Fiction > Harvard Classics > Ben Jonson > The Alchemist
Ben Jonson (1572–1637).  The Alchemist.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Scene II
Enter SUBTLE, followed by TRIBULATION and ANANIAS 1

  SUB.  O, are you come? ’Twas time. Your threescore minutes
Were at last thread, you see; and down had gone
Furnus acediæ, turris circulatorius:
Lembec, bolt’s-head, retort, and pelican        4
Had all been cinders. Wicked Ananias!
Art thou return’d? Nay, then it goes down yet.
  TRI.  Sir, be appeased; he is come to humble
Himself in spirit, and to ask you patience,        8
If too much zeal hath carried him aside
From the due path.
  SUB.        Why, this doth qualify!
  TRI.  The brethren had no purpose, verily,        12
To give you the least grievance; but are ready
To lend their willing hands to any project
The spirit and you direct.
  SUB.        This qualifies more!        16
  TRI.  And for the orphans’ goods, let them be valu’d,
Or what is needful else to the holy work,
It shall be numb’red; here, by me, the saints
Throw down their purse before you.        20
  SUB.        This qualifies most!
Why, thus it should be, now you understand.
Have I discours’d so unto you of our stone,
And of the good that it shall bring your cause?        24
Show’d you (beside the main of hiring forces
Abroad, drawing the Hollanders, your friends,
From the Indies, to serve you, with all their fleet)
That even the med’cinal use shall make you a faction,        28
And party in the realm? As, put the case,
That some great man in state, he have the gout,
Why, you but send three drops of your elixir,
You help him straight: there you have made a friend.        32
Another has the palsy or the dropsy,
He takes of your incombustible stuff,
He’s young again: there you have made a friend.
A lady that is past the feat of body,        36
Though not of mind, and hath her face decay’d
Beyond all cure of paintings, you restore,
With the oil of talc: there you have made a friend;
And all her friends. A lord that is a leper,        40
A knight that has the bone-ache, or a squire
That hath both these, you make ’em smooth and sound,
With a bare fricace 2 of your med’cine: still
You increase your friends.        44
  TRI.        Ay, ’tis very pregnant.
  SUB.  And then the turning of this lawyer’s pewter
To plate at Christmas——
  ANA.        Christ-tide, I pray you.        48
  SUB.  Yet, Ananias!
  ANA.        I have done.
  SUB.        Or changing
His parcel 3 gilt to massy gold. You cannot        52
But raise you friends. Withal, to be of power
To pay an army in the field, to buy
The King of France out of his realms, or Spain
Out of his Indies. What can you not do        56
Against lords spiritual or temporal,
That shall oppone 4 you?
  TRI.        Verily, ’tis true.
We may be temporal lords ourselves, I take it.        60
  SUB.  You may be anything, and leave off to make
Long-winded exercises; or suck up
Your ha! and hum! in a tune. I not deny,
But such as are not graced in a state,        64
May, for their ends, be adverse in religion,
And get a tune to call the flock together:
For, to say sooth, a tune does much with women
And other phlegmatic people; it is your bell.        68
  ANA.  Bells are profane; a tune may be religious.
  SUB.  No warning with you? Then farewell my patience.
’Slight, it shall down; I will not be thus tortur’d.
  TRI.  I pray you, sir.        72
  SUB.        All shall perish. I have spoke it.
  TRI.  Let me find grace, sir, in your eyes; the man
He stands corrected: neither did his zeal,
But as your self, allow a tune somewhere.        76
Which now, being tow’rd 5 the stone, we shall not need.
  SUB.  No, nor your holy vizard, 6 to win widows
To give you legacies; or make zealous wives
To rob their husbands for the common cause:        80
Nor take the start of bonds broke but one day,
And say they were forfeited by providence.
Nor shall you need o’er night to eat huge meals,
To celebrate your next day’s fast the better;        84
The whilst the brethren and the sisters humbled,
Abate the stiffness of the flesh. Nor cast
Before your hungry hearers scrupulous bones; 7
As whether a Christian may hawk or hunt,        88
Or whether matrons of the holy assembly
May lay their hair out, or wear doublets,
Or have that idol, starch, about their linen.
  ANA.  It is indeed an idol.        92
  TRI.        Mind him not, sir.
I do command thee, spirit (of zeal, but trouble),
To peace within him! Pray you, sir, go on.
  SUB.  Nor shall you need to libel ’gainst the prelates,        96
And shorten so your ears 8 against the hearing
Of the next wire-drawn grace. Nor of necessity
Rail against plays, to please the alderman
Whose daily custard you devour; nor lie        100
With zealous rage till you are hoarse. Not one
Of these so singular arts. Nor call yourselves
By names of Tribulation, Persecution,
Restraint, Long-patience, and such like, affected        104
By the whole family or wood 9 of you,
Only for glory, and to catch the ear
Of the disciple.
  TRI.        Truly, sir, they are        108
Ways that the godly brethren have invented,
For propagation of the glorious cause,
As very notable means, and whereby also
Themselves grow soon, and profitably famous.        112
  SUB.  O, but the stone, all’s idle to’t! Nothing!
The art of angels, nature’s miracle,
The divine secret that doth fly in clouds
From east to west: and whose tradition        116
Is not from men, but spirits.
  ANA.        I hate traditions;
I do not trust them——
  TRI.        Peace!        120
  ANA.        They are popish all.
I will not peace: I will not——
  TRI.        Ananias!
  ANA.  Please the profane, to grieve the godly; I may not.        124
  SUB.  Well, Ananias, thou shalt overcome.
  TRI.  It is an ignorant zeal that haunts him, sir:
But truly else a very faithful brother,
A botcher, 10 and a man by revelation        128
That hath a competent knowledge of the truth.
  SUB.  Has he a competent sum there i’ the bag
To buy the goods within? I am made guardian,
And must, for charity and conscience’ sake,        132
Now see the most be made for my poor orphan;
Though I desire the brethren, too, good gainers:
There they are within. When you have view’d and bought ’em,
And ta’en the inventory of what they are,        136
They are ready for projection; there’s no more
To do: cast on the med’cine, so much silver
As there is tin there, so much gold as brass,
I’ll gi’ it you in by weight.        140
  TRI.        But how long time,
Sir, must the saints expect yet?
  SUB.        Let me see,
How’s the moon now? Eight, nine, ten days hence,        144
He will be silver potate; then three days
Before he citronise. 11 Some fifteen days,
The magisterium 12 will be perfected.
  ANA.  About the second day of the third week,        148
In the ninth month?
  SUB.        Yes, my good Ananias.
  TRI.  What will the orphans’ goods arise to, think you?
  SUB.  Some hundred marks, as much as fill’d three cars,        152
Unladed now: you’ll make six millions of ’em—
But I must ha’ more coals laid in.
  TRI.        How?
  SUB.        Another load,        156
And then we ha’ finish’d. We must now increase
Our fire to ignis ardens; 13 we are past
Fimus equinus, balnei, cineris, 14
And all those lenter 15 heats. If the holy purse        160
Should with this draught fall low, and that the saints
Do need a present sum, I have a trick
To melt the pewter, you shall buy now instantly,
And with a tincture make you as good Dutch dollars        164
As any are in Holland.
  TRI.        Can you so?
  SUB.  Ay, and shall bide the third examination.
  ANA.  It will be joyful tidings to the brethren.        168
  SUB.  But you must carry it secret.
  TRI.        Ay; but stay,
This act of coining, is it lawful?
  ANA.        Lawful!        172
We know no magistrate: or, if we did,
This is foreign coin.
  SUB.        It is no coining, sir.
It is but casting.        176
  TRI.        Ha! you distinguish well:
Casting of money may be lawful.
  ANA.        ’Tis, sir.
  TRI.  Truly, I take it so.        180
  SUB.        There is no scruple,
Sir, to be made of it; believe Ananias:
This case of conscience he is studied in.
  TRI.  I’ll make a question of it to the brethren.        184
  ANA.  The brethren shall approve it lawful, doubt not.
Where shall it be done?
  SUB.  For that we’ll talk anon.  Knock without.
There’s some to speak with me. Go in, I pray you,        188
And view the parcels. That’s the inventory.
I’ll come to you straight.  [Exeunt TRIB. and ANA.]  Who is it?—Face! appear.
Note 1. A room in Lovewit’s house. [back]
Note 2. Rubbing. [back]
Note 3. Partly. [back]
Note 4. Oppose. [back]
Note 5. Near possession of. [back]
Note 6. Set expression of face. [back]
Note 7. The dry bones of discussion on such scruples. [back]
Note 8. Have your ears cut off in the pillory. [back]
Note 9. Assembly. [back]
Note 10. Tailor. But the term was used generally of Puritans. [back]
Note 11. Become the color of citron—a stage in the process of producing the stone. [back]
Note 12. Full accomplishment. [back]
Note 13. Fiery heat. [back]
Note 14. Heat from horse-dung, warm bath, ashes. [back]
Note 15. Milder. [back]


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