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And surely, had I but your stable seen
EPISTLE TO MR. ARTHUR SQUIB.S
I am to dine, friend, where I must be weighed
A merchant's wife is regent of the scale;
Who, when she heard the match, concluded
An ill commodity! 't must make good weight.
90 Alluding to the circumstance of Virgil having been employed in the stables of Augustus, and having his customary allowance of bread doubled for the judgment he gave of a colt the emperor had just bought.
91 See ante, p. 231.
92 The wager, says Whalley, seems to have been that the poet weighed twenty stone; but finding that he wanted two pounds of that weight, he artfully turns the circumstance into
That's six in silver; now within the socket
It do not come: one piece I have in store,
And you shall make me good, in weight and fashion,
And then to be returned; or protestation
Would God, my Burges, I could think
a reason for borrowing from his friend five pounds in silver. With this amount in his pocket, in addition to one piece he had already, he would be able to turn the scale, six pounds in silver being equal, upon Jonson's calculation, to two pounds in weight. B. I doubt whether we understand the nature of this wager, which was probably a mere jest. If the sense be as Whalley states it, there is as little of art as of honesty in it.-G.
93 Burges was probably the deputy-paymaster of the household. He had made Jonson a present of some ink, and this little production, which wants neither spirit nor a proper self-confidence, enclosed perhaps the return for it. Master Burges might have sent the wine at the same time. Jonson, who lived much about the court while his health permitted him to come abroad, seems to have made friends of most of those who held official situations there, and to have been supplied with stationery, and perhaps many other petty articles. The following is transcribed from the blank leaf of a volume of miscellaneous poetry, formerly in the possession of Dr.
Verse that should thee and me outlive.
But since the wine hath steeped my brain,
Yet with a dye that fears no moth,
EPISTLE TO MY LADY COVELL.94
You won not verses, madam, you won me,
Laden with belly, and doth hardly approach
John Hoadley, son of the Bishop of Winchester. He has written over it, "A Relique of Ben Jonson."
To my worthy and deserving Brother
Mr. ALEXANDER GLOVER,
As the Token of my Love
And the perpetuating of our Friendship,
To make these good, and what comes after, better.
94 From the opening lines, and the subsequent allusion to the poet's weight, it might be inferred that this Lady Covell was the "merchant's wife" who acted as "regent of the scales" in the wager which forms the subject of the epistle to Mr. Squib (see ante, p. 247). But no such name occurs amongst the contemporaneous dignitaries of the city. - B.
His friends, but to break chairs, or crack a
His weight is twenty stone within two pound;
Such, if her manners like you, I do send;
TO MASTER JOHN BURGES.
Father John Burges,
My woful cry
To Sir Robert Pye; 95
95 Sir Robert Pye was auditor to the Exchequer in 1618, and in that capacity it was his duty to pay to Jonson his in
And that he will venture
Knew the time, when
Of gambol or sport,
The muse, or the poet,
The parish will know it;
Nor any quick warming-pan help him to bed, If the 'Chequer be empty, so will be his head.
EPIGRAM TO MY BOOKSELLER.
Thou, friend, wilt hear all censures; unto thee All mouths are open, and all stomachs free:
come as laureate. It is curious enough that a descendant of the auditor, Henry James Pye, afterwards wore the laurel, and became the recipient of the income. - B.