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George Chapman

(1559 – 12 May 1634 / Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England)

An Invective Written By Mr. George Chapman Against Mr. Ben Jonson


Great, learned, witty Ben, be pleased to light
The world with that three-forked fire; nor fright
All us, thy sublearned, with luciferous boast
That thou art most great, most learn'd, witty most
Of all the kingdom, nay of all the earth;
As being a thing betwixt a human birth
And an infernal; no humanity
Of the divine soul shewing man in thee.

* * * * *

Though thy play genius hang his broken wings
Full of sick feathers, and with forced things,
Imp thy scenes, labour'd and unnatural,
And nothing good comes with thy thrice-vex'd call,
Comest thou not yet, nor yet? O no, nor yet;
Yet are thy learn'd admirers so deep set
In thy preferment above all that cite
The sun in challenge for the heat and light
Of heaven's influences which of you two knew
And have most power in them; Great Ben, 'tis you.
Examine him, some truly-judging spirit,
That pride nor fortune hath to blind his merit,
He match'd with all book-fires, he ever read
His dusk poor candle-rents; his own fat head
With all the learn'd world's, Alexander's flame
That Caesar's conquest cow'd, and stript his fame,
He shames not to give reckoning in with his;
As if the king pardoning his petulancies
Should pay his huge loss too in such a score
As all earth's learned fires he gather'd for.
What think'st thou, just friend? equall'd not this pride
All yet that ever Hell or Heaven defied?
And yet for all this, this club will inflict
His faultful pain, and him enough convict
He only reading show'd; learning, nor wit;
Only Dame Gilian's fire his desk will fit.
But for his shift by fire to save the loss
Of his vast learning, this may prove it gross:
True Muses ever vent breaths mixt with fire
Which, form'd in numbers, they in flames expire
Not only flames kindled with their own bless'd breath
That gave th' unborn life, and eternize death.
Great Ben, I know that this is in thy hand
And how thou fix'd in heaven's fix'd star dost stand
In all men's admirations and command;
For all that can be scribbled 'gainst the sorter
Of thy dead repercussions and reporter.
The kingdom yields not such another man;
Wonder of men he is; the player can
And bookseller prove true, if they could know
Only one drop, that drives in such a flow.
Are they not learned beasts, the better far
Their drossy exhalations a star
Their brainless admirations may render;
For learning in the wise sort is but lender
Of men's prime notion's doctrine; their own way
Of all skills' perceptible forms a key
Forging to wealth, and honour-soothed sense,
Never exploring truth or consequence,
Informing any virtue or good life;
And therefore Player, Bookseller, or Wife
Of either, (needing no such curious key)
All men and things, may know their own rude way.
Imagination and our appetite
Forming our speech no easier than they light
All letterless companions; t' all they know
Here or hereafter that like earth's sons plough
All under-worlds and ever downwards grow,
Nor let your learning think, egregious Ben,
These letterless companions are not men
With all the arts and sciences indued,
If of man's true and worthiest knowledge rude,
Which is to know and be one complete man,
And that not all the swelling ocean
Of arts and sciences, can pour both in:
If that brave skill then when thou didst begin
To study letters, thy great wit had plied,
Freely and only thy disease of pride
In vulgar praise had never bound thy [hide].

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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