not start.

N A T U R E.

                  
T
Hey are loth to go
   I know,
   Or sure they are no sons of mine.
   There is no banquet, boys, like this,
   If you hope better, you will miss;
   Stay here, and take each one a kiss.
Cho.           Which if you can refine,
The taste knows no such cates, nor yet the palate wine.
   No cause of terrying shun,
They are not worth his light, go backward from the Sun.











C c c                                          T H E












Back Forward



The Holloway Pages Ben: Jonson Page
clark@hollowaypages.com

© 2003 by Clark J. Holloway.