Fiction > Harvard Classics > Ben Jonson > The Alchemist
Ben Jonson (1572–1637).  The Alchemist.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act IV
Scene I
Enter FACE and MAMMON 1

  FACE.  O, sir, you’re come i’ the only finest time.——
  MAM.  Where’s master?
  FACE.        Now preparing for projection, sir.
Your stuff will be all chang’d shortly.        4
  MAM.        Into gold?
  FACE.  To gold and silver, sir.
  MAM.        Silver I care not for.
  FACE.  Yes, sir, a little to give beggars.        8
  MAM.        Where’s the lady?
  FACE.  At hand here. I ha’ told her such brave things o’ you,
Touching your bounty and your noble spirit——
  MAM.        Hast thou?        12
  FACE.  As she is almost in her fit to see you.
But, good sir, no divinity i’ your conference,
For fear of putting her in rage.——
  MAM.        I warrant thee.        16
  FACE.  Six men [sir] will not hold her down. And then,
If the old man should hear or see you—
  MAM.        Fear not.
  FACE.  The very house, sir, would run mad. You know it,        20
How scrupulous he is, and violent,
’Gainst the least act of sin. Physic or mathematics,
Poetry, state, 2 or bawdry, as I told you,
She will endure, and never startle; but        24
No word of controversy.
  MAM.        I am school’d, good Ulen.
  FACE.  And you must praise her house, remember that,
And her nobility.        28
  MAM.        Let me alone:
No herald, no, nor antiquary, Lungs,
Shall do it better. Go.
  FACE.        [Aside.]  Why, this is yet        32
A kind of modern happiness, 3 to have
Dol Common for a great lady.  [Exit.]
  MAM.        Now, Epicure,
Heighten thyself, talk to her all in gold;        36
Rain her as many showers as Jove did drops
Unto his Danäe; show the god a miser,
Compar’d with Mammon. What! the stone will do’t.
She shall feel gold, taste gold, hear gold, sleep gold;        40
Nay, we will concumbere gold: I will be puissant,
And mighty in my talk to her.—
[Re-enter FACE with DOL richly dressed]

        Here she comes.
  FACE.  To him, Dol, suckle him. This is the noble knight        44
I told you ladyship——
  MAM.        Madam, with your pardon,
I kiss your vesture.
  DOL.        Sir, I were uncivil        48
If I would suffer that; my lip to you, sir.
  MAM.  I hope my lord your brother be in health, lady.
  DOL.  My lord my brother is, though I no lady, sir.
  FACE.  [Aside.]  Well said, my Guinea bird.        52
  MAM.        Right noble madam——
  FACE.  [Aside.]  O, we shall have most fierce idolatry.
  MAM.  ’Tis your prerogative.
  DOL.        Rather your courtesy.        56
  MAM.  Were there nought else ’t enlarge your virtues to me,
These answers speak your breeding and your blood.
  DOL.  Blood we boast none, sir; a poor baron’s daughter.
  MAM.  Poor! and gat you? Profane not. Had your father        60
Slept all the happy remnant of his life
After that act, lien but there still, and panted,
He’d done enough to make himself, his issue,
And his posterity noble.        64
  DOL.        Sir, although
We may be said to want the gilt and trappings,
The dress of honour, yet we strive to keep
The seeds and the materials.        68
  MAM.        I do see
The old ingredient, virtue, was not lost,
Nor the drug money us’d to make your compound.
There is a strange nobility i’ your eye,        72
This lip, that chin! Methinks you do resemble
One o’ the Austriac princes.
  FACE.        [Aside.]  Very like!
Her father was an Irish costermonger.        76
  MAM.  The house of Valois just had such a nose,
And such a forehead yet the Medici
Of Florence boast.
  DOL.        Troth, and I have been lik’ned        80
To all these princes.
  FACE.        [Aside.]  I’ll be sworn, I heard it.
  MAM.  I know not how! it is not any one,
But e’en the very choice of all their features.        84
  FACE.  [Aside.]  I’ll in, and laugh.  [Exit.]
  MAM.        A certain touch, or air,
That sparkles a divinity beyond
An earthly beauty!        88
  DOL.        O, you play the courtier.
  MAM.  Good lady, gi’ me leave——
  DOL.        In faith, I may not,
To mock me, sir.        92
  MAM.        To burn i’ this sweet flame;
The phoenix never knew a nobler death.
  DOL.  Nay, now you court the courtier, and destroy
What you would build. This art, sir, i’ your words,        96
Calls your whole faith in question.
  MAM.        By my soul——
  DOL.  Nay, oaths are made o’ the same air, sir.
  MAM.        Nature        100
Never bestow’d upon mortality
A more unblam’d, a more harmonious feature;
She play’d the step-dame in all faces else:
Sweet madam, le’ me be particular——        104
  DOL.  Particular, sir! I pray you know your distance.
  MAM.  In no ill sense, sweet lady; but to ask
How your fair graces pass the hours? I see
You’re lodg’d here, in the house of a rare man,        108
An excellent artist; but what’s that to you?
  DOL.  Yes, sir; I study here the mathematics,
And distillation.
  MAM.        O, I cry your pardon.        112
He’s a divine instructor! can extract
The souls of all things by his art; call all
The virtues, and the miracles of the sun,
Into a temperature furnace; teach dull nature        116
What her own forces are. A man, the emp’ror
Has courted above Kelly; 4 sent his medals
And chains, t’ invite him.
  DOL.        Ay, and for his physic, sir—        120
  MAM.  Above the art of Æsculapius,
That drew the envy of the thunderer!
I know all this, and more.
  DOL.        Troth, I am taken, sir,        124
Whole with these studies, that contemplate nature.
  MAM.  It is a noble humour; but this form
Was not intended to so dark a use.
Had you been crooked, foul, of some coarse mould,        128
A cloister had done well; but such a feature
That might stand up the glory of a kingdom,
To live recluse! is a mere solœcism,
Though in a nunnery. It must not be.        132
I muse, my lord your brother will permit it:
You should spend half my land first, were I he.
Does not this diamond better on my finger
Than i’ the quarry?        136
  DOL.        Yes.
  MAM.        Why, you are like it.
You were created, lady, for the light.
Here, you shall wear it; take it, the first pledge        140
Of what I speak, to bind you to believe me.
  DOL.  In chains of adamant?
  MAM.        Yes, the strongest bands.
And take a secret too.—Here, by your side,        144
Doth stand this hour the happiest man in Europe.
  DOL.  You are contended, sir?
  MAM.        Nay, in true being,
The envy of princes and the fear of states.        148
  DOL.  Say you so, Sir Epicure?
  MAM.        Yes, and thou shalt prove it,
Daughter of honour. I have cast mine eye
Upon thy form, and I will rear this beauty        152
Above all styles.
  DOL.        You mean no treason, sir?
  MAM.  No, I will take away that jealousy.
I am the lord of the philosopher’s stone,        156
And thou the lady.
  DOL.        How, sir! ha’ you that?
  MAM.  I am the master of the mastery. 5
This day the good old wretch here o’ the house        160
Has made it for us: now he’s at projection.
Think therefore thy first wish now, let me hear it;
And it shall rain into thy lap, no shower,
But floods of gold, whole cataracts, a deluge,        164
To get a nation on thee.
  DOL.        You are pleas’d, sir,
To work on the ambition of our sex.
  MAM.  I’m pleas’d the glory of her sex should know,        168
This nook here of the Friars is no climate
For her to live obscurely in, to learn
Physic and surgery, for the constable’s wife
Of some odd hundred in Essex; but come forth,        172
And taste the air of palaces; eat, drink
The toils of empirics, and their boasted practice;
Tincture of pearl, and coral, gold, and amber;
Be seen at feasts and triumphs; have it ask’d,        176
What miracle she is; set all the eyes
Of court a-fire, like a burning glass,
And work them into cinders, when the jewels
Of twenty states adorn thee, and the light        180
Strikes out the stars! that, when thy name is mention’d,
Queens may look pale; and we but showing our love,
Nero’s Poppæa may be lost in story!
Thus will we have it.        184
  DOL.        I could well consent, sir.
But in a monarchy, how will this be?
The prince will soon take notice, and both seize
You and your stone, it being a wealth unfit        188
For any private subject.
  MAM.        If he knew it.
  DOL.  Yourself do boast it, sir.
  MAM.        To thee, my life.        192
  DOL.  O, but beware, sir! You may come to end
The remnant of your days in a loath’d prison,
By speaking of it.
  MAM.        ’Tis no idle fear.        196
We’ll therefore go with all, my girl, and live
In a free state, where we will eat our mullets,
Sous’d in high-country wines, sup pheasants’ eggs,
And have our cockles boil’d in silver shells;        200
Our shrimps to swim again, as when they liv’d,
In a rare butter made of dolphins’ milk,
Whose cream does look like opals; and with these
Delicate meats set ourselves high for pleasure,        204
And take us down again, and then renew
Our youth and strength with drinking the elixir,
And so enjoy a perpetuity
Of life and list! And thou shalt ha’ thy wardrobe        208
Richer than nature’s, still to change thyself,
And vary oftener, for thy pride, than she,
Or art, her wise and almost-equal servant.
[Re-enter FACE]

  FACE.  Sir, you are too loud. I hear you every word
Into the laboratory. Some fitter place;
The garden, or great chamber above. How like you her?
  MAM.  Excellent! Lungs. There’s for thee.  [Gives him money.]
  FACE.        But do you hear?        216
Good sir, beware, no mention of the rabbins.
  MAM.  We think not on ’em.
[Exeunt MAM. and DOL.]
  FACE.        O, it is well, sir.—Subtle!        220
Note 1. A room in Lovewit’s house. [back]
Note 2. Politics. [back]
Note 3. Up-to-date appropriateness. [back]
Note 4. The partner of Dee, the astrologer. [back]
Note 5. The art of transmutation. [back]


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